2016 - The year I was a butterfly
In this blog, I normally confine things to my rides. But this year was a different one than I think anyone dreamed it would be. It's just not possible to separate riding this year from everything else. This was a year of massive change for the better and despite the fact that it saw the passing of the first woman I ever thought was hot (Carrie Fisher) and the first that introduced me to the concept of being gay (George Michael), it will always rank as the one where everything just came together and the world became brighter ever day... almost like magic.
Anyone that has ever read my blog knows that the last 16 months have been a constant journey back from the darkness of TBI. Today, it's become a part of my life instead of a detractor, though there are still things that I wish would heal. I particularly miss my senses of taste and smell. As time has passed, I've started forgetting what things used to taste like. Chocolate is sort of like biting into a piece of wax; ice cream is a bland, cold sludge in the mouth; coffee is like a slightly bitter hot water. I still can't see well out of my right eye.
But there are some bright spots too! Some recent tinkering by my ENT, Dr Phil, has restored some of the hearing in my right ear (which nicely matches my now limited right eye). Stereo has been an interesting challenge for my brain - I never realized that coordinating sound from both sides of my head is yet another job that I took for granted.
I welcomed many new friends in 2016. Now as many people know this incarnation of me as probably knew the previous.
I'm much more guarded about my time now - it's the only denominator that really has any meaning in life and I am more careful about how I spend it. My days are now spent in an awesome job full of people who are interested in life and learning new things. IronK and I are going to celebrate our 20th anniversary in 2017.
And there is a ride here ...
I started this year in Arizona so it seemed appropriate that I finish it here. I can still recall the feelings of sheer terror that I had when I pulled out of Dad's driveway last January. The Bone Dry 200k is one that I always appreciate for being so scenic that I generally forget I'm going uphill for 40 miles into a headwind. The solitude and spectacle of the desert is so awesome that I never tire of it. Shane used to live in Tucson - "say hi to a cactus while you are there - I miss them," he said before I left.
My first days in Arizona were all about ... rain! It poured rain for 2 days straight which is unusual for area despite a long drought. But slowly the clouds cleared and the weather forecast improved. I had brought the Jester with me from Minnesota along with a very different approach to riding.
Since the accident, I've tended to ride very conservatively around others. Large groups of riders seem to un-nerve me now which I suppose most can understand. So those that have ridden alongside have been those I trusted and know well. I've actually preferred riding solo since the accident.
Now days, I like to maximize both daylight and sleep, so I fixed to leave at dawn - 7:30 AM in the winter. Dad was there to take a movie of me leaving which he immediately immortalized on Facebook. I have always wondered if possibly it's better to be immortalized after the ride rather than before, but I suppose beggars can't be choosers.
The first fun thing to run into was a flooded road. Arizona has all sorts of low points called washes. This wash was still washing and even though it seemed benign, I waited for a car to pass so that I could make sure it wasn't secretly 10 feet deep.
The first part of the ride through the fields and town of Buckeye is not particularly scenic. It reminds me in some ways of the Grapes of Wrath. But it's flat as a pancake too and I pulled into Tonopah well before 10 at about 33 miles. The wind was a light breeze from the north (hey, a headwind) and the sun was finally warming things up.
After a quick bite to eat and a fill of all my bottles (40 miles of NOTHING to the next control), I was off again. The 40 miles is all uphill, a nearly imperceptible false flat to Vulture Peak. Along the way is some of the nicest Saguaro desert this side of I10 and the old Vulture Mine where I can still envision gold and silver miners slaving away in the sun.
Most of the time, I'm focused on this section and the uphill is a bit tedious. The minor headwind wasn't going to help that out so I figured that this was my opportunity to take special time to enjoy the scenery and wave hi to the cacti for Shane. The rain has odd effects on the desert. Things seem to soak up the water and bloom like there is no tomorrow. I especially like those cacti with the fuzzy yellow (no clue what they are).
I must have gotten off my bike a dozen times in this section. One of the things about Arizona is that everything always seems to be so far away.You can ride for 10 miles and still be looking at the same things. This time, things seemed distinctly green.
The headwind and my putz approach also made me happy I had some nut bars with me and I munched and sipped my way all the way up Vulture Peak to the descent into Wickenberg.
I decided at this point that I deserved a nice meal. The descent through Wickenberg on AZ60 is right through the middle of town but never has much on the right side and in the afternoon who really wants to cross 4 lanes of busy traffic...but I was in for a treat.
Holy cow, a brand spanking new 76 Station on MY RIGHT! So I pulled in right away. Here I would find not only a very nice deli but friendly folks who thought it was great that I was so far from home. I had a really nice hamburger and fries made right on the spot. Okay, I can't taste but just look at these fries....
They were supremely tasty and I had a few texts with Shane. Alas all must end at some point.
Despite the fact that it took around 6 hours to do the first 75 miles uphill normally I pick up a ton of time by going downhill with a tailwind for the rest of the ride. Not so today, as I had meandered uphill the wind had shifted with me and was now from the east - another headwind!
So instead of a whizzing 20 mph, I settled for about 16-17 mph. But I made up for it by continuing to stop for pictures.... I made my way to the final control in Surprise at about 4:30, just in time for rush hour! The area Dad lives in has only one 2 lane road serving about 10,000 people. It's busy and has no shoulder. I moved with extreme caution as a result.
There is a poem from a series called the Last Rune that I have always liked. I have no clue if it is quoted from someone else, but I suppose not. This year, I think of it often.
I finally rolled into Basha's at about 5:50 pm past the last gasp of Christmas lights. The end of 125 miles in a day, over 7,000 km in a year and my 7th R12 completed, I ended where I began.
We live our lives a circle ,
We wander where we can,
And after fire and wonder
We end where we began.
I have traveled southward.
And in the south I wept.
Then I journeyed northward,
And laughter there I kept.
Then for a time I lingered,
In eastern lands of light,
Until I moved on westward,
Alone in shadowed night.
I was born of springtime,
In summer I grew strong,
But autumn dimmed my eyes,
To sleep the winer long.
We live our lives a circle,
And wander where we can,
Then after fire and wonder,
We end where we began.