Given that more information (important information) is about to come out about the Ergun Caner Scandal and resultant Great Evangelical Cover Up (specifically, the recording of Caner’s lecture to the US Marines has been obtained by the indefatigable Jason Smathers), I wanted to do something enjoyable real quick. Sadly, one of the pictures I took on my ride this morning simply disappeared from my camera, but I did get these three. But the story behind them is what makes them a bit more special.

I started riding in 1993. Sometime back in the 93-98 time frame I met Eddie McKee. And I introduced Eddie to cycling. Took him on his first 50 mile ride, and almost killed him. Had to ride alongside him and push him home the last few miles. It’s called bonking. But Eddie is a natural cyclist, and in the years since, the student has become the master. Eddie is a monster on a bike. Massive aerobic capacity. And it was his being a cyclist that got him his wife! And that’s where this story gets fun.

I had heard for years about how Eddie and Lucy met. Eddie lives on the “East side” of the Valley (I live on the West, which is not nearly as interesting as the East). And Eddie had started riding “Tortilla Flats.” First, the name is very, very misleading. The Tortilla Flats ride is anything but flat. 36 miles (shortest route, 18 out and back), 3119 feet of ascent. Lots of climbs, lots of descents. It’s a tough ride. If you are into that kind of thing, here is a link to the route and you can click the “show elevation” box to see the profile. Anyway, one day, many years ago, Eddie rode Tortilla Flats. The ride takes you out to a point where the pavement ceases and it becomes dirt. Only mountain bikers go beyond there, us roadies like the pavement. And while Eddie was stopped out there (and the first two pictures I’m providing were taken at that very spot), along came some more cyclists. And who did Eddie meet in that group of cyclists? Lucy. And let’s just say that some of the floral decorations from their wedding at PRBC were in our sanctuary for years afterward. So, in a sense, Eddie owes his marital bliss…to me! 🙂

Well, Eddie and Lucy had talked about Tortilla Flats many times, but now that I’m getting well into the “riding is really fun again, climbing is enjoyable again” weight range, I decided I needed to find out about this ride. Problem is, it is on the other side of creation from me, and this is summer in Phoenix. Get your ride done by 90 minutes after sunrise or be prepared to pay a steep price. And even then, with the dew points stuck in the 60s for the foreseeable future, long, hard efforts are going to drain you. So, you start early. Very early. In the dark early. So a few weeks ago Eddie and I planned to ride Tortilla Flats this morning. So, the alarm went off at 3:07am…that’s how far a drive it is to the start from where I live. And off we went, around 5:10am, Eddie, myself, and Dave, a retired engineer who, in his sixties, can still outrun me up any hill on the planet (but he’s the guy you want with you on a ride because I am convinced he could actually build a functional bike with the tools in his pack and the debris you can find alongside the road). In fact, my climbing bike Dave built himself years ago (passed it on to Eddie, who passed it on to me—bikes are expensive, and I don’t know any rich folks who want to donate a 58cm Trek Madone for me to ride, so I’ll take the hand-me-downs with thankfulness!).

To say it was an enjoyable ride is an understatement. To say it was a workout would be an understatement, too. I took a shot at Canyon Lake, and evidently did not save it correctly to my camera. The first two pictures are at the turn around point 18 miles in, and this one I just had to stop and take on the way back. Just a few minutes before I took this picture I had been flying down the steepest portion of the climb (9%) at 43.4 mph…I’d say “hair flying in the wind” but that would be a bit of an exaggeration. The road is not nearly as smooth as South Mountain, and I would not want to be on it Friday through Sunday (it is the main route boaters take to and from the Salt River lakes), but this morning we had the road to ourselves. It was a little windy, rather humid, but a glorious morning for a ride. And I have decided that next time, I’m taking my Droid and its 8 megapixel camera! No more cheapie flip phone pix. This kind of scenery deserves at least a few megapixels.

The Sonoran desert is truly gorgeous. It can seem stark and foreboding to many when they first see it. You have to respect it. A fellow in the parking lot where we finished our ride was telling us that they had just given up looking for three hikers in the very same area who had disappeared three weeks earlier. This is the area of the “Lost Dutchman Mine” and the like. But it has a stark beauty that you grow to appreciate over time. There are so many places like this in Arizona, from the incredible forests on the slopes of the San Francisco Peaks in Flagstaff through these vistas in the Superstition Mountains to the beautiful views from Mt. Lemmon in Tucson—Arizona is truly a wonder.

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