More Gila Rambling, day 1.

Last weekend’s Gila River Ramble bikepacking loop was so good that I had to do it again. It was spring break for Chad and he’s got bikepacking on the brain. So we set off to pedal, take in the scenery / greenery, and enjoy this beautiful AZ spring.

Except this time we rode in reverse, which meant climbing up Ripsey, amidst a sea of flowers.

photo by Chad Brown

I was anxious to see how all the switchbacks would go in the other direction. We made it interesting by keeping “score.” Winner gets a free $1 ice cream cone at La Casita, so there was big money on the line.

I got a lead early on, which grew to as much as four switchbacks. But Chad knocked it down to two by the end, making several that I flubbed on.

Going the other direction meant more time along the ridgeline, more time to soak in the views…

… definitely a good thing.

It’s hard not to notice the loaded bike when climbing in granny gear. But I’m still continually amazed by how lightweight a comfortable setup is, and how little it affects handling and the ability to ride challenging trail. 10 years ago I would have never believed I could pedal up a trail like Ripsey with camping gear and food/water for two days.

The plunge off Ripsey was a hoot, over in a heartbeat compared to how long it takes to climb it.

Chad found himself a tough B-line, and then found himself on the ground, laughing before he came to a stop.

“Snake! Snake! …. Snake! What part of snake don’t you understand!?”

It’s been so long since I’ve seen one that my snake detector is offline. I finally spotted the rattler ahead and came to a skidding stop a few feet before it. It was not happy with me at that point, but patience is the best course. It moved off into the brush.

photo by Chad Brown

We found some fun B-lines on the drop down to Area 52. A good warmup for the rocklustre awaiting us.

photo by Chad Brown

As if this road didn’t have enough going for it, from the flowers to the knockout views and green green grasses with saguaros popping out of them.

photo by Chad Brown

We took a different approach to Area 52, where Chad totally outclimbed me. I was afraid of tipping over backwards. Sometimes it’s hard to fight that fear.

Unfortunately, spanking the chutes would be the last impressive thing Chad’s bike would do.

“Oh, dude, my frame is cracked.” His downtube was cracked on both sides, almost all the way around. We could see it opening just by putting his weight on the bike. Un fracaso epic (epic failure), in the middle of a bikepacking trip, at the start of spring break and at Area 52 of all places!

We debated options for a few minutes. But with only a few hours of daylight and sitting on one of the most amazing and hardest to reach mountain bike playgrounds anywhere…. well, there was only one thing that made sense:

photo by Chad Brown

Go ride, of course!!!

My bike, that is.

While one of us rode, the other handled the line spotting, heckling and photo geekery.

It actually worked out pretty well. It was fun to hike/jog around the mesa sans bike, and every time it was “my” turn I was super stoked to be riding again.

I could tell Chad was seeing ‘the light’ out there, and that was cool to see.

He’s been overdue for a visit to 52, and despite a cracked frame, he got a good tour and a glimpse at all the potential out there.

Line spotting. Sun falling.

Remind me that I need to spend more evenings out here. Simply brilliant.

Eventually the sun faded, so we made our way to the moonscape campsite where Paula and I spent the holidays.

It was a warm, still night. Perfect for camping.

The big unknown was how long Chad’s frame would last. We didn’t really have a plan, but it seemed pretty clear that we needed to start heading back, and that the brutal 4×4 roads of Box/Martinez/Battle Axe were out. I thought about continuing the loop solo, but didn’t want to leave Chad walking for miles either. So I was thinking about riding Ripsey again or perhaps going out and back on the AZT down by the Gila River.

Regardless, tomorrow promised more beautiful spring weather, flowers, good riding and good company. So all was well as I did some moonlight yoga, then drifted off to sleep, trying to ignore the giant spotlight of the moon.

Day 2 tomorrow.

7 comments to More Gila Rambling, day 1.

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