Tuesday, May 17, 2016

Heading Home From Silver City

May 10th we head for Truth or Consequences New Mexico. Since it has been 5 years since we did much traveling in the Southwest, we try to hit all our favorite spots. First on the list is Riverbend Hot Springs. We know they are constructing a new addition, but they have two spots open in their small RV park across the street.
Construction area

The construction was fairly quiet

A deep therapy pool is part of the addition

In the private pool in the evening

William is floating flower boats

The night lights on the public pools are lovely
There is one restaurant we particularly like in Truth or Consequences, but they are closed the first day we are here. So we are really prepped for our visit on May 11th. We decide to go quite early, but still look for the old sidewalks on the way.
These agencies put people to work during the depression building anything. Federal Emergency Relief Administration built the sidewalk in 1935. Works Progress Administration built the curb in 1940. I'm glad to see these are still here.
We get to Cafe BellaLuca and the sign on the door said they were sorry to be closed tonight. But the back door was open, so we went in to find out why.  They had a failure of the refrigerator. But the cook said he felt so sorry for us coming so far to eat there, that he cooked for us anyway. Just using no perishables. So none of their Calamari, which is just the best. But what he cooked was wonderful. Arancini di riso is not on the appetizer menu now. I pitched for putting it back on. Next year we might come to Truth or Consequences before working at the Tour of the Gila. I am sure the boys will want us back.

Our next stop on May 12th is at Fool Hollow Lake Recreation Area. The only sites left are double ones. Our close neighbors have two little dogs, but they are quiet. But there are five dogs in the other double site right next to us. In the tent trailer they have a Newfoundland, a yippy long haired chihuahua and an old fat bulldog. In the Cruise America rental rig they have two Pomeranians. The older couple with the poms took the dogs and two fishing poles to scramble down to the lake. But that's not the way. Bill says there is a cliff there. But we heard no blood-curdling shrieks.
Painting my nails

The lake really is a long way down there.
On May 13th we head on to Sedona. The down town looks like just a mass of shops. We enjoy the red rock views from the windows of the PW, then stop to eat lunch at The Wildflower Bread Company. Excellent food and wonderful decor of huge glass flowers in a stand up to order and find a seat place.We were lucky all around. We found a parking place, there was a lull in the crowd and we found a place to sit.
Real flowers on a cactus outside
Our stop for the night is Dead Horse Ranch State Park in Cottonwood Arizona. It is 93 degrees but feels like 100. William gets out the hose and floats a spray of water over us in the breeze. So refreshing. Lots of fat bunnies and fat quail. There is a big rig with a few small dogs in it about 3 spaces down.  The bunnies hop near to eat the nice grass and it sounds like a dog fight in there as all the dogs bark, growl and scuffle around because of the bunnies they smell. Hysterical!

On the morning of May 14th we stop at Tuzigoot National Monument. Tuzigoot is the remnant of a Southern Singua village built between 1000 and 1400. It crowns the summit of a long ridge rising 120 feet above the Verde Valley. The original pueblo was two stories high with 87 ground floor rooms.

On to Jerome and Jerome State Historic Park. The historic park preserves a historic mansion and tells the story of copper mining in the Jerome area.
The town of Jerome is up on the hill

outside the Douglas Mansion
Jerome is hard to get around in. It is a warren of tiny streets and businesses clinging to the side of a steep hill.  It was once a copper boom town of 15,000 people. From that it dwindled to a ghost town. Now it is a tourist destination for art and history.  The ghost of Jerome played a trick on us while we were here.

We were looking for a restaurant in Yelp and had picked one out and walked to it. But it was a gift store. The owner said it hadn't been a restaurant for 15 years. But there were recent reviews in Yelp for that same place at that same address.

We found another very nice place to eat after trudging back up the same hill.
at Grapes restaurant
On the street in Jerome

We spend the night of the 14th at Point of Rocks Campground in Prescott, AZ. Really a nice place with lovely rocks and lots of native vegetation separating the camp spots.

Rocks at Point of Rocks
May 15th and we are heading for home. Our last stop is at Bailey's Hot Springs outside of Beatty NV. Bill said it had mixed reviews (I'm sure), but he couldn't resist stopping. The big, blowsy blonde who shows up to check us in isn't much on paperwork. Just hand her the cash and pick out a spot. She is sure that Bill has been here before. "But he wasn't here with you." (referring to me) Later by ourselves we laugh hysterically about that. She claims to be a bit disorganized because of all the company that has stayed over after her daughter's quinceanera party. But that was a couple of days ago. Lots of animals and kids around. The typical quail and bunnies, but also a screaming peacock who comes around to bum food and a black pig also looking for handouts. The private baths are not bad with sand and rock covered bottoms.

The pig and the local ambiance.
On the morning of the 16th we head for home and pull in about 3pm. Now we have time to get cleaned up and organized before our next trip.

Monday, May 9, 2016

The 30th Annual Tour of the Gila

Pre race day. May 3, 2016 The boys, Jonathan Baker and Mike Castaldo of the Chico Masters Cycling Team, have taken a long practice ride up to Pinos Altos. Later we meet them for lunch at Q's Southern Bistro. Very nice food, but the service is a bit slow. After lunch the boys take off to get prepared for tomorrow. Jon says no dinners out until between the time trial and the criterium.

Day 1 May 4, 2016 The race began for us early Wednesday morning, as we had to get up to walk over to Gough Park before 730AM. Jon and Mike were already there.
We knew Mike had hurried Jon along. Jon likes to be just in time, but Mike is more like me and arrives a bit early to avoid being late. We have brought along some old Herbalife musettes, feeding bags, and Jon decides that we will use them. I borrow a marker pen to label them BAKER 1 and BAKER 2. As Jon leisurely bikes off to sign in with a few minutes to go before the start for the Master Men A at 8AM, we drive off in Mike's truck to make the first feed zone on NM211 at the town of Gila 23 miles from the start.

 They are here much earlier than we expect as they are being whipped along by a terrific tail wind. Mike passes up the musette from me and gets a water from the neutral feed. William passes his bag off to Jon.

We pick up some dropped bottles and clothes the boys discarded before racing off in the truck to get ahead of the race back on US180 to get to feed zone 2 outside of Glenwood. Thankfully, we have time to stop at a Forest Service campground for a nature break right before the feed zone.

At this feed zone we saw one rider out in front of the group by about 2 and a half minutes. This time Mike takes his musette, but I don't see where he dropped it. We pick up more dropped bottles and follow the peloton to the parking lot at the bottom of the Mogollon, pronounced mug-ee-on, climb. The road up to the finish before the town of Mogollon is very steep and narrow, 6.7 miles long. Only officials and riders go up there. The riders coast back down to their support vehicles. So we wait.

Finally, Jon and Mike come back down together. Jon waited until about 9 miles to go and then rolled off the front of the peloton. He caught the other rider and finished in front of the next rider by almost 2 minutes. They had raced 72.9 miles.
Me and the boys
We leave just as the parking lot is becoming insanely clogged with other vehicles. On the way back William spots a woman with Mike's musette in her hand. He gets it back. We looked where Jon dropped his, but it was not to be found. Day 1 ends with the boys dropping us back at the RV park.

Day 2 May 5, 2016 This race starts later for the Master Men A, which is the category Jon and Mike are racing in. So we roll out to the start at Fort Bayard in our tiny Pleasure Way RV and park away from the course. Mike and Jon are parked close to the course and are getting dressed and prepping their bikes. I will be feeding Mike. He wants a banana at the first feed and a water bottle with a gu gel attached at the second feed. Jon has gotten his race leaders jersey just in time to pin the numbers on, #701, and stuff some of his foil wrapped rice cakes in the back pocket. Jon has his first feed water and a water with gu gel attached in a cooler chest. There is neutral water at every feed zone.

We race off in the truck before the race starts at 1020 to get to the first feed zone after Pinos Altos. The hand offs go fine in the first feed. Mike gets his banana and Jon his cold water. Then we have to turn around and go back on the course, watching out for riders coming toward us to get to the feed zone above San Lorenzo. Since there was only a quarter of a tank of gas in the truck, we have time to stop and fill it up in Silver City before heading out to San Lorenzo. We pass off the two bottles with gu gel, pick up a lot more discarded bottles and race back toward Fort Bayard. We are following the peloton now, but when we get to the intersection of NM 152 and NM 356 the peloton stays on 152, but we turn and race off on 356 into the town of Bayard. Kind of a long short cut, but we can still drive faster than the peloton.
We race onto US180 and back up to Fort Bayard. After parking in about the same place as the boys were before the race, we see that the peloton is heading to the finish. We have time to take pictures. And who comes blazing down the course, but Jonathan Baker! He adds a few more seconds to his lead.
The winner

talking to Cyndi

Win number 2 in this 75 mile race. Jon sings the praises of his new Trek Madone. This is a beautiful high performance bike with all the cables in the tubes. It is built for a maximum ability to cut through the air. Jon says it just sped up with every shift of the gears. North Rim Adventure Sports of Chico California provided this bike for him to use. Day 2 ends with us taking pictures of the boys.
two wins

two wins with the help of Mike

Mike is so tired because he spent the day protecting Jon from the wind. We'll see them tomorrow afternoon.

Day 3 May 6, 2016 After a leisurely breakfast we are off to the tiny town of Tyrone for the time trial. This is a hard time trial and famous for brutal winds. It was windy enough in the morning and has just gotten worse, with winds 25mph+. The pro riders raced in the morning, first the men and then the women. The officials took a break then started again at noon with the 3,4 Women, the Men 4,5, the Master Men B and finally the Master Men A, before the Men 3 and the Men 1,2. They send the riders off about 30 seconds apart (one minute for the last ten riders) with a break of about 5 minutes between groups.
Mike warming up

Mike started earlier and Jonathan, as the race leader, was last for the Master Men A. Jonathan does not like to cool down by standing around at the starting line. His name was called on the loudspeaker a number of times before we saw him riding up. Another guy in line had said, hopefully, “Maybe Baker won't show up.” But show up he did with a few minutes to spare. It was so windy he decided not to use his disc wheels as they can be hard to control in high winds.
Mike waits patiently

Mike is off
Jon is off after he shows up just in time
The time trial is a 16 mile turn-around course with 2 steep hills. On the turn-around Jon dropped his chain and had to quickly fix it. He said he should have had a bigger chain ring. On the way back down the last hill he was going so fast he had to just coast and actually had to brake at one point as, at over 50 mph, he got a speed wobble. Jon came in third by just 0.10 seconds, but added to his advantage over the guy in second place in GC, General Classification (the rider with the fastest overall time when all times are added together). He was now ahead by 2 minutes and 22 seconds.
Jon cooling down
Jon said we could take them out to dinner tonight, so they came over to the RV park and parked next to us. They ate their snacks and showered and I did some laundry of their kits for them. We drove over to the Jalisco Cafe and had a very nice meal before it got crowded. Beer and good Mexican food is a good way to celebrate.

Day 4 May 7, 2016 The Master Men A are scheduled to take off for the criterium race around downtown Silver City at 11:25. They are to do 20 laps of the course for a total of 21.6 miles. It's not a flat course, though also not as uphill as Nevada City. We walked over to the course and found the truck, per a text from Jon, across from Jalisco.
Jon comes up last
Ready to go
Really ready to go

Round and round, up and down the course they go.
Near the start they give out primes, premium prizes, to a rider who crosses the finish first on various laps. They announce prime lap on the next lap as the riders come around. And what tall rider in red comes thundering down the back stretch? It's Jonathan Baker and the crowd goes wild.
Coming down to the line

A few laps later another prime lap is announced and again the big guy races over the line ahead of everyone. The crowd loves it. Near the end of the race another rider goes out in front. Jon's strategy for winning does not quite work as he comes in second. But he still gains time for the GC. Jonathan finishes the day with a 2 minute 34 second advantage. Jon got tapped for doping control, since he has been so dominant in the race and is the race leader. So he has to pee in a cup.

Then we all go over to Q's Southern Bistro to celebrate with a snack and beer.

There are still other races to watch. Very few names that I remember now in the Pro Men; Danny Pate, Tom Zirbel and Chris Horner. A successful day all around as we wave good bye to the boys and head back to the RV.

Day 5 May 8, 2016 The Gila Monster Road Race is not as long for the Master Men A as it is for the Men 1,2 and the Pro Men. Jon and Mike will only do 68.9 miles. It is a hilly course, but they feel good and are fully acclimated to the altitude. Everyone starts from Gough park early in the morning. The start times and courses of the various groups are planned to avoid overlaps. But as they say, “The best laid plans.” The boys start at 8:50 right before the Pro Women. It seems to me that there are double the riders here that there were in 2011, the last time we were here.

We take off before the boys and are almost immediately stuck behind the Pro Men. This is not a group you can pass as they are running a rolling closure with both lanes heading out of town on US180, closed by police cars running flashing lights. Driving at a crawl is never William's idea of a good time. So after the Pro Men turn off onto NM152, we continue on 180 to the Bayard turnoff. It's our trusty long short cut, good old NM356. We race along hoping that all the police cars for miles around are guarding the race. And we make it. We are able to turn back onto NM152 before the rolling closure. We also pass the Men 4,5 and the Master Men B prior to the feed zone on NM35 before Lake Roberts. These groups are more spread out and easier to pass. They only get one side of the road.

We are passing musettes today. Mine for Mike has various food bits and one water bottle. William's for Jon has two water bottles and one of Jon's special rice patties wrapped in foil.

It is insanely crowded in the feed zone. I figure that I have lots of time and visit with some support crew for Eps Cyclists, a Hispanic group. But what is this? A car comes through labeled UCI Men Lead Car! What happened to the Men 4,5 and the Master Men B? An Eps Cyclist worker explains that the Pro Men would have overtaken those groups. They would have been neutralized and moved to the side to allow the Pro Men to pass. After the Men 4,5 and the Master Men B, the Master Men A come through. There is a rider in front and I time him ahead by 2 minutes 15 seconds. Mike is my job, so I am concentrating on him and don't even notice Jon. Mike gets his musette and I get a bundle of clothes and one water bottle. I pick up the water bottle, even though Jon has said no more water bottles, because this was the one Mike just used. I forgot to tell Mike the time on the rider in front and I had forgotten to get his number anyway, so I don't know if he is a threat to the GC. I walked up a bit to look for the musette, but it's not around and the road is tilting uphill, so I walk back to the truck.

Finally, William comes back with both musettes and a story. Apparently on the sprint below the feed zone the Pro Women had been timed as being within two minutes of the back of the Master Men A peloton. So the decision was made to neutralize the Master Men A. They were stopped at the top of the feed zone and moved to the side, up and around a corner from where I was. They wound up waiting 10 minutes for the Pro Women to pass. The women had slowed down after the sprint. Then they had to wait another few minutes for the women to move out ahead. The Master Men A rider up the road had been stopped as well, then they all started back up again.

The lone rider was chased down and at the end it was Jonathan and 3 other riders vying for the lead. Jonathan came over the finish line 9 seconds ahead of the second place rider. But the announcers almost missed Jonathan coming over the finish line because he was in a cluster of Pro Women. Then it was off to doping control for Jonathan. More peeing in a cup. But William and I miss the finish.

We turned around at the feed zone and headed back to Silver City and planned to go up to Pinos Altos for the finish. But one of a pair of touring cyclists who had been cheering the racers had slumped over with a heart attack. We wound up waiting while the road was closed 40 minutes for a helicopter to Life Flight the patient.

Mike waiting for Jon to get out of doping control
Jonathan Baker
Finally Jonathan gets to have a podium. This is the only time the Master Men A get a podium. But the announcer, our friend Dave Towle, is lavish in his praise of Jonathan and the Chico Masters Cycling Team.

The traditional cheek kiss
Jon's final GC time advantage was 2 minutes 48 seconds. The boys are not overly tired and feel like they might have even over-trained. Chico Masters Cycling Team can be proud of this two person team representing them. They rode 255 miles while climbing over 17,900 feet in five stages.
Mike Castaldo and Jonathan Baker

Mike and his feed zone helper, me

Mike and William Baker
The boys cram everything and us in the truck. Jon grumbles about loose bottles in the bed of the truck. William and I pretty much claimed innocence. I think others around the truck were tossing loose bottles in there at the feed zone, since we weren't guarding it. The boys brought us back to the RV park. They showered and sat around a bit and had a beer with William. But then it was time for them to go. I will miss them both. But they will get into Las Vegas late. That's their first stop on their way home to Chico. We will stay on here another day before wending our way leisurely back home.