Mesa to Pitt 2015

Mesa to Pitt 2015
Mesa to OBX

Monday, April 22, 2013

Overgaard/Heber to Payson Arizona April 20

April 20 67 miles in 7:00. Total elevation climb today 3400 ft. Total descent 4900 ft. At first glance, those statistics make it look like I spent a lot of time going downhill today. Statistics can lie, however. When I left the Heber town limits, on Arizona route 260, I began going up a hill, which is typical, since most of the towns in this area are built near a creek or river, down in a valley. The hill started inconspicuously enough, but by the time I got to the top, I was over it! ( no pun intended ) The hill I am speaking of snuck its way upward for TWENTY miles! Into a headwind! Being the advanced techno wizard that I am, I just remembered my garmin GPS had an elevation indicator. I really wish I would have remembered that two weeks ago. I turned it on today, and saw that I left Heber at 6300 ft, and twenty miles later, I was at 7700 ft. There were no steep hills, and there were really no rolling downhills. Just steady ascent. By the time I got to the top, my legs were barbecued, after yesterday's hilly ride, then my twenty miler uphill. Also, if you remember from yesterday, Pam took me back to the place where I ran out of gas and daylight the day before, and that added an extra eleven miles of undulating hills.
The descent part happened very quickly, after about ten miles of pretty level riding on top of the Mogollon Rim. For the last two days we have been in a touristy/ outdoorsy area, where the people from Phoenix and other desert cities come to play in the summer, where the temps are thirty degrees cooler than they are in the desert. The flats on top of he mountain were filled with rental cabins, primitive campgrounds, atv trails, lakes, and hiking trails. It is really nice, especially when you go there to escape the desert in summer. Anyhow, back to the descent. I saw a sign that said 6% grade, next six miles, and I dropped real fast, 2000 ft in six miles at about twenty mph. Unfortunately, the headwind was always present, sometimes, very strong. It was a nice four lane highway going downhill at six%, but with the wind, I still had to pedal a lot. If there was no wind, I would have been cruising at about 30 or more for those six miles. As a point of reference, 6% grade is like Wheeling Hill, or Lincoln Hill in Washington, PA. A pretty fun ride. After no shoulder and pretty heavy traffic on top of the mountain, the down hill and rolling finish into Payson was newly constructed four lane, with nice, safe shoulders. As I got closer to Payson, however, there was a stretch of about five miles where the road narrowed, shoulders disappeared, and a real potential death trap appeared at about four o'clock on a Friday afternoon. I made it through safely, and noticed that I had descended to 4600 feet. That's a drop of over 3000 ft from the top of the mountain. Then, from the town of Star Valley, I had a four mile uphill to the town of Payson, which is at 5000 ft. That hill was a death march for my beat legs, but I am still happy I am in the mountains. Pam reminded me that I was wishing for mountains a few weeks ago, when I was getting really bored with the flatlands of Texas. I need a day off to regenerate, but pumping the hills are something I can't wait to get more acclimated to, along with the elevation.
I needed a good meal, and Payson had a nice steakhouse within walking distance of the campground, called Fargo's. So prime rib and beer it was. A nice evening, and even a better night's sleep.

Once again we are hitting the remains of forest fires.  This one is the Overgaard/Heber burn that took place in late June 2011,

This burned out forest seems to be bouncing back faster than the previous one.  Note the small trees (most are juniper) that are starting to pop up.

Arizona flag with a cowboy on a horse sculpture.

Our first dead elk alongside the road.  If you think deer can do some damage to your car, can you imagine  an elk???

There was a really cool shop in Overgaard/Heber that sold would carvings.

Yep!  I'm on the pony express route!

After leaving Heber, we passed these small lakes alongside the road and in the forest.

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