Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Another try at Gates Pass...

I went up Gates Pass again last night. My Saturday night ride over the pass took a lot out of me, so this time I decided to use an electrolyte supplement. Back when I was riding in the Bay Area, I used to use a really yummy sweetened sports drink mix when I rode, and it worked pretty well, but I wanted to see how much difference the sugars made in the ride, and so this time I just used a straight mineral supplement called Endurolytes powder, by a company called Hammer Nutrition.

To be honest, these supplements kind of give me the creeps. What can I say, I'm a natural food junkie and I'm not a bike racer. I don't go as fast as they do. So it seems unfair that I have to use this extra stuff. I was poking around the other night and discovered that there's a regular ride on Tuesday mornings that follows the same route I do, except they add an extra six miles by going around the McCain loop in Saguaro National Park. And they do the ride in under two hours. So of course *they* need sports drinks, but a mere mortal like me ought to be able to do without. Apparently no such luck.

The Endurolyte powder is advertised as "tasteless," which I guess means unflavored. It tasted like drinking rock flour - kind of earthy and powdery, and the water with it mixed in wasn't refreshing the way plain water is. So there is a certain yuck factor, but it seemed to help - I didn't have the same reaction last night that I did on Saturday night. However, I was ravenously hungry, and still wound up with a headache. So I think I actually need the drink with the carbs built in. Sigh.

I took Irvington instead of Ajo this time, and I liked it better. Irvington still has a lot of traffic but it's a lot less than Ajo, and the shoulder is a lot cleaner. Also, the slope seems less sculpted, so although it's uphill all the way, mostly it's such an easy uphill it might as well be flat, and then there are a few discrete climbs that are relatively short, and a bit steeper, so you can just power through them. However, the route I took *to* Irvington wasn't so great. I tried to take Bike Route 3 down to Michigan street, and then cut across there to the other side of I-19 and take the bike path down to Irvington.

This doesn't work very well. First, all the major crossings on this route are uncontrolled, so you are crossing four lanes of traffic that doesn't stop. Traffic was light, so this was not an inconvenience, but I think I will try just coming down Mission next time.

The next problem is that the I-19 crossing is a pedestrian bridge, not a bike bridge, so you have to dismount and walk. There was broken glass all over the bridge, and it looks like a place where people routinely get drunk and party. Call me a wimp, but I don't feel like riding a gauntlet of drunk people - they tend to have low impulse control, and somebody dressed in cycling clothes is an obvious target for "a little fun." There's no escape path once you're on the bridge, and it's pretty narrow, so even two people could hem you in pretty effectively. There was nobody on the bridge in this case, though.

The path along the Santa Cruz River to Irvington is nice. Last night's storm hit as I was heading south on it, though, and that was interesting. A really strong headwind, with giant raindrops, and dust blowing from the developments down on Calle Santa Cruz like clouds of dense fog. And there's no easy transition from the path to Irvington, possibly because there's no protected crossing of the Santa Cruz river there. Another reason to take Mission, which is on the far side of both the river and I-19. The crossing at Congress Street is much nicer.

Anyway, aside from these obstacles it was a nice ride. Because of the storm I was able to leave a little earlier, so I got to the park when it was still light enough to take a picture, as you can see above. Desert storms make for pretty sunsets. Despite the heavy rain on the Santa Cruz River, I never got wet enough to be bothered.

Total distance: 27.3 miles, because I added Irvington but didn't have to detour south to 18th this time. Total time was about two hours again.


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