30 June 2009

TMR

Ken cleaning the Portal of Pain on a Tuesday Morning Ride back-in-the-day.
I had a brainstorm a few years ago that we should sell a house-branded, hand-selected blend of bagged and roasted coffee at Absolute Bikes, the bike shop I work at in the summertime. Surprisingly, my idea was rather well received (most of them aren't) and we began a dialog with the owner of Flagstaff's Late For The Train coffee shops, and even commissioned local artist Lyle Motley to design a packaging label. We deliberated for a while before selecting a brand name for our soon-to-be-sold house coffee and eventually settled on TMR Blend, as a kind of homage to the shop's classic weekly group ride. But somehow, along the way, the whole plan to sell coffee at the bike shop got canceled. I don't remember specifically what killed it, but as is so often the case, I know for certain that it died; no bags of TMR Blend Coffee were ever sold. LFTT moved on without a second thought, and the completed design for the packaging languishes somewhere in the bowels of the vault at Absolute Bikes.

But our fleeting plan to sell coffee at the bike shop lives on in my mind; I am reminded of it every Tuesday morning as I crawl out of bed at 5:50 AM to grind and brew my own home-roasted coffee as I prep for the Flagstaff's longest-standing formally-organized no-drop group ride: the Tuesday Morning Ride.

I try to attend every Tuesday Morning Ride I can during my ever-shortening summers. Between early June, when school lets out for the summer, and early August, when teacher meetings and then classes resume, I am usually able to get in some 8-10 Tuesday Morning Rides if I really commit to getting out of bed way-too-early-for-summer. Most years I do.

I've been riding with regular attendees Ken and Chris, as well as a whole host of others who show more sporadically, on the Tuesday Morning Ride for years. And not once in all that time has the ride ever sucked. Yeah, some rides have been a bit too fast, some a bit too long, some way too slowed down by multiple flats and/or crashes, mechanicals, or lost riders. But seriously, in like 12 or 13 years of getting up early-early in the summer on Tuesday morning to ride bikes in the woods, I cannot remember even one ride that was not generally awesome: filled with great empty trails, cool temps, good strong friends, and a whole lot of climbing and descending on singletrack. Every Tuesday Morning Ride is different: different people, different trails, different themes. But they all kinda end up sounding a little like this:

Ken and Jim and Charlie (on his one-speed) and Brad and I headed around Mount Elden this morning on my third Tuesday Morning Ride of the summer. We rode out through Buffalo Park to Lower Oldham and I flatted. After the repair, we got on the new freelancer trails that head east from Oldham and eventually, after riding a few choice secrets up high at the base of the rocks, joined up with Forces of Nature and the Elden Spring system. However, because we'd spent so much time bouncing around on the rocks on the trails at the base of Elden, Ken was out of time and had to bail by the time we got to the bottom of Fat Man's Loop.

The rest of our group proceeded around the always-too-hot-no-matter-the-time-of-day eastern exposures of Mount Elden, past Hart Trail, through Sandy Seep, and eventually around the corner to the Little Elden Spring Trail on the mountain's northern slope. We crawled up Little Elden through miles of horse-assaulted trail dust to Little Bear where we ate and said goodbye Jim for a while as he took off like a rocket up the long climb. The rest of us sat-in and made a long-but-mellow no-debt steady ascent up Little Bear's miles-long four giant switchbacks to the saddle at the top where we found Jim (nearly asleep, I think) patiently waiting for us in the shade.

We took another quick break at the top of Little Bear, and since several of us were getting close to gotta-be-home-time, jumped onto Upper Red Onion down to Elden Lookout Road. Brad bailed down the Lookout Road at this point, complaining of a sore knee, and the three of us that remained made the short jump up to Lower Red Onion. Following the quick portage down the marble-covered sketchy switchback in the middle of Lower Red Onion, Jim made his first successful ride down the super-giant rock towards the bottom of the trail!

From here we hopped back on Elden Lookout Road down to Middle Oldham, ripped down it and onto Rocky Ridge. Another fast descent, and Jim split off at the Rocky Ridge/Jumps intersection. Charlie and I continued down Jumps to the back of Buffalo Park where we shook hands, said goodbye, and split, he going up to the Buffalo, and I continuing down Jumps to the Park Street trailhead and home.

Five riders. Who know how many miles or feet of climbing. Four hours fifteen minutes door-to-door. Two flats. Approximately two bottles of water and a snack each. Plenty of good conversation and scenery.

Slice it any way you like, but that's pretty much a Tuesday Morning Ride.

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