Today (Friday) our main workout was a ride up Mt. Lemmon. We started our day with an easy 2000m swim at our local pool before packing up the car for our road trip to Tucson. I know it seems strange to drive 2 hours to ride, but I have never ridden Mt Lemmon and it’s been on the MUST RIDE LIST for some time now. We successfully configured the car to fit our four bikes, but we hit the road a few hours behind our original schedule.
We found a place to park about 7 miles from the base and got rolling around 1:30pm. We decided that our ride would be about enjoying the moment, and fully appreciating the beauty around us, therefore we stopped periodically to regroup, snap photos, take videos, consume snacks etc. I didn’t fully appreciate the magnitude of the journey until I saw mile marker 2…Yikes-I felt like it took us forever to get there and we had 23 miles to go.
Julie and Erik at Mile 13/25
Although we did our final regroup around mile 19 to confirm that we were going to the top, we did not come to a clear consensus on what/where the top was. We had talked quite a bit about the famous pie shop in Summerhaven, so that’s where we headed. Julie and I rode off the front and pulled into the General Store in Summerhaven just after 5pm. There are a few descents between Mile 21 and the top, so we were getting pretty cold up there close to 8500ft. We had been warned to take extra clothing for the ride down, but I woefully underestimated what that really meant. It was 80 degrees at the Base, so I had a hard time believing that I would need much more that arm warmers, gloves and a vest.
I was getting very cold, and we were waiting for the boys for a long time, until we finally saw Kerry ride down. He stopped just short of the General Store (near the pie shop). He had been riding all over looking for us until someone told him we were further down the road at the store. He was pretty much freezing as well, and more significantly he was without Erik. We couldn’t believe Erik had not arrived yet, so we figured he may have decided to rest at one of the earlier stops. We bundled in garbage bags, and I filled my water bottle with Hot cocco before starting our descent around 5:45pm. Indeed the sun was starting to set, and we took off looking for Erik at all the “stops”. We rode by a few of the landmarks and Erik was nowhere to be found. We were pretty sure we didn’t miss him, so we continued towards the base. The temps starting to increase as we dropped below 5000ft, but we all had chattering teeth and deep chilled bodies. We arrived at the base, and still no sign of Erik?? We could not believe it. It’s really starting to get dark at this point, and none of us have reflective clothing or bike lights (evidently, we were not expecting this adventure to take so long). We decided to keep heading towards the car. Thankfully, the Tucson drivers were pretty bike friendly because we were testing our luck as we cruised through town in the dark around 7:15pm. We were so anxious to get back to the car to find Erik…Well, that quickly turned to panic when we discovered he wasn’t there. He had no cell phone and we knew that he did not have our phone numbers in his memory bank. At the beginning of our descent, we had seen an Ambulance rushing to the summit medical facility, so we quickly tired to find the phone number for that location to see if they “had him”.
Erik is the least experienced rider out of our group, and we knew he was under fueled and under hydrated for this day. After several failed attempts to locate contact information for this emergency facility, and the Coronado Sheriff Department, we resorted to 911. Yes-We were panicked and Julie was of course pacing with fear of the unknown. The 911 operator was finally able to connect us to the Sheriff group in the Mt Lemmon area, and they confirmed that they had no reported cyclist incidents. They took all of his stats (height, build, clothing, bike color etc.), and were getting ready to start the search for our missing cyclist. It was well after 8pm at this point, full darkness, and we lost our buddy on the Mountain. As advised by the sheriff group, we were about to split up…Someone needed to stay put, and the rest would take the car back up the mountain to search. Oh man-We were all so scared and worried. Luckily, this story has a very happy ending, and thankfully through the darkness we spotted a lone cyclist…and it was ERIK!! I think Julie should log that run in her training journal because I don’t know if I’ve ever seen her move that fast (and she’s speedy), as she ran to his side. Emotions were flying high, and I we were so relived to have him back unharmed. It was a pretty scary time, and we were all pretty weirded out for a while. Erik ended up taking the Summit road to the ski hill (assuming that’s were we would go), and that’s how we missed him at the top. Luckily the great folks (actually Minnesotans) at the general store gave him a Gatroade, cheese sticks and garbage bags at no cost (Erik had no money with him) and they also let him know that we had left about 30 minutes earlier. I’m sure he was shocked at the love and attention he received from us when he pulled into the parking lot. He was such a trouper and arrived shivering, but in high spirits. I’m sure this was the hardest/longest ride of his short riding career, and he MADE it to the SUMMIT-Higher than the rest of us. Way to go Erik!!
Who knows what day 4 will bring, but at that point it didn’t matter - It was 9pm, and we were all together and headed to Chipotle for dinner. HAPPINESS!