We woke up to no wind, calm skies and a slight overcast. This should be the recipe for a good day in Arizona, right? Well, think again…
Jamey, Rebekka and I hit the road instead of the trail to continue up and over Mt Lemon. (I think that was the name). Apparently this is common for bikers and AZ trail racers as the trail up is super technical and steep. Andy again took our bags to the top of the mountain in his car to save us some energy. I still had a pretty full pack on my back just to test myself out, but I gladly had him carry the tent bag. He and Casey drove to the top of the next climb and rode back down to Windy Point to join us and ride back up. The timing worked out perfect as we hit the point not too long after they showed up. Of course it was windy, and the ride up was pretty chilly, so I had my wind jacket on to hold in a little warmth.
All five of us unicyclists headed further up the paved road and enjoyed the views. The road is marked as a scenic highway and it definitely had some of the most amazing views of gorgeous rock formations. Andy pointed out some awesome climbing spots, and we could even see some bolted routes from the road. One was a stunning overhanging rock that had some quick draws hanging off and straight down. I definitely want to come back and do some rock climbing in the area and explore more of the trails. Plus, there is a bunch of nice campsites nearby.
We did a brief stop at the top of one of the climbs at a ranger station. My lips were dry as a bone as I forgot my chapstick at home, so I was super glad to see them selling it. The ranger lady was enthralled with us unicycling and snapped a few photos as we rode away.
Eventually we got off the paved road and did little dirt road action. It was nice to ride my geared 26 in high gear and get some speed moving along. Andy took his geared 29er and was also flying down the hill. The amazing part is that he has it setup brakeless, which means he has really strong legs to control such a beast of a unicycle.
We hopped off the paved road and did a tiny bit of single track. It was nice to get more deep into the woods and the trail had some fun technical bits to add to the challenge. The single track never lasts long enough and pretty soon we were down another paved road and at a General Store. My blood sugar was getting low, and the ranger had told us that this store had awesome fudge. So I loaded up with ¾ pound of fudge, quickly consuming about half that amount. I also stocked up on a few more bars as I was worried I might run out. The store was super friendly to hikers and even gave out free coffee to people doing the AZT!
Not far past the store was Andy’s car that had some of our stuff. We loaded up with 4 liters of water and strapped everything to the unicycles in preparation for a few days away from all civilization. Our local uni guides, Andy and Casey, showed us the start of the fireroad bypass that were about to do. Right about now it was lightly starting to snow tiny bits.
I kicked my hub into high gear to prep for some nice fast fireroad downhill and I was met with a surprise fall. The hub was freewheeling and refused to go into high gear! I tightened the cranks, adjusted the shifting buttons and messed around with bit quite a bit but it wasn’t working. I had just bought and built this brand new hub into my wheel mainly for the Arizona Trail and it wasn’t working! I had heard there were some manufacturing issues with this batch of new geared unicycle hubs, and it looks like I got one of those.
I was a loss as to what to do. The hub seemed to work in low gear but I was wondering for how long? Would it eventually seize up entirely? Or freewheel all the time, making it unridable? Should I rebuild my wheel on the trail and set us back a day?
Luckily we hadn’t left our uni guides yet, and Casey offered to loan me one of his 26″ wheels. He didn’t have it there but could drop it off for us the next day, if I wanted to use it. I hate inconveniencing people, as he would have to drive a few hours to drop it off for me, so I told him we would call him if we needed it.
So, we said goodbye to our friends and the three of us uni packers headed down a fireroad. It didn’t take long for the light bits of snow to turn into a full on snow storm. I put on my rain pants, jacket and rain jacket to keep warm. All this time I was thinking in my mind what I should do about my wheel. Finally, I decided that I should take Casey’s offer of his wheel and Jamey got ahold of him to tell him. Jamey also needed a new tire as his had a large gash in the side, and I also needed a “footprint” for my tent to keep it clean, dry and undamaged. I somehow managed to leave mine at home. So, we had a few things that Casey could help us with, so it wasn’t just my wheel.
We kept a steady pace down hill and the snow switched to sleet and then switched off. It was still cold but it was nice to not be wet. At about 5:30 pm we started looking for a camp site and found a spot that would work by the road.
At some point down the hill we got passed by a 4×4 car that had a gal hanging out the window filming Rebekka. We didn’t think much of it until we were at the campsite and saw another car coming up the opposite direction. The lady got out to talk to us, as she was told “some unicycles are out riding the trails” and simply thought it was an April fools joke. But low and behold it was just us having an awesome but chilly day.