Phoenix Rising

It’s been nearly a week of living in Phoenix and because I am an asshole with a short-term memory, I’ve pretty much forgotten that everybody back home is still suffering miserably through a chilly winter. As a sign in our condo says, “Phoenix: Where Summer Spends Winter” (but then goes on to say “…and where Hell Spends Summer.”) It’s so nice to ride in shorts and cultivate my sunburn! And now that I have made enemies of you all with my bragging, I will mention that I have a cold, it hurts to breathe, and I’m hacking up phlegmballs. See? There is fairness in life after all.

The week has been uneventful, aside from the part where we’re all living off zinc, emergen-C, and paranoia. It’s almost a relief to already be sick because when you are in team housing, it’s only a matter of time. At least I have stopped waiting and started suffering already. This is what is called trying to find the silver lining.

We have found a new home in town at Bicycle Haus, a place to buy all of the fancy bicycle things and get great coffee. The people there are very nice and welcoming (HI JOHN), even after I kept showing up with more riders and more requests. I am excited to show Andrew the shop when he comes to Phoenix, right after I steal his wallet so that he is unable to buy everything. That is the best part of being a wife: I get to crush hopes and dreams every day.

Today we are visiting a Pepper Palace store to spread sponsor love (and probably this virus as well). Then tomorrow comes the first stage of Valley of the Sun. I have worked all winter for this day – the first stage race of the season, the first opportunity to throw down in a TT after months of training – and now I don’t even know if I will be able to start. It sucks and I don’t want to make the wrong decision, but here is what I do know for sure: regardless of what happens, I want to race my damn bike. When I look back on where I was at this time a year ago, how I was broken down and anxious and wanting to run away from racing, I feel so happy to be here now, even with this shitty cold. Because this cold will pass and I’ll be able to breathe normally again in a few days, but this confidence that has finally returned isn’t going anywhere.

2015 Zanna and Lindsay in Team Housing

Aside from getting each other sick, this is what we do in our down time.

2015 Lindsay in Team Housing

And this.

2015 Peppers Racing Sun Devil

Jeffrey Buchanan was kind enough to share his great race photos from the Sun Devil Criterium

2015 Lindsay Bayer Sun Devil Crit

Let’s call that expression a ‘smile of exertion’ as I try to make this solo break stick.

2015 Sarah!

We talked about The Land Before Time the other night and concluded that Sarah the Sprinter and Sarah the Dinosaur occasionally look very much alike.

2015 Defeated by the gate

We are staying in a gated community and sometimes the gate is smarter than us.

2015 Zanna and John at Bicycle Haus

On our visit to Bicycle Haus, we got the VIP treatment with fancy coffee made in the shop espresso bar. Then Suzanna tried to touch all of the nice equipment.

2015 Zanna and Lindsay at Bicycle Haus

Coffee tastes better out of a $60 mug.

2015 Sarah and Zanna AZ Ride

Phoenix is lovely. What you can’t see in this photo is the headwind that nearly cracked me yesterday. It was one of those rides where nothing feels good and I almost shrieked with frustration and tossed the bike into the shrubs.

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BOOM Goes the Dynamite

When I arrived in Phoenix on Friday, it was with mixed emotions. I was thrilled to have successfully driven across America without getting arrested or killed or stranded on the side of the road (in that order of concern), but also sad to be pulling off the highway for a while. I’d have to actually start wearing respectable clothing and eating food that requires refrigeration. TRAGEDY.

[Also, it is now Monday and I am still wearing the same outfits anyway.]

The highlight of arriving in Phoenix was getting to see my teammates. And holy shitballs, it is awesome to be with my teammates. They are already my home away from home. We moved into our team condo for the week and promptly exploded all over the house; every surface is covered with helmets, glasses, bottles, Chomps, sunscreen, and snacks.

Sunday afternoon was the Sun Devil Criterium, our first race of the season. It went really well; Julie, Suzanna, and I launched multiple attacks and I had ample time to work on my time trial skills while riding solo off the front. (Lesson of the day: Thinking, “THIS HURTS OH BARF THIS HURTS” does not make pedaling feel easier.) With a few laps to go, we took control of the front of the race, set tempo, and led Sarah out to win the sprint while Julie nabbed 4th. HELL YEAH! And I left my taillight on the bike the whole time because safety first.

Then I rode around Phoenix in the dark for another 90 minutes because Coach Sue said to and she is the boss. I was thirsty and out of daylight and ready to take off my chamois, but if she says ride, I ride, because that is what you do when you believe in your coach. I trust her to make me the best rider possible and I trust my teammates to be an awesome family of killer riders, and between these two things, I know this season is going to be fantastic.

2015 Lindsay Bayer and The Moose

I find myself blessed with an abundance of mounted animal heads on this trip.

2015 Pepper Party

This is what happens in team housing. This and pillow fights, of course.

2015 Team Ride

There is no such thing as too much red.

2015 Road Trip to Coffee

Wait, we’re racing already? But it’s February and we haven’t even gotten to the coffee shop yet.

2015 Me and The Kid

The team kid is truly adorable, even while she is scalping me.

2015 Fuck Yeah Peppers

The Peppers looking hot before the first race of the season (the first of what will likely be many hot sauce puns this year).

2015 Sun Devil Crit Podium!

FOR THE WIN!

2015 The Devil Went Down To AZ

I need this bell on my bike.

2015 Julie and the Puppy

And we all need this puppy.

 

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Day 8 in which the red rocks rocked me

Journey: Flagstaff, AZ to Phoenix, AZ
Number of times I gave the finger: Wait, was I driving? Thought I was just sightseeing…
Cups of coffee: Another Peritus French press with breakfast, a few ounces of Coffee Slingers cold brew chugged before riding, and a Starbucks Americano with an epic view.
Low point of the day: Loaded down with heavy bags and a dripping rotisserie chicken, I wandered around the housing complex in Phoenix trying to find Unit 214 as my pants started to fall down and tears of frustration started. Somebody finally took pity on me and offered to help.

It was unseasonably warm in Flagstaff, AZ yesterday, so instead of driving down south to ride, I used the route just outside town recommended by my Airbnb host. He described it as an out-and-back along a single road. Normally I don’t like out-and-back routes because the temptation to go back is stronger than the urge to go out, but this was one of the most perfect, scenic roads I’d ever ridden and I was pretty much ready to keep going until Mexico.

After the ride, I changed clothes on the side of the road because modesty doesn’t exist when you live out of your car. Then I drove to Sedona along one of the most breathtaking routes I’d ever seen. The magnitude of the scenery was so great that I had to turn off the music and stop eating just to take it all in, things I generally wouldn’t stop doing unless I were dead.

Once I reached Sedona, it was time for more coffee and a visit to Bike & Bean. It’s so weird that people don’t fall all over themselves with awe when I walk into a bike shop (“OMFG, IT’S LINDSAY BAYER, FAMOUS PROFESSIONAL CYCLIST!”) but that will probably change soon, right about the time I get filthy rich from this career. And at least I got another free sticker.

2015 Day 8 Snowy AZ

The struggle is real, people. There is SNOW on the ground here.

2015 Day 8 View at the turnaround

That thing where you ride 20 miles out on the same road and turn around to see that this has been behind you the whole time.

2015 Day 8 I love this ride

Selfies are overplayed. Sure. But there are times that I want to be able to relive over and over, so this photo exists to remind me of this perfect moment on this perfect ride. I was so happy right then.

2015 Day 8 Lindsay Bayer Joy for AZ!

THIS HAPPY

2015 Day 8 Sedona Vista

One of the many astonishing vistas on the drive to Sedona.

2015 Day 8 89a

Do you see everything going on here? The peaks, the red rocks, the cliffs, the trees, the river below? Holy crap. It was nearly impossible to process in person. I could have stood there for a month and not gotten enough.

2015 Day 8 No Parking

I parked and got out so many times during the drive that it probably would have been quicker to just walk to Sedona.

2015 Day 8 Meat Bar

Nothing like staying fueled with what turned out to be the equivalent of a meat fruit roll-up.

2015 Day 8 Red Rocks

Dear Arizona, I love you.

2015 Day 8 Afternoon Delight

There are worse places for a coffee break.

2015 Day 8 Bike Shop

The famous Bike & Bean shop in Sedona and the newest sticker addition to the growing collection on my dashboard.

2015 Day 8 The Value of Sunscreen

SUNS OUT, GUNS OUT. Apparently when you ride in short sleeves at 7k feet of elevation on a sunny day with no sunscreen, you are rewarded with lobster arms.

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Day 7 in which I change my favorite color to terra cotta

Journey: Albuquerque, NM to Flagstaff, AZ
Number of times I gave the finger: It was dark for much of my drive, so why bother?
Cups of coffee: One mug brewed by Mr. JBV himself; strong, dark, delicious. The man has eight different ways to brew coffee in his kitchen, so I expected nothing less than perfection.
Biggest accomplishment: I peeled and ate 2 hardboiled eggs while driving. Didn’t take my eyes off the road, didn’t drop below 80mph, didn’t eat any shell. HELL YEAH. This is going on my resume.

After leaving Canyon, TX, I drove to Albuquerque, NM (which I spell by typing “albuququq” and waiting for autocorrect to step in) to spend the night at John Verheul‘s house. We’d previously only interacted online, but when he saw I was driving west, he kindly offered to host me. After telling my parents that I planned to spend the week in strangers’ homes that I booked through a website, telling them that I was staying with a guy from Twitter seemed almost normal.

John was a great host; we chatted at length after I arrived and he managed to mock me for being both old and young. Talented man. He was gone by the time I got up the next morning, but left me a cup of coffee and provided a great route to ride. I repaid his kindness by scrubbing his toilet with his toothbrush. No prob, John, happy to help.

Because I had a specific workout to do, I started the ride on the trainer in John’s driveway, much to the bemusement of his neighbor, the mailman, and the random dude handing out fliers door-to-door. (The flier guy had the good sense to stick the paper in the fence versus handing it to me; pretty sure my DO NOT SPEAK TO ME OR I WILL KILL YOU face and the gasping/sweating/grunting scared him away). Once the workout was done, I went out on the road for a few hours and fell completely in love with Albuquerque. Everything is basically a shade of beige/terra cotta, but it manages to be absolutely beautiful all the same. I waved and smiled at strangers, I took pictures, I motorpaced with a friendly landscaping truck.

On the way out of town, I picked up food at the New Mexican place John recommended and pulled over at a particularly scenic spot to plop down on the pavement and eat. There are times on this trip where I’ve thought about not doing things because they make me look weird or ridiculous, but I’ve gone out of my way to not care or hold back. Those times usually end up being the ones I remember the most.

2015 Day 7 Casa de JBV

Any doubt about being at the right house was erased when I saw this on the front door.

2015 Day 7 Driveway Training

I just can’t get enough of my trainer and what better way to enjoy a workout than to do it where all of John’s neighbors can watch and think his friends are strange?

2015 Day 7 Roadside Horse

After my intervals were done, I set out on the road to explore for a few hours and found gorgeous scenery and a life-sized metal horse.

2015 Day 7 Bernalillo

John gave me a route from Albuquerque to Bernalillo that was both easy to navigate and lovely.

2015 Day 7 Lindsay Bayer loves this lawn

Because John is a cranky old man, he told me STAY OFF MY LAWN and of course I didn’t. So lush! So green!

2015 Day 7 New Mexican Food

I was sent here to get excellent, authentic New Mexican food. Much enchilada, many tamale, so very good.

2015 Day 7 Roadside Dinner

I got my food to go and started the drive to Flagstaff, AZ. When I found an exit with a beautiful view, I pulled off, sat on the ground, and ate five pounds of New Mexican deliciousness. My massive meal looked small in the grand scheme of the landscape.

2015 Day 7 Hobo Paradise

The sign for this said “Scenic Vista” but I think they meant to say “Hobo Encampment”.

2015 Day 7 NM View 2

Once I climbed over a fence and hiked away from the hobo huts, the view did turn out to be quite scenic.

Day 7 Welcome to AZ

The photo quality is poor, but the concept is there: HOLY CRAP, I MADE IT TO ARIZONA.

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Day 6 in which I prevail upon the kindness of strangers

Journey: Canyon, TX to Albuquerque, NM
Number of times I gave the finger: None. Today was all hugs and puppies and candy.
Cups of coffee: 2 cups with my lovely Airbnb host and 1 latte from Palace Coffee Company, the warmest coffee shop I’ve ever visited.
Personal growth moment: Eating salmon out of a can at a gas station. Let’s do that again never.

Morning dawned warm and bright in Canyon, TX, which was great news for my plans to do a 4-hour ride into Palo Duro Canyon. Hooray! Sunshine! The weather app (WHICH I CHECKED, YES, I DID) said it was going to get cooler and windy in the afternoon, so I dressed accordingly and set out on my bike.

Admittedly, it was very windy. But with the sun shining, I warmed up quickly and stripped off my gloves and headband. Things seemed to be going well. Thirty minutes in, I started down the road to the canyon and the crosswind was aggressive, but it was cute to see tumbleweeds ripping across the road and I thought, “Gosh! This is an adventure!”

IDIOT.

Nearly 10 miles later, I’d reached the canyon area. The sun had disappeared, swallowed by what I’d thought were distant mountains but what turned out to be a huge wall of incoming dark clouds. The temperature plummeted and the wind picked up to the point that I was almost knocked over several times. Normal people would have turned around and gone home but you do not read this blog because I am normal.

I entered the official state park and started the descent into the canyon. It was a winding, steep road that would probably have been fun if I wasn’t bordering on hypothermic. While it seemed like I was digging the hole deeper and deeper, my logic was that I’d warm up as soon as I turned around and started the climb back out. Besides, I could hardly feel the wind in the canyon, so clearly that meant it was sheltered.

IDIOT.

When I turned around at the bottom, it was directly into a headwind. You know those moments in life, particularly on a ride, when you realize you are completely and totally screwed? I had that feeling right then. I’d have cried if I wasn’t afraid of making it sleet on my face. It didn’t help to see large paw prints in the loose red dirt near the road.

At that point, my only goal was to make it back to the tiny shop/cafe I’d seen on the way down, because at least there I could reflect on how badly I was fucked in the comfort of a heated building. It was nearly empty when I walked in, but then a few small groups trickled in, including a bunch of men in a sheriff’s truck. Everybody made comments like “rough day for a ride!” but I couldn’t bring myself to shriek YES! SAVE ME! Instead, I finished my cup of coffee and walked out to, I don’t know, ride off into the gloom and die?

It took about 8 seconds outside before I swallowed my pride, went back inside, and asked the sheriff for a ride to the top of the canyon. It seemed far too much to ask for a ride back to town, but I figured any time not spent riding would help. He was happy to oblige as soon as he finished some work, but then another man there walked up, said he was just camping and had nothing to do, and offered to drive me.

While he went to get his car, I chatted with the friendly sheriff (who turned out to be Chief Deputy Crump) and explained how I came to be riding a bike in the canyon that day. My story didn’t sound much better out loud – I do this for a job, I generally know how to check the weather, I am not a moron – but he was kind and shared interesting stories about his work. When my ride returned with his car, I heard Chief Deputy Crump quietly ask his partner to run the guy’s tags. They didn’t tell me they were doing it, but I was so touched by their concern for my safety.

Since they didn’t scream NO DON’T GO! when I walked out with the guy, I figured the news wasn’t bad. Honestly, I was anxious getting into the car with a stranger when I had no cell service and was armed only with Clif bars, but it seemed better to risk the possibility of being murdered over the certainty of hypothermia. When I finally had service again, I checked the weather to see that it had dropped from 52 degrees to 28 degrees with a wind chill of 14 degrees. I was wearing shorts and knee warmers. There was no way that could have ended well.

David (my good samaritan) insisted in not only driving me to the top of the canyon, but also the 15+ miles back to the house. We chatted along the way about how he is traveling around the country living out of an RV and when we arrived at my house, he helped unload the bike and went on his way. My host was waiting in the doorway – she had contacted me during the ride to see if I was okay due to the extreme weather shift, offered to come get me, and was worried about my safety in accepting a ride with an unknown man.

Between the two of them and the kind chief deputy, I was overwhelmed. Nobody had to help me or be concerned about my well-being; these people didn’t know me at all and I wasn’t their problem. But they went out of their way to look out for me and for that I am still so grateful. This trip has been an amazing adventure and I’ve seen and done so many things, but this – getting to see how strangers stepped in to help another person in trouble – this was the best thing yet.

2015 Day 6 TX is Effing Huge

The ride started out with some really exciting terrain.

2015 Day 6 My New Tumbleweed

I got to spend some quality time with a tumbleweed, which I’ve secretly always longed to do.

2015 Day 6 Palo Duro Canyon 4

This was the last time I saw the sun on the ride.

2015 Day 6 Palo Duro Canyon 2

And here is Palo Duro Canyon, that place where I would be a popsicle were it not for the kindness of strangers.

2015 Day 6 Palace Coffee

Palace Coffee Company, which offered both great coffee, friendly service, AND free stickers!

2015 Day 6 Welcome to NM

Apparently “The Land of Breaking Bad” or “The Home of Great Meth” did not make the cut as a state slogan.

2015 Day 6 Bad Decision

The sign said “Dead End” so of course I drove on, parked, and got out of the car. This sort of thing always ends well.

2015 Day 6 Rock Climbing

What, you don’t rock climb alongside the highway in socks and sandals?

2015 Day 6 Scenic NM

New Mexico is stunning – wide open plains, mountains, red rocks everywhere. It was breathtaking (which may have actually been a result of the intense windchill).

2015 Day 6 Lindsay Bayer Hiking

The face of a very cold person who is thrilled to be doing something stupid (apparently the theme of the day).

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