Trevor and I loaded up for a mancation, to ride and race the Whiskey 50 in Prescott, Arizona.
My buddy, Matt Wenger, is ballsy enough to take action on something I had only threatened to do. He bought a Sprinter, big deal you might say. It’s a really big deal, because he put his creative talents into building a bike-riding surfer’s dream. It’s called The HABAT.
For years I drooled over the “big Merc”… not some road racing, screaming V8 from Mercedes but the really big Merc, the Sprinter van.
Room for all the gear inside, check.
Fridge, running (heated) water, a sink, and plenty of lighting all solar powered, check.
Storage, lots of it, check.
Great German looks and engineering with manly all terrain tires, check.
Solid and commanding on the highway with 20+mpg, and easy to drive in town, check.
Got it? Everything a dad and son needed to mancation after being apart for two years. Plus, lots of road ahead to catch up on life.
Perfection is always attained with persistence and patience, and I’d be tested a bit on this trip. We finally needed fuel as we crossed into Arizona. We were down to a 1/3 tank and I thought fueling up prudent. I pull in for diesel, put my card in, insert pump, set it to fill and head in to pee. I return and exactly 2 cents had clicked over. After pulling the trigger a bunch, running my other two cards, trying different pumps, getting an eye roll from unhelpful cashier I call Matt. “Bro, how do you get fuel in? is there a trick?” “Nope.” Frustrated, not full, I pull out praying we can get ‘er done at next town. Yep, no problem. What gives? I figure the other station was empty and the cashier was a little too overwhelmed texting her boyfriend to care.
We roll on. Comfortable. Snacking and drinking and chatting about life. So engrossed, we zipped right past the turn off. 30, 40, 50 minutes later we decide to take the back roads to the proper highway. The sun resting behind us, we lit up the road with powerful beams enjoying the lonely desert highway. It got twisty, and we longed a different German tool for a section, though the Habat was steady and never topsy turvy.
Behind schedule and uncaring we slipped into our self-serve camp spot for the night. It was quite late. Even Neil Adams was down for the night. In a few minutes we had the beds up and our heads down.
Well after sunrise, we rose.
Those now showing up to find a spot mid-morning were turned away, the campsites were full.
Friday we set up camp, mainly just covering the cement table with our ez-up. Everything was already set in the van. We tweaked on the bikes then broke camp to pre-ride the some of the sweet single track.
Prescott has great riding. Decomposed granite is always a fun surface, and that’s most of what we rode. Single-tracks are flowy, fast and fun. The race was shaping up to be wonderful.
We ran into our friends Ben and Season pre-riding. Ben had told me how awesome the course was and I was glad to see him, and see he was right.
Pre-race dinner in Prescott. What could the little town offer? Well, how ‘bout an awesome steakhouse partner? We stuffed ourselves on salad and bread and pasta and fish and potatoes.
There’s a certain comfort to knowing all your gear is locked up, and a massive ease when it’s all in the van. “Pulling up the stakes” is a cinch.
We got back to camp. Got into bed and watched Breaking Away – the cycling classic, which Trevor had never seen. His passion for cycling is nascent, burgeoning. It’s all new, and some of it I get to see through new eyes. We howled over classic lines: “Refund? Refund?! REFUND!!”, “give me something American damnit, give me some French fries”. And we slept.
Early, real early we snuck out of camp in the van. Others slept, we crept all the way to the Start/Finish. Easy. Grabbing our Walmart camping chairs (Prescott has everything), we set up on the first line of the start and waited in parkas, comfortable while others stood freezing.
Neil Adams and co were there, Ted Willard and the G2 squad too.
90 minutes later, the gun went off and it was on. 5 miles later Trevor flatted. We fixed it. 3 miles later Trevor flatted. We fixed it. This would not be a race of dad vs son, it would be an adventure. We settled in and began picking off people ahead of us.
Getting that good start still kept us ahead of the conga line behind us. Neil and others were far enough back the had to walk a lot of the start. We rode… at a good clip too.
Flats behind us, the technical downhill single track was nothing to overlook. Now we were really up to pace and in our element. Miles and miles of descending later we poured out onto the jeep road that leads to the aid station. We felt good. Matt Ford and Linda McGee were friendly faces who helped us load up for the plummet to Skull Valley.
We flew. Flew past slower descenders then past the fast guys who were already climbing back up. There’s Ty, there’s Rob McGee, there’s Dustin and Ben and Charlie and… so many friendly SoCal faces.
At the bottom, we caught Kevin “Backpack” McKenna. Back on the climb, Jeff Renteria was bombing down the other way; aminute later a certain Meredith “Rosie Cheeks” Ford followed. Kevin dropped us – whatever.
How good of shape could my kid be in? He’s been sans physical training for two years, and the mountain bike he got at Christmas was mainly inside as he was in Utah snow all winter. The sun beat hard, the dust blew hard, and the climb got hard – much harder than it seemed when we were ripping down it. Finally, we made the aid station. This was earned and needed. We were parched and worn down.
Every race has it’s friendly town folk who line the course and cheer you on, Prescott more than most. They were awesome, having as much or more fun than us. Especially, when they lined the course a few miles of hard climbing later and said “you’re almost there”. Wiley vet that I am, I warned Trevor “don’t believe it, press on.” And so we did, right up to Cramp Hill.
Smoking single track was our reward. Fast. Technical. Tree-lined. Water crossing with fans handing up drinks of questionable athletic benefit.
The final miles of the 50 are paved, and all down hill. Way out, you hear the town. A mile out you feel the energy. A half mile the crowd sucks you forward. Our group of two swelled to six, there would be a sprint finish : 0
We crossed the line together, my friend Nate with us.
Lots of congratulations and skin slapping passed around the finish. A great vibe. Loot in hand we soft pedaled the short distance to our Habat. Changing in privacy, locking bikes inside, and walking to an awesome hamburger and fries.
I’m hooked, and so is Trevor. This is one bad Habat, one I don’t want to kick, one I want more of.
I can just see my office on wheels parked at San O all week, and on an adventure every weekend. Now I need to man up like Matt!