Missing the State Bicycle Hell Ride in Phoenix


I am zipping up my suitcase in an Austin, Texas hotel when my room phone rings.

“Hey Mark, it’s Scheduling. We have a schedule change for you. You won’t fly home tonight. You are going to fly two legs to Oakland, overnight there 12 hours, then deadhead back to Phoenix tomorrow afternoon. [Mmm-Kay?]”


I have just been “extended.” Extended, as in, instead of finishing my work trip as originally scheduled, I have been chosen by the almighty scheduling computer to “take one for the team” and spend an extra night on the road filling the gaps for a disruption in the operation. Such is the life of a major airline pilot.

But I chose this job. Robin Williams once said riding bicycles is the closest you can get to flying. I have the privilege of getting to do both. Getting paid to fly airplanes funds my bicycle habit. It allows me time to train and the means to travel to different ends of the earth to ride. But today it threw a South Mountain-sized wet blanket on my plans to ride a local “Monument” of bragging rights and bro hugs. Damnit!!

Last July, State Bicycle Co. inaugurated their annual Hell Ride. South Mountain in Phoenix, Arizona, fixed gear, high noon. Did I mention July? So, basically idiotic suffering at 105 degrees in the searing sunlight at 13 mph on a fixed gear up a 6-mile 6% climb, for bragging rights, beers, and a cool embroidered patch. Who cares about Strava at that point?


Now mind you, I can ride up South Mountain any day of the week, any time, geared, fixed, paved, dirt, you name it. But today, I had to spy out the passenger window of my company’s airplane as we arrived in Phoenix. High noon. I could see the support vehicles parked at the summit. I shoulda been there.

Such is life when your schedule lies at the whim of the clouds, wind, and rain. It happens. I try to tell myself that there is always next time, next year, next season when these “schedule interruptions” happen. I guess the only remedy is to just go ride my bike.