A 160-mile benefit bike ride through barren deserts of southwestern Arizona turned into a challenging two-day adventure for six Payson cyclists.
Last week's 24th annual Best Dam Bike Ride in Arizona drew local residents Jerry Floyd and Robert Higginbotham.
Joining Floyd on the ride were his children Matthew Floyd, 15 and Kayla Floyd, 12.
With Higginbotham were son Paul Higginbotham, 15, and his friend Josh Lammers, also 15.
Upon their return to Payson, Robert -- who participated in last year's benefit -- said the Rim country contingent agreed that the ride was a rewarding experience.
During the course of the cycling adventure, the crew peddled their way from Dysart High School near Surprise to Parker on the banks of the Colorado River.
The jaunt, which is partly downhill, was not as difficult as it was last year when riders were forced to battle strong headwinds.
"Without the winds, it was easier but it was a little warm. Temperatures were in the 90s," Robert said.
In finishing the benefit ride, the Rim country cyclists were able to collect pledges of about $2,500 for the Multiple Sclerosis Society.
"We did better than last year when we had about $1,500," Robert said.
Officials say more than 2,000 riders participated in the benefit, which has turned into one of the MS Society's biggest fund-raisers of the year.
After departing Dysart High School early on a Saturday morning, the riders peddled south about 80 miles to near Salome where the contingent spent the night.
Earlier, they lunched in Wickenburg.
During the overnight layover, some slept in tents but others, including the Payson crew, opted for more comfortable motel rooms.
Along the journey, there were plenty of water and rest stops for the riders to refresh and hydrate themselves so as not to become victims of the heat, Robert said.
On the second day of the journey, another trek of about 80 miles, the route took the riders north on Highway 95 through the Colorado River Indian Reservation.
During some downhill stretches the riders were able to reach speeds of 25 mph without much effort, Robert said.
Late that afternoon, the Best Dam riders arrived in Parker where they were enthusiastically greeted by the local Rotary Club, which had prepared a picnic for the group.
Also, Robert said, as participants crossed the finish line one-by-one, race officials draped victory medals around their necks.
With the challenge of the ride met, the cyclists say they look back on the adventure with a sense of accomplishment that they were able to finish and along the way earn much needed funds for the MS charity.
The ride also stirred enough enthusiasm in the group for them to consider entering again next year.
"We're definitely thinking about that," Robert said.