The sheer beauty of Northern Arizona turned Kevin Barnes' grueling 95-mile bicycle ride from Flagstaff to Payson into precious memories he can't wait to share with his friends in Winnipeg, Manitoba.
The native Canadian made his first visit to Arizona to participate in the 24th Annual Great Arizona Bicycle Adventure.
Barnes and the more than 140 entrants in the adventure made an overnight stop in Payson Oct. 5.
While tuning up his high-tech racing cycle at the Payson Inn, Barnes said he was impressed by what he saw during the first two days of the adventure.
"The scenery was fabulous," he said. "I can't wait to see the rest of Arizona we will travel through."
The cyclists began their ride Oct. 2 at Tusayan near the Grand Canyon. Over the course of seven days, the riders will pedal 525 miles south and through more than 29,000 feet of elevation.
In addition to the overnight stop in Payson, riders stayed at Gray Mountain, Flagstaff, Show Low and San Carlos. The riders are scheduled to arrive at the finish line, located at the Ghost Ranch Lodge in Tucson Oct. 9.
The Flagstaff-to-Payson jaunt covered about 95 miles and crested over the Mogollon Rim before making the steep descent through Strawberry and Pine.
For Barnes, the stint was challenging but not overwhelming.
"It's a long way, but it was fun," he said.
Barnes learned of the adventure while a member of a Toronto Bike Club.
"It sounded different and challenging, so I wanted to try it," he said.
Another rider, from Cleveland, Ohio, said the ride is rated in a cycling magazine as one of the 10 best bicycle adventures in the United States.
After leaving Payson early Wednesday morning, the riders pedaled about 98 miles to Show Low.
While in Show Low, the cyclists enjoyed a one-day rest stop, but had the option of taking the 25-mile round trip visit to Pinetop.
Along the way, sponsors provided sag support, mechanics, group meals and baggage transportation.
A moving van followed the riders into Payson loaded with luggage, spare bicycles and other gear.
To participate in the adventure riders paid a $525 fee.
In Payson, some rented rooms at the Payson Inn and others camped out in tents they set up on the hotel grounds.
The cyclists, whose ages range from 24 to 74, represented 25 states, Canada and Austria. The event is sponsored annually by the Tucson Chapter of the Greater Arizona Bicycling Association.