Apr 03

Spring Break in Tucson

by in 2004 Trips

The Reader’s Digest version is we rode 255 miles in 5 days while staying with folks we met on the GABA ride last September. (Actually it was 6 days, but we took one off because Sheila got stung by a scorpion!)

Click to see Anabelle & Denise We flew into Tucson on Saturday April 3rd. Anabel and Denise (shown left in their yard) picked us up and took us to their home in the West Tucson hills. Isolated on 3.8 acres at the end of a mile-long dirt road that bounced through a couple of flood water washes, it was a gorgeous setting. Since they are both triathletes, they even had a 25-yard lap pool.

Our first ride was a 54 miler around the Tucson Mountains in West Tucson. It was mostly rollers with some gradual uphills. We rode past Old Tucson and through the Saguaro National Park. We were having a great time. During the last 15 miles or so we were caught in a torrential thunderstorm. Lightning flashing, mud flying, washes filling with water. It was quite the ride. Of course, we had left all our rain gear (fenders, too!) in Seattle. We were riding in jerseys and shorts. We were freezing! A hot shower and hot chocolate brought us around.
Click to see enlarged
I should take a moment and outline what we had to do to get out to the roads to ride. First we had to walk our bike along a rocky path for a quarter mile. That got us to a dirt road, the back way in to Denise and Anabel’s house. Then we had to carefully ride a half mile to a paved road from which most of our rides started. It was a challenge.

Roads in Tucson are interesting. They are generally straight, in a grid pattern. But they are NOT level. They follow the contour of the land. Washes rule the roads. The most common sign to see is: Do not enter when flooded. The dips caused by the washes are big enough to swallow an SUV. It makes for almost roller-coaster riding conditions. Actually the tandem is well-suited for that type of terrain.

Click to see enlargedThat night was the night Sheila was stung. It happened while we were sleeping in bed. She was stung twice. Since we had taken some antihistamine for our cold symptoms, it limited the effect of the venom. She did learn that scorpion stings hurt like heck for days, cause a spreading numbness that also lasts days, and are uncommon. Most people we met said they’d never even seen a scorpion or known anyone who had been stung. After that we made sure we shook out our clothes well before we got dressed.

Monday we just relaxed and worked on tandem rally planning. We also went to the GABA meeting that evening. Met more folks who had been on the cross-state tour. It was a fun reunion.

Tuesday we rode over Gates Pass and Picture Rocks Pass, a mere 37 mile trip. Anabel led the way. Gates Pass was short but fairly steep. Severe switchbacks marked the way down. The same was true of Picture Rocks, though it wasn’t as long or as steep. The rides were prettier in the sunshine!.

Wednesday we took an EASY (kept heart rates in zones 1 and 2) ride to the far side of town, 55 miles. Sheila had read about a community there called Civano. It was featured in Sunset Magazine as one of the best new neighborhoods. It had energy efficient homes and a mix of ages living there. It might be a nice place to settle some day. On the way home we were charging up the last steep hill when our back wheel slipped out of its stays. Instant braking! We recovered, tightened it back on, then continued home.

Click to see enlargedThursday we rode a 47 mile out and back ride up a long, slow pass to Arivaca. Denise and Anabel took the day off of work to give us a really scenic ride. The rollers never stopped. But it was basically 18 miles of gradual uphill to a little hippie paradise. Saw some great birds there, including a pyrrhuloxia. It’s related to a cardinal. We had a great time screaming down the 18 miles of downhill return.

Click to see enlargedFriday we rode with another tandem couple from GABA, Richard (left) and Dorothy (below). Boy, are they ever strong! It was another out and back, 61 miles this time. The pass we crossed was 2000 feet higher than our starting point, 500 feet above our midpoint. You can tell what that translates into: a fast return trip! We were really wiped out at the mid-point, the crossroads town Click to see enlargedof Senoita.  We weren’t sure we could do the return well at all. The sky was threatening rain again, though. We did not want to repeat that experience. We kicked into gear and were pleasantly surprised by how much down there was and how fast we could take it! We beat the rain.

Other than rain the first day, every other day was clear and warm->hot.  We got lots of sun. We even splashed around in the pool one day. All in all, it was another great trip thanks in no small part to the generosity of Anabel & Denise!

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