February 14 – March 6 2018

This year we fulfilled a long-held ambition to make an extended stay at a cohousing community in Tucson during the winter. We’d thought about this since 2004. We were able to make it happen by swapping our unit in Seattle with a gentleman named Scott from Sonora Cohousing in Tucson. Our plan was simple. We’d go to Phoenix so Sheila could attend a WordPress Conference while we stayed with Gail and Tom. Then to Tucson to learn the ins and outs from Scott about his place before he flew to Seattle. It was a great plan.

But there was one flaw. In late January Sheila started suffering from a weird muscle cramp which basically kept her from walking. Many visits to specialists later, we still weren’t sure we’d be able to ride during our stay in Tucson. We packed the bike anyway, then used a wheelchair to get Sheila to the plane. This is not the way you want to earn priority boarding.

Despite arriving in Phoenix during a huge rainstorm, our stay was pleasant. Sheila used a chair to get around at WordCamp for 2 days. She even was one of the presenters. The socializing and schmoozing of sponsors was a highlight for her. While she spent time there, Spencer spent time with friends from high school and from Camp UKANDU. We both then enjoyed evenings with Tom and Gail.

We caught a bus to Tucson. It was a private transport company which was nice, but it left us off well south of the city. Scott picked us up and carted us to Sonora. He has an aging cat we learned to care for (lots of mopping), and a great home with a trapeze in his living room! He’s a dancer. Go figure.

Tucson had unseasonably cold temperatures – freezing at night and high 40s during the day. Since riding wasn’t in the cards, we spent our first 4 days here in Vacation Movieland.  We took in 4 films in 4 days: “The Shape of Water”,  “Call Me By Your Name”, “The Insult“, and “Age of Consequences“. Then we binge-watched the entire first season of the new Star Trek series, Discovery, on CBS. We enjoyed a couple of meals with the community that first week.

Sheila got some informal assistance for her butt pain (not me) from a PT who lives here in cohousing and was feeling up to the challenge of the tandem. By Feb 22 we were ready to start riding. We did our first 4 rides all on flat trails which felt surprisingly good. As Sheila said, “being on the bike is like being home.” Our rides were all first-of-the-year short, topping out at 25 miles. But the weather was improving again and we had two days that hit 70+ degrees.

Then the rain and cold returned. Snow on the mountains. We drove up to tour Colossal Cave. It was a balmy 72 degrees inside. The pathways were all built by CCC crews in the 30s. We were a little concerned about Sheila’s mystery muscle ailment, but she handled the half mile, 362-stair trail like a champ.

Sheila went to her first yoga class in more than month and had no pain from it. It was taught by a member of the community. The warmth returned and we got back out on the roads. We saw the most beautiful red bird while riding. We even went back to get a better look. Couldn’t get a good photo (this one is from Google) but looked it up and it was a Vermilion Flycatcher which is the Tucson Audubon’s mascot/logo. Quite striking.

On our 5th ride we broke 100 miles for the week. It was fun to reconnect with our friend Susan Reed, who we’ve ridden with several times over the past 5 years. We weren’t riding long distances, but topped 30 miles on this trip.

The culmination of our Tucson riding was a 45 mile route that tripled our highest elevation gain to date. We took the Loop (50 miles if you do the whole thing) to Old Spanish Trail and out to Saguaro East National Park and back. The 8 miles roller coaster route in the park is one of our favorite rides in Tucson. Be sure to zoom in on that photo with the warning sign below. They REALLY want you to be careful on some of these steep, curvy sections. Clearly Sheila was feeling a lot better. She still was getting the unexplained spasms while walking but less often. It got up to 78 three days in a row.

The time in Tucson ended with a birthday celebration with Sheila’s long-time friend Carla Granat who was in town to visit her husband’s family. We had a lovely evening with Steve, Carla, Justin and Linda just yards from the Loop Trail. Sunday Spencer packed up the bike and then we went to the kick off performance at the annual Chamber Music Festival, the reason for Carla & Steve’s visit to Tucson. On Monday we rented a car (instead of the bus) to return to Phoenix for one more night with Gail and Tom before flying home Tuesday. We even had time to go see the Musical Instrument Museum for a few hours in the afternoon. This museum takes you on a comprehensive world tour of musical instruments. Admission includes a headset that plays examples as you walk by. Allow all day if you’re able to take full advantage. Sheila thought she was better enough to walk but an hour in the pain returned and we borrowed a wheelchair from the museum.

Three weeks is a lovely amount of time for recharging our solar batteries before returning to Seattle. So glad we were able to ride some while here.

Maine Fall Foliage Tour