Trip Highlights

We had 3 weeks in the warmth and sunshine of Arizona, beginning with 3 days with Gail & Tom in Phoenix. We lost 4 days of riding to shipping damage and repair at REI. We spent 11 days cycling 476 miles with 3 days off. We rode with Susan Reed twice, once on a GABA club ride and also with two other couples. We took a slow speed spill around a corner with gravel, causing Sheila minor road rash and neck/shoulder tenderness. And oddly Spencer had his foot run over by a car, also slow speed, with no apparent damage. We enjoyed engaging with the Sonora Cohousing Community, including TGIFs, Monday night potluck/games and their spectacular Re-Commitment event.

Backstory

Our first introduction to riding in Arizona was riding the GABA Cross State Tour in 2003 from the Grand Canyon to Mexico. We liked it so much we returned the next year and stayed with someone we met on the tour. Since then we’ve managed to return during Spencer’s school breaks a few times which restricted us to January (a bit cold still) and April (already a bit too hot). Now that Spencer is retired we’re able to enjoy the sweet spot of March. In the past we’ve sometimes driven (no longer own a car), sometimes flown in/out of Phoenix (to see our friends there) and sometimes directly to Tucson. Most of our riding centers in Tucson these days. In 2018 we worked out a home swap with Scott who’s a founding resident of Sonora Cohousing. Since then we’ve been able to return to Sonora in 2020 and again this year. When we were at Sonora Cohousing in March 2020 Covid was just beginning to surface. It’s interesting to be back two years later and notice how much things have changed now that we’re mostly all vaccinated and know that masks have been important but sanitizing every surface is not. Read about our 2020 visit.

March 15-17 Phoenix

The week before we left Spencer boxed up Tess and we sent it off to Tucson. We had a 6 AM flight from Seattle so we were awake at 3:30, picked up for the ride to SeaTac at 4. Crazy. But we arrived in Phoenix at 9 so plenty of time to enjoy the day. Gail had to take one of the dogs to the vet so Tom picked us up in his fancy red sports car (a loaner). Gail made us fabulous black bean and yam chili for dinner. The next day Spencer went off to visit an old high school friend, Rob Olson, in Gilbert and Gail and I had “girl time” – mostly schmoozing, walking the dogs and seeing cacti. They had recently read about a vegan restaurant that had good reviews so we headed over to Green Vegetarian. Great food. It turns out they’re 2-in-1 with a sweet shop next door with vegan soft-serve with mix-ins and a bakery! Thursday morning Gail took us back to the airport to catch the shuttle to Tucson. A short but sweet visit.

March 17-20 – Unpacking Tess in Tucson

Scott picked us up at the Shuttle’s UA location around 12:30 Thursday. Spencer quickly set about unpacking Tess. All looked mostly OK. There was one ugly scratch which we just have to accept given it was due to inadequate packing. Spencer covered it with blue tape and wrote TesS2 on it. A sweet play on words as we go by S2 and we named this bike Tess for the Tesla we won’t own. The box was NOT damaged and he had it nearly back together when he moved the pedals and heard a clunk! Oh OH! After some inspection he determined that the derailleur hanger had bent. We called the nearby REI and their bike shop said there was a queue so they couldn’t see the bike until 10 AM Monday but we had to bring it over to get in line. We walked it over, about 1.5 miles. And began figuring out how to spend our non-bike days hoping they were correct that it was a quick and inexpensive fix. In the ensuing days we read a lot, walked daily including food shopping and lunch one day at our favorite vegan spot Lovin’ Spoonfuls.

March 21-23 Back in the Saddle REI had our bike ready by lunchtime Monday. Whew. We instantly hopped on the Rillito Trail and headed out for an afternoon ride. The winds were strong and in our faces going NW. We slipped onto the Canada del Oro trail and sailed home. It was a beautiful 29 mile day. On the 22nd we took a jaunt to the west to practice on some hills, Starr Pass and Sentinel Peak (the Big A)). Still windy, and we hit construction every which way we’d turn. But it was still absolutely gorgeous with blue skies and sunshine. Another 29.5 miles. On the 23rd we just wanted to get off the trails and rode fast and hard toward the air base mostly on city bike lanes. Saw lots of cool yard art. Then we headed north planning on riding Sunrise Road. It’s a roller coaster, ending with a huge downhill run. Unfortunately, we found some HEAVY construction which landed us on a one-lane, potholed and patched stretch on the way to Sunrise. Tess’ boost got us through safely. Racked up 32 miles that day. It’s been so great to be back in the saddle, we barely remembered to take any photos. Here are a few from these first 3 rides. And we made Gail’s black bean and yam chili for Monday night’s potluck. It was a hit.

March 24 – Rest Day Puzzle We can’t be at Sonora Cohousing and not do a Liberty puzzle. Perfect for a day off. It took us parts of 3 different days. It’s only 14.75 sq inches but SO fun to do these wooden Liberty Puzzles. Thanks again to community member Geoffrey who has a lending library of these.

March 25 – The Whole Loop – 56 miles After our day off we upped our game from 30 miles a day to 56 today. When we left at 8:30 it was 60 degrees. By the time we finished it was 91! We rode the full Loop with our long-time Tucson friend Susan Walcher Reed. She’s a strong and inspiring rider who led us through all the segments we’d never seen – so we now know how they all connect. We stopped to see what was going on with the helicopter overhead when we were on the perimeter of the Air Base. You’ll have to zoom in to see that there are 4 folks dangling. Then we stopped for lunch at our usual vegan haunt at the Mercado called Beaut Burger and saw these very cool chairs that were like sitting in a top. And while there we ran into a Colorado-based tandem couple at lunch who said they remembered us from the 2014 NW Tandem Rally in Seattle. By the time we finished the ride, it was 90° out. Nice and cool in our little home away from home, though.

March 26 – GABA Easy Peasy with Susan Today we rode a GABA ride with Susan leading. It was listed as Easy Peasy, a 14mph average for 30 miles. We were the only tandem with 14 singles. We ended up “sweeping” meaning we stayed at the rear to be sure no one got lost or had a mechanical issue. We were back at the Mercado for a quick snack break before returning on the same route. Once again started in mid-60s and ended in low 90s at noon. We’ve had time this afternoon to do laundry and worked on the puzzle.

March 27 – Another day off for 2 community meetings This morning we had a 3 hour community workshop. It was lovely to see everyone and feel connected. This afternoon after lunch and a walk to TJs we finished our puzzle. It’s so pretty and so VERY fun to do together. Love Liberty puzzles! In the evening we attend Sonora Cohousing’s Re-Commitment Event. Their Work Participation Team organized it. There was an open bar, teams presented what they do and recruited, there was a lovely dinner and socializing. Scott (our host) emceed and Heidi (his sweetie) took this great photo of us. I also loved that they had a 2-sided appreciation board which was filled by the end of the evening and shared during dessert. Lovely event and inspiring.

March 28 – Oro Valley with Mike & Caren Today Spencer made 2 batches of PB fudge to share with both our hosts and at tonight’s community potluck. You can see how much is left after tonight’s potluck! Then we met Mike & Caren from Adventures in Tandem for a 30+ mile ride. Fun to get off the flat bike loop and onto some new territory and a little more elevation gain. Too bad tomorrow is calling for rain. We took a bit of a spill going around a tight corner. We’re both fine. Just a little road rash and sore spots.

March 29 – Thunderstorms + Hail = Rest Day Today we decided would be a good day to take off. The forecast was for 100% chance of thundershowers. And boy oh boy did they! These are quick videos looking out the front and back doors of our abode. Good choice to stay inside. Glad we got an early walk to TJs for more salad and dinner. Check out the videos for the full effect.
March 30 – Saguaro East National Park – 55 miles Today we rode out to Saguaro East National Park. It’s 20 miles on the Loop each way and about 8 miles inside the park. It’s a bit like a roller coaster ride. The return ride was windy with 15mph headwinds on the way home gusting to 24mph! For that headwind we really appreciated Tess’s e-assist. Can you say WINDY?! We do love this ride and having done it so many times, we didn’t stop to take any photos. But we did stop on the way out to capture these lovely hummingbird mosaics along someone’s fence. Enjoy.

March 31 – San Xavier Mission & Sahuarita: 72.7 miles Today we rode 73 miles with our local expert Susan Reed. That’s further than we’ve ridden since we did the STP in 2017! We went out by San Xavier Mission which we’ve been to before, but then kept going for new territory. We rode around Helmet Peak and turned back at Sahuarita. While we were on the shoulder of a main road I noted that it sounded like something broke. Sometime after that it got worse sounding and we stopped. A link in the drive chain was failing. After some effort Spencer was able to force it closed but we weren’t sure how long it would last. We limped along babying it, hoping it would hold for the 8 miles to the nearest LBS (local bike store). It did and they were able to fix it immediately for under $10. What a deal. Loved these signs in the shop. Note Susan’s brand new replacement flag. We opted for the shortest route back, which still led to a stop at another cohousing community. Tired pups when we finally reached home.

April 1 – Gates Pass with Anabel & Denise

Today we met up with Anabel & Denise who we haven’t seen since we stayed with them in 2004. We rode the GABA cross state with Anabel in 2003. They’re strong riders and live near the bottom of Gates Pass. We headed out at 8:15 to meet them at 9 to climb over the pass. Then we rode by Saguaro West and home via Picture Rocks. 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. Haven’t been posting ride stats but here are today’s: 48.4 miles, climbed 2100 ft with an average speed of 15.8. I said to Spencer that having Tess (our electric assist) is like being 15 years younger!

April 3 – Agua Caliente We took yesterday off the bike and tomorrow, being our last day, we will ride up Mt. Lemmon. Today Spencer did a little digging for something different and came up with a lovely 40 mile ride with only 9 miles on the bike trail. We rode out to Agua Caliente Park. As you can see it’s a bit of an oasis. The clouds were interesting today, sort of wispy underneath. By the time we left the park there were no more clouds.

Sunday Evening – No Frills Dance Happenin’ at Valley of the Moon

Scott invited us to see a performance he was involved in tonight. WOW! Everything about the evening was creative. The venue was nearby and outdoors and is older than I am!. You can read the history of Valley of the Moon at https://www.tucsonvalleyofthemoon.com. The evening began with a series of vignettes with groups of attendees rotating through until we all reached the open amphitheater and watched more performances together there. The moon was a beautiful crescent. The sign was for a number called Requiem and says Peace in Ukrainian. One video shows a portion of Scott & Heidi’s offering and the other shows the unique movement of the entry gate.

TesS2 makes it up Mount Lemmon

As we said in our post about this ride two years ago, it’s a challenging ride and we always arrive in Arizona having taken the winter off the bike. Last time Scott dropped off at the official starting location, about ten miles from Sonora and we rode home afterwards. This time we were fortunate to be able to borrow a pickup from a community member, Freda, so we drove both ways. Also as previously, we noted how the flora and fauna evolved as the elevation increased. This time we had more miles leading up to this ride AND of course we now have Tess so we set our goal for Windy Point, a few miles past where we stopped last time. You can read all about this popular ride in detail or check out our post from two years ago. We felt very well prepared. We froze 8 oz boxes of chocolate soy milk which were perfect with PB&J at the summit when they’d thawed. AND since we typically only carry 4 water bottles and there’s nowhere to refill, we cleverly froze half a 32 oz bottle overnight. Sheila got the insight to fill it with water so when we replenished empty bottles we did it with chilled water. Then we’d pour hot water from the bike in to cool again. We were also smart enough to bring our wind jackets. At 6000+ feet of elevation the air is brisk, especially with the wind chill when we were riding back down! We spent just under 3 hours in the saddle, averaging 14.5mph and climbed 4,235 feet. Not bad for the culmination of two weeks of riding. The trick will be continuing to ride when we’re back in Seattle since the 10 forecast is calling for unseasonably cold and wet weather.

 

Preparing to return home

We’ve set about doing laundry and packing upTess. Yesterday Spencer started by fortifying the shipping box which is the original that Tess arrived in. Given the damage shipping here we now have Snake Wrap Foam Protection to protect all painted surfaces. Should be significantly safer heading home. We’re grateful we can use Freda’s truck to take the box to UPS tomorrow morning. Then Scott will drop us at the Shuttle in the afternoon. Our flight isn’t until 10PM  getting us home in the wee hours of Wednesday. It’ll be nice to be in our own bed and amongst our own community of friends. But before we go, one final community event. We taught folks a new game which we gifted the community – Qwirkle.