Thursday, May 1, 2008

Tucscon Tri-Chix

The best way to get through a Maine winter is to plan a little trip in early spring! Stay here for the late spring, summer and fall, our best seasons and longest days. You can survive through the holidays, especially if there is snow and you ski…but by March and April the indoor training classes are so old! The outdoor riding just isn’t quite fun, the group rides are just about to start…. but it doesn’t take too much effort to travel to warmer climates to push us through this in between time.

Mary Lou Lowrie called me with a great idea and though I usually can’t get away from work, I did! A 4 day cycling trip to Tucson, AZ. Mary Lou got on-line and emailed some friends and soon the outline of our trip started to take form. Kurt Perham, local triathlon coach had trained there and gave us some good tips. Mary Lou also contacted the local triathlon shop, and we solidified our plans. She had a Tucson cycling guide book overnighted and we were on our way. We packed our bikes, our nutrition and our clothes and headed southwest.

Monday was spent traveling and then getting settled. We put the bikes together, got unpacked and headed to to get our ride information in person. After spending some money (what Tri-Chix doesn’t like getting a few goodies at the store?) we rode back to our hotel. About 1 mile from the shop Mary Lou got a sheetrock screw in her tire. We could have patched it with a strong $20.00 bill but instead I rode back to Trisports for a new one, they had just closed, but luckily let me back in! We poured over the maps at dinner, planned our breakfast and tomorrow’s nutrition, water containers and sunscreen - we were now ready for our first big day of cycling in Arizona!

Tuesday: Ride #1: Gates Pass from our hotel – 77 miles. We were given a little scare when we were told the climb was a bit steep with a big drop off in one direction, so we planned to ride it so that we would climb that section rather than descending it. This route is in the Saguaro (Swaro) National Park – West. Saguaro are the classic cacti with arms. Mary Lou informed me that it takes 100 years for the cactus to grow to the point of growing arms, impressive! Every where you look, the view is simply incredible and the roads on the park were not very busy. We rode the McCain Loop and ran into 2 guys on a tandem. I hate to say it, you don’t usually see two dudes on a tandem…but these two weren’t your regular dudes…the guy in the back, the ‘stoker’ was blind and he and his partner were training for the Paralympics! They are competing in the Tandem Track Racing Division.. If you haven’t seen track racing, check it out, tandems, even crazier. The guy who was the ‘stoker’ had a genetic disease that lead to his blindness. He was a junior national champion before he lost his eyesight, he spent a few lost years and finally got himself pulled together to get back into a healthy lifestyle and even racing. Amazing. We stopped along the way for photo opportunities and sunscreen and finally we were at the ‘big climb’ and were rather undaunted! We’ve done some big hills at home, can you say “Mt. Washington”! But, this climb was beautiful and short, and since we liked it so much we went over the climb, took some photos, turned around at the edge of the Park and returned to do the climb from the other side! On the way home we stopped for some much appreciated ice cold Coke and found Epic CafĂ© where we had a great lunch and recovery. Then we went back to Trisports so Mary Lou could get a Camel Back. It’s imperative that you stay hydrated in the desert and we were a little close.

Wednesday: Ride #2: Group Ride from Starbucks across from Arizona University – 63 miles. There is a group ride every day that is loosely organized by Fairwheel Bikes. We heard that the ride could be 86 miles and since we didn’t know much about where we were, we packed our maps and brought our Camel Backs. We rode as a loose pack through the University as the morning sun shone was just bringing everything to light. Everyone on the ride was really nice and we soon realized that people would join or branch off as we headed out of town toward Old Spanish Trail and Pistol Hill. The 86 mile ride would have taken us to Mt. Lemmon but we were saving that for the next day. So, we stayed with everyone through Old Spanish Trail, gorgeous roads in great shape, and onto Pistol Hill. This Wednesday group ride was nice and mellow as the harder group ride had happened Tuesday and there had been a stage race the prior weekend. One woman was racing at Pistol Hill on Saturday, a 56 mile road race, 7 loops of the 8 mile Pistol Hill loop with a hill sprint finish, so she was riding it to get her beta for the weekend. As we rode through town we must have hit 20 traffic lights, the only drawback to the ride, and that caused some knee issues for MLou so at the junction of Pistol Hill we pulled off the ride to step back and take photos and take in the scenery. One tip, if you ride the Pistol Hill and enter Colossal Cave Mountain Park from the back entrance, you don’t have to pay the entrance fee to that park, that is what the cyclists do. We had planned to join the masters swim at Arizona University but decided we were on too much of a schedule and instead decided to eat lunch instead at the Casbah Teahouse. We then went to the University to visit the pool and the campus. We finished the day with a sunset drive to the Saguaro National Park-East ‘Visitor Center and Bicyclist Ramada’. This is an 8 mile loop, one way traffic, that is undulating and full of gorgeous scenery. We took photos and watched as the sun displayed its colors on the desert.

Thursday: Ride #3: Mount Lemmon – 74 miles – 26 miles of climbing, 26 miles of descending! This ride was the perfect finish to our trip. We rode it with the goal of riding a century that day so we parked the car between the beginning of Mt. Lemmon and Old Spanish Trail. I don’t know how to explain the magic of climbing over 3,000 of elevation and passing through 3 different environments. We rode from Saguaros at 85 degrees Farenheit to a ski mountain with snow, surrounded by pine trees. The grade is an average of 6-12 degrees, constant but not too difficult. The difficulty was not stopping every 10 minutes for a photo ops! We rode past Hoodoos, we smelled pine needles in the sun, we felt the cold air as we approached the snow, we climbed 1,000 feet toward the top only to descend back down 1,000 feet and then to the final summit after another 1,000 feet. The sun teased me into not bringing a jacket and we got very chilled at the top, so Tri-Chix had to get a fashionable garment at the ski shop for the descent! The descent was into the wind and we were somewhat appreciative of the way it slowed us down. Our average pace was 40 mph and almost as much work at the climb. When we finished we started toward the next segment of our ride to complete our century, but we soon realized we had to eat dinner, pack our bikes, and get up at 3:00 a.m. to return home…so we drove to the Saguaro National Park – East to ride our little 8 mile loop. It was as if we were doing a farewell lap to the desert. The sun was setting as it had the day before but the view was from the saddle instead of the windshield, even more beautiful.

The riding was fantastic! The roads in Tucson, gorgeous. However, do note that the roads in downtown Tucson change name mid section! It makes map reading difficult! We spent 2 evenings trying to find a particular Mexican restaurant to no avail! We found it the last night and apparently it is as good as they say, the wait was 1 hour, and we didn’t have the time, so as you should always leave something for the next time, we will come back in 2009 and eat at La Miniditos and do one missed ride, Kitts Peak! Apparently, the roads up Kitts are so smooth as the top is a big observatory and they need to be able to bring telescopes and equipment along this road! We’ll be back!


Michelle said...
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Michelle said...

Hey Shorty, It's Claire! What a fun trip you had, good idea Mary Lou. That is great you two got to squeeze that in with your busy schedules. Say hello to Mary Lou for me. Hope all is well, all good here in Claireytown. XO