Monday, April 01, 2013

March Madness Of A Different Sort: Part 1

January and February combined yielded 252 degrees below normal in Tucson. While still 20-30 degrees warmer than Chicago, home for 42 years, these were not the temps that allured me to Tucson.

The end of February we went (without bike) to New Hampshire to celebrate my good friend's retirement (Barbara Cleveland) and my brother's (David Walcher) new marriage to a wonderful woman, Linda Harding. New snow is beautiful, but to have to wear crampons just to get from your car to your house--well that's why I came to Tucson--not to have to don such silliness. 

Tried my hand at replacing my bottom bracket and headset with the oversight of the helpful mechanics at BICAS all in the ready for some long-anticipated touring with friends in March.

First up would be "Wayne's Ride," Wayne Cullop being the President of GABA. Our 3-day ride to Rio Rico, Tombstone, and back to Tucson would be his retirement celebration which 100 of his closest friends helped him celebrate the end of December.

Weather for our 3-day Tour was Tucson-glorious with prevailing winds. What he didn't tell me was that were about 175' of climbing in the last 0.7 of a mile up to the Esplendor Resort in Rio Rico. 

Wayne and me leaving home for Rio Rico
He and I had ridden from Patagonia to Nogales and back to Tucson the end of December (a day ride), so it was fun to see Tubac, Tumacocori and Patagonia in reverse a couple of months later .
Mission in Tumacacori

Our route from the Nogales Airport to Mustang Corners in Whetstone (Rt 82) feeds my soul. The hills are long, basically gentle, expansive grasslands (yep saw long horned sheep and antelope) and rounded, steep cliffs atop which I swear I can see Native Americans mounted on their horses keeping watch over their precious land. I saw this beauty for the first time in 2007 on my first 200k Brevet, also my first time to be so far from home without a SAG/support crew. Little did I know that would be just the beginning of solo, far away from home, journeys.

Day 2 to Tombstone was a long, slow 75 miles (~4,000' climbing), Wayne feeling the miles after having not logged tour-training miles while still working, and in the Jan-Feb Tucson chill. I found I appreciated the opportunity to pause atop the various grades waiting for him; I could feel the breeze, take in the grand expanses surrounding me, and feel humbled by my minuteness in the grand scheme of universe history. Bill Bryson's, A Short History of Nearly Everything, came to mind.

We opted to amend our route from Tombstone back to Tucson the next day shortening the mileage by about 20 and decreasing the climbing by a couple of thousand feet. It would mean riding for about 20 miles on I-10 between Benson and Vail, but the shoulder is wide and we expected traffic to be minimal on a Saturday. Wrong x 1-1/2.

The 18-wheeled traffic didn't seem to know it was Saturday and pounded by us, not a problem when we had a good shoulder. But, there were 3 miles of road construction that ended up being potentially murderous or suicidal. You choose. The last 1-1/2 miles of the road construction left us with a rumble strip and 18 inches of "shoulder" between us and the 18-wheelers. It was nothing short of miraculous we made it across safely. It was the operational definition of "there is no way out but through". 

Many prayers of gratitude and a wishing that we had opted for Marsh Station Rd. We had ruled Marsh Station Rd. out because it was a few miles longer and the road surface was reputed to be of poor quality--pretty puny reasons after seeing what was behind "door 1". 

Lunch in Vail at the junction of Colossal Cave Rd and Mary Ann Cleveland Rd. felt like we were home, although we had about 35 miles to go, but the miles ahead are ones we both ride regularly around Tucson metro. We split at Kolb and the Julian Wash to head our separate ways to Tucson's northeast and northwest.

There will be more Wayne and Susan rides, this much I know is true.

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