Today was the last day of our tour. We made it to Bisbee, Arizona. Bisbee was our goal, so I guess that’s it! It has proven to be a hard trip and a trip that provided a great lesson for John and I.
A couple of years ago we rode from Ashland up through Keno and out into the California desert. It was late summer and very hot. We struggled against the heat and the desert. The riding was hard and the sleeping just as hard. Services were far apart, the campgrounds located even further from any, very needed cold evening drinks. We finally decided the reward was nor commensurate with the effort, threw in the very dry towel and returned to Ashland.
Now here we are again desert touring. Hot, dry and few services. Just dry desert, hard sand to put our fabric homes on and few to no trees to shade us from the hot afternoon sun. Stores that charge for water and ice and shelves filled mostly with sugar products. Campgrounds are funny distances for us. Sometimes 50+ miles and then only 20. Days hard to plan. Does all this bring forth the question, why?
John and I have planned and ridden a spring or summer 2 to 3 week trip for many years. It provides an opportunity to enjoy a longer trip on new roads and ride each other’s company, things we both enjoy. As I plan to be away for most, if not all of this summer we had to go early. I looked around for cheap fares to Athens and found one from Phoenix. I like the desert and knew it would be warmer and drier than Seattle or Denver, the other 2 options. So, the desert became the best option. Did I really just say BEST?
What was the lesson? We rediscovered that touring in desert lands is not a good fit for our rides. We like the easier big mountains, steeply rolling hills of river valleys, or the high plains. Give us a 10 mile, 6 percent Cascades climb any day over the 20 mile 2 percent grade in a hot windy dessert. No more desert tours for our vacation rides.
“By the way. What’s this end of the trip thing? You don’t leave the US until May 5th, right? “ Well, since we don’t like the desert we decided to go to a lake for a few days and do some day riding. Where is this lake? Why Phoenix, of course!
We have been riding for 4 days. Hard days, easy days, but great days all. The first day an old touring friend led us out of Phoenix to a wonderful brunch. A good ride through pleasant residential neighborhoods, easy streets, a reintroduction for me to Phoenix. After John Burt left us we continued on to Apache Junction. More than we could handle. The heat was intense for 2 cyclists coming from 40 degrees and 70% humity, the 90 degrees and 10%, was beyond our capacity. At 5 miles to go I began cramping in a way I have never experienced. The cramps on both legs were up into my abdominal muscles. I tried walking, but that did not work. The cramps were so bad that I had to stop in the middle of traffic lanes and wait for them to subside. People were stopping to help me. John went on, reluctantly, as I wished, to the campground. I decided that it was time for me to get my act together and get on with this business of pedaling. I got on the bike and stood up to pedal. Still hurt, but was manageable. Many times I have had cramps, but never to this degree. I went on, only 2.5 miles left, then 2, then 1.5, then 1, almost there, still standing. Both legs crying for me to stop, it was not possible. I had to get to the campground. Finally, a right turn and then a left into the KOA. I wanted a cold drink, but the office was closed! Life is just not fair. Rolling into the campsite, seeing John gives me hope that my life is not over. Soon I am setting up my tent, taking a shower and thinking about cooking dinner. John has cheese and summer sausage which we eat instead of cooking. He rides off to a store to get us some cold beers and we settle in for the night. This touring stuff in sometimes not all fun, but it is always interesting, as you never know what the day will provide.
Day off! Always a good thing. No need to pack up and move out. Walk around town, relax and see the sights.
Last evening we set off for an Italian restaurant, about a mile walk. Never made it. Instead, Tucson’s 4th street drew us down its interesting corridor. Unique stores and shops with art nuevo neon signs, lots of bicycle traffic and pedestrians roaming around, offering a welcoming environment. We could not resist changing our destination on this pleasantly warm evening. Looking in a barber shop, we spied the owner sitting at a desk closing out the day.
“Would you recommend an eatery to us?”
“Sure. Next door is the Box Yard, a collection of small cookery offerings like burritos, barbeque and oriental, all made in container kitchens, surrounding a bar.”
Off we went. Wow, a very pleasant courtyard of a fabric roofed court yard allowing the warm breezes and setting sun to filter the dinning, Ever had a bacon wrapped burrito? Neither had I until last night. This deep fried concoction of ground beef, peppers, onions and sauces in a torilla was completely wrapped with bacon and then deep fried to a crisp outside and prefect inside texture. Along with a good Double Knot double IPA brewed in Phoenix, what could be better?
While sipping on our drinks waiting for the wonderful meal we saw the barber at the bar. We invited him to join us. A long conversation about Tucson and his life here took us to California, through a bad and expensive marriage, developing a business and not calling himself an Arizonian. A couple of nights ago we heard the story of an Army helicopter pilot who after 10 years was discharged and had opened a KOA with his wife, just under a year ago and was not sure he had done the right thing. When people know that you are just passing through they often share the most closely held feelings, dreams and regrets with ease. I think many of us have had that same experience sitting next to someone on an airplane or at a bar.
The walk home was just as amazing. We discovered a wall. “You discovered a wall? So, what?” Just look at this street art…