October 18 – 27
We began the tour by meeting our fellow participants as they showed up later in the afternoon on Saturday, then formally convened at 4pm to meet our two Adventure Cycling Association (ACA) tour leaders, Sue Davendonis and Christi Horton. We gathered in a circle behind the ever-present ACA trailer for a briefing session to fill us in on trip details and logistics.
Our tour, Southern Arizona Sunsets, would differ from our first two tours with ACA as they were fully supported versions while this one would be Van-Supported. The primary difference between these two types is the level of support (only two staff instead of five) and that we would be participating in food shopping and one day of cooking duties.
Our first day on the bikes was 50-miles and a modest 2,100 feet of climbing as we rode through Saguaro National Park on its one-way loop, featuring those majestic cacti as far as the eye could see. Our destination for the day was Cactus Country RV on the outskirts of Tucson, primarily a transient park that had a number of full time residents.
I would have cooking duties the next day with my assigned partner Daniel (couples were split up to facilitate socializing) and as our next night’s stay at Patagonia Lake State Park wasn’t near any markets, we’d accompany the first night’s cooking team (Molly and Victor) to shop with them. The daily routine for this function would be to finish the day’s ride and at 4:00pm head to the market to buy that night’s meal ingredients and the next day’s breakfast and lunch supplies, augmenting what was left from the preceding days.
The four of us took off for a local Wal-Mart with Christi, Daniel and I having decided on making Sloppy Joes and a pasta salad using a recipe I’ve had good success with. The routine each day was to return from shopping by 5:00pm and set out appetizers (usually something quick and easy like chips and dip or a meat and cheese tray).
While others were enjoying the pre-dinner snack the main course would be prepared and served at 6:00pm, followed by a map talk (where we discussed the next day’s route and logistics) at 7:00pm. Breakfast would be coffee at 6:30 and then food at 7:00 when we also prepared our lunches for the day. In the meantime, folks would be breaking down tents and packing bags to in order to leave camp sometime after 8:00am.
The next day would turn out to be one of the hardest days for Joanna and me yet on a bike, the mileage not bad at 59 miles but the 3,600 feet of climbing came entirely in an agonizing 22-mile stretch. The sustained effort combined with warm temperatures made for a miserable time of it, rescued only by the last 30 miles or so being slightly downhill, saving us as we truly felt like abandoning midway through the climb.
I was the first one into camp and the long period of recovery revived me enough to prepare the pasta salad as it is best if chilled (Sue and Christi cut me some slack and gave me extra time to prepare it) and putting the rest of the meal together took Daniel and I the remaining hour. We had plenty of leftovers which would be used the next day by Joanna and her partner Betsy for a spaghetti feast prepared with ingredients purchased at the only thing resembling a market in that day’s destination, Tombstone, a Dollar General.
That next day would be the longest of the tour, clocking in at 66 miles with 3,300 feet of climbing. My bike computer would get turned off for three miles, but my average speed would be consistent as the day turned out to be a good one, the climbs all manageable, the pace fast with much of it favored by a tailwind. The last mile or so proved difficult at the end of the long day with a short but relatively steep finish to our lodging for the night, the Landmark Lookout Lodge.
While Joanna and Betsy shopped and started dinner, I spent an hour plus doing our laundry, where I consumed a large can of Heineken beer which enhanced the comedic elements of the operation in front of me. First, half of the dryers were out of order and one of them took my money and didn’t turn on; fortunately one of the other customers pointed out one that actually worked, as we had all become brothers in arms.
Later, the owner or manager would drop by to check out a problem with one of the washer’s and when I approached him about getting a refund, he honestly asked me what “I expected him to do about it, do you want me to fix the machine? That will take a long time”. I responded no, I’d just like my fifty-cents back. His beleaguered assistant handed me back my money with a rueful look on her face.
Laundry finished I walked the mile or so back to the Lodge lugging a full bag of clothes arriving just in time to enjoy the fabulous spaghetti dinner prepared by Joanna and Betsy. It had been a good day and we looked forward to the next which would take us to Bisbee for two nights and a rest day in between. We’d been there many years ago with my parents the year before my Mom passed away, so we were looking forward to returning for a full day of just being tourists. And then it would be back on the bikes. But for now, it was good to just relax.
Southern Arizona Sunsets: https://www.adventurecycling.org/guided-tours/van-supported-tours/2020-southern-arizona-sunsets-van/
Cactus Country RV: https://www.cactuscountryrvpark.com/
Patagonia Lake State Park: https://azstateparks.com/patagonia-lake/
Landmark Lookout Lodge: https://www.lookoutlodgeaz.com/