The Tucson Recap

April 19, 2009

Sleeping in is giving in, but I’m doing it today. I’m fully wound done after 10 days in splendid and dusty Tucson. My traveling buddy has elected to go check out this massive bike swap and sale that they do here – I guess there’s 3 blocks of stuff and hundreds of people. Despite the fact that I really want to pick up some cheap(er), but still kinda speedy, wheels, I didn’t go. Instead I am lying around, resting, and hanging with a Calgary and Synergy Aluni that now lives in these parts. To make it to the swap would’ve involved getting up at 5:30am and driving clear across Tucson. Screw that, I’m recovering, even though we did nothing yesterday. Fly out at 4:00ish, and then back to work.

In the meantime, here’s a highlight of some of the great, and not so great, things this trip.

1) The glorious packing job I did with my bike. I am lucky enough to own a piece of dedicated bicycle traveling luggage, which is sort of funny as I don’t even own a suitcase. I wasn’t sure which bike to bring, but elected to bring the one I would race on this year, but with some standard cheapo wheels. This way you can get some base miles in on the very whip you’re going to be aspiring to be cracking over the rest of the rubes that think bike racing is, as they say in France, ‘ze sheet.’ Here is the beauty of a job I did in carefully packing all my bike stuff, safe and sound, all accounted for, the perfect balance between too much and not enough stuff, just in case. Sweet! Ready to go!

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2) Delta wants $450 US to fly my bike. I almost made a bomb joke – almost. And not like a smiling, laughing, good times bomb joke, but the kind that features some piercing, direct cold and hard, pale blue eye menace. The kind of bomb joke that would pretty much guarantee a complete and custom cavity search of my person. So I bit my tongue, called my brother up to rush back to collect the offending piece of plane-efficiency-ruining-luggage and stuffed all my gear, seat included, into this nice big-ass duffle I’d bought. Then I just caught the flight, hoping I would be able to rent a decent machine in the middle of the desert. Delta is ass. I flew my bike on Air Canada last year, and West Jet the year before, and it was between $80-$100 Canadian, and that was to Maui. I even ran into some people from Calgary and they confirmed similar pricing on a Canadian airline to get their bikes down here. Thanks, Delta, for being totally out to lunch.


3) Alicia’s awesome bike hostel. CP found this sweet place for us to stay at, kind of a bed and breakfast but without the breakfast. Well, there’s a kitchen so you can make whatever you want. We stayed with this super rad woman Alicia, a hub in the wheel of the Arizona bike scene. For a small charge she takes in wayward racers and even the odd recreational cyclist. She was out of town for most of our stay, but it wouldn’t have mattered if she was there or not. We got a super cozy and relaxing place to rest up between rides. There were orange, pomegranate, and grapefruit trees in the very sunny and private back yard. What a great place to unwind whilst getting some spring training and sun in.

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4) Oh yeah, the riding. There’s a ton of great stuff to be found in and around Tucson, and a return trip will be needed to get it covered. Highlights include this awesome loop called Sagauro Canyon. You gotta pay to get in, I recommend a week’s pass so you can come back a couple times, or build it into longer rides when you’re nearby. The Loop is one way, so there’s no oncoming traffic – although one kook did seem to get turned around enough to be going the wrong way, so be a little aware – and the whole thing is freshly paved. It winds up and through this cool cactus forest, just touching the base of some steep desert cliffs. Its short, only 8 miles, but you can whip off laps as much as you want.

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5) More of the riding. We attempted to ride Mt. Lemmon, an epic climb that rises up out of the desert and into the Santa Catalina mountains just around Tucson. Lemmon has a reputation as a great training ride. Lance Armstrong, the American Tour de France specialist, rented a cabin at the top of the mountain and would ride up to it at the end of every day’s training ride. The total distance for the climb is around 40kms or so, which is a long time to ride your bike uphill when you haven’t been on it for 4 months.

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Tucson Calling.

April 17, 2009

I’m very happy to say that I was able to get away from the cold and snow of early spring in Calgary for 10 days of sun and warmth in Tucson, Arizona.

Tucson sits around 100 km from the Mexican border, and one of its fantastic qualities is that it receives 360 days of sunlight each year.Another one of its fantastic qualities is that there are hundreds of kilometers of bike lanes in the city and its surrounding highways. The people are very bike friendly and the city has served as the winter training ground to Tour de France specialist Lance Armstrong, as well as Jeannie Longo, a World Champion, reigning French Champion, and the world’s most prolific cyclist – Longo just competed in her 11th Olympic games at the age of 49. I think she got a bronze medal too. There’s a whole wack of other world class athletes that call the place home for at least a few months of the year, and the riding is the stuff of legend so it should be just fine for getting some zing on.

My first site of Tucson was from the window of the plane, of course. I’d spent some time in Nevada and Arizona years ago; climbing the rock, camping in the dirt, and hiking dusty trails, but this was the first time back to this landscape for around 7 years or so. We’d been descending over absolute darkness for some time, and it was almost like being over the ocean, I couldn’t see squat. No lights, nor any hint of the ground.  Just inky blackness. Eventually, as my eyes adjusted, the face and personality of the ground seeped up and I could see vague outlines of rolling hills, canyons, and more prominent, but distant, spires pushing skyward. Soon lights started to came into view, a river of them strung out in the dark of the desert, dot-dotted across the landscape in a steady stream that ran north-south. I imagined them mirroring that one spiral arm of the Milky Way galaxy you can see on clear nights in the country. There would be one or two grouped together, then a couple more, then a smattering of them, then whole cities punching out of nothing, yet all nestled in close to one another against the darkness of the unknown. I was thinking that the landscape here is like something from a story or fable – its kind of otherworldly in that way – and I remembered how much I love desolate places like that.

BICAS, Tucson

April 11, 2009

BICAS Community Bike Co-Op Thing. Or something. A pretty insanely cool effort to make riding a bike an easy to source and make happen way of life. Bikes are the future.