Jumping in the WayWayBack Machine, I first started coming to Tucson, Arizona in the winter of the early 2000s. I did a J(anuary)-term at the UofA where my brother Robbie had just graduated, and I even went so far as to temporarily withdraw from Middlebury to do my “semester abroad” at the UofA. People scoff at that, but the difference between Middlebury and the University of Arizona — geographically, demographically, and academically — is about as foreign to one another as studying in a different country. Plus I passed Statistics like a breeze in a classroom that had more people than my entire graduating class at Midd. Easy A’s are fun.
A wet USA:
A super wet California:
All said and done, I’ve probably spent 12 months or more of my life in Arizona and with the Rainpocalypse ferociously descending upon California with no end in sight, plus with The Coast Ride on the immediate horizon, I decided it was a good time to visit these old stomping grounds.
Arizona delivered. I bought the ticket Friday, flew Saturday, and spent Sunday-Thursday riding bikes and taking in all of the Grand Canyon State’s arid excellence. Sunday I met up with chef to the stars, Seamus Mullen and good friend Chris. Chris has a knack for finding good roads, and despite all the great roads already north of Scottsdale, Chris delivered even finer gravel for our travel. The Cannondale EVO with SRAM eTap HRD and fat 30c tires on my Zipps 303 were perfect for the job.
Plus a stop at the original Okay Corral.
Monday I rolled out with good friend and host Andy, then when he went to work, so did I. I ended up at Bartlett Lake, which I’ve never been to nor seen before, but chatted up Robbie afterwards and learned he won the road race that descends precipitously to the lake and ascends back up from it. Yes, believe it or not, there are lakes in the Arizonan desert.
Tuesday I visited Kale and the good folks of Bicycle Haus. Not your mom and pop’s bike shop, Bicycle Haus is one of a kind. They sell UnTapped and Velocio like gangbusters, but that’s just the tip of the ice burg. I learned how to slay it on their Slayer espresso machine and segued that caffeine consumption into leading a popup group ride. The pre-dawn 7am meet up time didn’t seem to thwart this crowd because 20+ people showed up for the ride, drank some more coffee and fueled up with UnTapped, then rolled out a solid 3 hours.
Back in my good ol’ days in Arizona a decade ago, my friend Curtis Zimmerman played host to aspiring cyclists of all kinds. It appears that times haven’t changed because he’s currently hosting east coast pro, Emerson Oronte. Better yet, Wednesday was Curtis’ birthday, so reason to come to town and have a good times reminiscing about the good ol’ days. Well… yup, that happened, we had a late night, and then an even later start saw us attacking the 27 miles up Mount Lemmon.
It starts with tons of saguaros as far as the eye can see:
Then the higher you get, the horticulture turns to high alpine pine trees:
The views become even more mesmerizing:
And lastly, you climb for 2 straight hours purely so you can eat a cookie. The Cookie Cabin is well worth the time and effort:
I rounded out the trip with round ice balls (no, not cubes, they’re literally perfectly spherical balls. Long story. Thank you Andy, but I’ll tell you all later…) last night during another delightful meal plus an early ride pre-flight today. So not only was the weather, hospitality, and riding stellar throughout this trip to the desert, but now there’s a glimmer of sun coming to California just in time for The Coast Ride.