18 May 2009

winter bicycling escape

“I only went out for a walk and finally concluded to stay out till sundown, for going out, I found was really going in." -John Muir, 1913.

Driving into Arizona is breathtaking in that you feel to be but a tiny spec on a very large desolate land and your views take you far away looking at only cactus and distant mountains.

The large single pillar cactus that often has arms reaching out from it, is the most interesting. I had only seen photos of such cactus before and was puzzled when I started to see them supported as if a newly planted deciduous tree along the highway. Later I learn that this Saguaro has an incredibly shallow root system and are easy to topple over. They only grow once inch per year but like the trees of the great Pacific Northwest, they grow quite old.

I drove my bicycle out to Tucson as it was the warmest place I could think of where I would find empty roads, hot sunny days, and low chance of rain in the middle of winter. I was not disappointed. I watched a few cyclists start the long journey up Mt. Lemmon, however with my Jeep struggling at most turns and signs insisting I have snow chains even though it was sunny and 70 degrees, I kept my cycling on more relatively level ground to the south and west parts of town.

Every day I rode a few times around a small eight mile loop in Saguaro National Park where I would spy many different variety of cactus and 200 year old Saguaro cacti. The loop is one way which makes it a popular place for cyclists and runners alike trying to best their time at each turn. This story could be much more interesting of course if I had experienced the many anticipated flats to my skinny bicycle tires had the rumors of sharp cactus needles on the roads bore any fruit. Of course peddaling by the many wash outs and warning signs of impending doom should it start raining 100 miles away I was surely grateful that the weather was so nice.

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