Arivaca Road - Winterlude 2020 - CycleBlaze

December 20, 2020

Arivaca Road

After five straight days and over 200 miles on the Loop, we decided it was time to spice up our life with some variety.  We’re sort of leaving town for a three day road trip.   We’re driving south today to take a ride up Arivaca Road, and then will stay overnight in Green Valley.  Tomorrow we’ll leave the car there and bike north to Tucson, staying at a very nice casita we know of near the university.  The next day we’ll bike back to Green Valley again by a different route, pick up the car, and drive home.

When we wake up, we look at the weather in Green Valley and see that it’s 30 degrees, feeling like 25.  A bit cool for our tastes, so we wait a few hours before heading south.  40 minutes later we arrive in Amado, park the car, and head west up Arivaca Road.  We park in the empty lot of the Cow Palace, a restaurant that closed due to extensive flood damage a few years ago.  I look wistfully at the huge longhorn skull across the street, enticing  us to walk in through its snout for a cup and a look around the Longhorn Grill & Saloon before starting off.  Not today though, not this year.

In Amado, the Longhorn Grill looks like a can’t-miss spot in a Covid-free era. If we come back some winter we should stop in on our way south to Tubac.
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Gregory GarceauCovid or not, I'm not sure I could resist walking into the snout of a big longhorn skull. The pictures. The experience. The meat. I'd wear my mask though.
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3 weeks ago
Scott AndersonTo Gregory GarceauIt was painful to take a pass on, but I knew Rocky would object. I feel confident we’ll get another chance though - it’s been here for about 50 years.
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3 weeks ago

Arivaca Road gets its name because it’s the road to Arivaca, a small unincorporated community that began life as a mining center.  We won’t make it as far as the town itself today, but it looks like it could be worth a stretch to take a peek at.  Among other things, its original one room schoolhouse, built in 1879, is on the historic register as the oldest still-standing schoolhouse in Arizona.

The road is nearly empty as we bike west, as we had had hoped it would be.  When scoping out this ride I found an article recommending the ride, it suggested riding it on the weekend when the traffic load is down.  Now that we’re here staring down this empty road though, it’s hard to imagine  it as ever being busy at all.

Westbound on Arivaca Road, just outside of Amado.
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I stop to investigate an LGB (little grey bird), and Rachael continues on.  I expect to not see her until the midpoint of the ride, but unexpectedly she’s in my face again a few minutes later.  There’s an immigration control roadblock ahead and she’s concerned about biking up to it alone, especially since she hasn’t brought along any ID.  I chastise her for that - she really ought to be labeled in case of need - but then we bike on to the ICE bar, where we’re waved through.  I ask if we’re OK, and an agent chuckles and asks if we’re planning on entering Mexico today.  Nope - the border is 50 miles away, and anyway we left our passports back in Portland.

Not long after I hear a raven’s croak, look around, and see it perched on the platform of a windmill.  I stop of course, and this time Rachael really is gone for the duration. 

Windmill and raven, Amado.
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Bruce LellmanNice silhouette!
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4 weeks ago
Scott AndersonTo Bruce LellmanThanks. I considered posting it as a B&W, but I liked the blue backdrop.
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3 weeks ago

It’s a quiet ride for the next 20 miles, as I pass one or two small ranches and a whole lot of empty.  For the first several miles I’m biking through a mesquite forest, but as I gradually approch the hills and gain a bit of elevation the mesquite gives way a bit and the land opens up to the typical Sonoran mix of barrel cacti, yucca, cholla and ocotillo.

A nice ride, but to be honest not that dramatic.  There are land formations about nearby, but this road keeps to the low and open.  From what I’m seeing here so far, I’m not sure I’d make a special trip down here from Tucson unless you’re really tired of riding the Loop and need a change of scene.

The road climbs gradually, finally topping out twenty miles in.  Right as I reach the crest and can look down at Arivaca a few miles ahead, I see Rocky coming back up the other side.

Looking across a mesquite forest at the Los Guijas Mountains. I wonder how close we’ll get to them, anticipating some dramatic scenery ahead. The answer - not too close, and not too dramatic.
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A chipping sparrow, foraging in a layer of mesquite detritus. He looks just a bit punk with that Mohawk feather-do.
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Jen GrumbyA badass bird with mohawk
Ain't chirpin' no tall poppycock
Head feathers stand high
With a gleam in his eye
He struts down the winding sidewalk.
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3 weeks ago
There aren’t too many birds aloft - midday is probably the worst time for encountering them in the desert - but there are a few meadowlarks around.
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A closer look at the Los Guijas Mountains, a small formation that looks less impressive from this side.
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We’re above the mesquite forest now, and the vegetation is more diverse and interesting.
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So what’s this? Just an oddly shaped barrel cactus, or something different? It’s about 14 inches across, not counting its thorns, and looks more like a pumpkin or a giant stuffed pepper than a cactus.
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Bill ShaneyfeltYoung, but dead fishhook barrel cactus. Only a bit of green life remains.
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4 weeks ago
Scott AndersonTo Bill ShaneyfeltDied at an untimely age? That’s so tragic! I feel badly for posting this sorrowful photo now.
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3 weeks ago
Rocky returns. Ahead are some of the outbuildings of Arivaca, which is hidden down in that depression. Beyond is more rugged country and the possibility of another lonely ride we might drive down for: from Arivaca to Sasabe at the Mexican border.
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Kelly IniguezThen there's this tidbit about Arivaca:

https://www.hcn.org/issues/51.9/us-mexican-border-militias-maga-activists-and-one-border-towns-complicated-resistance

I don't know if you deliberately left that piece of info out or weren't aware of it.

We enjoyed the Arivaca road - now I'm interested to ride it the other direction. I definitely agree that some views are better heading the opposite way.

Kelly
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3 weeks ago
Scott AndersonTo Kelly IniguezNo, I haven’t seen it before, or heard of the journal either. Thanks for passing it on. I didn’t really read up on Arivaca because I knew we weren’t going to bike all the way to the town anyway.
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3 weeks ago

Well, actually the scenery is a bit more compelling than I’ve let on.  Toward the high point of the ride, Kitt Peak is visible to the north.  We bike back toward Amado for a few miles until we find a reasonable spot to sit and enjoy our lunch looking north at that dramatic spike in the distance.

Kitt Peak and the Quinan mountains make an inspiring backdrop for our picnic lunch. More inspiring than the bits of shattered glass surrounding us. We’ve obviously found the preferred spot to sit and admire the view.
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From this angle it’s hard to believe you could bike up there, but you can. On the far side is a road to the observatory at the summit that sounds like one of the best hill climbs in the state. Something to think about. (News flash. No, you can’t. This isn’t Kitt Peak after all).
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Gregory GarceauEither the backside of Kitt Peak has a surprisingly moderate slope, or you'll be facing at least a 60-degree climb.
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3 weeks ago
Scott AndersonTo Gregory GarceauIt is surprisingly moderate, and the ride looks reasonable: 3,400’ in 12 miles at a steady 7-8% grade. About like Mount Lemmon, but shorter. It’s supposed to be a great climb, so if we’re feeling spring chickeny some day we might give it a shot.
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3 weeks ago

The ride back to the car has a much different feel than going the other direction.  We’re biking toward Mount Wrightson and the Santa Rita Mountains, which grow ever more sensational as we approach them.  I change my evaluation of this ride as we speed our way back to Amado.  This is definitely a ride I’d consider returning for.

Video sound track: Closer to You, by Brandi Carlisle

Toward the Los Guijas Mountains again.
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Mount Wrightson and the Santa Rita Mountains ahead.
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The Santa Rita Mountains ahead, partly masked by the Tumacacori Mountains.
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A last look at the Los Guijas Mountains, looking more striking in the late afternoon light.
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Roadside rock art.
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The Santa Rita Mountains. That cleft behind the nearest ridge is Madeira Canyon, one of the best day rides near Tucson.
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When I enter the lobby of the Best Western, I’m quickly reminded that we’re not in progressive Tucson any more.  The sign on the entryway says that masks are required, but the receptionist is unmasked (but in her defense is partly shielded behind a plexiglass barrier).  At the side of the lobby is the entryway to the bar/restaurant, which is packed with a large, boisterous party.  

After checking in to our room I come down to get a beer to go from the bar.  Inside is a commemorative service for what looks like the elder woman of an extended family - by the entrance is her photograph, a brief biography, and the family tree. There must be eighty people in here packed elbow to elbow, with perhaps 80% unmasked.  I anxiously wait for the bartender to pull out a beer and ring up the sale, and quickly escape.  Back in the room, I realize I’ve left my credit card at the bar, and have to run the gauntlet a second time.

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Ride stats today: 45 miles, 2,300’; for the tour: 1,077 miles, 40,400’

Today's ride: 45 miles (72 km)
Total: 1,077 miles (1,733 km)

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