Green Valley to Tucson, one way - Winterlude 2020 - CycleBlaze

December 21, 2020

Green Valley to Tucson, one way

It hardly feels like winter solstice this morning as we bike away from our motel at about 9:30.  It’s already comfortable, and by midday it will be decidedly warm.  It’s as balmy as a late summer day might feel back home in Portland.

Today is the front half of a two day loop back to Tucson, returning here tomorrow to retrieve the car.  Today  we’re taking the high route up the west side of the valley, and tomorrow we’ll come down the low road through Sahuarita.  The ride today begins with a lazy climb west up to Mission Road, where we turn north.  It is surprisingly scenic, surrounded by the colorful yet appalling remains of vast open pit mines.

It doesn’t feel much like winter solstice this morning when we leave Green Valley. It’s in the 50’s already and will rise to about 75 by afternoon.
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We’re about six hours past solstice as we bike east up Continental Road out of Green Valley. The days feel longer already!
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Still east, climbing up Duval Mine Road, with the large open pit copper Sierrita Mine (originally the Duval Mine) straight ahead.
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Another window into the Sierrita Mine.
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We’re really surprised at what a fine ride Mission Road is.  We biked the other direction on our first tour through here, as part of a long day down to Tubac.  I remember it as being a busier, rougher ride then; but there is very little traffic this weekday morning, and after the first few fairly rough miles the road turns glassy smooth.  Once we crest out and start descending we fairly race down the road, the distinctive spike of Helmet Peak ahead of us pointing the way north.

Video sound track: Hanuman, by Rodrigo y Gabriela

Here, we’re on Mission Road looking back south toward the Santa Rita Mountains. On the left is the Mission Complex, another open pit copper mine. This country is really torn up, with evidence of large scale mining activity every direction you look.
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An attractive rock garden: ocotillo and Santa Rita prickly pear.
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I saw Rachael chatting at close quarters with another biker and was going to chide her until I saw they’re both masked. I biked past, but later he overtook me and complimented me on my fitness (Rocky told him I was 75, not 74!), and then bragged that he’s 84 himself. Wow!
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The Mission Complex mine makes a colorful backdrop to this saguaro.
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If you’ve been following Kelly Iniguez’s journal of her own current stay in Tucson, you’ll recognize the next several photographs.  About half of our ride today intersects with her own ride on Mission Road, and we stopped for some of the same subjects, even including the same distinctive saguaro cacti.

We stop for lunch at San Xavier del Bac Mission, eating our sandwiches sitting on a weathered log in the warm midday sun.  It’s quiet today with only a few people about, as we’re here after the mission closes for the day at noon.  It’s a remarkable monument and well worth a pilgrimage and a longer stay to explore its interior, but we’re just passing through today.  We’ve been inside in the past, and I’m confident we’ll return someday.

Approaching dramatic Helmet Peak. I feel the excitement of discovery, until I look back and see I just saw a photo of this two days ago.
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I was taken by these two impressive saguaros so close to each other. So were Kelly and Jacinto, I see.
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Kelly IniguezI wonder how many photos have been taken in the same spot? I think you have a better eye for composition. I'm more of a snap and go photographer . . . thanks for the personal mention!
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3 weeks ago
Dropping down to the San Xavier del Bac Mission, one of the most compelling sights in the region. Built in the late 1700’s, this is the oldest European structure in Arizona.
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The mission has an interesting architecture. The left half to me looks Greek, and the right Spanish.
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The full frontal view. But you’ve seen this already recently.
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The elegant San Xavier Mission School, first opened in 1864, is one of the oldest schoolhouses in the state.
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The front of the mission is lined by a colorful cactus garden.
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Our lady of the desert.
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Bill ShaneyfeltCacti look drought stressed.
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3 weeks ago

We drop off the east side of the mission, still following the Iniguez Route, until we reach unpleasant Valencia Road.  It’s busy and hectic, but at least there’s a broad, relatively trash-free shoulder.  We’re only on it for a mile until we come to the southern end of Paseo de las Iglesias, the beautiful bike path that carries us north until we intersect with the Loop and the by now familiar route back to our casita.

Approaching Tucson from the southeast, on the Paseo de las Iglesias. Begun in 2004, this path along the Santa Cruz River predates and links to the Loop. To my mind, it’s the most attractive and graceful component of the entire network.
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It would be so much more efficient to straighten this out. My theory is that the trail designers were cyclists themselves, and just like to have fun.
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I didn’t take note what this circle of flags associates with, thinking I could figure it out from the map. I couldn’t, surprisingly, so I’ll check it out next time I bike this way.
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Kelly IniguezI cycled past here yesterday! Entering the circle gives a better flag perspective. Actually, I went past twice - out and back. Yet we didn't see each other . . .. cyclists in the night (day?).
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3 weeks ago
Scott Anderson Nope, you’re a day off. This is from Monday, and you biked past here yesterday. I’m watching out for you though. We’re off the bikes today - after eight straight days I’m ready for a change in routine.
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3 weeks ago
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Ride stats today: 42 miles, 1,500’; for the tour: 1,119 miles, 41,900’

Today's ride: 42 miles (68 km)
Total: 1,119 miles (1,801 km)

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Kathleen JonesYour riding by the mission on the solstice happened on the day I read an article from 2017 that told me something I never knew about: some mission churches in this hemisphere were sited so something inside the church - altar, icon - would be lit by the sun on a significant day such as solstice or equinox, or on feast days. https://www.smithsonianmag.com/history/how-sun-illuminates-spanish-missions-on-winter-solstice-180967619/
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3 weeks ago
Suzanne GibsonDid Rachael speed up the video or do you always have a cadence of what looks like 150 rpm?
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3 weeks ago
Scott AndersonTo Suzanne GibsonOh, foop. You figured it out. I was hoping you’d be impressed.
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3 weeks ago
Scott AndersonTo Kathleen JonesThat’s interesting. Thanks for pointing it out. Didn’t the Aztecs do something like that also? I wonder if the indigenous people were influential here.
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3 weeks ago
Jen GrumbyLove that double time video!

If Scott starts pedaling like that more often he'll be able to ride 150 miles to celebrate his next birthday!
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3 weeks ago