In Sonoita: the ride to Patagonia - Winterlude 2020 - CycleBlaze

January 4, 2021

In Sonoita: the ride to Patagonia

It’s pretty quiet in the Sonoita Inn, but we’re not the only guests.  There are perhaps four or five other parties here, mostly guys in camo or other outdoor gear: bow hunters and birders, from what I gleaned.  And a few hunting dogs.  Last night a beautiful springer spaniel came up to check me out, sniff my leg and collect a pat or two on the head while I was sitting in the lobby using the WiFi because it was too weak in the room.

This morning I shared the great table with a birder from Jackson, Wyoming.  Sitting well apart from each other, we had a bit of a conversation as we ate our self-serve breakfasts.  He’s in his mid sixties, and has been driving down each winter for 18 years to hunt quail with his dog, meet with his buddies, and generally enjoy the outdoors.  He encouraged us to consider Jackson as a cycling base sometime, and after researching it I see what he means.  In the right season it looks like it would be fantastic, biking along through Jackson Hole on its many miles of paved bike paths.

Inside spacious Sonoita Inn. With the few guests about, it’s easy to keep your distance.
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It’s about 10:30 when we leave the room and start biking south on route 83 toward Patagonia.  It’s a gradual downhill all the way to Patagonia, as the highway follows Patagonia Creek downriver toward Nogales and the Mexican Border.  It’s a perfectly acceptable ride, as far as highway rides go - a steady, wide shoulder and reasonably light traffic.  

I couldn’t say why we didn’t enjoy it more than we did, other than that we’ve gotten very spoiled by the Loop and other quiet roads we’ve been cycling lately.  We pretty much rode straight through without stopping until we reached Patagonia.

Riding south of Sonoita on Route 83, we enjoy a broad shoulder all the way to Patagonia. This shoulder begins right at Sonoita. Going back in the other direction toward Tucson, the road looks terrible for biking - more traffic, and less than zero shoulder really because vegetation grows into the driving lane. It’s a shame, because it’s the only direct way to get from Tucson to Sonoita.
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As we bike south, we have Mount Wrightson soaring above our shoulders on our right.
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As we bike south, the Patagonia Mountains draw us in. Maybe. Or, this might be the southern end of the Santa Rita range. I’m not sure just where this photo was taken.
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It’s a fast, gradually downhill 12 highway mile ride from Sonoita to Patagonia. Not much reason to stop, except for this bold guy dead on next to the shoulder. I imagine it’s just another red tail, but I don’t recall seeing one so white.
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Bill ShaneyfeltLooking at google images of the raptor species found in AZ, I'd agree with red tail.

https://www.azgfd.com/wildlife/speciesofgreatestconservneed/raptor-management/raptor-species/
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1 week ago
Scott AndersonTo Bill ShaneyfeltThat’s basically how I formed an opinion also. It looks like the most frequent buteo here at this time of year.
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1 week ago

Patagonia is a pretty, colorful little place, worth a slower look.  You’re not getting one today though.  We just passed through the northern outskirts of town as we turned off onto Harshaw Road and started slowly climbing up into the hills.

We weren’t sure we would be biking Harshaw, actually.  That was always the plan, but our friend from Jackson said that the road was torn up and under construction for about a mile.  That’s stale news though.  That first mile out of town now is newly resurfaced and nearly complete - it just needs paint striping, it looks like to be us.

It’s a good thing the construction work was done too, because it would have been a terrible shame to miss biking this road.  Harshaw is really beautiful, and a road we’d love to see again sometime.  The pavement ends after about 8 miles, but beyond that the surface continues on as packed dirt, smooth and easily bikeable.  It’s the kind of road that urges you to just keep going to see what’s around the next bend.

As far as we’re concerned, the real ride began after we left Patagonia and turned east onto Harshaw Road.
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Harshaw is a very lightly travelled road, ideal for cycling. No smugglers out today that we could see, but there were a few Border Patrol vehicles on the lookout.
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The picture of security.
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A good slide for a genetics class.
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Harshaw generally follows dry Harshaw Creek up into the hills. Here and there are some spectacular old sycamores by the side of the road.
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Bill ShaneyfeltI like how grotesquely they grow, and their white "winter clothes."
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1 week ago
The pavement extends into the hills for about 8 or 9 miles, and toward the end we’re biking into and out of national forest land.
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There are a half dozen old windmills along Harshaw Road. I liked this one for the color - I don’t recall seeing a red bladed one before.
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More of those beautiful sycamores. The photo doesn’t give a good feel for how large they really are, and makes them look almost shrubby.
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Bruce LellmanBeautiful trees. I like how dark they are at the base, in such contrast to the rest, almost as if the white part was grafted onto a dark base. I suspect they are more beautiful in winter than with leaves in summer.
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We planned to turn back at pavement’s end, but the road continues on and is quite bikeable.
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We turned back here, but it’s a real temptation to just keep going. Sometime we should come back and start in Patagonia and ride this as far as it works for us.
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It was a pretty ride biking in, but riding back out again with the sun at our back it is really gorgeous.
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Beautiful Harshaw Road.
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I couldn’t figure out from the map what this peak is we’re biking toward, but it’s a dramatic beacon.
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The ride back to Patagonia is fantastic, even better than the way up - we’re biking into the best views, the light is better, and it doesn’t hurt the enjoyment that it’s mostly downhill.

Back on 83 again, we turn north toward Sonoita, 12 miles off and about a thousand feet up.  We have a bit of a tailwind with us, so the miles go easily at first.  But then they don’t; Rachael has a flat, darn it.  We sit down on the shoulder and have at it, happy at least that it’s a warm, sunny afternoon and we have plenty of time.  I take the opportunity to talk through the steps that I’m going through in changing the tube.

We have a spare with us of course, so I just use it instead of patching the flat; I’ll do that later, back in the room over a beer.  It’s easy to find the agent - a long thorn, penetrated well into the inside of the tire.  This tire is looking pretty worn, and maybe we should be seeing if we can find a replacement.  I remove the thorn with some difficulty, replace the tube and tire, and start pumping it up.

Nothing happens.  The tire won’t take any pressure at all.  So we start over.  Looking at the new tube, I’m pretty sure it’s defective.  It’s easy to find the leak, and it doesn’t look like something that could have been caused by installing the tube.  Not  a puncture, a pinch flat, or broken at the valve stem; just a worn spot in the tube.  It’s new out of the box, so it’s a bit of a mystery.

It’s the only spare we’re carrying, so I patch it.  Patching doesn’t go quite as I’d like though - the glue dries almost instantly in this sun before I can smooth it out well, and I don’t have much confidence the patch will hold.  It’s a relief to find that the tire will take air and I don’t have to start over yet once more.  I pump it up enough to be rideable and we start off again.  I fully expect it to be leaking, and am anticipating stopping every mile or two to pump it up again, I’d we’re even that lucky.  But it holds all the way to the car; lucky once more.

Back on 83 again: northbound, uphill and downwind.
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I liked this tree on the outskirts of Patagonia, but especially for that huge green ball of mistletoe.
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Bruce LellmanAnd that sky!! It's as if you used a polarizer.
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1 week ago
Oh, foop! There goes our perfect record for the year.
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Jen GrumbyGoop, indeed!
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1 week ago
Happily, the patch job held for the ten miles back to the car. I’d really expected us to be stopping to pump up the tire again every mile or so.
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Video notes:

So we don’t know what’s happening with Vimeo, but we haven’t been successful in uploading rather of the last two videos.  We’ll keep trying, but in the meantime here are links to the video on Google Photos.

Yesterday’s ride through Elgin (sound track: Air, by Jesse Cook): https://photos.app.goo.gl/obf9GuRbH5gk2q2S6

Today’s ride (sound track: Out in the Country, by Three Dog Night): https://photos.app.goo.gl/9THm5guEgeXg9KgU7

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Ride stats today: 42 miles, 1,800’; for the tour: 1,640 miles, 56,400’; for the year: 4 riding days, 168 miles, 5,400’, and 1 flat tire

Today's ride: 42 miles (68 km)
Total: 1,579 miles (2,541 km)

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Bruce LellmanIt's uncanny how often you come up with exactly 42 miles for the day. Well planned I guess.
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1 week ago
Scott AndersonTo Bruce LellmanIt’s a mix of planning and obsession. I come up with routes that are roughly 42 miles, and Rocky bikes just enough to meet the goal.
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1 week ago