The Marana loop - Winterlude 2020 - CycleBlaze

December 25, 2020

The Marana loop

I’d thought we might bike out to Gates Pass this morning, but my back is still nagging at me and arguing against much in the way of climbing.  I decide to humor it and plot out a flat loop out to the northwest, to Marana.  We biked this direction once before, and really enjoyed riding along the Santa Cruz River.  It’s one of our favorite sections of the Loop network.  This time though, we’ll continue further northwest, circling the small town of Marana on a loop of hopefully safe and quiet rural roads.  

To keep the ride to a manageable length, we’ll drive north and start biking at a point on Rillito Wash.  we could start right from home and make it a 60 miler of course, but it’s Christmas and we don’t feel like knocking ourselves out.  That Team Anderson - they’ve gotten so soft in their advancing years.  Sad!

We’re waiting around for the day to warm up and are starting to mobilize about 10 when we hear from Kelly, wanting to know how we like the rain.   Rain?  Not here, I see as I look out the window at a dry but overcast sky.  The weather map shows a wet formation passing by, crossing just at the northern edge of town - exactly where we plan to start our ride.  The rain is moving fast toward the east and I can already see a ribbon of blue above the western horizon, so we cool our jets for another hour.  By the time we start biking it’s nearly noon but conditions are perfect as we bike west along Rillito Wash.

On the Santa Cruz River Trail. I’m not sure what that formation is - Safford Peak, I think. Toward the end of today’s loop we’ll cut though a gap just north of it.
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The ride ends up being mostly good, but short of great.  We’ve gotten quite spoiled by riding the Loop for the last ten days, softening up on mile after enjoyable mile of smooth surfaces, modest grades and virtually no motorized traffic encounters.  Today’s ride is mixed though: 2/3 bike paths, 1/3 public roads.  The bike path is as enjoyable as ever but short on drama, because we’ve ridden this several times before.  The remainder though, the loop surrounding Marana, get a mixed review.  Some of the roads are fine, others are sometimes uncomfortable and sometimes a bit stressful - rough surfaces, broken pavement, zero shoulder, and enough traffic that it keeps us on edge.  I think we’ll come out this way again, but we’ll experiment with a different set of roads next time.  Maybe we’ll take a shot at Picture Rocks Road next time.  That has a promising sound to it.

Back at the casita, we start thinking back on some of our favorite rides from the past, and pull up some old videos to remind ourselves.  Tucson is great, and probably the best experience available to us this winter.  But, truth be told, we’d rather be in Andalucia:

So many colorful bridges on the Loop. I never get tired of them.
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We didn’t see any downtown, but just up north a bit of rain came down - the first since we arrived in Tucson.
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Looking east at the receding clouds from the Santa Cruz River Trail. These are the Tortolita Mountains, a small formation just north of Mount Lemmon.
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We brake for ALL roadrunners. It’s become a matter of principle, so we can’t stop now. This one was amazingly bold, walking less then ten feet from me, flashing his tail feathers my way. Almost too late, I remembered I was supposed to take a video when I got a chance.
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Gregory GarceauAside from "National Geographic" and similar publications, your wildlife pictures are the best. It must take a lot of patience to get some of those shots. Anyway, I hope Mrs. Grumby doesn't mind, but her fun limericks have inspired me to post all of my future comments in limerickical (?) form.

For a bird with a neck and tail that are gawky,
It seems like the roadrunner is awfully cocky,
Here it just basks in the sun,
I wonder, "will it ever run?"
It only WALKS in the video made by Rocky.
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3 weeks ago
Scott AndersonTo Gregory GarceauThat did it. I’ve been playing with starting up a Poet’s Corner in the forum, for compositions like this and the photos that triggered them. Jen Grumby is prolific, and Suzanne has offered up a haiku from time to time.
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3 weeks ago
Bruce LellmanTo Gregory GarceauAnd a very nice limerick indeed Gregory!
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3 weeks ago
Further north, we get a bit better look at the formation we’re skirting. I’m pretty sure now that that’s Safford Peak on the left, and Panther Peak on the right.
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Lunch stop, El Rio Park just south of Rillito.
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On Tangerine Road. A pleasant enough arterial, but the bike path beside it is much nicer once we found out way onto it.
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Actually, the bike path has some problems. It’s missing a bite. We’re checking the Garmin here, assessing whether to take our chances or backtrack.
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We take our chances. It works out fine, and a quarter of a mile later we’re back on the bike path again. I think we were lucky though. There’s a lot of idle heavy equipment around, and work is shut down for the holiday. On another day, I doubt we’d be able to get through. An Xmas present for us!
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The highlight in Marana.
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On the outskirts of Marana, crossing the mighty Santa Cruz.
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On the Arva Valley Road. The roads before this are rough and unshouldered, making the safe, smooth stretch here feel like a small oasis. I’ll have to look at the map again and see about returning here.
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Looking toward Safford and Panther Peaks. Our route crosses this basin and then cuts left through that low gap in the ridge.
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Video sound track: Joy to the World, by Three Dog Night

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Ride stats today: 45 miles, 800’; for the tour: 1,250 miles, 45,200’

Today's ride: 25 miles (40 km)
Total: 1,230 miles (1,979 km)

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Bill ShaneyfeltReally liked the roadrunner vid!

Envying your weather. It was 15 when I left home for my daily ride yesterday. Snow flurries were falling in the brisk wind and accumulated to maybe a little over half an inch. When I returned, I found it had dropped another degree to 14 and my mask had half-inch icicles on the chin after 11 miles or so. Peaceful though. Not a single person the whole way, only one bike track on most of the path and only a few footprint trails.
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3 weeks ago
Scott AndersonTo Bill ShaneyfeltWow. You’re way tougher than we are. Be careful out there! Did you take a photo of yourself and your icecicled mask?
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3 weeks ago
Bill ShaneyfeltWell, not with it on. I did post a shot on the local facebook cycling page. Not sure a non-member can see it though.

https://www.facebook.com/groups/SouthWestOhioCyclists/?multi_permalinks=2281061855363002¬if_id=1608935775691567¬if_t=feedback_reaction_generic&ref=notif

On the other hand, I got one posted from years ago before retiring... if I can find the link.
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3 weeks ago
Bill ShaneyfeltThis link to photos of me should work:

https://www.facebook.com/photo.php?fbid=3249928203190&set=t.1116514192&type=3
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3 weeks ago
Scott AndersonTo Bill ShaneyfeltThis is great. I’m sure that many readers out there will enjoy getting a look at Mr.Shaneyfelt.
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3 weeks ago