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

December 22, 2020

Tucson to Green Valley, another way

So we’ve looked at the ride between Tucson and Green Valley from both sides now, and have formed a definite opinion.  In the future, we’ll take the high road.  You can take the low road - please.  After eight straight days of cycling here, today’s ride is the only one neither of us really enjoyed.  At the end of the ride we came to a quick agreement that it’s one we wouldn’t take again in the future.

It feels colder than it actually is when we start out.  The sky is overcast, it’s breezy, the air feels damp.  A half mile into the ride I’m wondering if I erred by not bringing a coat along, and feeling like we left home a bit too early.  The feeling doesn’t last long though.  The day warms up quickly, and five miles in we’re about ready to shed a layer already.

The ride begins well, following the Loop southeast for 15 miles to its intersection with southbound Wilmot Road.  This is an inefficient route if your only goal is to get to Green Valley.  The standard route i imagine is to take the Nogales Highway straight down the heart of the Santa Cruz Valley.  It’s much more efficient, bringing you to Green Valley in only about 30 miles.  It’s probably a sensible choice if you don’t mind traffic and you’re planning on continuing on beyond in a long day, perhaps to Tubac.  30 miles hardly counts as a ride though, some would say.  Much better is the 42 mile alternative I came up with. 

Eastbound along Julian Wash, under a different sky than we’ve seen so far. These first fifteen miles on the Loop were the most enjoyable part of the ride by far.
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I liked this sprawling cholla underpinning Rincon Peak - it reminded me of an espaliered fruit tree.
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Julian Wash forms a narrow green ribbon through the desert.
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I did a bit of research before deciding on Wilmot Road.  I found one account of it that made it sound like a reasonable ride - safe, not too busy, with a decent shoulder.  All true.  The account didn’t mention though that it’s none too interesting - an eleven mile straight shot south, with nothing much of interest beside the road beyond broad, flat expanses of open desert, a few prisons, and exactly one cow - surprisingly just walking freely along the side of the road.  

Once you finally get past the prisons and their associated clutter, it’s really pretty scenic with mountains in the distance on all four corners of the compass.  It could easily be that on a different day - for example, one without a 15 mph headwind the whole way - we would have found this part of the ride enjoyable.  Today though, it was pretty much a slog.

Southbound on Wilmot Road, with the Santa Rita Mountains ahead. Also the federal prison, various law enforcement facilities, and the state prison. It’s a safe and reasonable if uninspiring route south, with a persistent shoulder the whole way.
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Standing guard, or waiting her turn? What’s your guess?
Heart 3 Comment 4
Jen GrumbyThe cow waits her turn at the loo
A red loo with not a long queue
This cow's modest, you see
Out of view she must pee
Even if it's in a blue loo!
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2 months ago
Gregory Garceau"That thing is taunting me with red,
I wish I had horns on my head,
'cuz I really want to ram it
But I'm not a bull, dammit,
If I were, that thing would be dead."
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2 months ago
Rachael AndersonTo Gregory GarceauGreat limerick!
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2 months ago
Scott AndersonTo Gregory GarceauDueling limericists!
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2 months ago
Further south on Wilmot Road. After five miles we’ve finally passed Prison Row, and the ride improves - less traffic, cleaner sight lines. Still, it’s not the most interesting 11 miles. The headwind doesn’t help either.
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Looking back north toward Mount Lemmon.
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The vegetation mix gradually changes as we move south. Toward the end, it’s all creosote and cholla.
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Finally, 11+ sloggy miles later, we come to the end of Wilmot at its junction with Sahuarita Road.  We’re still 16 miles to the car, so it’s a disappointment to find that for the next six miles, eastbound and slightly downhill to Sahuarita, we’re still biking into the wind.  Disappointing because we know that when we reach Sahuarita and turn south on the Nogales Highway we’ve still got another eight miles of upwind labor ahead until we reach Green Valley.  For the those keeping track and competent at arithmetic, that’s 25 straight miles of biking into the wind.

So yes, that did color our feelings about the ride somewhat.  With a north wind instead, we might have thought this ride was just peachy.  Actually though, it’s pecany, not peachy - for most of the way from Sahuarita to Green Valley we bike past one pecan grove after another lining both sides of the road.

Are pecans, like walnuts and almonds, huge water suckers?  Is this the main reason there’s no water in the Santa Rita River any more?

For eleven miles we were looking forward to turning east on Sahuarita Road and getting a break from the headwinds. We were wrong - the headwinds are still here, and strengthening.
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One of several impressive old giants along Sahuarita Road. I’ll have to check, but I don’t think Jacinto and Kelly got to this one first.
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Still on Sahuarita Road, descending to Sahuarita. Approaching from the east like this, you get a good perspective on how ravished these hills are by 150 years of mining activity. The western side of the Santa Cruz valley is scarred by continuous mining waste for almost fifteen miles.
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We’re southbound on Nogales Road now, passing by several miles of pecan groves. We’re also still biking into a headwind until we finally round the bend and double back into Green River.
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I’ve never seen a bearing pecan tree up close before, but with about a million of them around I might as well stop for a closer look. A good excuse to take a break from biking into the headwinds.
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So, that’s the ride.  The best part of the day comes afterwards though, when we stop in at the Grill at Quail Crossing, the feeding and watering hole beside the 18th hole of a golf course in a gated community out in the desert east of Green Valley.  Golf course restaurants don’t often make our list, but Rachael scouted this one out and liked the looks both of its menu and the photos of its patio eating area with a dynamite view of the Santa Rita Mountains.

Rachael was right.  It is a beautiful place to eat lunch, alone on the patio enjoying the fine view and a delicious meal of salmon, scallops and pumpkin cheesecake.  A bit of a splurge, but we’re viewing this as our Christmas meal since there’s not likely to be anyplace reasonable and safe open on the holiday itself.

Seems safe enough. We did have a bit of company at first though, with a party of three dining at the most remote table from us shown here. Once they cleared out it was just us, the waitress, and some golfing fours finishing off their rounds on the final green a hundred yards away.
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The view wasn’t bad either.
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5 (!) seared scallops over risotto, coconut-curry sauce and apple-jicama slaw.
Heart 2 Comment 2
Steve Miller/GrampiesIs 5 a lot? or a really skimpy portion. Not being seafood eaters, we have no idea.
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2 months ago
Scott AndersonTo Steve Miller/GrampiesIt’s pretty good. The last time Rachael had scallops there were only three, and not so large.
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2 months ago
Grilled salmon with smoked tomato salsa, risotto and vegetables.
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Ride stats today: 43 miles, 1,300’; for the tour: 1,162 miles, 43,200’

Today's ride: 43 miles (69 km)
Total: 1,162 miles (1,870 km)

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