Two rides, one plan - Winterlude 2020 - CycleBlaze

January 29, 2021

Two rides, one plan

With another very windy day ahead, Rachael decides to get out the door early before it picks up force.  She’s out the door not long after 8, heading southeast out Julian Wash to its end point.  She bikes hard and is back home not much past noon, happy to have gotten her 43 miles in while it’s still relatively calm.

I could have done that myself, but I took that ride two days back.  Variety is nice.  A second cup of coffee is nice too, and I’m not quite there when she’s out the door.  I’m content to sit around for another hour or so, wait for the day to warm up, and catch up on the blogs.

Once I get mobilized, I aim myself north toward Oro Valley.  It’s not the strategic choice windwise, but I’m curious to see the northern face of the Catalinas to see if it’s retained more snow.  Prior to this latest event the only trace of snow we’ve seen here was back in 2016 when we first arrived here, flying in from Portland.  There was still a light layer of high elevation snow on the north side of the range, but none that we could see from ground level in the city.

It’s really a pleasant morning to be out.  I feel strong after a day off the bike, and the winds aren’t bad at all.  It’s a good day for birds, even though none of them alight anywhere near me begging for their portrait to be taken.  I keep a mental list of the different species I’m spotting, but hardly stop until reaching the turn back point where I stop for a snack and gaze up at the peaks to the south.

On the Cañada del Oro River Park Trail. There’s still a bit of snow up there, but nothing dramatic. The show is mostly over.
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On the Cañada del Oro River Park Trail.
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Break time, enjoying a fine view of the Catalinas.
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I’m not sure precisely where Mount Lemmon is, the high point of the range at just over 9,000’. Maybe here? Or maybe it’s not even visible from this angle.
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I’m a pretty simple sort, really.  I tend to take life as it comes at me without thinking about it too deeply.  When the wind is on my side I don’t notice it all that much and just enjoy feeling unusually strong.  So it’s a bit of a shock when I’m sitting on my picnic bench with my shoes off, enjoying the views and my trail mix, and suddenly a gust of wind blows my helmet and gloves off the table.  Wind?  Where did this wind come from?

The ride back to the house is a quite different affair than the one out.  The  wind really has picked up, and an occasional strong gust will blow me uncomfortably near the side of the bike path and the too low railing protecting me from a drop into the wash.  Fortunately all the smart bikers are long gone by now, and I have the path to myself and can ride down the middle.

I’m anticipating a much worse and slower ride home than I actually experience though.  The winds are relentlessly strong - the weather report indicated possible gusts to 40 mph - but somehow, no matter which direction I’m biking they always seem to be coming at me from one side or the other.  I’m able to keep a fair pace, and make it back well before I’d expected to.  Maybe I’m getting a bit of strength after all?  Biking a thousand miles this month might actually be producing some results.

For the record, here’s the bird list for the day: road runner, great tailed grackle, red tailed hawk (huge, sitting on the railing right beside the bike path), kestrel, white crowned sparrow, English sparrow, Gila woodpecker, vermillion flycatcher, Say’s phoebe, mallard, shoveler, coot, lesser egret, pintail, green winged teal, American widgeon, phainopepla, rock dove, mourning dove, Gambel’s quail, Anna’s hummingbird.  Not bad - any day when I see over 20 species just riding around counts as a good day in my book.

Finally, on the way home one bird stands still for me. Unusual of a kestrel to stay put for so long - it must be taking a break from fighting the wind.
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Bill ShaneyfeltThey always look so "well groomed!"
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1 month ago
Scott AndersonTo Bill ShaneyfeltDon’t they though? Almost like they’re sporting formal wear.
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1 month ago

An update on the plan

When we last exposed our thinking about what to do after leaving Tucson, we were weighing two options: Plan A would head west to California to Borrego Springs and Death Valley before doubling back to the Grand Canyon and then a traverse of southern Utah.  Plan B would head east to Albuquerque before also doubling back to the Grand Canyon and Utah.  If the Covid situation improved enough for California to lift its lockdown orders, we’d favor Plan A; otherwise we’d follow Plan B, bracing ourselves for the colder temperatures we could expect at the higher elevations involved.

About a week ago, we gave up on California.  The situation really hasn’t improved at all - their rates were still sky high, their ICU bed capacity still zero for most of the state.  For the second time now, we cancelled our reservations at Borrego Springs and Death Valley and made reservations for stays in New Mexico.  Plan B it is!

The very next morning, something prompted Rachael to wonder about travel restrictions in New Mexico.  Good question!  We feel like idiots when we realize that New Mexico has some of the tightest travel restrictions in place in the country. Everyone, including returning residents, has to quarantine for 14 days after entering the state.  No wonder they’re keeping the rate so much lower than their laxer, freedom loving neighbors!

We can’t go west, we can’t go east.  That leaves north - pretty logical really, since we’re ultimately heading back to Oregon.  After spending a cold morning considering alternatives while we wait for the day to warm up, we hatch Plan C and convince each other that in its own way it’s as attractive as the others.  We’ll hang around Arizona for another 10 days hopping around from town to town; then visit Sedona, which everyone says is spectacular; then the Grand Canyon, then Boulder City again, then across Utah at a slower pace.  Something like this:

Plan C: go north to go north.
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We give it some time, and stew on it further over the day’s ride and dinner.  By the end of the day we call it good, or as least as good as any option available that we can think of.  We cancel our New Mexico reservations, adjust the dates in Utah, and book a place in Sedona.  We’ll definitely see some cold days and nights and probably some snow, but even if we can’t bike we can take walks and just enjoy the views.  

The very next morning, California lifted its stay at home order.  Overnight, lodging that was closed indefinitely opens up again.  Westward Ho!  We’re back to Borrego Springs, Death Valley, and the hope for an early desert bloom.  It’s not the same as Plan A though, because we’ve made some changes.  The big thing is that we’re dropping the Grand Canyon, which is well out of the way and the longer we think about it makes less and less sense at this time of year.  What were we thinking of?

Instead, we’ll head straight west, staying in Ajo for a few days and having a look at nearby Organ Pipe National Monument.  In the comments of this journal, five different people have insisted that we have to see Organ Pipe one day.  It seems disrespectful not to heed their advice.

Plan D. This is it. Locked in stone.
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Bruce LellmanI'm glad you are finally listening to your readers' suggestions.
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1 month ago
Scott AndersonTo Bruce LellmanYes, I know. It’s not really my normal tendency. I listen, but in general I still prefer finding my own path.
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1 month ago
Kelly IniguezInquiring minds would like to know the points you are planning to visit. You are making us work to figure out your route!

You've got some beautiful country in there. It looks like you are revisiting some of your 2017 trip? We borrowed much of your routing in 2019 and had an excellent tour.
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1 month ago
Scott AndersonTo Kelly IniguezI wish we were repeating that trip, but we’re stuck with this iron box and no panniers so it will be more of the same - we’ll drive to a base, take some day rides, and move on. One of these days we’ll take a real tour again, but not quite yet.
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1 month ago

Ride stats today: 45 miles, 1,700’; for the tour: 2,285 miles, 81,700’; for the year: 23 riding days, 1,022 miles, 27,700’, and 2 flat tires

Today's ride: 45 miles (72 km)
Total: 2,285 miles (3,677 km)

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Andrea BrownWe liked Ajo, driving through on our way to Puerto Peñasco several years ago. And Organ Pipe is incredible.
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1 month ago
Scott AndersonTo Andrea BrownI don’t think I’ve ever heard of this adventure. Sounds like something you’ll need to fill us in on, one of these post-Covid evenings.
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1 month ago