Last day of the year ride! - Winterlude 2021 - CycleBlaze

December 31, 2021

Last day of the year ride!

I wake up about 5, look at the weather, and see that it looks like there might be about a three to four hour window to fit in a dry ride or walk, if we leave about sunrise.  After that the rest of the day looks wet with the risk of thunderstorms.  I whisper to Rachael to see if she’s awake, and then share the news.  She finds it interesting but then promptly goes back to sleep.

By seven conditions still look favorable, and maybe even better.  It’s lightly raining, but there still looks like about a three hour window now starting at nine.  Rachael is up by now and we talk over the day.   We’re both elated to see that the day no longer looks like a total washout, but have different ideas about what to do.  I commit myself to a ride out Julian Wash, and she plans to take a neighborhood walk of some kind.

At nine the weather finally looks stable enough for me to start out.  I’m thinking I’ll bike possibly as far as Rita Road and then backtrack for ride of around 38 miles, with of course the option to just turn back earlier if the sky goes south on me.  It’s dry but quite puddly when I leave the neighborhood - a little sloppy but it makes for some interesting effects. 

The fence alongside our alley. There are still plenty of substantial puddles but they’re easy enough to skirt around.
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Along Hoff Avenue.
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Along Hoff Avenue.
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On the Rattlesnake Bridge. I’m not the only fool out on a bike this morning!
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Beyond the Rattlesnake Bridge I join the the Aviation Bikeway, follow it to Palo Verde, and then take the connector southwest to intersect the loop at Julian Wash.  I don’t fully trust the weather yet, but I’m really enjoying being out - it’s not too cold,the sky and views are interesting in a different way, and there’s much more bird life in evidence.  I’m thrilled when I get my second good look at a Coopers Hawk in two days, but I also get decent looks at vermillion flycatchers, hummingbirds, and a Harris’s hawk off in the distance.  The ponds by the Kino sports complex have been recharged and some of the ducks have returned.

I’m not really sure if this exact route is going to work today, because it includes a low section along the base of Kino Wash.  I half expect to find it under water and that I’ll have to backtrack to an on-street alternative to the Loop, but I’m in luck.  There’s definitely water in the wash, but it’s still broken into pools and channels that I can skirt around or bike through without getting my feet wet.

I somehow miss the off ramp from the wash though, and when I discover it I’m far enough past that I’d rather not bike back through the puddles again.  Instead I gingerly ease my way up the steep side slope and lift the bike over the fence.  It takes a little thought, because I don’t want to slip and careen back down the concrete slope while I’m trying to lift the bike over.  I solve the problem by hooking the handlebar over the top of the railing so it will stay put until I can cross over myself and lift the bike over from the trail side.  An adventure!

Another Coopers Hawk! Two in two days - unreal.
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The view west across downtown from the Palo Verde overpass.
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Shoveler, by the Kino sports complex.
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Kino Wash is bikeable today, but barely. There wouldn’t have to be much more water for it to turn me back.
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The cycle path along Julian Wash is very quiet.  I don’t remember seeing another cyclist in the entire ten miles out to Rita Road, although there ais smattering of foot traffic and dog walkers - and a road runner of course, but also a cottontail and many more birds than I’ve seen along this stretch of the Loop this season.  No coyotes, Javelina or bobcats though.

And, there’s still the water situation.  The weather is gradually improving and the path is starting to dry out but every underpass has at least some standing water in it, though none has so much that I need to take the alternate route over the top and across the street.

Nothing that you can’t just bike through today.
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Julian, washed.
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My plan going in was to bike as far as Rita Road and then turn back; but surprisingly the weather situation keeps improving as the morning wears on.  At Rita Road I look back west, the direction from which the weather will approach from today, and assess my chances.  They look good, I’m feeling lucky, so I decide to go forward instead of back.  I don’t really want to bike back through Kino Wash again anyway, so I’ll take the long way back - down Harrison, Pantano and Rillito washes, and then south and home again along Mountain Road. It’s only about seven miles further this way and mostly downhill anyway.  Worst case, I’ll arrive home wet and miserable.

The view west along Julian Wash. Lookin’ good! Let’s take the long way home.
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It’s the right decision, this time.  It turns out to be a delightful time to ride - the sun breaks out, it’s warm enough that I shed all my extra layers, and by keeping a good pace with few stops I make it back by one - just about fifteen minutes after Rachael, who’s home after her ten mile ramble through the neighborhood.  

We got our timing exactly right this time.  Not long after I get home I walk down the street for breakfast (I hardly had anything before leaving on my ride this morning).  When I walk back 45 minutes later it’s just beginning to shower; and ten minutes later the roof falls in.  We’re both happy and feeling gratified to have been able to spend the morning this way rather than hunkered down in the apartment.  A much better way to close out the year.

The view south up Harrison Wash. Incredible - the day has turned beautiful, if only for a few hours.
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Looking east toward Mica Mountain.
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A curved-billed thrasher! I’ve been hoping to get a good look at one. This one was easy to spot, lustily singing away just feet from the trail.
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The summit of the Catalinas is in there somewhere, buried under that striking dense blanket. I’m anxious to see how much snow there will be when it clears up.
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More interesting clouds looking east toward the Rincon Mountains.
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Ride stats today: 44 miles, 1,100’

Today's ride: 44 miles (71 km)
Total: 1,197 miles (1,926 km)

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