Mission Road / the daily news - Winterlude 2021 - CycleBlaze

January 4, 2022

Mission Road / the daily news

Today’s ride

What a difference a day makes!  Our long blast of winter is over, and today it’s warm and sunny again with a high around 70.  And if the lying Weather.com is to be believed we’re in for more of the same for the next two weeks straight.  We survived!  We have a real feeling of coming through.

After spending the last several days playing it safe on the flats we’re ready for something more interesting.  We toss the bikes in the car and drive down to Saint Savier del Bac Mission, a short 12 miles away.  The plan is to bike Mission Road south and up to its crown near Helmet Peak and then drop down Helmet Peak Road to Green Valley.  From there we’ll climb back up to Mission Road again along Duval Mine Road before biking back north back to the mission.

We’ve ridden Mission Road a few times before, but always as part of longer itineraries that started in Tucson - once as the first stage on our way to Silver City, and once as an overnight loop to Green Valley that biked the Nogales Highway on the other half of the loop.  Riding it as an out and back  from the mission figures to be the best option of all though because it excludes the unpleasantly busy miles just north of the mission, and because we didn’t really care for the Nogales Highway.

We can hardly believe it when we step out of the car at the mission and feel the warm sun beating down on us.  We quickly assemble the bikes and pedal off, following our mapped route as it leads us to one of the unpaved and closed to the public residential streets on the Tohono O'odaham Nation reservation that the mission stands within.  We stumble around for about a mile before finally making our way back to the car and exiting in the right direction.

Off the reservation.
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The ride begins with a relaxed twelve mile climb through the desert, rising a thousand feet before finally topping out on the shoulder of Helmet Peak, the dominant formation in the vicinity.  It’s an easy climb, but as I’m biking in it I’m thinking of how much fun it will be to coast home for the final twelve miles of the ride.

The view back toward Tucson and the Catalina Mountains. The desert vegetation here is typical of much of the country on this part of the ride.
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Southbound and uphill on Mission Road.
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There are some immense cacti along the road, including giant, complex saguaros. You’ve already seen a ton of those though, so here’s an enormous prickly pear. The photo doesn’t show it but its trunk is over a foot thick.
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A mailbox on W. Dogtown Road. There is no E. dogtown Road, FYI. Or dogs, at the moment at least.
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One view of Helmet Peak. Others will follow.
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The climb crests alongside Helmet Peak, and we enjoy a fast five mile descent down into the valley and then head south again on a loo hunt.  We find one in a Safeway, and as long as we’re there we pick up supplements to the lunch we enjoy on a wall outside.

South of Helmet Peak we enter mine country - everything for miles has been ripped up from copper mining. It looks like if we’re lucky we’ll have some hoofed company on the road ahead.
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El Toro! We were glad this big guy took a look at us and slipped off into the shrubbery instead of charging our way.
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Jen GrumbyYes! He looks like he can't run very fast, but I'll bet he can.
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7 months ago
The long drop down Helmet Peak Road. Beyond Green Valley the road climbs out the other side of the valley as Sahuarita Road.
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Fortified and drained we start back to the mission, beginning with another steady climb; first up Duval Mine Road and eventually back on Mission Road once more.  Again, this is a well behaved, gradual climb made easier by the distraction of the dramatic scenery.  I’d forgotten just how striking the views up here are - of the desert near at hand, the colorful if dreadful mine tailings, Helmet Peak and various distant views.  As before lunch, once we get a few miles out of Green Valley we practically have the road to ourselves.  

Climbing Duval Mine Road.
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A last look south toward Mount Wrightson and Madera Canyon before we round a bend and it disappears from sight.
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The view east to the Rincon Mountains.
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Another huge guy - a chain fruit cholla?
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Bill ShaneyfeltYup!
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cylindropuntia_fulgida
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7 months ago
Here comes that peak again. Good news, because it means we’re nearing the summit.
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Worthy of our respect.
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jerry witherspoonCheeessee,

Kelly got me hooked on you guys! Wow, that’s a terrific photo. keep it up.

spoon
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7 months ago
Scott AndersonTo jerry witherspoonHey Spoon! Nice to hear from you - you’ve been one of my heroes and an inspiration for years.
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7 months ago

Over the top, and it’s the 12 mile drop I’d been anticipating for the last three hours.  It’s an exhilarating descent with views of Tucson and the Catalina Range straight ahead and gradually closing in.  It’s a long descent and toward the end Rachael’s getting a little weary of the wind in her face and her extremities are causing some discomfort - she forgot her gloves when we loaded the car, and her feet hurt.  Either she’s gotten them laced too tight or the socks are bunched up in the toes.  Whatever, she’s ready to see the car and is looking for a shower and hot meal.

Not quite yet though - first, a minor distraction slows us down and brings me to a near-panic stop.  No.  NO!  NO!!!  Fortunately these two midsized snarling curs recognize and gradually respond to basic English and back off so we continue the next quarter of a mile to the car without further incident.

San Xavier Del Bac Mission.
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Video sound track: A Horse With No Name, by America

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Ride stats today: 48 miles, 2,200’

Today’s news

So as I was just saying, we’ve been distracted and had other things on our mind for the last few days.  Maybe it was all the time sitting around waiting out the cold, but it gradually became clear in our little minds that biking from Nice to Barcelona is a big mistake.  Why?  Because we’ve already done that one, only 24 years ago!  With only so many significant tours we can hope for left in us, why do that again?

Instead, we’ll go the other direction  and bike from Barcelona to Nice.  Now that’s different!

Actually there’s a bit more to it than that.  One thing was the cold conditions of the last few days - it caused us to think again about whether March 1st is the optimal way time to start.  Won’t it be cold and wet once we leave the sunny Mediterranean coastline?  Yes, probably.  It’s a difficult tradeoff and optimization problem though, because If we leave later in the spring we return later in the fall.  Gain some, lose some.

Another consideration is Rachael’s scheduled nasal surgery in early February.  We hadn’t thought of this before, but there’s a recovery period involved with several weeks of saline rinses in her future.  It’s probably wiser to delay our departure to give her some more recovery time.  Who wants nightly saline rinses up your nose in the middle of a tour?

So, we decide that we want to delay our departure by two or three weeks.  We’ve already bought the flight to Nice, so a flight change will be needed.  And as long as we have to change the flight if the airlines will allow it, are we even going the right direction?  This one opens up a lot of discussion and extensive research, that we’ll spare you the details of.  Suffice it to say that we concluded that the best plan is to shift the tour out by two weeks, and more or less reverse its direction.

And, as long as we’re leaving Portland later, we’d actually rather return to Portland from Tucson a bit later too.  We don’t really need to be back until Rachael’s scheduled Covid test a few days before her surgery.  That gives us a week, which we could use to take our time driving back north, much as we did driving down.

Remarkably, it’s a go.  Our AirBnB allowed us to move our Portland stay out by a week.  And we were able to rebook our flight from Nice to Barcelona for a total added cost of $40.  Surprisingly too, it’s cheaper to be changing the destination.  If we still wanted to fly into Nice on the new date it would have cost us $600.  We’re very pleased about all of this.

So, to summarize and to highlight a few details some of you might find particular interest in:

  • We won’t be returning to Portland until February 5th, which is exactly a week later than was planned. 
  • We’ll be flying to Barcelona on March 15th and returning from Nice (if the entire plan holds up) nine months later, on November 12th.  This is two weeks later than originally planned, and generally in the reverse direction.
  • We had expected to be in the Ariege and hopefully checking in with Rich and Robin sometime in Spring, but now we won’t be coming through there until November.  We’ll be in the region though in early April, but not quite that far north - so they might bop down to Perpignan for drinks and a meal if they’re around.
  • We had hoped to drop in to see Suzan in Paris in September on our way south, but now we’ll be there around June 1st heading North.
  • We expected to bike through Burgundy in mid-September and hopefully check in with Keith, but now w’ll be coming through in mid-May.
  • And, since we’re reversing directions through the UK as well, we won’t be in Cornwall and Wales in June.  Instead, we’ll be in Kent and Lincolnshire first and then dropping through Wales in late summer.

That wraps up the evening news.  We now return to regular programming.  There’s just time for me to get out for a ride if I hurry.

Spring: Barcelona to Calais, March 16th through June 13th.
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Summer: Arriving in the UK in Dover on June 13th, departing for Cherbourg from Poole on September 12th.
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Autumn: Cherbourg to Nice, September 12th through December 10th.
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Today's ride: 48 miles (77 km)
Total: 1,330 miles (2,140 km)

Rate this entry's writing Heart 8
Comment on this entry Comment 7
Rich FrasierWe’re ready for you whenever it works best! November is fine. But if you’re passing along the coast between Barcelona in March, we’ll try to pop out to meet you for a dinner at least. Thanks for the update!
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7 months ago
Kelly IniguezAre you staying at the same place in Tucson, or moving?

How nice that your plane tickets remained inexpensive!
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7 months ago
Scott AndersonTo Kelly IniguezWe are leaving Tucson on the 24th, the same as originally planned. We’re going to take an extra week in the drive back to Portland and add a couple of stops on the way for some day rides - probably Borrego Springs and Paso Robles, but we’re still batting ideas around.
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7 months ago
Suzanne GibsonSounds like a good plan. I like Burgundy in May! Janos does, too!
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7 months ago
marilyn swettYour route today looked interesting and one we might consider as I'd like to see the Mission again. The forecast on the news today predicted some possible rain next week but nice weather through this weekend!
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7 months ago
Jen GrumbyWow! This looks like a great plan.

And nice that Rachael's head will be clear for it! 😉

Rachael - do you know if you'll be using the Neti Pot for your post-surgery rinsing? (I love my Neti Pot!)
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7 months ago
Rachael AndersonTo Jen GrumbyI don’t know but I’ll keep that in mind. I periodically do saline rinses but I use a kit with a plastic bottle that doesn’t work very well at all but it’s more portable. Since I’ll be in Portland using a neti pot should work.
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7 months ago