84.16 mi / 6:02:56 time / 13.9 mph avg. / 28.0 mph max. / 3156 ft. climbing
Staying at Radisson Suites
All through the night, cars would come down the campground road and go to the picnic area/boat launch parking area, turn around, and drive back out. What were they looking for? A make-out session? Their drug dealer? Some midnight fishing? Luckily none of them ever arrived simultaneously (or waited around), so no party ever got started.
I was woken up around 3am with, you guessed it, rain hitting my face. So I had to close the door on my rainfly which I had hopefully left open. It had stopped by the time I woke up for real at 4:40am, but it started drizzling again as I was taking down the tent, making for yet another day of wet gear in my bags.
Then I had rain continuing for the first 15 miles of the ride. It was warm enough (upper 60s) that I skipped the rain gear and just let my clothes get soaked through (yet again). Either way my clothes would be soaked, the only question is whether they’re wet from the rain or wet from my sweat. Neither is at all pleasant, but skipping the jacket at least allows the possibility or drying out faster as soon as the rain lets up.
When I was around Flagstaff, I remember specifically thinking “the weather has been even nicer than I expected; I was predicting about 3 days with some rain for the whole trip, and we’ve only had one. And surely there won’t be any more chance of rain now that I’m headed down to the real desert!” I never would have guessed I’d then get four straight days of rain. I think the knowledge that this was the last day of the trip was the only thing keeping me from getting really pissed off. To all the drivers, the rain and cool temperatures were awesome fun and great relief from the record temperatures they’d recently had in Phoenix (14 days of 100 degrees in a row). But it’s a different story when you never feel any of that heat, and the rain seems to be following you everywhere you go.
I stopped in Mammoth and got a premium gas-station breakfast, with a hot breakfast burrito and hot breakfast sandwich. Fancy. Then I had the final hill to climb, 2000 ft. over 10 miles, so relatively easy, but long. Luckily the rain was reduced to minor sprinkles by this point. At the top of the hill was supposedly the town of Oracle. But like many of the towns in this area, it’s oddly built off of the highway (or more likely, the highway was built around it?) so if they didn’t have road signs pointing to it, you wouldn’t even notice it’s there. That’s especially weird in this case, because for the next 40 miles into Tucson, the highway is known as “Oracle Rd.”, and the Tucson suburbs have all sorts of references (“Oracle Mall”, etc.) to this town that is nearly invisible. I also passed by Biosphere 2, but unfortunately it’s not visible from the road.
After cresting the final summit, I was able to complete the trip with a nice long downhill into Tucson. I had sprinkles as late as Oro Valley, 20 miles out of TUcson’s center, but after that, the sun appeared in earnest. I was relieved to know that I hadn’t actually been dragging the rain along with me all the way into Tucson, even though it definitely had felt that way. I would have felt pretty bad if I had rained out the wedding!
Tucson is very bike-friendly, with the first bike lane briefly appearing some 30 miles out of town. Then there was a section of construction, which could have been nearly as bad as that section of US-60, but they had a lot of signs about sharing the road and all of the drivers were quite courteous, so it was far more comfortable. I saw a bunch of people out on their Saturday morning road rides, and unfortunately I couldn’t reel any of them in. 🙁 Tucson and its suburbs ended up being a lot bigger than I expected, with residential and commercial development starting 20 miles out on Oracle Rd. and continuing the whole way in.
I rolled up to the final stop, the Radisson Suites, around 1pm. But the challenges weren’t over. Now I had to gain access to my hotel room without credit card or ID. I was first met with outright refusal, even though I had already paid for the room, and there was really no doubt of my identity. What needed to be overcome was mindless, inflexible adherence to corporate policy. After 30 minutes of hemming and hawing and fear of losing her job, the manager-on-duty (really the housekeeping manager) finally told me to take my bike around to the back of the hotel and meet her there by the laundry and dumpsters. After having a smoke to calm her nerves, she said “Ok, I’ll let you in a room”. Woo hoo! I didn’t officially check in or get any keys, so I would be stuck there, but at least I could take my first shower in a week (which maybe was the final tipping point for the manager, I bet she was getting sick of my stinking up her lobby!)
Once inside, I gave my aunt a call to ask if they could help out whenever they returned from the rehearsal lunch by putting down their credit card. I spent some time greatly enjoying my specialized gift bag, which included a cute mini-pack of King’s Hawaiian Bread (lasted about 3 minutes), a big bag of high-calorie trail mix (lasted a little longer) and a couple of great beers (lasted until they got cold enough in the freezer). After a long shower, I met my uncle, got checked in for real, and finally I was finished and free!
It actually wasn’t too much longer afterwords that my parents arrived from the drive down to Phoenix. It was hard to decide what was the best: seeing them for the first time in six weeks, receiving the extensive packet of supplemental ID (up to and including my college ID card!) that would let me fly home, or receiving the batch of awesome polka-dot cookies!