Even a 70 mile ride begins with a single pedal stroke and a choice of destinations. We chose Oracle, AZ, but ended up continuing on to San Manuel, AZ. Hey, it was downhill from Oracle. About a thousand feet, in fact. But, we are getting ahead of ourselves. We need to get to Oracle first.
We pass through Catalina first. I occasionally have an impulse to take a hoe or a pick and whack down the weeds growing up through the pavement on the shoulder. So far, I have not given into the urge. The people in this small community are thoughtful and friendly so it’s hard to complain.
This is the main road into the very attractive Saddlebrook development. If you turn here, there is a long, steep grade up over a hill before descending into Saddlebrook proper. Speeds on the descent approach the 35 mph speed limit. But, we are not going that way today.
I wish every road had a shoulder like this one. This is what makes riding along Oracle Highway so popular. The gentle but steady rise on the way out keeps speeds down but does not discourage you. The return is lots of fun.
You can see that the road is rising. Still, the interesting desert greenery and the distant purple hills nicely distract from the effort.
I took this in part to show that even in the summer there are green desert plants.
By now, we have nearly finished both water bottles and will stop to refill at Oracle.
It is worth noting that we started at about 2600 feet in Oro Valley. 22 miles later, we have gained some elevation, all without difficult climbs.
Past Oracle we find a section of route 77 with little or no shoulder. Traffic is light and mostly courteous so this is not an issue.
A typical roadside vista. Since we are on a bicycle, we don’t even have to look for a “scenic overlook” sign. We just stop anywhere.
After a while, one almost forgets how beautiful the horizon is here. Beautiful sunsets are common too. If the desert looks a little barren up close, raise your eyes.
If you look at a topographic map, you will see that Oracle is located on the top of a ridge that we have crossed over. Having climbed so far, we will enjoy a descent as we continue toward San Manuel. There won’t be many chances to take pictures. It’s too much fun to roll along!
In addition to some charming landscaping, there is a store with cold drinks lining the rear walls. We will be back to explore the town proper, but today the agenda includes rehydrating and riding back toward Tucson. We will have a thousand foot climb in the roughly 10 miles back to Oracle.
I used a long focal length to reach out to the nearby ridge. Beauty is all around us.
The good news is that it is mostly downhill from this point to home.
This is the part of riding that I enjoy most. I am pretty good at going down gentle grades.
We have never stopped here, but will someday. I wonder if they have cold drinks . . . update since this picture was taken: It is about 2 miles from this viewpoint to the vistor center entrance. Their signs seem intended to discourage casual visits, except to take their tour.
Well, almost home. We still have a bit of a climb up Rancho Vistoso Boulevard before we can push the button on the garage door opener.