Labor Day 70 Mile Bike Ride

And so the ride begins . . .

And so the ride begins . . .

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 first pass through Catalina

Catalina looking north on Oracle highway

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.

We pass the entrance to Saddlebrook

The Entrance to Saddlebrook

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.

A wide shoulder and a gentle climb

A wide shoulder and a gentle climb

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.

A view of my side of the road

A view of my side of the road

You can see that the road is rising.  Still, the interesting desert greenery and the distant purple hills nicely distract from the effort.

Another roadside snapshot

Another roadside snapshot

I took this in part to show that even in the summer there are green desert plants.

Getting close!  Oracle is at about mile 100

Getting close! Oracle is at about mile 100

By now, we have nearly finished both water bottles and will stop to refill at Oracle.

A major milestone with cold drinks

A major milestone with cold drinks

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.

Narrow shoulder and sunflowers

Narrow shoulder and sunflowers

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.

Distant ridge and nearby hills

Distant ridge and nearby hills

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.

I may be spoiled

We may be spoiled

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.

Check your brakes!

Check your brakes!

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!

San Manuel

San Manuel

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.

Taken from the shade while rehydrating

Taken from the shade while rehydrating

I used a long focal length to reach out to the nearby ridge.  Beauty is all around us.

It's official.  We are headed back.

It's official. We are headed back.

The good news is that it is mostly downhill from this point to home.

Nice, easy pace!

Nice, easy pace!

This is the part of riding that I enjoy most.  I am pretty good at going down gentle grades.

Passing the entrance to Biosphere

Passing the entrance to Biosphere

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.

Home, baby, home

Home, baby, home

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.

Dibs on the couch . . .

Dibs on the couch . . .

Bicycling

Early mornings in the Tucson area are wonderful this time of year.  Bicyclists are everywhere on the quiet streets near our home.  Here’s my favorite riding partner, ready to hit the road.

Every ride begins with a single pedal stroke

Every ride begins with a single pedal stroke

We occasionally stop for a picture.  This is pretty typical of the Rancho Vistoso roadside.

A momentary pause near the top of the hill before descending

A momentary pause near the top of the hill before descending

That’s Pusch Ridge in the background.  We will continue to Oracle Road and then head north.  You can easily make your trip as short as 10 miles or more than 50.

On the road again . . .

On the road again . . .

Going north on Oracle Road (route 77) provides 20 miles of a gentle up grade reaching the 4500 foot elevation at Oracle.  The return to our 2500 foot elevation is fast and fun.

Map overview of the route

Map overview of the route

Desert Botanical Gardens

We don’t go out of town any more often than necessary, but the Desert Botanical Garden in Phoenix is worth the two-hour trip.  Our next-door neighbors presented us with passes to Chihuly: The Nature of Glass, a special exhibit scheduled from November 22, 2008 through May 31, 2009.  We expanded our visit to include the Marshall Butterfly Pavilion and the Patio Cafe.  On Don and Helen’s advice we arrived early in the afternoon and left just before closing so we could see the glass sculptures by both day and night.

On the Path

On the Path

That’s my wife Sheryl in her sensible wide brimmed hat, light Juice Plus tee shirt, shorts and plenty of sunscreen, the recommended uniform for afternoon desert outings.

Buckeye Butterfly

Buckeye Butterfly

A table near the Chihuly, please

A table near the Chihuly, please

Night in the Desert

Night in the Desert

The Desert Botanical Garden was one of our first stops when we arrived in Arizona on our way to a new home in Tucson.  No visit to Phoenix is complete without a stop there.