Sunday, July 04, 2010

4th of July Ride in Saguaro Nat'l Park -- West

Le Tigre on Gates Pass Rd.

Saguaro National Park has an East section and a West section. When I used to live out near the East Park, I would be out there every Saturday morning without fail. Since I live in Northwest Tucson now, riding out at the West Park is where you'll find me most weekends.

There are mostly the old established Tucson Mountains neighborhoods that border the Saguaro Nat'l Park, West.

For several years, I rode the 45 mile loop with John and Kathy and Wing every Sunday morning, Gentle Readers of This Blog--through the scenic, quiet and hilly neighborhoods off Sweetwater Rd, and then on the Gates Pass for the morning climb through the saguaros.

Le Tigre heading West with me on Sweetwater, and then on Gates Pass Rd.

We take Sweetwater off Silver Bell Rd. We've met at 6:30 a.m. at Silver Bell and Grant at the Safeway Store. Ryan can bike there fairly quickly, and I just get on the Freeway quick and I'm right there. Silver Bell Rd is pretty rough and narrow--and the local people can sometimes be impatient. Sweetwater offers us a bit less traffic and smooth rollers.

It's 4th of July! I'm wearing Red White and Blue.

I'll tell you that it was quite muggy this morning, mes amis, and the steep rollers made us sweat--and we weren't even to Gates Pass yet!

Get Ready to climb!

Gates Pass was a mule team road trekked by Thomas Gates in the 1880's.

We'll make the steady climb on Gates Pass Rd up to and just around the two peaks you see there on the left, and then do the hard part of the climb up to the pull out on the top where there's a small rest area. The best thing to do is to ride early in the morning. Local people, again, tend to drive fast, and be rather impatient. The road is narrow and there will be no shoulder for you to ride on, so you have to take the lane. There's many a blind curve as well--but early in the mornings most of the haters are sacked out, and we'll be long gone before they make their runs for cigarettes and beer...

This is the small pullout on the top of Gates Pass.

Tucson's way down there in the valley. I tell Le Tigre that this is part of Susan's 300 KM Brevet Course, and right about here a Randonneur has 100 miles on his or her legs.

Down into Tucson Mtn Park, Old Tucson Studios, The Desert Museum, and Saguaro Nat'l Park!

If you like fast descents, then this downhill is for you--and it could be you last bike ride too--don't get killed because you can easily reach speeds of 50 to 60 mph on the descent. I do not even attempt to go that fast. If you go off the road, there's nothing but sharp rocks and boulders to slow you down, plus all vegetation is spiny and wicked-sharp. My max is usually 40 mph going down--this morning only 37 mph...

We're riding on McCain Loop.

McCain Loop has fast rollers.

We did not see The Wolf today--I was saddened by that as I had promised Le Tigre we would site Him. No matter; Ride in Peace!

On Sandario Rd, heading North.

I will tell you that we had a strong tail wind for our ride down Sandario Rd, mes amis. Sandario Rd is affectionately know by a lot of us as "Red Neck Road" but this morning no Red Necks were in abundance. We just simply flew down the road like jet fighters! Most of this stretch we rode 27 to 30 mph--Sweet!

Enjoying a tail wind, mes amis!

On the way up and over Twin Peaks Pass.

One last section of road that has always been rough and tough, has been Twin Peaks Rd. But this morning we discovered it newly re-paved. That was of little comfort, Gentle Reader of This Blog, as now Le Tigre and I found ourselves riding in a moderate head wind.

We went up and over the pass in due time and we felt strong. Normally about here is when John, Kathy, Wing, and I would pull into the Starbucks for a nice finish to our ride--but Ryan and I had to still ride several miles down Silver Bell Rd to Grant Rd. Those miles were very tough, as Silver Bell Rd is still in pretty bad shape. Those of you that have ridden El Tour in years past know that this last stretch of Silver Bell beats the Hell out of you--plus there's always a fierce headwind--which Le Tigre and I took turns fighting--and the road is narrow and full of holes, and by now at this time in the morning, the local Red Necks are up and speeding through.

Like a lot of roads in Tucson, they were once country roads, but there's been so much development that these old roads see tons more traffic. They're crumbling and they're hard to repair and re-pave as they are major arteries for the rural people to get to the freeway and into town.

Very slowly the repairs are being made--so I would say that the sections that are not there yet and are some of Tucson's most dangerous and punishing. El Tour moved to the I-10 Frontage Rd now, and no longer will we have to take our chances the last 20 miles on roads worse than cobble stones!

Parade Rest.

Back at Grant and Silver Bell after the ride, we saw these two Firefighters on grocery detail, and they happily showed this Gentleman's grandson the Fire Truck.

I hope you all had a Happy 4th of July!

Cheers! Bruce

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