J&P 10: Tucson to Florence

I awoke around 6am, but rolled over and dozed off again, especially when I saw that Phil had decided to do the same. About 6:45am I decided to get moving, and just about then a key went into our lock and the door opened. Only then did I realize that “Phil” was actually a pile of pillows on his bed, and that the real Phil had been up for quite a while getting coffee.

Phil left again, and I eventually got dressed and headed out across the cold parking lot, still well before sunrise. We had debated last night on the known-lousy Waffle House or the difficult-to-walk-to Denny’s for breakfast. Without a resolution, I assumed I’d find Phil at the Waffle House, but instead found him sitting alone at the Jack-in-the-Box with a big burrito. Another rider was there as well – forgot his name.

I hung around visiting, holding out for pancakes, but eventually the burrito started looking pretty good. When Jan showed up and ordered one, I joined in. Steak-and-egg burrito was OK, nothing great, but probably better than the Awful House. I stayed talking with Jan for a while after Phil left.

Phil was ready to ride by the time I walked back to the motel. Pretty soon a group of us were collected out front: Randy, Phil, Darlene, Sally, Ron, and me, all waiting for Mary Ellen. When she arrived, we quickly negotiated the left turn onto Ina and headed uphill and into the morning winds. It was a decent workout and certainly a solid wake-up call. Not really intending to, I stretched out my climbing muscles and was soon ½ mile in front of our group, but waited at the turn onto Oracle, which was a designated rest stop anyway.

As the group reconvened, Randy made an inadvertent slow motion crash into Darlene, interlocking his handlebars into her frame. Fortunately neither rider nor equipment sustained any damage. Or so we thought. But it brought plenty of laughs once we knew they were OK.

Bob, Jan, Dennis, and Ron at Circle K
Bob, Jan, Dennis, and Ron at Circle K
Steve and rider heading north on Oracle Rd.
Steve and rider heading north on Oracle Rd.
Jan on Oracle Road
Jan on Oracle Road

We took off north on Oracle Road. At first there was a cross breeze that provided occasional help from the rear. As we climbed the next 8 miles or so, the winds definitely shifted around to be coming from the northeast and right in our faces. With both the climbing and the winds, this was certainly a big change from our previous two days.

I pulled in at the next designated Circle K rest stop at Golder Ranch Road. The RV was there and a few other riders, Dennis, Alex, etc. It served a good opportunity to take some photos of riders as they came in, so I perched on the side of Oracle Road and snapped away.

Our group waited unusually long for Darlene and Randy to come in, probably 15 minutes. When they did, we found out that Darlene did not feel too lively this morning, and had decided to ride in the RV for the next segment. This next piece turned out to be only a 6 mile stretch on to Oracle Junction, the intersection of AZ 77 with AZ79. And lunch.

The RV was already in the parking lot when we pulled in to Lupe’s Mexican restaurant. The lot also contained about 50 motorcycles, all BMWs, neatly parked in rows. The place was packed but we found an unbussed table and sat down.

Part of the Beamer convention at Lupe's
Part of the Beamer convention at Lupe’s
M-E, Sally, Randy, Phil, Darlene at Lupe's
M-E, Sally, Randy, Phil, Darlene at Lupe’s

Darlene rejoined us from the RV with news that both her front and rear brakes were rubbing, possibly caused by the collision with Randy. The morning’s ride had been challenging enough without added drag from the brakes – no wonder she couldn’t keep up! Fortunately, the problem was correctable, and Darlene was ready to get back on the road.

Service was very slow. A harried waitress finally came out and started taking orders and simultaneously wiped table debris onto the floor. I ordered a machaca taco and a side of rice and beans. We then waited for another long period, maybe 20 minutes. During that time we talked and joked, and observed that motorcycle riders continued to pour into the place. Our waitress finally returned with a few plates, and explained that this huge motorcycle party had made a reservation but the restaurant hadn’t been able to confirm it, and so they likewise did not prepare for it.

My taco and only the beans arrived – the waitress said they’d run out of rice but it would be out shortly. We ate and lingered for a while, and were finally ready to leave. Our server was operating the cashier’s stand as well, and when I got up there she immediately remembered that I’d never received my rice, and so she properly comp’d the side order.

Darlene rejoined our group, now with free rolling tires. Randy, Sally, Phil, and Darlene rolled up AZ79 and started a moderate 5 mile climb. We passed a sign proclaiming Florence to be 42 miles way, and we were now facing some steady crosswinds. Mary Ellen and I took it a bit slower up the hill, and when we reached the power station at the top, we found the rest of the group waiting for us and snapping some photos.

I pulled over, but Mary Ellen continued on, cresting the hill and starting her dash down the other side. After a short stop, the group pulled out again, looking at a 17 mile stretch to the next rest stop. Sally bolted down the hill, hitting 26, 28 mph, so I stayed with her. She was trying to see if we could catch Mary Ellen, or at least catch sight of her.

As the downhill turned into a near-flat, we stayed on the pedals about 20-22 mph, drafting each other in turn, scanning the horizon for any sight of Mary Ellen’s electric yellow helmet cover. After 10 miles or so, Randy came up from the rear – wow – he must really have been moving as well to catch us. The three of us continued in a great paceline around 18 mph into the increasing winds, and soon rolled into the Tom Mix monument rest stop. None of us ever saw a sign of Mary Ellen, not even a dot in the distance.

We found her there, sipping on a drink, sitting and leaning back triumphantly on a concrete throne. She grinned and declared she’d been there 30 minutes – where the hell had we been? Man, she can be really fast when she wants to be.

Darlene and Mary Ellen holding court at Tom Mix
Darlene and Mary Ellen holding court at Tom Mix

Randy produced a baggie of fig newtons which tasted great. Today’s ride had been moderately difficult compared to the first two, but somehow the extra effort made it that much sweeter. The skies were gorgeous with temperatures pushing 70 degrees, and the desert was just beautiful rolling by.

Lots of riders convened at the stop. Sally, a relatively new cyclist, mentioned that she’d never ridden so well in her life. She attributed that to the recent hiking she’d been doing, and/or osmosis of the male testosterone around her on this trip.

Jan, Annette, Jane, and Ron
Jan, Annette, Jane, and Ron

Mary Ellen and Darlene left the rest stop a minute or two before we did. In the remaining 17 mile stretch into Florence, we formed a cooperative foursome paceline of Randy, Sally, Phil and me. We pushed around 18 mph for about 10 miles, and slowly gained ground on Mary Ellen and Darlene.

When Randy took the lead position, I called up to him that we should go rescue Mary Ellen and Darlene from the crosswinds, since they were only a twosome. Randy cranked it up to around 21mph for ¼ mile, and then I pulled for another ¼ mile to close the remaining gap.

M-E and Darlene joined our rotation, and the outskirts of Florence soon came into view. With only about 2 miles to go, Darlene suddenly fired up the afterburners and shot out in front of the group doing 24 mph. We couldn’t have that, so I pushed to catch her, and Randy soon joined the chase as well.

Just south of town, a vector to the left onto AZ287 took us almost directly to the Holiday Inn. We all razzed Darlene for her burst of speed – wow, when she smells the finish line, she really gets motivated. Randy briefly left the scene and soon returned with a six pack of Dos Equis beer – what a beautiful treat after a ride. It was such a fine afternoon that we hung around out front for almost an hour as various groups of riders came rolling in.

A gentleman arrived with his arms full of goodies, cupcakes, fruits, etc. His name was Tom Davidson, and it turns out he’s a veteran J&P rider (rode in the ride’s 2nd year). He’d come to see old faces, and to generously provide us with a treat. Jane wasn’t available, so Sally took a lead in welcoming Tom, and I soon joined her in talking with him. Tom’s accent was very familiar to me (sounds just like my cousin Ben), and I learned he’s from outside of Philly. Tom owns a place at the intersections of Arizona Farms and Felix Rds., way out in the farmlands northwest of Florence.

We saw that Tom walked with quite a limp, and we learned that he’s scheduled for a hip replacement surgery in coming weeks. He pledged to be out on the road with the tour again as soon as he can rehabilitate. He left a note for Tom, Jane, and Paul before leaving – and he placed all the goodies on the table in the hotel lobby – what a nice guy.

One of the riders (a lady riding with Annette) had experienced a flat tire, and she recruited Mary Ellen to fix it for her. Mary Ellen was not about to simply fix the flat, however, reasoning that all riders should learn how to do it themselves. Pretty soon, Mary Ellen had a mini- flat tire clinic in session in front of the RV.

Mary Ellen's flat tire clinic
Mary Ellen’s flat tire clinic
Phil trying out a 'bent
Phil trying out a ‘bent

After sampling the cupcakes, Phil and I finally checked in. The clerk assigned us room 108, but then said that the computer indicated that someone was still in the process of leaving that room. She called the floor staff for an update but couldn’t reach anyone. I walked down to the room and listened at the room door, but heard nothing. Finally, she issued the key, and asked me to let her know if the room is empty, so I quipped, “If I open the door on a couple in bed, you know, it might scar me for life.” The room was fine, of course.

I called Linda and we celebrated Valentine’s Day. She had planted a nice card in my rear trunk, and I’d left one for her on the kitchen table. I was glad that she was OK with me being on a bike tour over this holiday.

Phil soon got a phone call inviting us to join the tour happy hour, in progress in the hotel’s ballroom. In the traditional fashion, Tom generously used some of the excess gas funds to buy wine, beer and nibbles for a Day 3 social hour. I enjoyed talking with Ron, Darlene, and Phil. Darlene and I talked about sighting Iridium flares again, and she’d written down 4 or 5 objects that should be viewable around dusk tonight from Florence. Eventually Tom made a few announcements and showed off a new-issue “Not Your Mom” Tours tee shirt, available for order. Tom also collected money for a group Chinese dinner, and the three of us joined in. Jan decided to go to Los Pueblos, but after last night I just couldn’t do Mexican again. Mary Ellen had met up with her beau John for a private Valentine’s dinner.

More than half of our Chinese group managed to grab a ride to dinner, while a group of 7 or 8 of us ended up making the two mile walk, led by Tom. I lost sight of Phil and my cell call to him went unanswered, but eventually he called to let me know he was already seated at the restaurant. Our group enjoyed a nice stroll through neighborhoods back behind AZ87, and encountered plenty of yapping dogs behind fences.

The Chinese food was very tasty. I especially devoured the chicken pieces smothered in various sauces, sweet and sour, lemon, etc. Of course, I finally got my serving of rice. Darlene and I ducked out after the first few courses to scan for an Iridium flare, and hoofed it across AZ87 right next to the fence of the penitentiary for a better view. To a casual observer, I bet it looked like we were accomplices to an ongoing prison break. No sign of the flare, but it was fun.

The plates of food kept coming out, and Tom, finally turned to the manager saying, “I have a request. Stop cooking!” Our table had virtually every square inch filled with either diners’ plates or serving plates heaped with food. We discussed possibly orchestrating a donation of this food to a Florence shelter, but in the end decided that this was not really practical without prior arrangements.

Fortune cookies came out, and a traditional reading of most of the fortunes was conducted, adding the words “in bed” afterwards. I’d never heard of this tradition, and got a real laugh out of if.

Our group enjoyed the cool walk back to the hotel. Even though we missed the scheduled Iridium flare, Darlene then pointed out a low grade Iridium flare high in the sky. We all witnessed a few shooting stars as well. Nice.

Passed out that night – I really needed some sleep after a relatively tough riding day.

Starting odometer: 14068
Ending odometer: 14131
Day 3 miles: 63
Tour miles: 183