Uncommonly cold outside in Florence this morning, like 34°F or so. Dave knocked on our door to deliver his panniers, and I was still in bed thinking, OK, I got at least 15 more minutes <grin>.
Phil and Dave left for the Old Pueblo Mexican restaurant up the street, and unfortunately they had to wait around a while for it to open. The 5 of us were soon in a back booth with a tasty breakfast.
By 8AM we were off headed southeast down AZ79, greeted by a mild headwind. What faced us was a very long uphill slope, just a little over 1 percent for 37 miles straight. This particular segment has seen the demise of many a J&P rider, who then get sagged to the top. But none of us had that option today.
To break up the task, we made a few stops of course. Phil’s front derailleur started giving him fits, stuck first on the large chainring, and then stuck on the small chainring , which was a much more palatable problem. Despite our roadside attentions, we were not able to get it operating correctly.
We stopped again at the Tom Mix Monument, about 18 miles in and a natural stop for snacks.
The uphill slog continued. I started getting pretty winded and we weren’t even halfway through with the route today. We all noticed that Phil was laboring, down in his lowest gear and working at it. No wonder – the guy works like no one else I know, and did no conditioning prior to the tour.
Through it all, I started marveling at where we were, what we were doing, and the beauty of natural surroundings. The shape of a weed, the sway of grasses. The simple joys.
Power lines finally came into view, which in a few miles led to a power station situated at the top of the climb. After 37 miles of climbing, which with the multiple stops took over 4 hours to complete, it was one welcome sight. We were rewarded with a happy 5 mile downhill that took us to a closed and boarded-up Lupe’s Restaurant. [Based on the last time I ate there, I am not at all surprised they’re out of business.]
The five us of continued as a group south on AZ77. Assisted by a continued downhill, we kept up a healthy pace around 15-20 mph and eventually stopped for cherry pie nearing Tucson proper. Not for long, though, because we were actually a little concerned about daylight running out, with another 20 miles or so to go.
Dave suggested we take River Road east through Tucson, which turned out to be a great call. We first made a stop at Arizona Cyclist Bike Shop for attention to Phil’s derailleur. This is a shop for hard-core racers with an expert mechanic who knowledgably fixed up Phil’s bike. I’m uncertain exactly what the issue was, but it had something to do with an incompatibility of Shimano’s derailleur grease with the dry desert conditions presented in Arizona.
With advice from the bike shop, we took “The Loop” east, a paved bike path along the Rillito River bed. It was very nice passage, serene, curvy, slow, and took us 5 miles east to Craycroft, where we then took River Road further east. On Sabino Canyon Road, our progress was blocked by construction, but we improvised deftly through neighborhood streets to find our motel, a Ramada Inn on Tanque Verde.
One tough day, for us anyway, over 74 miles and over 2700 feet of climbing. Like yesterday, the bed beckoned, but instead we all made our way over to the adjacent Canyon’s Crown Restaurant and Pub for fuel. The place serves tasty Brit-style beers (e.g. Smithwick’s, Guinness, Boddington’s) and our waiter was a friendly sort. My Guinness pie was pretty good when it finally arrived, although I wished it were bigger. Gary’s shepherd’s pie looked like it might have been a better choice. Unfortunately, our waiter turned out to be quite inattentive, coupled with a very slow kitchen. I have a standing policy to tip at least 20% everywhere, but this guy got only 12% or so – maybe he’ll read this.
Time to crash – everyone definitely needs to repair from today, and we’re anticipating another tough ride tomorrow.
Finished Cycle: Nov 17, 2015, 6:37:05 PM
Route: New Route
Explorer Link: http://cyclemeter.com/51ced2364be66c17/Cycle-20151117-0659
Ride Time: 6:18:24
Stopped Time: 4:00:22
Distance: 74.15 miles
Average: 11.76 mph
Fastest Speed: 32.66 mph