We were up at 7:30AM checking out the lobby breakfast trough, which turned out to be very meager. Something about a big group depleting it before we got there – I never got the details.
Instead, we headed down to the Landmark Cafe on Fry Boulevard, a perfect local place with a good menu. Like yesterday, we had route options to consider for today. Dave and Phil decided to take AZ90 north to AZ82, then head west from there. Jack, Gary, and I decided to see if we could roll directly west through the Fort Huachuca base and then take Canelo Road. I mentioned interest in a winery out there.
Phil and Dave peeled off, and the three of us soon reached the welcome gate. Gary conveniently had an ex-military card with him, while Jack and I had to sit for background checks. The young guy assisting us was all business, and I thought his uniform, with numerous large font “POLICE” patches, was quite the costume. Jack and I got nifty little souvenir cards as a result, granting us access for the next 30 days.
There was not a lot to see rolling through the fort. Hatfield Road meandered south and we chugged up quite a few hills as we went. We finally turned west onto Smith Avenue which took us another 4 miles to the west end gate of the fort. On the way were some significantly entertaining rolling hills, some like 12-13% grade, both uphill and downhill. Really pretty out here too.
West of the fort, the beauty just improves as we entered Coronado National Forest. It remains high desert here, but the trees are greener and more dense, and the rolling hills continued to our delight. We stopped at one place to view a group of perhaps the largest turkeys I’ve ever seen in the wild. Fumbled with my camera and never got a good photo of them (Jack’s photo is below), but the memory lasts.
In fact, in this stretch, I discovered that the plastic case of the lithium battery in my camera had split – perhaps explaining why I was always getting a battery error. Fearing a lithium leak (is that a real thing?), I removed it from the camera, and resigned myself to use only an iPhone for photos, albeit of lower quality.
Gary and Jack got a few hundred yards ahead of me as we came across a sign for Elgin Canelo Road. A small arrowed blue sign said simply “Tourist Attractions,” and I figured right away it was referring to the winery. Unfortunately, in front of me, now ½ mile in the distance, were Gary and Jack . They’d ripped down a steep hill, with a tailwind to boot, and were now just dots. I saw Jack veer once, as if looking backwards, and I made a big waving motion, but he didn’t seem to respond.
So I made two decisions, a) to go to the winery, and b) not to try to retrieve them. Too bad – going alone wouldn’t be as fun. I texted Jack and told him I’d meet them both this evening at our motel.
Elgin Canelo Road heads north through beautiful brown grass fields. One of them had a couple of deer who, above the grass tops, watched me carefully. In only 2 miles, I found the Sonoita Vineyards winery on the left side and went in.
A lady was very welcoming behind the bar. I watched as another patron entered and pulled a glass out of her purse to begin a tasting. Puzzled, I asked about the procedure. She explained that a tasting was $10 and included a glass. I told her I couldn’t really carry a glass on my bicycle, so she said I could use a “loaner” glass. In the end I decided I could carry the glass wrapped up in clothing, and proceeded with my first pour.
Within minutes I was drinking a marvelous Zinfandel-Sangiovese blend. To my delight, another cyclist appeared at the entrance and it was Jack! It turns out he never received my text, but had looked back and seen my profile heading north. His stretch of road contained grape vines, and he quickly deduced where I was headed. That he came all the way back, chugging into the wind, and then up a steep hill to get here shows what a good soul, or what a lunatic mind, he has, maybe both.
Our host at the winery had an interesting way of trying to deduce which wines to pour based on the feedback we gave, and we really enjoyed the process. We pretended to know a little bit about wines and made up the rest. Most of the offerings were white and on the dry or neutral side.
It came time to purchase a bottle for the evening, and the lady seemed pleased that I selected the Zinfandel-Sangiovese blend, which is one of their newest offerings. [Beautiful color, intense dark cherry, with a wonderful grassiness from the Sangiovese. See, I can wine-speak.] In fact, I guess that wine is so new that I can find no reference to it online. Jack selected a delicious Columbard.
Back on the road, it felt sort of like old times, just Jack and me. We got a great push from the tailwinds, and the two of us lazed along enjoying every second of the roll northwest to Sonoita.
At the intersection with AZ82, we lingered at the Sonoita Mercantile to buy snacks, then headed southwest with continued full tailwind. To our added delight, the road dropped about 700 feet in the 12 scenic miles to Patagonia. Talk about the easiest riding ever.
The other guys were already checked in at the Stage Stop Inn and had explored around town. Phil and Dave too reported fantastic riding conditions on their route today. After checking in, we gathered at the Gathering Grounds coffee bar for things like ice cream and pie.
Happy hour by the hotel pool courtyard had us all enjoying our wine purchases and the gorgeous weather. I grinned as one of the hotel staffers walked by us and proclaimed “Right on!” when she saw the wine.
We’d been hearing for many miles of a great pizza place here in town, a place called Velvet Elvis, and corralled ourselves over there for dinner. Dave and I shared two designer pizzas, one called “Green Giant” – featuring basil pesto, and another called “Tuc’s Revenge” – featuring lots of anchovies. His beverage, a hibiscus margarita, was especially good – I shoulda ordered one. Jack had a custom calzone that was so good he considered ordering another.
Back in the hotel library, the five of us opened up the bottle of Columbard, toasted the evening, and reminisced about the trip so far. Gary was planning an early solo departure in the morning to meet an obligation, so we were already starting to say our goodbyes.
Friday Night Lights back in the room – good way to end another glorious day on tour.
Finished Cycle: Nov 21, 2015, 3:07:14 PM
Route: New Route
Explorer Link: http://cyclemeter.com/51ced2364be66c17/Cycle-20151121-0718
Ride Time: 4:34:17
Stopped Time: 3:14:05
Distance: 52.80 miles
Average: 11.55 mph
Fastest Speed: 40.60 mph