As I retell this story I’m going over the cue sheet and Google maps recalling the path. It was really amazing, almost make-believe to me at times. I had ridden the distance on a Century in the boroughs of NYC but this whole wide open spaces even in the civilization of Tucson was huge. A pre-race concern was I’d fall behind, take a wrong turn and lose valuable time trying to get back on course. As I was the only rider from the NYC chapter doing the Tucson event I had no team to rely on though initially I was supposed to ride with some with friends I made in the Austin TX team. The irony was though I saw some of them along the way and started out with a few other friends made at the event, coaches John Dallon and Mike Cross, in the end I wound up on my own a lot occasionally passing along other El Tour or a JDRF riders. In addition to the cue map there was outstanding police support at nearly all the intersections and turns. Still this ride and that alone time taught me a lot about trust and confidence in myself.
In the last post I had just come through the first of two off-road sections, the Santa Cruz dry riverbed complete with celebratory Mariachi band at the end which was a hoot! From there it was back on pavement and West Drexel Road leading to the outskirts of town to the edge of country and the Catalina Mountain foothills.
From West Drexel we headed south on Nogales Highway taking the East Hughes Access Road, Los Reales Road, north on South Craycroft, parallel to I-10 on the service road then heading north on Kolb Road and then Irvington Road. At mile 27 I came to the first official JDRF rest stop which was going to be the first of my three primary stops. This was also a point where though early in ride it felt like it was underway, it was about 9:30 and I began to feel I’m where I should be.
From this point it was angling north across the Pantano Wash leading towards the upper part of the loop and in to the Catalina Mountain area. The landscape was starting to look like more of the Arizona desert country I had envisioned.
About mile 35 two things happened, one it was this long gradual descending stretch, the kind of road that is classic to western open areas I’d seen in pictures where it looks like the road goes forever. It was here that without hardly trying I was suddenly clocking 30 mph, the road and tailwind just felt in control and you just went with it.
This was on a section of road known as the Old Spanish Trail. After leveling out the road surface got rougher and the shoulder would come and go. Also though traffic was lighter due to coordination of El Tour de Tucson there was some slow-moving traffic in this section. There were two cyclists ahead of me. Suddenly the one in the middle fell. The other cyclist and I both stopped to see if assistance was needed.
We both went to help the cyclist who had fallen who turned out to be a 79-year-old man, get to his feet. He was cut up and stunned but got up with assistance. He was bleeding on his knee, hand and arm but moving and spoke to us. He claimed to be on his tenth ride of El Tour de Tucson and wanting to go on and meet others he knew.
Thankfully about this time a member of the El Tour bike patrol came upon us and stopped. El Tour had several of these individuals roaming the breadth of the course for whatever assistance that might be needed in this case he had bandages and medical so he took over. We stayed till it was clear the bike patrol fellow how control of the situation. Thankfully it seemed this gentleman would heal to ride again but as I said in a social post about this, 79, El Tour 10 times, give him a yellow jersey!
After continuing on the Old Spanish Trail (S Freeman Road), heading west for a few miles then north again we were soon nearing the 50 mile point. About mile 47 though the road would go off pavement again. We were on E Synder Road, turned down N Palisade Drive through a sparse residential area. The sense of direction on the whole El Tour was often a mix of law enforcement officials at intersections and people who just turned out along the course to cheer all of us on which was both touching and novel. I recall in this section being by myself for a bit having followed the described and turned on to N Palisade, then coming upon a couple of riders ahead of me, we were initially saying to each other is this the way, that way, then there were a couple of local folks pointing the way, which led to E Summer trail that would lead us across the Sabino Creek, like the other creek bed, dried up. This was all leading in to a pretty resort like area, Canyon Ranch.
All through this area was leading to a range of feelings within me, wow, I can do this, I’m half-way there, this is amazing, the cause, Cal, how cool to be out here with everyone, JDRF and bikers from all over the place… Next post, 54 miles on and the end is in sight!
Very pleased to say that my fund-raising for JDRF and being part of the 2014 Ride to Cure Diabetes ride series raising awareness and supporting research to make ‘type 1 type none’, I’ve raised $5,155. You may still donate to this cause by going to http://www2.jdrf.org/site/TR/Ride/JDRFNationalRides?px=4654534&pg=personal&fr_id=3432 Thanks very much and thanks to all who have donated through the last several months.