Again this year, I am registered for a week of the Desert Camp for bicyclists, which Lon Haldeman and Susan Notorangelo direct in southern Arizona. We gathered in Tucson on Friday and Saturday of the week just past and today, February 19, 2012, we have done our first day—Tucson to Casa Grande by way of a loop through the mountain parks on the west side of Tucson. The metrics of our day, according to my bike computer: 85.52 miles, 5 hours and 29 minutes on the bikes for an average of 15.58 mph; 7 hours total elapsed time.
The roster lists 21 people, five of whom are crew members who will bicycle some of the days. Three of the company are in their twenties, one in her thirties, three in their forties, seven in their fifties, four in their sixties, and three of us even older (74, 78, and 80). The photo below shows some of us gathered for lunch near Picacho Peak. Over lunch, we talked about the fact that the western-most battle of the Civil War happened a short distance from our stop.
On Saturday before the tour began, I assembled my Davidson bike (new for this trip) and bicycled seven miles to visit Mission San Xavier del Bac, which serves the San Xavier Tohono O’odham Indian Community. Although Father Eusebio Kino visited this location in 1692, the first church at this mission was built in 1756. Construction of the present church began in 1783 and it was completed in 1797. According to a brochure at the museum at the church, “some 200,000 visitors come each year from all over the world to view what is widely considered to be the finest example of Spanish Colonial architecture in the United States.” Yesterday, I was one of the people who came mainly to look. Next week, I plan to attend Sunday Mass in order to see the church function the way it is supposed to.
About half of today’s itinerary parallels the course of the Santa Cruz River that flows north to join the Gila River south of Phoenix. Much of the year, the Santa Cruz disappears into the sand so that there’s no water left to join the Gila. At one crossing, near Marana, north of Tucson, there was quite a bit of water and a lovely riparian scene. Even though much of the water may be provided by the Tucson wastewater treatment system, it makes a pretty scene.
My riding companion on this tour is a Texas businessperson with whom I cycled 35 years ago. He was fifteen at the time and was part of a group of high school students from Indiana churches whom I led on a weeklong tour in southern Indiana. Although we have seen each other only two or three times since then, his church activities bring him into close contact with members of my family. He’s younger and stronger than I, but we managed to stay together and had a fine first day, despite rough pavement and a strong headwind for half of the day.
Tomorrow, we turn westward, with the little town of Gila Bend as our destination for the night.