Desert Training Camp One More Time

Arizona Sunrise

Since 2009 my winter schedule of activities has included a week of bicycling in southern Arizona. These rides have been conducted by PAC Tour—Pacific Atlantic Cycling Tours. The company is operated by Lon Haldeman and Susan Notorangelo, husband and wife, who have long been central figures in intense, long distance cycling.

I first met Lon in the 1970s at a McDonald’s restaurant on the western edge of Columbus, Ohio. My teenage son Mike and I had spent Mother’s Day weekend cycling the 210-mile Tour of the Scioto River Valley—TOSRV—and were driving back home. Lon was already a celebrated figure among cyclists because of his major role in developing the recently established Race Across America—RAAM—and he had been guest of honor at that year’s TOSRV.

Lon’s name had drawn my attention to PAC Tour’s Desert Training Camp several years before I started riding with them. If I ever decide to ride with a touring company, I thought, PAC Tour would be the one to try.

The time did come when it became clear that my family and friends, and I myself, would feel more at ease if I were to transition from long solo trips to multi-day rides that included other people.

If done right, I told myself, these rides would be fun. These weeks with PAC Tour would acquaint me with parts of Arizona with which I was unfamiliar. I would meet interesting people. I would learn things about cycling and traveling by bike that I would not learn in any other way.

JulianWash in Tucson

JulianWash in Tucson

This next week will be my 7th or 8th trip with PAC Tour, and my hopes have been realized. The rides have been physically and mentally challenging. Friendships have been established with crewmembers and cyclists alike, and each year’s ride is like a reunion. I have experienced this part of Arizona in a new way. My abilities as a cyclist have been extended. These are the reasons I keep coming back.

This is the third time that I have come to Desert Training Camp thinking that it might be my last time. The fact is that at 83 years of age, I’m having trouble doing these rides at the level that satisfies my personal criteria. Like it or not (and I don’t like it), I’m aging out of PAC Tour rides. The rigor that drew me to this company in the first place is now pointing out that aging has its challenges that cannot be avoided.

This year’s ride still seems within my range. The daily distances range from 40 to 60 miles, just over half of the daily distance expected on some of the other weeks and events that PAC Tour sponsors. We’ll spend two consecutive nights in the same hotel in mid-week, which means that cyclists can take a day off if it will help them enjoy the week.

So, once again, here I am at Desert Training Camp for the last time. One reason for coming is that I really want to stay a night or two at the Copper Queen Hotel in Bisbee. Another reason is that I’m working on a book—Body Dissolving, Spirit Strong as Always: Open Road Cycling for People Past Seventy—and I hope that conversations this week will help me along.

There’s one more reason for doing this ride again. For much of this past year I have been dealing with chronic leg pains. My doctor and friends have helped me understand that the probable cause is muscular imbalance, but so far the course of action recommended has been less effective than I would like. A few days ago I found a book that gives the detailed explanation that I need and proposes a regimen of progressively more challenging stretches that strengthen the muscular core of a person’s body.

I’m reading the book and practicing the exercises. My hope is that conversations with other mature cyclists this week will push me forward in my new daily stretching pattern so that when I get home in mid-March, after this ride and a period of research, writing, and riding near Claremont, California, I will be on the way to the pain-free cycling I remember from earlier years.

Yellow Trailer

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2 Responses to Desert Training Camp One More Time

  1. Arlo Duba says:

    Dear Keith,

    I enjoy trying to keep up with you, on a bike, or on your profound liturgical or theological written insights. At 85 and well on my way to 86, I am slowing down. I have faculty privileges at the seminary library, and have probably 12 or 13 books on annual loan here in my study at any one time. We live in a marvelous Princeton Windrows retirement community, built on the site of the former Princeton Nurseries. We live between the windrows of very old spruce trees that broke the wind, protecting the saplings that were being nursed between them. We have two one-hour “exercise classes” each week, and I add an attempted quarter hour – quarter mile on the treadmill (I keep reminding myself of the 4 minute mile!!). But it in no way touches the physical workout you get.

    My time now is spent doing delayed writing. While Minister of the Chapel at Princeton Seminary from 1969 to 1983, I wrote a number of hymns, nine of which were in the 1993 Presbyterian Hymnal. Only two made it into the new hymnal, *Glory to God, *though my work on my Johannine writing is evident in *Glory to God (*see pp. 11-12). Harold Daniels, who died two weeks ago, and I were consultants for the liturgical materials in this new hymnal. Our names are listed along with the two Office of Worship Staff on p. 932. The hymn writing muse left me as I took the Deanship at Dubuque Seminary and spent all my time fighting with the President of the University who would have liked to close the seminary. I actually inherited a unionized seminary faculty.

    I am attaching an accounting of what I have gotten done since we moved back to Princeton. Doreen and I are doing well, and we are so pleased that we now have two granddaughters in Lewis and Clark, and that our linkage with Portland awarded us the opportunity to enjoy the two great visits with both of you, and especially your guiding us through the church there. That was marvelous, and we thank you again and again. We were much impressed with Portland, a beautiful city. but even in our visit with you I don’t think I shared with you very much of what I am doing now, so I herewith give you an overview of what I am about. I realize that I am fading fast. I no longer drive, and I am determined to finish this last major article.

    I thank you for keeping us in the loop and we wish you well on your PAC tour. We will keep you in remembrance and prayer, and again bless you for your friendship and comradeship in liturgical endeavor.

    Arlo (and Doreen)

    • Arlo, thank you for the report on your doings in recent years. I’m only two years behind you and have writing projects to keep pulling me forward. One of them is a book on “open road cycling for people past 70.” I continue doing the kinds of things I did when I was younger, but I’m slower at everything and am increasingly aware of mortality. Since Billie’s death in August, I trying to develop a new normal way of life and it’s taking time. With Harold’s death we lost a strong companion in our liturgical labors. Peace and joy. Keith

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