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.
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.