A Winter’s Ride in the Southern Arizona Grasslands
I love my homeland in the Pacific Northwest, including the mild winter rains, evergreen forests, and rich agricultural valleys. As winter lingers into February, however, I long for warm sunshine and open roads. For eight years I have been satisfying that desire by taking my bicycle to southern Arizona. A week of hard riding through the “Sky Islands” of the high desert grasslands southeast of Tucson seems just right as antidote to the winter blues.
Vigorous cycling with congenial friends renews a sense of physical wellbeing, and traveling slowly through this distinctive environment stimulates ever wider contemplations upon life in our time.
My 2016 ride combined two features. The cycling itself was the Historic Hotels Tour offered by PAC Tour, the touring company operated by Lon Haldeman and Susan Notorangelo who have been noted long-distance cyclists for more than 30 years. We traveled from Tucson to Sonoita, Tombstone, Bisbee, Douglas, the Kartchner Caverns, Benson, and back to Tucson.
My contemplations were shaped by one of the most hopeful books I’ve read for some time—Stitching the West Back Together, edited by a team of experts on the challenges facing the Desert Southwest. I’ve written a 6,800-word essay outlining the tour and my contemplations prompted by the book and the things I saw.
One of my goals in the essay is to explain why open road cyclists enjoy long, challenging rides like these.
Another purpose is to describe two watershed-wide ventures in the high grasslands southeast of Tucson and another venture that is responding creatively to the tendencies toward urban sprawl around the city itself. All three illustrate the principle of working from the radical center that is a theme of the book I’ve been reading.
Friends who have read the essay say that it is interesting. My roommate for the week says that it reads like an essay from The New Yorker—maybe too strong a commendation, but I’ll take it, anyway.
To read the essay, click Winter’s Ride 2