I signed on for the Arivaca to Sasabe ride, hoping to enjoy a lovely spring morning in southern Arizona. It's another Anyday Adventure, this time: a cycling break in the middle of my work week. I optimistically thought we would complete the 50 mile ride to the Mexican border and back in three and a half hours. But I didn't count on the wind, the border wanderings, the heat, and the wind. Did I mention it was windy?
We meet for carpooling at Amado's landmark restaurants: Cow Palace and Longhorn Grill.
I met some new Green Valley folks, including Eleanor who is 74 and rides a sweet Felt bike. As we drive to Arivaca, through the rolling hills, Chuck and I discuss possible bike routes to include on the forthcoming, paradigm-shifting Bike Routes of Sahuarita and Green Valley brochure. I mention, "This is the first time I have ever been to Arivaca, much less Sasabe."
Growing up in Tucson, Sasabe was one of those small towns for which the TV weatherman provided temperatures in the Southern Arizona forecast. A place that existed, but where no one went.
We reach the Arivaca General Mercantile and park in back. A pick up truck driver scolds us for waiting on the side of the road for everyone to be ready. In contrast, a US government vehicle cruises by on the way to the medical clinic and the young medical student in said car waves. One of our group seems to be taking an awfully long time purchasing water and sports drink inside the store. So I ride ahead to find the appropriate desert tree restroom where the road crosses a wash just outside of Town.
Sue and Eleanor pass me as I get back on my bike and I catch up to them. Chuck soon joins us and we all cruise aimiably along. Chuck and I pull away from the two, enjoying a mostly downhill rolling ride over potholed pavement and next to the Buenos Aires Wildlife Refuge. Some cottonwoods along a creek in the disance is the only patch of green.
We head generally west, then stop in the slight shade of a large palo verde tree that has not yet leafed for spring. The other ten or so people catch up, we rest for a moment and prepare for paceline riding for the next 12 miles to Sasabe and the Mexican border.
Tom, self-designated leader, suggested one mile pulls at the front of the pace line. To which another rider, more clear-headed, suggested "how 'bout we pull as long as we want so we don't get too tired?" Ok! says everyon and we head south on AZ route 286 into a headwind and uphill. Ah the joys of no trees or buildings to break the wind.
At least the pavement is smooth. And we are still riding through the wildlife refuge, so there's plenty of open space to enjoy.
I'm second in line and pull for about two minutes, float back and attempt to take a picture with my cell phone. I am at the back of the pace line and think this will be a nifty picture. Cell phone drops and bounces along the highway. Thank goodness for the rubberized casing and lucky bounces that didn't crack the screen. I U-turn, ride back to the phone, pick it up and chase back to the group. No one notices, which is fine, because I was embarassed to be fooling around with my phone.
Undeterred by phone droppage, I take this picture:
Mile after long mile and at last we see the sign for Sasabe. It's a small collection of adobe buildings with tin roofs, and every one of them seems to be empty or closed.
There are some houses, a school, a church, border patrol holding facility, and a dude ranch with its own cell phone tower. The general store is closed on Tuesdays. We roll through a dip or two and head uphill to the border crossing.
We're surprised to see another few Green Valley cyclists there who had and earlier start. From the colonial style house, two American customs agents emerge. They urge us to move our bikes "so you don't block traffic." We spend about 20 minutes here, during which time, one car comes through the checkpoint.
But the agent is pleasant and amused to have lycra entertainment; he says we can cross the border and come back, even if we don't have the passports usually requried. So we leave our bikes in the shade and walk through a garden gate and into Mexico. We cross the no man's land between the US agents' little house and the Mexican agents' little converted gas station. The sky is big, and we look lost. Bienvenidos a Mexico!
Sue's husband Tom, attempts to lead the group, but we're in Mexico now, and his American title of leader means nothing here. Aimless nervous chatter and ambling ensue. I take a couple pictures of the Mexico-side sign and the former customs house, now roofless.
The border fence is ever present, it looks solid in the photo below but it's really a series of tightly spaced vertical steel poles.
Sue takes my picture in front of the welcoming mural showing all good things moving toward the American side. I get the cows and quails, I don't get the wheat and grape vines.
Proudly wearing my Santa Cruz Valley Cyclists jersey.
We fill our water bottles from the border crossing sink. The water tastes bad, but its cold, so we don't care.
Because we have other things to do today, Chuck and I leave the border area and head back to Arivaca. The wind's at our back, and we enjoy a riding north. Kalamazoo Tim and Tubac John catch us and we all whoop with happiness in the tailwind. Then Tim gets to the front of our paceline and hammers. I want to yell, "Slow down, old man!" However, I just focus on his wheel in front of me and wonder how bad the crosswind will be when we turn the corner. Later he tells me we were going 32 mph.
The crosswind is fierce, Tim decides to stop and "wait for everyone else." Not because he's tired or anything. Tubac John slows down. Chuck and I form a two-person echelon that does nothing to help our speed in the wicked crosswind. The rolling terrain continues in a mostly uphill fashion. At about mile 40 of our 50-mile ride, Chuck stops to put on a sweatband, and Tubac John sails right on by us. We see him ahead, but never catch him.
A zone tail hawk sails above and I long for wings. At mile 46, I can only focus on the cold coke waiting for me at the General Mercantile. And some chips. My water is warm and icky tasting.
At mile 47, I suddenly remember that yes, I had been to this part of Arizona on a back pack trip with friends in high school! We explored Arivaca Creek before it was a Wildlife Refuge.
A photo from those backpacking days, taken by someone on the school newspaper.
One last insulting climb into Arivaca, and I arrive at the parking lot. I've dropped Chuck somewhere along the way. Everyone suffers alone in the last few miles of the ride in the heat and the wind. Chuck arrives about a minute later. The ride lasted about four hours, including the stops.
I eschew coke in favor of chocolate milk to go with my post-ride chips. Most delicious! Everyone eventually returns; they all make plans for lunch at the Cow Palace. They're retired, so they can take time to eat lunch.
I have to get to work for the afternoon, I eat lunch in my car on the way. I sit in my office, slightly dazed for rest of the day.