Three times last winter I made the trek down to Tucson.
The first time in December, I spent the 13.5 hour drive trying to quell my nervousness, watching the miles tick down to Tucson with a mix of dread and impossible anticipation. Five days later, I had to point the car back north having just glimpsed the riding that the place had to offer and a future life that I wanted more than I’ve wanted anything before in my life.
At the end of March, I flew down for 10 days of bliss, escaping the winter of Colorado to wear shorts and short sleeves and spend the afternoons sitting in the sun eating grapefruit with Jj while Scott hosted Camp Tucson. We went on mini-adventures, dressed up to go to weddings, and enjoyed each minute of each day.
In April I flew again, this time for a 5 day trip which including racing the AZT. Again, I had to return. But this time, spring was (slowly) coming to Colorado. Still, the dream of Tucson in the winter burned strongly.
This time, following Scott down the lonely highways of northern Arizona, it hit: I don’t have to leave. There is no work/life/responsibilities imposed time limit on my time in the Tucson desert.
As the miles passed, instead of having a singular focus on Tucson and everything that it contained, I looked at the surroundings of this new state that I’d call home for the second time in my life. Even along our little line of the highway, I dreamt of all the places to go ride: Flagstaff, Sedona, Prescott, Phoenix, knowing that there were hundreds more that I’d never even heard of.
While I feel like I know the Colorado landscape well (and there’s still countless places I want to explore there), it’s been a while since a state has been as blank of a slate as AZ is in my mind. It has stuff like this:
Each mountain range holds a host of secrets that I want to go explore.
We arrived in Tucson late at night. Greeted our new tenants (six chickens), killed a black widow, and settled in. Bed in place, table set up, our meager kitchen belongings washed from six months of storage and put away, and bikes lined up in the bike room.
We spent the first few days heading out the door to Tucson Mountain Park, a seemingly infinite network of trails with a topography that I can’t even begin to put together in my head. While some places trigger memories, it reminds me of first riding in Nederland, following people around with no sense of direction.
I’m learning to orient though. Catalina mountains to the north. Tucson mountains to the south west. Sun rises in the east. Sets in the west. Chilly in the morning, glorious in the afternoon.
Riding just a fraction of the ‘backyard’ trails made me do a gut-check: There’s so much riding to do out there, I’m not sure how I’ll ever fit it all in.
One day at a time I guess. Wake up. Eat breakfast. Work. Ride. Eat. Sleep. Repeat. Repeat until I can’t repeat any more. Then take a rest day and do it all over again.