Zen On Dirt

Run to the hills!

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A few Saturdays ago, I literally (semi-literally?) lost my cool with Tucson.

It had been a few hot days that we’d spent outside riding during our impromptu Camp Alexis. We’d had the Scamp parked in town, which is amazingly convenient, but loud, for almost a week and were at our wits end after several sub-optimal nights of sleep. And I was melting. For someone who used to love the heat, I was suffering at mid 80s. And the weather forecast for the next week and a half was in the mid 90s for Tucson. Definitely unseasonably warm.

‘We’ve got to get out of here,’ I cried. ‘I’ll turn in my Desert Rats membership card. I can’t do this heat anymore.’ I may have been a little melodramatic about the whole thing, but I didn’t move into a 60 square food Scamp in order to roast in the heat (or to freeze in the cold, for that matter).

What were we doing trying to stay out of the sun when it was too hot to do anything fun anyhow (even if you got up early! which is pretty much goes against all of my morals) when we had the freedom to pick up and leave? People weren’t going to come visit us in Tucson to play. It was too stinking hot.

‘Prescott, we’ve got to go to Prescott!’ I declared. Even Sedona was looking too hot for comfortable #Scamplife. So at 4pm on Saturday afternoon, we loaded up the Scamp and pointed north to the little semi-mountain town of Prescott, fully expecting the campgrounds on the east end of town to be open.

They weren’t. It was still almost winter there. There was snow in the hills!

We ended up in Kurt and Kaitlyn’s driveway after a 9:57 text, ‘Could we stay the night in your driveway?’

The one night ended up being four.


Days were filled with riding bikes. Nights were filled with good food, friends, and laughter.

Eventually, attempting to not outstay our welcome, we towed the Scamp down to White Spar Campground. Many sites were available. None of the spigots for water were turned on. Thus, camping was only $10 a night. Score! $10 for a picnic table, bathroom, trails 20 feet from the campsite, and easy access to town is totes worth it in my book.

Apparently it was worth it in Scott’s book too because we ended up staying seven nights.


Go ride. Stop at knee-deep swimming hole. Them’s the rules.

Three of those days we went riding with Craig Stappler and two nights he even camped with us. Craig raced the Tour Divide in 2012 with me. Of course, I never saw him because he and Ollie Whalley took off down the road faster than I could ever dream of pedaling. Craig ended up second after an ill-timed pedal breakdown in Grants, just a day’s pedal from the Mexican border and the end.


All that to say  that he’s a real fast bike rider. And one of the best bike handlers I’ve gotten to watch pedal a bike.

On one ride, we paired his motivation to never stop during a ride with John Schilling, who had a day pass to escape the PHX heat and pedal. Anyone who’d ridden with John knows that picnic breaks are an essential part of any ride with him. Eventually, after a bit of teasing, we even got Craig to sit down to eat during the mid-ride picnic.


Standard Schilling ride. Kaitlyn recommended the trail to us, so we can’t actually blame him.

We stocked up on post-ride food at the Safeway on the way back. Craig decided to stock his cooler with ice at the same time and carried a 10lb block back to camp, along with several days worth of food. The speed wobbles were terrifying to watch, and he still dropped me on the hill on the way back.


Post beers and eating, Schilling headed back to PHX. Craig took off the following morning. We called up Caroline, ‘Want to go for another run?’


Caroline was also in the 2012 Divide, racing on Babe the Blue Tandem. It sounded miserable. Whenever I need to counter a Scott Bad Idea with an even worse idea, I mention racing Tour Divide on a tandem together. She’s also won the race riding a single-person bike. She’s a bad-ass. And she’s a runner. And she lives in Prescott.


All good things. Plus she seems to maintain a similar life philosophy as us: Go running, go eating.


On our first run, we got some delicious Thai food afterwards. On this one, we went Bill’s Grill afterwards, which has good beer on Happy Hour all day on Mondays. How have I not known about this place!?

We got in one more ride near Granite Mountain the next day before it was time to bid our little end-of-the-cul-de-sac campsite goodbye. Temperatures were dropping in Prescott. There were rumors of snow in the forecast. Tucson started to seem a lot more welcoming.


Scott forgot his camera and carried mine for much of the ride. Thus, I got some pictures of myself. 

Sometimes, when we hang out in Tucson too long, I get a little down on the Scamp. The whole, ‘We could rent a place here for <$400 a month, have unlimited internet, not have to worry about power, and be able to take showers whenever we wanted, and not be so vulnerable to the weather’ concept.

But then we turn on the Motivators and get out of town for a bit, and I remember why we do this. Because when we get out there and go to the places we love, we inevitably end up spending time with amazing human beings who make life interesting and awesome. Let us never give up this pursuit of friendship and adventure.


And when it gets cold everywhere else, that’s when I fall back in love with Tucson.


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