Enjoy a fall or winter time retreat to Americas Southwestern prize – Tucson. Since Arizona gained statehood 106-years ago, five different flags have flown over Tucson: the American, Spanish, Mexican, Confederate and the sunrays- over-copper-star Arizona state flag. But given the cities’ long and firm embrace of brevets and randonnees, if not the mushrooming number of cyclotourists, it might not be long before the white UCI, (or International Cycling Union) flag becomes number six. PeopleforBikes.org rated Tucson as America’s second best bike friendly city. As one travel journalist put it, “Tucson is a dream landscape for a cyclist worth his or her electrolytes.”
That velo dreamscape starts with the widely envied winter climate. Then the tire meets the endless back-roads on vast expanses of wide-open desert. But looming above all that great horizontal, the routes cyclists savor come some world-class ascents: Mount Lemmon, at 9157-feet, represents the high point in the Santa Catalina range on the cities’ northern edge. Broad in the shoulders (for enhanced safety-passing) and curvy in all the right places, Lemmon’s 7000-ft of elevation gain are made all the more dramatic for the otherworldly rock formations coupled to breathtaking views. Since our tour is fully supported, choose to shuttle half way up (or to the top if you like) and simply enjoy the descent.
Saving Lemmon, the big prize for our finale, our tour de Tucson builds out with stages in Saguaro National Park, on gorgeous loops through the 95,000-acre wilderness. At the Tumacacori National Historic site, we glide into the Long Ago: a beautifully preserved 17th century adobe mission set atop a high, golden plain that evokes the Argentinean pampa. At this cultural crossroad, built in 1691, Old Spain—Jesuits and Franciscan missionaries—met the New World, namely O’odham (Pima), Yaqui and Apache. Another stage takes us through glorious tall grass prairie and sensuously rolling hills in and around Sonoita. Here we visualize old Tucson, and what’s known as Arizona’s Mountain Empire: the Santa Rita, Whetstone, Huachuca and Patagonia ranges. Besides the great stands of Saguaro cacti, the rich and diverse habitat of Javelina and Roadrunner, we course through the neighborhood of “El Jefe”. No less than a Tucson celebrity, Jefe is one of the last remaining non-captive jaguars roaming the wild.
By virtue of Tucson’s progressive light pollution codes, fantastic stargazing lights up our evenings. For more information, click HERE and request a detailed itinerary.