Cycling, camping, birdwatching, outdoor activities and many other activities have become more popular during the pandemic because we are able to give each other space. My day began with a cool Californian morning which means cold to a southern Arizonian. With overcast sky and slight wind in the air, I ate my breakfast and decided to have my coffee at Starbucks and finally have WiFi access since it is not available at the state park. It also provided me an opportunity to look at my photos from the previous days!
As the day warmed, I drove to Aliso and Woods Canyons Wilderness Park. While talking with a man coming off the trails on his bicycle, I asked for an easy mountain bike trail for a gravel bike, like his and mine. I knew there is a paved bike path, but why not first try some mountain biking on my gravel bike? Off I went with basics on my bicycle … bike tools, lunch, snacks, water and one camera…. I bicycled about 8 miles before I realized my bike lacked some needed front and rear suspension, so I decided to return and ride pavement while I still had a back and butt. The ride was beautiful and fun and I also talked with others on the trail who mentioned coming to Arizona for college searches.
Back at my car, I went to the paved bike path along the Aliso Creek which I originally planned to do. Ah yes, smooth and easy on the body! Trail signs seemed to indicate there would be some closures, but all went well for me. I saw a white-faced ibis, mallards and swallows. The amount of white on a white-faced ibis is so small this name for the bird cracks me up. Anyway, here is a white-faced ibis:
Back at the campground, my tent was not blown away and the shower water was hot! Fifty-cents-worth, 2 tokens provided 3 minutes of shower water and I was thrilled! Another day outdoors and only speaking with 3 people so felt safe. At the Starbucks I sat indoors, alone thanks to their sign stating indoors was not open, yet when I asked if indoor seating was available, they said yes. Perfect!
In the 18th century Juan Bautista de Anza once camped in this area as he and his followers were on their way from southern Arizona to San Francisco. I could see how this area would be best to travel through; flattened by any run-off from the Tucson Mountain slopes and the Santa Cruz River overflow. Today, many people live in the Marana, Arizona area and enjoy the outdoor space for hiking, bicycling the Loop path, and bird-watching. Within the 104 acres, the wetland area attracts resident and migrating birds. Recently I observed 15 different species of birds of the 244 individual bird species reported to stop by sometime within a year.
Looking for another area to explore? Stop by when you are riding the bicycle Loop path or park your car and observe birds from the observation deck. A hiking trail seems to be taking shape and you’ll also notice a variety of bird houses. It looks like the area will continue to develop.
Here are a few birds I saw on my most recent visit:
It’s an interesting piece of equipment on the bicycle loop in Tucson. It records the number of cyclists and pedestrians, which would include roller-bladers, joggers, runners, along with walkers all passing the counter each day and provides totals for the year. This is definitely one of the busier spots where people are on the loop. Kudos to all using this multi-use path! (You may even see some wildlife while out there. I bet the roadrunner wished to be counted!)
I decided I was not getting any younger, and I was reading about people in their 60’s bicycling across the USA! Could I do the same? I did not know, but I decide to attempt some distance.
Yes, in June 2018, I did bicycle 600 miles from Prescott, Wisconsin to Rensselaer, Indiana by way of many small towns following most of Adventure Cycling’s Northern Tier route. After a heat spell, I continued on on New York State’s Erie Canal trail for 100 miles before meeting friends in central NY.
People asked why I chose that area of the USA to bicycle ride. Since I typically fly over it, I thought it a good idea to actually see it. I saw many windmills, fields of corn, artwork and rolling hills.
There were sights to see. An Eagle Center, National Farm Toy Museum and the famous Field of Dreams to mention a few. I also stopped at activities roadside, such as this dog competition where they collect the bird that was shot. When I heard about saloon bars similar to an AZ bar, I checked it out as I did often stop in churches for a reflective moment.
Most nights I stayed at bed and breakfast, or motels, and did camp. My goal was to survive so I wanted comfort at the end of the day, especially since you never knew if the next 40-60 miles per day was going to be in the heat or a drenching rain. There is nothing worse than bicycling in the rain; stopping to check the weather radar to discover how many hours you may be sitting and waiting out the weather. Some places were entirely for myself and I would wander into the town to find dinner, and other places I spent hours talking and eating with the owner of the place. I always love connecting with people when I travel. All of my accommodations were wonderful from Motel 6 to some really nice bed and breakfast places!
One of my most fun places was at an old jailhouse. The woman helped me hoist my loaded bicycle up the five steps into the place, invited friends over to have a beer with us, and cooked delicious dinner and breakfast for me. She offered me an additional night, yet I decided to keep on my plan since the weather was good.
Enthusiasm for bicycling is beginning to take off in the USA as we develop the US Bicycling Route System to be added to many Rails-to-Trails Conservancy Routes and Adventure Cycling’s Routes. I did see a bicycle campground and I rode a bicycle path where each rider pays a fee. Men drove on the bike path to collect the fee from me and were pleasantly surprised when I could show them I had my receipt of payment.
I ate plenty of snacks, which I carried in my bag, and always a lunch. I loved Casey’s General Store located in many small towns. I was hooked on white cheddar cheese popcorn, until I broke a front tooth – later repaired in Buffalo, NY. I also bought Arizona green tea and Gatorade to supplement my water bottles. I love chocolate and that meant a Snicker’s bar too.
I discovered I was close to Route 66 so I decided to ride a portion of it, especially since I did not know if I would ever ride its entire distance from CA to IL. Lots of history along that route! The road was so busy at one point there was a passageway for people to walk under the road! Of course, there are still some old gas stations in the area, and portions of the road are grown over with grass in its cracks.
I met many other bicyclists on the road and all going from east to the west coast (I was going west to east). There was only one other solo female bicyclist, yet every single person always stopped at the bottom of a hill to say hello, check-in on how I was doing, and offer ideas of what was coming up in the next town or two. I really appreciated the camaraderie! One guy told me he was sleeping in ditches at night after cycling about 100 miles a day. Another guy told me of a free place to set a tent. A mother and daughter team had stayed at the lodging I was heading to on my 70 mile day. Other people at stores, bars, and their homes were very generous. One family offered their swimming pool to me as I laid on their front lawn, under the only shade tree I think in the county! Another guy brought out bottles of cold water for me as I sat by a church he was renovating for his family home. Another guy stopped in his pick-up truck and asked me if I was okay, and if I knew how hot it was that day. Yes, wherever I could find some shade, I spent time there. I could tell you more, but I think you got the picture!
The heat did me in! To hot to go on, dehydrated and with concerns of heat stroke, I decided to take the heat wave in the US seriously. Unfortunately I have been in hospitals needing fluids pumped into me other times when on hiking and bicycling trips. I knew I did not want that happening here. With the help of great people in Indiana, I rented a car a few days after getting my fluids back to where they needed to be and headed to Buffalo, NY. Along the way and there, I had wonderful friends allow me time to recuperate before jumping back on my bicycle to cycle the Erie Canal trail to central NY where I met other friends. Yes, I shipped my bicycle home and relaxed before planning my next trip. What an adventure this was … and cannot wait to do some bicycle travel again!
January 2020, I had a great idea! Could I organize a road trip to Madison, Wisconsin? Once settled at a state campground, here was my plan: photography and bird watch in the morning, photography and bicycle ride on bike paths and rural roads during the day, and enjoy dinner and craft beers in the evening.
February 2020. So I could camp at state parks, I got my Non-resident Annual Admission Sticker to WI State Parks and Forests and to bicycle ride on their trails I got the WI Annual State Trail Pass. I wanted both done to have 2 less things to do when in the state. Campground and hotel reservations were also made from Arizona to Madison and Stevens Point, Wisconsin. My plan was to be traveling for a month but I only booked half the accommodations. I researched Audubon Centers and other places of interest, along with bike paths that criss cross the state of Wisconsin. How could I not get excited about eating cheese in this state? It has the largest number of milk goats and 600 or more cheesemakers. I did not know it is a large cranberry producer and despite being known for its Pabst Blue Ribbon beer, I heard a craft brewery scene had been growing. I wanted to check all of this out!
March 2020, do I have to cancel my May into June visit to Wisconsin? Covid-19 has run rampant the past few months around the world, including the USA. What shelter-in-place world am I living in now?
April 2020. The numbers of USA Covid-19 cases and deaths related to the virus increase across our nation. I cancel all my accommodations. Thank goodness I only booked a couple of weeks, but I am sad. I love to travel and discover new places and things. Darn, darn, darn!
May 25, 2020, I thought I was going to be on the road this day, Memorial Day. I had booked my WI state park reservation back in the winter since I figured everyone else would be camping this weekend too. Instead I am home in Arizona with limited access to most places and our Covid-19 cases still on the rise. I will take time on this day to honor the men and women who died while serving in the US military. There usually are parades, but there is a 3pm, your local time, national moment of remembrance on this day too … a time to think and thank those who served, and I want to thank those individuals who still serve!
You and I are alive; let’s have a good Memorial Day wherever we are!
We are fortunate to have at least 131 miles of dedicated bike path available to us Tucson,AZ bicyclists. Why are we fortunate? It is so much safer to maneuver around other bicyclists, runners, walkers, roller bladers, and anyone else out on this dedicated path than to be on a roadway.
We have a beautiful, smooth bike path with appropriate signage and I feel safe cycling on it. (The farther I can be away from automobiles the better.) Yes, I hear people complain about speeding cyclists and working around walkers, but in the overall scheme of things this is all pretty great.
YET… my annoyance is when someone comes along and writes political messages in chalk on the pathway. I do not care what the message is, it should not be done! First off, I call that graffiti on a public space … I do not like it and would say a person should be found and fined. Secondly, we are all outdoors for exercise and a space to relax, not needing any prompts to piss us off!
Please keep your messages/gripes/political views to yourself and off our bike paths. Yup I was annoyed, so all I could do was squirt some of my water from my water bottle on those messages. Which annoyed me all the more since it was hot here and I did not want to be wasting my drinking water on graffiti. Geez don’t you know, water is precious here in the desert!
I do not remember where I was 5 years ago when I heard about a shooting at a Tucson Safeway store. I heard people were gathered outside there to listen to Gabby Giffords speak, this young girl: Christina-Taylor Green was one individual in attendance. Gabby was severely injured, Christina-Taylor was killed and many other spectators were part of the horrific moment.
Now five years later there is a section of the Tucson bike path with an area, and future cacti garden, to commemorate Christina-Taylor’s memory. Her father, John Green, spoke about his family’s use of the recreational areas nearby and their use of the bike path. The family has plans to continue developing a couple of acres of land here with everyone’s financial support.
The bicycling group I was with the day of this presentation did bike ride to attend this plaque unveiling and rode to the Safeway store where flowers were present. It’s unfortunate we in the USA are still amidst such gun violence, but I have hopes we will always remember those we have lost and work toward a safer USA.