On the 5th day of our Epic Journey family road trip adventure, before heading off to Van Horn, Texas, I unfolded the Bike Friday and knocked out about 20 miles in Tucson, Arizona. I know from much internet reading that Tucson actually has some great cycling, but with just under 2 hours available, I knew I wouldn’t be able to go in search of much, so I simply headed out the door from our hotel to see what I could see.
Having pulled in late the night before, I really had no idea where we were. Turns out we were just a few blocks from the University of Arizona. In fact, as I was headed out, someone in the parking lot said, “you’ll want to head towards the University for your ride, and not the other direction. It’s a safer neighborhood for your ride.” And so I pointed my wheels that direction and headed out.
As expected, I saw many homes and buildings in typical southwestern flair — in fact, our hotel was just a couple blocks down from the Steinfeld Mansion, which is famous for some Mission Revival style architecture. I only rode by the mansion, but could see the courtyard that is on the “must see” list if you go, and it pretty much looked like a courtyard.
Before long I was in the downtown area, pretty much unsure of where to go, so I just kept riding and found myself on some pretty major thoroughfares. In fact, I spent quite a few miles on one road (pictured above at top of article) that ended up reminding me of Lancaster Drive, here in Salem, where I would never consider riding my bike. But being comforted by the Bike Friendly signs, I knew I could carry on without worry of incident. My first hour or so of riding in Tucson was basically sweating in the just-under 90 degree temps, sucking down morning commute exhaust. The highlight of the ride at that point was when an elderly lady with a dog met me at a corner where I was stopped for a red light and said, “that’s one of them folding bikes, isn’t it.”
I reached a turning point and started heading back down the same road I have been on for a while, and finally cut across to what I assumed would eventually lead me to the college and then back to the hotel. On one of the roads I saw a sign that said “3rd Street Bike Crossing,” and when I looked over I saw a big sign that said DO NOT ENTER, with another under it that said BICYCLES EXEMPTED. Apparently this WAS a Bike Friendly town after all, and as if to prove it yet again, there was another Bike Friendly sign across from it.
And so I was excited to ride on my first Bike-Only road in Tucson, the land where they really did care about cyclists. Where they closed off entire roads to cars and rolled out the red carpet for those on self-propelled two wheeled devices. I turned around on the main road I was on, scooted back to the cross walk, and pushed the magical button that would halt traffic and allow me to cross the road and enter the promised land.
And what did I find once I rolled out onto the bicycle road? It sucked. And not just a little, it sucked a lot. Bumpy, broken, and in need of repair. In fact, I’m wondering if the road got so bad for cars, that rather than fix it, they decided to close it, call it a bike route, and get some brownie points. I wanted to take a picture, but I honestly was not sure if I could control the bike if I let go with one hand. I really thought it was kind of a joke, but then before long I was pulling right up to the University of Arizona, and it never got any better.
Along the bone rattling road I came upon a guy on a longboard being pulled behind a gal on a bike, obviously both on their way to class. I said, “dude this kind of sucks for a longboard, doesn’t it?” To which he said, “it totally sucks.” And there you have it, I rest my case.
The rest of the ride back to the hotel was uneventful, but hot, and before long we were loaded up in the ‘Burb and headed to Van Horn. I stopped in at a local shop and picked up a pump, spare tube, Co2 and inflator. I know Tucson has some good riding, and someday, maybe I’ll get back to actually experience it.