We parked on Rt 83 just off I-10, as DaveP and I did last year, beginning our AZT ride with a 13 mile gradual paved climb towards Box Canyon. The ride out took 58 minutes, two minutes longer than last year with Dave, which is surprising since I was feeling thoroughly sick. My chest cold was worsening.
The views are sweet from this section of the AZT. We first rode out to the high point with a 360 degree panoramic view of mountains all the way around. Then it was gradually working down 2000ft of vertical on singletrack. It wasn’t all down though. There are numerous washes to switchback down into and back out of.
A tough switchback neither of us cleaned.
We had the trail nearly to ourselves. We encountered only a pair of equestrians during the ride. Other than that, it was bluebird skies and warm breeze the whole time. There were some new reroutes since Dave and I rode this section of the AZT last year, taking out a sketchy section near a popular shooting area and a hike-a-bike wash.
The finish to this ride is sweet, as it is mostly downhill for the last six miles on flowy, buff trail. It encourages insane speed. We finished the ride with 37 miles, 3900 feet of climbing, in 3.9 hours. A great ride, but it left my bronchial passages in wheezing chaos.
Why does Alex think this is so funny?
After refueling on Starbucks and Subway, Alex and I hit Fantasy Island, which is not far from the section of AZT we rode. I didn’t anticipate riding all of it with how my chest was feeling.
There were only a handful of cars in the lot upon arrival around 4pm. Last year, Dave and rode only a portion of the trails, as we killed a better part of the afternoon in a futile attempt to reclaim my camera atop Mt Hopkins. We hit a select subset of the trails while venting anger in losing my camera. I took insane risks and Dave was hanging on thinking WTF. That wasn’t happening this year. I had no mojo to fuel anything but a pedestrian pace late in the second day of the trip.
Alex led out. I noticed many times he got his inside foot ready to outrigger incase of an understeer. Fantasy Island is designed for speed, and speedy riders have nicely bermed all the turns. Risk of sliding out is actually pretty low if you follow a line that offers the most perpendicular surface to your center of gravity. Alex tended to cut too much to the inside edges of the turns, riding on the off-camber portion of the trail tread. I suggested he trust the rut. He asked me to demonstrate for a while, and I prayed I didn’t slide into a cholla.
Alex with his friendly cacti
We headed out on the Bunny Loop, which I didn’t know went all the way out to Valencia. Lots of “mindless” buff singletrack. But this was the only way to pick up some of the newer trails in the system.
A few times, I lost Alex. Seems he was feuding with cholla cactus. Apparently his front tire picked up a ball and flung it into his shin. You don’t actually have to hit a plant to have these nasties jump up on you. I managed to escape thornless.
Later in the ride we hit some of the great terrain in the Over-Under and Halfpipe areas. Many giant gravity cavities induced huge grins, even though I was feeling pretty shitty from my cold. I cringed many times as my suspension bottomed out in these drops and rocks pinched my tires hard.
We managed to ride all of Fantasy Island (I think) before the sun got too low in the sky. It was a satisfying day of riding with over 57 miles and 5.5 hours in the saddle, mostly on singletrack. Fantasy Island is on my must-hit list every time I come to Tucson. There’s really nothing anywhere where else like it. Over 10 hours of riding in two days is not the best way to recover from a chest cold. Riding prospects for Wednesday were looking grim.