I’m writing this on my way home from an Arizona bicycling vacation. The tour was run by Bike Escapades which partners with Southwest Trekking for the Arizona Sunshine Tour. It’s ranked intermediate to advanced in terms of difficulty which really just amounts to a judgment about terrain and distance.
See Arizona sunshine
And we’ve done this trip before. You can read about the 2010 version here.
I love vacations with bikes. It’s hard to imagine bikeless holidays. Bike tours are a great way to see a new place, to work some fitness into your holidays, and for well disguised introverts like me it’s a terrific way to meet new people. You can be social and ride together some of the time or you can also just do your own thing. We did a bit of both. Also, and this is a big generalization I know, mostly the people who ride bikes are nice.
Who? We were a small group. There were twelve of us in total. Our guide, John and his girlfriend from out of town, tour operator Phil and his girlfriend Jane, “the fellows,” a farmer and a doctor best friends from Pennsylvania, “the ladies” friends from New York, and another New York couple. And us. All refugees of the bad stormy snowy freezing weather that’s been the norm in the northeast this winter.
We also had a couple of young guys with us from time to time who worked for the trekking company, either riding or driving the bus. Sometimes they cheered us on which irked Jeff but didn’t bother me so much. I’ll take cheering where I can get it especially when hills are involved.
Our ages ranged from late forties to mid sixties. And is often the case with biking tours, there was an incredible range of speeds, ability, and comfort on the bike.
What? Some people rode hybrids, most of us road bikes, either our own that we’d brought with on the plant or had shipped out there, or rentals. I brought my bike and Jeff rented due to complicated travel arrangements that involved cars and sailboats.
The bikes ranged from entry level aluminum frame road bikes that cost about $600 new to some beautiful $10,000 bikes that came with very snazzy cases. Mine’s somewhere in the middle.
We did forty to sixty miles a day and it was totally up to each rider how much riding they did versus how much time they spent on the magic green bus. The magic green bus was home to our day packs, floor pumps, water, all variety of bars, gels, fruit, and snacks. We felt very pampered. Our guide got the bikes ready to go each morning, checking tire pressure, filling water bottles and checking over the bikes.
Where? Beautiful scenery and changing landscapes, mostly quiet county roads. Our first night we stayed in Tucson and went over route maps and distance options.
Day 1 we rode in the Saguaro National Park with time to visit in the Arizona Sonora Desert Museum. From there it was on to the Madera Canyon where we stayed in cabins amid wild turkeys. Highlight of the day was the loop route through the park. For cycling options see here. And you can see our day on Strava here.
Day 2 we rode up over to Soinota Valley. Climb, climb, climb! You can see the Strava version here.
Day 3 we rode to Ramsey Canyon for some hiking, through the beautiful Coronado forest and the US army base, Fort Huachuca. Big hills, some rolling, but all big! Check out my Strava profile here.
Day 4 maybe the easiest day, flat roads into Tombstone, the town to tough to die.
Day 5 into beautiful historic mining town of Bisbee. The locals looked to be a mix of old miners, affluent seniors, artists, and hippies.
The places we stayed in ranged from beautiful old hotels, the Copper Queen in Bisbee, lovely bed and breakfasts like the Ramsey Canyon inn, more rustic cabins like in Madera Canyon, standard hotel rooms in Soinita and the utilitarian budget inn in Tombstone.
The food was pretty good, especially given the wide range of food needs the group. Obviously it varied from place to place. Bisbee was a high mark.
I like Phil the tour operator and I like John, the local guide. I get the sense he’s usually doing more rugged things, mountain biking and back country camping. He runs trips to Alaska and Mexico as well as Arizona. He’s funny, very blunt, and I’d trust him with my life. Those are good traits for an extreme adventure guide.
I’ll be back cycling in Arizona next year I hope. I’d like to try some mountain biking and might organize a group to go with Southwest Trekking.