cycling · fitness

Small pleasures in journey and destination

This week I was in Tucson, AZ on vacation with friends.  It was marvelous– we cycled, hiked/walked, took in urban and desert sights, and enjoyed as much delicious Mexican food as we had time and appetites for.

We saw marvelous things:  we did a mural ride through downtown Tucson, and saw 20+ depictions of community, fantasy, politics and the future.  Here are just a few of them:

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Mural of a woman with white skin, black hair, and a red mask.
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Mural of brightly colored images of indigenous people and nature symbols
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Mural saying “Greetings from Tucson” with four bikes in front.
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Mural of a woman with cactus hair and cacti around her

We went to the desert museum and Catalina State Park, and saw stunning nature.  I posted about it here.

But one of the things I like best about cycling in a new place is the low-key and unexpected sights I encounter while just noodling around.  I went on a ride down the Loop (a 60+ mile system of bike paths) by myself one day, and I found this quirky little park called Pima Prickly Park.

A blue sign indicating Pima Prickly Park.
A blue sign indicating Pima Prickly Park.

What is this place?  Well, it’s kind of a home for misfit cacti.  The Tucson Cactus and Succulent Society arranges with commercial constructions projects around Tucson to go in before a site is bulldozed, and they try to save all the cactus and succulent plants they can.  Check out more details here.  Then they take them to this site for replanting.  They’ve created a public park, with gravel routes through the seven acre site.  Here are a few pictures of what the all-volunteer crew has done with this place, which used to be a landfill:

There was a volunteer doing some watering, and she told me all about the place.  Looking around, it’s clear that a lot of love and dedication went into making this little park.  Here’s a nice place to sit and contemplate:

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An area of the park with a bench, a birdbath, and various cacti and bushes.

All of this was tucked away, just off the bike path I had been riding.  Had I not noticed a bunch of cacti that looked rather organized behind a fence, I wouldn’t have gone to investigate.  But I did, and got to enjoy the fruits of local environmentalists’ labor.

Have you gone on a walk, run, ride, paddle, etc. and run into an unexpected treasure of a place or sight?  I’d love to hear from you.

7 thoughts on “Small pleasures in journey and destination

  1. That’s one of my favorite things about exploring new places by bike. It’s fast enough to cover some distance but not so fast that you miss all the things.

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  2. The cactus park looks amazing but I also love the street art! I’ve definitely found some hidden gems paddling. My favourite: in Hamburg, there’s an ice cream place that sells ice cream to kayakers out of a back window that overlooks the canal behind the building. It’s brilliant!

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  3. I’ve discovered places when combined with grocery tripping and fitness in 1 sweep. Outdoor art (which I’ve featured in my blog) and ethnic food shops where pricing can be quite good. To many experience cyclists, to do a 45 km. round trip doesn’t sound much unless you factor hills with 10-15 lbs. of groceries.

    What is interesting is understanding the rhythms and patterns of outdoor activity..differences in different regions of Canada where I’ve lived. Many Vancouverites still walk and bike in light day long rain. In Calgary, just small amount of rain for the whole day, the paths are nearly deserted. However on an early spring day or our “balmy” winter day of -15 degrees C you will find enough Calgarians walking around or jogging in winter in our area.

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