The final day! I wake up at 5am to drive back to my Tucson. The drive is shorter although it still rings in at 4 hours with rush hour traffic in Phoenix. I return the F150 25 hours after renting it, with 650 more miles on the odometer. I am famished and hole up for a few hours in a coffee shop where I get some writing done. A lot of stories are bumping around after twelve hours of driving. I write a bit, and get caffeinated, chat with the barista about cactus alcohol.
I start feeling too smelly to be in town, let alone at a bougie coffee place. Eventually I have to bring my bike back to the shop where they’ll pack it and ship it back to New Hampshire, but I have a few hours of daylight left. There’s one more road on my mind: Gate’s Pass.
The locals have recommended it and I’ve been itching to move a little bit more, to see one more epic view before I leave. I head out of town again, pedaling uphill gradually at first, then steeper and steeper. Cacti rise up like gatekeepers of the heat. I stop at a wildlife museum where the attendant tells me to keep going. Three more miles.
Up and up until I can’t go up any more, and suddenly the road kinks in half, flanked by two mountains. This is it! I know it is, and I’m walking my bike now because it’s so steep but I don’t care. I’m pep talking to myself about how lucky I am to be here and how strong my legs are for getting here and how it’s only a little bit further. Chest heaving and tights burning again. I make it to the top and stop talking. At the pass you can look away from Tucson to the west, toward L.A. or whatever’s out there: a whole bunch more sand and javelinas and plants built to defend themselves from foreign objects.
The way down is breezy, sweat cooling me, then drying. Down down into town and laughing, so happy to have escaped the cold east just for a bit, to have one last day of freedom here.
Curious how all this touring business got started? Read from the beginning.