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.
When I arrive in Tucson, I have no idea where I am headed or how far I can bike in a day. I have some vague route plans that a local bike shop owner sent me, and, as usual, no real direction of my own. I like that it is warm. I like that there are mountains on the horizon.
I’m staying with a Warm Showers host near the center of town, close to the University. I get an Uber to her house, and then walk to the shop where I shipped my bike. It’s there behind the counter, safe and sound! Since I’m a woman facing a bunch of male mechanics, the shop owner tells me that next time I should call ahead to let them know that my bike is coming. I can’t find the words to say that “Yes I fucking called ahead and told an employee the exact day my bike would arrive at their shop. Gave him my name and everything.” I say those words in my head. Out loud, I shrug and mumble that I’ll do better next time I ship a bike to Tucson.
When I return to the host’s house, her daughter and son-in-law are there with their kids, dropping them off so they can have a night out. The son-in-law hands me a map of bike routes that he’s drawn with a magic marker on construction paper. I am so grateful for this, a small act of kindness. I can tell I’m going the right way.
I check my phone and re-download Tinder because why not. If you can’t join the old boy’s club, then you might as well abuse it. I update my page to say that I’m on a bike tour. So then all the boys from all over town start messaging me with advice about where to bike. And some want to ride with me because maybe it’s cool or some sort of novelty to find a girl who likes bikes. I agree to ride out the next day with one of ’em toward Sonoita, a town about 35 miles south of the Tucson.
I sleep and spend the next morning repacking gear, and mounting my handlebar bag to my handlebars. It requires some fiddling and concentration, reminds me of my construction days, the need to put something together or else everything will collapse. finally, everything’s fixed, Ortlieb panniers set on the back rack, water bottle full. My stomach is empty because although I’ve bought food, I’ve forgotten to eat it.
Find out how the tour begins here.