By Zachary Moses
I couldn’t have asked for a more fun group to travel with on my first Alyson Adventures biking tour. Everyone became comfortable with each other very quickly and we became fast friends. I’d say I burned more calories from laughing on this tour than from riding a bike.
This tour was also the first time I’ve ever met Andrew Broan. Andrew has been a guide on nearly 75 tours with our company. I was very pleased to find out that my first guiding experience would be with one of Alyson’s resident biking experts. Andrew has such a relaxed personality that I was able to blend right into my role. It was a lot of fun spending the first couple of days getting to know Andrew, while we were running around town doing all sorts of errands to prepare for the upcoming trip. We rented bicycles, scouted our tour route, made dinner reservations and visited Andrew’s chiropractor. (He had to make sure everything was in alignment.)
As everyone got on their bicycles for the first time, I wished that I had brought along a boom box to play “Eye of the Tiger.” It would have really tied the moment together. (I noted this on my wishlist for next year.)
Starting out on our first day as a group, I had to hang back at the hotel in case anyone forgot anything. There was a farmers market being held in the parking lot of the hotel and I used the opportunity to buy myself some local honey. In my opinion, the best honey comes from the desert. I have to say, tasting that honey really made me feel homesick for the West, where I was raised. Well, I felt homesick until my lips went all chappy… Burt’s Bees lip balm, you’ve saved me again.
I was on support van duty for the first day, which meant I was incredibly paranoid. Would I lose track of someone along the way? Would I get lost and not be able to find the group? Would border patrol pull me over and ask if I’m a citizen? (I don’t do well with pop quizzes!). It was an irrational fear since I had a map, a GPS, and a passport. Besides, we had scouted the whole trip the day before.
I never lost track of anyone. In fact, I felt really good about my driving intuition when the first flat occurred. I happened to be waiting for us just 20 feet up the road. Andrew took the opportunity to have a bike flat repair session with the guys. We all watched the clock to see how quickly he could change the tire… not very.
From here we rode on through some of the oldest parts of Tuscon. We saw the historic districts, rode through the college campus, and even stopped to light candles at El Tiradito Shrine, for luck on our journey ahead.
We visited the San Xavier Mission where we had lunch. It was a Sunday, so there were loads of people getting ready to worship (we looked a little out of place in our bike jerseys.)
From here, the city trickled away and the world relaxed into small desert towns, oasis-striped valleys, thorny cactus-covered hillsides and a group of fun guys riding the open range. That evening we spent the night at the Amado Territory Inn. Several of us decided we wanted to go to a bar. For some weird reason, all the bars were closed. Luckily we had a GPS. We punched liquor into the display and found a grocery store 10 miles away. We carpooled into town and purchased alcohol from some really cute Mormon looking boys. When we got back to the hotel, we made mimosas and got to know each other.
The highlight of the evening was when we went out looking at star constellations with my star chart. Phil gave me the chart right before leaving Key West. Thanks Phil!
The next several days were jammed with good times. We took a picturesque ride up the hill to a small town called Arivaca. We had a beer at a local bar and got a taste of the local off-color humor (I always enjoy hearing a few blue jokes in a bar). We also learned not to take pictures of the locals. They are very superstitious.
On Day 4 we took off toward the town of Nogales. I was back on Van Duty which was great because I got to take pictures of everyone wading through the river. This was one of the highlights of my day. I love watching a bunch of guys walk through a river in full bicycling regalia, it’s funnier than when this cat slipped and fell into the bathtub.
Lou made me help him clean the sand from his feet after I had teased him about the river crossing. Look how useful I’m being!
Our Hotel in Nogales, Arizona was about a half a mile from the Mexican border. We walked there with a quick stop at the Duty-Free liquor store. In order to avoid taxes, you have to export the drinks. So you buy a bottle in the states, walk it across the border into Mexico, then walk it back across the border into the States. They send a guard to the border to make sure you actually export the liquor. Dinner that night was in the other Nogales, on the Mexico side of the border. The restaurant is called La Roca. It is fantastic! It is by far the best Mexican food I have ever had. Who would have thought Mexican food would be better in Mexico?
The restaurant was built into the side of the mountain in an old convent. Several of the walls of La Roca were just the exposed cliff sides.
After dinner, everyone decided to go back stateside. Everyone except for me, Sam and Lou, that is. We decided to go bar hopping. It was so much fun, the beers were cheap and there was no shortage of Mexican Polka Music. When we were coming back into the States, the border guard asked where we were coming from and Lou said “Mexico.” I almost died laughing. Lou’s smart-ass comment caused the border guard (who is usually very stony-faced) to crack up laughing as well. This was one of my favorite evenings of the whole tour.
We left the next morning for Sonoita; Arizona’s wine country. This was a long-riding day because Sonoita sits
at roughly 5,200 feet above sea level, and we had to climb nearly 1,300 feet of elevation to get there from Nogales. The thorny desert slowly gave way to rolling grasslands covered in oak trees as we climbed.
We stayed at the Sonoita Inn and had the whole place to ourselves. The next morning we went for wine tastings at some of the local wineries. I purchased a white Merlot and a white Port, two wines that I did not realize even existed.
That night we played cards and laughed ourselves silly. I was told I was playing really well but honestly, I was just chucking cards at random. I wish we’d had Twister; that’s a game I understand.
When we left Sonoita, we had a wild ride back into the Tucson Valley. Almost the entire day was spent rolling downhill. The planned Lunch stop was Saguaro National Park, which is awesome! Sam took an alternate route and visited Colossal Cave, which he said was one of the best parts of the whole trip for him. I’ll have to stop there next time.
We all made it back to Tucson safe and sound. That night we had our farewell cocktails and farewell dinner. It was really sad for me to have this adventure coming to a close. I hope to see everyone again soon!
Click here to read about our Arizona Cycling Tour