The Friday Cyclotouriste

a geo-photoblog chronicling my "excursions velo"

Ride Report……Toward the Summit of Mt. Lemmon, Part 1

with 2 comments

My Mt. Lemmon ride was rather ill-planned, meant only as an exploratory trip to see what this mountain is all about.

It began on a Sunday afternoon, fueled by a morning capuchino and cinnamon roll from Cartel Coffee Lab (which was excellent and made me wish I had snapped a picture for an espresso review — click here for the review archives…but I digress).

Getting off to a late start (about 12:30 with the sun already directly above), I parked at the Safeway on Tanque Verde and Catalina Highway, 2-3 miles away from where the road begins to steepen. I wore wool shorts, some puma shot-putting shoes, a cotton tank-top with a lightweight, long-sleeve polyester shirt over that, a scarf-like buff around my neck, and zinc oxide sun protection on my face. I put a vietnamese-style baguette sandwich in my handlebar bag and a full water bottle in my downtube cage.

I felt great the first 7 miles as I climbed the initial few thousand feet. With each switchback the valley began fading away. I remarked to myself that this was the most comfortable I’ve felt on a bike since coming to Tucson: few cars, scenic views, and to me, the satisfying rhythm of a long, hard hill climb (which is what I was used to in California).

Just after making the above picture of this prickly pear cactus, the sound of rapid gunshots rang out from a pickup truck directly across the road. I quickly ascertained the pistoleros were not aiming their bullets at me, but I still felt vulnerable. I didn’t linger.

As I covered this initial ground,  I guzzled water at a rate that naively assumed I could fill-up at the numerous official campgrounds en-route (e.g. at mile 6, 12, 18 etc.). So I rolled into the Molino Basin Campground — at around 1:30pm and well into the heat of the day — with a nearly empty water bottle. It was only then that I learned there would be no more water until the Palisades ranger station (more than 14 miles ahead and 4,000 feet above me).

I gamely rode another mile or so, but began to tire. The hot and extremely windy conditions made for tough riding. At times, it felt as though I was barely moving at all as I hammered my lowest gear into 30-mph gusting headwinds.

The opportunity to take a rest and eat something arrived in the form of the Gordon Hirabayashi recreation site. My energy was mostly spent and I was out of H2O. I ate half a sandwich and thought that this would be the end of my climb….


Tired, thirsty, and hunkered down in a small patch of shade.

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Written by fridaycyclotouriste

May 11th, 2011 at 9:53 pm

2 Responses to 'Ride Report……Toward the Summit of Mt. Lemmon, Part 1'

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  1. Gunshots are nothing to fear. If you track crime, the overwhelming majority of folks involved with illegal firearms activities were involved in other activities of a very illegal nature. Occassionallly we do have innocent folks killed, but it’s in tiny numbers given the 1,000,000 residents of the metropolitan Tucson area. Such is life in an area filled with traffickers of humans and illicit drugs and those that do not wish to live in fear of such inhumane criminals.

    I’d recommend a CamelBack or similar water carrier for your Mt Lemmon attempts. And dual bottle cages on the bike. Fill them all with ice water as they’ll melt quickly enough. The good news is that even when it’s hot as can be down in the valley, the temp at the top of the mountain is still in the 70’s.


    14 May 11 at 1:36 pm

  2. jack/ thanks for words of comfort! i’m sure i’ll get used to the discharge of firearms just like i’m adapting to the heat…i’ll definitely add a second bottle cage to my ride, but i’m not sure about the camelback. i should give one a try, but the idea of wearing something on my back isn’t appealing. i can’t wait to give mt. lemmon another go one of these days.

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