Wednesday, March 21, 2001                       South Mountain

My options for Wednesday were limited somewhat by my 6:50 PM flight home, but I made the best of it by getting on the road before dawn. In fact, it was dark enough that I felt nervous riding without lights. After riding a few miles west, I stopped at a restaurant called the Ripe Tomato Cafe  for a fantastic breakfast. My ham and cheese omelet was the fluffiest I had ever seen, and the “small” pancakes were 8” in diameter! Full and happy, I continued toward Phoenix with the warm sun on my back. Along the way, I talked a bit with a commuting cyclist about my Bike Friday.

I ate the best breakfast of the trip at the Ripe Tomato Cafe.

As on Monday, I had a lot of flat city miles to cover to get to “the fun stuff.” If I had made my own lodging arrangements, I would have chosen something closer to the edge of the metro area. Then again, since I rode north, east, and west on this trip, it would have been hard to find an ideal spot. Anyway, despite the rush hour traffic, I didn’t have too hard a time getting across town. The freeway interchanges were a little hairy, though. After riding about seven miles, the curvy roads of a neighborhood at the southeast corner of Phoenix were a welcome change from the grids of Mesa and Tempe.

The Ahwatukee Foothills Village sign featured bicyclists.

And I always thought Chicago held that title. At least that's what Mayor Daley would say.

After a few twists and turns on the tree-lined streets, I was on Baseline Road, another straight, open highway. I missed a turn to pick up a canal trail, so I stayed on Baseline for six miles, all the way to Central Avenue. I headed south on Central toward South Mountain Park. Central runs right through the heart of the city, dividing Phoenix between east and west. Although I picked it up at the south end of town, I thought it was really cool that someone could get on Central downtown and go straight out to a mountain. It would be a long way to a mountain from downtown Chicago.

This nifty old complex of deserted stone buildings stood near the entrance of South Mountain Park.

In case you were wondering, this is indeed Scorpion Gulch.

The TV antennas atop South Mountain were a good, long 7-8 mile climb away. The scenery was spectacular as the twisting road revealed ever-changing vistas. The climb seemed endless. The way the road wound around the mountain, I couldn’t see the end.

Saguaros dotted the rocky hillside.

This stone shelter overlooked the road.

Finally, I approached the TV antennas. A particularly steep rise punctuated the end of the climb. At the top, I walked around a bit to survey the area and take pictures, then headed back down, mission accomplished.

South Mountain was an ideal location for TV antennas.

I just pedaled up this road... now for the fun part!

On the way down, I stopped at several scenic overlooks to take pictures.

Dobbins Lookout was at 2,330 feet.

Downtown Phoenix was obscured by smog.

A new subdivision went right to the foot of South Mountain.

The tar-and-chip road was a rough ride.

Predictably, the descent took only a third of the time required by the climb.

This cactus looked like a big baseball bat.

On the way back to Mesa, I found the elusive canal path easily. This lightly traveled asphalt trail along a narrow canal was a nice cruise, especially compared to the heavy traffic on Baseline Road. It ran parallel to the base of the mountain for a few miles and eventually came out to Baseline Road.

A peaceful trail ran alongside this irrigation canal.

Orange groves in the desert.

I worked my way back east through Tempe to Mesa on city streets. I saw some great old signs along the way.

Since I still had some time, I rode down Main Street through downtown Mesa and photographed a public art display of lifelike human sculptures.

This man was reading  the newspaper with his best friend.

I guess when you live in the desert, you fish wherever there's water!

These kids were flying a kite.

This guy had a skiing mishap in the Alps (the piece is titled " Apres Ski" ).

This little girl was watering her garden.

Oops, I think this guy might have kicked the bucket.

Hop on the back and I'll take you as far as Chicago!

After a 60-70 mile day, I returned to the motel. I finished my 2001 Tour de Arizona with at least 270 miles in four days of riding, plus I got to see a Cubs victory. I was pleased with my new Bike Friday. Aside from my tumble on the first day (probably my own fault for not adjusting the rear derailleur) and a virtually unavoidable flat the next, everything had gone pretty well. On Saturday, I enjoyed the convenience and the novelty of assembling a bicycle out of a suitcase. I confirmed on Sunday that the bike was comfortable for a long day in the saddle, and on Monday and Wednesday, I validated my choice of gearing on challenging mountain climbs. I would wholeheartedly recommend a Bike Friday to anyone who wants to travel, whether touring with the trailer or day-tripping with a rack pack < end of commercial!> .

I had plenty of time to shower and relax. Then I disassembled and packed my bike. This was a little tricky without the instructional video, but I managed. When my family came back from the day’s baseball game, they were impressed to see my whole bike stuffed into the suitcase.

My Bike Friday fit into the suitcase with clothing for extra padding.

Rider and bike check out of the motel (note: there is no larger version of this photo).

They drove me to Sky Harbor Airport, and soon I was headed back to Illinois. The plane was quiet and virtually empty I had three seats to myself. As the plane flew through the darkness, I drifted in and out of consciousness, dreaming of pedaling those desert mountain roads.

Return to Central Arizona 2001

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