Monday 13th March – Bye Tucson, I’m Spent

I had one more trail network to explore, the Fifty Year trails. I was up early because I was waiting on some news from Kevin so I’d had a restless sleep all night. Apprehensively, I checked my phone and the messages I saw from my mate were ones of flight confirmations and good news, he would be arriving tomorrow. I still won’t believe it until I see it.

It was cold this morning, which was encouraging for my planned morning’s ride, but it wasn’t to last. My jumper was off by the time I’d driven an hour to the Fifty Year trailhead. Another guy arrived shortly after me and started unloading. We got talking and soon I was riding off on the back wheel of a 25-year local named Ron. A plus 70 year old retiree, he rides nearly every day a week on a super fancy bike that has suspension that talks front and back. I was quite happy to follow him along the fifty year trail and through the Chutes. The Chutes have apparently been rated the best five minutes of riding in Arizona and I can see why. Just as the name suggests, you’re riding down chutes, up and over, side to side. No mishaps here thankfully. The whole trail network was formed by cattle and then refined by riders, so was pretty unique.

After the Chutes, Ron showed me evidence of Indian communities in the way of pottery and flint stones amongst the cactus. He also pointed out the foundations of a wall that had served as a boundary to the Indians’ soccer field. My tour finished, Ron was heading back to the car, but I wanted to check out some of the harder stuff, so we parted ways, happy to have ridden together. Ron had a great sense of humour and was calling me Miss. Climber by the end of it and telling me that in America it was impolite for a lady to ride out of sight of an older guy, resulting in a damaged ego.

I circled back and got onto “Fifty Year Upper” which was a struggle uphill and super-technical coming down. So much so that I didn’t have the balls to tackle some of the rocky drops solo. I needed backup, mostly for encouragement, but also to call for help should I break my neck. It soon became very clear to me that I was riding as if I’d had a big stack recently (wonder why) and my injuries were more substantial than I’d thought. My entire upper body was aching, particularly my neck, stiff from whiplash. Despite the pain and the confidence-smashing boulders, I carried on to Middlegate where things got a bit easier. When I came across a pair of horses and their riders, I was off the bike in an instant and stood to attention as the horses were coaxed very calmly past me.

Back on the Fifty Year trail, I decided to loop back to the Chutes for another go. It was brilliant a second time but as soon as I was done, I was tired. After six days of riding out of seven, now in the desert heat, my body was in protest. I stopped for a Clif bar then soldiered back to the car. The trail was still enjoyable and the scenery even better, but damn was I happy to see the Astro. Kevin had told me to get all the riding out of my system, I think I’ve ticked that box.

I packed up and drove away until I reached a coin laundry. I had reached my last pair of underwear and with a guest coming I figured it would be a good idea to wash the sheets. I scored the last two washing machines in the place and put my multitude of washing on. I fixed myself lunch during the wash cycle, trying to get some energy back into my body. I hung out on my laptop while I waited, but mostly people watched. I continued this while everything was in the dryer. As I was folding, I found myself dancing along to the radio they had playing, maybe waiting for that attractive male to come along and strike up a conversation with the weird looking dancing chick in the coin laundry. Yeah, nah.

Onwards, I had about 24 hours to kill before Kevin may actually land in this country and in my vicinity. I decided to go and check out the Organ Pipes National Monument since I was only a couple of hours from Phoenix. The drive there went right past my usual Tucson camp, so I had the opportunity to wave goodbye to the network of RVs as I left the mountains that had brought me so much joy the last few days.

The rest of the drive south west was beautiful, the road littered with not only road works but lined with beautiful coloured flowers. The density of cactus fluctuated as I drove along the narrow, straight highway listening to a pre-season F1 podcast. I know few of you will understand the excitement I feel that the F1 circus will once again be on tour in only two weeks!

The time went by slowly and as I neared the park, I decided I would make camp just outside of it and check it out in the morning before driving in to the airport. The BLM spot I pulled in at was even better than the one in Tucson with more shade and greenery and it was almost completely empty. It wasn’t 5pm yet, but I made good use of my time converting the van to a two-person machine. This was only the second time for me to be preparing for a guest but I did a proper job this time since Kevin was coming for a two week visit, instead of just a weekend. I did some thorough re-packing that means we’ll be comfortable. I hope so anyway!

I chatted away to Mum as I made dinner and continued talking while I sat at my outdoor setting with the setting sun to eat. Meanwhile, in WA, Mum was getting blown away at her camp with extreme winds. In the time I spoke to her, the satellite dish had uprooted itself from the ground and the solar panels had fallen over. So ironic that although we’re 30-odd years apart, we deal with the same nomad problems. I fear for Dad’s performance on the bowling green with such fierce cross winds.

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