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Arivaca 210 Permanent
...Sun, sand, cacti, wind and the Homeland Security Border Patrol...
by Gary Baker

I suspect most club members have never heard of the Arivaca 210km Permanent , neither had I until three weeks ago. As Sheryl and I had planned to visit friends, Dave Goodman and his wife Corinna ( he rode the 2010 Fleche as a member of the Cultus Cruisers) and get a little mid-winter sun and heat in Tucson, AZ., it seemed like a good idea to try and do a permanent while there. A few e-mails to the Arizona Rando Club rep, Susan Plonsky and everything was set.

Dave was keen to do the ride with me. While in Tucson he rides with the Vistosa Cycling Club in Oro Valley, and he told some of the other club members about the planned ride. Hummm.....When we arrived at the start site ( a McDonald's) there were 5 club members enjoying a McDonald's breakfast. What the hell, the more the merrier. Over breakfast I carefully explained that as non-registered riders I could not get any assistance from them, i.e. no drafting. As only one of the group had ever ridden more than 150km before, I emphasized the importance of pacing oneself.

We all set off at 7AM and was it ever COLD. I had learned my lesson about how cold it could be in deserts the morning during my ride in Australia, so at least I was prepared. Within a few kilometres, it was clear that I need not be concerned about inadvertently drafting them as they were off like the proverbial hare, and I was the tortoise. I just held my pace as they pulled away. I figured I'd see some of them soon enough ( Jim is 80, Phil 75, and Bill 72 yrs old.) as the first climb was only a few kilometres away. As we approached the hill, I was sitting back about 200m with every intention of reeling them in on the climb. It was not to be. Much of this ride is at elevations over 3000'. Not only had this gang been riding 4/5 days a week, they lived at this elevation. I had been in the Tucson area just three days, not long enough to get acclimatized to the elevation....I was gasping for breath as they all disappeared into the distance.

I finally caught up to them on the descent and followed them into the first control at the 32.6 mile point. The next 20 miles we more or less paralleled the main highway south from Tucson towards the Mexican border. Then the route turned west, parallel to and just north of the Mexican border, as we started the climb to the town of Arivaca. We didn't go a kilometre when we encountered a Border Patrol control station and were waved through without a second glance from the officers lounging under the sun canopies.

It was a long steady 23 mile climb to Arivaca through the 'high' desert - quite beautiful in a many ways. The only traffic were a few locals in their pickups, small groups of motorcyclists and dozens and dozens of Border Patrol vehicles buzzing like bees back and forth along the highway. These vehicles were mainly 4X4 pickups with portable paddy wagon cells on the back. I'd lost sight of the others shortly after the border station . Several times I stopped to experience the solitude of the desert. The only sound was a gentle but building wind. When I arrived in Arivaca, the others were waiting for me. I no sooner arrived than they were off. Looking around I asked myself , “Why do people live in a place like this?”. In the summer the heat would be unbearable, heck it seems like it would be unbearable now for a host of other reasons.

The wind was now becoming a deterrent, canceling the awaited benefits of the 12 mile descent to Hwy #286 where the route turned northward, closing the loop back to Tucson. When I arrived at the junction of Arivaca Rd and Hwy # 286 there they all were, waiting and itching to take off. Who could blame them, the wind was now howling out of the south-west. It would be on our backs for the final 50 miles. Off they went. I learned later that four of them formed a pace line and had a rocket ride to the next control. The fact that the route was gently down hill over the next 45 miles definitely added to their fun. When I arrived at the control ( approx. 30 minutes after them), they were absolutely giddy. I was very envious.

The final 15miles into Tucson was mixture of pure joy, flying effortlessly along at 35kph+ thanks to the wind for the first 10 miles and then pure misery for the last 5miles. That was one of the roughest paved shoulders I've ever ridden. Rather than using rumble strips, there were ridges built into the pavement approximately every 10 ft. apart. Imagine rumble bumps extending completely across the shoulder. The pounding as the bike crossed each ridge was too much to take, I slowed to approx. 20kph and even at that speed the riding was miserable.

Ten hours and ten minutes after leaving the McDonald's I was back. Total elevation gain was approx. 3800 ft. With the exception of the last 15 miles which were on a very busy highway, the route followed pleasant quiet secondary roads. It was a great route. Oh, I was riding a borrowed Trek Madone that Corinna had won as a door prize at the closing banquet of the World Tri Championship held in Vancouver several years ago; she had placed second in her age group. I had taken my pedals and saddle.

While in the Tucson area, I joined the Vistosa riders on three of their daily club rides stopping at wonderful eateries for lunch and snacks. Tucson is a cycling mecca, no wonder numerous pro teams and RUSA hold training camps there.

Ride date: February 16, 2011
Go to: Permanents Results

Link to: Route Information (Arizona Brevet & Randonnee web site)


March 3, 2011