JFR visits Tucson (B&B review, ride recap & pics)- Mtbr.com
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  1. #1
    JFR
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    JFR visits Tucson (B&B review, ride recap & pics)

    I just got back from Tucson AZ last week (I live in NorCal). I was out there for work on Monday and Tuesday. I've never ridden in AZ and thought I'd ask around to see what I could arrange for riding on Sunday and Wednesday. Immediately, Way Out West Lodging/Biking/Outfitting (www.wowaz.com) was recommended by two riding buddies, an AZ local/MTBR-Passionate, and a work colleague… so I contacted CJ to check out this bicycle bed and breakfast.

    Out of thin desert air, using their home, He and MaryEllen have created Way Out West (WOW). They're located approx. 45min from the Tucson Intl Airport, near the base of a series of high-desert mountain ranges known as the Catalinas. They're at ~3k feet and the mountains top out at ~9k feet and are heavily dusted with snow each winter (there is even a small one-lift ski resort atop one range).

    The lodging at WOW is not expansive or grand, it's merely a good size home with plenty of room to spread out and relax... and relaxing sure came easy. CJ and MaryEllen are very laid-back and accommodating, they can turn out excellent food, and their place has a distinct casual desert comfort and refinement to it. The comforts of home include a "great room" that holds a beautiful black-felt oak pool table, leather sofa, dual leather recliners, big-screen satellite t.v., DVD library, hi-fi stereo, a wood burning fireplace/heater, and a well appointed glass liquor stand. Connected to this room was a small sitting room, with it's own t.v. and the house p.c. Then connected to that is the shop area with it's big glass windows providing a view of the desert and mountains for all the usual suspects hangin round the workstand. There was also a separate living room, dining room, and a very cozy all glass breakfast nook connected to the kitchen (perfect for viewing the wide variety of desert birds and wildlife that visit the WOW property for the bird-feeders and hamburger handouts). I really enjoyed staying at WOW; CJ and MaryEllen were great hosts, their home was very clean and very comfortable, the wild life was amazing, and the views were breath taking.

    The riding began directly from the WOW shop where FS and HT rental bikes were available in a variety of sizes... even an XL that worked for my 6'3'' size. I rode two days while in town. The first began about 3 hours before sunset and it had been raining on and off that day. I guess it's not too surprising that the desert either soaks up rain water or sends it draining away. There’s not a lot of standing water or mushy trails in the desert, even after a storm. In fact, as we headed out, my guide Lewis commented that the trails were perfect for riding, actually more firm in many areas because of the water. And because even more water threatened from the sky, CJ decided to sit the ride out and give his bike a break. I told Lewis to consider me an advanced rider and to take me to his leader (i.e., the local goods), I explained that I like challenging climbs, descents, and obstacles.

    As we wound our way up to "Baby Jesus" (a neat combination of boulders that kinda looks like Mary holding baby Jesus) my head was constantly pivoting back and forth as I took in the alien topography I was riding through. There was cactus everywhere it seemed, sometimes encroaching on the trail. When faced with even minor trail challenges I felt a particularly heightened sense of caution and excitement because a dab in most bushes around there might not turn out so good. And if you were to have a full-on-outa-control-off-trail tumbling experience, the odds of cacti injury were frighteningly high. This is the place to ride if you like to add a little spice of danger when cooking up a good ride.

    But that doesn't mean that you have to have expert skills to ride the trails I saw. Not all of them were super difficult. You just need to be aware of your surroundings. And like mountain biking in most places, if ya come across a piece of trail or an obstacle that you don’t think you can safely ride, well, ya walk it. I'm sure there are also easier trails that would be more suited to beginners anyway. As for me, I enjoyed the trails I rode and the extra rush I experienced when dancing with cactus.

    Lewis and I wound our way up the mountain stopping every so often to make a second attempt at an obstacle or to look back at the view of the desert (and approaching storm cell). As the elevation increased the cactus population decreased and was replaced with high-desert bushes (bare for the winter). We reached the Baby Jesus rock outcropping and then the saddle a little further up before we turned back.

    On our way back, in the fading light, the storm hit us. The dark clouds blocked out most of the setting sun and I turned on my light. The rain came harder and harder, but not to reach monsoon levels. Nevertheless, there was more than enough water coming outa the sky for the trail to become a river in many areas. Did I mention it was cold? Well it had to have been in the low 40s as the wind picked up and the sun disappeared (it gets in the 20s at night). Fortunately, I was prepared for cold, wet, and darkness and I rallied against the elements with a fat smile on my face. I really enjoyed the unique sensory experience of speeding down dessert trails with cactus all around, but doing so in a cold rainstorm with rivers of water racing me down the trail. The contradiction was pretty neat.

    On Wednesday, my second day riding, the weather decided to cooperate. As the sun came up, a deep blue sky was revealed with puffy white scattered clouds. The desert had soaked up all the rain; the trails were begging to be ridden. CJ was my guide this time and we headed up a different route, to a different mountain, than where Lewis had previously taken me. The temperature was perfect (60s) and I took in another incredible ride through the high-desert topography. All the pics are from this second ride.

    I had a great time staying with, and riding with the WOW folks in Tucson. I can't wait to go back.
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    Last edited by JFR; 02-03-2004 at 02:20 PM. Reason: typo

  2. #2
    JFR
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    Some slick rock and bouldering

    Some slick rock and bouldering.
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  3. #3
    JFR
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    More slick rock and bouldering

    More slick rock and bouldering
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    Last edited by JFR; 02-03-2004 at 02:01 PM. Reason: add nuther pic

  4. #4
    JFR
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    Catching some desert air

    Catching some desert air.

    Intresting jump. Not much runout before a hill of soft sand. Speed can't be too fast. You can see marks in the sand from my previous 2 jumps and hard braking.
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    Last edited by JFR; 02-03-2004 at 01:59 PM. Reason: pic sequence

  5. #5
    JFR
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    Cactus Alley

    This was fun to ride down at speed. The trail winds back and forth.
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  6. #6
    JFR
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    Just riding along

    Just riding along
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  7. #7
    JFR
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    Thanks for looking

    See ya later Tucson.
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  8. #8
    Medium?
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    Joo go by yourself?

    Business, or what? CJ's got the hot setup for sure. I can't wait to get back down there myself. Good stuff on and off the trails...

  9. #9
    Ebo
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    Great write-up John...WOW seems to be a cool place to hang. I remember seeing a bunch of the photo's from last years Spring Fling and all seemed to be having a great time. Need to put that on my place's to visit. Cheers.

  10. #10
    JFR
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    Yup, biz trip

    Quote Originally Posted by Fast Eddy
    Business, or what? CJ's got the hot setup for sure. I can't wait to get back down there myself. Good stuff on and off the trails...
    Yeah, I really enjoy'd staying with CJ and MaryEllen.

  11. #11
    Seriously ?
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    Nice post and pictures Johnny.

    Gui

  12. #12
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    I told Lewis to consider me an advanced rider and to take me to his leader

    Got a kick out of this.

    Sounds like a great trip. Fresh rain in the desert is like manna from heaven. Go eat it up before it's gone...... mmmmmmm perfect dirt.

    Thanks for the pics and write up.

  13. #13

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    I am so bummed I couldn't break away

    Having referred you down there, I really wanted to make the Wednesday ride. Unfortunately, life got in the way. I'm glad you had such a good time. It is really fun to experience that kind of high Sonoran desert for the first time, especially shortly after a rain. You got some rare treats, my friend.

  14. #14
    JFR
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    There will be a next time

    Quote Originally Posted by pedalAZ
    Having referred you down there, I really wanted to make the Wednesday ride. Unfortunately, life got in the way. I'm glad you had such a good time. It is really fun to experience that kind of high Sonoran desert for the first time, especially shortly after a rain. You got some rare treats, my friend.
    Yeah, life does have a way of sometimes getting in the way. How well I do know. Sorry you couldn't make it, but there will be a next time.

  15. #15
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    Nice post, Johnny! That terrain looks like a blast, the complete opposite of what we have up here.

    Nice quality rock, too.

  16. #16
    pewpewpew Moderator
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    Very cool write up and pictures.

  17. #17
    wowarizona.com
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    I have a couple more good pics from that day...

    …and I'll get them posted up here, today.

    Great fun, see you early March for…? (Well, you know)

    CJ

  18. #18
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    not bad for a yellow loaner

    nice shots JFR, sounds like you had a blast..thanks for the shots, Jim

  19. #19

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    Quote Originally Posted by pedalAZ
    Having referred you down there, I really wanted to make the Wednesday ride. Unfortunately, life got in the way. I'm glad you had such a good time. It is really fun to experience that kind of high Sonoran desert for the first time, especially shortly after a rain. You got some rare treats, my friend.

    Are you going to be around during the first week of March when we will be there at CJ's?
    -nate

  20. #20
    wg
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    Cool to tie in a nice little side trip in with a biz trip.
    Thanks for the write up.

    Werner
    Don't harsh my mello

  21. #21
    Ride what you want!!
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    Quote Originally Posted by Fast Eddy
    Business, or what?
    I never get the cool business trip. I tried to get the school to send me to a teaching conference in Utah. It started to happen. But then someone realized they could send 5 or 6 teachers to local conferences for the price of sending me to Utah conference and it fell through. So all the department was offered local conferences. If I can't go somewhere new to ride, what's the point of even going?

    george
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  22. #22
    wowarizona.com
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    A couple more pics...

    Here are a few more pictures from the day.

    Heading up to the same general area with Louis this weekend. We're doing the "obscure" stuff, picking some new stuff for "All Budz" Week.

    New "Milagrosa-type" piece is kind of just emerging. Should "just appear" by March.
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    Last edited by C.J.; 02-05-2004 at 08:30 AM. Reason: typo

  23. #23
    JFR
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    Right on CJ

    Quote Originally Posted by C.J.
    Here are a few more pictures from the day.

    Heading up to the same general area with Louis this weekend. We're doing the "obscure" stuff, picking some new stuff for "All Budz" Week.

    New "Milagrosa-type" piece is kind of just emerging. Should "just appear" by March.
    Thanks for the extra pics. Say hi to Lewis and his wife for me!

  24. #24
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    Would Louis happen to be our Dirty Dog of Sun???

    It so it's great to hear he's back home. Any Tucson/or AZ peeps care to ride 50 year trail or something good on Mt. Lemon next Friday (day before 24h in the Ole Peublo)???? I'm not racing but will be i there in a support role, so I want to ride.

    b
    b

  25. #25
    wowarizona.com
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    Yes, it was the Dirty Dog of Sun

    We're riding tomorrow afternoon.

    I tried to get him to help MaryEllen and myself with support but he has "Valentine's issues".

    If you'd like, you're welcome to ride from here onto the 50 Yr Trail, next Friday. There will be a bunch of different people hanging out, but a lot are racing, so I don't know if any would be available to ride. We'll be in and out throughout the day, but that doesn't really matter. Feel free to ride, hang out, hot tub it after you ride, whatever. I'll ask Louis if he'll be around.

    CJ

  26. #26
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    Thanks CJ.

    It will be nice to see Louis again. I can find directions on your website I assume. I'll let you know when I nail down my travel plans.

    Thanks for the invite to ride from WOW.

    b

    Quote Originally Posted by C.J.
    We're riding tomorrow afternoon.

    I tried to get him to help MaryEllen and myself with support but he has "Valentine's issues".

    If you'd like, you're welcome to ride from here onto the 50 Yr Trail, next Friday. There will be a bunch of different people hanging out, but a lot are racing, so I don't know if any would be available to ride. We'll be in and out throughout the day, but that doesn't really matter. Feel free to ride, hang out, hot tub it after you ride, whatever. I'll ask Louis if he'll be around.

    CJ
    b

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