Secondary Roads

My life on the road, exploring and adventuring. So many places to go; so many sights to see; so many things to do; so many experiences to share. The world is my bucket and the list is endless!

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Day 1 In Organ Pipe

Yesterday I rode the Ajo Mountain Loop, the only road in the park that is fully open. screenshot 2019-01-09 16.24.32That’s not really saying much though, since there are really only four roads in the park, not including Hwy 85 which cuts through the middle.  This was one of my planned rides regardless.  It’s a 21 mile scenic gravel loop road taking you up into Diablo Canyon.   Because it’s an “improved” gravel road, really meaning it’s maintained as a gravel road, I chose my gravel bike. Been a while since I’ve been on that one.  Some sections of the road were fine and smooth, others bumpy and rocky.  As you get up into the Diablo Canyon area some of the climbs are pretty steep and those sections have fullsizeoutput_17f2“paved” road to avoid getting washed out.  Good thing because a few of those sections would be really tough on loose dirt and gravel.  One of the great things about being here in the midst of winter, AND a government shutdown is that there’s is almost nobody here.  I think I may have said in my last post, the campground has nearly 200 sites and I don’t think there are 30 of them occupied.  I’m not so sure this is one of the more popular NPS units anyway, but if you’re planning to visit, I’d recommend this time of year.

fullsizeoutput_17f5Despite being Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument, there are far more Saguaro.  The


An Organ Pipe amongst Saguaro

Saguaro are not nearly as majestic as they were in the Tucson area.  Many of them there are well over 50 ft in height while here I’m not sure I’ve seen one even reach that.  I suppose, since they already have their own NP in Tucson, it was only fair to give this one to the Organ Pipes. Scenery just builds in spectacularity as you journey further in towards Ajo Mountain.  It’s a very gentle uphill trend for the first several miles as you make your way across “flat” desert towards the looming peaks.



After climbing through Diablo and reaching the northern most part of the road you find a small parking area and trailhead which you can hike up to the Double Arches.  It’s hard to see, but if you zoom in real close you can just spot the tiny arch directly over the larger one.


Double Arches

Shorty after this you’ve reached the high point on the ride and it’s mostly down hill from here.


Pano of Ajo Mountain ridge line all the way back down to the valley.  Notice, this is one of the “paved” sections of road.

Yep, another spectacular day, and then I get to come “home” for some dinner and view like this from my campsite, near sunset…… ugueyn9%qfgjjfwmkkkxmw

Life is Good!


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On To Organ Pipe, Or SCREW YOU Mr President!

After 7 weeks I’ve moved on from Tucson having only gotten to about half the things I wanted to.  That’s ok though, I’ve got no problem scheduling a return visit.  I really enjoyed it there.

I’ve come 150 miles west and a tiny bit south, nearly back on the Mexican border,


Organ Pipe Cactus

to Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument.  My trip here took me across on Route 86, right through the middle of the Tohon O’odham Nation reservation.  This highway isn’t in my Scenic Byways book, but it ought to be.  It’s a scenic ride through the southern Sonoran Desert. If you’re traveling through here I’d recommend it.  Just make sure you have gas in the tank as there are very few places to fill up.




screenshot 2019-01-08 16.10.26

Hwy 86 through Tohon O’odham Nation

It’s a pretty simple trip.  Head West for 130 miles and turn left at Why.  Not at the “Y” but at Why.  Why, Arizona, where I did stop for gas, at…….wait for it……Why Not.  There are a couple RV parks in Why, but I decided to Boondock and stay in the Monument itself.  Despite President Temper Tantrum shutting down the Gov’t, some parts of the NPS are still open.  The visitor center and some of the roads and backcountry campgrounds are closed in this park, but the main campground is


Why Not Travel Store and gas station

open.  Nobody here to check you in or anything, just kind of on the honor system.  And imagine this, there are people here, it’s not chaos or bedlam, no rules are being broken.  Sort of like we don’t need a government at all.  certainly not THIS government.  Just sayin’.




Cool fountain!

This is a huge and very nice campground.  Large sites with a lot of space and growth between.  Fairly level concrete pads in most and fantastic views all around.  As with most NPS campgrounds, no hook-ups.  No water, no power, no sewer.  No problem, I’m only here for 4 nights.  I came in with my freshwater tank full and holding tanks empty.  However, I think I may have some electrical system issues.  I’m pretty sure I should be able to make it through the night on my batteries with just the inverter running the refrigerator, but I woke up this morning to the inverter off and a low battery warning.  I didn’t run the heat so it was a chilly 48 degrees in the coach.  Warm and snuggly in bed, but gettin’ up to pee was an ordeal.  Then, my circuit breakers tripped while I was running the generator with two electric heaters going this morning.  That generator should supply plenty of power to run EVERYTHING, or so I think.  I’ll have to get this looked at when I get back to civilization.

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Day 2 In Organ Pipe

I stayed west of Hwy 85 today for a little hikeage, more in to the heart of the monument.


Hiking down the wash

It was a lollipop route, from the trailhead down to Sentia Basin, around the basin loop trail and back.  A nice, easy, walk in the park, if you will.  Very little elevation change and other than a mile where you hike down a wash, it was all along the remnants of small “roads” (fire roads really, or more accurately, double-track) which used to connect local mining claims prior to this becoming a national monument.  Don’t be fooled by the clouds, still a lovely low 60’s day without even a breeze.

Coming out of the wash you arrive shortly at the north point of the Sentia Basin Loop trail, which is really a triangle.  There’s a convenient little hill from which I took this 360 pano of the basin.




View from East to West across Sentia Basin

Nice hike.  Afterwards I drove the few miles south to Lukeville on the border.  Not really anything to see there unless you are really turned on by border crossing inspection stations. vgwndhdcqzqscysn1rikmwTomorrow I had been planning to ride Puerto Blanco Drive which really jaunts out in to the desert and heart of the park, looping west, then south, then runs right along the border before running in to Hwy 85 which would return me to the campground.  That road however, thanks to our oh-so infantile President, is currently closed.


Guess I’ll have to come up with an alternate activity.



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Broadway Blueshirts In The Desert

My last day in Tucson I spent in Phoenix. mb1h8z9%tysivizlreb5na Nope, not a typo.  Amongst my Bucket List activities is attending a NY Rangers road game (that’s NHL Hockey for any of you overseas readers) in every opponent’s arena.  I made the 150 mile drive from Tucson to Glendale, the suburb where the Gila River Arena, home of the Arizona Coyotes, is located.  But most people would think of it as Phoenix.  Growing up in NJ I have of course been to a Rangers-Devils game back when they played in the Meadowlands.  While living in Washington, D.C. I went to several games when the Rangers came to town.  I snuck in a game in Tampa against the Lightning while visiting Florida a few years back, and now this is road arena #4.  Only 26 more to go.

brm8gh7vs4wcozwc8fmghaI only grabbed my tickets on-line about week ago.  I hadn’t realized the Rangers would be here.  Thanks to the Seat Geek app, which really then just put me through to Ticket Master, I got AMAZING seats…..or seat, singular…at a most reasonable price.  Row E, five rows off the ice.  A seat like this would be AT LEAST $400 in DC and probably $500 or more in Madison Square Garden (Rangers home ice), if you could get them at all.  I paid $129.


Henrik Lundqvist contemplating the 2nd Period

I’ve never been anything like this close to the ice.


Face-off during the 1st Period

It is a completely different experience. First, you just don’t realize how big these guys are, either on TV or from the upper deck.  Yes, yes, I know, they’re on skates, but ALL of them are on skates so the comparison equals out.  Except, Mats Zucarello.  He’s still tiny.  Second, television makes the ice look quite a bit larger, or perhaps being at ice level just makes it look quite a bit smaller, but I was struck at how crowded and little ice room there was from this perspective.  It was really amazing.

Unfortunately most of the play was down the other end of the ice as the Coyotes dominated the game and CRUSCHED my beloved Blue Shirts (even though they are in their road white uniforms) 5-0.  It’s been ugly lately with the Rangers having been outscored 18-3 over the last 3 games.  I’ve been a Rangers fan for 40 years; this may be the worst 3-game stretch I’ve EVER seen.


I still had fun though, mostly because of these seats.  Moving back upstairs will be a big letdown.  And without exaggeration, if the crowd was not more than 50% Rangers fans, including nearly everyone around me, then it was extremely close to that.

Hey, it’s a rebuilding year.  The team got us excited and raised expectations with some unexpectedly fine play at times over the last several weeks.


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A Hike In Saguaro NP

My time in Tucson is dwindling quickly.  After several rainy and then frigid days, including quite the snow storm to ring in 2019, the sun and warmth have made a return. BEAUTIFUL day for a 7 mile hike back in to Saguaro East. screenshot 2019-01-04 16.52.32

screenshot 2019-01-04 16.52.54

It was not nearly as severe as this profile appears to be

Up the Douglas Springs Trail from the parking area, mwfix21brge2q5inztlgpqwhich was packed.  Seems everyone is happy for the return of sun and warmth.  Lovely 65 degrees.  Into the wilderness I head.  Desert Springs is clearly one of the most popular trails in this part of the park.  It’s wide, hard-packed and as it heads uphill its mostly “stepped.”  At one time I’d contemplated trekking up to Tanque Verde Peak, or Mica Mountain, which you see in the distance.  However, both those are well in to the wilderness and the shortest routes I could come up with were near or over 20 miles.  Even if I was in shape to make that hike, there’s not near enough daylight this time of year and let me tell you, it is COLD once the sun goes down.


Climbing up Douglas Springs Trail


From whence I came, Santa Catalina Mountains in the background

fullsizeoutput_17e2Everyone likes a nice hike.  Even the horses…  though I’m sure they’d much rather be doing it without having to lug the women up this trail.  These were not the only two I encountered.

After about 2 miles the terrain eases up, though still rises steadily in the direction of the peaks, into what would most certainly be a mountain meadow if, you know, this wasn’t the desert.  Here I made the right turn, leaving the Douglas Springs Trail for the Three Tanks Trail.  Suddenly you find yourself now on a much less traveled path.  It’s wide enough only for one at a time, desert grasses overgrowing, with no more man-made steps on the uphill and you feel like you could be hundreds of miles from anywhere.


Along Three Tanks Trail

That is until you come up over the rise and the entire valley is laid out before you.

tucson valley

No justice done here, it’s really a spectacular view of the entire valley encompassing Tucson


Another mile or so and you come to Steel Tank, one of the three denizens for which the trail is named.  Somehow I missed the Mica Tank, and the third is up the trail beyond where I joined it.gvw3cghvtvm9ocbbd1unbw


Finding Carillo Trail across this wash can prove a little tricky

This is also the intersection with the Carillo Trail onto which I now transitioned.  It was a bit tricky to find as it actually heads off behind the tank where you cross through a wash.  Luckily there were hoof prints to lead me.

Carrillo Trail takes you down, far more gently than Douglas Springs brought you up, along a pretty spectacular wash that I just couldn’t capture well in photos, to Wild Horse Canyon.  Shortly past Garwood Dam, the reason for which I’m not quite sure, but it’s there nonetheless, I made a hard right on to Garwood Trail for the final 1.75 miles back to the trailhead.  Along this trail exists one of the most spectacular sights you are likely to see anywhere in this part of the country.  I was a bit surprised it was not cordoned off for protection but there it was not 10 feet off the Garwood Trail.  The extremely rare and oft sought after…

Broccoli Saguaro (Carnegiea Gigantea Broccolinis).  Sometimes also called the Afro Saguaro.


Carnegiea Gigantea Broccolinis

This was a great hike.  Nothing too strenuous, with just enough elevation to be a rigorous few hours and not a second of which is not absolutely stunning scenery.

Here’s the Relive vid…..

Relive ‘Carrillo – Three Tank Trails’


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Making Mt Lemmon-ade

It’s been a while since I’ve posted anything but I’ve just been enjoying “living” in Tucson. It’s really a recreation paradise.  So, I’m about to expound on yet another ride and I’m starting to wonder if those of you who read along here are starting to think, “Oh great (with rolling eyes) he’s done another bike ride.”  Too much???  I realize it’s my passion and not yours.

This ride, however, was one of epic proportion.  It’s been on my bucket list since I saw an article several years ago about some of the great bike climbs in America.  Mt Lemmon is, in itself, a more than sufficient reason to visit Tucson if you’ve never been.  Whether you go up via motorized vehicle or on a bicycle, it is a spectacular journey.  I’ve now done it both ways. Screenshot 2018-12-23 16.01.18

Y42kHLOlSYWgwzBqyj2pyQFrom Agua Caliente Park, where I started, to Ski Valley is 28.5 miles.  I ended up turning around at exactly 28 miles, which I’ll explain in a bit.  It is one mile slightly downhill out of the park.  From there, with the exception of two short slight downhill sections totaling less than 1/4 mile combined, it is uphill for more than 22 miles.  By far the longest sustained climb I’ve done.  The grades are not very steep, but it is just relentless climbing. ynFQPOpKSweeYsPurwp3rg Agua Caliente Park sits at 2750 ft elevation.  I topped out in the Whitetail area at just over 8100 feet, experiencing temperatures from as high as 68 degrees to as low as 37 degrees.  Even colder when you consider I hit well over 30 mph on those descents at the top so the windchill had to be at least 5-10 degrees colder.  It was certainly chilly.


A bit hard to tell, the first tarantula I’d seen since being in Texas. They do like crossing roads.

Needless to say, it was a beautiful day for a bike ride.  Sunny and almost no wind.  I got started, well, a lot later than I’d wanted to.  Cold mornings have made me lazy and I


Nope, not Mt Lemmon.  It’s Thimble Peak.

lounged through breakfast waiting for the day to warm up. U9OE5b2gS+OKAzpYMQYAyQ I wasn’t really sure how long it would take me to make the climb and with sunset a little after 5 pm I wasn’t assured at all of making it to the top, starting at 11:45 am.  I didn’t mind the idea of finishing in the dark but the gates of Agua Caliente Park lock at sunset, so I set a time limit and decided no matter where I was I would stop going uphill at 3:30 pm.

I had on my ultra thin base layer shirt, but other than that was in short-sleeve jersey, bibs and fingerless gloves.  In my pack I had arm warmers, knee warmers a mid weight jacket and full finger cold weather gloves along with my food and 100 oz bladder of water.


Nothing like dragging an extra 15 lbs up a mountain.  The air, as always here in the desert in winter, was cool but the sun quite warm and I was perfectly comfortable for most of the way up.  Miles 14.5 to 16.5, heading southwest up to Windy Point were far cooler as I climbed in to a headwind coming through the mountain gap but still not uncomfortable.

Screenshot 2018-12-23 17.18.01

Temperature vs Elevation Profile for my ride

It really wasn’t until topping out at 8105 ft and hitting the 2 mile descent that changed.  And boy did it change, as I went from comfortable cool to not being able to feel my fingers, feet or arms and freezing in about half a mile.  There was still snow left over up here from when it poured in Tucson and snowed at elevation the week prior.  Then a short climb with numb quads, another short, bone chilling descent to Summerhaven, the town near the top, and then turning off the main road to climb up to Ski Valley.


The road actually continues past Ski Valley and climbs another 1.5 mile up to an observatory.  This had been my original goal when I planned this ride.  This road, though, is a good bit steeper once you turn off at Summerhaven.  With my late start, the cold up at this elevation, my legs beginning to really fatigue on the steeper grade and knowing I had to get back up those last two descents before my LONG descent back to the valley I decided to stop at mile 28.  I didn’t realize I was just a half mile from Ski Valley at the time, but no regrets.  It was getting very near my cutoff time and need to leave myself a few minutes to eat a bit and put on some of


View from Geology Vista near 7000 ft.

my warmer clothing for the trip down.  I put on my arm warmers, my jacket and my warmer gloves and I’ll tell you now I was completely warm and toasty for the rest of the ride.


Climbing back up the 2+ miles at the top of the mountain turned out far easier than I expected.  Going down hills I know I have to climb back up always makes them seem steeper to me than they actually are.  Sooner than I thought I was rocketing down the long descent, temperatures getting warmer by the minute.  Far sooner than I thought, I was back at the park with plenty of time to spare before sunset.  3:27:22 up; 01:13:56 down.  I certainly could have made that half mile to Ski Valley, but again, no regret at turning around when I did.  I climbed Mt Lemmon and it was fantastic.

Not to mention, there is a dirt forest service road that comes up the other side of the mountain which I plan to climb one day as well, though not this time in Tucson.  That’s one where I’ll definitely want a full day of sunlight available.

Relive ‘My Lemmon’


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Boy In The Great Glass Bubble

Some of you may remember when, in the early 1990’s,biospere graphic eight “Biospherians” were sealed up in this facility in the Arizona desert for a two year experiment.  In the decades since it has changed hands a few times and is now owned and operated by the University of Arizona which is in Tucson.  While it is no longer “sealed” and is open to the public for tours, it is still a major operating experimental and educational facility, and pretty darn cool.

When I found this was nearby I had to take the hour drive up to Oracle to visit.  It is


What about Bioshpere1?  Well, you are currently living in it.

actually not nearly as remote as you might think and is really an engineering marvel.  Despite the fact they do not keep it sealed it is still the most airtight building in the world, losing only 10% of it’s atmosphere over a year.  By comparison the International Space Station loses 10% per day.  They have 5 distinct biomes under all that glass including a tropical rain forest and an ocean.  The white paneled area was the crew living quarters and laboratories, now converted to public exhibits, some labs still, and the theater where the tours begin.  You can find out all about the facility and ongoing research at  I’ll keep this post to my tour experience .


I had some time before my tour started so I meandered through the exhibit above the theater which is highly geared towards the issues of food, water and energy in space colonization.  VERY interesting.  In this area you can also get a view into one of the crew apartments, which were 2 floors and quite spacious considering the circumstances.  I also found the kitchen/dining room.


Dining room and kitchen

While there is no wandering around, the tour does take you through or in to all of the biomes.


Under the great glass “dome”


The ocean, with “everglades” in the background.  Yes, there are fish and invertebrates in the ocean.

The yellow rope grid over the ocean is preparation for a year long research project they are getting ready to begin involving coral reefs.  This is ACTUAL ocean water, brought in from the Gulf of California (or Sea of Cortez if you prefer) when the facility was built in the late 1980’s.  They even have a desert, in the desert…Wa3jKdGUS8qJwchpBsZK5gIt is not, however, Sonoran desert which is what is outside.  The plants and climate maintained here are that of coastal or “fog” desert such as found on the west coast of Africa or Australia and parts of California.  This ecosystem is dependent on fog formed by the interactions of desert climate and ocean for moisture.  The tour then takes you underneath to what they call the “Technosphere” to get a glimpse at the machinery that makes this all possible. 

s6BE%qeWROKw7NQdbeh9SA  jFJ9BrhORfGIZs4q%TVyTQ

You may have noticed in my exterior photo above, a large dome on the right side.  This is


The West Lung

one of two domes that are called the “Lungs.”  Because this was designed as a closed, sealed system, they needed a way to deal with the expanding and contracting airmass inside the facility as temperatures in the different biomes either naturally, or by manipulation, rise and decline.  Hence, the Lungs.  Air from the facility can be allowed to flow via tunnel into or out of the Lungs as necessary.  Contained within the dome you see, they are enormous round rooms with a “rubberized” bladder


Sandra taking us into the South Lung

 ceiling, much like the material of an inflatable zodiac boat.  As warming air from the facility expands and flows into the room the ceiling rises and as cooling air contracts it flow out of the Lungs and the ceiling lowers.   



Tunnel into the Lung


The ceiling is 60 tons of material, completely supported ONLY by the air pressure in the room.  Sandra, our tour guide opened an outer door, releasing air and you can actually watch the ceiling slowly descend.  Incredible.


Interior of the South Lung

The tour lasts a little over an hour and is really fascinating.  Afterwards, or without taking the tour, you are free to wander the remainder of the facility, including viewing the ocean from underneath in the viewing gallery. 

 Suffice it to say, this was a really cool day.