Day 6 – Tombstone to Bisbee and Sierra Vista

Miles Ridden 80

Feet Climbed – 3,450 feet

Max Speed – 37 mph
Trip Time – 5h 14 min

Today there was two route options, a long and a short one. The long one was nixed due to some construction, leaving only a 50 mile out and back to Bisbee. At this point, 50 miles is just not enough, so we decided to tack on some extra miles to bring us up to 80. The first bit of the route would be supported, and would end with a lunch in the the town of Bisbee. Then we would be on our own for the next 60 miles.

It was beautiful, sunny and warm. One of the first days we didn’t need arm or leg warmers starting out. The road was nice, great view and good winds. Even a nice downhill blast. I had been warned about the climb into Bisbee though, and it wasn’t long before the road started it’s uphill slant. Ben, Scott and I had gone ahead and soon enough they dropped me like a hot potato. Riding solo for a few miles was peaceful and beautiful, of course until the road started to get steeper. Bit of a grind, but I pulled into the first SAG stop just as Ben and Scott were heading out. I was happy to have the climb behind me until Lon started talking about how tough the upcoming climb was going to be starting after the stop. What the hell?? Not much to be done about it, so I stuffed a couple of fig newtons in my mouth, headed for the ditch to pee (no shame at this point) and hopped back on the bike.

The climb started out about the same as before the stop, I had a gear or two left, but the knee was still preventing me from doing any standing, which can make for a tough long climb. I bore down and mashed it out, eventually running out of gears completely. Four riders from Chicago passed by me, one of them joking I should “blame it on the rental”. Haha. I decided to stick with them as long as I could and took the caboose position at the end of their line. I was hanging on for dear life when the road took another pitch upward. One of the girls dropped back, I passed her and stuck to the next wheel. When I go uphill, I have one speed, and soon I pulled ahead of the next 2 riders. The guy at the front had pulled ahead by this point, and I soldiered on, with the 3 remaining Chicago riders on my wheel. I’m not sure if any of them remained once I got to the top, I was just too relieved to check. Ben was waiting with his camera to film my final agonizing moments.

We stopped just long enough to take some “summit” pictures then were ready to bomb down the descent. Which would have been great, but the road had been washed out in an avalanche the previous week. It was no passible by car, but passible by bike. Sort of. I went screaming downhill, rounded a corner to find the road covered by gravel. Talk about worst case scenario. Screaming downhill, sharp corner and gravel. Braking on gravel is never a good idea, but I didn’t have much choice. It was either that or slam into the barricade. Light feathering of front and back brake did the trick, and thankfully I did not die. We did a little cyclocross over the mud, rocks and gravel, careful to avoid the bits of road that were missing.
Once past the worst of it, we were able to get back on the bikes and continue to motor down the descent into town. And what a town. Apparently 10 years ago the town was dying, on it’s last legs, until a group of artists and hippies started setting up homes and shops. Now the town is a bustling little mecca in the mountains, with charming cafes, shops and galleries.

We stopped for a nice long lunch, including such luxuries as espressos from a nearby cafe, as well as an indoor toilet sans butt-piercing prickles. We make a bit of a scene when we’re in public en masse. Outfitted in brightly coloured tight fitting clothes, helmets, sunglasses and cleated cycling shoes we resemble a misfit group of superheros with walking impediments.Some folks turned back to Tombstone after lunch, but we continued on past the copper mine and down the long, windy and slightly uphill highway to Sierra Vista, which was a jarring slam back to reality, complete with big box stores and fast food chains. It was terrible, and I couldn’t wait to get back onto the open road, After some deliberating we stopped at a grocery store for ice cream bars and water refills (and more indoor peeing!), We got some puzzled looks as we cruised the freezer section in our spandex and helmets, and waddled to the check out.

The road out of Sierra Vista brought us to one of my favorite stretches of the whole trip – Charleston Road. It was a 20 mile stretch of roller coaster hills through beautiful countryside. A nice downhill started the section off and there was no slowing us down. Ben and Scott and I bombed happily through this section like kids at a fair. They humoured me and let me lead all the way back to Tombstone, chatting along the way. It was awesome!!! I was tempted to ride the 20 miles back, just to do it again (opted for post-ride cocktails instead).

After we were all cleaned up from the ride we sat outside with Sid and Karen (the tandem riding couple from Calgary), Randy (a mountain bike racer from Albuquerque, NM) and Harry (a lawyer/triathlete from Georgia) for a glass or two of wine. Then off to “downtown” Tombstone for dinner at Nellie Cashman’s, named for an Irish immigrant woman known for her good deeds in the lawless town. Dinner was good, but the company and conversation was better. We left only when it was time for us to go and enjoy our nightly massages with Jonathan. Ahhhh…. Another good day.