Sunday – Giddy Up
Today was the official start of PAC tour. Every day is pretty much the same, and for good reason. We have about 27 registered riders travelling from place to place with bikes and luggage and all of the associated logistical nightmares that go with us. But this is a well oiled machine, and the outfit is run with military precision. Thankfully instead of learning how to assemble AK47’s, we are lectured on proper sunscreen application and the etiquette of peeing when we’re on the road.
The mornings are cool, not cold. About 11 degrees this morning. No leg warmers or jackets needed, just a jersey and sleeves. And shorts of course. We are given maps and instructions for the day, check our tire pressure, fill our water bottles, and we’re off. It’s 7:30 am.
We ride for about 20 miles at a time, the first stretch takes us through the outskirts of Tucson. It’s nice when we finally make it out of the city. There isn’t too much to look at, but you always see the mountains in the distance, and the sky is the most incredible shade of blue.
We pass the enormous Pima Air and Space Museum, which has what seems like miles and miles of airplanes sitting around, I’m told they bring old airplanes here specifically because the climate here is so dry the metal never rots away.
There are eight of us riding together, 6 of us from Winnipeg, plus Donna and Dave, a couple from Invermere who used to live in Winnipeg. They are accomplished riders, having ridden Paris-Brest-Paris and are a good compliment to our group. Dave is retired military and comes downstairs in a bright green Liquigas kit. Donna is tiny, with a bright smile and is very easy to talk to.
We have rest stops every 20-30 miles or so, where we can rack our bikes, fill our bottles, reapply sunscreen, pee, and eat a little something. The buffet is an odd one: chips, cookies, bananas, m&m’s, beef jerky… it’s like a 7-11 exploded.
But the folks who run the show know a little something about what they’re doing. Lon Haldeman and Susan Notorangelo have each won the RAAM (Race Across America) three times. They have ridden across America more than 20 times, and combined hold more records than I can count, including Susan’s record for Paris-Brest-Paris in 1983.
The riding out here is amazing, and today was a great example of what we’ll see all week. Quiet rolling highways with magnificent views. It’s hot as hell down here, not that I’m complaining, especially with views like this:
We ride all together sometimes, and sometimes split into smaller groups. It works out well and at some point I expect to have the chance to spend time with everyone in the group.
By the end of the day everyone was hot and tired, except Scott and Ben who debated riding a bit more. They are crazy. But good crazy. We rode about 87 miles and climbed about 4,300 feet, which for this flatlander, was just plenty.
Ben was awarded the polka-dot cap for his climbing prowess. Although he claims to be out of shape after a winter of curling, he seems to be doing a pretty good job of kicking everyone’s collective butt on the hills. I think Ben is half Belgian, half billy goat.
I should note that we’re in Tombstone now, the home of Wyatt Earp, Doc Holiday, Boot Hill and the OK corral. It’s a strange place, geared heavily to tourists, but oddly charming at the same time.