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Saturday, January 22, 2000

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The west end of the Rillito

I went on a long ride west along the Rillito today. It was in the 70s with a bright overcast sky. I was a little chilly till I got going. There was a balloon floating over the shopping center on the opposite side of the wash. There are quite a few people walking and cycling along the Rillito. The ground was covered with the tiny leaves from the Palo Verde. It's been so dry that they are dropping their leaves.

I passed a couple of little kids on their bicycles. They had to be barely kindergarten but they were moving along well, with training wheels of course. Their parents were walking near them protectively. One guy with a neon outfit rode by me twice as I dawdled along. I recognized a couple of the regulars.

Where the official Riverpark ended I rode under La Cholla Boulevard and along the Rillito on the unimproved bank of the wash. By unimproved I mean there is just the metal railings and cement dumped to stabilize the banks. The riding is very bumpy as much of the concrete is washboarded. I tried to ride on the dirt to the side as much as possible.

They have bridges set up across the side washes but the ramps up to them aren't done so I walked my down and up the wash. You can tell that there is quite a bit of bike traffic across, much of it probably kids, but I'm too chicken to ride down such steep slopes and too out of shape to ride up the other side.

Between the side washes I rode away from the Rillito through the scrub on the web of dirt paths and roads made by bikes and ORVs. The housing development was surrounded by a cement wall to protect it, but a couple kids in a tree house waved at me. It's nice to see that kids still have tree houses.

After the second side wash I rode on a raised dike halfway between the houses and the washes. I wondered if it was an attempt to protect from flooding. Soon there was a park, Pegler Wash Park, on my right and on my left, across the Rillito, was a junk yard with the old cars piled up. Between the Rillito and the interstate it's mainly an industrial area.

I rode across Camino de la Tierra and the Rillito turned north with a huge hole in the ground on the right (a quarry?). I was stopped when it went under the railroad and the interstate, as there is a fence there and in my wanderings I don't, usually, climb over fences, though this one was more a warning than a barrier. Soon after the interstate it joins the Santa Cruz River which flows (when there's water in it) north to the Gila River which flows south west to join the Colorado River near Yuma.

I rode back to the Camino de la Tierra and rode through the Rillito as this is the only place in Tucson where you actually drive down into the wash and across. They are working on it now so I had to ride on the very edge to avoid getting run over. On the south side it was still rather scary as the cars and trucks drove by very close to me. Finally I got on the construction road, thank goodness they aren't working on a Saturday.

The road curved to the left and I stayed on the dirt road which had basically turned into an alley and ran along the east side of the railroad. Beyond the railroad was the frontage road and then I-10. It was fun riding back there and watching the cars whiz by on the interstate and a train pass right next to me. That was a little noisy. On my left were mainly old, run down mobile homes. I rode under a huge billboard. You don't realize how big these signs are while driving along the interstate.

Finally it ended and I had to back track a bit through houses and trailer parks to get to Ruthrauff Road. I crossed under the interstate, which was not fun. There is not a good way to cross I-10 on a bike. All the underpasses have no room for a bike and on the Ruthrauff one you have the choice of endangering your life or riding on the dirt edge which consists of part dirt and part pigeon droppings (and one dead pigeon).

There was water flowing in the Santa Cruz so they must be letting off some of the cap water. I rode to the Christopher Columbus Park to eat lunch and watch the fishermen. They look so sad just sitting there for hours. I don't understand what's fun about it. There is a constant hum since there is a remote control airplane and boat area at this park. It sounded like thousands of mosquitos. I noticed my front tire was losing air so I rode back under the interstate to air up my tire.

Since I hadn't brought my tire patch kit I decided that I had better ride on home, on streets this time, along Ruthrauff and Romero then on Prince to my apartment. There is a bus I could have used if the tire went completely flat but it only runs once an hour. I made it home but it was already getting soft.

I was tired as it had been a long ride and much of it was dirt paths but my Tucson atlas was ten years old and didn't have some of the areas I'd been in shown very well, so I had an excuse to walk down to the map store and get a new one. Maps are so cool! Tucson is growing too fast to keep the edges current on the maps. Technically the edges aren't Tucson but Pima County and surrounding cities. My ride today was in Pima County once I passed Oracle.

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Walked - 1/2 mile
Biked - 20+ miles

(c) Rachel Aschmann 2000.
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