Friday, May 22, 2009

A change of pace: Mission San Xavier del Bac

I'm a little bored with Gates Pass for the moment, so last night I decided to try a run down to Mission San Xavier del Bac and back. This is about a third of the famous Shootout ride, and in fact reading about the Shootout is what gave me the idea.

The bad news is that the mission is really not very far out of town, so most of the ride is in town, just getting there. I decided to do a straight shot down Mission Boulevard, which goes almost all the way down to the mission. I can't say much good about the in-town part of this ride - the shoulder is striped, but narrow, probably no more than 18" wide the whole way. It seemed relatively clean. Traffic was heavy, but not chaotic.

The last three miles are in the Tohono O'Odham nation, and I was a little concerned about that part of the ride because apparently there is a bit of bad blood between some local residents and the riders of the Shootout. But for whatever reason, as I crossed the border into Tohono O'Odham land, I felt kind of like I was coming home - maybe it reminded me a bit of the farm in Oklahoma, I don't know.

The road there is really narrow, and has a lot of traffic, but for whatever reason I felt fairly comfortable riding there - all the cars gave me a wide berth, and the traffic thinned out the farther south I got. Still, this is not an ideal route, and you can cut east and take neighborhood streets at least for the first two miles, so that might be prudent, and I will try it next time I do this ride. Of course, if you're going for speed and distance, you probably want to stay on Mission and just be careful.

The road to the mission takes you to a little town center there, with lots of speed bumps. I saw quite a few big mastiffs, but none of them approached me. The mission is a lovely and unusual structure, which I've seen from a distance many times, but never from up close.

The little community that surrounds the mission is quite small, and it was behind me very quickly as I followed San Xavier road towards I-19. The road crosses an arroyo and arrows through some rural farmland before reaching the highway. This section of the road is quite pretty, in a very Sonoran-desert way. There's one section where the road crosses a low spot and all you can see around you, other than a few houses a half mile ahead, are cacti and scrub.

The road continues into south Tucson, where it turns into Sixth Avenue as it crosses Los Reales. Sixth Avenue wasn't bad at first, but got progressively worse as I went further north toward the intersection with Nogales Highway. It may be better to cut west at Los Reales and head north on 12th to Bilby, then cut east again and head north on Liberty. On the plus side, heading north on Sixth was fast - I was pretty much keeping up with traffic, and got home very quickly. Then Andrea and I ate spaghetti and mainlined the Trueblood disc we had gotten in the mail from Netflix that morning...

Total distance: 20 miles. Time: about 1:45 (guessing). I had to fight a headwind on the way down - that's my excuse...


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