A mood-altering ride on Tucson’s east side

Editor’s note: Freelance writer Scott Lunt spends his cycling time piecing together impromptu loop rides and running occasional errands. Soaking in the Tucson sun since 1994, he can be found two-wheeling around town on his Bacchetta Giro 20 recumbent.

End of Speedway

Chillin' in the humidity at the end of Speedway.

The morning of Independence Day, I decided to do one of my favorite short rides to the end of Speedway Boulevard to see the recently completed road improvements.

A nighttime monsoon storm had soaked this side of town, it was muggy and I was feeling a little cranky. Traffic was light yet several vehicles passed much too closely to me, their right-side tires touching the edge line. Whoosh, whoosh! I was getting irritated; after all, the new improvements widened the road with four lanes.

As I approached Harrison Road, signaling that I was moving into the bike lane that continues through the intersection, a big, white Dodge pickup behind me suddenly roared ahead and cut me off so he could turn right. His rig was decorated with U.S. flag stickers and a red, white and blue license plate frame.

Up went my arm in anger — not the middle finger salute, but more of a New York cabby’s “Whatsa’ matta’ you?” gesture. I had gone from cranky to furious. Happy Independence Day to you motherf_____!

And I realized I needed to calm down.

Soon I was at the end of Speedway at Saguaro National Park. The air was thick with the sweet smells of wet creosote, grasses and mesquite. I was captivated by the liquid songs of a phainopepla. Mushrooming clouds of heavy moisture clung to Tanque Verde Ridge and the lush Sonoran Desert looked vibrant and tropical. This is one of my favorite places on the planet, and I finally forgot about the patriotic moron in the Dodge who tried to take away my freedom of the road.

The ride home along the same route was carefree and fast, as I felt a burst of energy I wish I had on every ride. It’s one that doesn’t come from gels or endurance drinks, but from some mysterious source in my brain.

Speedway sculpture Messenger

"Messenger" by artist Caryl Clement is part of the east Speedway beautification.

I enjoyed the smooth asphalt, fresh landscaping and new art that lines the improved road. That is until I was forced into traffic by a landscaper’s pickup truck which was parked in the bike lane so a man could diligently rake the gravel. I stopped at the next red light, annoyed, and listened as a car pulled up with windows down and music blaring. Friend or foe I wondered. I glanced over and saw a mustachioed man sipping a drink out of a huge plastic mug and rocking to Johnny Cash:

“Well now, we got married in a fever, hotter than a pepper Sprout,
We’ve been talkin’ ’bout Jackson, ever since the fire went out.
I’m goin’ to Jackson, and that’s a fact.
Yeah, we’re goin’ to Jackson, ain’t never comin’ back.”

The driver looked up at me from his big drink and I said “How you doing?”

“Great, how are you?” he grinned.

“Fantastic,” I answered. And I meant it. Despite the clueless drivers, there are also some courteous ones. The light changed and he pulled away, giving me wide berth. This town does have good people, great riding and a fabulous outdoor culture. I realized that after all the years I’ve been living here, I’ve never stopped loving it. And with Cash’s voice still in my head, I thought:

I left Salt Lake City in ’94, headed for Tucson town,
and I ain’t never goin’ back.

3 comments
Dick Dickinson
Dick Dickinson

I do not believe that this story really happened. 

Frank Tellez
Frank Tellez

"The air was thick with the sweet smells of wet creosote, grasses and mesquite. " Love this. Possibly the best smell in all the world.

Martha Retallick
Martha Retallick

Two thoughts: 1. I'll bet Mr. Patriotic Pickup driver hasn't gotten any exercise in years. And there you are, Scott, out getting exercise on HIS road. The nerve of you! 2. I plead guilty to singing along to good music coming out of cars. It's even more fun to harmonize with it.