Editor’s note: Jay Rochlin has been riding bikes in Tucson for more than 40 years. He says he remembers a time when, if you saw a fellow Tucson cyclist wearing a helmet, you probably knew him or her. Rochlin also wrote this very popular post about bicycling slowly.
I was slowly riding up Mt. Lemmon, enjoying the scenery and pedaling an easy gear. I was in “appreciate the day” mode, just enjoying that here I was, minutes from home, enjoying being on my bike on one of the best climbs in the country. I tried not to feel smug knowing that others travel from around the world to train on Catalina Highway, this 25 mile stretch of smooth and gracefully curvy asphalt.
Mt. Lemmon, peak elevation of 9,157 feet, is in the Santa Catalina Mountains, just northeast of Tucson, Ariz. Depending on whether your destination is the village of Summerhaven or Mt. Lemmon Ski Valley, the mileage is somewhere between 25 and 27 miles and the elevation gain is about 6,000 feet.
Just past milepost two, another cyclist rode up behind me and uttered a friendly “On your left.”
I smiled and repeated a line (not original) that I’d used many times before, trying not to sound too pitiful: “Man, everybody’s on my left.”
Without skipping a beat, he pulled even with me, gestured to our right down toward Tucson and said, “They’re not.” I smiled.
I had already climbed enough to look across the valley that was Tucson. To the east, my far left, the Rincons. Due south, in the center of my view were the Santa Ritas dominated by Mt. Wrightson and Mt. Hopkins, home of the Multiple Mirror Telescope. To the west, my far right, were the Tucson Mountains and far away on the western horizon the Boboquivaris, which included Kitt Peak, home of the U.S. National Observatory and Boboquivari Peak itself, which according to Tohono O’odahm tradition is the center of the universe and home of I’itoy, the creator.
And of course — close in — the Tucson valley, folks driving their cars, sitting at desks, watching television, and just going about the business of the day that had to be done – 750,000 people who weren’t passing me “on the left” as I continued to pedal up Mt. Lemmon at six miles per hour.