We wanted to be sure to see the famous Rattlesnake Bridge, a pedestrian-bicycle bridge, while here in Tucson, and what better way than to ride over to it? Naturally we took the long way round, so getting there took nearly two hours on roads and bike paths, while the much-more-direct route back to our condo took less than an hour.
This bridge is seriously cool! You ride through the belly of the beast from mouth, complete with fangs, to tail -- or vice versa! Supposedly the tail used to "rattle", but that function may be out of order, as it didn't make a sound for us. But still, this is a fun as well as practical way to help walkers, runners, and cyclists get around near downtown Tucson.
Here's another great-looking bridge the bike route crosses en route to the Snake Bridge.
And a view of the heart of downtown Tucson towards the west...
After leaving the Rattlesnake Bridge heading north, we rode up vibrant, eclectic 4th Avenue, which is chock-a-block with colorful little shops, restaurants, a food co-op, and drinking holes. It looked like a fun place to hang out, grab a bite to eat or a beer, or stroll along and take in the local color. Very artsy!
There are streetcar rails running up and down the street, though we didn't actually see one when we went through. The cycling infrastructure in this area is well-planned, with bike lanes and plenty of signage just for cyclists. So unusual and much appreciated by folks like us who would rather ride than drive any day!
Next we turned east and rode through the University of Arizona campus. It was definitely hopping as this was a school day, and there were college students everywhere. Lots of bikes as well! I never saw this many at UNC-Chapel Hill back in the day.
I loved the sunny campus and palm trees and can see how this would be a great place to go to school, especially for someone weary of cold weather.
Leaving campus, there were several blocks that only cyclists were allowed to ride both east and west on -- motor vehicles could only drive west. Since we were heading east, that was perfect! Note the "Do Not enter -- Bicycles Exempt" sign in the photo below. These cyclist-specific traffic lights were also fun. Look closely!
All in all, another fantastic ride about town, aside from a majority of the roads being bumpy and cracked and thus painful on the cyclist's butt! If only Tucson did as good a job with their street paving as they do with the other aspects of cycling infrastructure, they'd really have something to crow about.
Every now and then we have to take a day off from bicycling to check out some of the other things to see and do around the Tucson area. Friday we drove over to the far west side of the city (a surprisingly long drive from where we're staying in the east side) to the Arizona Sonora Desert Museum. This combination museum, botanical garden, zoo, and aviary is the top-ranked (of 173!) attractions in Tucson by Tripadvisor. We weren't the only ones to have the same idea as the museum was quite busy, but possibly a bit less crowded than it would have been on a weekend. It was a fun, interesting, and educational way to spend a beautiful day.
From the trails running all over the outside areas of the museum, there were breathtaking views to the west of the desert and mountains beyond.
There were quite a few indoor exhibits, including this beautiful cave.
Down in the cave, I got to try on some long-eared bat ears. Yes, I am probably the only non-child to do this, but who cares -- it was fun!
Although we didn't make it to the huge gem and mineral show here in the city, there was a nice selection of gems and minerals to check out here as well. This is just one of several nice display cabinets.
Back outdoors, I loved this whimsical treehouse made from mesquite logs. And of course the views were to die for.
Naturally there was a large variety of different cacti to see here. Forgive me, but I didn't pay attention to the names, just enjoyed looking.
There were many large enclosures with natural environments for wildlife. Some were hiding or sleeping so we couldn't get good photos, but the javelinas were moving about.
This large iguana was sunning himself up high on a rock. Reminded us of the many we saw while living in Belize.
There was a pair of bighorn sheep in an enclosure -- here's the nice-looking male.
There were some pretty flowers in some of the different gardens, and I imagine there will be even more things in bloom later. Since we understand that it's been a very dry period here, I wonder how much prettier the plants would have been at a wetter time of year.
This cactus is going to be gorgeous when it's in full bloom -- it was just starting to bud out.
Some of the plants attracted hummingbirds, butterflies, and/or bees or wasps.
Here we are in front of the bee garden area. Not a great shot but the best we could do with our self-timer and trying to work fast before someone else came into the garden.
Of course, one of the main reasons we came to the museum was to see birds, and that we did. Cactus Wrens, the state bird of Arizona, were everywhere.
There was even a nesting pair right next to the trail!
In addition to many free-flying birds throughout the outdoor museum, there was a large aviary. Here are some of the birds we saw inside its gates.
Probably my very favorite exhibit of the entire museum was the Hummingbird aviary. So many hummingbirds zooming around was delightful, and we saw a nesting Anna's very close up. She wasn't budging from her nest, even as people took her photo. She proved to be extremely photogenic, don't you agree?
We also saw many male and female Anna's and Costa's Hummingbirds. A treat indeed!
After a long time spent at the museum followed by a long drive back to the east side of town, we were ready for an easy dinner, and this takeout chicken, green chili, and tomato pizza filled the bill. Yum!
Stay tuned for more Tucson adventures!
The picture-perfect weather continues here in Tucson, with temperatures taking a turn to the even warmer side this week. We're talking shorts weather! So, we are taking full advantage of our escape from winter by riding as often as we can.
On Thursday we rode the Collossal Cave - Pistol Hill loop route, a favorite of Tucson cyclists. This ride on the east side of Tucson includes some amazing mountain views, not-too-terrible climbs, and a long, fun descent of Freeman Road near the end. Here's a map of the route as well as the out-and-back elevation profile.
There are bike lanes pretty much the whole way, and we're able to ride over to the start from the condo where we're staying, since it's on the east side of the city. Did I mention it was a beautiful day for a ride? Temperatures were above normal for this time of year, and I believe this is the first day we started out without any extra clothing besides bike shorts and short-sleeved jerseys.
The route takes us right by Saguaro National Park East, which we plan to visit while we're here. The saguaro is the largest cactus in the US and just says "west" to me. I love these cacti, and love that they are protected in this national park.
At the end of Old Spanish Trail is the Colossal Cave Mountain park (and a fee station), but we didn't continue in. The road gets very steep beyond this sign, so I was happy to turn around -- but we still had the Pistol Hill climb ahead of us.
After a nice little descent, we took a left turn to start climbing Pistol Hill. I had been intimidated, but it really isn't bad at all; I just downshifted into my granny gear and spinned easy on up.
The view from the top was killer, but a photo just can't do it justice. And the hill looks totally flat here. Trust me, it's not.
Once you reach the top of Pistol Hill, your reward awaits: miles of gentle descent. This is why we ride, folks. Oh, and for the post-ride goodies, of course! Here I am signaling to take a quick granola bar and water stop on the way back.
After taking in some calories and passing the Saguaro National Park on the way down, we headed north onto Freeman Road. This lovely stretch of pavement runs north/south right alongside the national park land boundary on the east, so we had great views of the mountains to the east and straight ahead. Freeman is smoothly paved, unlike many of the other roads in the city, which are buckled and bumpy, and it has a wide bike lane. And heading north, a huge bonus is that it's all downhill for 3.7 miles, with only one stop sign. It was a rare and delightful treat to ride. This is when you feel like a kid on your bike again!
Finally we reached the bottom and turned west onto Speedway, a major east-west artery through the city. Fortunately it's not too terribly busy this far east, and we didn't have too far to go to return to the condo. We stopped briefly only to take a photo of this attractive monument along the way.
The total route was around 43 miles round-trip from the condo. We'll definitely repeat this one another day!
Emily & Barry
We're a long-married, early-retired couple who are currently traveling as nomads with no fixed home base. After years of living in North Carolina (Emily's home state), we spent 18 months living oceanfront on Ambergris Caye, Belize, a year road-tripping the US in a Honda CR-V, a year in Playa del Carmen, Mexico, and are now roaming North America in our 32' motorhome, Pearl, following warm weather whenever possible.
Favorite Travel Blogs