Sunday, February 23, 2020

Old Pueblo

The saguaro cactus, that iconic image of the Sonoran desert, doesn’t begin to produce flowers until it is over 70 years old, and it won’t grow its first arm until its 90s. Things bloom late around here.

That seems to be the case for road cycling too. Riding around Tucson this week, I’ve been amazed to see so many older people on cycles. On the Rillito River trail, in particular, everywhere you look, it’s greybeards, wrinkled faces, weathered skin; upright fanny-packing comfort-bike riders and skinny, super-fit grandmas on expensive road bikes; older men, older women, couples, groups, singles, you name it, all out having a blast, by the look of it. And a lot of them look remarkably fit, with skinny, taut cycling bodies. They ride road bikes, mountain bikes, recumbents, whatever. I saw more recumbents during my first day on the Rillito than I’ve seen in the past ten years.

At first, I thought, okay, the Rillito is not representative of Tucson cycling. It’s a lovely paved recreational trail that snakes across the city, and therefore it has obvious appeal to less confident cyclists who don’t want to mix it up with vehicles. It makes sense that this is where low-key recreational oldster cyclists would come to ride.

But on the many painted bike lanes of the roads of Tucson it was pretty much the same. The aged were everywhere--though many of them were more serious road cyclists than what I saw on the Rillito. Strange as it sounds, we, a handful of mid-50s riders, were bringing down the average age of Tucson cyclists.

And then we went to Le buzz. It’s a cycling cafe in northeast Tucson, near the base of Mount Lemmon, one of the classic mountain climbs of American cycling. Le buzz seems to always have a ton of road bikes out front, as folks either caffeine-up for the ascent or celebrate apres-climb. Climbing Mount Lemmon is a serious undertaking, the other end of the spectrum from the Rillito trail. And yet looking around the crowded patio on a Tuesday afternoon, all I saw was older adults, men and women in their 50s, 60s, and, I kid you not, a few who looked to be in their 70s. All of them happy as clams to be riding their bicycles up a mountain. It was like some bizarre cycling version of Cocoon.

Weird as it is, I have to say I find it heartening. Thoughts of growing old tend, so often, to be of the negative kind, of what we’re afraid won’t work anymore--our memories, our bodies. Let us learn from the saguaro and the cyclists of the Old Pueblo that sometimes, just when we think our best days are over, things are just hitting their stride.

1 comment:

  1. What a great vision of old age, Jasper. I look forward to sharing it with you.


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