Up and down: Sports editor
takes on a trail;
How better to learn the Green Valley sports/rec scene than to get out there and join the players. So we're sending sports editor and office young guy Christopher Boan out to tackle some new sports and to answer a burning question: Can a 23-year-old guy hang with Green Valley's finest?
Sports editor Christopher Boan (center) celebrates his successful bike ride with Bill Adamson (left) and Chuck Hill
Green Valley mountain bikers (from left) Chuck Hill, Bruce Gallagher, Ron Bear, Bill Adamson and Tim Stewart ride along the trail at Marley Ranch on Monday
When I was asked to join some of Green Valley's best mountain bikers for a tour of Marley Ranch south of Green Valley, I figured it would be a great way to enjoy the scenery while getting a workout.
I expected the ride to be a tutorial of sorts, and not the strenuous ride I ended up on. The trail had scores of cactuses lining each side which, given my lack of coordination, was daunting.
As you may remember, I earned the nickname "King of the Chollas" after my hiking expedition into the great outdoors of Pima County, so I was apprehensive as we set out down the sandy, uneven trail.
I proceeded to wobble my way for two or three miles, falling twice but avoiding the chollas.
The gentlemen brave enough to bike with me as I struggled to keep my pro-grade mountain bike pointed in the right direction slowed their pace to meet mine, which I appreciated.
As I maneuvered along the switchbacks that makes up a good deal of the trail, I never really got to enjoy much of the scenery. This was because my eyes were glued my to the trail to avoid hitting a rock and flying over my handlebars.
The ride, organized by biking guru Bill Adamson, led us along a patch of the 114,000-acre ranch. The group stopped for a break after the third mile and my second, somewhat controlled fall off my fancy bike.
All of the men I biked with shared a similar sentiment on why they love biking the great desert wonderland that is Southern Arizona. You come for the exercise but stay for the jaw-dropping views of mountains and open land.
The group consists of about 30 men and women who meet up at various trails around Green Valley for rides each week. I was impressed by the workout on my four-mile ride, which was a cake walk compared to the runs the more experienced riders in the group tackle each week.
Adamson said the diverse terrain in and around Green Valley is what draws him to the rides.
"I always liked how Arizona was more ranch and mining roads, and how our high desert environment has lots of beautiful scenery and wildlife," he said. "So every place you mountain bike at down here is different, which is one of the great things about getting to bike here."
I was joined Monday by five experienced bikers who have lived in Green Valley anywhere from two weeks to 16 years.
The newest and youngest member the ride was 64-year-old Bruce Gallagher, who moved into an RV park in town from Rifle, Colo., two weeks ago. Gallagher said he has already fallen in love with Southern Arizona.
“The flora is just amazing, and I think that when most people think of of the desert they don't think it's a place they want to be,” he said. “But for me, it's just the opposite. I love it out here."
Others, like 68-year-old Ron Bear, are drawn to the physical upside. "I look at a bicycle and see exercise, and it's the best form of exercise that I've ever done in my life," said Bear, who has been mountain biking for two years. "We have great weather most of the year, and have great trails. And if you don't have trails you can make one and still have fun."
One of the most experienced riders in the group is 71-year-old Tim Stewart. Stewart has biked since he was a kid in Michigan and said the sport's greatest attribute is its longevity. "It's really not as difficult as many people think," he said. "I've only been doing it for three years, and you can really ride at whatever level you'd like. I know people in other groups that still ride in their 80s, so you can ride according to your physical level, which is what I enjoy most about it."
Chuck Hill ends out emails and updates to members, many of whom are affiliated with but not exclusively part of the Southern Arizona Mountain Biking Association (SAMBA). Hill said the group's informal structure is unique. "We have a lot of fun every time we go out," he said. "I'll send announcements to maybe 30 or 35 people to meet at a certain place for a ride and usually around half a dozen will show up. We're not too organized, but we have a good time."
It became abundantly clear that I was in over my head on the ride, especially after I twisted my bum left knee on the ride back to the parking lot. The ride, while tough and slightly painful, was still worthwhile, because it gave me an opportunity to step outside my day-to-day routine and see the beauty of the area.
I continue to be amazed at the athleticism shown by Green Valley residents and am honored to get blown off the trail by guys two to three times my age. Seeing the members live active lives at their age gives me something to shoot for when I'm older.
Bear summed up the group's demeanor toward newer, less-experienced mountain bikers like me during our break.
"This group rides in very diverse kinds of riding in the high desert, from beginner to difficult," he said. "But the group always makes sure to look out for everybody else, to make sure that nobody gets left behind, which means waiting here or there. They're just good people, and I'm glad to be able to ride with them."
I thank the mountain biking group for not leaving me behind, and am glad to say I have at least tried the sport they are so passionate about.
Christopher Boan | 547-9747