Two self-contained bikepackers take a van supported trip
My buddy David and I signed up for Adventure Cycling’s first-ever Patagonia van supported gravel tour, which we sandwiched between our two self-supported Sky Island Odyssey Loops. Was quite a treat to carry little and enjoy some new terrain!
Having spent some time in the Patagonia area in December and early February, I knew some of the routes and terrain we’d traverse, but was looking forward to the unencumbered version. We met the Adventure Cycling leaders, Kelly and Johnny on the morning of March 3rd to go over the four day trip details.
Our first night was indoors at the Stage Stop Hotel, so our first ride was a loop to Patagonia Ridge and San Raphael Valley. it was a chilly morning, but soon warmed up. a wonderful way to start things off. Easy climbing and enjoyed reconnecting with Johnny who had led my ACA Leadership Course in March 2020, as the pandemic was just surfacing.
The winds increased greatly on the second day as we made our way across the San Raphael Valley on over the rolling hills to Parker Lake State Park for our overnight.
Despite the wind, this was a beautiful route, passing through fields of prairie grass and remote ranches. The final stretch was chunky gravel and slightly up hill, so progress was slow. After a few final climbs I arrived at the Rocky Bluff Group Site, a gorgeous spot and all to ourselves.
The advantage of van support was evident as I got to camp and my cold beer was waiting for me! Quite the luxury. Everyone choose their sites amidst numerous options, and we even had immaculate pit toilets – never seen such clean ones. This was my night on cooking rotation, the core of ACA’s group philosophy. It’s always a good time and our chorizo/veggie stew was delicious. Was dark by the time we finished cleaning up and we took advantage of the massive firepit in the calm night to gather around it.
Today’s ride was our longest at over 50 miles, from Parker Lake to Patagonia State Park. my plan was to make this day last as long as possible and enjoy it. David headed out before me and I never caught him the whole day, so mission accomplished. Riding through the arroyos and flats along the Mexican border was peaceful and very sandy. The silent town of Lochiel is the only inhabited place and I saw only a few riders coming from the other direction.
Stopped at the Fray Marcos de Niza Historical Landmark before starting the climb into the San Raphael Mountains on the way to Kino Springs. Views were magnificent and the descent to Hwy 82 was long and steady. Glad to have 3″ tires for the soft spots where sand had washed across the road. Spectacular!
In Beyerville it was back on pavement for the final 10 miles to Patagonia State Park. Our ride leader Kelly stopped while I was taking a break along the road and gave me a much appreciated Coke. The stretch wasn’t terrible and traffic generally gave me a wide berth, but was happy to turn onto the quiet road to the park. The last hilly stretch was enough and arriving in camp felt good.
Today was a paved ride back to Patagonia. There were more options for longer rides once there, but knowing we were starting the Sky Islands West Loop in another day made the choice for an easy spin the way to go. Gathered up with the crew and enjoyed some Gathering Ground treats from Kelly and Johnny. Very sweet end to our trip.
Can see how this type of supported ride is popular, the planning, support and gear hauling is someone else’s job, so all you have to do is ride! Kelly and Johnny were super positive about everything and were able to corral a dozen riders of varying abilities and make it special for each. Bravo.