I moved to Tucson from back east in 1978 as part of a job transfer and brought along an almost new bike that I had purchased from my uncle for $25. It had a classy 3 speed T-bar shifter lever mounted on the top tube and went like the wind - a head wind, that is. After weeks of training I managed to make it from my house in the Foothills over to the Saguaro National Park with only one or two rest stops along the way. I wondered then if it was possible get in sufficient shape to ride that far without rest stops along the way. Eventually I continued my ride further out Old Spanish Trail as far as Colossal Cave, but that, too, required multiple rest stops. I repeated that ride every weekend until I could do it with only one rest stop along the way. That was real progress. But I wondered where else I could ride.
I signed up with GABA simply as a way of getting their monthly newsletter in order to find other places to ride my bike. I sure had no plans to actually go on their rides or attend their meetings. Surely GABA people would be goofy! That’s when I learned of their supported day rides! Wow! Someone else provided food and drink and all I had to do was to pedal my bike? What a deal! Where does the line form? I eventually even took a chance at signing up for GABA’s Sonoita-Bisbee overnight ride, but that final climb up Mule Mountain on Day 1 before descending into Old Bisbee almost did me in! On Day 2 I worried the whole way to Sierra Vista about having to once more re-climb Mule Mountain before realizing that we had gone around Mule Mountain and wouldn’t have to go back up it. So why didn’t we take that route to Bisbee to start with and skip that hill climb altogether? Oh, and I discovered that not all of the GABA people were goofy!
Before long I was signing up for all of the century rides: Silverbell Century (back when it actually went to the old town of Silverbell), Pichaco Century (Who can even find the old town of Pichaco any longer?), Coolidge Century (What monument is found there?), Tom Mix Spring Wildflower Century (How many of the current members have ever been there – or even remember who Tom Mix was?), Casa Grande Century, Tumacacori Century, among others.
This then gave me the training (and confidence) to start tackling the much harder two and three day weekend rides (Salt River Canyon Tour, Blue Loop Tour, Luna Lake Tour, Organ Pipe Tour, etc.) And once starting them, I repeated them nearly every year after that. I was finally in my glory! And I didn’t find myself trying to avoid being associated with those goofy “GABA-people!”
Up until that point I managed to avoid any positions of responsibility on the GABA board. But that changed when I was asked to take over the inventory and maintenance of the club’s supported ride supplies. These supplies had, for many years, been stored in a metal shed in Suzanne Couvrette’s back yard before getting moved to a commercial storage locker and so I was dubbed the “GABA Shed Master” as a joke and that title has survived to this day!
Naturally, I now was obligated to attend not only the regular monthly GABA meetings, but also the monthly board meetings. I had become a part of “the establishment!” But, in the process, I found a ready audience for slide shows of some of my international cycling trips to New Zealand, Tibet – Nepal, Croatia, and Peru among many others.
My overall experience with GABA back in those days was not only very positive, but also very motivating, and I’m happy for it.