We had a wonderful time in Tucson and had the opportunity to meet some great people. We were about 22 miles away when we first met our first host, Mike McKisson, who rode into town with us. The bicycle transformed his life. He got healthy, found a new passion in cycling, which in turn brought about a new website that will cover Tucson’s bicycling scene – TucsonVelo.com.

Mike was a journalism student at University of Arizona and now teaches multimedia journalism there. He has a great background and the commitment to make TucsonVelo a knockout site. I went with Mike to a BAC (Bicycle Advisory Committee) meeting with his daughter Lucy in tow. Lucy, while probably not as interested in new potential bike boulevard markings as her dad, endured it admirably.

Mike also helped us connect with BICAS, Tucson’s vibrant bicycle cooperative. Laura and I had a slideshow presentation that was projected on a large wall where they have their Bike-In Movies. That same evening, the BICAS crew was assisting in wheat-pasting some large printed images of cyclists from Africa. The presentation went well and we got to meet some of our readers in person.

Our other Tucson host was Melanie Myers, a U of A graduate student who was a professional cyclist a few years ago and now races for the university team. She lived with her fiance and a roommate, all of whom ride for U of A. Laura and I are by no means racers, but we found through talking to Melanie and her roommates we had some commonalities – like the never ending need to eat, our proclivity towards cheap motels and the fact that on some days, riding your bike can feel like work. It was also particularly fascinating to hear how Melanie came to utility cycling from a racing background. She contributes to UtilityCycling.org and her research has led her to the amazing things you can do with a bicycle.

One evening, she made us what she liked to call “Mexican splat” – something between an enchilada and lasagna. We drank beer (some home brewed beer her fiance Kyle made) with her roommates and exchanged tales of cycling daring. Theirs involved crashes and scars and ours involved doing climbs with ridiculous amounts of weight on your bike. It was a great evening that went late into the night (ok around 9pm) and was a great bookend to our stay in Tucson.

Tucson is a bicycling gem in a desert state. We didn’t know quite what to expect, but it has far surpassed any conception we had of Tucson. If you’re a cyclist and are looking for a great place to ride in the winter (that means You, our PDX readers), you should give Tucson a try!