The AJ’s store is/was on the way to many of the popular training routes in the east Scottsdale / Fountain Hills area.

Went down to AJ’s this morning, the one on the corner of Mountain View and Via Linda in east Scottsdale. Ordered food and an ice tea and sat at my usual table on the patio out front. It was a grey, cool, (for a Phoenix summer day, anyway) morning.

It was lonely too. No one else was on said patio. I waited for ten, twenty minutes to see if any familiar cyclists might show up. A few eventually did, and it was fun getting to briefly chat with them. After they left to continue their ride, it was back to being lonely. This place is usually packed with cyclists on a Saturday morning, but most of them have apparently chosen to stay away.

For good reason – this popular cycling water hole will be disappearing soon, the store closing come mid-August. So the groups that might have stopped here were probably off finding new places to haunt.

Change is a part of life. No changes, no life. I know that. But stopping at AJ’s was a Saturday ritual for me and many other riders. I’ve been coming here regularly for eight years or more. It’s sad to see it go away.

Sitting at the table while waiting a while longer to see if anybody else chanced by, I reflected on the changes that have occurred in my (and many other’s) cycling history in these here parts. I started riding out this way regularly in 2006, first as part of the Wheezer Geezer Saturday ride, and then as part of the Gainey Village / Tri Scottsdale early Thursday morning training romp out to the Hills of Via Linda. The Thursday group used to do a series of three hills out this way: Desert Cove, Hidden Hills, and Scottsdale Mountain.

Just Hills of Via Linda
The original Hills of Via Linda.

Back in those days, you could ride all the way up Desert Cove, ending on a short, steep (16%) grade to a cul-de-sac. At the time, no houses were on the cul-de-sac. Eventually houses were built, and eventually a gate was placed across the road to block access. At first, you could easily go around the gate by using a sidewalk. But another gate was eventually placed on the sidewalk too, and that steep, short climb became unavailable. This meant stopping at the gates and turning around.

Just to the north of Desert Cove, on Via Linda, is the famous / infamous Hidden Hills climb. Used to be, you could ride to the top of this as well, ending once again at a cul-de-sac. The gates to this area were purposely designed to allow cyclists through, this being on a public easement. However, a few years ago the gates were closed to cyclists, with no indication when they would be opened again. That meant we could ride only as far as the gates.

Oh well, at least we could still ride up Scottsdale Mountain. Except there are gates on Scottsdale Mountain as well, though for a while we were allowed through. The Thursday morning Gainey Village / Tri Scottsdale group used to ride past these gates, waving and saying hi to the guards on the way up, ending the climb at yet another cul-de-sac.

This, the last of the series of three climbs, became more and more popular to other groups. That made me worry whether we would lose access to this area. Alas, that came to pass last fall.

So, the tops of the three hills of Via Linda were taken away from us, one by one, over the past few years. Like most living things, the Thursday morning group just adapted, and began doing a different circuit out this way, riding as far as possible up all the hills in the area, including the now shortened ones. There are seven (I believe) such possibilities. Even though none of the climbs are long or steep, there’s enough of them to constitute a decent workout. We make the best of it.

I was just getting used to this new early morning circuit, when, alas, I crashed in April, ending my weekly training rides for now and probably altering them significantly in the future. This last, personal change, is of course a big one for me. But all I can do is adapt, and figure out some new routine.

Another thing these weekly group rides have shown me is that groups themselves are alive, in some sense. They are ever-changing and take on various personalities as time goes by, as people come and go in a steady stream. The groups are born, they grow, and they die, just like living things.

Don’t know what all this means. Just making note of it.

I can’t help but think, though, that this presents a perfect opportunity to consider one of the core philosophies of Eastern thought: That nothing is permanent, and the most sensible thing to do is to get used to it — embrace it even.

Of course, that is a paradox of sorts — to embrace something as slippery and elusive as change is.


Ch-ch-ch-changes — 3 Comments

  1. Hi Bry,
    I found your blog following my ride up Mt. Lemmon the other day. I only made it to mile 14 before cramps and inertia turned me around. But it was okay for my first time up there in over a year, with only a modest amount of training. Probably did not help also that I began at 10:30am when the temps in the valley were already at 95F. But I will return and push through that envelope. I enjoyed reading your writeup from four years ago, and it gave me a better idea of what to expect next time.
    I fast-forwarded on your site and discovered the unfortunate news of your crash. Let me wish you a speedy recovery. It sounds like you are doing the right things and have the right frame of mind. By the time you’re fully recovered I’ll probably be finally getting to the top of Mt. Lemmon in one try. Maybe we can even do the climb together some time.
    Best regards,

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