postheadericon Riding SoAZ Part IV Sahuarita Road

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The southern boundary of our “Tucson Square” is formed by Sahuarita Road. It stretches for more than 20 miles, connecting Mission Road to Route 83, aka the Sonoita Highway. There are virtually no stoplights making this a surprisingly fast way way to cross town, east-west. If you live on the east side and are wanting to go to anyplace from Sahuarita to Nogales, consider taking Sahuarita Rd. Improvements have recently been made west of Corona de Tucson as well, making it wider, smoother and safer. It’s biggest drawback is that there are few north-south connections to Tucson.

Near the west end of Sahuarita Road is the growing community of Sahuarita. The City of Sahuarita is our gateway to points south as well as some routes that lead to ghost towns as well as the scenic Arivaca Loop, which will be covered in a future segment.

At Sahuarita, there are three main routes to go north to Tucson. The fastest is Interstate-19. West of I-19 is Mission Road, which I’ve already discussed, and, paralleling I-19 about a half-mile to its east, there is Nogales Highway. Two things to know about Nogales highway; First, it does not go all the way through to Nogales and second, it becomes 6th Avenue at Irvington Road shortly after you enter Tucson.

Going east on Sahuarita Rd, the next street of note is probably Wilmot. Wilmot technically goes north and connects to I-10 however, there are about eight miles of dirt to get there. I believe that a layer of asphalt will be happening in the near future, but as of the first of June, much of it was still dirt.

Another four miles to the east and you arrive at Corona de Tucson and the intersection of Houghton Road. Houghton travels north past the Pima County Fairgrounds, over I-10, past the community of Rita Ranch and then to the east side of Tucson. At or near the fairgrounds you will also find Tucson Raceway Park, a 3/8 mile oval stock car track which is in the process of being converted from asphalt to dirt and will re-open August 21, 2010. For those wanting something a bit louder and a bit faster, there is Southwestern International Dragway drag strip. Both places places offer great weekend entertainment that is pretty gentle on the wallet.

Southbound Houghton Road ends about three miles from Sahuarita. However, if you are out taking pictures and are are interested in some beautiful scenery, I strongly recommend this little detour. It begins climbing into the Santa Rita foothills as it ends. At that point your are in an Ocotillo Cactus forest of sorts. There are great views looking toward Green Valley and, of course, toward Tucson.

Corona de Tucson is nestled at the north end of the Santa Rita Mountains. It’s a nice little village with a population of about 1,000 and growing rapidly. There is a gas station here with a nice little market inside, a golf course and American Legion Post 109, which is active in the motorcycling community via the “Legion Riders.”

Continuing east on Sahuarita bring a noticeable decline in road quality. Be advised, there are frequent potholes from here all the way to Route 83 and the shoulder is nothing but rough dirt, gravel, and/or sand. The road also starts going through some dips, so, as mentioned in the previous post, be wary of running water as well as sand and debris in the roadway. It is monsoon season as I write this and today I came across some good examples:

About three more miles east is Wentworth Road which is another of the roads which take you to I-10. It meets the interstate at the town of Vail. Vail is a rapidly growing community with a population of about 3,000 as of 2007. There is very little in the way of retail or services in Vail, but all that they do have is located directly on Colossal Cave (aka Wentworth) Road about one mile north of the I-10 interchange.
There is a Quik-Mart with fuel, a Quizno’s sandwich shop and a Dairy Queen. There are also a couple of local eateries and a gun shop.

There are a few ways back to Tucson from Vail. There is the interstate, of course. North on Colossal Cave Rd takes you to a stoplight at a “T.” A left turn puts you on Mary Ann Cleveland Way which will take you to Houghton Road and Rita Ranch. A right keeps you on Colossal Cave Rd which takes you on a beautiful loop around Pistol Hill Road which takes you to Old Spanish Trail and eventually back to Tucson’s east side.

Are you seeing the possibilities for some good riding loops, yet? I hope so. Old Spanish Trail will be covered in our next segment. Please stay tuned.

Our final north-south road for this segment is Scenic Route 83, aka Sonoita Mountain View Highway. Highway 83’s southern destinations will be covered in a future installment. It is only about 2 miles to Interstate 10. You can either hop on the freeway here, or return to Vail via the frontage road which runs on the north side of the interstate.

This completes the segment following the length of Sahuarita road. I hope this encourages you to get out and see what lies south of town. In our next episode, I’ll cover the east side foothills, Saguaro National Park East, and scooter-safe routes through Tucson proper.

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