T.O.R.C.A. 2014 Poker Run … A Major Success
I felt honored when Shane invited me to be a part to the 2nd Annual T.O.R.C.A. Poker Run in the Catalina Hills of Tucson. T.O.R.C.A. (Tucson Off Road Cyclists and Activists) hosted the event at the Prison Camp Trailhead and used two trails … Bug Springs and Prison Camp. I had done a couple rides with Shane in the past, as well as some of the other riders in T.O.R.C.A..
What is a Poker Run? A simple game of poker where each rider accumulates a hand by drawing a playing card from a deck at various spots along the trail. How does a person win? A little luck with cards and a whole lot of trail.
Shane, Art (another rider I had biked with before), and a few others, provided shuttles to the Bug Springs trailhead. I rode up with Art.
After piling out of Art’s truck we unloaded bikes and while we did our last minute preparations, Art told us about the rules of the competition. We were all anxious to get started as the temperature was quite cold, especially with a stiff breeze blowing.
The Bug Springs trail starts with a steep one mile hike-a-bike laced with dozens of water bars. After just a few feet of that I was no longer freezing, but had actually broke into a pretty good sweat. I was hiking behind a fellow named Duncan, an incredible rider, who took me on my first Tucson ride two years ago.
I asked Duncan if he had ever biked up the water bar section (thinking if anyone could do it he could) but he said he had not. He did show me his farthest point and I was duly impressed.
T.O.R.C.A. Poker Run and Demo Day … Interactive Map.
- The blue “P” shows the Bug Springs Trailhead.
- Click Strava for a GPX Track for Bug Springs and Prison Camp. This track was from a previous ride as I stopped and started and backtracked, etc. on the Poker Run.
Have you done this ride? What did you think of it? How about sharing your thoughts on our Visitor Stories page?
Once at the top of the hike a T.O.R.C.A. member asked me for my blue card upon which he marked my king … then wished me luck on the rest of the hand.
I took several photos as many of the riders were standing around and gasping for air … and one guy fixing a flat tire … which seemed pretty weird. How do you get a flat tire doing a hike-a-bike?
Just a short stint below the Bug Springs Trail offers one of its 2 major challenges, an 18 inch drop over a water bar that occurs instantly after an abrupt left turn … followed by a series of 12 inch water bar drops. The first time I rode this trail (2 years before) I ended up in the bushes on the right side. This, my second time, I managed to stay on the trail.
Next our Poker Run took us along a small stream, sometimes crossing over, sometimes climbing up a shoulder, only to drop back down … all this taking place in a thick forest. I spent most of the time riding behind a young lady named Heather. Heather rode pretty fast … just the perfect speed which allowed me to stay right behind to get some good action video clips.
Our second card came on the slab of rocks just before the hoodoos, after another uphill hike-a-bike, and a nasty downhill section that many walked.
After collecting my second card (a 7 of Spades), I walked back to the rocky downhill hoping to capture some riders putting on a show. Out of about 10 riders that passed I would say maybe 5 tried it and the other 5 walked from the start.
When I returned to the slabs by the hoodoos I found several riders congregated. As I was looking around one fellow whipped out a flask and asked another if he wanted a shot. It was then that I noticed he was wearing a jersey with “Drunk Cyclist” across the front flanked by shapes of naked women! When I told him I wanted a photo for the website he was happy to pose for me!
From the hoodoos on down, our Poker Run started to do a lot of switchbacking through a dry, desert looking landscape. Gone was the stream and thick forest we had found at the higher elevations. While some of the trail was challenging, I found no sections so rough as to cause a rider to slow down.
After passing many hikers I came to the highway crossing where I met the 3rd T.O.R.C.A. member and received my third card … a 6 of Clubs! I had a bad feeling as to how things were now going with my luck.
I Decided I had enough time to ride the lower trail (Prison Camp) and still get back in time to turn in the blue card marked with my winning hand. But things only got worse!
Less than a mile down the Prison Camp Trail I received my 4th card … a 9 of spades. At that point I realized the best I could do would be a pair of kings. But a mile later, after receiving my 5th card, I knew I had no chance at all. A Jack of clubs meant I had nothing, just a king high!
I stopped on the trail at a few locations and took some video clips of riders coming by. I was in no hurry … for I no longer felt the urge to rush back and turn in my card since I knew my hand was probably one of the worst among the 70 riders. I figured my chances of winning a Poker Run Prize for 2014 were hopeless.
I was the 3rd rider to arrive at the bathroom in the Molino Campground … the obvious place to wait for the shuttle. While waiting, four more riders cruised up to where we were waiting. One of them was riding a Specialized Fat Bike. When I asked how he liked it he said it cornered great and rode surprisingly smooth (even though it had only front suspension). We were all getting a little impatient as a shuttle did not appear for a good 20 minutes. I think maybe the other riders were worried they would not get their (obviously better) poker hand cards turned in before the 12:30 deadline.
Once loaded into the shuttle truck we sped the 2 miles up the Catalina Highway and were dropped off just past the sign for the Gordon Hirabayashi Campground (which the truck driver said everyone just calls Prison Camp). Of all the bikes handed down mine was the last … no worries, I was not in a hurry. Before I could get on, everyone else sped away, including the shuttle driver. I jumped on my bike and rode across the highway and started down the road toward Prison Camp. It was at this time when I realized my rear tire was just about flat! Of course, not wanting to cause any rim damage, I had to walk my bike all the way back to the camp (only ¼ mile). Unfortunately, that would not be the last time I would push a bike that day!
When I arrived at the camp Art was already acknowledging people for their contributions to the Poker Run event and for projects T.O.R.C.A. had been involved in. That was followed by the presentation of the Poker Run winners.
While Art spoke I made my way to the food, some excellent tacos catered by a local restaurant called Risky Business. I washed the tacos down with a cold draft beer … fresh from a keg!
Anyway, while I was scarfing, Art explained to us that the Poker Run winners would be given a chance to choose from various prizes. The fellow with the best hand (3 kings) chose a complete Shimano XT brake set. Some of the other prizes included helmets, jerseys, t-shirts, and several other items. As I had expected, all those winners had poker hands much better than mine.
The next part of the day was dedicated to riding demo bikes. The T.O.R.C.A. people had a beautiful set-up, as the bike companies (Specialized, Ibis, Devinci, 29’er, and Pivot) were available right at the head of the Prison Camp Trail. After the initial Bug Spring shuttles (until 10:00) all others picked up at the bottom of the Prison Camp Trail and returned riders to the demo area. The Prison Camp Trail, roughly 2.5 miles in length, turned out to be an ideal length and offered a variety of trail surfaces … packed single track, loose rocky sections, sand, some larger rocks to roll, tight and flowing switchbacks, and just a little bit of climbing.
To read about the rest of my day please select Specialized Demo.