Gravel is #trending, and Javelina Chase has decided this year to grind its way onto the race calendar with an all-dirt, all-gravel weekend in the epic scenery of eastern Arizona and western New Mexico.
The Chase, in its sixth year, will offer 25-, 40-, 60-, and 100-mile USAC-sanctioned mountain bike races, a 25-mile gravel grinder and a kids’ bike rodeo in Duncan, Ariz. and Lordsburg, N.M.
“The terrain surrounding Duncan is rough and will get the attention of racers while the terrain around Lordsburg is more for the leisure rider,” said race director John Lieberenz. “It is an opportunity to cycle in a rural setting and discover the joy of riding the ‘outback’.”
The Chase started off as a fledgling road event, then expanded to encompass all disciplines, then decided to go full send into the gravel craze, and we have no doubt they can pull it off.
Here are 10 reasons why you should mark your calendars and register:
1. You won’t find courses more “Wild West” than this.
The epic history you’ll encounter on the Ghost Mine Rumble
The Ghost Mine Rumble mountain bike race on Saturday, April 6 traverses historic hilly terrain straddling the Arizona-New Mexico border. Challenging climbs and descents follow the old roads to gold and silver mines that drew thousands of adventurers in the late 19th century.
Now mostly abandoned, the ruins of those mines are visible from the route, including the gulch by the Carlisle Mine where gambling and prostitution thrived and Chinese merchants sold their wares.
The area also saw numerous bloody conflicts between Apache Indians and white settlers. From the high points on the route riders can see sweeping views of snow-capped Mount Graham and of the Chiricahua Mountains.
Make your own history by riding through it all. See for yourself.
Big sky landscape, wildlife and ghost towns of Butterfield Overland gravel grinder
The gravel grinder fun ride begins and ends at the Shakespeare ghost town just outside Lordsburg, New Mexico, on Sunday, April 7. The 25-mile course is smoother and flatter than the Saturday mountain bike courses, but it is just as rich in local history and is set in stunningly beautiful country not visible from the highway or the interstate.
The route passes two historic mines in the Pyramid Mountains and the little ghost town of Valedon before joining the old road between Lordsburg and Animas, crossing the historic Butterfield stagecoach track. Heading east, the route passes the site of a WWII Japanese POW camp. Finally the route returns to Shakespeare, which will be open for tours on the day of the gravel grinder.
Most of the route is on sweeping grasslands where you may see deer and antelope play. Hawks and other raptors are everywhere, hunting from fence and gate posts. The Pyramid Mountains and, below them, the haunting Chiricahuas loom over the western horizon, while to the southeast, the Little Hatchet and Big Hatchet Mountains rise above the border with Mexico.
2. The locals love cyclists.
When bike racers show up in Duncan, Ariz. – population 619 – people notice. Streets are swept, and roadsides are cleared of litter. Restaurants sometimes offer specials.
“As race day approaches, the people begin to chatter more about the event and about cyclists,” Lieberenz said. “Community pride takes over.”
After all, the total number of race participants equals at least a third of the mining and ranching town’s population.
“We are, I assume, the smallest town in Arizona to host a racing venue,” Lieberenz said.
3. Both town are stops on the Adventure Cycling Association’s southern tier route.
Long-distance and bike-packing cyclists making their way across the country now make a point to stop in Duncan and Lordsburg, thanks to the Adventure Cycling Association. The association’s mission is “to inspire and empower people to travel by bicycle,” and we can all certainly get on board with that.
And the association got on board with Duncan – they changed their suggested southern tier long-distance route across the country to make a special stop in Duncan. Why? Because Deborah Mendelsohn, owner of Duncan’s Simpson Hotel, noticed more cyclists finding Duncan on their own, and she advocated for the change for years. It helped these weary travelers avoid two mountain passes to boot. Mendelsohn is a wealth of knowledge on the best routes to take in the area to make the most of your long-distance cycling adventure.
4. Breakfast at the Simpson Hotel.
In business since 1914, the Simpson Hotel has been a centerpiece of Duncan for over a century. The hotel’s owners are knowledgeable and gracious hosts, and make out-of-this-world breakfasts. If you can snag a room soon enough, you’ll get to marvel at the historic building over griddle cakes whipped up with hemp milk and chia seeds and served with hot agave syrup. And any one of the hotel’s signature dishes is made with fresh local eggs. If you miss booking a room at The Simpson, fear not. There are many other places to stay between Duncan and Lordsburg, and several excellent breakfast places.
5. There is an event for every member of your family.
Goodbye days of sitting in the feed zone waiting for your friend, bae, mom or brother to pass by. You’ve got your own challenge to conquer! With mountain bike races, a gravel grinder and a kids’ bike rodeo, there’s really no excuse to not go.
6. You could see a javelina.
Javelina, or peccaries, are a common sight in the area, and it’s how the race got its name. Organizers wanted to include the wild-boar like creature in the race’s name, and just days before a planning meeting, Lieberenz scared up a pack of javelina on an early morning ride.
7. Get out of the city.
Duncan, just five miles west of the New Mexico border, is situated on the Gila River, in a frontier-like region that surrounds you in beautiful, isolated countryside.
It’s primarily populated by ranchers and miners, and the closest bigger city is Safford, Ariz., a 40-mile drive with a population of less than 10,000. It’s a welcome respite from bustling Phoenix, Tucson, Flagstaff, Albuquerque – you name it.
“Duncan is free of the hustle and bustle of city life, a place where the traffic is light, the air is fresh, the sky is big, and people welcome visitors with warm interest.” – Simpson Hotel website
8. Challenge yourself. Or really challenge yourself.
With the Ghost Mine Rumble mountain bike courses ranging from 25 to 100 miles, you can tailor your cross-country MTB adventure to your own personal cycling goals. All routes cross the Arizona-New Mexico border and take you through some of the most challenging terrain in the area.
“The course offers a good mix of climbing, technical riding, and fantastic countryside views,” said Brooke Lyman, who competed in the Ghost Mine Rumble last year. “And there was great ride support along the course. I would totally do it again.”
Scott Jones (ASU Cycling), who raced the Rumble on a cross bike, said he would do it again, but with bigger tires.
“The Javelina Chase organizers know how to run great events and the Ghost Mine Rumble was no exception,” Jones said. “It was a challenging and scenic course and the support from the people of Duncan was unparalleled.”
9. Uncover the history of the Coronado Expedition (and other weird history of the area).
For being such a remote place, the Arizona-New Mexico frontier saw its share of action back in the day, and as you tool around the area on your bike, getting a quick history lesson will make your ride even more meaningful. For example:
- Gold-obsessed Spaniards passed through the region to search for a gilded City of Cíbola. In 1540, Francisco Vásquez de Coronado and his party made their historic trek through what is now southeastern Arizona and southwestern New Mexico. Could they have passed through Duncan?
- In later years, the Gila River itself was the boundary between Mexico and the United States, until the Gadsden Purchase of 1854-56 established a border southward to make way for a southern east-west rail.
- Duncan figured significantly in the tragic and bloody end of the Apaches’ reign over the Southwest’s lower plains and mountains.
- In 1904, New York nuns brought forty Irish orphans to a remote Arizona mining camp, to be placed with Catholic families. The Catholic families were Mexican, as was the majority of the population. Soon the town’s Anglos, furious at this “interracial” transgression, formed a vigilante squad that kidnapped the children and nearly lynched the nuns and the local priest. The case went all the way to the Supreme Court.
- Speaking of the Supreme Court, former Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O’Connor spent much of her childhood near Duncan on the Day family’s Lazy B Ranch, which straddles the Arizona-New Mexico border.
To find out more, check out additional details on the Simpson Hotel website. You can even borrow their copy of “The Great Orphan Abduction” by Linda Gordon.
10. The scenic drive.
No matter where you’re coming from, you’re likely to drive through some of the most beautiful countryside in eastern Arizona and western New Mexico.
- From Phoenix, you’ll pass through mining country – Gold Canyon, Superior, Miami, Globe, Peridot and other towns, as well as pass by Mt. Graham.
- From Tucson, you drive past Coronado National Forest, Dos Cabezas Peaks and the town of Willcox – the closest town to Chiricahua National Monument.
- From Albuquerque, your route will take you through Sevilleta National Wildlife Refuge, Truth or Consequences and Hatch. Or take the super-scenic back route from Socorro through the towns of Magdalena, Reserve and Glenwood, N.M., then down Highway 78 into Arizona. It’s only a half-hour longer.