Ah...spring. It brings the mildest of mild temperatures, citrus blossoms to agitate the sinuses, breaks for students, cabin fever for any Valley resident stuck in an office, and fifteen of Major League Baseball's teams from around the country to find their swing and play games that don't count.
The Cycle riding team (of one) created a two-stage tour of the area's baseball facilities, with a challenge to complete each loop before the games end (and this is a generous challenge seeing as some of those late-spring innings can last forever).
Last week's Stage 1 toured the stadiums on the Valley's east side. This week we head west for Stage 2 and roll past four of the five complexes on the sunset side of Central Avenue and gain a greater understanding of the concept of "sprawl."
This tour begins and ends in Glendale near the Camelback Ranch complex, traveling through Goodyear, Surprise and Peoria. The spring home of the Milwaukee Brewers in Maryvale is the lone park missed in this Tour de Spring Training, but note that if you're a diehard Brewer fan or just looking to add a few more miles to the loop that a fairly easy leg can be added.
Before wheels out, a few words of warning about riding on the west side of the Valley:
1) West Valley communities seem to not like bikes. Favored routes around the west side of town are rare, and actual cyclists on the roads are even rarer. A big reason is because it is near impossible to find a stretch of road with more than two miles of connected bike lanes anywhere west of the I-17. Any time you hop into a lane, it disappears before you know it, meaning any ride of any distance has a lot of time spent mixed with traffic, so ride carefully.
2) West Valley drivers don't know bikes. Because there are so few bike lanes and cyclists on the roads, drivers on this side of town are not acclimated or comfortable with driving around cyclists. They either don't understand the laws, don't have common courtesy, or they just get annoyed by folks on bikes slowing them down. Regardless, expect to be buzzed more than a couple times.
3) Freeway on-ramps/overpasses are allergic to bikes. The I-10 and Loop 101 freeways are the primary arterials for people to get in and around West Valley cities with Stage 2 of this Tour rolling under or over the freeways four times. Yet the idea of a cyclist having to get to the other side appears to be an inconceivable proposition to road planners and engineers. Just hug the right curb, be wary of surrounding traffic and cars coming off the freeways at high speeds, and ride carefully.
All that being said, let's roll...
Start the tour in Glendale around Camelback Road and 99th Avenue. If you're driving to the start, look for the Starbucks in the shopping center on the southwest corner to park. Camelback Ranch, spring home for the Los Angeles Dodgers and Chicago White Sox, is just one mile west along Camelback Road.
Camelback Ranch was built in 2009 and is reminiscent of the Salt River Fields complex in Scottsdale. There's one road that goes in and out cleverly called Ball Park Avenue, so hang a right a take a quick tour of the facilities that include twelve full-sized practice fields; one's dimensions are identical to Dodger Stadium in Los Angeles, and another is identical to U.S. Cellular Field in Chicago. Camelback Ranch also has some of the friendliest park staff in town, so flash a smile, let them know you're touring the stadiums and they just might let you take a quick peek inside.
The next stop is Goodyear. Move south across Camelback Road as Ball Park Avenue turns into 111th Avenue. Follow the road around to the right and down to Thomas Road, turning right again onto Crystal Gardens Parkway, riding past the estuary ponds before merging onto 107th Avenue. 107th will bring you to the first freeway overpass and continue south to Buckeye Road/Maricopa 85 where you will turn right (west).
Maricopa 85 is a heavy trafficked roadway for commercial trucks to haul all sorts of agriculture and livestock to the railways, but since it has a decent shoulder/bike lane, it feels safe along this road. Roll west for two and a half miles, over the Agua Fria riverbed, and turn right at Dysart Road, making a quick left on Western Avenue. This takes you through Oldtown Avondale.
Western turns into Yuma Road as it runs on the north side of the Phoenix Goodyear Airport (look for the decommissioned 747s). Turn left on Bullard Avenue and follow it around to the Goodyear Ballpark.
Goodyear Ballpark was also built in 2009, bringing the Cleveland Indians and Cincinnati Reds to the Cactus League from Florida. This stadium sits apart from the other practice fields (they're a block south) but has two very cool and unique features. The first is a mini-diamond for kids and families to play on during games located beyond the right field foul line. The second is a large sculpture in front of the stadium called The Ziz by Donald Lipski. There's also some good knothole views from the fence behind the left field wall.
The next ball park, Surprise Stadium, is 18 miles north. Make a right turn onto Estrella Parkway and follow it under the I-10 through the Pebble Creek development, past Indian School Road until it ends at Charles Boulevard. Do a quick left around to Sarival Avenue, and then turn right for the long ride to Surprise.
Sarival is a typical rural two-lane road that runs alongside fields of crops with barely any shoulder. Don't let this worry you as it may be the safest road of the entire route. For the nine miles on Sarival, less than ten cars passed, each giving more than enough room as they eased by. The new Loop 303, also known as the Bob Stump Memorial Parkway, has clearly moved a majority of the traffic away from Sarival. Keep an eye out for the Wildlife World Zoo as you get to Northern Avenue.
Sarival makes a little jag to the left just past Cactus Road, leaving just two miles before the right turn at Greenway Road. Fall into the bike lane along Greenway and ride east a little more than a mile to Parkview Place, turn left, and see the stadium and practice fields on the right.
Surprise Stadium, built in 2002, is where the Kansas City Royals and Texas Rangers make their home each spring. The main stadium is mostly blocked from outside views, but the practice fields have good access for those looking to catch players taking some extra batting practice or long tossing.
The next leg to Peoria is the trickiest of the tour thanks to the always perplexing Grand Avenue, the circular Sun City development, and the bending 101 freeway. Return to the eastbound side of Greenway by way of Statler Boulevard and West Point Parkway on the east side of the Surprise City Hall complex. Follow Greenway across Grand to Thompson Ranch Road, a large bypass road on the northeast side of Grand.
Once Thompson Ranch reconnects with Grand, turn left onto Grand and ride the wide shoulder over the Agua Fria bridge, then cross Grand to the left across 111th Avenue into the original Sun City. Hang a right onto Thunderbird Boulevard and continue east towards the 101. There's no bike lane along this stretch, but the road is wide until just before the 101 on-ramp. Just be cautious and controlled past the on-ramp all the way to 83rd Avenue.
At 83rd, head north for two and a half miles in the bike lane to the Peoria Sports Complex turning right onto Mariners Way. The complex and Peoria Stadium has been the home field for the San Diego Padres and Seattle Mariners since 1994. There's not much in terms of character to this facility outside of the line of giant baseballs along the front gates, so make a quick tour around the park and head back out onto 83rd for the final leg home.
The bike lane for 83rd runs south back to Thunderbird before disappearing. The goal is to work west to 91st Avenue to the Glendale Sports and Entertainment District, home of University of Phoenix Stadium and Jobing.com Arena. Grand cuts across 83rd at Peoria Avenue, making that a natural spot to turn right and work over to 91st.
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Once on 91st, keep pedaling south to Zanjero Boulevard, just on the north side of the big Glendale complex. Follow Zanjero across Glendale Avenue as it turns into 93rd Avenue, ending at Maryland Avenue. Turn right onto Maryland, split the stadiums, and climb the little overpass to 99th Avenue.
Turn left at 99th Avenue for the final mile and a half stretch home to Camelback Road. If you want to add the Maryvale Stadium leg, turn left at Bethany Home Road and link into the Grand Canal Trail path. Follow the canal path for seven miles to 55th Avenue and look for the stadium complex to the north. Just double back for the return home.
Trip Distance: 55.5miles, 70 miles with the Maryvale Stadium leg
Trip Duration: 3 ½ to 4 hours
Difficulty: Tough...flat roads, but exposed to desert winds and west side drivers.
Route Map: http://www.mapmyride.com/routes/view/75766418