Niner athlete and Cyclist's Menu camp guide Yuri Hauswald has been spending more and more time on his RLT 9 RDO in the arid desert of southern Arizona. With gravel- and grub-hungry riders arriving from around the country, Yuri's desert retreat takes on special significance this year. Words by Yuri Hauswald; images by @freihoferphotography .
"This one time, at The Cyclist’s Menu gravel camp," he says, "I touched the border at an old ghost town and pedaled remote gravel roads that Pancho Villa used when he came up from Mexico to steal cattle from the original San Rafael Cattle Company. While we did see a lot of Border Patrol agents patrolling the vast, desert expanse, there were no outlaws, unless, of course you include our gang of gravel campers on their carbon, steel, and titanium gravel bikes, thundering across the vast network of borderland roads."
Patagonia, Arizona sits at 4,044 ft. in the south-central part of the state. It was originally a mining town and supply center for the region in the 1890's, and is one of three towns left in Arizona that still has an active Marshall's Department for law enforcement.
Located sixty miles southeast of Tucson, the town is part of one of Arizona’s unique Sky Island ranges, and lies at the intersection of the Rocky Mountains, the Sierra Madre, the Sonoran Desert, the Chihuahuan Desert, the Great Plains, and the Neo Tropics. Today there’s a unique mixture of the cattle rancher and wild west past with a growing artist/miner/birder/gravel cycling community.
When asked what drew he and wife Heidi to this remote region of Arizona seven years ago, chef Zander Ault says, “one of my favorite aspects of Patagonia is the community's connection to the landscape here. Whether someone ventures out into the woods or mountains or not; the energy and beauty that is expressed through the natural wonders is immense, it's overwhelming at times. It is this effect that is felt while riding, while simply being here. You leave a more centered human."
Who are The Cyclist’s Menu? Well, it’s the dynamic duo of Heidi and Zander Ault, two passionate, hard chargers committed to giving their guests the best gravel camp experience possible. I actually met Heidi first, when she raced mountain bikes professionally, and we developed a friendship from there. Chef Z doesn’t mess around when it comes to the food that is served at camps, and says “The Cyclist's Menu sources directly to support local food sheds in each destination they travel to. This creates community, strengthens that local food economy and helps reinforce the importance of coordinating your regular purchasing from a much smaller radius. These are the types of bonds we create to instill a special connection to place within our clients’ lives.”
Ride bikes eat food. Eat food ride bikes. Any way you slice it, a week with The Cyclist’s Menu in Patagonia, AZ, is going to satiate your hunger for big days on the bike and craving for wholesome, organic and locally sourced meals that will leave you looking for seconds, or thirds in my case. Camp concluded with tired legs, full hearts, and new friendships forged in the San Rafael Valley. It ended with happy campers who had proven that they could ride farther than they thought they could, while doing it in a uniquely stunning landscape that very few get to experience.