At 1:30 in the morning in early October I woke up to nearly freezing temperatures in the back of my car parked at Castro Park, in Douglas Arizona. I crawled out of my sleeping bag, desperately pulled on thicker socks and shoes, and stumbled out under the street light to meet a tiny crowd of cyclists getting ready for the longest event of the Cochise Classic, a 234-mile ride down the highways circling Bisbee, skirting along the Santa Ritas, up through the Dragoons, the Dos Cabezas, the Chiricahuas, and back to Bisbee. It's a gorgeous and classic southern Arizona tour. This little group of fifteen brave started from Castro Park and would take 11 hours or many more to ride the double-century route; it would take me roughly 4 hours just to drive the whole thing. So they were starting early, and we were freezing our butts off waiting for the national anthem at two in the morning. Or rather, the cyclists in their spandex were freezing their butts off.
I was cozy in my Arcteryx Atom Light jacket. The coldest you can be is just standing around outside, and I was pleasantly surprised to be pretty toasty at 30 degrees. Being October, the day of course warmed up to balmy tank-top weather, but after we placed our hands over our hearts for the anthem, and watched the fifteen riders pedal away down the street onto the black pre-dawn highways, I went back to my car and slept in my jacket until the start of the next event, after which I stripped it off and drove around the route to take photos of the cyclists for Tail Winds magazine.
I pulled the jacket out again to watch the dawn start of the 108-mile El Tour de Tucson ride. With hundreds of riders, the El Tour start is not nearly as intimate as our little crew huddling in the middle of the night in Castro Park, but nonetheless, it's amazing to be in the energy of hundreds of people about to pedal to every corner of our city. Loudspeakers blared music down the neighborhood to rouse the riders awake, and people stamped their feet in the first cold Tucson morning.
El Tour always seems to be accompanied by the first signs of fall, and now into December I'll find myself wearing the Atom Light every day. It's a perfect jacket for the transition of seasons, light enough and packable enough that it's not oppressive and can go everywhere--like in a tiny summit pack for cold belays out in Cochise Stronghold. I've always been afraid to bring my down jacket up on a climb, for fear of snagging the fabric on a rock and vomiting feathers everywhere. As sad as I would be to get a hole in my pretty lavender Atom Light, the synthetic fill will stay together until I can patch it back up. And the fabric itself is somehow nearly as light as the ultrasil shell on my down jacket, but much tougher and more abrasion resistant, so I'm less likely to tear it up in the first place. Stretch fleece panels on the sides give it a slimmer, cozy, and more breathable fit. Now that it's Cochise season, I can't wait to find some chilly rock ledge to hang out on.