Cycle: Tour de Lights

Categories: Bicycle Culture
Sepanek CU.jpg
photo by Jason Franz
The glittery greatness that is the Sepanek House in the Arcadia neighborhood.

Ahhh...the Holidays. Who doesn't love white elephant parties, fugly snowman sweaters, or dropping a Yule log? But the very best part of this time of year? That's right, houses decked in light shows and dioramas that would make Clark Griswold proud.

What better way to get out and enjoy some of these residential spectacles than by saddling up for a three stage tour around the Valley with a cool nip in the air and a warm beverage coursing through the veins. That's right, Cycle presents the First Annual Tour De Lights!

Stage One is a slightly truncated and adjusted version of the previously published Arcadia Loop (a re-Cycle, if you will) that features some giant Chipmunks and a house blasting over 250,000 lights. Stage Two is a short loop through an Ahwatukee neighborhood that rolls past a yard filled with every character from every Christmas television special ever. The final stage cuts across Tempe and into Chandler to visit two blocks completely lit from end to end. All in all, three communities, 24 miles, and millions of lights on two wheels.

NO DUH! BIKE TIP: Get lit. This just in: Holiday lights are best seen when it's dark. Therefore...do not, under any circumstances, go out after sunset without front and rear lights for your bike. If you can add more, even better. Most cities by law require a forward facing light that can be seen 500 feet away and a rear facing reflective surface. Why not just turn yourself into a rolling holiday light display? Besides, most basic light kits (both front and rear lights) cost less than $50. That's a lot less than a trip to the hospital. This really should not need any more explanation.

Stage 1: Arcadia
This inaugural Tour de Lights pushes off from the Arcadia Plaza Shopping Center at Indian School Road and 48th Street. Feel free to beverage up at the Safeway Starbucks or across the street at the Arcadia Tavern. Start the ride north on 48th up that slight rise that is the base of Camelback Mountain to Exeter Boulevard and hang a right. Along Exeter are several gingerbread house style homesteads, including one at 5350 E. Exeter that has its main doorway armed by two toy soldier nutcrackers the size of young high schoolers.

Zig a zag at 58th Street to Calle Del Norte and across to Jokake Road, which will lead you to Lafayette Boulevard. Turn right on Lafayette and cruise up to the house on the northwest corner of Lafayette and 58th Place. Here riders will be caroled by a ginormous Alvin, Simon and Theodore Chipmuk whose light show is synched to blasting holiday tunes. This house has a lot of other nice touches, so take a good look around the scape.
Chipmunks.jpg
photo by Jason Franz
Giant Chipmunks highlight the display at Lafayette and 58th Place in Arcadia.

Keep heading west down Lafayette to the capstone of Stage 1, the Sepanek House at 4415 E. Calle Tuberia. This is one of the great Griswold jobs of all time with nary a nook or cranny not blinking or shining. There is a Santa for photos and the Sepaneks sell hot cocoa and other holiday trinkets. Once you get your overload, work your way through the sidestreets back to the finish line and your car.

Stage 2: Ahwatukee
As is the case with any bike race, there is often a long, uneventful buildup to great payoff. Such is the case with Stage 2. The start/stop for this leg is the Hillside Spot Café at 48th Street and Warner Road. Follow Warner west (a right turn out of the parking lot) and follow the road around to Equestrian Trail. Know now that there are not any lights of significance along this section.

Turn left onto Equestrian and take a right at the little roundabout onto Appaloosa Drive. Here the lights begin, including a cool driveway liner made of old milk containers. Follow the bed to the left (Bronco Trail) and then stay to the right onto Kachina Drive. This next half mile is a noticeable uphill drag, but half way up is this stage's showcase home.

The yard at 3611 E. Kachina is completely packed with cutouts and inflatables from any and every holiday production throughout television history. From Rudolph's Abominable Snowman (Bumble's bounce!) to the Whos down in Whoville and everyone in between, this yard is a holiday magic kingdom.
3611 Kachina Tukee.jpg
photo by Jason Franz
Holiday characters greet cyclists (and others) by the hundreds in Ahwatukee.

Keep following Kachina up past several more grandly lit McMansions and back around to Equestrian and the finish. Because this is the shortest stage of the tour, feel free to drop down Warner back into south Tempe and check out the houses in and around Warner Estates (the equestrian development in the northeast block at Warner and Rural Road). There's an especially cool stop at 8353 S. Stanley Place that included a music show every 20 minutes.
WarnerRanch.jpg
photo by Jason Franz
Tour de Lights riders will be treated to this display if they extend their route into Warner Ranch.


Stage 3: Tempe/Chandler
The finale stage is the tour's longest at 13 miles, almost triple the distance of Stage Two. Get your bones warmed up at one of Tempe's great indie coffee houses, the Gold Bar, in the Bashas Valley Plaza Center at McClintock Drive and Southern Avenue. Cross Southern at Los Feliz Drive and meander your way to Country Club Way, the main corridor for this stage. Take some time to poke around the streets on this side of the freeway bridge as there are a lot of cool displays on...um...display.
Peanuts.jpg
photo by Jason Franz
This Peanuts diorama can be found on Hermosa Drive in Tempe

Head over the Superstition Freeway bike/ped bridge by Rotary Park and just follow Country Club and it couple of bends over the next three miles to Elliot Road (this includes the Western Canal overpass). Go left at Elliot then right into the ASU Research Park, staying on Rover Parkway until you hit Warner. Take Warner east (left turn) over the 101 and then turn right at Coronado Street, just past the office complex at Warner and Price Road.

Coronado becomes a one mile approach to the zenith of the Tour de Lights: the Upland Drive lights. I don't know if this is some HOA ordinance or all of these families make up a sect or cult or something, but the entire Upland Drive community is lit up. And not simply. There are cutouts galore, mammoth inflatables, music-synched light shows...the whole nine yards. And several other streets try to join in, but none is as wholly complete like Upland.
Upland.jpg
photo by Jason Franz
The north end of Upland Drive is anchored by a giant inflatable bear.

Finish the stage and the tour by re-tracing the route out, but feel free to wander off the prescribed path. You never know what winter(ish) wonderland you may roll upon.

Happy holidays!

Stage 1: Arcadia
Route Type: Residential roads
Trip Distance: 6 miles
Trip Duration: 1 hour
Difficulty: Easy
Route Map: http://www.mapmyride.com/routes/view/26285102

Stage 2: Ahwatukee
Route Type: Residential roads
Trip Distance: 4.5 miles
Trip Duration: 1 hour
Difficulty: Easy
Route Map: http://www.mapmyride.com/routes/view/26296246

Stage 3: Tempe/Chandler
Route Type: Residential roads
Trip Distance: 13 miles
Trip Duration: 2 hours
Difficulty: Easy
Route Map: http://www.mapmyride.com/routes/view/26285168

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2 comments
Mrjoe4000
Mrjoe4000

This is an awesome idea! I'm going to give it a try- Just so you know, the link to the Tempe/Chandler map takes you to a map of the Ahwatukee ride. Eager to see where in Tempe there is too ride! Thanks!

jfranz
jfranz

Thanks for the tip on the bad link. It should be all fixed now. Hope you enjoy the rides and please pass along any others you might know.

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