The Gem Show Way to Explore Tucson by Bus and Bike

Tucson, I’m really starting to like you. Maybe it’s because you’re the warmest spot in the country right now. As I write this from our asphalt parking spot near downtown it’s a blissful 77 degrees outside. The great winter weather is a bonus, but Tucson also has so much more to offer than other cities.

The Fine Art of Navigating Tucson by Bus and Bike 

Tucson by bike and bus
I’m ready to take my jewelry up a notch!

Ten days age we breezed into Sentinel Peak RV Park for Tucson’s annual Gem and Mineral Show. Along with a zillion other snowbirds, this event has become an annual thing for us — or rather, me, really. Last year when we attended the 2015 Tucson Gem and Mineral Show I got a job working for a talented metalsmith at this year’s show. Carole Witt owns “String Bead,” a metalsmith shop in Chico California. For 15 plus years, she and her talented crew have taught dozens of classes at the annual Bead and Design Show.

Last week for seven long but really fun days (and nights!), I worked as her shop girl. I hocked metalworking tools, took classes and learned from master jewelers. As a bonus I met Kate Richbourgthe jewelry maker whose books inspired me to start hammering away and make jewelry from the road. Even better, I met up with my RVer friend and talented jewelry-maker, Kim from Burro Mountain Arts and Wetland Treasures.

Tucson by bike and bus
Kim and I did a “Talisman” workshop with Kate Richbourg!

Meanwhile Jim single-handedly held down our full-time RVing business endeavors like the awesome husband and business partner that he is. 

Arriving on time to work each day was tricky for me. After all, I haven’t had to commute to a job in 20+ years! In order to impress my new boss I had to study Tucson’s transit system ahead of time, then decide:

Would biking 7.5 miles each morning be worth the effort? Could I get to the gig with enough time to mop up sweat and put on makeup by 9 am? 

Jim couldn’t convince me to drive to work because driving in Tucson sucks. But I did allow him to pick me up each night at 10pm. Biking was a logical choice for daytime hours, but in order to get to work by 9 am I had to combine biking and bus service.

How to Bike and Bus in Tucson

Tucson by bus and bike
You’ll arrive faster by biking and bus riding in Tucson.

Tucson’s buses manage to run on time despite heavy rush hour traffic. But you should still allow plenty of time to get to your destination. 

  • Always have at least two routes in mind to get to your destination. Being the bike-friendly town that it is, Tucson’s buses have racks for two bicycles. That’s great, but if a bus arrives with a full rack you’re hosed. At night this isn’t often an issue but during daytime hours, you’ll need a Plan B just in case. At rush hour, try to start your trip at the downtown transit station. Most buses that arrive there are empty. Thankfully this turnaround is just a 15 minute ride from our RV park.
    If your bus arrives and the bike rack is full, consult your Tucson Bike Map and Tucson Transit Map to find another nearby bus line. This happened to me once, so I biked 5 blocks south to catch another line. I got to my job later than I wanted to, but because I gave myself extra time, I wasn’t late for work.
  • Plan to combine biking and bus-riding to complete your trip. Tucson has some incredibly long city blocks, so if you want to get anywhere at a decent hour, use your bike to get you there when your bus ride is over. Transferring to another bus line is cumbersome and time consuming. Plus, if you want a bus transfer you’ll need to buy a Tucson bus pass ahead of time. Their system doesn’t give riders transfers on the bus.
  • Always put the rack back up for the driver when you exit. You’ll avoid the public shaming I endured the first time I showed my ignorance about this protocol.

When all was said and done I had a blast getting around Tucson and working at the show. The days were long and I slept for 12 hours straight when it was over. But I’ll do it again next year without hesitation. The metalsmith skills I learned here will take my jewelry up ten notches and then some. As a bonus, I scored lots of new tools. Guess we better head to the RV weigh scale again!

Tucson by bus and bike
Going to work was fun this time around.



2 thoughts on “The Gem Show Way to Explore Tucson by Bus and Bike”

  1. Sounds like you are enjoying Tuscon. Jim and I just arrived and are staying at the base campground. Actually dry camping at the pool since even overflow is full.
    If you will be here a few mire days let us know and you can show us your cool new tools.
    Patti and Jim from FOY

    • Oh you’re so lucky Patti! I’ve heard that campground is nice. We’re leaving tomorrow and heading to the Quartzsite area. I’m sad we won’t see you! Have fun here, there are still so many shows going on.


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