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GABA Tucson At 20


By Richard Corbett

Where did our Club come from? How was it started? Who was involved? These are natural questions that this article will attempt to answer, as we look back in two parts (the second part will be published next month), on the first twenty years of GABA Tucson.

GABA Tucson's Immediate Ancestors


There was a thriving bicycle club for many years in Tucson, the Tucson Wheelmen. They were principally a racing club. Suffice it to say that they overreached their pocketbook, when, in 1978, they staged an international women's bicycle race, bringing internationally known women pro racers from Europe, by way of KLM Dutch Airlines. The races were a great success, garnering lots of attendance and media attention. A small problem was noted a couple of months after the races, when a rather large, and unexpected, bill for airfare for the European women arrived. One thing led to another (like a lawsuit), and to skip over the gory details, the Tucson Wheelmen went out of existence (mid to late summer, 1978).


There had been a small group of bicycle 'tourists' (approximately 15) in the Wheelmen for several years, who didn't want to race, and instead did a variety of recreational rides, much as we do today.


When the Wheelmen went under, the tourist group got together, (September 1978) and formed a club they called Los Turistas ' (the mixed gender in the name was in recognition of the membership being composed of both men and women). Los Turistas had a core of several people who took on the tasks of running the club, including holding monthly meetings and publishing a ride schedule. Generally, one ride per weekend was offered, including such annual rides as the Florence (the first one was held September 23rd, 1979) & Tumacacori Centuries, the Kitt Peak Hillclimb, the Papago Desert Double (the first one was Saturday, May 10th, 1980), and others.

Los Turistas
enjoyed relatively easy success for about two years, then the laid-back approach to organization (no bylaws, no annual election, no etc.) begin to catch up as the fun turned more and more into work. Thus, the situation was ripe for change. 

GABA Tucson Beginnings

Clara Dow, with and her two adult daughters, Carol Dow and Linda Kinkade, and granddaughter Jennifer, cyclists all, had moved to Tucson from the Phoenix area. They had been members of the Central Arizona Bicycling Association (CABA), organized by Leon Taylor, Anita Hopkins, and others as an incorporated 501 C 3, tax-exempt, educational organization. Clara saw what was happening to Los Turistas (the decline in leadership energy) and proposed to organize a "CABA Chapter" in Tucson. She felt that being allied with the Phoenix club could bring new resources, and the educational, tax-exempt status would be especially beneficial. She promoted the idea, gently, on club rides for a few months, then, in December 1980, called a meeting to discuss her proposal to dissolve Los Turistas and form a CABA ‘Chapter’.

The meeting to discuss formation of a CABA Chapter (and dissolution of Los Turistas) took place at Clara's home, Monday evening, the 12th of January 1981. A substantial majority of Los Turistas place. Two major benefits were (1) Insurance, and (2) a common newsletter (CABA had been publishing a newsletter called 'Update to Arizona Bicycling"). Probably the most significant of the concerns shared by those present was the fear of loss of identity, based on being 'swallowed up' by the much larger 300) Phoenix CABA, as  the name Central Arizona Bicycling Association. Another key concern was the very small (one) vote Tucson would have on the CABA Board.

Even so, a motion was passed to (1) dissolve Los Turistas, and (2) seek affiliation as a CABA Chapter. A condition placed on the affiliation with CABA was that within 12 months, (1) the name needed to be changed to reflect the geographically broader membership, and (2) the bylaws needed to be revised to reflect the same thing. Clara was selected to represent Tucson's interests at the CABA Board and elected as the first President of CABA Tucson (which would become GABA Tucson nine months later).

Clara represented the vote of the dub at the CABA Board meeting later that month, and the 'Tucson Chapter's' "conditions" were accepted. CABA Tucson, as a Chapter of CABA, was 'confirmed' by the CABA Board. The date of the Tucson organizational meeting, January 12, 1981, is viewed as the 'birth' date of CABA (GABA) Tucson.

The Chapter's first officers included the following people:
President, Clara Dow
Vice-President, Leonard Baldoff
Secretary, Linda Kinkade
Treasurer, Gail Gawel
Tour Advisor, Rich Corbett
Newsletter, Carol Dow
Special Projects, Cathy Crandall
Publicity, Rosemary Ifflander & Joyce Compton

The Tucson Chapter was formed with 27 initial members. Membership grew rapidly, though, as the Officers and members put new energy into organizing and leading rides. Rides included weekend trips such as the Sonoita Bisbee Tour, and the Blue Loop, as well as the First Grand Canyon to Mexico, Almost Across Arizona, Bicycle Tour.

By September 1981, nine months after 'birth', CABA Tucson had 99 memberships, which included enough family memberships to bring the actual number of members to 131. That same month, a CABA Board meeting was held in Phoenix, and the name of the corporation was changed to the Greater Arizona Bicycling Association. This simple change responded to the Tucson Chapter's concern about the name, and the identity it implied. It also required only a simple change to the Corporate logo, which was a little cyclist on a bicycle formed by the letters CABA. The C was changed to a G, and the logo  was still usable.

November 1981 saw two Tucson stories on the front page of the newsletter, referred to in short as 'The Update'. A report on the just completed first Grand Canyon to Mexico, Almost Across Arizona, Bicycle Tour, said, "Arizona's natural beauty and scenic attractions, coupled with the support of the Arizona Cycling Community, will make this Tour the most sought after "cross state" ride in the  Country in five years or less". A bold statement, which would actually prove to be true! The other story was titled "1982 Desert Double Century" and stated that a meeting was held to select a Committee to organize the third annual Papago Desert Double Century. It was expected to draw cyclists from surrounding states.