Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Bikes That Work

Often I ride my campus bike for errands, and if the weather is good--which it always is here in sunny Tucson, Arizona, USA--I'm off for lunch someplace.

I get restless sitting here in the office, and to break up the routine, I try to see if I can bike to a new lunch spot and make it back with plenty of time.

This time I rode over to Panda Express. The thing about this place is that its on the corner of the busy intersection of Swan and Grant. Driving would be a nightmare, mes amis, as traffic is always congested. With the hospital and all the doctor's offices in the area, there's always patients (usually snow birds) making their way ever so slowly to those destinations. Since it only takes me about three minutes to ride there, I arrive just before the lunch crowd. They're all trying to find parking--and if they are taking lunch to go--they're trying to squeeze back into the bumper-to-bumper traffic on Swan or Grant Rd.

On my bike, I go through and about the area with lightening speed--but what struck me was the smiles and friendliness shown me by motorists this time. Poor motorists stuck in jam so it seems. I guess they saw the freedom and ease to which I navigated my way through the dirt path next to the sidewalk--and they may have been thinking back to the days when they were a kid and rode their bike to the park, on a beautiful Spring day-- like I used to do when I was a kid back in Tulsa.

I did have to make an early errand by car before work today. As I drove back to the office I saw a few places where I could have lunch and it would be an easy five minute ride on the campus bike.

Oh yeah, when I went to Panda Express, there was this tall and strikingly beautiful Chinese woman that I recognized from the New Peking restaurant that used to be over by our place in Dog Mtn. She gave me a nice smile and extra large helpings of Orange Chicken and the new thing they're pushing--Panda Beef. Yeah, I know it does sound kind of strange, like "panda meat" but how can I say no to a pretty girl? It was a lot of food, and later in the afternoon I was finding it hard to stay awake. My head kept falling to my desk as I dozed off.

Sunday, March 23, 2008

Century Ride This Weekend

It was a beautiful Spring weekend here in Tucson. Our plan was to ride, as much as we could, the John Farr Double Century Course. To do this, we had to start early--I mean real early, Gentle Readers--5 a.m. start time. This means I have to get myself up at 4 a.m. to rendezvous with Susan, John and Kathy. Above we are entering the boundries of Saguaro Nat'l Park. None of my photos of the bright full moon turned out this crisp morning. The full moon was lovely, and wildflowers were dreaming of another warm day--just hanging around being beautiful in the Nat'l Park--that's the life.

Susan sets a good pace for us this morning. We started at the traditional start of the John Farr Course, which is the McD's parking and ride lot at I-10 and Cortaro Rd intersection.

Our first stop at the Chevron on Sandario Rd. The Tandem is a fast machine and it seems that we're riding quick-time. It takes a good deal of effort for me to keep up, as I try to stay on the wheel of the tamdem for the first 15 miles or so.

Susan, the consummate Randonneuse.

There's still a bit of a chill this morning. I needed to stop for a rest. We are riding fast, and there is a slight incline for several miles going North on Sandario Rd. Border Patrol asks us if we've seen a group of illegals that are somewhere in the area--we haven't.

Dang! That was a fast 35 miles. We stop at the store in Robel's Junction, or the Three Points Store as all of us Randonneurs know it. On the brevets, its the last stop for supplies before a long trek back to the Marana controle, and points thereafter back to Casa Grande. We're starving, and have a quick breakfast of coffee and sausage biscuts. Border Patrol Officers whisk in and out for a quick cup of joe, locals buy beer and cigarettes, and cowboys gas-up their outfits and buy sandwiches.

You gonna eat all that?

Junk food and cycling sometimes really go together.

On the way to Sells, Arizona--US Border random check-point. We are close to the border with Mexico. The Border Agents and Officers are friendly and wave, and they seem like good fellows. Many times their job is more search and resuce. This area, in particular the reservation, is remote and dangerous. Many border crossers have lost their lives and they are lucky to be found by Border Agents. The desert's heat is unforgiving.

"We'll be seeing ya!"

As mentioned, you can perish quickly in the desert should you not be prepared. We have extra everything, mostly water. If you keep moving of course, you stay cool--but if you have a flat or some other problem--and have to stop, you quickly begin to burn in the heat. We need to stop and shed out morning jackets and leg warmers. We're already soaked with sweat.

Kitt Peak Observatory. I can see the telescopes from my kitchen window back in Dog Mtn. I have a good deal of respect for this peak and this part of the reservation. It is a mysterious and spiritual land. The mountain wispers to you, and the plants, wildflowers, and creatures buzzing and crawling and flying--sing songs of reverence.

We press forward. John and Kathy have had a better time with the headwind that has begun to blow down on us. The climb and the wind, and the speed we are trying to keep to is tiring for me, Gentle Reader.

After we get past the road that takes you up to Kitt Peak, there's a descent for about 20 miles or so down to Sells, Arizona. That will be a nice break from the headwind and the climb.

Susan and I climb and ride in the face of the wind, which has grown stronger as we pass wild flowers and saguaro. I observe that althought the wind is bearing down on us, the trees and wildflowers seem to bask motionless. It is as the wind only affects the riders--the spirits gently telling us we should not venture much futher today.

John and Kathy are waiting for us at the top near the pull-out by the cattle guard on the road which leads to Kitt Peak. John says that maybe its time to turn around. We are exactly at 50 miles, and its already 10:30 a.m. We've been gradually slowing down. If we continue on and try to do the double century, we probably won't get back until 2 a.m. in the morning. After a bit of a pause, Susan speaks up, "Okay let's go--" and with that we turn around.

We head back to the Three Points Store again. It seems that the way back was fast, but I couldn't keep up with John and Kathy. We regrouped and filled up with water at the store.

The breeze seemed to always be against us, even as we rode on Sandario Rd North, which is always faster. Here we are at Sandario Rd. and Mile Wide Rd. I needed to take a rest--we've been riding fast and at a high cadnence. Again, I'm trying to keep up and really I'm pushing my limits--it is good training however.

Surprisingly, the traffic on Sandario Rd, the road I like to call "Redneck Road" is light today.

103 miles today.

I'm glad I had good friends to ride with today. We rode fast, and everyone was a good sport when I asked to take a rest stop or slow down a bit--just should have put on some sunscreen.

Monday, March 17, 2008

Spring, or That Yellow Cloud on the Horizon

One thing about living in outrageously beautiful Tucson is that when its 103 degrees, snow birds are instantly vaporized. Yes, Gentle Readers, they are leaving! Back to Illinoise, back to Wisconscum, back to Michiguts, back to Minnisoda--Back! Back I say!

Spring is here and the Baby Boomers are leaving their second homes here in Arizona to head back to the shit holes from whence they came.

Sadly, now you must have them in your city or town, driving 30 mph on a road where the speed limit is 50, or greeting you at Wal Mart. I guess I never thought of that, Gentle Reader from the North, Midwest, or East Coast. When it’s great in your town, and nice weather and you just want to get out--suddenly you realize there's all this dead weight holding you up. You find yourself behind Nola Tizlu (actual name of my nosey "neighbor lady" back in SD) in her Buick Regal at a stop light--it turns green--and nothing happens--for a long time. W T F !!!

Snowbirds in my neck of the woods are affluent. They live in the gated community up the road a ways. I lived in South Dakota and went to university in Vermillion--cars take a beating in the weather up there, so when you see a 1979 Lincoln Continental with gold trim and the original cloth top still looking like it just came off the show-room floor--with Minnesota plates--Baby you know Daddy O is living the life.

When I was growing up, all my friends had beat up hand-me-downs. My first car was a 1974 Ford LTD we named Elvira. She was jalopy but the AC and radio worked. My sister had an even bigger land yacht-- a white Pontiac Bonneville with a turquoise interior. My best friend Matt had an old Buick we called the Barf-Mobile.

Mes amis, if you're driving to work and coming up behind a Buick that is in pristine condition, all shinny, and waxed--with gold trim, even worse if the Buick is black with a red cloth top and gold trim--GET AWAY AS FAST AS YOU CAN!!! Or just lumber behind the old fool as everyone else careens past you and gets to work with plenty of time to find a good parking spot.

The legacy left behind from the Baby Boomers will take centuries to repair. They have money, know how to invest it, and with their notion of privilege, they have pretty much destroyed the environment through real estate speculation—because that’s where the money is to be made in Arizona—or used to be.

Developers have planned entire communities around their every desire. The desert has been razed. And then the homes are way over-priced and gaudy, but still they come and buy them.

Which leads me to my point/end of my rant. Tucson air is awful—its polluted with dust from the creation of sprawl for retired snowbirds to live and fart and play golf. This part of the desert has always been historically dusty—even the Indians had to deal with it. But now even as Steve, Star of the Blog and I ride and train in what remains of the Sonoran Desert, we can start to see the pollution from Phoenix as we glide through the remote reservation lands we’ve ridden in over the years. It is a combination of smog and construction dust—oh, and bacteria and fungi.

Tucson pollution is growing, too—and it seems I’m always fighting off upper respiratory infections. I’ve had now bronchitis, pneumonia, valley fever, and mononucleosis.

These seem to be the maladies of the runners, triathlets, and cyclists of Tucson; eventually we have to deal with one of them in the course of our endeavors.

There is one more Horseman, Gentle Reader—more like the Mule of the Apocalypse—allergies. God I have them so fuckin’ awful! And I can get no relief! Just drugs that make me dopey and sleepy.

Only the hot hot blazing scorching cooking roasting unforgiving cancer causing ultraviolet rays of the Sun can stop the pollen, and my miserable allergies.

I pray for 100 degrees…

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

Bike Commuter

I’ve been riding my 1977 Raleigh Super Grand Prix lately. The bike, which my father helped me pay for new when I was a teenager, is still mostly original. I have the fenders on it, which is a love-hate relationship—and the Brooks B-17 saddle which completes the retro look. I just can’t seem to true up the fenders and there’s always a spot where they rub the tire. As soon as I get frustrated and take off the fenders, the rains will come.

My commutes in the mornings are uneventful. But I’m noticing more than usual the asshole tactic where car drivers veer over as close as they can without hitting me. This is usually just by inches.

I can tell the difference between someone who is just unaware to those drivers who purposely execute this maneuver—they are looking in their rear-view mirror for my reaction. My appropriate reply is the finger.

But again, Gentle Readers of This Blog, most drivers have no problem with me riding my bike and sharing the road. And when there’s a situation, I always signal my intent to drivers and try to make it clear as to what I’m doing.

For example, I’m riding along a pretty good clip last night on busy Ina Rd. A few hundred yards up ahead, a car driver pulled over and parked in the bike lane to take a cell phone call. I look over my shoulder and signal the car coming up behind me that I will need to move over into his lane—out of the bike lane— to pass the stopped car ahead. The drive immediately signals and moves over to give me the lane to pass. This is courtesy and respect on both our parts. I give a friendly wave to the driver as he passes me to say thanks!

On the way home I take the River Path. Here's a young woman out riding this evening.
There's a pretty moderate headwind for me for the commute home.

This young horse was a bit wary of the bike, but the young woman did a good job of keeping him focused.

Before I do the long climb up La Cholla and then to my car, I got to adjust those fenders a bit. You might notice that I bought a bicycle bell--I'll show those mean car drivers that try to un-nerve me that I'm the Man! In a very civil and polite way of course

Monday, March 03, 2008

Commute on River Road

Here's what's left of the snow from Mt. Lemmon, now easing its way down the Rilliato River through the heart of Tucson.

I've been commuting on River Rd. to stay off busy Skyline and the traffic. With the Sun making it difficult to see driving a car and riding a bike, taking River Rd offers a safer alternative. I cut over to the River Bike Path for a few miles to miss the busy and dangerous intersetion of Swan and Skyline.

Still a little cold these last few days of February. This peaceful scene will be replaced by my last few miles of busy Swan Ave into the office. Commuters have gone from fairly fast roads going East--now the congestion and a thin bike lane for the cyclists.

I'm riding home in the late afternoon in this photo. I take the bike path as I need a break from the traffic. It is tranquil and I can say about 80 per cent of my commute looks like this on the bike path. This afternoon, I actually saw tourists/cyclists on the bike path. They looked happy and waved to me, being one of the many local bike commuters. Too bad they were going the other way--it would have been fun to find out where thery were from.

A short zig-zag where I go West for about a mile, then cross this bridge and go West. That's Pusch Ridge back there. My morning commute up Ina/Sunrise/Skyline climbs the foothills of the ridge. The road I just mention changes name a few times--basically its much too dangerous to ride that way home Westward. It would be fast of course, but the Sun would be right in your eyes and you wouldn't be able to see anything, like barely the car in front of you.

I found my old LeMond bike cap. It fallen behind the clothes dryer.

This is the intersection of River and La Cholla, looking North. I have to climb about three or four miles to the intersection of Ina and La Cholla--where I have to make a dangerous left turn right in the middle of rush hour traffic. So far, auto drivers have been cool with me working over to the left the get in a position to turn. I have to cross busy lanes but it's worked out that traffic is slowing I there's always somebody who's alert to see that intend to turn left at the light.

One hour and 15 miles later I'm back at the YMCA.