Friday, May 30, 2008

Commute by Bike

Packed and ready to roll home.

Commuting means striving for efficiency. As soon as I get home, I make sure things are set up for the next morning’s ride into the office. Bike packed in the car... Clothes and lunch for the next day packed, etc. This still takes practice, and the more I ride, the more I discover ways to improve the production.

One car needs to go into the shop for minor repairs today. Since the dealership is on the commute route, the auto is dropped off and I bike the rest of the way to the office. The car is fetched on the commute home, and then I drive a few miles and everything is done.

As the commute is only about 8 miles today, I thought I’d take the Raleigh Marathon out for a spin. It’s a big machine—and I’m still trying to figure out what she’s got.

While I un-pack and then re-pack, Callie is having me throw the ball for her--until she's exhausted!

Once I took the dealership’s shuttle service instead of riding my bike to work after dropping off my car—what a calamity. The drivers were unorganized illiterates, and most of the passengers were self-centered, stuck-up pseudo-management types, barking out useless information to subordinates via cell phones.

Pretending to be on my cell phone, I would get everyone’s attention by saying something like this,

“If you pull apart the two hemispheres, and you see the brain stem—you know you cut too far. Kind of push them back together but not too hard. If the patient’s arms start to flap, ease up. Are they flapping? Dr. Smith? Are they flapping? Blood? Where? In the rectum? Shit—okay do this, do that thing I told you I saw Dr. Payne do—I mean Dr. Stark do—shit I can’t remember. They did flap? Okay. They did? They stopped? Good. Hey Buck listen, I’m in, like a shuttle and on the way to surgery—yeah… Dr. Wool is a good brain man. Yeah, call him up. Later Dude—let me know how it turns out.”

Thursday, May 29, 2008

Poke a Dragon in the Eye, Cross Your Heart and Hope to Die

Road construction has made my long commute from Dog Mtn complex. Riding into the office in the mornings is spiritual, O My Gentle Reader—going home is like being throw into the ring with a hairy sweaty thug who is willing—and able—to beat the living shit out of you.

Its 100 degrees, traffic is fast, bumper to bumper, not sympathetic or courteous—kind of like a bunch of really riled-up sheep—following each other from a mindless job back to their little boxes, on the hillside…

So I rode to the YMCA this morning instead of driving and parking the car. It bode well for me, Gentle Reader, and the 1.5 mile Stretch of Death, with potholes, no shoulder and bit of a climb (not noticed by car) I conquered quickly. At 6 a.m. there was little traffic, and what there was, drivers seemed not at all phased by slowing slightly and passing me.

Going home if I try this route, it may be another story. It would be like climbing up the scales of a Dragon’s back then poking him in the eye. Yeah, like really really pissing him off.

Dragon's Back, or Magee and Shannon Rds. Coming in is okay, but look at the bumper to bumper mess, and its a bit of a climb... This is an image from back in April.

What I’ve tried to do with my commuting, mes amis, is take routes that make it easy for motorists. I do not want to ride all the way back to Dog Mtn because at one point, I would have a difficult three mile climb to my house, right at rush hour, no bike lane and a narrow pot-holed road—speed limit is 50 mph. This is just the way to anger people because they just want to get home. They don’t want to slow down and wait—I don’t blame them. I will also mention that it would 100 degrees plus—brutal.

But this leaves me with few alternatives if I do the 50 mile round trip to the office and back. I’d have to take the old jeep roads. They’re okay on a road bike, but going up-hill and with no pavement—it is incredibly slow going (unless you’re Paul Layton).

So driving 9 miles to the YMCA and riding 15 miles in works well. It’s a little less than an hour and I’m not exhausted when I get to work, and I’m not falling asleep at the dinner table when I’m home.

Bev has an appointment late this afternoon. I will ride to meet her at the appointment—which is about 5 or 6 miles from the Desert San, and I’ll stow the bike and get a ride home. If I would have driven into work today and home, that would be 50 miles round trip. Add Bev’s appointment of about 45 miles round trip, that 95 miles. With me biking that cuts the miles in half. This is so cool. I believe people are realizing now that they probably really do a lot of un-necessary driving—and would like to change that if they could.

If I drive everyday during the week, that’s 250 miles, and now pushing $60 a week to fill up. If I bike in from the Y during the week, I ride 150 miles. For me that is significant—but really I just enjoy riding.

I was pleased that I tried something new and what looked somewhat tricky by car, was actually okay (mostly) by bike. I ride the 1.5 mile Stretch of Death—I live to blog again.


Monday, May 26, 2008

Gates Pass

Top of Gates Pass.

Top of Gates Pass.

The Wolf on McCain Loop, Saguaro Nat'l Park--Ride In Peace

You will feel a change—something tells you, the wind maybe, or the birds or the lizards—but something happens—I know now that it is the Wolf approaching.
And I know that there is something more than flesh and blood and steel about him.

Suddenly he appears—for an instant—and he is between two worlds.
Ours and one I do not know.

For reasons unknown, they say the Wolf must circle these roads forever.

Ride In Peace, My Brother!

A fast 40 mile ride this morning.

Friday, May 23, 2008

Ride Home in the Headwind

This is from my 30 mile ride to the office the other day--Pusch Ridge. I'll ride down to the far right of this picture and then take my commute route, which is on the other side of the ridge.

Gentle Readers of This Blog, black clouds loomed all afternoon. Winds were arggressive and rain was thick in the air. The wind in my back tire must have joined the wind outside because the back tire on the Raleigh was flat as a pancake when it came time leave the office. I decided to pump up the tire with my hand pump and hope it would hold until the bike shop.

Hi Phil--yeah I'm back at the shop. Can you get me back on the road?

That short trip to Pima Street Bikes was only a sample to what was in store for the commute home. The wind pushed me from side-to-to side. I found I had to lean into the gusts to stay upright--best of all traffic would be heavy and I would be right in there with the mob. I just did not want a flat or anything else to happen on the 15 mile ride home--which would take me when all was said and done an hour and 45 minutes from leaving the bike shop right a 5 p.m. Thanks to Phil and Judy dropping everything in thier busy shop to fix me up!

A few miles from my office and just onto the Bike Path--Dust and Wind...

From the bike shop I went up Swan Ave--and it was very busy and often I felt like the wind would push me over. Dust and trash bounced down the street too--I wanted to get right to the bike path to avoid the eyes of motorists that were probably thinking to themselves, "Like--What an idiot..."

Head wind really pounding me for the ride home!

Aside from the wind and dirt slamming me head-on, I saw a cool site as I crossed over the bridge on Swan Ave. There was a hawk that swooped very low over the bridge, timed perfect between me and the speeding cars. Maybe something about the position of the bridge and the direction of the wind--he hovered for a moment, as in one place, to my right--and then by shifting his wings ever so slightly, he shot past like a bullet, flashing across the bridge in a blur only a few feet from the surface. On the other side of the bridge, which is four lanes, he came up and hit a sort of invisable stream of air such that he shot straight up like a rocket and almost looped over. Perfectly timed and perfectly executed! My God but it was amazing!

Rain anyone?

So I got my arse kicked riding home--dirt and dead weeds, bits of paper and trash scooting past me. I was only able to ride about 7 or 8 miles an hour and just tried to stay up and not get knocked over. These were like the winds of Cochise County back in 2005 when I rode in the storm, tried to stay on my bike, and tried to not get hit by lightning.

The Bike Path, heading West, into the storm!

All I can say about the climb up La Cholla to Ina, the last five miles of my ride, is that it was the strongest head wind I can ever recall. I had to shift into the smallest rings and it was still hard as hell to get up the road. I could start to feel the cramps in my calves growing--but I was just a few miles from my car. And, mes amis, it was getting cold! Rain was on the way too. I just had one last dangerous left turn to make, and a mile down busy Ina heading West into the strong cross wind. Dang, but this was a tough ride.

As I made it to the Y parking lot--the wind was calming and then stopped. It had had enough--so had I. A bit of light rain started to fall but it was nothing compared to what I had just been through--25 and 35 mph winds--head on for 15 miles!

Wind stops from when I reach the parking lot.

Sitting in the car, I felt a sense of accomplishment. I've been riding hard and so begins the base miles I'll put in for the Cochise Classic. I'll have winds just like this, and for 50 to 80 miles. I'll have to train very hard and rigorously for the next three months--just to ride those 80 miles in Cochise in October.

One tough ride home--one of the toughest this year...

Thursday, May 22, 2008

Cat and Mouse

This morning as I started the climb, another cyclist turned from a side street and started the climb up as well. She had seen me coming up Ina, and with that, she began to hammer up the road—and of course, I went after her. Hence a pursuit was underway.

Very slowly, I gained on her. The wind was howling and she got as far down in drops as she could. I got lucky because on the first stage of the big climb up Ina, there’s a light and she was trying hard to get through it and get ahead of me—cause she knew I wouldn’t make the green. I could see her pushing hard up to the light, but it turned red and she had to stop. I rolled up next to her—I realized it was a her now at the light—I didn’t before—and she was quite winded.

We exchanged greetings and chatted. She was decked out in her race gear, said she hadn’t ridden in about a month. As we climbed and the headwind bore down even harder on us, I could tell she was working hard, and not liking a big fella climbing just as good if not stronger. She looked fit and was slender and athletic.

I pulled her up all the way to the top of our climb, which is Ina and Campbell—and then suddenly she shot out around me to beat me to the top, knowing that the fast rollers were just ahead and she’d leave me in the dust. That’s what she thought anyway.

Going down these rollers at 25 to 30 mph, she was flying—but guess who? Right on your fucking wheel, little mouse? Yeah that’s right—Big Cat. Big Cat will let you pull him all the way to the top of the next climb (Ew I could tell that was humiliating).

So we’re both at the stop light of Sunrise and Swan; the top of my big morning climb. I could go right and down Swan to the office. “I think I’m up for one more climb.” I said, “Up to Craycroft.” This adds a few miles, but what it really does is add one more tough as Hell hill, and I wanted to show this cyclist that I was the real deal. So we charged up and I felt strong and we just stayed together. I let her push and hammer and climb her heart out because she wanted to drop me—finally once and for all. But I stayed right with her and mostly let her pull me up hill. It was tough and I was working, but she was having to work harder.

And then she gave up—or just relaxed—or something. “So you commute a lot?” She asked. “I try to ride in two or three days a week.” I said. She smiled at me and nodded. She said she was going to take Craycroft as well, then head East on River Rd. Craycroft up here in foot hills is all new pavement and smooth and very fast. So she shot down like a missile and I was right along side. The bike lane narrowed and then there was some smashed lumber in the road. I eased up and let her in front and I followed.

As we neared a light that was about to change red I slowed but, I could sense that she would blow through and she did. She stood up on the pedals and sprinted through the red light. Finally her chance to drop me I guess. I went after her. Yeah, all the cars saw us run the red light, and I’m sure they’ll be jumping on the band wagon of “Those cyclists think they own the road and they never stop and they wear those faggot shorts and they just this and they do that and they think they're all Arm Lancestrong, blah blah, fuckin blah blah…”

She glanced around to see how far back I would be after puttin' the moves on—Big Cat on your tail little mouse—yet again!

She saw her chance to make the left turn lane and went over. We both had to stop at the light on River Rd which was now red. We looked over at each other and she waved. She gave me a look that said, “Hey that was kind of fun, Dude.” And the light turned green and we were on our way, me to the office and her to meet her friend. They riding into work together to the UofA. She told me her friend wanted to ride but was afraid to go by herself because of traffic…

I wondered what she would say to her friend as they rode to the University.

“Like there was this guy I rode with on the way here and we like hammered all the way up Ina and to Skyline and Sunrise—it was a blast!”

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

The Long Riders

Lots of construction and no clear fast way to get to the office from home. I ended up taking the long way, which ended up being a30 mile ride this morning.

It was hot, even at 5:30 a.m. when I rolled out of the driveway. It was so early the Callie my dog didn’t even get out of bed to see me off.

As the sun came up, the head wind started to kick-in. I was riding fast, but man, I said to myself, I sure have a long way yet to go.

At Ina and Oracle, a pack of riders caught me on the climb—they were an assortment of guys heading to work, and guys with a day off. They invited me to join the peleton and we flew up Ina/Skyline/Sunrise and cut right through that hot headwind I mentioned before. I said I was going to Desert San, and they suggested I keep riding up to Craycroft instead of my usual right and south-bound Swan Ave. This added an extra 2 miles, but what the heck?

At the light, I broke from the group as salutations were exchanged. Then I made the fast descent down Craycroft. Craycroft is all brand-new road and it was beautiful, Gentle Readers! I could see, from the top of my climb and now going down, the old 1924 water tower on the Campus of the Desert San—from about four miles out.

A good photograph probably wasn’t possible for you this morning. I was running a bit behind as instead of 15 miles I was pushing 30 miles. I had ridden very fast with the morning peleton but now fatigue was setting in and I was drained of energy. As I neared the busy intersection of Grant and Craycroft, cars were flying past, and it was getting hot and muggy. At the office, I stashed the bike and stood in my cold shower to try and cool down.

For my morning commute of 30 miles, I did four major climbs—from Dog Mtn to Moore Rd. From Moore Rd to Rancho Vistoso. From 1st Ave and Oracle up Oracle to Ina—and then the big climb from there to Campbell and Ina.

How do I feel? Really tired.

Bev will pick me up at the office as she has errands at the University. The temps today will be well over 103 degrees. Right now I don’t think I have it in me to ride home with those climbs, the traffic, and the heat.

But I tried something new and my eyes were opened—I hope I’m better for it.

Monday, May 19, 2008

Urban Century

100 miles and 100 degrees...

North of Camel Back, Scottsdale, Arizona--somewhere in the Hood at 5 a.m.

70 degrees as we roll out of Steve's shack in Scottsdale, for South Mtn Park. Since there's no traffic this early in the morning, we're able to fly through the heart of Pheonix. Normally we'd have lights and some warmers. Its different this time being able to see the city so early in the morning, with no cars roaring down the roads.

Coming into Tempe, Arizona, and the the ASU Campus. There's the Old Mill on Mill Ave.

ASU Campus. I think that's a historic Frank Lloyd Wright theatre in the background. Bush and Kerry debated there back in 2004.

We cross one of many of Pheonix's freeways to get to our favorite breakfast place.

Riding along, thinking about breakfast!

As soon as we arrive, the place fills up! South Mtn Park is about 8 or so miles--a nice warm up before we start.

The ride begins... We're in South Mtn Park, Pheonix, Arizona. Already at about 7:30 a.m. the sun is getting hot! We also have some strong wind.

Pretty hot out here.

Steve, Star of The Blog, battles the head wind!

Summer is here, Gentle Readers!

We won't climb to the TV Towers today. Its almost 90 degrees and lots of wind. We want to get back because it will be pushing 100 degrees by the time we get back to Muledale.

As a cyclist in Arizona, one must give up sleeping in--we left for our trek at 5 a.m. right at sun rise. Already half way into out ride its pushing 90 to 95 degrees.

Steve rides strong, as always. The wind has helped keep us cool as we ride. The desert is beautiful and the birds, flowers, and cactus are well worth seeing from the bike. But go early to avoid the heat. Today we carried an extra water bottle. I seem to run out of water as we're going through the Scottsdale neighborhoods...

Now what I call the slog--Steve and I will ride through Pheonix and it is going to be hot!

The Old Mill--now we have to be careful because traffic has picked up around the Campus.

Some fast rollers in Popago Park.

The pavement is smooth and we can ride fast and gain some time.

Now just relax and take our tour of the back streets of Scottsdale. Many people don't care much for Pheonix. I think the people are actually pretty friendly, and Scottsdale is where the very rich folk live, but they are always friendly and say hi and wave as we ride through. Its just that its so damn hot--starting about now.

Bike to Work Week--Day Five

Coming home Friday night--heading West on the Bike Route, Day Five. Check out the clouds!

The wind let up on me for a change. I had my bike down at Phil's for a repair. Repairs were minimal, as Phil figured out the problem--glad it wasn't a major over-haul. Without wind howling from the West, as its done now for weeks, and my bike working like-new--I flew down the bike path!

The Alvernon Bridge, where I felt a few drops of rain. I was waiting for the down-pour but it didn't happen. I took a bit differnt way home on the bike route. Normally I'm zipping over this bridge to make my jump to the bike path.
It was a good week--120 miles on the bike.

Thursday, May 15, 2008

Bike To Work Week—Day 4

Un-pack the bike for the ride in...


Before I talk about Day 4, I will report on the ride home of Wednesday, Day 3 because, Gentle Reader of This Blog, there was an event—a blow-out—and the details lay within.

You see, the commute is becoming routine; I ask you—is that okay? Is this worth writing about? Well, my ass does get sore, and I arrive with a layer of filth and grime on my person—no one has screamed obscenities or thrown something at me. To most drivers the fact that I do not appear in the bike lane bustling down the road might bring them concern. “Hmm, I don’t see that big biker guy—wonder if he got run over?”

This are the clouds that came in with the head winds and made my commutes so gosh dern enjoyable...

Tucked in the bike locker, my Raleigh from this week's commuting.

Going home and almost at the Alvernon Bridge, my tire suddenly blew out. On inspection, I found a drywall screw through the tire. No problem to fix the flat, just put in another tube, pump up the tire and be on my way. The problem, mes amis, it the rear fender—it makes it makes getting the wheel off a chore, and then getting wheel back on practically impossible.


Fixing a flat tire takes time. No matter how good you are at it, you must keep your wits about you and get the job done. Gentle Reader, you probably have seen a cyclist come completely un-glued when he or she has flatted. I will admit it is a thin line you walk depending on the circumstances, extent of damage, and your mental and technical preparedness.

I once got a flat on a brevet, which came in the first 20 or so miles. It was still very dark in the morning, and bitterly cold. One minute I was chatting to Steve, Star of the Blog, and Paul Layton—and the next—I had flatted and they and the group of fast-moving Randonneurs had quickly sliced into the darkness—and were gone.

I struggled vigorously to get my repairs going, but it was not going well. I couldn’t get my tire off as it was new and a biting tight fit. My hands were becoming un-useable because of the cold. Next trying to pump up the tire proved just as difficult. I glanced and saw the tail light of Paul’s recumbent going up and over a rise, miles away.

This is a situation where you must get back on the road somehow or some way—if you have to DNF and limp back to the start, so be it. That, or face freezing to death. Gentle Readers, the Desert is unforgiving—Her remote beauty is dear to me, but when in trouble—she is aloof and has no sympathy for any weakness, neither man nor beast nor machine.

Could I walk back 20 miles to Casa Grande by morning? And not freeze to death? Possibly. If I got lucky, after five or ten miles I might get cell service, call 911, and Border Patrol or a Sherriff might come rescue me.

Before I had to face these dark realities, the glow of Steve’s E – 6 came gliding toward me. Sensing I was in trouble, Steve had turned around to come and find me. He got my tire inflated, and my wheel set. We were back moving again, and slowly—ever so slowly as the sun was rising, I gradually warmed to where I could think right and we were back in the brevet—and riding strong once more.

Arrival at the bike lockers, having just run the gauntlet of Tucson Traffic!

Back in Day 3, for the ride home, after about 15 minutes of firm persuasion, the wheel snaps back into place. I’ve been able to pump enough air in the tire so that it holds. I am off, and soon I gain speed and now I’m flying down the deserted bike path.

It’s 6 pm and I would be at the Y parking lot, but I’m more than 10 miles from there now. The wind is giving me a bit of a break and I climb the last four miles to my parking spot. I arrive at 6:30. That’s not so bad.

Day 4 on the LeMond: A very fast ride in via River Rd. Every light was green and for many miles I kept a cadence you would only find on the open road. As I neared the office, traffic was congested yet my momentum made me faster and I flew past what seemed like huge sluggish herds of metal and glass. As soon as I pulled into the bike locker and stopped, I was standing in a pool of sweat.

Ah! Tucson!

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Bike To Work Week—Day 3

Callie loves the grass I put in the backyard.

Rain in Dog Mtn on Day 2 but I missed it. I heard there was a good rain for at least an hour so I was happy. Happy because I put sod in the back yard for Callie so she could have a lawn. She’s 13 years old in a few months and still going strong, but she tires quickly in the heat. As it was a cool evening, she was quite excited to see me so we took to the park and I threw the ball until my arm almost fell off.

This morning she didn’t want to get out of her bed, which is at the foot of mine. Callie and I have a routine that requires throwing the ball for her in the front yard for a few minutes until I have to drive off. As you know yesterday I was trying to switch out my bikes and she was under my feet wanting me to throw that darn ball—and then I got in a hurry and messed up the fender—I had to bag Day 2.

Callie sleeps on her back with feet in air. She sleeps this way on the couch too.

There she was as I was going out, ball in her mouth, very stiffly making her way to the driveway. After a about five of six tosses, she got loose and made the leaping catches in the air, which have gained her fame with all my friends and neighbors at our park.

Back in the saddle for Day 3. It’s Wednesday and yet it feels later in the week. The morning was nice and cool and I enjoyed my climb and the clouds in the mountains as they were burned off by the sun.

Up on Skyline, where I climb substantially, there’s a stretch of fast rollers. The momentum in most cases gets you up to the top of the roller again, and this gets repeated for about four miles. Speeds on the bike push 30 mph if you hit it right and the lights stay green for you. The pavement is smooth, the bike lane narrow, and car drivers are haulin’ ass. It’s a rush, mes amis!

This is an affluent part of town and boyz with Porsches, BMWs, and other examples of disposable income spent on thoroughbred horsepower, like to drive all out. That’s okay because at least they’re not on the cell or sending a text message—or taking their sweet-ass time meetin’ the fellas for golf (old farts driving 35 mph in a 45 mph zone where everyone drives 55 mph)

I think I saw this 2008 model 911 next to me at a stoplight. It was black like this one. The Porsche site lists the sale price at $191,000
Gas at $4.00 a gallon? This guy could care less.