Friday, September 26, 2008

Hand of Bruce

Ina Rd is wide, fast, and busy. There’s a generous bike lane and the road has been re-paved—so I can ride my commute route fast and with a sense of safety. A few miles before the real climbing begins, big trucks take Ina Rd East a few miles to the major North/South roads. There’s often an Armada of cement trucks rolling up Ina; I can hear them and I can feel the pavement move as they roar slowly past me. They always give me plenty of room, which I appreciate—and I know that they’re driving in the window of opportunity where lanes are clear and they can get where they’re going before the dash of impatient commuters.

As I start to pedal up Ina, among heavy construction to my right—and semi-trucks approaching from behind on my left—I spy in the bike lane a rabbit. Unlike all the other rabbits, snakes, birds, and skunks—this rabbit is not a bloody smashed pancake. He’s quite alive.

A second goes by as I roll past. Was that a rabbit? Sitting there right on the line between the bike lane and traffic? Yes, it was. I stop. I look back. Semi-trucks are coming up the road. The rabbit sits calm, eyes closed like asleep—breathing slowly but steady.

The rabbit will see me, run into traffic—and be killed. I’ll be killed if I’m not really careful that’s for sure. Some driver will see me and see the rabbit dart into traffic—they will drop their cell phone (everyone’s on their cell phone) and crash and kill someone else—or themselves. What else? Oh yeah—the rabbit will bit my hand when I go to pick him up. I’ll panic and fling him into traffic and he’ll be killed. I will die of rabies.

I guess what I’m getting to is that this is a really stupid thing for me to be doing.

He didn’t stir as I carefully, but with urgency, walked up to him (here come the cement trucks) got a few steps behind him—then grabbed him by the back of the neck and snatched him up into my arms. I made a fast step over so to avoid the trucks—and made a quick assessment. As far as I could tell, so far he had been unscathed. He in turn, opened his eyes, blinked, and looked at me with surprise.

I set him down up in the grassy big yard of house. He shook his head, blinked, propped up his ears—then started munching on the grass. Indifferent, he hopped away.

“I better wash my hand.” I thought as I got back on the bike. “Better not put my fingers in my nose or mouth—so I don’t get koodies or something…” But as my ride went on, I forgot this note to myself, and it was business as usual.

In the early evening I was in our backyard. I was grilling and throwing the ball for Callie. I went over to check on the trees I planted in early summer. In the drying and dying grass, I saw a little snake. He looked at me for a moment—then cautiously slipped away.

Monday, September 22, 2008

Marana to Scottsdale, Back to Marana

The Dairy Queen--and the first cup of hot coffee--are 28 miles from my house...

Think of this ride as Tucson to Phoenix, then back to Tucson the next day. Each way is about 116 miles. We leave from my house in Dog Mtn--ride to Steve's place in Scottsdale, then ride back the next day. Total miles will be 226 miles as we found a short-cut on the trip back.

We'll have breakfast in Casa Grande, and probably a quick lunch right in Phoenix. Scottsdale will be about another 10 or so miles Northeast of Phoenix.

The Frontage Road is actually the old stage coach line from the 1860's. A hundred years before, Father Kino knew this area well and wrote and commented on Picacho Peak while working with the Indians that lived in the area. While working on projects at the University of Arizona Special Collections, I have held books that Father Kino and his associates brought over with them from Spain and from Rome--probably carried in their saddle bags as they traversed this same area of desert on horseback. Is that cool or what?

In my saddle bag I'm carrying a change of clothes for dinner in Scottsdale; I've strapped on a pair of shoes to the bike rack--I've got extra water bottles just in case they're needed. Commuter lights, sunscreen, camera battery charger, toothbrush, spare tire (folded up) pencil and notebook, tubes and patch kit--about $3.00 in pocket change--other stuff I probably didn't need but always carry. I'm also riding my 1977 Raleigh Super Grand Prix--the one I rode all last week to work. This bike is still my workhorse, even when I'm out just riding for the love of riding.

There are two stores at the Picacho Peak Dairy Queen. The DQ and then the new place that's more like a gas station and store. I have been told that the stagecoach stop was at or very near the same location.

The Town of Picacho, if even that, is a few miles down the road from the Peak. It used to be that pretty mean dogs would chase you out of town. These dogs were so fierce that RBA Susan Plonsky would direct Brevet Riders around the town a few miles to avoid them. When I've ridden the Brevet course with Steve and other Randonneurs, we would all vote and see if we'd take the detour or save a few miles and try to sprint through town.

Even though the security guard/maintenance man at the DQ told me he accidentally ran over and killed the last mean dog in Picacho--I am still wary of the pack and their haunts.

An old motor lodge from many years ago, now a ruin.

After Picacho, we need to take this turn to head West through Eloy and then on to Casa Grande. On a few of the brevet routes, you can go straight to La Palma, and then head West into Casa Grande. The store at La Palma has since closed down.

Entering Eloy, and taking a last look at the way we've ridden. Picacho Peak fades into the distance as the morning sun climbs into the Fall sky.

Eloy is an agricultural area and traditionally Mexican in character.

On the last leg of the 400 km Brevet a few years back, I almost collided with an intoxicated patron of this saloon as he staggered out the door and stepped off the curb. I remember it was so close that I cold smell the alcohol on his breath. Steve and I were finishing strong, and riding about 22 mph. That would have been a show-stopper fer sure--for him and me!

Right at 50 miles when we cross under the I-10 Overpass and into Casa Grande.

Breakfast at IHOP.

We've had breakfast and made our way through town. I believe we were heading West on McCartney to get to the Maricopa Hwy. Not long ago, there was nothing here at this corner. Now there's a huge Mega Fry's--and a McDonald's. We'll stop here for breakfast on the way back. The IHOP is on busy Florence Ave and a bit dangerous for cyclists.

Here we will take the Maricopa Hwy, and ride over I-10. If you go straight, you will go to Central Arizona College in Coolidge, Arizona--but we'll take a left after a bit of a climb and head to Sacaton.

This is reservation land and open desert.

Sacaton about seven or eight miles to the Northwest. There is one Shell gas station and store--if you are riding through here and need water and the store is closed--go to the blue water tower. Sacaton's Fire Station is there and the Fire Fighters say cyclists are welcome and can get ice and water.

Reservation housing. These are the Pima Indians that Father Kino visited. Their descendants still live here over 200 years later.

Shell gas station and store--sometimes not open. Staff can be coarse--locals are friendly and will say hello. There's not much out here--the people are poor and the desert harsh and unforgiving.

We get what we need for then next stretch. Here Steve is turning to head North on Hwy 587. We rode a lonely eight mile stretch West out of Sacaton. Now we have about a 15 mile stretch to Chandler, through some barren reservation land.

Temperatures are reaching 100 degrees. This is a long stretch and we need to make it to Chandler before we run out of water. I think I had a few swigs left when we did reach the store and gas station at Alma School Rd and Riggs Rd. We did come upon two other cyclists as we neared the stop. The woman was in trouble--they had gone out, way out, with not much preparation--and had used all their water (or didn't stop like they should have) and the limped into the store. The woman was very pale and they probably should have called for a ride. But being "A" types, they were determined to get ahead of us and got going once water bottles were filled.

Heading West on Riggs Rd for a long haul. It was windy and hot--the two riders we met at the store were no where to be seen. Hopefully they pulled off to take a rest, or a shortcut.

This is South Mtn and the TV Towers, which Steve and I have climbed many times. We won't be going that route but we will be heading a bit North of the Wild Horse Pass Casino in the foreground.

About 15 miles or a bit less from Steve's place in Scottsdale. This is the bike and pedestrian bridge that runs over Hwy 60. It will put us in Tempe, Arizona.

Tempe and the other “A” Mountain on the Arizona State University Campus. This smells like a college town, Gentle Readers. Students are laid-back, and young women wear flip-flops.

ASU was playing Georgia, and I have to tell you that Steve and I arrived by bicycle right into the heart of Mill Ave when fans from both football teams were arriving at the stadium. There were thousands of people—a sea of yellow and red for ASU and waves of Georgia fans in red. It was a fun party atmosphere for all—and Mill Ave was bumper to bumper traffic. There we were, Mill Ave, thousands of people, mainly young college kids, and two dirty and gritty Randonneurs—100 miles on our legs.

The bike lane was clear, which was amazing, and we glided right through the mass of cars and people. I needed to be a bit careful so I didn’t get any shots for you, mes amis. But I will tell you it was quite different seeing all that humanity compared to what its like at dawn’s early light, when not a single soul is stirring, and Steve and I silently riding like phantoms though this street.

On the return trip, it was early and still in darkness. As we came through, now an army of men and trash trucks were cleaning the remains of what must have been one hell of a party—beer cups, beer bottles—all kinds of trash and litter everywhere—everything smelled like stale beer, restaurant grease, cigarettes--a hint of reffer--and soot.

Steve said Sacaton by 6 a.m. and he was right on the mark.

We made it to Steve’s place in Scottsdale—un-packed, cleaned up, and went to dinner. We were tired but really we felt like we rode strong and with gusto. From Dog Mtn to Casa Grande, we had a tailwind and averaged 18 mph on that leg of the route.

Of course we knew it would mean a stiff headwind on the way home—but for now it was good to sit down in an Italian place Steve knew, and have the all-you-can-eat pasta dinner. The real tough part of our 116 miles was that the high temps for Phoenix and Scottsdale were 102 degrees, and that makes the last miles exhausting.

With 100 degrees or more forecast for Tucson/Marana, it was decided that we would leave by 4 a.m. so we could finish the return trip and scoot in under the heat. I must say that it was easy to get to bed by 8 a.m. Saturday night. All packed and ready to go, we looked forward to the ride back. Steve thought he had figured out a short-cut that would take us from Scottsdale down to Chandler Blvd, and then to Alma School Rd and the Hunt Hwy. This new route was successful and we took 6 miles off the return trip.

Ira Hayes was from Sacaton. He was one of the Marines that raised the flag on Iwo Jima. The park is across the street from the Shell gas station and store. I do not know who the other fellow was--maybe another Veteran held in high regard by the people who live out on the reservation.

On the outskirts of Sacaton, past the park and store, groggy rez dogs chased us out of town. It was still a bit early for even them—I could tell they were sleepy, but they still showed their teeth and made half-hearted attempts to bite. We climbed out of Sacaton and could hear the last rooters crowing as the sun got higher and brighter.

Steve on the Frontage Rd, we're past Casa Grande, Eloy, Picacho--homeward bound.

What can one say about breakfast at McDonald’s? The place was brand new, spotless, and employees were reporting for work. Mostly young, said employees stared at us and our click-clack shoes as we walked to take our seats, fill bottles with ice and water, and wash our hands.

We got curious glares from stiff looking seniors—the ones that look old as dirt—and one woman told me her brother was some kind of bike stud now. He retired, got a bike, now he rides all the time and has turned back into the jock he was in his youth.

Picacho Peak.

Lunch at Picacho Peak Dairy Queen!

Dog Mtn in the background--this is looking East and we are about to start the six mile climb up Tangerine Rd, which starts at the I-10 and Tangerine Overpass.

From Picacho Peak, it is about 28 miles to my house up in Dog Mtn. This last leg is difficult for two reasons—number one is that the temperature has reached well over 100 degrees by Noon. We arrived a little before that hour at the DQ, and got our cheese burger and chili-cheese dog fix well before the rush.

Number two is the last nine miles of the ride. We get to the Marana Exit and the Marana Circle K, the Life Giving Controle on the Brevet Routes. We mentally prepare, and make sure we’ve plenty of water. Now the six mile climb up to Dog Mtn…

The light at Tangerine Rd and Dove Mtn Blvd. Mt. Lemmon is in the background.

100 or more miles on your legs, and 100 degrees or more with the sun roasting you is no way to end a ride like Marana Scottsdale Marana—but this is how it goes, Gentle Reader of This Blog.

Surprisingly—and I really mean surprisingly—this time it seemed effortless. Even though I had ridden now, for the week, over 400 miles—I made steady and strong progress up Tangerine Rd. Steve was right by my side.

Steve Star of The Blog, climbing strong up Tangerine Rd...

I cannot tell you how many times I suffered exhaustion and humiliation trying to crawl up these last six miles. If I wasn’t cramping or fixing a flat tire, it was just rivers of sweat pouring from me.

This was a good ride and we felt strong and satisfied with how things went. I took well over 200 photographs, and it took me way too long to edit and chose the best ones to give you a feel as to what we did and how the route made its way.

I took two days off and drove the car--I needed a few days off... But driving a car is now something I rarely do anymore. Thanks for reading my blog!



Friday, September 19, 2008

Week by Bike -- Commuting Milestones

It's been a few years--since back when I worked at the University of Arizona--that I biked into work five days in row. I'm writing this Friday afternoon, and in a little while, I'll be riding home to Dog Mtn; it will mark 200 miles by bike for the week of September 15th through September 19th.

Commute days were usually three days a week--then four days a week. Four days a week for several months I should say. This included Saturday rest day--and then typically 60 to 90 miles on Sunday.

The second milestone is that I figured out how to get the Campus Bike into the bike locker (I store it for the weekend--during the week I have it locked in the bike racks) with out wrestling it like a ornery calf into that little space.

Third--I've lost 20 pounds. It has taken me about four months of hard work. Mainly ironing my clothes and packing them into my backpack--and now the saddle bags. Really Gentle Reader, that is the hardest part: making sure you're packed and ready to roll out first thing in the morning... The last ten pounds came off fast. I suspect that it is because I went from riding 30 miles a day to 40. The 25 miles into the office is all climbing--very tough climbing, which I did on purpose. The youngbloods out for an early morning spin on Ina still pass me--but they're not dropping me. In fact, more and more I'm riding with them. A group invited me to skip work, call in sick, and go do a few laps in Saguaro Nat'l Park East. Gentle Reader, you do not know how tempting that thought was--but I abstained this time!

I also added one more mile to the commute, which is the challenging climb from Swan to Craycroft, heading East on Skyline. The reward is the chance to glide down Craycroft and 35 mph and into the Desert San and the office.

I will also add that the headwinds have been brutal this year. Tailwinds have been sweet--but they are few and far between--never late in the week when I really need a divine wind to carry me home. More than not--I arrive at the Y an exhausted heap. Little Egypt wonders why I torture myself.

If you have read this far, my Dear Gentle Reader of This Blog--you know the reason--


Allure Libre!

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Man of Steel

The Big Steel Raleigh Super Grand Prix...

I brought in about 10 days worth of work clothes when I had the car and drove into the office. Every evening I pack the day's clothes home--I needed to bring back hangers.

The wind's been a constant companion this week. It's either a headwind or a tailwind--but not the usual pattern I know oh so well, mes amis! Last night, the headwind seemed to get stronger the closer I got to home. I was seven minutes late and Little Egypt was left waiting (listening to her new CD full blast-she didn't even notice when I pulled up...)

This is the end of the Bike Path, heading West. The bike path runs along the Rillalto River, and River Rd. I'll go right and get on La Cholla--which is my climb up to Ina Rd.

Busy traffic as people are going home--but I have a wide and smooth bike lane as you can see. There are four stages of mile and mile-and-a-half climbs that I make. Then one really dangerous left turn to go West on Ina.

What I do is look for a window of oppurtunity and then sprint into the double left hand turn lane. About 99% of the time I make it to the light and through with no problem. The other 1% I have to go thru the light, do a right and a right to get in the bike lane heading West. It's tricky too--the sun is blinding drivers (who are always driving so god damn fast!) and it's also a major right turn for said drivers to head up to Dog Mtn. Pick yer poison, Gentle Reader!

The best part of this evening's ride was that Little Egypt had ordered Pizza Hut! Yeah! I stuffed my face--Callie barked at me because she thought I might not save her a piece of pizza crust--which she loves!


Monday, September 15, 2008


There was an awesome full moon when I left the house this morning. Here's the moon setting almost on Panther Peak.

I stopped by the YMCA, about ten miles into my morning commute, to take off my arm warmers (a bit of a chill in Dog Mtn!) and to put on my sunglasses. I'll be heading right into the morning sun for part of my climb. Its blinding, mes amis! I'm glad there's not much traffic because I am sure automobiles have trouble seeing me...

There has been so much rain that the river lands have been transformed into a tree farm. There's still quite a few large tracks of undeveloped land on the river. Sadly, I see it getting plowed and bulldozed to make way for luxury homes and villas.

There was an unusually strong headwind out of the East this morning--gusting to 25 mph the morning paper reported when I read it at lunch. No wonder I was exhausted when I got to work--my legs felt very weak. I also felt drained all day.

So I was glad when I got on the bike for the ride home, because that headwind that wore me down this morning was now a steady tailwind.

The sun is in need of a vacation I think. All summer long, he's been working hard--making the Monsoon rains better than ever this year--and often letting me know who's boss. Only a few weekends ago, I rode 90 miles, and the last part of that was in temps at 102 degrees.

He still blazes high in the sky--but he's tired.

The first offical day of Fall is this week. I can tell that day is soon to arrive--my hope is that I'll have a good view and know it when I see it happen. I mean, there's the formula and someone has done the calculations--which is a feat of genius--but most people are indiffernt. Too busy thinking about their boxer shorts constricting their balls to care. Speaking of balls--when the sun makes it hard to see, sometimes I hit a bump or a crack in the pavement that I could normally avoid. Feels like getting kicked in the nuts...

Allure Libre!

Sunday, September 14, 2008

Last Week by Bike--Weekend Disaster

By the end of the week, an erie storm came in from the West, riding the headwind--then blocking out the late afternoon sun as I rode home.

Normally these storms come out of the Southeast, from down Old Mexico Way.

This is a sign of Fall and the end of the Monsoons--however, late that night (I think this was Thursday's ride home I've photographed) there was a fierce storm with thunder and lightning.

Saturday's disaster, mes amis. I went a bit beyond my skill level, as you can see above, and installed a front rack on the back of my Raleigh Super Grand Prix commuter bike. Phil at Pima bikes gave the rack for free (he said he kept tripping over it in the shop) and to make Little Egypt happy, I put the trunk she bought me on the rack, so see above. After I really struggled to get everthing off--then all back on, it was clear that the rack with trunk were quite useless. The trunk wont' hold very much, and the rack is too short. So I wasted all afternoon getting it together 0nly to realize it wasn't going to hold what I needed.

As you would expect, Callie was all over me every minute--insisting that I throw the ball or her favorite squeak-ee toy, over and over agian--for hours! Okay that was fun, but just imagine trying to wrestle off a stubborn bolt or nut--and then tossing a tennis ball out in the street for Callie to leap in the air for a catch!

Finally I had to tell Little Egypt that the bag she bought me wasn't going to work (she had bought that and a pair of bib shorts for me as a surprise) and I think we needed to take it back.

She said for me to just put it on her bike--so she'll use the stuff and I'll get my bike fitted out proper with a rack and then a set of panniers.

Why some company would produce such a bag that would carry so little, I'm not sure. I wanted it to carry at least a pair of tennis shoes and clothes for the Y. It couldn't even do that.

The good thing is that I got some sweet new tires for the Raleigh. They're 27 inch but not as big as the ones before (1x1/8 instead of 1x1/4) so the tires won't be rubbing on the fenders. They're Continentals, not made in Germany like my good road tires, but in Taiwan--probably by the same standards as the German made tires.

The weekend was restful and I needed that time off the bike. It is weird how the price of gas has gone down--it seems that I've biked all through the high-prices when gas was pushing $4.10 a gallon. We rarely drove out car and saved probably a few hundred dollars.


Wednesday, September 10, 2008

A Rare September Monsoon Ride

Heading West on the River Bike Path toward home.

With no headwind out of the West, I get to fly like a falcon--but rain is on the way!

Big clouds rolling in with thunder and lightning!

Usually, our Monsoons are over by now--no one forecast the storm for this late afternoon. A great surprise and a beautiful and powerful show! I'm glad I had a front row seat. A very light rain kept me cool, and the tailwind was a much needed relief from always the unforgiving headwind for the ride homeward. I waited under the shelter of the entrance to the Y as the rain poured only minutes after I arrived.