Sunday, January 26, 2014

Home on the Range

Hogan behind Hubble Trading Post
One thing about being a cyclist, and a long-distant cyclist like a Randonneur, is that often you find yourself melding into the landscape rather than fighting it.  So many hours and miles in the saddle, you just have to give in - and let the miles come to you.  For me, I start to get a sense of the lay-out of the land.  I know, it sound kind of blah - but driving by things in a car, you don't seem to understand the why; why is a road here?  Why is this field farmed this way?  Who lives here?  Riding, you start to understand - your perspective changes and you sometimes get a glimpse of how people adapted to the surroundings.

I don't know why, by Hubble Trading Post in Ganado, Arizona is one of most favorite places in the world.  There is something about the spot, something that brought people here, even before John Lorenzo Hubble in the 1870's.

This time I was here, and for the first time, I noticed what seemed out of no-where - this Hogan in the back of the Store.  This is white man's version of a Navajo Hogan - and it is awesome!  You can tell that the occupants had money too.  I'm not sure the whole story, but probably was a family member of the Hubble family.  Anyway, I must tell you, Gentle Readers of This Blog, that I could be quite comfortable living in a cozy place like that!

Inside TS - 39

I stopped in and got some postcards and candy bars - the big draw for me is the feel of the place on the inside!  Still a store where you can buy what you need.  Pretty much, if you haven't figured this out already, that a Trading Post is convenience store from 100 years ago.  A lot of Trading Posts out here morphed into gas stations.  So when you pull into your favorite gas station in your neighborhood, you could think of it as your Trading Post.  Now you just swipe your debit card at the pump, you don't go inside the store and interact with people, or see the cheap shit you don't need anyway.

Hubble still sells some of that same shit, but mostly its stuff that you would need - like often what I need - to live in this country.  No photography is allowed inside, so no photos for you...  I'm glad there are no gas pumps here at Hubble Trading Post - no oil stains, no trash, no morons pouring out their cold coffee on the ground at the pump as they're leaving, etc.  It's really is worth stopping by.

The Indians there helped me out with my drive back down to Tucson; we discussed the best routes, The College, the Clans Little Egypt comes from, and how to pull a trailer out of the mud or snow if I were to get stuck on the way back.

We are in the final stages of selling our place in Dog Mtn.  Little Egypt and I have mulled over selling or keeping it - I spent the summer fixing up things and making it look shinny and new.  It was still in the same condition when I left it back in October.  A modest home in an area where, as I said in my last post, that is being built up (like wild fire) to meet the tastes of the people that got rich off the Wars and the Spoils of the economic downturn.

My next-door neighbor and good friend in Dog Mtn loaned me a small trailer.  For the long weekend, I went down and I'd bring back a couch, some furniture - and in the meantime, bring some hay and dog food up to Aunt Mae - Little Egypt's aunt that still lives up on the Rez near Wide Ruins.  Since I'd be going past her place on the way back from Dog Mtn up to Tsaile, I would surprise her with some supplies!

All I can say is that when it came time to load the hay, the big bales where bigger than I figured - I could only get two of the big 100 pound bales on the trailer and not the four that I wanted.  The young cowboys at the feed store tried to get them on but I didn't think it would be safe driving through the mountains - and I certainly didn't want to get stuck out on top of the mesa where Aunt Mae lives - so two bales would have to do.

What I bought in supplies was not that much in terms of money for me- things cost tons more on the Rez, and a lot of Navajo friends at The College say sometimes the hay is not that great.  The hay I bought was very good - and much less expensive if I were to buy up there.  

So Aunt Mae was happy to see me.  We talked for awhile - but I needed to get on the road.  What I bought just for her sheep and dogs would have cost her entire Social Security Check - so it was good that when the end of the month comes around, she has a little more this time.

Our Lady of Randonneuring
Years ago when Steve, Star of the Blog and I would train for Brevets, we'd ride up to Mammoth, AZ to the Circle K Store (Trading Post) which was the turn-around for our ride - but if you go up a bit further,  you came to this Shrine built by the Miners to keep them safe.  

So I stopped in to say hello to the Old Girl and ask that I get home with dog food, hay, and furniture with no problems.   Steve and I liked to think of her as Our Lady of Randonneuring because going home, we had to climb up and over a mountain.  Any help you can get you take, right? 

I brought back some patio furniture that my neighbor kept in his garage for us.  It's perfect for TS -39.  Little Egypt was also very happy I got this stuff as it was very expensive - but she bought it on sale and got a good price.  So even though I didn't want to at first, I hauled it back up here to The College.  Now I'm glad I did because it works well.

Got me a very comfortable couch.  So, Gentle Reader of This Blog - if by chance you find yourself up this way, I have a couch for you to crash on...

Bring you bike!

Cheers!  Bruce

Wednesday, January 22, 2014

How Does It Feel?

Mt. Lemmon Money Shot from the West
I was able to have four days off as part of MLK Holiday, so one day on Friday to drive down from the Rez to Dog Mtn, Saturday to run errands, visits with friends, check on the house - Sunday to ride with Le Tigre, my old college chum, and personal curator and librarian for a very wealthy collector (who shall remain un-named) and then Monday to drive back up into the High Country.

The difference between the Navajo Nation and Anglo Arizona starts to show up as you drive down in Show Low, AZ - Jaguars, mes amis.  Show Low is a place where wealthy folks have built homes (maybe a second or third) and automobiles which serve no other purpose than to impress upon you or I, how much money we don't have that sure came in loud and clear as I drove through, stopped to fill the tank, pee, eat a cheese burger at McD's.

Where I live, it is expensive, cars are beat up, and cars are the difference between having a decent job, getting to work, and getting food and things to survive in the mountains.  In the other Mountain Town, cars are a sign of disposable wealth.  A convertible Jag or Audi for a quick dash to the espresso bar.

I'm just saying that the Wealthy, the 1 per cent - sure got a lot richer.  This is very evident in Tucson and the surrounding out-skirts.  Seems like they got richer off of us fighting a few wars, extracting our wealth (banks targeting spouses of veterans, knowing that on their return from deployments, soldiers would find no work) fuck they even (in Arizona anyway) changed the bankruptcy laws to protect themselves from all the financial woes we would have.

People that have to live and work, even in these small mountain towns, don't have much income, so their trucks are older, rusted, and besides being the main tool to produce income, are what get you to the store for food and supplies.  Like the Navajo, what little money left goes for fuel

Only the wealthy can afford to live up here, not work, and have a car for the sake of it being an errand to the malt shop mode of transportation.

So back in Tucson/Marana/Oro Valley - business as usual - over-building of homes aimed at the entitlement-minded retired wealthy snowbirds.

Le Tigre and I went out for a ride, and I just have to tell you that it was busy, bumper-to-bumper traffic the likes I have never seen.  I have not lived in the Tucson area since 2010 - and I have to say in only a few years thing have really built up.  In about 12 years since we bought our place in Dog Mtn - it has gone from almost no traffic, to uncontrollable congestion - and the only cure is more construction to build roads - which slows the pace of everywhere you need to go to a stand-still.

Oracle Rd this time was deafening.  Just so much traffic.  Used to be fair amount of traffic as it was primarily local people (ranchers) and blue collar types coming in from the smaller mining towns on the weekends.  But mega-planned retirement communities are now up, and amid the local trailer trash - wealthy retirees with lots of disposable cash ride around in their Land Yachts.  They have a disdain for cyclist - that's why we have to stick together!

On the West side of the Catalinas, is Catalina State Park - mountains and desert.  Pretty peaceful and clean and I'm glad it's there.  Tucson area is growing so much!  People have to pay big money to see these mountains from their new homes.  But I've known them from years - and miles on the bike, and always with good friends!

Steve, Star of the Blog - climbing and suffering, training for Brevets...
Boss Man, who taught me how to make fast descents while flying down to Mammoth, AZ.
Gerry Goode, Saddlebrook resident who always met me at Espresso Drini for coffee
Susan, Beloved RBA
John, Cathy, and Eagle Wing - heading to Bio Sphere
Dave Glasgow, the Leprechaun
and Le Tigre!  The Cat of Foothills!

Le Tige on Oracle Rd, heading down into Tucson

It felt good to be in 70 degrees instead of 40 and 50 degrees like up in Tsaile.  Still, with a little cloud cover and some wind, we were a bit cold going out, mes amis.  As we came back to Dog Mtn, it finally got warm.  Le Tigre was a good sport to drive up to where I was staying with my old next door neighbor - we would have ridden further, but dang, time was passing quickly and I still had a ton of stuff to do before my all-day drive back up to The College.

We put in almost 50 miles round trip.  It was fun telling Le T about my life up on the Rez.  I sure hope he can come up and see me like he promised.  I will sure scout all he good roads to ride on, and find the choice routes up and around Canyon de Chelly.

So - how does it feel?  Little Egypt and I are close to selling our house up in Dog Mtn.  She has not lived there since 2009.  Jobs took us away from Tucson, and as you may know, Gentle Reader of This Blog, I tried for over a year to find a new job - I applied for almost every job in Tucson with no luck.  I would have applied for dish-washer, but 1, I have little experience, and 2 I'm over-qualified.  We tried renting as you know, but just had a worthless fuck for a tenant.

We've been paying rent in KS and mortgage in AZ, so it has been a drain on us.  One of the main reasons I took this job up in Tsaile is because the Navajo Nation gives me a free place to live - to which I am very grateful... and well, great places to ride!

I have to say that my walks, rides, and drives up here in this country have grown on me.  The solitude and absence of masspeople masshouses massautomobiles massconsumerism has cleared my mind - I reflect on my purpose, and my place in the world.  The World is a tough place and really, even if we're doing good, we are a lot of us on the verge of ruin.

How do we keep going?

I was fortunate, I think, to have had a good education - able to get okay jobs.  Now I have a professional job (librarian - yeah I know a stretch)

I gained a sense of my ancestors through my Grandmother Chandler (nee Wardlaw) who would spend hours with me, explaining and describing the people in the old black and white family photo albums that I was so fascinated with as a kid.  My Grandfather, Robert "Bobby" Chandler, was an artist (painter) and loved photography.  I have hundreds of pictures he took of Pairs and on-board ship while he was in the US Navy in WW I.

My Grandmother laid out for me like a big streaming book all those photos, telling me stories of the people, in such detail, such that over many years they seemed alive and close by.  I know and saw family in photos with objects - usually their personal and favorite objects, and those objects were in my grandparent's house such that I could hold them, wear them, sit on them, etc.  Being able to do that, in some ways, I became my ancestors...  It's been a big influence on how I see the world.

I have a few of those objects with me even now up here in the College Trailer Park.

Navajo people I have met have a certain modesty and resiliency; traits of character I saw in my family created from pictures and stories from my Grandmother.

That resiliency is surely to be tried living up here.

Cheers!  Bruce

Wednesday, January 15, 2014

Road Biking Around Canyon de Chelly Nat'l Monument

Tsaile Peak about 20 miles NW of Canyon de Chelly
This past weekend the temps were expected to get up into the 50's.  I prepared mentally and physically to get on the bike, Gentle Readers of This Blog!  The last time I rode was back in KS when I was home for Christmas - I went out one day for a short ride in the warm sunshine, which real quick turned into cold headwind, so I high-tailed it back to The Little House.  I'd say it got up 50 there in Lawrence for about 30 minutes, and in that 30 I actually felt human again.

KS back for my visit was super frigid cold - colder than up here most of the time....

It has been very cold up here in High Country too.  Lot of snow - then with that Arizona Sun, some melts, but quickly re-freezes.  I have been lucky to not have crashed going back and forth the mile from my trailer to The Library in the ice and stuff, and as you would expect - I put on studded snow tires and the temps raise to the 50's and the snow (well, most of it) melts away

Saturday morning I got all my shit done - laundry, ironed a few work shirts, did dishes, etc as the temp outside rose from like 18, then to 30, then to 45.  About noon I saddled up.  Living in KS and doing brevets there meant I had to get the cold weather gear.  So I had just the right amount of layers, and I was comfortable in the dry cole- and ready to ride out on the Rez.

The Mighty Trek
The car sits unused.  I save the gas.  By the time the car warms up (should I drive to work) which I will report does not warm up, and does not even get hot by the time I would arrive in the parking lot - I could be at work on my bike.  And could come home and have another cup of coffee by the time I walked from the parking lot to my desk.  You heard me say this shit for years, about people I've worked with that live less than 3 miles from their office - and they drive.  This was primarily in Tucson, where the weather is pretty damn nice all the time.

Okay so I am about to roll out on my first adventure.  What I have been told by many Navajo colleagues is that drunk drivers are like loaded guns - and everywhere.  I will not lie that many times riding to work, empties litter the side of the road - even as alcohol is strictly forbidden on the Reservation - and alcohol at the college will end your academic career forever. I was told that you are gone - unceremoniously shown the door - this goes for students, faculty, and staff.

Often when I drive, in the back of my mind, any on-coming car is a drunk driver.  It's just part of the lore and legend here - but a reality that plays out all the time.  What I will do today is only ride from The College to the first two turn-outs in the Monument; Mummy Cave and Massacre Cave.  It should be about 30 or so miles there and back.

Those are the Chuska Mountains.  Tsaile, AZ where I work and live are at the base and to the right a little bit.  I think I'm about ten miles out, Gentle Reader.  I like the road as there's a wide shoulder, and the road is straight.  People can see me on the road from pretty far away.  There is a prevailing head-wind that today was not too bad.

I will tell you that starting out, I had to climb for about five miles - that was very tough on me.  I could hardly breathe, and I don't know how long I can blame that on the altitude: When I did reach the highest point  of my ride I was at 7,200 feet (I actually only climbed about 1300) but who knows?  It was difficult.  At the top of the hill (Navajo told me they know that hill) my ribs hurt and my lungs where beat up.

Then I got some down hill and mostly flat road into the head wind, but really was wanting to get to the pull-out.  I almost thought I may have missed it (sign below) because the next pull-out would be 10 more miles.  I was not really ready for a 50 60 mile ride today!

I've been riding right along side the Canyon.

Little Egypt and I drove out here on her Thanksgiving visit, but by bike, you can really see and get a feel for the land.  I enjoyed this first view as back there is Tsaile Peak, which really dominates the campus!  Slowly, I'm meeting people that know the way to Tsaile Peak, by road that I can bike, and have climbed it - one of the faculty is from Chinle (30 miles from Dine College) and is married into a family that lives in the Canyon.  He will take me there - he also knows the roads and has biked himself from Tsaile to Chinle via the back ways - most white people don't know these roads and are not allowed as you can only enter the Monument with a Navajo Guide.  Well, my new friend knows all the rangers, all the families.  I may have a very rare opportunity to actually ride into the canyon to Chinle - but maybe I should not write about that

There is no one around so it's fun to be on the fast rollers in the park - but you have to watch out for horses.  When Little E and I were here, they were on the road - kind of mean and tough looking horses, and depending if they're used to people, or were once pets - if they are hungry they may come and see if they can get a handout - but be careful because they will stomp over you to get to that chip or candy bar.  Best leave them alone.

I could take (and did) scores of photos of this place!  But my main objective is to this time ride to here, and return.  Get a feel for the course and how much time etc.  See how I improve, and of course, go a bit long next time.  Really for me to ride to the Monument's Visitor's Center one-way is 30 miles.  To continue to the other pull-outs on the other side, and then return back to The College - it will be close to 90 or even 100 miles.

Mummy Cave - these were built about 1000 to 1100 AD, and were occupied for about 200 to 300 years.  During cold winter nights hold up in TS - 39 (my little one-room trailer) I read a book by Campbell Grant, "Canyon de Chelly - Its People and Rock Art"

Next I want to read about the geology so I can understand the miles as they pass by the Mighty Trek and I...

It is still quite a walking dream-like movie I'm living - I mean can you believe I'm actually in this country?  Often I cannot, mes amis - I'm doing this and doing that - typical campus stuff - and then Tsaile Peak strikes me - I'm in this Country.

Heading back now and I have a tailwind - oh so nice.  I can look around a bit more, and see the mountains that I live with.  I'm not sure but there's Buffalo Pass that one day I will attempt - its like Mt. Lemmon but probably a bit more dangerous (drivers going fast - drunks - I've been told Highwaymen) but we'll see.

I want to let you know Gentle Readers of This Blog, that one of the things I did while waiting for the warmest time to ride, was renewing my RUSA Membership - Randonneurs USA.  I am going to get back up on that horse - but more about that later.

11 miles of tailwind and a slight descent means I make really good time heading back!

Okay, I have to make one last really difficult and long climb.  Driving by car I did not notice this, but Tsaile and The College are down there I'd say five to six miles off?  The college is off to the right.  Notice the snow still hanging on there on the right.  Just this brief pause for a photo, and then off I go.

I enjoyed this part because it was fast and I was flying, mes amis!  But I was warned because not long before I arrived, a faculty member crashed at high speed coming back to The College.  Some people said he hit a cow, some say a rock - but probably he may have tried to avoid a cow and then crashed.  I was careful because even though this looks like an okay road in my pictures - it is not the best road, so I think said faculty member probably hit a rut or something and crashed.  Poor man - he has not been heard from and will probably not be returning.

Trailer Park

So there's the trailer park.  On the weekends pretty much everyone is outta here - I guess I don't blame them.  It is a tough place to be, and the Navajo staff that live here probably go see there relatives someplace.  

I'll be out on the road if things are good.  Maybe you''ll see me out there - If you are ever out this way, let me know - we'll go for a ride.  I hope to have my lungs in good working order so you don't drop me!  Be safe and enjoy the roads, and as always, thanks for stopping by the blog!

Cheers!  Bruce

Monday, January 06, 2014

Bike Snow Tires for the Rez

Made in Finland
I took some big chances riding in the ice and snow to work, Gentle Readers of This Blog.  Before leaving for KS (and waiting for the snow to melt off the roads) I looked on the web for some snow tires for the Desert San Campus Bike.  Right away you see Peter White's pages, and that is great because the man and his staff tell it like it is - so after reading Mr. White's pages -- yeah I need to get set up with these.

All the really good tires are made in Finland, and I pretty much had to settle for what I could afford - a good tire made in Taiwan probably would have to suffice - and I'd have to wait until I got back to Lawrence before I could even think about getting some shipped to me.  I needed money for gas to drive home, and a hotel for one night along the way.

I got back to Lawrence with a big ice and snow storm snipping at my heels as you know... but a few days later I did pop into the Local Bike Shop and inquired about the guys there getting me some tires sent to Lawrence.

This is why you should frequent and get you bike shit at the LBS, mes amis - So Joe and Collin say about the same time, "Aren't there a set of 'em down there in basement that nobody ever bought?  Yep been down there for years..." Turns out that they got ordered, never were sold, got put away - oh and maybe one of the guys put them on his bike once that worked there, just to see what they were like.

So Collin brought up the tires from the basement and handed them to me.  "There ya go Bruce.  They've been sitting around down there in basement, kinda dirty and stuff" I saw right away what they were, Gentle Readers - a set of the expensive Made in Finland studded snow tires - and at $100 a piece - even with dust on them, they were the best tires you could buy.  

I insisted that I pay something for them!  "No. Take them..." "Guys I can't do that..."  So they sold them to me at cost (so they said) for $30.00

After this trip to the bike shop, I added one more quick errand to my list of things to do, which was to purchase said LBS guys a case of their favorite beer, and then deliver back at the shop before closing.

Okay so back up here on the Rez I put on the snow tires - and of course we've had sunshine and almost 40 degrees.  The snow has mostly melted but more will come so the Navajo tell me - a lot more.   I am ready!

Heading West on Old Historic Route 66, Texas-New Mexico Border
What I do is buy enough supplies to last me for about a month.  Things out here are expensive, and you got to drive pretty far.  The rule is that the roads are beat to hell and in turn beat you vehicle to shit.  And gas is incredibly expensive.

The oil, gas, and coal companies take billions of dollars worth of energy out of this county, and you would think that the Tribe would subsidize fuel for Tribal Members or something, anything- but that is not the case and here on the Rez the Navajo pay out the ass.  If they charged you and me that price we would be in revolt and some politician would lose their job unless they put some heat on the greedy energy companies.  Not happening here, but I will tell you many want to change that equation for the Navajo People...  The energy companies take all the resources, make huge profits, and leave pollution.  It really doesn't matter if you skin is red or white - money talks, and paying certain people in positions of authority or bookkeeping or what ever - to do nothing - works very well out here.

Okay so I had the SUV packed full of food.  I was making okay time, and the weather was warm for a change - so driving West on I-40, I was inspired by one of the ladies in the New Mexico Rest Stop/Information Center, to drive on part of Old Route 66.

If you stop, ask questions, and listen to locals about where they live - you can get awesome information about places.  The woman I spoke to told me that I could get on the last 20 or so miles of Route 66 - the last part to be open before Interstate 40 shut 66 down.  I did and was rewarded with a feel for The Mother Road - and an idea to bike some of it as well maybe in the future.

Blue Swallow in Tucumcari, New Mexico
Route 66 officially closed in 1984 I think.  Anyway, the route went through Tulsa where I grew up, but already that area of town was run down, and not the best part of town to be in or drive around in - you could get shot.  Route 66, and the old diners and motel on it where eye-sores and ruins.  But now of course all that is having a Renaissance.  Old Historic Route 66 through Tucumcari is awesome!  

Restored in Tucumcari
 I found a great cafe at this place - more like a museum than a motel, its been restored and has "period" decor.  It's basic and no frills - you can see from the prices that it is cheap.  I think the airplane was left over and back in the day would catch a traveler's eye, and they might stop in.  

What caught my eye was the bright neon sign that said "Espresso Bar" and "OPEN"  I don't drink the Methodist Coffee at the hotels and truck stops, mes amis - this was what I wanted and it was the morning and I needed coffee.

Oh yeah, I made my first stop on the two day drive in Shamrock, Texas, and ate at Big Vern's Steak House on Old Route 66 there, so I wanted to see what was up with this stretch.  Really glad I found this place...

Funky and Cheap - from the 1950s of 1960s
 Might stay here next time around.

Good Espresso (Finally! A place with a Barista)
I had my Americano here - and got a few post cards.  Young hip kids, high-school age, were here as it was also an Internet Cafe.  When you probably live in a Podunk, NM shit-hole town, and have pink hair, might appear gay, or just beat to a different drummer, a place like this can be a haven - and who does not like friendly and sexy girls that work there that want to know your name and where you're headed? 

Sunday Morning and need to un-pack
I took my time and photographed some cool places, but don't have time to put in the blog.  Little Egypt's mother (full-blood Navajo) worked as waitress on Route 66 back in the day, and her father was a highway worker (Irish) and worked on dam projects - and when they married, they built and ran a motel and garage in Winslow, AZ.  So Little Egypt loves this kind of stuff.

Speaking of the wife - she loaded me down with stuff she thought I would need - like yet another chair?  And as you can see I packed up and brought the LeMond back to Arizona - for rides up here in the High Country!

I got in Saturday back up to The College - it was getting dark and the last 50 or so miles on the road up to here are pretty scary.  It is dark, all the road signs are "tagged" which means they're spray-painted over with layers of graffiti by Navajo Gang members- so sometimes you don't really know where you are exactly...  The road is rough and the paint faded.  At times, probably because I was so tired, the road seemed to just blend into the rocks and fade all together.

Exhausted, I got back to the trailer (I was not robbed and was not broken into - which I feared) and then I just threw everything into the house.  Stuff that needed to went into the fridge, but soon I crashed and slept like a ton of brinks.

Sunday I unpacked.

Well, here's to 2014, some riding, and some blogging.

Please come by and check out the blog from time-to-time!

Cheers!  Bruce

Have a Happy Christmas!

I want to tell you that I got busy and did not finish up this post - Luckily the snow up here at The College melted and I was able to drive off the mountain and start back to Kansas.  My timing was perfect, Gentle Reader of This Blog, as I left AZ for KS on December 19th and arrived in Lawrence two day later with a big snow and ice storm right on my heels!  As soon as I pulled into the driveway of The Little House, the ice and snow started.
Not much t really tell you about my stay in Kansas other than it was shit-ass cold - stayed in mostly, went down to Tulsa to see family, oh and one day, it got up to 50 degrees so I went out and rode about 30 miles.  As I was coming back into town, there was a huge strong tail-wind, which was yet another snow storm hitting the plains...

Before I left back to KS from the Navajo Reservation, I was in Shiprock, mes amis.  Part of my job will be doing some work here at the Senator John D. Pinto Library - the Senator was one of the famous Navajo Code Talkers, and this library is quite beautiful!

Still getting my head around how things work out here at this place, but happy to report that the job is going well, thanks in part to working with good people (for a change)

The Rock with Wings

That's Shiprock - about 7,100 feet.  Sacred to the Navajo.  Might bike out there sometime so stay-tuned to the blog!

Cheers!  Bruce