Sunday, January 24, 2016

What Are Kids Riding These Days?

Choppers! Tassels! Two drinks at a time!

For a long time, it seemed like every Sunday I would ride the same route along the Arizona canal. I think I even called it my default route for a few years. It seemed almost unconscious, the thing to do on Sunday afternoon, point the bike down the canal path and start riding.

But time marches on. My attention wandered from the default route, and after several months, I kind of forgot about that habit, tending more toward the Tri-city tour, or a quick but somewhat strenuous spin a little closer to home for short workouts that still qualifies as exercise.

Today, though, I thought, go check out the old default route, see what's going on in those parts. So on a quite pleasant day when I suspect the vast majority of my fellow city dwellers were huddled up in the TV room waiting for the Big Game to start, I filled up the water bottle and let my feet do the work.

It's dry-up time in the canals...

It's dry-up time in the canals, that mid-winter month or two when SRP drains sections at a time to fix them up, and pull out all the stuff that's been thrown into them. For some reason, the canal seems to attract shopping carts. Sure, there's always random stuff down there, but shopping cars are consistent.

The Salt River lives up to its name, depositing salt on anything that spends a season in its flow

Sections of the trail get closed off for maintenance, but usually they leave the opposite bank open and it all works out. Just as I was feeling a bit down by all the junk that humans wantonly toss into the water, I saw that the cormorants were making the best of it.

I waited to see if the wheel turned to give him a 360 view, but no.

Hey guys, check out that rad chopper bicycle

Even though it's been months since I've ridden the default route, it's like I have muscle memory of it. The patterns of the pavement, the turns and underpasses, the familiar sights, sounds, and smells of the area soaked into my neurons long ago, and they awake when I pedal through this space. There's one stretch where the muscle memory pushes me to pedal hard until my muscles burn. It's about feeling alive, about remembering my Dad and somehow honoring his memory by exerting myself, something like that. It goes from a specific starting place to a specific end, and my heart responded to it like that's where I was supposed to be and what I was supposed to do this afternoon.

Bicycle people often wave, and smile, and say hello, much more than car people. It must be something in the muscles, something about riding in the sunshine, that makes us warm to simple connection. Hello!


Friday, December 25, 2015

Riding in a Clear December Light

When the light catches the shiny stem just right...

The light around the winter solstice on a fine day can seem clear and pure. Refracted and reflected through falling water, it can seem positively diamond-like. With a brain still shaking off the last vestiges of a rampaging caffeine dependency--I quit drinking coffee about two weeks back--the heightened awareness and quiet streets can hit the senses with a quiet of unusual intensity. 

Wait, I quit drinking coffee? Yes, I fear my short but glory-filled coffeeneuring days are done. For I had become a coffee guzzler, a caffeine hound, and reached the point where the diminishing benefits gained from caffeine where outweighed by the fuzzy, anxious, tense, tired feeling that seemed to be increasing for the last few months. Also, the mass quantities I consumed during the day were affecting my sleep patterns at night no matter what time I cut it off. It was necessary to stop.

But my, my, caffeine cessation cold turkey is harder than it sounds. And took longer than expected. I decided to blunt the edges with one or two cups of green tea in the morning. Compared to what I was consuming, though, that's nothing, and the first three or four days were headachy and slightly sleepy (less than I expected, though). But I feel better, and most importantly, I'm sleeping MUCH better, which is huge.

Arizona Falls water splashing on my Selle Anatomica saddle. That beeswax saddle stuff does a good job.

I don't think coffee itself is bad. In moderation, or less, it's probably fine. but I had greatly exceeded moderation. Your mileage may vary. Plus, much of what I was drinking was that horrible work coffee, the type in the mystery bags, from the mass supplier brand, of unknown origin, which in itself is no doubt a bad thing to do to oneself. I wonder what percentage of that was actually even coffee.

I quit once before, twenty years ago I guess, for a short time. I remember feeling clearer after quitting. Perhaps it's the  years, the age thing, but that feeling is slower returning this time. It's there, I can see it in the distance, that opposite of over-caffeinated feeling. A quiet bike ride on a clear December afternoon kind of feeling.

I think I'm going to try meditation, next. Have fun, and peace, out there, friends.

Friday, December 11, 2015

Unreal Real Sunset

More or less actual color

The raging sunset caused me to pause beside the path on my Friday evening commute. Typically, the colors experienced in these moments turn out differently in/out the camera, but in this case, I think it caught the fiery flare pretty well. I just stood a moment, and listened to the water's flow.

Tuesday, December 1, 2015

Crazy for Clouds, the Cyclist's View

Just riding along when the clouds caught my attention...

The more I looked, the more I couldn't stop looking

The setting sun kept changing the lighting and the clouds reacted accordingly

Lens and camera can't really capture it, but riding on my bike, I can experience it, at length.

Tuesday, November 24, 2015

Bridging Moments

Mill Avenue Bridge (1931), Tempe, AZ

I rode the exact same route two days in a row because the weather was so fine and the sitting beside the lake so peaceful. To sit here a moment and gaze at the bridge and its reflections on a warm November afternoon was bliss itself. Not a long sit, ten minutes only, perhaps, but ten minutes of solitude with the water and light. 

I know I've mentioned it before--the magic of the late afternoon light in November. It made the substance of this bridge glow. Pure rays of it flowed around me, hit and lit the creamy bridge. Nearby a family played on the sculpture while dad laid back and stared at the blue sky. A super-fit young woman ran back and forth across the grass, full of oxygen life fueling her muscles and glad to be in the moment of exertion, of power, of life itself graced by a feeling of unendingness even while facing the signs of ending: Autumn, a river stopped briefly in a lake, a lake stopped briefly by a dam, the dam itself being replaced by another just downstream since it did not hold up as expected, jetplanes roaring in lines overhead to land, falling water in sheets by the Tempe Center for the Arts running like time itself down reflective walls shining sky and now. 

Her breathing deep and strong but not labored. Steady, a heart rate at heart, wind at her back in every direction, she stops and the universe wheels into a water bottle that could make the Milky Way vortex overhead. Head down, run another sprint. How quiet it should be, to hear feet hit grass as she ran back and forth?

So many hot summer days

So many hot summer days I've ridden past the splash pad and wondered what a bike standing against it would look like. This day the splash pad was quiet of munchkins, but water running, so I parked a moment in the creamy low light, cast shadows long, and paused to think on it. Not on the slash pad exactly, but on the moments which have danced and vanished on its surface. Like shadows, no as shadows have played, so have the countless children and moms (mostly), shrieking in the cold showers, the droplets breaking from the streams and arcing between nozzle and pavement. A place that bridges these moments into days that run into winter.

Not that winter

Not that winter ever arrives here, not really. This warm November afternoon proves that triviality, even as this splash pad proves that moments bridged in a low slanting light sound like a shower of rain hitting pavement beneath steel palm trees and bent arrows or paddles. 

I rode the exact same route two days in a row. The TCT, the tri-city tour, down paths and lanes with a few other cyclists. To sit a moment beside water.  Tilted my head back, inhaled a deep mindful breath, imagined kindness, love, and understanding. 

The light looked like that timeless relaxed being I sought, but did I? It may have looked more like I was on a mission, some kind of fitness-driven time trial, pedaling down the path, like I was racing a heart rate or a pulse ox measurement, a personal best. I may have projected what I did not wish. 

What I wished was some grace-moment, some connection, some hopeful, idealistic exhale with my eyes to the sky. The kind young woman on the bike who told me to go ahead: was that because I seemed in a rush? But where would I rush to? What time would I be trying to beat? What could possibly be more important than a moment on the corner, waiting for the light, a moment at the intersection of before and after? 

A bright enough light will sizzle it all away. Like on Venus. All flesh is grass. Greenhouse. Every metal less than steel melting in relentless rays. Not this winter, though, not this gentle November light. My next exhale hits the splash pad like a shower of cold water on a summer afternoon, and in my center I shriek joyfully for this moment, anyway. A bridge I can cross on two successive days on the same bike to the same place, but different ways. "Only connect!" written in large letters across the bridge, reflecting glowing in the warm light. Each breath, the universe wheeling at the same speed as my bike.

"Only connect! That was the whole of her sermon. Only connect the prose and the passion, and both will be exalted, and human love will be seen at its height. Live in fragments no longer. Only connect, and the beast and the monk, robbed of the isolation that is life to either, will die."-- "Howard's End", EM Forster

Saturday, November 7, 2015

Cars in a Vivid Light

Little cars in a Grand Prix made me think...

The November afternoon light was low and sharp. The sun's low slanting beams cast long shadows, illuminating the scene with vivid clarity.

They erected separate infrastructure for the safety of the small cars. Some controversy erupted around the requirement to wear helmets, as the studies on their efficacy were equivocal. But, as more cars joined in the pack traveling within the cocoon of subjective safety shooting from the rear silk spinner of the mother caterpillar of the encouragement butterfly, the drivers appeared to relax into their assigned roles, driving more boldly from point back to the same point.

Originally, there had been suggestions that the tiny cars would be driven on the streets, in a lane delineated with paint, or perhaps by sharing lanes with the full-sized cars. But fears of being overtaken, of being outmuscled, or just unseen in the tide of cellphone wielding SUVs led to the separate track being mandated. The helmets remained.

Round and round they go

In a vivid November light, I rode the fixed flatland commuter project bike for an easy Saturday afternoon spin, and glimpsed the future. Little car hobbyists and their followers, gathered on a beautiful Fall afternoon to celebrate with nostalgia the day of the internal combustion engine motorcar. Round and round they go, inside walls built just for them, keeping them safe, encouraging drivers to enjoy the space set aside specially for their unique, vanishing hobby.