Sunday, January 31, 2010

The Cheesy Chips Ride

Sometimes you need to get on the bike and ride until you are covered in mud and can't ride another block, other times you need to just make a plate of cheesy chips with chipotle salsa and sit down in front of the TV for a good snacking. So, behold the wonder of JRA Cheesy Chips, made with 5 kinds of cheese, a recipe developed in the test kitchens of the John Romeo Alpha Culinary Institute of the Onspeedgo Online University. Yum. Thanks Limom at the Flat Tire for putting delicious snack food products into my mind.

However, consuming the plate of cheesy chips did not satisfy the ache to get out and ride. The road bike has not been used in a while. Since I ride this pig to work and back, mounting a lithe steel and carbon fiber road bicycle is both exciting and a bit intimidating, at least for the first few minutes, until my muscle memory kicked in and I felt more connected to it. I love the canal paths, and also occasionally riding down some single-track on a mountain, but when I'm on a road bike on a smooth stretch of road spinning at just the right cadence, there's nothing else like the feeling. The guys at Slippery Pig bike shop sold me my road bike a few years ago, and they did a great job of matching me to the right bike. I usually do my own wrenching, because I enjoy the frustration and learning from my own horrific errors, but if I needed something beyond my skills, and several things fall into that category, I wouldn't hesitate to go back to that shop.

So I put together a video of the ride, not because it was "epic" or incredibly notable, just because it was fun, and proof that I did something to try to counteract the cheesy chips fat grams. Although there is no need to counteract the cheesy chips mojo, it actually helped I think. At about 2:30 you can witness some cyclists exhibiting the two-wheeled version of the group-gets-the-right-of-way fallacy. Just because the riders in front of you make the light or enter the traffic circle first, they don't magically douse you with invisible right-of-way fluid that pulls you through the intersection automatically (although it would be awesome if it worked that way). I attribute my super-attentiveness and ability to resist the temptation to continue on through the traffic circle in front of them to the sense of calm and peace I attained from the cheesy chips mojo. May you attain something similar soon, too. Get up. Go ride.   

Thursday, January 28, 2010

Shortcuts

This is Calle Redondo Park, which is just off of Calle Redonda, as you can see from the signage above. I do not know how the City of Phoenix Park planners, mappers, namers and signers landed on ending the park name with a different vowel than the street name. It has to be in the bottom decile for park area--you can measure this odd little triangle of grass and mud in square feet. Or square decimeters. It's small. Some of the regulations listed on the sign are rather comical to contemplate. Use your imagination. You'll need a passel of permits to do anything fun, other than slice across it on your bicycle, if your definition of fun includes shootin', drinkin', listenin' to loud music, driving a motor vehicle, makin' a fire, or some combination of these. And you can forget about golfin'. It's right out.

The relevance of this mini-park to the blog (other than the beautiful green Bike Route sign) is that it represents a pleasant little shortcut on my commute, a refinement to my route which eliminates a clumsy acute-angle turn, stop sign, and associated traffic.

Refining the route is something I've been doing on a bike since I was a kid riding to school--always looking for a shorter, quicker, or more interesting way to get from A to B. It helps if you live in a town where people don't fence their yards. Of course, kids cutting across the yard on bikes is one of the main reasons people want to put up fences, I suppose. I cut out about three blocks from some of rides home as a teenager by connecting a cul-de-sac with another street, past a weeping willow tree. It's a spontaneous thing, hey look, I wonder if you can get through there, Mr. V probably won't mind too much. This kind of exploration ties you more closely to neighborhoods, I think, giving you a sense of time and place, of what is where, and who's doing what, that you don't get in driving in your car, at high speeds, on the freeway. It's a very valued, and often missed, sensation to me: as proprioception is to the body, so this sense of deeply knowing the place where you live and bike (or run, or walk, or lay in the grass watching the clouds go by). It's a connectedness to your surroundings, the places and sensations, the people, climate, geography, wildlife, architecture, changing of the seasons, the whole picture. It's the feeling of knowing which plants or trees will have berries or fruit you can grab on the way home, what time of the year, to stuff your face with. I think you have to feel the fog on your face, and have some of the local gravel ground into your knees, to really know the place. And knowing where the shortcuts are, even having a reliable intuition of where they probably will be, becomes part of the benefit of [insert word with a meaning like proprioception of place]. There was plenty of airborne moisture this morning to add data to that store in my brain. See the picture of Camelback Mountain in the mist, below.

Prior to this post, Google returned no results in a search for "Calle Redondo Park" in quotes. So hello world, here's Calle Redondo Park in a search. One of my shortcuts. Where, if you have the right fistful of permits, you can do all kinds of fun stuff. Although you don't yet need a permit to ride through the mud on your two-wheeler. Get up. Go ride.



Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Mozart Ride


Our most excellent classical radio announcer, Sterling Beeaff on KBAQ, let me know that today is Mozart's birthday (number 254 it looks like), and that automobile rush hour traffic is terrible this morning. So on my commute in, which on my bike should be super-smooth, I'll be smiling and waving, with some Nachtmusik as the song of the day. Get up. Go ride.  

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Ride Ride Ride


When the small voice inside is asking, but not really asking, "Should I ride today, or not," and starts to come up with lame reasons and the typical excuses, just stop the interior monologue with a persistent reply, "Ride, ride, ride," get your stuff, and start moving toward your bicycle. Do not hesitate, do not give the resistance time to reorganize itself, just go to where the bike is kept, check that the tires have air and the brakes work (having kept the chain in perfect lubricated status the previous night), then do the right thing. Get up. Go ride. Ride ride ride.

Saturday, January 23, 2010

12 Hours of Pain & Purpose Mountain Bike Challenge

On a Saturday afternoon, finding myself ripping vinyl albums to MP3 after five days of semi-voluntary non-riding due to severe weather, I squinted through the blinds at the outside world and glimpsed sunshine, and chided myself: dude, put down the records, it's time to get up, go ride. You can rip the old Pantera and Smiths records later. I scouted around the house until I remembered where I put the bike so many days ago, and decided to ride down to Tempe Town Lake to get some video of the Salt River running over the inflatable rubber dam after Arizona received a year's worth of rain in under a week. The original title of this post was going to be "Find a Place Fit to Laugh," from the R.E.M. lyric in the song "Laughing," which was on the vinyl album (Murmur) I was ripping at the time I peeked outside. But, after I took my fantasy commute route down the Crosscut Canal to Tempe, I ran smack into the middle of an event with people riding bicycles with numbers and wearing determined, fatigued looks on their faces. Fate was getting a little snippy with me, reminding me this is supposed to be a bicycling blog, smacking me upside the head with the 12 Hours of Pain and Purpose Mountain Bike Challenge. Here are a few of the riders, apparently about 10 hours into the race:



Number 120 wins the "Find a Place Fit to Laugh For Looking Good After Riding 10 hours" award. It's a team event, but that's still a lot of riding. I rode this fast, level part of the course on my steel single speed with the 700x30 slightly knobby tires, and started to think that the suspended mountain bikes were overkill. Then I noticed on the map that they jump over to Papago Park after this part, where I'm sure the suspension was useful, and the knobs needed on the extra-muddy trails.

Anyway, this is Onespeedgo, not exactly a competitive sports-oriented cycling site, more of a "what I saw and thought about it while riding blog," so here's a video of the river. The downstream side of this is usually dry except for a small pool and tiny outflow stream. I saw the river running a lot wilder than this the day the new bridge washed away in January of 1993, but this still is a lot of water to be running here.


Then as I turned toward home, I passed the SRP port hole of genetic diversity, which to my mind is the outlet of the Crosscut canal. This normally placid water feature was overflowing with gurgly brown water and spewing dead fish across the grass as the water ran down and mingled with the Salt River. I don't actually know what the source of the water is, but it looks like it could be from the Crosscut, and by the fish on the grass, it looks like they are not filtering out the biologics from all the different upstream rivers, at least not after the rains, with the high water levels. But I wasn't actually looking for fish or quagga muscle veligers, I was scanning for bits of foam from my fantasy break-up of Flowing Overlapping Gesture. Saw none though.

On this ride, I also improved the fantasy commute route both in time and smoothness by staying on the path through the park as apparently intended. Paul Davies, email me if you have any need of an IT-savvy apprentice to serve in a think-tank like capacity; I think the commute on a Sinner Mango is viable now. Get up. Go ride.

Thursday, January 21, 2010

The Fruit of Error



It's been raining all day in Arizona, and I was wrong in my previous post, two exceedingly rare events, both of which I am OK with, since both will yield fruit. By error and informed step-wise revision we make progress, and it was in that spirit that I stopped by the Scottsdale Waterfront this morning just to verify what I wrote about the lack of floating of the Flowing Overlapping Gesture (by Fausto Fernandez) exhibit in the canal. I had a nagging hunch that instead of glancing in the general direction while driving past the area on the way to work, it might pay off to stop by and see what was happening. I wish I had productive nagging thoughts like that more often: it floats! The basis of the previous post was seeing that the section of the chain of foamy shapes that flowed up and over the bridge was gone, and I assumed that the rest had been removed as well. However, on closer examination on foot, I found that most of it was intentionally floating. I may have just been fortunate enough to catch the last day, not sure. But it looked like this:








Writers from Sir Thomas More to John Gray have discounted the notion that society is progressing toward some ultimate or final end of achievement or perfection through various mechanisms of progress. Wherever we go, there we still are, with our weaknesses, appetites, peculiarly evolved physical forms, emotions and all. Yet, we have achieved actual progress in many specific realms if not in the grand scheme of things. Medicine, science, technology, even bicycle design, have all advanced in their own ways, yet they all share in common the same characteristic: these advances have been accomplished through trial and error, through formulation of hypotheses and testing these with experiment and investigation, and then revising them into new ideas to begin the cycle anew. One of the many negatives of this method is that it relies on failure (of a sort) and the following opportunity to examine the bits of the ruin you've made for threads of new direction. You never know for certain how it's going to turn out, else you wouldn't need to conduct the experiment in the first place. The fruit of error is sometimes soured by the cost of failure. But on the other hand, a new theory, an elegant proof, a simple formula that embraces the flow of planets and the spark of atoms, the possibility of attaining these ends explains the urge of walking out in the rain to see for yourself, possibly to encounter the unexpected and unintentional idea that changes everything. 

A mistaken conclusion about a work of art floating in a canal. The artwork itself a reference to maintenance and dialog about life in the desert city around the canal, floating in the newly cleaned canal, yet with a piece of unintentional debris caught in it, almost becoming a work of art itself.


   

There's a video on the Scottsdale blog which conveys what was intended by the curators. It's well-done and shows the white amurs and the other related performance art well. But it omits exploration of Flowing Overlapping Gesture, and was made before this action-packed week of storms, mud,  and unintended juxtapositions, from which sometimes we learn more than what was planned. I wonder how "Hindsight is 20/20" is holding up in tonight's 40 mph winds. I think I'll go have a look outside to see if a quick ride is in order to check it out. Get up. Go ride.

 

Mud, Flood, and the Washing Away of Ephermeral Things

When the weather forecast is something like this, predicting a record two inches of rain in one day, I feel no shame in driving the car to work. It's not really the slop or mud that concerns me; I enjoy those in the right circumstances. It's the preparation, both effort and time, that deters me. Following my midwestern male "don't let the weather dictate your travel plans" ingrained macho tendencies, I got out what passes for my rain gear, which is more like waterproof mountain jacket and pants, and thought about what would need wet lube (the chain) and some grease (the headset, wheels, bottom bracket) to enable deep water street commuting with a side order of mud. But I stopped when I got to the panniers and extra change of clothes. If I take the car today, all I require by way of preparation is an extra cup of coffee. So as I enjoy that extra cup just now, I'll also report that in this one case, I hate being right, or at least, the appearance of being right, which is all that matters since I am writing of the end of the "Flowing Overlapping Gesture" exhibit at the canal. This newly uncovered blog post indicates that the foamy structure was intended to float for a few days when they refilled the canal. I was surprised to see that the canal is already full again, which would appear to be sooner than was posted on the sign, anyway. With no sign of floating foam simulacra. In appearance only, it seems to me that the waves of storms running through our normally bone-dry valley may have accelerated the refilling, and prevented the post-gesture artwork floating. I have no evidence of that, though. My extra cup of coffee is dry now, too, and it's off to work in the two ton gas machine rather than the 25 pound steel velocipede. So, while I am not exactly happy or content with that, I can think of the car commute this morning as something like a submarine adventure. Ping, ping, ping. Possibly I will capture on video some meme-worthy stupid motorist law breakers crossing flooded washes. And on the bright side: I suppose the white amurs are back in their happy weed-eating homes, and I hear the mud calling my name. Get up. Go ride.   

Monday, January 18, 2010

Night is All Right



Night is all right. When your front tire is spraying mud up into your headlight. Especially. Get up. Go ride.

Sunday, January 17, 2010

Fables of the Deconstruction



I don't think the Phoenix weather forecasts are meant to be taken literally. They read better when taken as metaphors, or fables, rather than predictions of actual weather conditions. As straight-up forecasts, they usually suck. But you can't blame the weather persons, since we only have three seasons: hot and dry, hot with a slight chance of violent thunderstorms, and mild and dry. When something different comes along, like next week, you can't really blame them when they come out with a forecast like "Holy Carp El Nino May Destroy Us with Water This Week." There's a trio of Pacific storms pointed in our general direction, combined with a nearly certain shift of the jetstream. Typically this pattern will result in bucketloads of water running in our streets and normally-dry washes, and feet of snow falling in the mountains, but how much, on which days, with what certainty, is so unclear that I utterly doubt the forecast as it currently stands: good chance of rain every day this week. I anticipate clouds, blustery winds, and rain threatening to unleash in torrents, but when? How much? In my city? No one can say. My knee says not soon, at this moment. I wanted to ride out one more time before the combination ice age / epic flood / stormageddon descends later this week. To hear the weather forecasters, this is the biggest one since '98, possibly bigger. To hear the skiers and snowboarders, you should take the whole week off and head to the mountains now, because the powder will be epic (dude), and once it blows in, you may not get out for days.

They are still working on the "maintenance as metaphor as canal as fissure as dialogue" along the waterfront, and I noticed it and took a photo. It fits in nicely with the forecast-as-fable already mentioned, since I was wondering, what will happen to the colorful foam shapes arrayed carefully in the muddy fissure in the unlikely event that the forecast blinding sheets of water from the skies for days on end actually occurs? A clash of metaphors, I think, art about cleaning up the canal that becomes canal flotsam that needs to be cleaned up when it's washed away by the Pacific jetstream deluge. I want to ride my bike to work this week just to be there in case it happens. But really, I have no concern for the foam tools in the ditch, since I think what the National Weather Service is actually going for here is something like the message from the movie Wall-E. Not sure. Get up. Go ride.





Friday, January 15, 2010

Laughing Friday

No photo or vid today, just a quick scene: warm early Friday evening, a dense stand of oleanders 20 feet tall and too thick to see through, a quiet street, and as I ride past on the way home, I hear a covey* of Gambel's quail laughing at each other and running back and forth behind the hedge. I stopped to listen for a moment, tried to see through the bushes to find out what they were up to, but could only hear them chortling as they scuttled to and fro across crispy leaves. I hope we find something to laugh about like those crazy quail this weekend, with family, friends, and/or on a bike. Get up. Go ride.

*need a better collective noun for quail than "covey". Suggestions welcome. I'm going with a giggle of quail until someone suggests a better choice. 

Thursday, January 14, 2010

Render Unto OCDaeser

Sometimes you just have to let the OCD run its course. Wisdom and experience support the conclusion that the benefits sometimes outweigh the costs of just giving the OCD enough slack to spin on whatever it is that's bugging it, until it loses interest, to limit collateral damage via a more adamant and energy-sapping spin at a less-convenient time. So, hopefully for the last time, I write one more post about the fish round-up that I did not actually attend, but which is still sending aftershocks reverberating up and down the canal. With the offset glimpse of the effusive prose devoted to linking fine art, muddy ditch maintenance, community dialogue, architectures, large-scale fissures, and the capture of weed-eating carp, I had to go back and get a better shot, and read the whole paragraph.

There you go. As the canal channel is a forum for community dialog, I suggest we go hold a meeting there to discuss city bicycle infrastructure now, since at least there's very little water in it. When they fill it back up in a few weeks, in may be less conducive to talking about stuff, as we are washed downstream toward the genetic mixing pool that is the terminus of the Crosscut Canal. There are several physical gaps that we would probably get caught in on the way, prior to getting caught between the environmental and political issues mentioned in the sign. And it seems like a physical barrier whether it's full of water or not. Anyway, so that this exercise in OCD free-reign isn't a total loss, here's a quick video of the heavy machines moving mud around in the ditch, creating a wake in the shallow water, and making a better place for the white amurs and community dialoguers. Get up. Go ride.

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

NIMBL

The start of my commute this morning seemed to have more salmon on it than a bagel with lox and everything at The Jewish Mother restaurant in Virginia Beach. Oh my, I can almost taste that chicken liver omelet that I snarfed there. First there was an instance of sweetheart bicyclist/jogger salmoning (traveling against traffic), then a dog walker, then a motorized skateboarder, then three vehicular salmon--one in my lane, two driving the wrong way on the opposite side of the street. I needed Heath Ledger as the Joker, to say, "Why so salmony?" I heard that voice the rest of the ride. At the time either it was too dark to photograph without rudely flashing the salmon in the face, or I was just too sleepy.  I was feeling very NIMBL (Not In My Bike Lane) about salmon and so on when I arrived at the scene of the ongoing dry-up. By way of a status update, they are moving dirt into piles of considerable size with large machines.

And appear (possibly, this is just a guess) to have punched a hole exactly the right size to swallow my bike tire into the sidewalk, revealing in the process interesting reinforcing fibers.
 

 
What I saw after work changed all that negative NIMBL outlook in several ways. That is, after a black Toyota Land Cruiser drove at me down the pedestrian walkway near the Scottsdale Waterfront. Again it seemed unwise to flash the salmoning pedestrian-terrorizing Land Cruiser in the beady eyes, so instead with a trembling hand I grabbed this shot two seconds later. He just wasn't in the spirit of the culture of the muddy ditch, I guess.

This is public poster copy which requires no blog-glossing. Just clicky and read it.

But my negative NIMBL orientation was washed away by the pure waters of beautiful chance encounters. First, and foremost, there's a brand new bike lane freshly painted, along a stretch that really needed it. Where one used to whip a smooth right off of the decent bike lane on Indian School onto 68th Street northbound and quickly find oneself in nobikeland, pinned between two lanes and the canal bridge on the right, now there is this bright, shiny new bike lane. So forget everything else I said before, this is fantastic, thank you responsible parties and street painters and taxpayers who made it possible.

And last, although it's not really my cup of tea any more, you don't really see street offerings like the folllowing very often. It seemed like a sign. A very clear sign. Get up. Go ride.
 

Sunday, January 10, 2010

Illustrious the passing light


"Song at Sunset" by Walt Whitman fits with this afternoon's ride and the photo I took near the end of the striking gray sky above Camelback Mountain, particularly the illustrious section:

Illustrious what we name space, sphere of unnumber'd spirits,
Illustrious the mystery of motion in all beings, even the tiniest insect,
Illustrious the attribute of speech, the senses, the body,
Illustrious the passing light--illustrious the pale reflection on
the new moon in the western sky,
Illustrious whatever I see or hear or touch, to the last.

What's he chanting on about? Checking Webster's for "illustrious", we have both "very distinguised" and def 2obs a: "shining brightly with light". I don't know if anyone can be as bright and full of song as Uncle Walt is about this sunset, but able to look at that crazy graylit sky and see no fault? Able to imagine a large, bearded poet singing to it at the top of his voice? Able to step into the spirit which believes that seen in a certain light, everything, even the last particle, in the universe is amazing? For a few moments, on a bike ride, between work calls and household tasks, yes I was. Get up. Go ride.

Thursday, January 7, 2010

Helmeted Bicyclist Symbol


I don't know when they started, but the diamond bicycle lane markings are being blackened out and replaced with helmeted bicyclist symbols. I use that phrase "helmeted bicyclist symbol" because that's what p.809 of the "MUTCD" or "Manual on Uniform Traffic Control Devices," December, 2009 edition, calls it. Before I wrote this blog post, that phrase wasn't found anywhere else except in that document by Google. Which makes me wonder how uniform the manual is. I like him (he looks like a male to me, like bathroom guy on a bike. You may have a different view).His helmet looks a little like a wok to me, though. I rode into work before the sun came up, and came home long after it had set. These are the type of posts you get on days like that. Get up. Go ride.

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

Sunrise Flood Irrigation Fog Fountain




Sunrise this morning, fog steaming around a flood irrigation valve releasing water into a yard and catching the light just right. A bonus video clip is below, in which you can hear the cars blasting by, mostly bypassing this in their bisy backson vehicular rush. I paused just long enough to enjoy it, and snap a couple of pictures. Today wasn't "Humpday" for me, one more day to get through and be done with on the way to Friday, it was Fountain Day, at least in this moment. One more reason for the tagline: Get up. Go ride.

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

Hindsight is Always 20/20


This is a follow-up to the Winter Solstice Commute post where I wrote about the sign which informed me that the canal leg of my route would be closed for maintenance for a month and a half starting today. It's only a short section of the commute, relative to the whole, but I enjoy that stretch of gravel and water out of all proportion to the rest of the paved route, because it reminds me of the fun/long weekend rides I sometimes take along the canal path, I guess. So it's confirmed, the fences and construction vehicles were taking over this morning, and the section was completely closed off by the end of day return trip. It's the annual canal dry-up, when the canal boffins drain all the water and fix stuff. I will think positively, and assume that it will be a somehow better and more enjoyable (or at least less leaky and better smelling) canal when I can again commute down it on or around Feb 19.

But there are some compensations. First, the art above is being installed to coincide with the dry-up of the section of the Scottsdale Waterfront. This work is called "Hindsight is Always 20/20," by R.Luke Dubois. He created these lightboxes to resemble eye charts using words, ordered by frequency of occurrence, from the State of the Union Addresses of each of the presidents, according to the link. I repeat this information because of the potential evanescence of the page which currently hosts the description. Who knows if it will still be there on Feb 19, when I close the loop on the dry-up improvements obsession now starting to burn a permanent place in your subconscious? R. Luke's pages on the bitforms site may or may not (who can say?) outlast this blog and/or the scottsdalepublicart.org site, but it also invites comparisons, and I gotta say I prefer the light box form of his eye charts, viewed at night, along the canal, over the prints-on-a-wall version on bitforms. Anyway.

Second compensation of the dry-up is that they will be holding a fish round-up in the same area as the "Hindsight" lightbox installation. This link goes to page which according to its URL could have some staying power, but who knows, and which shows the fish wranglers ("fishboy" though better-formed from comparison with "cowboy" has an odd ring to it, a certain kinetic elusiveness) pulling white amurs out of a muddy ditch. I have, just before viewing the muddy ditch slide show, offered up to my daughter that we could ride over to the fish roundup on Saturday, but now fear I may have oversold it, and also realized that we won't be able to take the canal to get there. I'm still thinking positive. I'm hoping for a great showing by the fishboys. But I fear that by Saturday the whole place will look something like the picture below, from the eastern part of the city last weekend, which represents the Way of All Open Desert around here. I won't go all Abbey on you just now, but it was the bleakest thing I've seen in a long time. It has to be tough to be a coyote out there. Get up. Go ride.
 

Moving Under Your Own Power

I just finished reading one of my Christmas gifts, "One Man's Wilderness, An Alaskan Odyssey" by Richard Proenneke. Near the end, he talks about the advantages of paddling a canoe down the lake under his own power, compared to a boat with a motor, and then relates it to a car, which is what caught my attention. He wrote, "Eight and a half miles can be covered in minutes with a car on an expressway, but what does a man see? What he gains in time he loses in benefit to his body and his mind. At my pace I can notice things. A bubble on the water, an arctic tern's breast tinged with the blue reflection of the lake. The landscape is not just a monotonous blur on either side." I recommend the book. You can check out more of his Alaska journals online too, from the National Park Service link.

Riding a bicycle benefits your mind and body, and allows you to notice things you might otherwise miss. Get up. Go ride.

Sunday, January 3, 2010

Back to School Tomorrow

Last day of winter break for the little Alphas. The older one, E. Alpha, came to me late in the afternoon and asked if I wanted to go for a ride. As I was sitting down at the time, of course I said yes. Get up. Go ride.


Saturday, January 2, 2010

Borges and I Connecting Urban Canyons in Phoenix

"In the Deserts of the West, still today, there are Tattered Ruins of the Map, inhabited by Animals and Beggars; and in all the Land there is no other Relic of the Disciplines of Geography." -Borges 

On a 70 degree January afternoon in Phoenix, I set out to explore the map v. territory relation, comparing what the MAG bicycle map says about Phoenix with what the streets actually do, while heading downtown on the light rail system. This was a sightseeing and exploration trip, with the goal of answering one other question: is this a cycling trip I could take with one of my children?

I love detailed maps. But even on my relatively powerful computer (quad core, 4GB RAM, fast graphics) zooming and panning around a 16MB PDF super-detailed map is a painful experience. The MAG map illustrates the central challenge of my planned route (see below): there is no obvious connection for bicycles coming from the north to get to the light rail on Washington. There are no routes to get there all the way from downtown Phoenix to Mill Avenue in Tempe. Nothing. The light rail is the blue line with the yellow dots on it. 40th Street is the blue line that appears to stop in the middle of the Loop 202 freeway overpass. The first clip in the video above shows what this actually looks like when you ride it.



Some interesting ("interesting" like waking up to find that you're a giant bug) routes suggest themselves: under the 202 freeway on 40th Street, which is the way I opted to take South, and back up 48th Street, the way I took back, mainly because I wanted to check out the 48th Street bikeway. In between those two, I noticed that the map shows a paved shoulder (the parallel purple lines above) along what used to be SR 153 (but I think now is just considered a continuation of 44th Street) as a way for bikes into the Sky Harbor Aiport. This situation may improve once they complete all the construction, including the people-mover, along this cooridor, but this territory is nothing like what is shown on the map. You would probably get a ticket just for attempting it on a bicycle.

You really just have to check out the video I shot to see the craziness of the disconnectedness of this zone from a cyclist's perspective. The light rail itself is fantastic, once you get to it. Getting to it in the eastern half of Phoenix is best attempted with Borges or Kafka in hand. And Washington Street appears not only to host the light rail, but also a bike lane both ways, so I gave that a spin, too. Not bad, really, although the sensation of riding along on a wide open racetrack with two ton steel death machines racing to get on the freeway interchange just ahead is a bit unnerving. The bike lane is very welcome, but I also understand the psychological need for physical separation from traffic to feel safer. At the end of the video, to get back to the haven of the blue line that is 48th Street, you can see where I transit the industrial area around the Phoenix main post office, sans bike lane. The routes safer for bikes start and stop in high traffic zones, and are separated by freeways and major construction zones. Not sure I want to ride with my kid through that. But, I really do want my kids to get used to taking the light rail, as well as riding their bikes. They have already braved worse, so why not. Get up. Go ride (with the kids).