Saturday, July 2, 2011

Pathway to Yourcenar: Crosscut Canal Project Phase II

Imagine this oasis, in the middle of a desert mega-city, next to a bicycle path, in a quiet area

Walking or cycling down a trail outside the cities and away from the road somewhere in the Sonoran desert at noon in summer is so hot that you have to be slightly daft to enjoy it. The forecast high for Saturday was 117F. Yet, the open desert is significantly better than cycling the streets of Phoenix or Tempe in the summer. You can experience slices, or glimpses, of that desert world in our expansive Phoenix mountain parks: plants, shade, rocks, slightly cooler arroyos, wildlife, solitude, and very occasionally that rare feature, the oasis, around a stream or spring, or the elusive tinaja.  

Your path should have shade from mesquite and cottonwood.
Your skinny tires should crunch through pods around the summer solstice.

Outside the parks, the paths along the canal banks sometimes approximate the desert, as along the ACDC west of 40th Street where it's all gravel and careful desert landscaping. In other places though, the canal bank more resembles the hot, paved streets and well-concreted zones, for example, along the Grand Canal at Van Buren, with its tall fences topped with concertina wire. My preference is for something comfortable, quirky, human-scaled and locally appropriate, green / natural-looking rather than a bleak, bland mini-freeway.

This is a new turn-off, or junction, let's go see where it goes!

I've written about the excellence and the future connectivity opportunities of the Crosscut Canal path several times (for example, here and here). When I saw this new work-in-progress down at the south end in Tempe, with these promising gabion stanchions, I recognized that it was part of the Crosscut Canal Phase II project, which links the existing path more directly with Tempe. New linkage! Speaking of linkage, do click on the project page I linked above, and check out the excellent project analysis map, with its color-coded features, it may help locate what follows below better, along with the blogger location tag at the bottom of the post. Notice the item: "Connection to adjacent Cultural/Recreational Amenities and Trail System." I think I'm in love: a ride to the Arizona Historical Society Museum on a dedicated path!

Three gabion marker boxes, it's like a JRA trap of a most clever design!

After the sum total of hours spent sleeping and working, for many of us, commute time will vie for the next spot on the ordered list of daily activities. Although I'm sure that texting and/or Facebooking and/or general Internet time is sprinting to the top of the list.  

What about family time? Reading? Thinking/reflecting? Riding the bicycle? Pondering a butterfly? Tracking the clawprints of a tortoise through the desert? Where do these very important activities fit in? Of all the ways we spend time, let us ask: do we spend it well? Which brings me to Maragurite Yourcenar and Memoirs of Hadrian.

Currently reading

Maguerite was born in 1903 in Belgium and died in 1987. I first heard of her in an article about her house, which is now a museum: Petite Plaisance is in Northeast Harbor on Mount Desert Island, Maine. The impression I got from the article was that it was a house of books in an out-of-the-way place with little or no technology in it, where she and her translator, Grace Frick, who was also her lover, sat at their own typewriters a few feet apart. Marguerite wrote her novels, bringing history to life, and Grace translated. If ever a translation had some possibility of getting across what the author meant or intended in the original language, this sounds like an arrangement that would increase the odds of success.

OK JRA, a phase II extension of the Crosscut Path in Tempe, and a novel by an under-appreciated Belgian author that's a fictional memoir of a Roman emperor and his love for Antinous: how do these two things relate?

Hello, path: take me away

A path that takes you away from your daily commute hours, away from the concrete caverns and crowded consumerist centers of our cities and shows you a little bit of oasis, a little bit of desert, can feel like a short break from it all, like it is taking you away from the same-old, same-old. Similar to an excellent historical novel by a reclusive Belgian expat who lived in a quiet, book-filled house in out of the way Maine. Even if, in the video I linked at her name, above, in the interview she exhibits that vague, contradictory evasiveness that European intellectuals have tried to pass off as sophistication and nuance. To every direct question she gives an indirect and uninformative answer which is still pleasant to hear, as if the point of an interview about her life and writing is not to convey actual information about her life and her writing, but rather to confirm that it's all a rather muddled puzzle, and that any assumption about it would be mistaken. Which is quite possible, except that she never gets around to clearing up the mistaken assumptions or putting together some of the puzzle pieces, just moving on to reply with next evasive response.

Getting there: not there yet, but just around the corner...

Ah, the pond: I've seen this on satellite view, always wondered what it looked like up close

Down the hill, a swirly little rest area, with gabions, still under construction, looks like, downtown Tempe behind

Running alongside, out of the pond, water in the desert: take me away

More gabions: we're still inside the city here, clearly, yet separated, and this is made for us: humans, not cars

Because at certain times, all I need: shade, a good book ,and the sound of falling water

You dip a bandana in here, wrap it around your neck, and you're cool in the shade

What's this? A new bridge? Check it out.

Look at the optical effects along the sides

This new bridge is up at the north end of the phase II project, in effect linking it with the Crosscut path in a new and convenient way. The whole project concept shows a lot of thought and consideration for pedestrians and cyclists, what we need, what we like, and what would be useful. In addition, it's only for peds and cyclists: there's no parallel road around here, no major street crossings (in this section, farther north there is), no sound of traffic.

When I saw this great new bridge, with its attractive design and high level of connective functionality, I thought, EXACTLY: LET'S PUT ONE OF THESE ACROSS THE ARIZONA CANAL UP AT THE NORTH END OF THIS PATH! Guys, look at the map: this needs to happen. Invergordon Road to Tempe Town Lake in one glorious bike route. Yes!

Bridge Goes Here! 33.490558, -111.943265

As I write, this, I've only read the first few chapters of Memoirs. And I have to wonder, can one ride out in the heat, somewhere out in the desert, along a path that takes you away from it all, with a great book in hand, spend a few hours reading in the shade, and come back renewed, restored, perhaps recreated in slightly different form? Put together some of the puzzle pieces in an un-muddled, clearheaded manner?

Puddles, and shade: excellent to find in the desert summer (Arizona Falls oasis stop)

Shade, and pods, both from native trees: you're doing it right

It takes connections to make connections: paths that connect to get the neurons to connect. Yourcenar, Yourcenar, I crosscut my dreams on my two-wheeled machine to find a place to swim deep in your streams of history, seeking some clarity even out of mystery. Hadrian, my old friend: let's sit around the fire and tell tales, shall we? 

I'm jumping into a great book. See you on the other side. Get up. Go ride.


  1. My favorite is the bridge with the butterfly wings.

  2. Steve, I like that one, too, although I feel that some gabion boxes would really polish it up.

  3. While I am able to read of the life of a Roman emperor due to accurate public record keeping, I am unable to reference the details of a publicly funded project once posted on the City of Tempe website, as they have deemed keeping consistent reference to information of Public Record unimportant in comparison with a new web site design. One might point out that since the early days of the WWW, there have been straightforward methods for careful web masters to alter the visual design of their sites without trashing the existing references to pages on the site. Perhaps there should be some barriers erected to deter the erasure of the explanation of where tax money has been spent.


Please feel free to comment here, almost anything goes, except for obvious spam or blatantly illegal or objectionable material. Spammers may be subject to public ridicule, scorn, or outright shaming, and the companies represented in spam shall earn disrepute and ire for each occurrence.