Saturday, June 4, 2016

The Fall and Rise of a Cyclist's Heart

Six years since "Horseshoe Falls" first appeared on this blog. On-demand fog, and regrowing trees.

It's been over six years since this installation in Scottsdale called "Horseshoe Falls" first appeared on this blog. These pillars of horseshoes cemented on top of each other are kind of one of my favorite types of things: not much to look at from a distance, nothing from the window of a car speeding along Indian School Road, but actually quite worth some moments up close and slower, from a bike or a pedestrian passing by, in different weather and at different times of day. Eventuallyone notices the button with a sign now faded, which makes fog when you press it.

PUSH BUTTON FOR HORSESHOE FOUNTAIN. Still the greatest. Unfaded version.

Over the years of riding by, and stopping by, I've seen changes here. On August 24, 2010, a freak wind blew through Scottsdale and Phoenix, knocking down fences and trees, including many of the trees which once shaded Horseshoe Falls.  I passed by a few days later, and was shocked to see the shade gone, the sun beating down on the rusty metal pillars. My heart sank: I have a thing for trees, particularly native ones, particularly native ones that offer shade, perfume, bee food, and if needed/wanted, people food. I once ground up mesquite bean pods and made bread and cookies, and they were deliciously different.

Eventually, though, some of the shade trees at Horseshoe Falls were replanted, and are now reaching a size where they will offer shade again (see photo 1 above). 

I'm not saying that wind blowing down trees is the worst thing, or that trees replanted and showing signs of vitality and growth six years later is the best thing, but rather that these small things are set against the backdrop of normal life, which flows on with its own powerful joys and inevitable sorrows which, I think, have the ability to amplify, and be amplified by, the minor but distinct sadness of blown down trees, or by the trivial but poignant button you can press to make fog roll over your bicycle and stacks of rusty horseshoes.

In that amplified moment I can be there. Whatever is happening in my life can be both appreciated and put into some kind of perspective in that pause. I like to stay just a moment to listen to the sound of fog hissing out while taking a few mindful breaths. The cyclist's heart falls, and rises, while both the delightful and the disturbing along the route alter with the passage of time, in their own ways, to their own schedules. At a medium or slow pace on my bike, though, riding along trying to be fully in touch with what's around me, I detect these artifacts of time passing, try to understand, appreciate, and when possible, live into them. Sometimes, to harvest their beans and make cookies from them.

Pedestrian / Cyclist bridge reflected in Tempe Center for the Arts

The new dam has been installed at Tempe Town Lake, and the water refilled. Old news, but another change in the landscape I've been riding through for years. 

New dam. Not made of rubber like old one, less likely to POP! when it his 117 today.

I set out on my Saturday Tri-city Tour (TCT) earlier than normal, OK much earlier than normal, since I usually just wait until late afternoon when my natural bicycling biorhythm just seems more ready to ride. But with today's impending heat, I thought I would give an early-ish ride a chance. It was good to get out before the asphalt starts bubbling, I admit. I'm not ready to chase the sunrise yet, but perhaps early is better in the summer. 

With the advent of summer, I've renewed effort to try out and improve various simple and cheap ways to replace electrolytes. Even on today's relatively not-that-hot ride, I still drank three bottles of water. I'm working on a much more detailed price-based analysis for the blog, but I can predict already where it's going: you don't really need to spend several hard-earned dollars on flavored sugar and salt products to rehydrate effectively. All you really need, physiologically speaking, is a dash of salt and possibly a dash of "no-salt", depending on your personal sweat characteristics. For me, if I don't replace those two along with plentiful water, I expect bad muscle cramps later. Your mileage may vary, of course. But this is another way the cyclist's heart rises and falls: after a hot summer ride, I can feel that my heart has been taxed, tried, pushed a bit. Enough water, and salt, and sugars, makes it right again.

Of course, on the bike, the heart mostly rises. There's enough stuff out there to cause it to fall, and sometimes even to break, but there's always on the ride the positive balance which prevails. I was feeling on this day's almost-hot ride that the heat helps my muscles and bones feel comfortable and smooth. Maybe that's why I like spinning away the hot days so much. At the end of the TCT today, I didn't want it to end. I was ready to ride more. A pinch of salt, and a strategically located water fountain to refill the bottles, keeps the ride going. Hola, summer. Let's do this. The other advantage of doing a ride first thing in the morning: there's always the option of another ride later in the afternoon, should the heart desire.


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