Wednesday, March 31, 2010


Bypassage: You! Not That Way, This Way!

Heavy equipment continues to move dirt in my bike path. This current work is 7% completion of a new project along the south bank of the Scottsdale Waterfront called "Soleri Bridge and Plaza". A rendering of one view of what the completed project will look like is here. In total, it's about a $4 million project, according to that informational page linked above. Here's one more view, right where I used to get on the path along the canal.

My Bicycle Helmet Is Pretty Hard

Now, $4 mil for a flashy bridge and plaza sounds like some serious coinage for what amounts to a visual upgrade--there's already a sidewalk across the canal here, and it's not like there are crowds of people queuing up to cross it currently. But, really, that's just a drop in the bucket compared to the $4 billion budget announced by the Arizona Dept of Transportation to widen/expand/losangelosify the valley freeways in a story today, in order to relieve congestion. My kids' school let teachers go this year due to budget cuts. They are cutting law enforcement, health care for kids, and other state programs in a desperate effort to balance the budget. Yet as a society we readily pony up $4 billion to relieve freeway congestion? What kind of BACKYARD MONKEY SHACK are they running at the State House? I could rant on, but a direct quote from the article itself sums it up best I think: "Even with all the improvements being considered by ADOT, almost all of urban I-10 and I-17 will still be congested." If only there were other ways to get from point A to point B, perhaps a human-powered efficient machine that improves your fitness, too. Nope, thought I had it there for a second, but it's gone. I think I shall recline beside the canal like this guy and ponder it for a while...

  Grassy Spot. May Need More Bridge Here.

Mostly I will try to raise interest or influence opinion (even minutely) by doing and photographing rather than preaching here at OSG. There are much better and more vociferous and more loquacious blogs you can go read if preaching's what you seek. But couldn't we possibly agree as a society to go and direct $4.004 billion in a direction that it's really needed in these tough economic times, and postpone the doomed-to-fail freeway congestion relief project and the fancy bridge project until such time as we are a little more flush? And maybe come up with some lower-cost interim solutions? Anyway, the bypassage above is fun to ride through, and I look forward to reporting progress on the project as they move from 7% to 12% and upwards. Get up. Go ride. 

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Motion Study

One Person, Four Shots, Four Different Impressions

Monday, March 29, 2010

He Rides a Bike Friday

A Bike Friday, with the Neat Roller Case, Too

For a while, I thought that a folding bike was the answer to all my commuter challenges. During that while, I became quite enamored of the Bike Friday. They seem very good instantiations of the genre, and also have a loyal following. Eventually, though, I decided that my particular passel of commuting conundrums might best (or at least presently) be addressed by not buying a new bike, mainly due to all the potential domestic strife that would go along with that, since my wife and daughters had issued an ultimatum: a new bike = a new cat, and that's just crazy talk, the last thing we really need is yet another cat, so we're at a Phoenician stand-off currently, as far as new bikes and additional cats go. Instead, I just repurposed / resurrected the ancient mountain bike by adding a rack, and eventually fenders, into a capable cruisemuter, my trusty steel Yasuko. And yet. There's another class of problems egging me on, those around traveling with a bicycle, particularly flying. When you ride almost every day, a day with involuntary non-riding is unpleasant, and a string of such days can be downright stultifying. Out of a strong desire to avoid involuntary non-riding stultification, I still look longingly upon the Bike Friday, imagining myself packing if deftly into the black case above, then arriving at my destination, unpacking, and going for a ride about the new town, to see what I can see, gloriously unstultified. Perhaps snapping pictures for the blog along the way, from the back of my trusty and tricky foldup steel steed. This chance cross-the-street near-miss of a Bike Friday has rekindled some of that in me. Don't tell my wife and kids though. Seriously. One more cat would push this house over the "that's too many friggin cats line". Get up. Go ride.  

Sunday, March 28, 2010

Four Guys, Sixteen Wheels

Not Posed. Just Happened to Be There w/Camera

Saturday, March 27, 2010


Yasuko Gets Fenders

I mounted fenders on Yasuko today, thereby guaranteeing that we will not get rain for the next nine months. She's been a great commuter bike so far, except when it rains or when there's water running in the street. So I picked up a pair of black fenders, stuck some reflective tape on them to maintain the red/black theme, and BAM! Yasuko is a smokin cruisemuter. On the first day that my cruisemuter has fenders, it was 74 degrees and 8 percent humidity. It's a dry warm.

  Dan Kiley Gazebo

So on this warm, dry Saturday, I took out the one speed and rode the canal paths. I took a diversion at the bicycle murder signs to go north to Moon Valley. The bicycle murder sign looks like this, and spooks me every time I see it:

 Used to have a picture on it. Been there for a long time.

The gazebo up there is where I turned around. I called it "Dan Kiley Gazebo" because there is an inscription running along the top of the wall. I tried to take some still pictures of it, but you can't really get the full effect unless you walk along and read it. So there's a video of that below. But the inscription is unattributed, at least as far as I saw, and a quick search on the internet shows that it was actually said by America's foremost landscape architect, Dan Kiley. So the least we can do is name the gazebo after him, too, I feel. Next time I stop there for a bottle of cool water, I'll think of Dan. Get up. Go ride.

Friday, March 26, 2010

Lizard Acres

Lizard Acres

Lizard Acres

 Lizard Acres

 Lizard Acres

 Lizard Acres

Lizard Acres

 Lizard Acres

Thursday, March 25, 2010

Egrets: I've Had a Few

Snowy Egret Egretta thula and Great Egret Ardea alba

Just riding along, taking about 200 photos of art, bikes, plants and stuff, and then...what the heck? Egrets? Lots of them? Three kinds? Perched on the edge of the canal fishing? And sitting beside the lake?

 Egrets of the Third Kind: Great Blue Heron Ardea herodias

So in addition to the 200 art photos, I got about 150 of egrets staring keen-eyed for swimming edibles.

Mallard, not technically in the egret club

I loved the way the small snowy egrets hang out as equals with the blue herons and the greats, like "That's right, we bad, uh huh..."
Snowies Not Afraid of Greats

"Art, bikes, plants, birds, and stuff" is not a really compelling name for a blog, I think. But, this was an unusual sight, at least the white birds, since I have seen a blue heron or two around regularly, and I don't actually know the right explanation: migration? stuck there by resort owners? escaped from the egret circus? they were there all along and I somehow missed the giant white birds in the previous 200 times I passed through this neighborhood? global warming? they saw the blue heron and wanted to join the club? Whatever the reason these birds were out there, I feel fortunate to have seen them. When I saw the one in the tree below, I flashed back to Louisiana, where they are a common sight. But not here. Not normally. But this ain't normal. This is ABPBS. Get up Go ride.

    Not Normal. Not here.

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Tensile Structures with Gabion Walls and Globemallow at Chaparral WTP

Chaparral Water Treatment Plant

Converting canal water into drinking water requires treatment plants designed for that purpose, because canals expose water to conditions unlike those in natural waterways, and because the water is generally coming from elsewhere, with contaminants, pH, and mineral levels different from the local waters the existing plants were engineered to treat in the first place. So for a long time, the City of Scottsdale paid the City of Phoenix for treated canal water, even though Scottsdale has an allotment of its own. Scottsdale built this plant, which became operational in 2006, to do hi-tech things like microfiltration/ultrafiltration (MF/UF), ozonation, granular carbon (GAC) adsorption and ferric sulfate coagulation, to remove undesirable tastes, odors, and other stuff you don't want to drink from the canal water. They wrapped the plant in this tasty masonry and rusted steel skin, and surrounded that with exhibits and features related to the desert. For example, this fountain, which bears an inscription around its rim:

 "The frog does not drink up the pond in which he lives."

 Gabion Buttresses

Surrounding the plant are various xeriscaping (dry landscaping design / practice suited to a desert or drought setting) exhibits. My favorite, because it's a spiral shape you can ride a bike down inside of, was "Terraced Cascade" by Lorna Jordan.

Terraced Cascade: Collects Water, and Bikes

I saw four or five other cyclists just coasting around this little spiral down to the middle. Something in it pulls you to do it. Here was one nice person on a sweet Surly Long Haul Trucker who gave me some tips on what to look at around the water treatment plant.

 Surly, But Not Surly, Surely

 Looking across the spiral, you get an idea of its effect on bikes: down, down down...

This was a great spot to visit. If you're going to build a plant to treat up to 30 million gallons of canal water a day in an existing neighborhood, at one end of a beloved park, then an effort to make it pleasing to the eye, relevant and possibly educational, is welcome. And if you wrap it in rusted, tensile steel and gabion buttresses, then I will find myself irresistibly drawn to it when the weather is fine and the bike paths call. Get up. Go ride.

 40I Never Sleeps

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Progress Heads Underground at the Scottsdale Waterfront

Progress Reflected in the Zen Fountain

Just upstream / east of "Tributary Wall" along the Arizona Canal, construction boffins are putting the finishing touches on a tunnel underneath Goldwater Blvd. Thank you, City of Scottsdale for ponying up $258,622.87 for this project, and also to hardworking guys out there making it happen. It will be interesting to see what they do at the ends of the tunnel--before they dug it, the canal bank has been dirt on both sides of Goldwater. The mud is fun when it rains, but I would assume that they will pave from here down to the tunnel, and at least up the incline on the other side. I even like the temporary detour on the opposite side of the canal through the ruts and gravel, but that's probably just me. Goldwater is not the busiest street in the area, but it's a tricky stretch, with curves and slight uphills that make seeing the oncoming traffic deceptive unless you watch carefully. But it's not like the tunnel will instantly create an unbroken stretch of street crossing-free bike path: currently, the next street behind me in this photo is Scottsdale Road, which you will still need to frogger across, and next down the canal westward from the new tunnel is 68th Street, also a frogger scenario if you want to stay with the canal, although that street did just recently get much-appreciated and needed bike lanes painted on it. Like the Waterfront itself, this path is a work in progress, and this tunnel is progress in the right direction, a real aid for peds, cyclists, and the occasional equestrian. Giddy-up. Go ride.

 Potentially Will Be Very Fun to Blast Through This in a Sinner Mango

Monday, March 22, 2010

Push Button for Horseshoe Fountain

Too Good to Be True

I rode up to this fountain expecting it to be shut off for the season, or non-functional due to economic cutbacks. I must have passed by this place on the corner of Marshall Way and Indian School Road 500 times without pausing to check out these rusty columns. "Horseshoe Falls" by Michael Malich (1999) lists as its materials "iron, concrete, fog". I read on the Scottsdale Public Art site that it is constructed in a horseshoe shape out of stacked horseshoes, and that it emits fog. Which I arrived fully resigned to being disappointed in, since I have something of a track record of fog fountains not fogging for me. The stacked horseshoes with concrete cores are very structural looking, like you could build a house out of them that would not blow down.

  In Case You Ever Felt Like Stacking Horseshoes Around a Concrete Core

I leaned my steel bike against the rusty iron pillars, kind of disappointed but resolved, since everything looked very dry and as expected, free of fountains of fog. "Iron, concrete, " yes, fog, no. Oh well.
My Bike in a Fog-Free Fountain

I walked around to look at the (dry, rusty, no-fog) thing from different angles, when suddenly, I saw the button sticking up out of the ground: PUSH BUTTON FOR HORSESHOE FOUNTAIN. Oh, could it be that easy? Could fortune smile on me so brightly, so sweetly? I moved my bike out of the potential fountain zone, and pushed. Here's what happened:
Is That Cool or What?

After the fog cleared and my heart slowed, I pushed it a few more times. What pure, enjoyable fun, from an 11 year old stack of rusty horseshoes and concrete. It made me smile and laugh for the rest of the ride. People in the area now know what they have long suspected: I'm a whacko. Else why would I spin along the canal waving at people, laughing, and saying "PUSH BUTTON FOR HORSESHOE FOUNTAIN"? More art on the way. Bikes too. Get up. Go ride.

Rocks and Rust Wet from the Fog

Sunday, March 21, 2010

Flags on the Corner: Healthcare Reform Protests in Scottsdale

Let's Discuss Our Differences
On the corner of Scottsdale and Camelback, today around noon, protesters on both sides of the healthcare reform debate were discussing their differences in a public forum. This is a pretty active pedestrian, cycling, and automobile traffic intersection, so on a Sunday at noon there were many opportunities for discussion. I took this photo from the canal, then rode across the bridge to listen to what they had to say.

The Debate Heats Up

People in cars were honking for support, or shouting in disapproval. Cyclists and pedestrians, though, had to pass through the gauntlet of protesters, getting wedged into an opportunity for up-close discussion. The cyclist in green, above, took exception to the message being proffered by the protesters on this corner, and stopped to express her disapproval. After she rolled away and things calmed down a bit, I cycled across the bridge and had a ten minute or so discussion with the woman in red pants and her co-protester on the left, mostly listening to what they had to say. His message, as clearly as I can state it, was that he worships God, who wants us to be responsible for our own actions and well-being, to make our own way in the land of the free, not to expect handouts from others, nor to tolerate undue constraint on our actions or unfair taxation by government. The woman in red pants was of a similar mind, while also advocating some education or added focus on natural remedies (she mentioned naturopathy), and taking care of yourself. I didn't debate them. I wanted to hear them out and try to understand their position better. One thing he said that I definitely agreed with: if people would pause for a few minutes to talk things over like he and I did, maybe we would make more progress, step by step. This is an important day and an important vote, no doubt about it, with so much at stake that we may feel like shouting at one another. But, after a long ride in the bright sunshine around Scottsdale, it felt pretty good to sit on my bike frame and hear him out. I stopped and asked people questions about art in Scottsdale. I paused to listen to the water birds lined up along the lake and canal. And here, I listened to freedom of speech in action. It was pretty cool, and I know that I am fortunate to live in a place and time where I am free and able to hear these things. Get up. Go ride.

Saturday, March 20, 2010

Bike Cafe

Bike Cafe

The photo of Trail Head Bike Cafe is not framed that great because I was a little shaky and the camera kept veering toward "ESPRESSO" in the window, so finally I just gave up and went inside, got a double espresso, and felt much better. They seemed pretty relaxed in here, they fix/sell bikes and make a mean espresso, so I'll be back, definitely for food, possibly for bike work. I say "possibly" because I enjoy working on bikes myself, while fully supporting the concepts that some work is better done by professionals, and also that local bike shops are community resources in every good sense of the term and deserve our patronage. The morning ride was as close to perfection as I expect to come on this round blue-green marble, and the very fine coffee was an excellent way to top it off. There were a bunch of people out riding today and almost everyone smiled and said hey. Peace, happy bike people!

 Happy Bike People
More Happy Bike People

Today Rocked

In short, today rocked. OK, maybe not as hard as an autographed after show backstage pass to the 2004 Tesla "Into the Now" tour, but still, it rocked. Get up. Go ride.

Friday, March 19, 2010

This Yard Spoke To Me Today (Friday Talking Landscapes)

JR! Have a Great Weekend!! And check out my Agave americana!

Day after day I ride by this place. One yard among thousands, a smallish plot of dirt, but lately filled with green, and flowers, and Arizona desert stuff. This afternoon it spoke really loudly to me, so I paused to listen, and snap a photo. It said (and I quote), "JR, I know you had a tough week, feel kind of exhausted and/or run-down, and faced some stress this week. But, you know what? It's the weekend, it's springtime, and life is good. Give me a smile, then turn that bike around, and get up, go ride!"

Thursday, March 18, 2010

Your Petrochemical Arms

Read and Go (Haunted Bookshop, Iowa City, Yo!) Hi-vis Book

If you recognize the title phrase of this post without usage of a popular search engine, you passed the first question. My plans for today revolved around taking a book with me to read on the way home with a stop at the Lafayette Parkway. I have a rack, I have a book, I have amazing weather, the air is redolent of citrus blossoms, let's do this thing!!

So I started to wrap James Howard Kunstler's "The Long Emergency" in a plastic bag for protection on my rack, recognized the small sad irony of that, and put the bag back in the "recycle these bags" drawer along with its petrochemical brethren. I'll be riding sans sac today. The book will show the wear and tear of a life on the road unprotected by a product which it predicts will cease to be produced in this century when we run out of economically viable oil. I'm only about a third of the way through the book, but I happened to get to a section about the possible alternatives to oil just before strapping it in, above. James Howard is pretty harsh on the battery component of rechargeable alternatives, but I was surprised that he didn't mention the nasty and short story of the EV-95 NiMH rechargeable battery. If I reported it here you'd think I was paranoid or making it up; instead just go search for EV-95 Chevron. After cycling through most of the obvious alternatives to oil and the problems of each, James Howard lands on "Zero Point Energy." I thought he might mention HL2. If you got the first question right, above, and understand zero point + HL2, I think I may love you. I also bought James Howard Kunstler's "World Made by Hand", along with a book about eating local called "Coming Home to Eat." Further reviews ahead of these if warranted. And now for the bonus question. Get this one right and you demonstrate an unusual degree of geopolitical awareness. Where is Athabasca, what is it, and what is it's significance? Answer and rant below the picture of the three ladies walking dogs from today's commute.

No Petrochemicals Were Directly Burned in the Making of this Photo

The Athabascan Oil Sands are a ginormous deposit of heavy oil integrated with sands, clays, water and junk in Alberta, Canada. Before the price of oil skyrocketed, it was way too expensive to separate the oil and transport it anywhere useful, even though oil people realized that Athabasca has what must be called a shitload of oil locked up in it. How much of it will be extracted and sold before the oil sands run dry economically, well that's the $64 trillion question. Then we passed the historic peak of world oil production, oil prices went haywire, and it became economically viable to extract the oil out of the Athabascan sands. As you might imagine, it's messy, expensive, and energy-intensive to separate oil from sand and stuff. (wikipedia says they burned a billion cubic feet of natural gas per day in 2007 to extract the oil, but I'm not sure that's true) But since we've reached the "Uh oh, this stuff won't last forever" price range, the oil men have started dumping and pumping. That wikipedia link will show you that they are at about 700,000 barrels a day headed toward 4 million. Another aspect of it that you may not know is that they are going to build a $12 billion pipeline from Alberta to Texas to move the black gold from point A to the Gulf refineries. That's the Keystone XL pipeline, and that's right, $12 billion. There's also a pipeline going to Superior, Wisconsin, to move the stuff to tankers through the Great Lakes. So the essential geopolitical significance of Athabasca is that it it probably this planet's last large source for oil. When will it run out? Still probably in this century, at the rate we're burning through it. So my guess is that we'll all know a lot more about Athabasca soon. What wars will be fought over Alberta? Some, if history is any indicator. What will become of us in the process? I'm going to keep riding my bike and reading these books to think about it more. Get up. Go ride. 

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Into the Sun



Our new metal horse overlord issues an order: Get up. Go ride.

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Scottsdale Installs Water Mark

'Water Mark'

Today the City of Scottsdale used cranes to place giant angular metal horses (do they remind anyone else of the stealth fighter?) into place just north of Indian Bend Rd, just west of Hayden. I rode over there after work to see the results. With the rebar under their forelegs, it looks like there's more cement work ahead before 'Water Mark' by Laura Haddad and Tom Drugan, will be complete.

My Foreleg: It Requires Support

But whatever work remains, in my book, they won't really be fully realized until the first big flood, when their major design feature (other than being huge, shiny, angular metal horses sitting on the front of an imposing water control structure, of course) will come into play. You see, in flood time, when water fills the Indian Bend wash and ruins the plans of golfers for a few days, these babies will shoot water out of their mouths, becoming aqua equus regia or something like that. I'm not positive, but water may also shoot out of their noses and eyes, too. Unless, of course, some tragic miscalculation in hydrological engineering results in their heads blowing off and becoming large, angular, horse head-shaped stealth missiles. "But, we didn't expect a 500 year flood for at least another 489 years! We designed them to withstand the probable, not the possible." (OK, for the record: I neither hope for, or expect, their heads to blow off with excessive water pressure) (However, I will make sure to be there on the first major flood, with video camera)

 Water-Disgorging Horses, With Bike Path (note the leg progression sequence)

'Water Mark', freshly installed, is freakishly wonderful, both up close and at a distance. I can only wonder expectantly what they will look like when the white water is running here. Then they will make gargoyles round the planet proud. In my equus dreams, the water gushing out their metal mouths will make a roaring sound previously unheard, the water from their eyes will form jets that shoot over the bridge, and their noses will pour steam like a thoroughbred at the end of a long run on a cold morning. In water they'll come alive. Get up. Go ride.