Friday, July 30, 2010

Today the Universe Vindicated this Blog

Exhibit A

Today, the universe vindicated the keen insights which were elucidated with such clarity and force of wit in this blog that Reality had no choice but to concede, and cause them to be realized. To wit, in yesterday's Expect Happy post, I expanded on my hypothesis from the previous post, Tour de Cart, that, paradoxically, construction zones which may seem more dangerous to cyclists because of their narrow lanes, sometimes confusing signage, and introduction of change of routine conditions actually seem safer. I used the example of a side street in a seemingly safe area that coughs up white Priuses (Prii?) with brake problems (or drivers unable to see cyclists) that appear to have it in for me, while the construction zones I transit on my commute have been a breeze. Well, today that side street was designated by celestial powers (or at least, tree trimming guys) to be blocked off with orange cones. Not a rampaging Prius in sight! (Exhibit A)

OK, I agree, by itself, not that significant. But then I came across the scene below, Ex. B, and it dawned on my: the Universe was saying to me, John Romeo, you know where it's at, bub. Your vision of the world, as you see it from the vantage point of your 20+ year old mountain bike with fenders and rack, has something to say to others, because you see how it is. Or something similar to that. Because in the Tour de Cart post, I remarked that it appeared to me that it would be safer to ride a shopping cart in a construction zone than it would be to ride a bicycle in a bike lane. I today I saw this, below, while riding through the construction zone, and experienced something of an epiphany: it is so.

Happy Friday. Get up. Go ride.

 Ex. B: When the Universe Parks Your Ride, You Don't Ask Twice

Thursday, July 29, 2010

Expect Happy

Temporary Paradoxical Safety Zone Around the Corner from Yesterday's Post

Riding toward the camera along this one lane construction zone slot of a lane is great on a bicycle. Drivers seem to realize that there's nowhere else you could possibly go, and also, that there's not enough room to pass a bicycle here without running it into the fence. Yet, on first glance, you might think it would be very unsafe. This is the place the Arizona Canal crosses Scottsdale Road. The construction is part of the Soleri Bridge and Plaza project. Crossing this street on a canal ride seems more dangerous to me than riding down this narrow lane with all its temporary signage. Although the words "ROAD WORK" don't seem to add much information. Perhaps it could say "TEMPORARY PARADOXICAL SAFETY AREA".

No complaints at all about my car drivers today though. There was 100% compliance with the three foot law at all times, and I experienced at least two acts of explicit niceness. One pickup truck at a four-way stop didn't see me sitting in the rain waiting my turn at first, but looked just as he decided to go, and very clearly recognized me as another sharer of the road, and indicated I should proceed according to turn. I know that's a small thing, but sometimes it really is the small gestures that matter.

Oh, and I think the message below is directed mainly at cars, since I don't notice much difference transiting through here on my commute by bicycle. Although, similar to my reaction to hearing the morning traffic report on the radio before I leave, again this doesn't seem to add much information: since commuting by car and experiencing delays is normal situation, this sign would be more accurate if it said "EXPECT DELAYS (ON TOP OF YOUR NORMAL DELAYS).

Unless you're riding a bicycle. Then you can just cut through the park, ride along the canal, and feel those rare, cool Arizona raindrops hitting your face. Get up. Go ride.


Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Tour De Cart

Maybe I Should Ride This Instead

Two out of the last three days, I have experienced what Steve A wrote about recently: sometimes areas that seem more dangerous are actually safer, paradoxically. Monday afternoon, and again today, Wednesday, I was riding along at my moderate commuter pace, on a clear afternoon, on a wide, quiet street, in a bike lane, with little or no other traffic around. Both days, I saw a white Prius approach on a side street on the right, with no obstructions or distractions that I could see, and both times I sensed that the driver didn't really see me. (I don't think it was the same white Prius or driver, not certain). Sure enough, both times, the driver rolled the stop sign, and made me swerve (today) or slow suddenly (Monday) to avoid a collision. Monday, she saw me after it happened, and did a SMIDSY sort of apologetic gesture, while today, on the other hand, the driver just continued rolling along without stopping or looking.

I just smiled and shook my head. I get it: you drive through the same stop sign at the same time every day, from your quiet side street onto a larger, often quiet street, and you tend to think of that big red octagonal STOP sign as more of a suggestion than a law, so you get into the habit of rolling the stop and making your turn and getting on with the actual purpose of your trip. You have a lot on your mind, after all. Things to do, places to go, consumables to purchase, spawn to ferry hither and yon to stick to the demanding play date schedule. Then one day WHOA WHAT WAS THAT? A BICYCLE?

Compare that to the shopping cart above, sitting in a construction zone, at a busy intersection, at rush hour. And notice: NO ONE IS RUNNING INTO THE SHOPPING CART. No one is even swerving to avoid it at the last moment. As far as I know, the shopping cart doesn't even have legal status to be in that spot: you could smash into it with the bolt-studded oak bumper on your '73 Chevy pickup and squash it like one of the aluminum beer cans that are rolling around in the bed of your pickup, and everything would be OK as long as it was the only thing damaged.

Maybe I should commute to work through 100% construction zones, in a shopping cart, instead of taking quiet streets with bike lanes on my bicycle. Look at this corner, below! This is the intersection of Scottsdale and Camelback, narrowed down to one lane going south, and also with barriers across the intersection going east. I have been riding through here, in the street, at rush hour, with no issues, close calls, or anything but other drivers sharing the road and exercising caution in a construction zone. After these two incidents, I feel safer making a left turn from one busy street to another, at rush hour, in a construction zone, than I do on that quiet street in a bike lane. The feeling may not last, of course, but at the moment I can't shake the feeling that the next white Prius coming at me on a wide open side street on a bright sunny day while I'm in the bike lane may be the end of John Romeo Alpha. 

Do carts come in titanium? Carbon fiber baskets? Aero wheels? And can I download current construction zone updates to my GPS so I know where it will be safe to ride? Get up. Go ride.

My New Scheme is to Paint Bike Lanes So They Look Like This (for Safety)

Monday, July 26, 2010

Dreams Take Mega-Wing: Soleri Bridge Span Placed in Scottsdale Today

Big Dreams Require Big Tools

 Really Big Tools

The Crane Connected, Prepared to Take the Weight

 The Creator of the Bridge, Paolo Soleri

 Bicycles Were Ridden To the Observe the Spectacle

 The Bridge Aloft

Who can see into the mind or heart of an artist? We can catch glimpses if their works whisper to us in quiet reflective moments, and read reviews which attempt to apply years of study and a refined sensibility to peer deep within this mystery, but normally, an artist's interior world is no less an unfathomable mystery to us than the universes locked up inside the other billions of minds that inhabit the planet. When artists create mysterious things with obscure meanings, the distance is doubled, trebled, fourpled, x10: we stand in front of the Thing and feel isolated, distant, cut off from significance of an object that has been made, paid for, and displayed in a context which demands "YOU NEED TO FIGURE ME OUT." 

When this bridge is complete, and in a photograph-ready status on November 6, 2010 for the scheduled OSG photo shoot, I guess it will probably be the same. Perhaps after I ride my bicycle across it, or stroll across it, a few thousand times, in different light, in different times of the day, on different days of the year, as my children grow older and I with them, one day I may stand out on the span and experience an AH-HA moment which lays bare a deep significance inexpressible in words. Possibly. I'll give that a try. I'll get back to you on that.

But today, in this single rare instance, when that span dropped into place across the water and settled onto its supports, I have a strong sense that I know what Paolo Soleri was thinking and feeling in that moment: my bridge is real.

 The Bridge, Flying on a Steel Wing



A Crowd of Mere Onlookers, and One Creator

Nothing I can imagine can match that sort of moment. Nothing. Do not try to put forth alternate candidates, for they will all fall short. The rest of us gathered to watch the lowering of the span enjoyed it, but only one person there got to feel this: my bridge is real. I dream of a feeling like that, a moment of my own to rise to that height. Maybe some day. I ride out, I dream, I hold onto that hope, and see a man who waited decades to see it happen. But he did. So will I. So will you. Get up. Go ride.

Videos Below.
Other posts in this series:

Part 1

Part 2

Part 3

Sunday, July 25, 2010

Bat Watching

The Bat Cam: Tachyon XC 2010, Fenix P1D Cree LED

 An Area Set Aside for Watching Bats

 Further Explanatory Signage for Bat Watchers

I rode Bip out to a spot along the Arizona Canal where Mexican free-tailed bats live in the summer. They live in a man-made cave like structure where part of the Arizona Canal Diversion Channel, or ACDC, goes underground. The bats live at the apex of the triangle in this photo on wikimapia

I've seen these bats emerge before. They are small, fast-moving creatures that come out just before sunset to skim along the canal eating insects. Riding along the canal just after sunset is one of my favorite times to be out in the summer, so I've watched them often, and always thought, "I should try to photograph them some time." I recognize that as small, fast-moving creatures that skim the water, the would be difficult to capture pictures of, without more equipment and brighter lights than I want to haul out there on my bicycle, so this time I just tried the minimalist helmet cam and sort of bright LED light to see what that combo could capture.

The bats emerge from underground in ones or twos, and they are moving right along. You can see the results of my efforts below. When I was a lot younger, I shot 16mm film, and I had this light bar that ran on 110v, with four 150w floods on it. I think with that setup and the camera I had, I could get some decent footage of the bats skimming along the canal eating bugs. By the time they hit the canal in numbers, though, it was so dark that I couldn't get much with what I had, so below you can see a few of them coming out from underground, anyway. Get up. Go ride.

Saturday, July 24, 2010

She Understands

When the path looks like this at sunset, and I have my lights and enough water, and Bip rides like a dream, and after an hour the stiffness spins out of me and the head clears, I think she understands when I stay out riding another hour or two and let the time slip away. I know she understands that I need this. It's become a ritual, this daily ride or two, and when I don't get at least one in, it throws me off. It's harder to maintain a state of equanimity, and after a few days without, I'm likely to become downright grouchy. So she understands if I get a little caught up in the moment, and keep riding an extra hour or two. 

It's become quite a habit. I remember exactly how I got started, though, and it's the same way I keep it going. I found myself sitting around feeling blah, and I told myself that it was easy to change that by doing one thing. Get up. Go ride.

Friday, July 23, 2010

Harbingers of Weekend Themes

The weekend to come, summed up in five photos. Get up. Go ride.


Helping Hands

I don't see many folders in bike racks

I snapped a picture of this folder just because I don't recall seeing many in racks, since I imagine one of the main reasons people get them, and ride them, and learn to like them, is precisely because you can fold them up and not have to leave them outside at the rack. But I'm sure there are many circumstances where it's not convenient, or maybe not allowed, to fold and bring it with you, so you lock it up next to all the bikes which do not look like clown bikes. Don't misunderstand: I know the folding bicycle designers and manufacturers have generally done a great job to make bikes which fold and have small wheels still ride acceptably well, and with acceptable stability, and a somewhat normal feeling. I didn't say they ride like clown bikes. I just said they look like clown bikes. Which they do. I still kind of want one. I wanted one on my recent trip to the midwest so that I could ride my own bike instead of borrowing, renting, or just going without. So when I call them clown bikes, I do so as someone who harbors a desire to own one. 

Next to the folder, I noticed the Diamondback had a sticker from Handlebar Helpers, a community Earn-a-bike and apprentice program staffed by volunteers in Scottsdale. There's a video on the site which explains what they do, but basically they train people how to fix up and maintain bikes. While apprenticing, people earn credits towards getting a bicycle of their own. It looks like a great program, and I would be interested in volunteering just because it looks worthwhile, not because I need any more bicycles. Working against my own volunteerism in this particularly cause is that, at least on the web site, they appear to keep what could best be called retired banker's hours. Pretty difficult for me to go volunteer there as a working stiff myself, although I might be able to work out some kind of flextime arrangement to swing it. It's also a bit of a ride from my office, but possible. It seems to me that someone who works to earn a bicycle, and learns how to maintain it while doing so, in order to ride to school or work, is very likely to continue to keep riding, and possibly, to tell their friends about the program, too. 

I've noticed that a lot of people are still using cable locks, which I won't do, since I learned the hard way that cables offer nothing more than the lowest possible level of security. Maybe Handlebar Helpers needs some U-lock donations. And some proper locking technique mini-courses. Because it would be unfortunate to have the bike that you earned get ripped off. At least it's not a clown bike you could have folded up and taken inside with you safe and sound. Get up. Go ride.


Thursday, July 22, 2010

Love the Color

Love the color

"Benjamin Franklin instituted the first municipal streetcleaning service in the United States in 1757, in Philadelphia, and it was around this time that American households initiated the practice of digging refuse pits, as opposed to just throwing garbage out of windows and doors."
-from Rubbish! by William Rathje and Cullen Murphy

Love the color. Dislike seeing trash strewn about the public space, though.

Get up.
Go ride.

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Too Far Gone or Far Too Cool

Found along the canal path. 

Theory A: Too far gone to hear the kickstand fall off the bike, or to care about it.

Theory B: Far too cool to ride one single foot farther sporting a kickstand.

Theory C: Across the flowing water, on the other bank, he spotted the love of his life, and nothing could stop him getting over to her before she rode away, not heat, or greed, or distraction, or fear, or doubt, or indifference, or indecision, or parts falling off his prized bicycle.

Theory D: A proud exemplar of our throwaway society suddenly found he had no further need of a kickstand for reasons other than style, and discarded it in place. Perhaps, for example, he never figured out what it was for, or how it worked, assumed it was broken, and time to get a new one.

Theory E: Someone placed it there in my path to test my reaction. 

Theory F: It's not actually a kickstand, it's something else, and I am terribly mistaken.

Get up. Go ride.

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Aggravated Asphalt

Hoods Up for Cooling (now that's hot)

What is it with some stretches of road? I can't quite put my finger on it, but something makes drivers crazier on certain streets and road than they are on others. Some intersections have more accidents than others, that's a fact. Is that just a result of traffic patterns and vehicle counts, or is there more to it? If some features like chicanes and traffic circles cause traffic calming, are there others which induce traffic rage? Could we just go ahead and make a list of those, and start removing those features one by one? Even if we don't have the funds currently to de-aggravate the aggravated sections, we could at least put them on the bicycle maps, to make more people aware.

It's not just a matter of speed, or pure traffic volume alone. In Iowa City, I cycled some four lane roads, basically a highway on the edge of the city, where the speed limit was 45 mph, yet people were super-calm in their driving, at least on the days and times I was there. Plenty of traffic, no bike lane or even shoulder to speak of, me in the middle of a traffic lane, everyone going around or sharing with me. If I noticed a few cars behind me, I pulled over to let them go by. 

On one section where the limit was 55 mph, the highway went past an side road with a stop sign. I passed that road several times. The side road is the single route in and out of a busy sand and gravel operation, and every time I passed it, there was a dump truck full of gravel either rolling up to the stop, or already sitting there. Every time I went by, the huge trucks waited for me to ride by. Every time! The last time, I thought, this is it, my luck runs out now, I will be found squashed like some kind of bicycle pancake in the middle of the pavement, but no, he waited for me, again. That's a peaceful stretch of asphalt right there, no doubt about it. And not a chicane or traffic circle in sight, by the way, just a long straight stretch of a highway to Hills, Iowa, along with some drivers sharing the road. 

One variable that aggravates drivers, I tell you true, is heat. I don't mean regular heat, I mean 110F. When it's so hot the police put their hoods up to keep their engines cool when they're parked and running their AC, people seem to be more prone to aggravation behind the wheel. Which makes it doubly important to avoid the sections of aggravated asphalt on your ride. Stay cool out there! I recommend an insulated bottle full of ice water. Tonight I filled mine at work (heavy on the ice), and rode home about half an hour in the 110F evening air. Still lots of ice when I got home, and after sitting on the counter for two more hours, still a little ice left. I would pass those out to drivers on the aggravated asphalt sections if I could get there on a side street. Get up Go ride.

  Brrrr! Like a chicane in a bottle! Now that's calm!

Monday, July 19, 2010

Truss But Verify

Lining up a truss for assembling the Soleri Bridge in Scottsdale

The last few days, the construction boffins have been assembling the bridge to put across the canal down at the Soleri Bridge and Plaza project in Scottsdale. It looks to me like they put the two side trusses in place, then installed cross members between them. It looks really sturdy--compare it with the pedestrian bridge below, which spans the canal by 48th Street.

A graceful little pedestrian arch

In a previous post about the project, I scheduled the OSG photo shoot of the completed project for 11/06/2010, and it looks like that's a solid date, since they are rocking their project schedule: currently showing 54% complete with construction at the time of this post, and boldly stating a project completion of 10/2010. Hats off, bridge construction boffins, you are making great progress!

Relatively New Signage

 Truss #2 being lowered into the assembly area

 By this point, you may be wondering the same thing I was: with trusses this big, will the suspension be carrying much weight? Anyway, it's more truss than I would have thought was required, but it may just be hard to envision the end product at this point. Can't wait to see this bridge assembly settled into place reaching across the canal. Reports say that will happen this week. I'll keep my eye out for that, too, but would have to just get lucky to be there when they do it.

Video of one of the trusses being lifted and placed for assembly

And Done

This line of sight is where I believe the bridge will go. It almost looks like they will flip the truss over before they put it into place, but I'm not sure about that. If so, would they flip it sideways, or endways?

I just happened to be riding by when they were working on the trusses. Of course, I very interested in the tower(s), and am eagerly anticipating their assembly and placement. Riding through this area on the commute is interesting--something new is always going on, and, the route changes a little bit almost every day because they have to move stuff around. They have narrowed down Scottsdale Road to one lane as part of the project. They'll probably have a big ceremony and party when they finish this thing. They could probably hold the whole affair out on the bridge itself--I believe it will be able to support the load. It looks like it's built to last a long time. I'll post future significant developments. Get up. Go ride.


Sunday, July 18, 2010

A Farewell to Farms

A River Runs Through, Around, Over, and On It

 A Quiet Path Through Lush Woods Beside an Overflowing River

The water was pretty high, some trees were getting more than needed

Some of the dedicated underpasses were flooded and closed, necessitating a cyclocross-like dismount, up the bank, scramble across the highway or street, then down the other side

The ducks go amphibious when the path floods...I had to go up and over

The parts of the path I could ride were great. I'd like to go back when it wasn't so flooded out. Not sure when that will be though. Mid-summer tends to be when I get to these parts, and it was flooded the last couple of time I visited, too. And forget Winter, no way.

Farther along the river, one of the antennas in the Very Long Baseline Array.

I assume hovercraft, motorcycles, and motorized offroad pogosticks are OK

This closes out the summer vacation photos. Next post will be back in Phoenix, back in the heat, away from the flooding, mosquitoes, blueberries, corn, soybeans, humidity, and lush green everywhere of Iowa and Illinois. There's been progress on the Soleri Bridge project in the last few weeks I have to show you, and I also hope to get some pictures of the bats flying along the canal at sunset, and maybe some gnarly monsoon storm photos. If it floods here, I'll ride out to see if the giant aluminum horses have water shooting out of their mouths. Even at night. I know what to do now that I'm back. Get up. Go ride.


Saturday, July 17, 2010

My Mind Wanders to Hills, and My Feet Take Me There

Hills, Iowa, that is

 Ready for a Hills Ride

Hills in Iowa, although not quite technically "Hills, Iowa" yet

There it is: Main Street, Hills, Iowa. Not really any actual hills, though. Pretty flat place.

Unless I've lost my sense of what day it is, it's the weekend. I think there's just a few pictures of riding along the Iowa River left to put up here from the vacay portfolio. Which means not only is my vacation long over, but I've also almost used up all that vacation mojo. Kind of feels like that. 

Farewell, sweet vacation mojo. The faint taste of blueberries is all that lingers of you now. I'll go seek out some fleeting shadow of your blazing, clearheaded glory on the local cycleways. Because wherever I am on my bike, that's where I want to be. Get up. Go ride.

Friday, July 16, 2010

Put Down Your Bicycle, and Look Up at Iowa City

Along the Iowa Avenue Literary Walk in Iowa City, Iowa

Old Capitol Building

 A Bridge for Samples

Happy Friday everreebodddeeeee. Get up. Go ride.