Saturday, October 30, 2010

Knockout Grocery Run

We needed milk, coffee beans,and a few other basics to get Saturday morning off on the right foot. I haven't made many grocery runs lately, but out of coffee and milk is no way to start the weekend. Bungies on the rack to hold the bag worked OK, but I keep thinking that some of those homemade bucket panniers would let me carry a little more grocery cargo a little more securely. I left Gumby attached to the handlebar while I shopped just to see if he would be pestered or stolen. With Tony DeMarco keeping an eye on him from across the street no one would dare touch him. Not sure about the bike rack--the shorter loops worked OK for a back triangle lock, but those taller ones didn't look very compatible with any configuration. Maybe after some coffee they would have made more sense, though. Get up. Go ride.


Friday, October 29, 2010

Halloween in My Bike Lane

This is Halloween, 2010, in my bike lane. Scary.

I have a costume, a horse trough full of candy to hand out to kids, and some parties to go to this weekend. Have a spooky weekend. Get up. Go ride.


Thursday, October 28, 2010

Ready for Anything: The Way of Urban Cycling in North America

Data from my commute, track from my wheel in the mud

While I enjoy conjecturing about what could be, or should be, or how things could be improved to make cycling safer or more popular, I find it useful to gather information about actual, current conditions, here and now, where I am, what I'm doing, analyze their impact on my riding, and take steps based on this empirical data to employ techniques appropriate to those conditions. 

Conditions change all the time. Destruction, decay, and construction change our cityscapes continuously. Routes vary based on many factors including traffic, time of day, time of year, weather, temporary closures, parades, weddings, funerals. The rider himself is also a variable in many respects: mood, energy, focus, awareness, distractedness, familiarity with the current locale and conditions. The bike also changes: different bikes chosen for different reasons, along with mechanical changes. The inexorable depredations of time and distance exact their toll on equipment, mind, and body.

One size will never fit all. One technique or riding perspective will not be universally successful, unless your method is to continuous learning, with a focus on flexibility and adaptability. The Jeet Kun Do approach to cycling. Different tools for different situations, with continuous improvement.

This approach is neither vehicular or infrastructure, or if you prefer, is either when it needs to be, and something else when conditions require something else.

Data, in support of this approach, or as examples of its application, shall be supplied in this blog. In this post, above, I've included a photo from a section of my commute along the canal, at the new tunnel under Goldwater Blvd. The tunnel itself is all I hoped for and more during its long construction, by the way: the designers and builders have put in place a high-speed conduit for safely flying under a busy street. 

From the segment where the pavement starts in the picture above, up to the segment on the other side where I ride several blocks on the street with no bicycle lanes, I am in infrastructure mode. Then I switch to vehicular. Prior to this dirt path along the canal is several miles of bike lane. Throw in the occasional sidewalk jaunt, parking lot bypass, and park shortcut  Different conditions, different challenges, different opportunities, all within the space of a few miles on one bicycle commute, all requiring different skills.

In the photo above, on the morning I cut the mud track that has hardened into a rut above, I was in rough canal/dirt mountain bike with fenders cruisemuter mode, then switched to "WHOA HEY MUD WOOO HOOO!" mode. I love mud. [attn. canal boffins: I try to avoid riding through mud on the canal path because it seems like an avoidable and possibly deleterious impact on the canal bank to cut mud ruts into it on a bicycle. Read on, please. And thanks for the tunnel!] It had been raining the night before, but the majority of the non-paved canal surfaces drains fast and does not get too sloppy. But this area of new construction turned out to be squishy butterscotch goodness when damp. Mud everywhere: tires, wheels, frame, fenders, bag, clothes, shoes, all over. I was moving right along when I hit it, and opted to ride the momentum right through to the pavement. No problem, a pleasant surprise in fact, and just one more piece of data to collect and analyze for future use. Am I an infrastructure or vehicular cyclist? For these 50 feet, I was a mud bogger. Yippee kay yay, look at me, I'm throwing up some roost. 

Learn it all, I say, something new all the time, and master as much as you can manage and more. Adapt to conditions as they change. Get ready for anything. Get up. Go ride.


Wednesday, October 27, 2010

The Inexorable Depredations of Time and Distance

The cogs of time: old 12T on the left, new 12T on the right

Replaced the chain recently, and it's time to replace the cogs, too. The silver cog above is the old one. Some of the teeth had started to get a lip on the inside along the top, and it just don't cog like it used to. Some of them also had started to get that noticeable shark fin shape. In this picture they don't look that bad, though. Of the photos I took, I like this one the most, because the old one looks pretty good from this angle, even after much distance and time have teamed up to wear it down. This Old Cog. Get up. Go ride.

Monday, October 25, 2010

Tour de Tempe 2010: Happiness in Numbers

Tempe mayor Hugh Hallman announcing the start of the ride

Great art by Casebeer on the free T-shirts they handed out at the ride

Uh, Mom? I mean, Dad? I can't see around, your, um...Hello? This is not a nice view.

"Fat Sally" is riding a Batavus Personal Bike--sweet ride!

Sunday morning, I rode in the Tour de Tempe 2010 community ride. Free t-shirt, free coffee, free snacks, free energy drinks, perfect weather, lots of cool cyclists, I'm in! It was not a fast ride, just a casual 12 mile toodle around Tempe, part of the way on a newly paved canal path. 

Although I had some misgivings about riding in a crowd like that, it turned out to be no problem, since everyone seemed careful, and after the start, we spread out, and cruising along at a comfortable pace sorted us out into groups of similar speed.

This was the 15th annual TDT, but the first one that I have done. Lots of people were wearing TDT t-shirts from several years back. I'd do it again. Particularly if they continue to have free coffee, and give away t-shirts with excellent bicycle-related art on them. 

Thanks for the ride, Tempe! It brought a smile to my face. It was great to see so many other people out there riding together. Get up. Go ride.


Sunday, October 24, 2010

Scary Car Dreams

Commuting by car+trailer: Very Scary

In this dream, I drove my car to work pulling a rented trailer. The purpose behind pulling the rented trailer to work was not clear, although it felt like it may have been a Friday, with the trailer loaded with some equipment for camping, or possibly an extended mountain biking adventure. It was a big trailer, so it must have been for a big adventure. As in many dreams, it seems that I had not thought through the whole thing very carefully, since I had to park the car+trailer in the parking garage. Since I have been commuting by bicycle for so many months, though, it's at least plausible that I wouldn't think about the challenges of parking a car+trailer in the parking structure.

When I got to the garage, most of the spaces were taken, and it dawned on me after I had squeezed through the gate that it would have been hard to park the car+trailer in the garage even if I had thought ahead and arrived early. When I saw that any combination of regulation spaces that may have admitted my car+trailer were already taken, I opted for a less-than-regulation, off-to-the-side, on-the-slope, pull-in/out parking arrangement. In my haste I may not have set the parking brake or turned the front wheels in the best direction for parking a car+trailer in that type of situation.

Just before lunch time, all the phones in the office stopped working. About five minutes later, the sound of sirens outside: police, fire, rescue. Like most other people, I decided it was time to head out to lunch. I walked toward the parking garage, again not thinking it through, then saw that the hubbub was about some sort of accident near the entry gate of the garage, so I opted to walk next door to grab a slice of pizza.

While waiting in line for my slice, more information about what had happened at the garage began arriving in my ears. There had been an accident at the gates. Someone had seen a car on its side. A passing van that had children in it had been involved. The building's phone system had been put out of commission in the collision, affecting the customers who were supported by the system, and they didn't know how long it would take to fix the phones since there was a police investigation underway.

Then someone mentioned that the car on its side had a rental trailer attached to it. I got one of those bad feelings in my gut. Really bad. Then they added that more ambulances had to be called to haul away all the kids who had been injured in the van when the car with the trailer had rolled through the parking garage gates, out into the traffic lanes, and into the van. Police were combing the area for the driver of the car+trailer as a hit and run.

I woke up in alarm, obsessing about what had happened. Police combing the area? Hit and run? Why had I parked the car+trailer in the garage so haphazardly? How many kids? How long would the phones be down? Were customers firing us? I pictured myself walking out of the pizza joint to face the music. My palms began to sweat. I wished I had commuted by bike as usual instead. Why oh why? Yikes. Get up. Go ride.


Saturday, October 23, 2010

A Sad Little Monkey Award for Aggressive Drivers

A sad little monkey, washed upon a rocky shore by the cruel tides of fate. My heart-felt gift to aggressive drivers.

To the big pickup driving man who roared up behind me and wailed on your horn Friday morning while I was riding my bicycle to work legally, safely, and predictably: THANKS MAN! What were you doing when you roared up behind the bicyclist in the bright red shirt in your 5000 pound stuff-hauling machine, 45 mph? IM-pressive! Before I explain my sense of gratitude to you for your egregious honking, though, allow me to share a few observations, and remind you of a few Arizona laws, which may accrue to your future advantage.

Foremost, a reminder about Arizona law: ARS 28-954 B, which says "If reasonably necessary to ensure the safe operation of a motor vehicle, the driver shall give an audible warning with the driver's horn but shall not otherwise use the horn when on a highway." To me, this means that you shouldn't blast your horn because you are carrying around a Friday morning load of pent-up rage and frustration, have a hangover from the 12er of Natty Lite you drank last night, or out of ignorance of the laws related to cycling in Arizona. Those reasons won't fly when the officer writes you a ticket for egregious honking.

After wailing on your horn, you buzzed by too close to me, straddle-passed me on a busy six lane street that is marked as a bike route on city maps, and probably pissed off (if not endangered) several of your fellow automobile drivers in the process. This all happening about five seconds before I planned to turn right onto a side street anyway. So in addition to the statutes you broke related to the legal and safe operation of your automobile*, which I recommend for your review by the way, I thought it might be helpful to mention a few bicycle-specific laws which you may not be aware of. I'm sure a lot of other people don't know about them, either, but it's interesting to me that you are the first person in over a year of my bicycle commuting who couldn't seem to plug the hole of their ignorance with common sense, courtesy, and general traffic practice. I will attempt to plug your hole.

28-735. Overtaking bicycles; civil penalties
A. When overtaking and passing a bicycle proceeding in the same direction, a person driving a motor vehicle shall exercise due care by leaving a safe distance between the motor vehicle and the bicycle of not less than three feet until the motor vehicle is safely past the overtaken bicycle.

28-812. Applicability of traffic laws to bicycle riders
A person riding a bicycle on a roadway or on a shoulder adjoining a roadway is granted all of the rights and is subject to all of the duties applicable to the driver of a vehicle by this chapter and chapters 4 and 5 of this title, except special rules in this article and except provisions of this chapter and chapters 4 and 5 of this title that by their nature can have no application.

28-815. Riding on roadway and bicycle path; bicycle path usage
A. A person riding a bicycle on a roadway at less than the normal speed of traffic at the time and place and under the conditions then existing shall ride as close as practicable to the right-hand curb or edge of the roadway, except under any of the following situations:

        1. If overtaking and passing another bicycle or vehicle proceeding in the same direction.
        2. If preparing for a left turn at an intersection or into a private road or driveway.
        3. If reasonably necessary to avoid conditions, including fixed or moving objects, parked or moving vehicles, bicycles, pedestrians, animals or surface hazards.
        4. If the lane in which the person is operating the bicycle is too narrow for a bicycle and a vehicle to travel safely side by side within the lane.

These don't require much additional explanation, but if some illustrations and examples would help gel the concepts for you, I direct you to the excellent publication put out by the Arizona Department of Transportation, "Share the Road: A Guide for Bicyclists and Motorists". It's potentially eye-opening, or, in your case, hole-closing. Hey look, p. 28, "Horns Don't Help" was written just for you! P.18 and 29 are also great things to read about!

I said up top I would explain my gratitude toward you. After I analyzed our encounter, I realized that the cost was all on your side, and the benefit all on mine. Now, that obviously wouldn't have been the case if your errors had caused an accident, but they didn't, in this case. 

On your side, driving aggressively and erratically, breaking the law, and allowing your emotions to govern your actions, are all choices you made which have no long term upside. No good will come of them, in my opinion, not for you, and not for the rest of us sharing the road with you. You drove away pissed off, aggressive, and unpredictable. You left the encounter paying a heavy price, by my reckoning. 

On my side of the equation, the instant I heard you roar up behind me and wail on your horn, I felt a natural reaction of a dump of adrenaline, followed by a crash of stress chemicals, which stayed with me for quite a while afterward. I was pretty pumped. So much so that I didn't require my standard first morning coffee at the normal time. So, you probably saved me some money there. In addition, you gave me material for a blog post, including inspiration for the One Speed: Go! "Sad Little Monkey Aggressive Driver Award."

Pickup driver who roared up behind me while I was riding my bicycle legally, safely, and predictably this morning, straddle-passed me too closely, and drove away erratically and aggressively, I wish you luck in your future endeavors, and present you with the first "Sad Little Monkey Aggressive Driver Award!" Congratulations! I find that breathing exercises, as well as long bike rides, can be extremely effective in assisting with emotional control. A skill which, if you picked up, would benefit not only you, but the rest of us sharing the road with you out there. But, as I mentioned, I feel that I came away from our encounter ahead of the game, so your first 12er of Natty Lite is on me tonight. Just please don't drive after you consume it. Much as you might feel like it. There's also a law against that. Drink to your latest award, and call it a night.

Tomorrow's a new day. Hug your sad little monkey award, big pickup driving man. My suggestion would be, as always. Get up. Go ride.

*for example, ARS 28-723 "Overtaking a vehicle on the left" would be a great place to start your review      

Friday, October 22, 2010

Bicycles of New York, The Friday Photo Collection

That's a wrap of the New York bicycle photos. Have an excellent weekend. Get up. Go ride.

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Oh Bento! My Bento!


Bento box lunch at Republic, Union Square, New York, sweet lunch of my dreams: seafood dumplings, beef soup, chicken rice, hot green tea. This is what I would eat every day, given the chance. 

my bento:
I am not to speak to you, I am to think of you
when I sit alone or wake at night, alone
I am to wait, I do not doubt I am to meet you again
I am to see to it that I do not lose you. (Whitman)

Get up. Go ride.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Spinoza Got It Right: NYC Bikes Pt.2

"I would warn you that I do not attribute to nature either beauty or deformity, order or confusion. Only in relation to our imagination can things be called beautiful or ugly, well-ordered or confused." - Baruch Spinoza 

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Spinoza Got It Right: NYC Bikes Pt.1

"I have made a ceaseless effort not to ridicule, not to bewail, not to scorn human actions, but to understand them." -Baruch Spinoza

Monday, October 18, 2010

The Haunting Sound of Chakpu Creating a Mandala

Walking around an eco festival in Manhattan, I happened to wander into a tent where a Tibetan sand mandala was being created. This process was being directed by an ordained Tibetan Buddhist monk named Lama Tenzin Yignyen. The scraping-like sound make by the long metal funnels used to place the sand precisely, called chakpu, was like nothing I had ever heard before, and only partially comes across in the video. 

Almost as soon as they finished this, they dumped the sand into the water, probably the Hudson River, which was only a few feet away from this table. Words that come to mind: transitory, compassion, disseminate, kindness, temporary, fleeting, ceremony, illusion, destruction, dismantling, this fleeting material world. Get up. Go ride.

Sunday, October 17, 2010

Chain Drive Mug from Hawaii

Bicycle-themed handmade chain drive coffee delivery device, courtesy of The Flat Tire

Harry John Lawson, an English engineer, modified his Safety Bicycle to use a chain drive in 1879, apparently taking the idea from chain drive tricycles. His version didn't catch on, but in 1885, John Kemp Starley produced his version of a chain-drive safety bicycle called the Rover, which eventually became successful. (source: Wikipedia). The chain drive, as readers will already know, was an alternative to the direct-drive, pedals attached to the hub arrangement, of the high wheeled penny farthing. Other drive arrangements were also tried, like the treadles of Lawson's first diamond frame Safety Bike, but once people got used to tooling around on a chain drive diamond frame bike with a big cog up front and a smaller one out back, the advantages of the design became obvious. Since then, no other bicycle drive arrangement has offered any serious competition, because this combination is simple, safe, and efficient.

limom at The Flat Tire sent me the mug above to try out. Probably unconsciously, he somewhat mirrored the history of bicycle drive systems by also producing some direct-drive mugs with wheels for handles. He asked me to test drive the chain mug and post a review. A task where I get to drink coffee out of a beautiful handmade mug and blog about it? I'm in!

The chain handle really grabs your attention, doesn't it? You can see this mug in the making on his blog, which is super-cool, and illustrates the level of effort required to fabricate a mug handle that resembles a bicycle chain. The details are amazing, and just make you pick up the mug to examine it closely, which is the reason I love this object: the person who made this demonstrated a fanatical level of attention to detail in trying to realize an idea, and the mug itself tells you that when you pick it up, hold it, and look at it. The shape of the cogs. The amount of glaze put on so that you can still see the horizontal striations made by hands on clay spinning around on a wheel (I think). The weight of it: for some reason it seems a little bit lighter than you expect it to be when you pick it up, for me anyway, very similar to hefting a light road bike: whoa! Lighter than expected. 

On the other hand, a chain handle coffee mug also raises obvious questions of durability and practicality. Will it hold up under regular use? I think it will for me, because I am not a handle-holder. I always grasp cups around the body, and use the handle (and in the case of the chain mug, the raised cogs) as grip-aids. I don't plan to hang this mug on a mug tree by the handle, though, and I don't think I would run it through the dishwasher, either. When considered together with the pain-in-the-ass it was to fabricate it, you may have considerable doubts about the viability of a chain-drive coffee mug design. The Maker has said as much. 

Allow me to present an alternate view, or challenge, against those doubts: the chain-drive mug design is a winner for the simple reason that any cyclist who is also a coffee drinker will experience a sense of recognition (heh-heh-heh) at seeing it, and want to pick it up, and probably get one for themselves. The wheel handle alternate design may have the same effect, too, so I am not suggesting that the chain drive is superior in that sense, but I think each has its merits, and may appeal to different people for different reasons.

In my imagination, I went back in time and set this blue chain mug on the desk in front of Harry John Lawson and John Kemp Starley, with no other explanation beyond telling them that this mug was made in Hawaii, by hand, 125 years after their chain drive bicycles hit the streets. I imagine them picking up this mug with delight, and filling it with a strong brew of English tea, then sitting beside the fire to argue the relative merits of various chain designs. To me, the delight of an English engineer is reason enough to love the chain mugs.

I think if I could change anything about this particular example, I would want it to be a bit bigger. It's not a strong criticism, though, more like a preference. This one holds about 8 oz of coffee, about midway between the espresso cup and the large, 16 oz mug pictured below. It's a decent amount of coffee, particularly if you go for quality over quantity, but I find myself wishing it held just a little more. Other than that, though, it's my new favorite coffee mug. Thanks to limom for sending it to me to review! This is a mug that recommends itself to a cyclist. Very good for pre-ride caffeination. Get up. Go ride.

Size comparison: espresso cup, chain mug, 16 oz coffee mug

Saturday, October 16, 2010

Things Done and Undone

Lock parking. Sign that there may be some cyclists in these parts.

I think the first place I saw bike locks parked like this was this spot in Manhattan, New York, more than twenty-five years ago, or somewhere very near this rack, in the Financial District. Why carry five or more pounds of lock back and forth to work on your bike every day, if you only need it at the rack where you park? Back then, I admit that I couldn't figure out the story behind the orphan locks dangling from racks and other locking points around the city. Probably because it was infrequent, sporadic, and not instantly obvious (to me) what was going on. I came across this rack on this Columbus Day, though, and the sheer numbers make it pretty obvious. It made me wonder: do the people who continue to carry their locks and lock up at this rack feel peer pressure to park their lock? Do the lock parkers ostracize the lock mules? Do the Authoritays come by here periodically and cut off all the locks just to show the parkers who's boss? 

Most interesting to me, and possibly only me: has an anonymous bike share every cropped up in one of these situations, since you could lock a bike with your lock to another lock that was already there (top tube probably the best), and then a person with either key could open one of the locks and share the ride? Grass roots flash sharing.

The bike below was locked up at the other end of the rack. It's a Pista, fixed gear, Oury grips, Aerospokes, single front brake. An icon really. Reviled by some. Highly sought after by others. Personally, I like it, although I am unlikely to go buy one for myself.

I plan on putting up a few more vacation pix, because I think I saw some cool stuff, most (but not all) bike-related. The fam and I had an action-packed week. We accomplished everything we had planned except for bicycle riding, although we walked, subwayed, light railed, taxied, and ferried our behinds off. Those are the things that are done now. The things undone, like bicycle riding in the city, visiting the Tenement Museum (one of our fallback plans that was not fallen back on), and like Bargemusic, which I really wanted to see but just didn't have the time for, need to wait for our next trip to the Big Apple. Stuff to anticipate for next time. For now, though, I need to get back in the saddle. Get up. Go ride.


Friday, October 8, 2010

The Fallacy of the Single Right Choice

"Horseshoe Falls" by Michael Malich (1999)

"A principle which I have endeavored to assert in most aspects of Davidson family life is the 'Fallacy of the Single Right Choice'. The enunciation of the principle has stilled many a vain debate, based on the faulty premise that there must always be one, and only one, 'best' way of performing some activity like dressing for a party, or cooking fish. A useful feature of fish is that most kinds can be cooked in most ways."  --Alan Davidson, "North Atlantic Seafood, A Comprehensive Guide with Recipes"

On Tuesday night when I rode out to see the aluminum horsemen of the deluge spouting water during/after the epic storms that hit Phoenix that afternoon and evening, even though many signs were very positive, I prepared myself for disappointment. Part of me was looking at it as gathering data, how many cubic feet per second of water, for how many hours, would have to flow down IBW (Indian Bend Wash) before water spouted out of the horses' mouths, and how many cfs would be too many to permit me to get close enough to the horses at night without getting washed away, an outcome which would probably land me and my story on a web site that gets more hits per day than this blog has gotten since post numero uno. But another part of me wanted to see water pouring out of those horses' mouths like some kind of equine oral Niagara Falls.

The practical side wanted a backup plan just in case, though. I was riding along through Scottsdale, happened to be sporting my brightest headlight, and thought to myself, "Well, if the horses don't come through, there's always the Horseshoe Falls. Push Button for Horseshoe Fountain: it never disappoints me." So as a backup plan, as I rode through the thunderstorm toward the ultimately dry-mouthed horses, I also thought: park the bike with that bright headlight in the middle of the piles of horseshoes and smooth black rocks, hit the fog button, and take a video.

By the time I got back to the piles of horseshoes, the storm had stopped, and the winds had died down. I more or less love the video that resulted, and I think that it also shows that it pays off to look for more than one right choice, as the title of this post suggests. Rather than riding home with my head hanging low due to under-performing horse statues, I found another right choice, and made the most of it. 

Think about it: how often do we set our hearts and minds on a particular choice, deem it the single right one, and then feel disappointed or worse if it doesn't play out the way we wanted it to? I know for kids this often looks and feels like the end of the line when it happens. In the face of not achieving what seemed like the most important thing ever, what's left? Here, now, at age 14 (for example), something doesn't turn out right, so that's it! Yet, in almost every case, this is the Fallacy in action, since there are almost certainly other right choices, if the eyes and mind are open to them, if the imagination and/or reason would do some work. It's possible that some of those may turn out to be superior to the initial unrealized "right" choice which looked so singular and vital when it was the center of attention.

Sometimes, the single right choice deception may arise from force of habit. When riding a bicycle, for example, perhaps a certain choice in a previous situation proved to be successful, so the next time a similar situation occurs, the Fallacy of the Single Right Choice may arise, and blind you to a better choice in that specific instance. The Fallacy may blind you to vital information about the present situation that makes it different, that requires a different choice than before, or that offers better opportunities for success, or escape, or happiness, if you are open to them, recognize them, and act on them.

Through the rolling fog, and thunderstorms, and blinding bright light, there's a lot of smooth rocks to choose from around Horseshoe Falls. Don't settle on just one, at least not in haste, or caught in the grip of the Fallacy.  

I believe there's a corollary to the Fallacy of the Single Right Choice (if you can have a corollary to a fallacy, not sure about that), and that's the Axiom of Decisive Action, but that's probably a different post. Note though, I believe all the trees that used to shade the Horseshoe Falls installation blew down on August 24 in the same freak wind that blew down the fence around the construction at Soleri Bridge, and also cracked limbs off the tree in my Welcome to Phoenix post. (this is mere supposition, by the way, a conclusion based on the shallowest of circumstantial data)  I was shocked when I rode by the Falls a few days later and saw them all gone, but check out how the thing looks now, at night, after the decisive action the took to rip out all the damaged trees.

The book that the quote at the top of the post comes from is fantastic, by the way. The first half is a "fish catalog" which has one or two pages with detailed drawings for each of the major edible creatures of the North Atlantic, along with basic information about how they live and what people do to catch, eat, and cook them. The second half consists of recipes for same from around the world. Good reading, good eating. Each with different right choices on how to cook them.

I won't be blogging for several days because there's some other right choices I've made. I felt that this post would be a good choice to represent the blog while I was away. My front man. The guy at the velvet rope who looks good and lets pretty much everyone go in. 

Take care, ye merry band of cyclist-bloggers and readers. Don't let anyone, including that noisy inner voice, tell you there's only one right choice, or only one right way to do things. Keep your options open. Like the road. Get up. Go ride.


Thursday, October 7, 2010

Goldwater Pedestrian Underpass Adds Minutes to My Lifespan (in effect)

Before Picture, taken March 23, 2010 from the project inception post

Taken just before my first passage through it, October 6, 2010

I took some shaky video of my first passage, and considered adding the theme from 2001: A Space Odyssey for a soundtrack to mark this momentous passage, but a simple before-and-after comparison seemed more proportionate to the subject. There's still some work going on around it, but I think today was the first day one could officially ride under Goldwater Blvd. This will save several minutes of bicycle commuting time each way, and also add safety, I think, particularly eastbound, since crossing eastbound on the north side of the canal is nearly blind due to a curve--to see if cars are at least one fahrnuff away to allow you to cross, you have to stick your tire out into the street to see around the curve (the one with my favorite giant rusted fish wall). Or from a drivers' point of view, they should have significantly fewer cyclists darting out in front of them and not making eye contact.

This may still be a work in progress. For example, the approach and path in the photograph just behind me is paved, but up ahead the canal is still gravel. Same thing on the other side of the road. Which works for me, I ride an adaptable cruisemuter bicycle that rides pretty well on any surface, including canal mud woo-hoo!, but I imagine in some plan somewhere there's a paved path along here that connects up with other underpasses, paved paths, and so on. 

OK, forget proportion, here's the video, JRA's First Epic Spelunking of Goldwater:

Which reminds me, I wanted to propose a little vision augmentation to the civic planners, based on what I saw down on the south end of the Indian Bend Wash path, near the Salt River, or as it currently is, the Tempe Town Mud Pan and Temporary Wading Bird Sanctuary. The combination of elements in the picture below is part of what would convince people to use these paths more often in the desert. This is a big, flat, hot city. Many typical useful bicycle journeys may be 20 miles or more. 

A combination of paths and streets connected in a logical way, with periodic stations with ALL of the elements below, is needed to encourage more people to take 20 mile+ rides on their bicycles, though. Without these, and more of them at places like the Goldwater Underpass, we will never see much usage of the paths by significant percentages of people who don't use them already, like me, because they will not see it as possible to ride 20 miles without a water, rest, and shade stop in Phoenix when it's 110F. I mention this because if the underpass and canal bank paths that connect with it are still a work on progress, we'll need a few additional elements to make them useful for more people, to realize more of the potential of that work. 

Shade structure, watering station and rest stop on the Indian Bend Wash in Scottsdale: MORE PLEASE

These elements are key. Others should be added based on location (nearby transit info, for example)

  • Shade
  • Benches
  • Water
  • Bike racks (key+ if there are hiking paths nearby, too)
  • Good viewing area with native flora/fauna
  • Informative Signage
These are key elements. The only one I could come up with that's missing is maps or other signage indicating distances and other information about where this is, and where you can go from here, in addition to the nice signs above about what plants you're looking at. You can ride from here to the Scottsdale Civic Center, downtown Phoenix, downtown Tempe, or a sculpture of giant aluminum horses that at least appear to be capable of spouting water during flood times, all on designated bike paths or lanes, but how many people would know that, standing here? Sure, most of us have devices that tell us how to get places, but first we have to know what the possibilities are.

In closing: thank you, Goldwater Underpass tunneling boffins for your excellent constructing here, which will benefit mammal-powered locomotion of all sorts, as well as automobile drivers who should face a less fretful passage through this zone as people adapt the underpass. Get up. Go ride. 

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

The Aluminum Horsemen of the Deluge Would Not Perform for Me Tonight

Horse suffering from dry mouth

Phoenix and the surrounding cities got stormed on today, some areas receiving 2 inches of rain, with wind, hail, lightning, all that. I kept checking the online water level transducer to see what the flow rate was at Indian Bend Wash where the Water Mark horse statues reside, and when it hit 180 cfs I got on my bike to go for a ride in a thunderstorm with winds and lighting to see water coming out of the mouths of giant aluminum horses. My family thought I was (am) crazy, but I wanted to see them in action. Until I do, after my first post about these horses, I won't feel like I have closure.

Lightning. No mouth water, though

On the ride over, I was filled with anticipation. When I rode by the Indian Bend Wash overpass at Indian School Road, the water was roaring under it, and I felt certain I would see the horses expelling water tonight. A little farther north along the wash, at a street called Starlight Way, I took the video below, which really made me think tonight was the night. There's a street under there! Don't try to cross it though, will give you a stupid motorist ticket if you get stuck in the middle. Section 28-910 of the Arizona Revised Statutes says that if you drive around barricades to try to cross a flooded roadway and get stuck, you are liable for the costs of your rescue. Good law.

Although I was disappointed in the horses' non-performance even after a frog-strangler/ gully- washer like we had tonight, the ride over there was magnificent because the summer has run from the desert as it usually does at the turn of the season--on Friday it was 106F, this weekend was still pretty hot, then yesterday and today the storms came. As I type this it's 66F and beautiful outside. We may get more rain on Wednesday. For water to come out of the horses' mouths, it seems like it would have to flow over the top of the flood control structure they sit on. I wonder how many cfs what would be. With this perfect riding weather, it looks like I will just have to keep riding back there to find out. Get up. Go ride.

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Hazards of the Bike Path Episode 22

Ripping up the path at high speed in the big ring, wait, what's that ahead?? FEEDERS

No worries in the water fowl safety dept. though: these are the relatives of Duck Dawkins, helmeted for safety.
They're being fed by a pair of humans obviously seeking to pad their karmic accounts
by ameliorating the life conditions of crested ducks, as advocated by  the FALCCD.
When they are wide like this, with a yellow line down the middle, not too crowded, and peppered with scenes of beauty and wonder, I like the multi-use paths immensely. If they were crowded with cyclists, joggers, runners, strollers, and rollerbladers, I would feel differently, and choose to ride other routes, but when they are basically wide open, I prefer them to streets with cars. 

Not for commuting, or at least not when I have to go fast for some reason, but for a leisurely spin, they have much to offer. And although I see the planners making slow progress, many of the best paths seem to go from nowhere to nowhere. Which is OK if you have nowhere to go at no particular time, not so good if you need to be somewhere at certain time, though. Where you're going, related to how you travel, and how you feel about that trip. By bike, down an easy MUP, with people feeding crested ducks, was exactly where I was going, how I traveled, and how I felt about the trip. Get up. Go ride.

Ever feel like this? Who brought the picnic basket? Let's watch clouds.

Monday, October 4, 2010

Great Egrets Seem Quite Content in the Muddy Shallows of a Broken Dam

All That's Left

Until they refill Tempe Town Lake, this is all that's left: some rather large, shallow, muddy pools. And the wading birds love them.

Before the rubber bladders burst, you could see some of these birds hanging around the downstream side of the dam where a small wetlands grew up, and then also following the skinny stream as it snaked away. However, with most of the lake itself drained and turned into a sun-baked mud pie, some temporary contingent wetlands have formed where some shallow water remains upstream, or has gathered from rainfall, run-off, snow melt, or dam releases, and many of the egrets have headed up that direction.

I noticed today that the cormorants are still hanging around back by what's left of the dam, as if something will happen soon to put things back to normal. I saw the signage which announced that a pedestrian / bicyclist bridge will be built on top of the new dam, but that's going to take some time. It seems cold that the egrets lefts and didn't let the cormorants know where the new hot spot was, but maybe they tried, but the cormorants stayed behind anyway. 

[Showy white birds. Graceful fishing fluffballs. We are the wise and efficient cormorants, and we know that the dam will rise again soon, and with it the avalanche of stunned fish which are so easy to catch and eat, kind of like one of those sushi conveyor belt restaurants. Go on, fluffy white birds, to wherever it is you are going, we're staying here to stare at the dried mud and the last carp gasping for oxygen in the shrinking pools.]

I noticed the front page of the local Sunday newspaper had a story about the interest in wetlands and wildlife along the Salt River. The article describes the possible restoration efforts, and includes some mention of the burst dam, but no photos like this. Instead, there's not one, but two, photos of the undersides of freeway overpasses with a little patch of water in the background. Don't most of my fellow citizens see enough of those every day?  

Couldn't the editors balance the full-page color ad on the back of the front section of an offer to save 10 cents per gallon on gas with a tiny picture of lovely white birds standing motionless in the sunshine? Why not portray something beautiful that's also out there, right now, today, this moment, instead? The freeway was right behind me when I took these photos, but somehow this direction looked more interesting, more photogenic, at least to me.

Easy for me to say, though, I guess. I wasn't in a hurry, just riding by bike along the path on a Sunday morning, watching the wading birds feeding. If this is what happens when they let the muddy water sit around, rather than back up behind a rubber dam into a squarish lagoon for boating and triathlons, I hope they take their time fixing it. Even if they are putting in a pedestrian / bicyclist bridge. At least long enough for another generation of egrets to show up. Maybe if enough of them show up, the cormorants will get the idea. Or at least make it onto the radar screens of the local newspaper editors.

Get up. Go ride.