Monday, October 31, 2011

Sunday Phoenix Ride: Washington Street to the State Capital

On Sunday mornings, Washington Street and downtown Phoenix are nearly deserted, which for me is an invitation to ride my bicycle there. Part of me, of course, wishes that our downtown wasn't so empty on non-business (and non-sports event) days, but it's almost all business, legislation, and court system down there. I did ride past some of the "occupy" protestors, who seemed relieved to see a sign of life on the streets. And it can be an odd feeling to have three, four, five lanes of street all to yourself on a bicycle, but I find it peaceful and stress-free riding, so it's welcome in that sense. 

Also, it can be a good time and place to practice riding in the streets, so I used it as an opportunity to do so. It's particularly good practice in this respect to ride east on Jefferson in front of Chase Field, where the Diamondbacks play, since the street is "interesting", in the sense that it jogs around the stadium, intersects with and includes light rail tracks, and has special traffic management features to direct drivers either onto the freeway or south across the Salt River bridge. You have to be on your toes to ride it on a bicycle, and that includes taking the lane that runs right beside the light rail tracks, and then eventually changing lanes all the way from the rightmost to the leftmost if you want to get into the bike lane when it starts up. See what I mean, interesting!

View Larger Map

It's been a while since I've ridden near the state capital and the memorial plaza in front of it, and since I recently visited the USS Arizona Memorial at Pearl harbor in Hawaii, I thought I should go have a look at the anchor and mast from the ship which stand in the Wesley Bolin Plaza.

Arizona Peace Officer Memorial statue in Wesley Bolin Memorial Plaza (WBP) in Phoenix

Not only was the traffic on my side this Sunday morning, but the weather was outstanding, sunny and in the upper 80s, with a light breeze. When I got to the plaza, which is a large park with many memorials set up around it, I had it almost to myself, too, with just a few other visitors walking around doing the same thing I was, checking out the statues and plaques. In addition, I had recently run across a mention of the K9 memorial to canines that have fallen in the line of duty, so I wanted to check that out, too.

Arizona State Capital museum across from WBP

Nearly dedicated bike lane along Washington, nearly deserted

Sunlight filters through various phrases on the 9/11 Memorial and casts words onto the cement

Here's the K9 Memorial.
The K9 memorial has a web site, which includes this moving and intense account of how one of the K9s named Murph was killed in the line of duty.

USS Arizona anchor

Signal mast from the Arizona with the capital complex in the background

All this fluffy soft green grass was surrounded by yellow CAUTION tape. It did not look dangerous or risky to me.

This was a great ride, slightly over 20 miles on my road bike. On the ride, I encountered two (2) vehicles driving the wrong way down the one-way, limited access road with the bike lane in it along Jefferson, which I think is the first time I've seen that. Also, I found that the stretch of Jefferson between about 15th Ave and about Central Ave is the worse stretch of pavement I have ever seen in Phoenix, except possibly those which were already ripped up and under construction. In some ways, it was easier to ride on the street on my commute after the asphalt had been milled in preparation for resurfacing, because at least there I knew what to expect. On this stretch of Jefferson, though, there are unexpected potholes, tall ridges, and general destruction all over the place. 

As I was riding past and checking out the Pioneer and Military cemetery, trying to see if there was a way in or if it was all locked up behind the tall fence, my wheel dropped into the biggest pothole I've hit in a long time, and I feared for the mechanical soundness of my machine. It bang-floated through it just fine. Good thing I usually ride with loose arms, too, but it startled me nonetheless. I also stopped a few times on this ride to brush the glass shards off my tires, don't want one of those working its way into the inside. In the end, no flats, no issues of any kind, just a very good ride on a quiet Sunday morning in Arizona.


Sunday, October 30, 2011

Crosscut Canal Path Finishing Touches: Words and Gabion Baskets

Craving closure on the Crosscut canal series of posts, including the most recent improvements that have been made on the path as part of the "phase II project", with earlier work (ten years or more) and phases by both City of Scottsdale (2004-2008), and Tempe, as I am sure you are too, I rode down there recently and saw the finishing touches that they've put in: signage, bridges, benches, art elements, etc. The artist listed on the Tempe City site for phase II is Mary Lucking at Lizard Acres Studio, who designed the bridges and the pavement patterns. With the precedent set by Barbara Grygutis in 2002 with Centerline, new or revised sections of this trail have a high standard to live up to.

Here are just a few shots of what has become a very useful and also pleasant path. With its hills, it's also a good workout on a fixed gear, depending on the gearing. But with the long flat portions, you want a nice high speed combo, so just do what I did on the hilly parts: stand and mash.

Gabions! Signage! I have expired and gone on to a higher MUP! SUP!

Racks! Why? So you can lockup and play some disc golf along the stream.

Benches, racks, and contour line art featuring bicycles. There are some contours around here to ride, oh yes.

It's a SUP, I guess.

I think there was an aquaduct that crossed over the Superstition Freeway, gone now...

Saturday, October 29, 2011

Voting by Bicycle for Yum Yum Mayors

Advertisement and campaign poster rolled into one

I filled out my mail-in early ballot in the Phoenix, mayoral election, slid it into my trunk bag, and dropped it into the mail box on my commute into work. I was only slightly influenced by the Suzy poster--after all, they have almost identical ones up for the opposing candidate too. Still, they appeal to me for some reason.

Mailing it in

Friday, October 28, 2011

Attending the Big Screen Premier of RECHARGE / In Flux in Scottsdale

From "The Ceramic Jungle" by Pete Goldlust, which was part of the IN FLUX installations in Scottdale

Thursday night I attended the Big Screen Premier of RECHARGE, which you can also watch online, here. I attended because, and this list is in no particular order whatsoever, there was free popcorn, I could ride my bike to it, several artists whose work I like a lot were there, there was free popcorn, and it sounded like an interesting set of presentations. Free popcorn.

Fausto Fernandez was there, the artist who did "Flowing Overlapping Gesture", which I posted about way back in January of 2010. Boy does that seem like a long time ago. I still like that particular post a great deal. One thing he mentioned at the BIG SCREEN PREMIER was that the monster storm that hit in the middle of his installation affected his plans. I remember that storm for a couple of reasons, too: it was one of the last times, if not the last time (I don't remember for certain) that I drove my car to work, and, it pretty much destroyed the roof on my house. I'm not exaggerating, it was a series of storms of epic proportion, which even the NOAA (National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration) considered notable enough to study, here. Imagine Fausto installing his first big public art piece, which involved huge pieces of styrofoam in a temporarily dry irrigation canal, while this was going on (quoting from the NOAA):

"A series of three low pressure systems traversed Arizona during the week of 18-23 January 2010, causing extreme snowfall, intense rainfall, and strong winds, which combined to cause widespread impacts to the people and infrastructure of the state. Heavy snow was primarily confined to elevations above 6,500 feet, with record flooding below 5,500 feet south and west of the Mogollon Rim (Gila, Maricopa, and Yavapai Counties). The third event in the series, which occurred primarily on 21 January 2010, was, by far, the most intense: this storm brought record low barometric pressure readings, unusually heavy precipitation, anomalously strong surface gradient winds with dense blowing dust, and isolated severe thunderstorms. A tornado was confirmed near the Arizona border town of Blythe, California."

"Flowing Overlapping Gesture" had some crazy colors in it, but I still remember looking up through the mesh on the top of the bridge at those pliers on that cloudy day and seeing only monochromes and raindrops:


I also learned the secret of the EKLbearmy, which made me laugh and smile on my whole bicycle ride home on this warm Arizona night. Tara Logsdon explained how she saves stuffed bears from thrift stores and performs operations on them to revitalize them with other recycled materials. Check out the web site of Dr Logsdon, it will warm your weary soul. Her explanation of why she does this with stuffed bears in the Jackalope Ranch 100 Creatives story is similar to what she said at the BIG SCREEN PREMIER: "I am strongly opposed to mass production and consumption. I feel like we live in such a disposable culture without any remorse. When I go into a thrift store and I see all these bears who once belonged to someone who loved them now face down, left for dead, WREAKING of that awful cinnamon air freshener smell, I just want to rescue them." She posed several divisions of her EKLbearmy in one of the store windows of IN FLUX, unfortunately, I don't think I captured a shot of it. You can see its bearful wondrousness in the video, and also on the SPA site.

There's a lot more that I should relate if I were a good reporter, like how Margaret Bruning is leaving for a job in LA and all Scottsdale Public Art fans are going to miss her, but right now I'm just a wiped out bicyclist who was able to spend an hour or so Thursday getting a brain refresh from a bunch of very talented and visionary people who implanted visions of future public art that can dance in my dreams. Oh, and Fausto Fernandez's next public art installation will be a floor at the new Skytrain terminal at the airport, in March, I think he said. Which is right along the way of my Tri-City Tour bike route, so I'm sure I'll stop by and take a look.   

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Should I Take A Multivitamin?

Even though I have generally taken one every day for years, decades even, I will say it: the evidence of benefit for taking a multivitamin for a healthy person who eats a balanced diet is questionable.

Good idea for a cyclist, snake oil, simply unneeded, or, other?

Jaakko Mursu says I should stop taking a multivitamin, and I think I agree, based on the evidence. This is from a large study on multivitamin usage that was recently covered by many news outlets, for example, here.

I have no known nutrional deficiency or disease that would indicate the need for a multivitamin.

I have other things to spend my money on than pills that demonstrate little or no benefit for me.

OTOH, a balanced diet with plenty of fruits, vegetables, nuts, little processed food, and plenty of phytonutrients and antioxidants has been associated with health benefits.

I did read a few books several years ago that basically suggested that people who get more exercise need more vitamins. It's rings true, but also reasonable to believe that people who exercise get the additional vitamins they need along with the additional calories they consume. Assuming they don't get the extra calories from soda or junk, but rather from a balanced diet.

I'm going to taper off the multivitamin just because I suspect it may not be a great idea to just stop something I've been doing for years.

The less snake oil I'm spending money on and putting into my body, the better.

On the other hand, ask a well-informed nutritionist what nutrients, micro- and macro-, that I, personally, specifically, require for optimum nutrition each day, to maintain health and support physical and mental performance, given my height, weight, gender, musculature, age, race, activity level and type, occupation, geographic location, local temperature and humidity, daily exposure to sun levels, travel habits, sleep habits, stress levels and cycles, gut bacteria census, regular medications taken or lack thereof, personal and family medical history, current measured blood levels, and the well-informed nutritionist should reply: I don't know, really, but here are some suggestions we can try out. 

There are DRI charts by age and gender, but even considering one of what may appear to be the simplest of macronutrients, water, I have doubts about the applicability of DRI to me: on days when I ride a bicycle 40 miles and it's 110F outside with single-digit humidity and blazing sunshine, what's my recommended intake for water? And with that, the salts that sweat out. I'll tell you: I consume the full DRI for water on those rides in just two hours, and still lose three pounds of water weight. I'm sure that some micronutrient requirements are also impacted by strenuous activities like that, but the "sports nutrition" books I've read seem contradictory and less supported by research.

Then there's this quote from the Wikipedia article on DRI: "In September 2007, the Institute of Medicine held a workshop entitled 'The Development of DRIs 1994–2004: Lessons Learned and New Challenges.' At that meeting, several speakers stated that the current Dietary Recommended Intakes (DRI’s) were largely based upon the very lowest rank in the quality of evidence pyramid, that is, opinion, rather than the highest level – randomized controlled clinical trials. Speakers called for a higher standard of evidence to be utilized when making dietary recommendations."

What are my personal nutritional needs, particularly of micronutrients, in order to support optimal performance and good health, and do I need a vitamin pill to satisfy those requirements? I don't know. And I'm certainly not here to say one way or the other for you, the reader, either. From my point of view, though, this latest study is the decider for me: no more multivitamin pills for me, at least until something changes to convince me otherwise.

I'm just hoping that Jaakko Mursu et. al. keep their research mits off my dark chocolate and coffee. So far, moderate amounts of those appear to be good for you. I can live with that.


Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Why Should I Be Sad When I Have Art and Bicycles?

In 1620, Robert Burton came up with about 500 pages of reasons

In The Conquest of Happiness, Bertrand Russell mentions many of the causes of unhappiness, from mortality to economic woe to injustice, but settles on one sub-type for his book: "My purpose is to suggest a cure for the ordinary day-to-day unhappiness from which most people in civilized countries suffer, and which is all the more unbearable because, having no obvious external cause, it appears inescapable. I believe this unhappiness to be very largely due to mistaken views of the world, mistaken ethics, mistaken habits of life, leading to destruction of that natural zest and appetite for possible things upon which all happiness, whether of men or animals, ultimately depends." 

When I read those words as a somewhat discontented, melancholic young person, they changed my life. If it's not obvious external causes behind the sadness, and there are many of those causes that sometimes come out of nowhere but none of those really applied to me back then, so I considered: it may be up to you to correct your mistaken views of the world, correct your ethics, cease bad habits that make you sad, and nurture that natural zest for possible things. I told myself this, and it changed how I looked at things permanently. So when I saw the questioning title of the latest installation at Scottsdale Belle Art, part of Cycle 2, I had some challenging responses prepared.

Close up of "Why Should I Be Sad?" by Melissa Martinez

There's actually some apparent disagreement about the title of this work: it's either "Why Should I Be Sad?", or else, "Why Should I Be So Sad?", which are two slightly different questions. Although as august a source as "Jackalope Ranch" favors the "so" version, the artist's page omits the "so", which I will go with, reluctantly, as I feel slightly more enthusiasm about addressing the more relative question posed by "so sad," implying that one should possibly be somewhat sad just not so sad, rather than the more straightforward and thus harder to answer, so-less version.

Some rain must fall

I heard something incredibly sad today. Not Russellian modern angst sad, but soul-withering, end-of-all-things kind of sad. Not directly affecting me, fortunately, but so profoundly bad that anyone would understand the devastating, human response to it. You want to say, "I can't imagine," but you can, I can, I may not want to imagine how it feels, but I can. If something that bad happens, you should be sad, it's a natural process of mourning and healing and it can take seemingly forever but you go through it. In those cases, there's no sense in asking "Why should I be sad?" because you should, and it would be rather inhuman if you weren't. You should be so sad in those cases of profound tragedy and loss. This question is not about that. Nor am I writing here about depression, a completely different subject. I read William Styron's Darkness Visible and it scared the crap out of me. That's the dark end of a long spectrum that requires a lot more intense repair than is covered in today's light and fluffy blog post.

I lay on my back in the darkness beneath your art, and I am not so sad

But if, instead, your sadness is the sort that Russell writes about, then the short answer is, you shouldn't be (so) sad. There are many routes to it, but I find for me, riding my bicycle grants me the most immediate access to that natural zest, the appetite for the possible. Rain clouds in the desert, of course, are the essence of what-could-be, for when water falls on these parched lands everything brightens and greens, plumps and blooms, and the creosote perfumes the arroyos, and the cactus wren calls WRACK WRACK WRACK WRACK and this cyclist seeks out mud to splatter himself with.

Or, perhaps, you shouldn't be sad for long. I celebrate the cycle of our moods, our bright and gray times, the rise and falling of our spirits and our appetites for the possible, and see in our irregularities and imperfections the touch of the divine, since the contrasts drive and delineate the shadings of our emotional cloudscapes. Some cloudy days add savor to the sunny ones. Why should I be sad? So you know what it is to be happy. Why should I not ride my bicycle in every waking moment? So that when I do get to ride it, I appreciate and enjoy it. But a little sadness goes a long way.

Tonight, my knee thinks it's going to rain. It might, but it's more likely that my knee has a mistaken view of the world. Listen here, articulatio genus, it's high time you start to look at things a little differently. Here, let me show you this coroplast cloud with sparkling balls of light that I saw hanging down from it at the Scottsdale Civic Center. Knee, you got to get your ethics straight. For you see, my vital bendy one, once you learn the secret of happiness, you should never be so sad again. The secret for a knee? Why, it's found at 90 rpm on a perfectly fitted bike, spinning along in a flat land on a blistering hot desert day. Picture my knees with big smiles painted on them. Never sad again.


Saturday, October 22, 2011

Tempe Town Lake Bridge Opens: Bridges as Moments

I have questions.
First, some thoughts to set up for the questions.

THE PAST: Memory, the north bank of the Salt River at Tempe Town Lake
THE PRESENT: Awareness, the new bike-pedestrian bridge across Tempe Town Lake
THE FUTURE: Imagination, the south bank of the Salt River near the Center for the Arts

Tempe Town Lake Bridge opened this week with a sunrise ceremony on Tuesday

The present moment is a bridge from the past to the future. Our stream of awareness flows across the bridge as our various imagined futures coalesce into the present moment, cross the bridge of awareness, and form into memory. As we cross the bridge, we carry as freight our rich collections of memories to refer back to, looking back over our shoulder at the riverbank we're leaving behind:

  • to guide and enrich our crossings
  • to form and (re)create who we are as we cross
  • to enhance our understanding and present awareness
  • to affect which of the possible futures we choose to strive toward
  • to help us handle the possible futures we have no control over
  • Walt Whitman: "I project myself a moment to tell you—also I return."

Check out those graceful shadows of the crossed-arches...hey, wait a minute!

Some methods of crossing a bridge, walking and biking primarily, will be at a pace and exposed to the environment such that the crossing is an experience in itself, not merely a transition to be gotten through as quickly and trivially as possible.

Some bridges will be conducive to a mindful crossing: Soleri Bridge in Scottsdale, the new Tempe Town Lake Bridge, Vancouver's Capilano suspension bridge, etc.

Some bridges are narrow high-speed nightmares you just want to drive across as quickly as possible to get to the other side and put them behind you: the 1/9 Pulaski Skyway bridge for example.

The arch shadows are actually pseudo-shadows, artifice, art

The basic questions:
How fast, how quickly do you cross?
Do you pause in the middle to reflect on the crossing?
Do you consider the bridge itself as you cross? Its design, its purpose, the possible intentions of its designers? Do you consider the skill of its makers, the grace of its design, the art, the engineering, its messages?
Does the bridge appear graceful to you? Does it have its own sort of beauty? Can you see its bones? Does it bear its burdens, its deadweight, its wind loads, its traffic, its stresses and strains, with ease and power? Does it sing in the wind? Can you feel it move? Does it have expansion joints to manage thermal changes?

Can you walk your dog on it? Do you take time to look into your child's eyes?

New bridges are built against the backdrop of the old bridges and other methods of crossing previously used. Sometimes the old bridges are left in place. Sometimes they are still used, other times they are closed yet remain, often rusted hulking shadows across the water. The old ferry piers and terminals, are they still there? Other times the old routes are erased, the spans blown up dropped into the channel and cut up into scrap, the old piers and ferry crossings destroyed and turned into parks, venues, fast food stands, waterfront. There should be a question here: your current bridge, how did it deal with the past crossing methods? At this point, it would be edifying to go and read Walt Whitman, "Crossing Brooklyn Ferry". Please:

Show me your forces, allow me to calculate your moments and thrusts

Did not Uncle Walt capture the exact sense I am wondering about herein?
The impalpable sustenance of me from all things, at all hours of the day;   
The simple, compact, well-join’d scheme—myself disintegrated, every one disintegrated, yet part of the scheme:   
The similitudes of the past, and those of the future...

I gaze back and across at older crossings, defunct ferries, and new light rail bridges that light up at night

Sun water dappled, in shade, gazing at wetlands and great egrets in the shallows and reeds

Once across, do you turn around right away and go back, which can only be done with bridges and not with past-present-future, or do you dwell a while on the far bank with curiosity and openness, to discover what's over there?

with bikes

In conclusion the final questioning: we are not molluscs, dwelling in an ever-present moment isolated from past and future one to the next unconnected merely being, nor are we machines since we have sensation, awareness, emotion, hope, dreams, intent, will, integrated sense of self. Sometimes we may be stressballs dwelling on worries and spinning on fears but we cross that bridge; sometimes we may be negative narrators telling ourselves stories of woe and wear and tear and weakness and age but we cross that bridge; and sometimes we are flowing beings of light and love moving in smooth and rich transition from past through the present into the future, and we cross that bridge, too. Freighted with memory. Buoyed by imagination. We look across, and we ask: where next?

Friday, October 21, 2011

My Glimpse of Flat Tire Land

Somewhere, out there, Kailua, with steel frames and Italian bicycle parts...

On my recent trip to Hawaii, I had a brief glimpse of the general vicinity of Flat Tire Land, basically one zip code over, looking from Makapu'u Point. More or less, I took this photo from not too far from where limom took his photos of this same area. This was my first extended trip to the islands, and I wish I could have spent more time. Riding around, sitting on the beaches longer, watching the surfers, checking out this corner of paradise. Perhaps even taking a ride with limom himself. Maybe next time. What an amazing place though. 

Just as we were getting ready to leave to go to the airport, I saw this girl with her bike-mounted surfboard, barefoot, getting ready to go out in the late afternoon.That was one of the memorable things about this visit, so many people who were clearly highly skilled surfers just there to surf, compared to some other beaches in other states and countries where a lot of people talk about surfing, dress and try to act like surfers, but strangely spend less time on their boards on big waves. I guess that's a corollary to having expensive bikes hanging on your garage wall that you never ride. I'm not saying that since I ride my bicycle every day I have some kind of connection to surfers who surf every day. Although if I moved to Hawaii I might surf every day. Or ride my bike every day in order to surf every day. Although one guy who clearly knew what he was doing pulled out a five gallon container of water out of his pickup, and showered off the salt after he was done surfing, right beside the road, and I'm not sure where the five gallon container of water would go on the bike. Maybe in the trailer. Or a bakfiets surf bike water container box. Aw yeah. 

Hawaiian surfing equipment check

Thursday, October 20, 2011

The Master Balls Integrated Wheel Lock

The mechanism of lockage eludes me

Because of the balls, the lock...secures...spokes...whoa. Dude.


Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Ali'i Buzz Bike, Kona, HI

After purchasing an excellent cup of coffee here at the Ali'i Buzz cafe in Kona, I noticed this fine fixed coffee steed propped outside. Ali'i was a chiefly or noble rank, so I suppose this is "royal buzz" cafe. I think the shiny Pista I saw locked up in Manhattan is still my favorite vacation bike catch, but this KHS is probably a close second. When I read the reviews on yelp for this place, it makes me all the more suspicious of the quality and motivation behind those reviews. I have visited many independent cafes in many countries, and this one is among the very good ones. The coffee was good, the service was prompt, and the barista came across as an intense and interesting person, which is all I ask of my baristas. I don't like canned answers or shallow banter, I appreciate a good strong attitude coming from a solid perspective, and a challenge with my caffeine. For example, at a cafe in Phoenix, they disallow cell phone usage while ordering or checking out, and I appreciate that: while you're talking to me, your thumbs are not moving, your bluetooth is silent.

At Starbucks in LAX, in contrast, I heard a young woman ask the barista, who was a frantic efficient Tasmanian devil of an espresso shot maker by the way, "Do you have any soy milk?" This was while the woman was standing in front of a glass divider behind which stood about ten cartons of soy milk, and I have never been at a Starbucks that didn't have a full array of soy milk ready to address all of your lactose intolerant non-dairy preferences. This was an excellent opening for any number of challenging and humorous ripostes, most of which probably would have sounded rude to your average IN-A-BIG-HURRY frappo-crappo-mocha-chino smoothie drinker. But if I was a barista who just wanted to pull the perfect shot of organic locally grown coffee, who had to face impatient frappo-crappo-mocha-chino smoothie purchasers all day, I might be likely to go ahead and reply to the soy milk woman with an appropriate and challenging comeback, just to keep it real. The good customers will engage and connect. The others will probably harumph and go write nasty reviews on yelp. Now you might say also that charging ruinous prices for the frappo-crappo-mocha-chino smoothies should be enough compensation for having to whip up those sugary abominations, second in evil only to iced coffee itself (oh the horror of the squelching of the 600+ aromatic compounds that come to life in the lovely vapors over a steaming cup! To ice coffee is to kill it! Ice Nescafe, if you want a cold drink! LET COFFEE LIVE I say!), but I learned a long time ago that just because it's on the menu doesn't mean the chef is going to put his heart into preparing it. His heart is going to center around a few items, and identifying those and ordering them is what's going to lead to a revelatory gustatory epiphany rather than another nondescript reheated prepared forgettable nullity. Let the buyer be aware. Let the customer of the independent cafe realize that ordering from the simple, espresso-based section of the menu, with an adjunct of milk if you must, is most likely to result in an excellent result, while most everything else may just be acceptable, revenue-generating products.

Kona was crazy in the aftermath of the Ironman competition, crawling with super-fit, muscly, low body fat beings who run up and down mountains, swim miles in the ocean, and ride a hundred miles like it's nothing. The men looked like statues of Greek gods, while the women resembled magazine ads, except in 3D, and moving around buying fruit and vegetables and Hawaiian sodas in the Farmer's Market. Also, they were riding their tri-bikes around, which was funny, too, since there were guys in beach wear and sandals pedaling their $7000 carefully fitted and not-very-comfortable wonder machines down to the beach. Usually still at high rates of speed, though. And with very good form. Me? I was just chilling at Huggos, eating the most perfect poke possible, and taking it all in. I have a feeling the chef likes to make these. Damn. I shall dream of this.

Huggo's Poke: food of elite Ironman athletes, as well as chillin tourists. Unforgettable.

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Kilauea Overflow Parking

Volcano bikes

I hiked across the Kilauea Iki crater, which was this awesome black moonscape of a place with steam vents, although no visible lava flowing, and found this pack of bikes arrayed and waiting for more tourists to come and hop on and ride around. As recently as 1959, there were fountains of lava here, and a lake of lava 400 feet deep. According to the guides, though, recent bore holes indicate that the lava is farther and farther beneath the surface each year, one of them stating something about 1000 feet down, which still sounds very close.

The picture above both needed to be taken, and also posted to the blog. There I was, just trying to empty my brain and relax, when suddenly "HEY BLOG THAT!!" was an irresistible urge. I did wonder at first if it was parking for when Kilauea overflows again, and Mrs Alpha was laughing at me, because she knew that there I was just trying to empty my brain and relax but that I wouldn't be able to resist the combination of sign and bikes. I did soon empty my brain and relax, though, so much that I was unable to answer simple questions or remember where I had just been. Seriously, people in conversation would inquire where we had visited the day before, and I was so chillaxed that I was unable to form the answer into words. Which is fantastic. Perhaps I should hike volcano craters more often. Just briefly, I was able to summon the mental image of a bicycle volcano, spewing steel frames forged in the fires of the bowels of the earth. Pele bikes: I need one.

The white stripe down the center of the crater is formed from the footprints of thousands of dazed tourists

Sunday, October 16, 2011

My Maui Beach Cruiser

It may seem a little pricey, although it appears to be around the going rate for a new bike. Assembly was super-easy, requiring only a stick and an empty stretch of sand in Maui. Performance didn't seem that great, since it didn't seem to be able to take me anywhere else, but that's actually OK, since I didn't want to go anywhere else. Also, I found it to be particularly susceptible to salt water, which wore it out pretty quickly. All in all, though, I found it challenging to study this model's characteristics due to the pounding surf and all the kite surfers tearing through the waves pulled by the stiff and constant winds. Further study may be required in order to produce the thoroughness and quality of review that you, the reader, have come to expect. Further installments will be coming when I get around to it. First, though, it may be crucial to become much more familiar with this "beach" environment in order to truly understand the critical requirements of this machine. I was told by a local that the best way to start was to stay on this empty beach until well after sunset, in order to learn not only the important environmental factors, but also the cultural and culinary setting, which seems to require sitting around a fire and eating lots of food.

Thursday, October 6, 2011

So I Can Dream

I'll slip away so I can dream. To waves, to trees, to quiet, to sunshine, away, away, there may be sand, there may be exquisite eating, excessive fun, walking to nowhere to do nothing for no one. Will there be meetings? No. Appointments, schedules, plans? Minimal, only to achieve the desired results. What about emails to send and receive? No: they are forbidden. Could one sit and stare at the clouds? If one wants. Could one stay up all night dancing? Of course. What about bike riding, some of that? Of course, though possibly of a slow, languorous, lazy river type. Watching the sun rise while snuggling a loved one? Yes, that and more. 

And the dreaming part, what about that? Yes of all types, day-, night-, sleep late and turn over for more type, wake up from the best one to the smell of strong good coffee type, sleep outside and feel the cool breezes type, exhaust yourself and take a late nap and eat a later dinner type, all types in fact. And the waking kind, the mind wandering, idealistic, hopeful, silly plan-making, wild aspiring, romantic, poetic, outrageous daring-doing type, what about that, can that be there, too? Yes, yes, yawp, yawp away. Reading mindless or mindful books type dreaming? Of course, with surf as your music. And the pencil and paper kind, the crouch beside the dim light in the corner in the middle of the night type, with ideas pouring out flowing where only they know, that type of dreaming, is that in the plans as well? Perhaps, possibly, given enough of the other, some hours, some cleansing, some mental clearance, possibly, may enable the slightest of scribbles. 

I'll slip away for a while, so I can dream, catch me on the other side, if I don't float away in light light ease.


Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Cherish the Illusion of Permanence

Riding past the Three Fountains tonight, an iconic modern building designed in 1963 by architect Al Beadle, I was struck by how the low sunlight flowed in and lit up the pillars and walls. The building itself is straightforward to describe, all planes, steel, glass, bright condo boxes stacked up to live inside of. Then I looked across the street, and time kind of ping-ponged a loop-de-loop inside my head.


I think I probably should have chosen to live somewhere informed with a sense of permanence to its built environment, and not one in which the stores, the businesses, the buildings, and the neighborhoods they occupy all seem to rotate in an out on whims and winds of change, on ebb and flow of fortunes and famines, trends and fashions, like the plaza across the street from Three Fountains for example. 

For a while it was a nondescript corner mini-mart next to a neighborhood post office. The mini-mart was nothing special, except the mom who owned it knew me by name and always had a fresh tray of her own baklava out to push as she rented videos. Then the post office closed, the mini-mart closed, a very good restaurant opened up and then went out of business in spite of its popularity. Nothing happened for a little while, then a coffee lady opened a cart in the side lot, making into kind of a pleasant little garden to stop in the morning for an excellent espresso, and she did well for a while, until fortunes changed, they spiffed up the old neighborhood post office into a popular wine bar, and then spiffed up the former mini-mart and failed restaurant into a popular neighborhood foodery that serves mad pizza, stellar cheese burgers, and a wide selection of great stuff. It appears to be doing well and will probably be around for a while, until it's not anymore, and someone turns the space into a parking lot, or drug store, or gas station, or neighborhood post office. When I look at stuff like this, one corner, a handful of years, it's no wonder I sometimes feel like I have trouble integrating the flow of years into a meaningful and personal continuum. Then I notice the light flowing into Three Fountains, sit a moment by the water, splash my hand through it, and some integration occurs. It's not a quiet village with eternal houses made of stone with turf on the roof, but it's been on the earth longer than I have, so to me I remember it as always having been there. Three Fountains are here, like the sign says, and they are swimming in sunlight, as they have been for a long time.

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Phoenix Heat Falls Off the Cliff

Summer in Phoenix lasts until some time in October. And by "summer", I mean days where the temperature is above 100F, often well above. We were above 100F 116 days this year, I think I heard on the news. It is a dry heat, and I've mentioned before that I love it. I think I was made to ride my bicycle in this heat. And I'm not going to jinx it by claiming that were done with the 100s yet: a 100F Halloween is not completely impossible to imagine here (although the record for the date is 96F so it's somewhat hard to imagine since it hasn't happened yet). 

In spite of my love for hot weather, though, just around this time each year, I begin to get excited about the few days when the temperature drops off the cliff. As far as I know, this is not an officially recognized phenomenon, more likely it's just my own combination of wishful thinking and pattern recognition, but I went ahead and made an attractive graph to help show that there may be something to it.

It is an attractive graph, no?

On Monday, the high temperature was 100F. On Thursday, it's forecast to be 77F, and the in-between days are a steady decline. According to the extended forecast, this 77F is just a bit of a tease, since were headed back up to the low to mid-90s before too long, but I do get this sense each year around this time that the heat is holding out as long as it can and then one day, BAM!, it's done, and the temperature just starts to mosey downwards from the good cycling temperature to the really good cycling temps we have from October till May. When the heat wakes back up again.

And I realize I may have what appears to be an inordinate interest in temperature, weather, actual conditions, but I'll tell you this: people who hide from the summers here inside air conditioned boxes and climate controlled compartments don't know what they're missing, while riding on my bike, I just soak it in. Soak. It. In. The air caresses my skin and infiltrates my brain so it is quite natural that a few words about current actual weather conditions sometimes appear in this space. It's one thing if you're watching video ruminations about what it's like outside everywhere from The Weather Channel (which has inaccurate statistics about average and high temperatures in Phoenix on its web site by the way, for example, stating that the highest temperature ever recorded here was 114, which makes me wonder what backyard monkey shack of a weather school they went to), and an entirely different thing if you're out riding at noon on a hot August day listening to the cicadas sing. In fact, I'm pretty sure that my body has stored up excess heat from the weeks of riding in it, and now I may be radiating it back out. That's me on the satellite, glowing red in the night. Look out world: JRA glowing through, now letting off a little steam as Autumn actually seems near.


Monday, October 3, 2011

Oh Fortuna, my own challenges are trivial

Pausing to reflect

Feeling a little beat after a sleep-deprived flat-out work weekend, and rocking a little stubborn bronchitis, I rolled up behind the stopped school bus along with several vehicles. I wrote this post several ways in my head, and I'll just go for the straight up approach: the bus driver was lowering a wheel chair lift. A kid, probably a third or fourth grader, in a motorized wheel chair of a type indicating that he can't really control or move very much on his own, rolled up with his mom and waited for the lift. He rolled on, lifted up, and rolled into position. Mom handed the driver a giant backpack, probably filled with important accessories, and the bus rolled away.

To do that every day. That kid has more strength than I do, and is far braver. I remember third grade as tough enough and I could run and jump and was a good student. The bus moment put stuff into perspective. I didn't feel tired any more, I felt incredibly fortunate, and that whatever I may have thought of as my own challenges at that moment were actually trivial, insignificant, and rather unimportant. I rode to work fast from there, to feel the wind, and the sunshine, and the spinning. Because I can, and I appreciated that immensely. That kid in the wheel chair on the bus: the bravest, and strongest, person I encountered all day.


Saturday, October 1, 2011

Do you hold your breath when you ride through a cloud of dust?

Pig-pen, or spontaneous human combustion in my bike lane

When you are riding and notice that you're about to pass through a cloud of thick dust, do you hold your breath? I often do, but then, I wonder, what if I can't hold it all the way through, is the deep inhale within in the cloud worse than just breathing normally and going on through? I've done it before, seeing a ginormous diesel pickup belching gray smoke as it tears away from a stop sign, and not wanting to breathe deep of its fragrant exhaust, held my breath, only to find myself still within its effluent upon running out of air, and thinking, how many microns are those tiny particles in diesel smoke that nestle deep in your lungs for life? Would it be worse, in the long term, to hold your breath until you passed out and fell over, rather than breathing in that stuff? These are my thoughts on some days. Am I the only one?