Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Happy Old Year! Life as Epic Journey

You gonna ride onto some rocks sometimes...

Once told a girl I would write her a poem....

I took Lovely Bicycle's advice and went for a Happy Old Year ride. I shared that sentiment with several people along the way. The route I chose was a familiar one, a path along the Arizona Canal that I've taken so many times that I've sometimes thought of it as my default route. Today, though, December 31 and nearly 70F, sunny warm and still, it felt somewhere in the neighborhood of perfection. 

And I thought: rather than cling to the thought/hope/illusion/construct/standard that tomorrow, next month, next year, will be better than today because it has to be, what if I looked at life as an epic journey instead? What if the story so far, with its ups and downs, good and bad, is the first part of the epic, and what comes after is the rest? 

Happy Old Year! The last day of the first part of the epic!

What I think, so far:
  • Seize opportunities when they arise.
  • You never know what effects seemingly small actions will have
  • If you seek a new path, then you have to take that unknown turn

The path less taken: I took it today. Yeeeeee haaaaaaaaaa.

Sometimes life on the rocks is beautiful

...still working on that poem.

Monday, December 30, 2013

Einstein's Eidolons: Vacation Dilemmas

First choice: reading about the end of the world

Vacation presents unique opportunities and challenges centered around the need to make choices between activities as diverse as extended bicycle rides, house cleaning, and catching up on reading about nuclear war. Grabbing a soft teddy to offer some comfort, I dove into "Command and Control" by Eric Schlosser. This book hit me like a megton of bricks. It's incredible. 

Not only would I agree that it deserves all the positive reviews it has received, but I would rank it as one of the best. It's possible I feel that way largely because the timeline covered by the book is almost exactly my own, and that it's a subject that has fascinated and horrified me since about the time I was able to duck and cover. 

In addition to those personal factors, though, the book is extremely well-written and researched. Schlosser uses the Titan II missile explosion at Damascus, Arkansas, on September 18, 1980 to power through a history of nuclear weapons safety. It reads more as an action-packed page-turner, rather than a history of political infighting and technical glitches and missteps that have repeatedly pushed us to the brink of ultimate disaster, but it also presents a cold and necessary portrait of the 17,000 or so nuclear devices which currently live in our world: while none (that we know of) has detonated accidentally or at the hands of a madman (a fact which seems almost inexplicable after reading the book), past performance is no guarantee of future results. 

Given that actual security locks (PALs and strong-weak links) on all American nukes is a relatively recent event, and when you learn that the code to unlock all the missiles for launch was 00000000, and when you think about Cold War Europe with soldiers near the front armed with Davy Crockett M-28 nuclear devices, and review the long list of accidents/fires/explosions, the bike riding option, the one in which you get to spend time outdoors enjoying the warm sunshine under clear blue skies feeling alive while it lasts, sounds pretty good.

An earlier book that had a great influence on nuclear me

At some point between Nixon resigning and Reagan reluctantly leaving office, we collectively decided that civil defense in preparation for nuclear war is a crock. We stopped storing tins of saltines and dried beef in basements of public buildings along with Geiger counters and shovels; we slowly and without much fanfare took down the yellow and black fallout shelter signs that used to adorn back stairwells and alleyways. Reagan proposed a $4 billion CD plan in 1982 to evacuate the residents of major cities to rural shelters, but by that time, the concept of decamping to the countryside while the hydrogen bombs rained down was wearing thin.

The end of the Cold War certainly hastened the end of CD-thought. Culturally, I would date the acceleration of the demise of CD-thinking to between the movies "WarGames" (5/7/1983) and "The Day After" (11/20/1983). The first one cemented in the concept that we (and it is us, no one else to blame, right?) could destroy humanity due to a bumbling series of unfortunate events, while the latter burned in the imagery of multiple white exhaust plumes of ICBMs growing like columns out of the prairie as the first and only sign that everything, and everyone, would be wiped out within four to six hours. 

The anti-CD development ran counter to my Boy Scout upbringing, which firmly engrained in me that to Be Prepared was a great virtue, that through dint of learning, practice, pluck, preparation, discipline, and the right tools, by golly you can make it through anything. Eventually, though, we came to recognize that between the massive gigatonnage overkill, the gamma rays, EMP and radioactive fallout, to the Nuclear Winter, and all the anti-human effects which would occur between and after those, the tins of saltines and shovels wouldn't help much.

To update the reality of nuclear holocaust to the present age for a new generation: not only will Facebook, Google, Twitter, Amazon, etc cease to exist, but even the smart phones will go dark, as the networks to support them will black out, at the same time that there won't be anyone else left to text, anyway. This is a clear and undeniable symptom that the weapons won: our destruction in the event of nuclear conflict is assured, and that assurance may be the single factor deterring it.

Speaking of deterrence, I am receiving a text about cleaning the house. It's currently about 65F and sunny in Phoenix. Who's up for a bike ride? All personnel considered essential.

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

The Power of Quiet, Civil Dialogue

Of peaceful, civil streets I speak

The driver right-hooked me on my bicycle clean off the street and out of the bike lane like the tip of a kielbasa with a sharp knife. It was my evening commute home from work. I was all shiny-reflective, lit up, and blinking brightly, while, as I swerved to a stop in behind him, I noticed he was still yakking on his cell phone. Somehow didn't see me, or didn't care, or couldn't be bothered. Anger, rage, urge to yell and gesture, to chase after him and scare the crap out of him, at least. I'm big, shock factor was on my side, I probably could have could have caused him quite a stir.

But wait. Calm down. Breathe. Keep riding. Ignore it. Notch it up to just another oblivious, or clueless, or inattentive, or passive-aggressive, human behaving badly on his way home, too distracted to care about another human just riding his bike home from work after a long day, who just wanted to see his family, to get home and to take a break, like everyone else. It's cool,  you're the better man, ride on peace dog, it's all good, right? You reacted like a champ, avoided catastrophe with a combination of skills, cat-like reflexes, and a dandy new helmet mirror that showed his encroaching headlights over the left shoulder like nobody's biz. Let it go. Joy to the world and so forth.

But wait, that's hardly satisfying. Go back and stomp the shit out of him and the car he drove in on. Dude did it into his OWN DRIVEWAY, pretty easy to find that jerk. Yeah, that's what you should...no, no, that's ill advised, and won't accomplish anything, and cannot turn out well. On the other hand, if you do nothing, he'll probably keep on doing it, right? Maybe next time he right hooks a kid, or you, in a closer call, at a higher speed, when good fortune and excellent defensive technique are not on everyone's side. Maybe next time it doesn't turn out half so well. So what then?

Imagine this: he slices me off the road like a kielbasa again. I follow in right behind him, then stop behind him in his parking place. As he gets out, he sees me writing down his license plate, vehicle color, make, model, time, date, place, and situation, while I'm dialing 911. About the time he approaches me, the operator says to me, "911, what's your emergency?" and I report my name, and that I was just run off the road by a driver who caused me to crash** my bicycle, and now I'm standing behind his vehicle. All stated in a calm, rational, objective voice, reporting the facts, responding respectively and in a level voice. Not snide, not know-it-all, not entitled, but firm and confident, assured. No, I don't know if I'm injured, right after an accident it's difficult to tell. Yes, I would appreciate that, thank you.

The 911 operator says whatever she says, and just about then the driver finally speaks to me, after he decides his play. No matter what he says, though, no matter what his mood, his voice, his approach or strategy, I speak to him exactly the same way I spoke to the 911 operator, all the while staying on the line, by the way. I speak to him exactly as I would wish to be spoken to: calmly, respectfully, evenly, rationally, civilly. You reap what you sow. "Yes, I'm just calling in this unfortunate event, reporting it to the proper authorities. Would you be so kind as to share your personal information with me? I would like to see your ID and your insurance information." I don't expect that many people would comply with that request in that situation, but that's part of the deal: to stay calm, rational, civil, respectful even, no matter what he does. The power of that fills me with confidence. And it's all on the 911 tape.

Rather than accusing the driver of anything, or responding in any aggressive or angry manner, I would stay civil, and say something like, "Yes, unfortunate event, I agree, perhaps you just didn't see me, really should keep an eye out, shouldn't we? But these things do happen."

If all this seems a bit improbable, I'll say this about the alternatives. The middle finger is an ineffectual and inflammatory gesture. Likewise, yelling curses at the rapidly retreating rear window of the vehicle of the offending driver has never accomplished anything positive or of lasting good. On the other hand, plenty of people have progressed from these initial pissed-off responses to road rage, actual fights, and worse, but no one, ever, has altered their driving habits in a positive manner one iota in response.

Quiet civility. Rational, respectful response. When I contemplate the dialogue above, I am filled with hope that it might turn out differently, that such an approach might actually have the potential to make a difference, sometimes. Please, sir, don't act the cad. Objective reporting of the events which occurred. I believe in the largely untapped power of civility and calm dialogue to enact positive change. Next time I'm treated like a kielbasa, I plan to act the civil human, and not the screaming savage. We'll see how it goes.

Last blog post for the year. Work, family, time off, all that. Happy holidays, and peaceful, civil, and joyful* riding to all.

Note: I composed most of this post before I noticed that Tucson Velo has a post up called "The importance of having a conversation" , a similar view, from a similar space, at a similar time.   

*or grimly determined, facing into the biting cold wind, if that's your thing

**my actual experience did not involve a crash, for the record, but my 911 dialogue sounds better with one in there 

Sunday, December 15, 2013

The Pomegranate Cycle Remains

Every year in December, I wonder at these

Ancient symbols of many things, full of seeds and bright crimson meaning, signs of fertility (full of seeds), portents of paradise, mystical in number, and confused sweetness inside. In December in Phoenix in some places, they hang like Christmas ornaments drying in the sun.


Slowly slowly down to ground they bend

Against the sky, visited by birds until gone

Year after year I pass by and see them. By December, they're scarlet husks hanging in the sun. Yet hanging: not faded though, still blazing on the surface if not inside. Like some familiar ritual of autumn passing into finally winter for me, an image of the passage of time itself. On a quiet side street I pause on my bicycle late on a Sunday afternoon to ponder the red globes against the golden leaves and blue sky as the birds congregate for their dusk chorus. Spheres against the sky, waxing and waning on a cycle of one year. 

Compare/contrast another sphere putting on a show over Camelback Mountain on my Sunday ride, rising up, glowing bright, showing off its monthly cycle while I'm on my daily.

We're all just turning here. Returning, and slowly fading in the sun. I gather into a sphere, and orbit the canal on my bike.

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

My Bicycle Helmet Mirror Shows the Path to Venus

The way is clear. Long ride ahead.

Venus brightens the December sky just after sunset. The alternate to using the helmet mirror as a portal to observing humans behaving badly, BOLO, is as an imagining device for inverting what's moving away behind you into a portal moving up and ahead. To the gorgeous evening sky, to the stars. I'm certain that more gear, and a significant supply of snacks and coffee, would be needed, but more than that: would I be mentally prepared for the journey? Could enough baggage be cast off to enable the trip? 

According to wolframalpha, the current distance is 35.66 million miles, or 3.2 light minutes. That means it would take me 271.39 years to ride there @ 15 mph, so, I'm looking more toward warp factors to lower that toward the 3.2 minute range. As Venus nears its closest approach to earth, this would appear to be the time to do it. The moment is right. The mirror makes it look so feasible. The deep blue sky is so inviting. Ride, dreamer, ride.

That's a Bike Peddler Take A Look mirror zip-tied to my helmet. New perspective, fresh views, added safety, etc.

Sunday, December 8, 2013

Bike Book Haulage with the Burley Travoy

I had a so-called "book problem" long before the n+1 bike situation kicked in. A product which would enable both at the same time seemed like an ideal item for me, so I picked up a Burley Travoy bike trailer with the plan of using it to ride over to a VNSA book sale to stock up. Because, I guess, while I don't really need more books, or an excuse to go for a bicycle ride, both together help me to achieve critical mass or something.

Since this trailer is supposed to be able to carry 60 lbs, it sounded like enough of a limit to control my frenzy somewhat. After all, whatever I bought, I would have to pull home. Events, though, have so far precluded an actual VNSA outing with the trailer. So I decided to try it out instead for carrying books to one of the VNSA donation stations, to give some back.  

Conservation of household book mass: books in should equal books out

Book cargo weight, well below the rated max, probably a good middle weight to try out

Pulling 34 lbs, the weight of one or two bikes, felt quite stable. It felt different than I thought it would--the load is quiet stable and tracks behind like it's part of you, and doesn't bounce around much, or carry on with its own ideas of where it wants to go. It just follows along behind, exerting a smooth, steady, noticeable drag. Stopping was good. I suppose since I added mass I also added stopping distance, but there was no problem or even sensation that the load was going to cartwheel around me sideways or something when I stopped. About the only odd sensation was the inchworm feeling if I went through a dip or over a bump slightly shorter in length than my combined bike-trailer length. It's not a big deal, but you can feel the bike-trailer combo flex a bit vertically, which I think it's meant to do. This is probably an essential characteristic of the design, which prevents it from bouncing around too much. 

The V where the handles join also mounts a rear-facing blinky light

The trailer folds up easily and neatly, then stows into its own bag. The folding bits are retained with clever catches which are engaged and released by turning the black handles, or in the case of the bottom shelf, by pulling on a release line underneath. It's both easy and seems sturdy.

It comes with a big gaping bag that mounts on the little pegs that stick out the sides. Other sorts of bags might be fitted or attached, although I haven't spent much time on that yet. It will be necessary to ensure that they fit between the wheels without rubbing. I plan on trying out different combos and attachment methods to work out how to carry the books back home from the next sale.

The trailer's name comes from the sled made by native Americans by lashing together two poles to pull loads behind. For me, for some purposes like hauling 40 or 50 pounds of books, this trailer works very well. I can't imagine trying to manage that type of load on my bicycle in a backpack, or even on my rear rack, which isn't rated for that much weight. Which turns out to be a good thing, since I found three loads of kids' books waiting for me to haul back to the donation box when I returned home. It seems that the idea of me hauling books by bicycle is popular in my house. That's fine by me: it will make more room for new books, while hitching up the Travoy and riding over to the donation box will give me more practice for a big load returning home from the fairgrounds in February.

Reflectors underneath. The trailer sits at about 45 degrees, so these appear to be visible but low to the ground.

Stowed inside itself. Light and easy to carry. This bag comes with, others available optionally.

I purchased this product myself at full price. See my disclaimer for more information.

Friday, December 6, 2013

I Hear the Broken

Bip posing in front of Arizona Falls. Sound of falling water.

Riding along in traffic sometimes, the sounds of broken things stand out and catch my attention. The most common are brake pad wear indicators, and power steering pump squeals. Also very often are engines that just don't sound right idling at stoplights. Less common, but still notable, are people yelling or crying into cellphones while also driving their cars. I don't try to eavesdrop. However, particularly at stoplights where we're both waiting, if they are loud and the windows are down, I do hear. I also hear broken or breaking bicycles: dry crunchy chains, ultra untrue wheels rubbing on everything on every revolution, grinding and squeaking sounds that just can't be good.

One night on the commute home this week, early dusk, I was waiting for traffic to clear on my side so I could make a brief street crossing righthand turn to get across and into the left turn lane to get to the street I needed to reach. To my left, the light was red, and a bunch of vehicles were already there waiting at the light. My side cleared complete, so I went across and then merged into the left turn lane. At that point, the oncoming lane in front of me was clear, leading to the stopped/waiting vehicles at the light. There was an old Suburban SUV headed my way, a fair ways off, so I signaled and went ahead with my left turn. As I crossed, I heard the SUV driver mash the gas pedal, clearly having seen me, clearly seeing the red light, clearly seeing the bunch of other vehicles waiting in front of him. Gas pedal mashage, or its opposite, sudden gas pedal de-mashage, are two important occurrences to me on my bicycle, so I listen all around me for them nearly constantly. 

After a quick flurry of non-constructive thoughts in response, calming down at least to "Dude where the heck are you planning to go to so fast?" I landed on "I hear the broken," along with some calmer recollections of the sounds of other broken things I hear on my daily commute, like the above short list.

It was almost, but not quite, a sad little monkey award scenario. Instead, for the rest of the ride home, I just contemplated possible responses to breakage. While wondering still, a bit, about aggressive red light gas pedal mashing.

Saturday, November 30, 2013

Scatter Me Here Beside the Verde

Wetlands next to the Verde River, Deadhorse State Park, Cottonwood AZ

This is a place before places. If I should disappear to dust, scatter me here. If I should condense to a point of bright light, then shine me here in the darkness. If you should find me wandering in the desert, direct me here. If I'm thirsty, remind me of this water. If I seek animals or birds, tell me of the beaver, otters, herons and snakes down next to the river. In summer if I'm overheated then lay me down in this shade. If in winter I am shivering then prop me against a bare cottonwood in the sun. If I'm lonely then send me to this solitude. If I'm social then send me to this solitude. If you see me tapping on my smart phone then throw it instantly into this mud. If I need a place to park my bicycle, wheel me here. To listen, to dream, to drift, to sing. Where wind can shelter sunlight. Snows on Mingus. If I'm hitching down a long road without a destination, drop me here. I'll unwrap the beaver fences from the bases of some trees to give them something to gnaw on and you'll have to forgive me for that. The smack of tail on still water at dusk rises and startles both the blue heron and me who turn our heads in unison toward it. The brown and golden reeds brush my palms like Maximus. If it appears the ground breathes at the sound of the running water it does. Scatter me here, I run on air.


Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Crank Up the Quiet Volume, Fill Up the Void

Rainy bench and thought-trigger

The rain of the early part of the week filled up many normally empty voids: gutters and gulleys, ditches and drains, culverts and basins. With it: fog, humidity, wind, a long cool soaking of everything. Doors swell up. Cool feels cooler to me.

Reflect and fill up

The basin before me sits empty almost always. Of water, anyway, though sometimes birds visit it, or people walking dogs, or maintenance men who will sit in the shade a while with you on on blazing hot summer day talking of old TV programs and what we've become. But its singular or primary purpose is to do what it's doing in the photo above: to catch and gather water, store or buffer it, hold it as it runs from streets and diversion routes, then further direct it down pipes, and away.

Mountain and tree, fog and water, basin and range: volume and void

Here I can pause, in this spot on my bicycle. I need to fill up. With Thanksgiving food and with thanks, yes, and not with stuff or bargain purchases or urgent sale frenzy, no, but with this quiet volume. The mountain wreathed in fog is a quiet volume of connection with the filled basin in front of me. In rain, rocks (and sometimes water, and debris) flow down it, tiny rivulets trickling between cactus, speeding and joining as they run into streams, into torrents, that can overwhelm us with their roar.

A mountain not used to fog, but which wears it well

This quiet volume fills me up. It's not noise, or fashion, or bright bargain billboards lit with flashing lights I seek, but a quiet place connected to mountains, trees, and water, showing flow, that whispers about what lasts, actually, and that fills me up in my own local place.

It's time to crank up that quiet volume, and ride with it. I think it could involve cycling out to those places of volume and void, and jumping into them with enthusiasm, and with an open mind, to learn from them--they are without limits in what they might teach, I think. So try, stay strong in it, and do not be distracted by fleeting noise when something so much more is attainable.


Sunday, November 24, 2013

Alive At Night I'm Riding

Glowing lot

I glance in my newly-mounted helmet mirror to verify the sound of a Phoenix City bus coming up behind me at the stoplight. It's a new sensation for me, this mirror thing, seeing back without turning my head around to look, actually the first night I've tried it. I see the flashing turn signal of the bus driver intending to turn right. I'm OK if he goes by me since I'm very near the curb waiting for the light to turn green, but for the second time this night, a driver behind me decides not to squeeze past me the cyclist, and I appreciate that.

Perhaps it's my slightly upright position due to the slightly swept back bars I'm trying out. Maybe it's my flashing rear light commanding attention. Maybe my bike-specific black jacket with the white reflective piping makes me look like a guy from the movie Tron in his headlights. I glance in the mirror again and he's still not coming around me. Guess we're all just waiting for the green.

Bip with saddle bag mounted in the not-really bag loops

A thousand scattered thoughts are quieted and gathered up as I ride through the night. Darkness requires attention, the new mirror draws focus in a new dimension: back, behind, to the oncoming lights which appear with surprising clarity in the small rectangle dangling before my left eye. It's best when I can judge if it's going to be safe to merge left or not without craning my neck around like an owl. Just for that, the mirror earns a longer trial period. The mirror like everything else on two wheels feels like a skill to acquire with practice until it becomes second nature. Tonight though, it's novel, it's not natural, it works yet does not flow with the rest of the ride like other actions: shifting, braking, steering, signalling, spinning, turning, braking, listening to the night, watching crossing and entering vehicles, these are all going on with me and around me without thinking.

Off the bike there's so much to do. The list is long and the time is short. On the bike there's only to ride, though, and in the night my attention seems to center even more by the singleness of purpose involved in pedaling through the dark.

Sackville saddle bag mounted in the sorta-loops on the Specialized Sonoma Gel

The saddle I picked up at the GABA swap, a Specialized Sonoma gel, in case someone in the house wanted to try a different and potentially more comfy saddle, landed on Bip as part of the contact point redux when I noticed these holes in the back that would definitely do for bag loops. They are, I think, theoretical bouncy shock-absorber things which appear to serve best as a receptacle for leather straps attached to cotton duck bags. The saddle is not too squishy, nice and firm actually, and feels significantly better than Bip's stock Trek saddle which has probably made a good showing by lasting and being used this long.

The Sackville has a rear tail light mount which points the light perfectly rearward, and for that I love it deeply. Many are the bags which I've tried which send red flashes every direction but straight back. At night, you see, it's all about the focus and the flow, and if I can ride in peace knowing that the machine is working well and silently, the bag is holding it's own, I'm learning about the mirror, and the lights are both helping me to see and to be seen, then my attention and my scattered thoughts can pull into the one-point singularity of purpose of my own motion. Alive at night I'm riding.


Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Optimizing Bicycle Contact Points With Vector Analysis

A stack of leather washers tensioned with three spokes between two handlebar binding rings

Hands, feet, butt. These are the contact points for a typical human on a typical bicycle. So how these are supported, as well as the angles between them, have a lot to do with many things, including comfort. I seek comfort. So, when I go to events like bike swaps, I'm always on the lookout for new and interesting grips to try. Also, I've been wanting to ditch the straight bars on Bip the Burple swap bargain bike from a few years back, and replace them with bars with some rise and sweep to them, to try to improve my hand comfort. While I was at it, I got a new saddle to try out, too, but more on that later. Let's focus on the hands here.

These are Brooks Plump Leather grips, made from stacks of leather washers cut from scraps from fabricating saddles. I embrocated these with some Obenauf LP, tensioned them to what seemed like a reasonable adjustment although I admittedly lack previous experience in tensioning stacks of leather scrap washers with spokes to use as handgrips, and mounted them on the new-to-me bars.

The bars are getting rotated into different positions until I find just the right one. This ain't it.

Finally, I found some grips which feel right for my larger hands. I also like Oury grips, but felt like it was time to try something different. The grips seem like a great swap find. The bars so far feel like quite an improvement over the straight pipe that they replaced. More on the saddle later, including an investigation into whether I may have stumbled upon the cheapest saddle with bag loops included (sort of). Oh and pedals, there must be pedals.

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Light Up Monolith, Light Up

The monoliths from my earlier post about Red Bull Illume are lit up at night

Large screens bearing sports-related images are lit up at night along the Scottsdale Waterfront now. My review: I like them. I'd like to say they are life-changing, or ennobling of the human spirit, or something similar, but having experienced something actually life-changing this week, unexpectedly, I am hesitant to call big screen TVs setup along the canal the same thing.

I happened to buy some leg compression sleeves at the GABA bike swap. They were cheap, I have been thinking about getting some on the outside chance they might help with my night time leg cramps, so I picked them up. Low, behold, my night leg cramps have been totally cleared up by wearing the compression leg sleeves a few hours before bed. Sleep is so much better when you don't get roused at 3am by a rigid, painful calf or foot cramp. Not totally sure what it means, medically speaking. My leg veins are apparently not efficient enough at clearing out the waste products from cycling 12 to 40 miles a day. The compression sleeves apparently help them out with that task. 

I should probably speak with a medical professional further about this, I realize. I'll get to that eventually, in case something else is going on, but at the present moment, I'm just more or less ecstatic to make it through the night without a wicked foot cramp. Super-happy, in fact. So while the big old photos along the canal are nice, they aren't as nice as that, not life-changing. But, on the other hand, maybe I just need to spend a little more time with the photos to see deeper. Sometimes, working longer hours, I feel like a get a brain cramp. Maybe photos like this can serve as decompression sleeves for the mind.

The big screens are watched day and night by security guys

I'm not sure if the images change over time or not. They stayed the same while I watched, any way.

They are arrayed in a line across the bridges, and stacked like cards along the path, appealing to my OCD

Some of the photos are rocking action shots, while others are quieter, requiring some contemplation to appreciate. There are some benches set up nearby, for pausing, for reflecting, for considering. These light up when darkness falls. I'm not sure how late they stay on, but I'm thinking about stopping by here later on in the evening, when it's more likely that fewer people will be around, to sit and give the images a longer viewing. Perhaps while wearing my compression leg sleeves, in order to sleep clear until morning, having cleared waste products from both legs and mind.


Saturday, November 16, 2013

Tucson GABA Bike Swap Fall 2013 Photos: Arise Picacho Dawn

Pre-dawn light on Picacho Peak on the drive to the swap, stunningly early in the morning

If your main impression of Tucson is from going to several GABA bike swaps like mine is (view the whole glorious string of secondhand gear here), you would come away believing that the city is fit, friendly, and steeped in bicycle culture beyond other cities that I am more familiar with. It's an interesting way to distort my understanding of a city.

Once more excellent coffee from the Peddler on the Path Mobile Cafe

The bike of the Gray Wolf, a highly modified 25th Anniversary Eddy Merckx AXM. Watch the video.

There's just the one shifter, since he moves the front chain by hand

I love it when GABA does their MEGA clearances and sells jerseys and stuff for $20. Get there early, though.

The nicest people at the swap in the Robdogs truck made this "Homewrecker" with jalapenos, chili, and cheese for me

I notice they still make the tricycles from steel and not carbon fiber. Just sayin.

These were not technically up for swappage, but they caught my eye just off the street

Parking Day, too. You know, I was so tired by this point that I couldn't even make a decent tandem joke

The weather was rocking and so was the crowd

I got a bunch of good stuff. Including 25 reflective bike stickers.

I know that Tucson on Bike Swap day is not the whole of the place. In some ways, it's a temporary fiction constructed for the benefit of bicycle aficionados in search of bargains and dreams, put up for the day like an imaginary park in a parking space, then taken down that night, to be replaced by the normal workaday streets teaming with cars and trucks.

But when so many of us turn out for the swap, it not only reinforces my distorted view, but also pushes the warm attractive essence of the fiction few steps, or pedal turns, closer to reality. I'm not saying the real parts of it which do exist--all that bike stuff, the people who know and greet each other, the regulars you see every time, the actual bike knowledge and bike culture which are apparent and deep--are not substantial or significant; quite the opposite. They are intensely real. But concentrated, focused, amplified like this along a few streets on bright, warm morning after I've driven down there from Phoenix, it's overwhelming. You can't help but get carried away with it and think of Tucson as a place where lone gray wolves ride off fast into the desert while the streets are filled with people who love or are attached to bikes for many different reasons. You just have to arrive before the sun comes up to watch it unfold fully, and also to get the best bargains.