Wednesday, December 31, 2014

Bike Lane Phantoms: The 2014 EOY Eidolons

Frost-cloth phantoms lurking near the bike lane

Exactly a year ago I wrote a post with "eidolons" in the title, so I chose to ride with the phantom theme when I came upon the frost cloth creatures lurking and gesturing near my route on the last-but-one day of 2014. The eery shadows, the suddenly cold bright morning (near freezing!), the quiet commute of a no one else but me is working kind if ride.

This end of year post feels more ghostly than last years which was all bright-eyed about the epic yet-to-come. Possibly it was last year's warm weather warming my sentiments. Possibly it was the comment I made to my wife about sometimes feeling like we keep on going forward on pure inertia, and sonofagun if the home book hoard didn't cough up an Ernest Sabato book which led me to stumble on this quote the very next day: "Beaten up by disbelief, I kept going because of inertia, which my soul rejected." Ghosts of Christmii Past, I welcome you.

Then these three fellows appeared next to the bike lane on the coldest day so far of the end of the year. The first one just hulking. The other two pointing away from going forward, vaguely toward the mountains on the left, or possibly to turn back completely, but definitely adamant about warning me off the path ahead. Inertia, dude, it's a soul destroyer, break off. Two of them.

And the hulking one, what's he hiding? He's pretty stout. Big boned. Low center of gravity. Weighty, if you know what I mean. He appears to be carrying a heavy load of something. His backlit sheet is light, white, but underneath looks pretty ominous. 

Momentarily, I thought they might be hitchhiking. But I don't think I'm headed their way, don't think I have room for them, don't think my machine is suited to their transport needs, don't think they have anything I want. I tried seeing them in a different light, though. Maybe that would change my mind, refocus the theme, recast the whole inertia interior monologue.

Bike lane frost cloth eidolons in a different light

Up close and in color I realize there were more of them, though. Not just along the curb, near the bike lane, but an entire multi-dimensional gathering of them in the yard, up and across the central trellis, along the ground, up against the house, trailing around to the backyard and beyond, far beyond, for all I know. A multitude of frost cloth eidolons, all bending forward, anxious to see what would unfold. Staring. Gawking. Bored and driven.

And still the two ahead, pointing resolutely towards the deviation. Voting with their ominous veiled branches. And Hulk Dude up close, in color, was not diminished by any means. The wind rustled, and he made as if to step towards me. But I stood my ground, shivering next to my commuter bicycle. I stared that hulking ghost down. 

Listen here, Short-Groot, I said, I wish you and your pointy friends up there all the best with your frost challenges, but I'm not rooted like you are. Between this frost cloth indignation and the broiling summer Phoenix sun, you're not in the best of spots, I get it. You ghosts, I acknowledge you. Here, I tip my ventilated foam helmet to you. I appreciate the advice. I really do. But roots aren't going to work for me like they do for you. I have work yet to do. Rides yet to ride. Your brothers there, pointing to deviate from my course? When I'm ready, when it's right, I will, but not on this cold morning. Not at the whims of you frost cloth eidolons. No. This is clearly a stay-the-course, be strong, type scenario.

At this point in my life, the real ghosts and monsters, the ones to watch out for, are not the ones lurking in plain sight next to or even in the road. Nor the ones gathered behind them leaning forward to observe what happens next and just hoping the frost cloths serve their purpose. The ones to watch out for are the ones you can't watch for. Which requires some kind of wisdom, or skill, or presence of mind, to deal with successfully when they do rise up. So, 2015: calm, mindful preparation, focused on wisdom (which is what?) and patience, more the ready-for-what-may-come scenario than the epic-is-still-ahead view.

I'm not saying the bike lane frost cloth eidolons are wrong in their pointing. Just not today. Not today.


Saturday, December 27, 2014

Books and Bikes Shop Local Gift Card GRID Bikes Edition

Rode to the Newton (300 W. Camelback) to use a gift card at a locally-owned bookstore. Plenty of bike racks!

Even more bike racks!

The take: Eat Bacon Don't Jog, Zealot, and Twenty Love Poems and a Song of Despair

Phoenix GRiD bike station across the street at the light rail stop: GRiD Bike Info Linkage

Locks built in...

Computer billing taillight on the back...

Shaft drive!! (queue the theme from Shaft)

Shop local!

Someone rode GRiD bikes here and locked them right up. I need to try them out soon.

Friday, December 26, 2014

Once There Was a Bike Rack Here

Goldwater and 5th Ave in Scottsdale, there used to be a bike rack here*

I think there used to be a bike rack here. It was an unusual type, but I'm not sure I ever took a photo of it. Possibly I did and just lack the detailed historical filing system that would permit me to find it. Which, all things considered, may be a positive thing.

I think I used this rack perhaps three times, ever. I don't think it played a major part in my transportation planning. I just wonder. Why was it removed? If it was removed officially, why did they bend over the bolts, instead of just cutting them off?

Probably not the cleanest way to deal with this, or to create a parking space

I suppose the world won't miss this old rack much. Sometimes, though, I just wonder. Time marches on, and sometimes, things just slip away silently, without a clear story, and without anyone noticing. I noticed. But, I don't know the story.

Addendum: after tirelessly searching the OSG photo archives, I found it.

*33.49706057996207,-111.9307816028595 got to love the precision of that Location feature

Wednesday, December 24, 2014

The Rider in the Catastrophe of Our Time

Art alone...

"Now we know that these partisans of clear and definite ideas are basically mistaken and that if their norms are valid for a bit of silicate, it is absurd to apply them to knowing man and his values as it is to claim familiarity with Paris through having read its telephone book and consulted its maps...Unless we negate the reality of a love or a madness, we must conclude that knowledge of vast territories of reality is reserved for art and art alone."
--Ernesto Sabato, The Writer in the Catastrophe of Our Time

"Beaten up by disbelief, I kept going because of inertia, which my soul rejected."

As long as I keep pedaling, my back pain is subdued. This seems to be true both acutely, on any given ride, as well as chronically, when comparing periods of riding vs. periods of non-riding. In the acute scenario, a fixed gear bicycle seems ideal, as the pedaling is both non-stop and compulsory. On that single speed exploration machine, my method is to find the position, cadence, and level of effort which results in a lower back sensation roughly analogous to floating in one of the natural whirlpools below Havasupai Falls. I find it through subtle adjustment and repositioning, but once I find move and bend into it, I know it, and the ride takes over.

In the longer term view, if for some reason I have to abandon daily bike riding for some period of time, for example, if a knee goes wonky, or even during a week-long vacation without a bike, my back begins complaining. Long walks in foreign cities for example 13 mile days in Paris seem to quiet it, but still, those lumbar L3 L4 L5 vertebrae don't seem very tolerant of more than a few days off the bike. They crave the rhythmic motion, the low-impact exercise, the running of calories and fluids through muscles and connective tissues, the certain range of stretching and relaxing that occurs on a bike within a specific range of medium effort. They complain if their craving is not satisfied.  

The parameters of successful lumbar pacification seemed to be position, cadence, and effort. At the correct levels, with a moderate but continued execution, they worked together. The level of effort required to achieve the desired effect seems to fall in a narrow range: hard enough to get a good aerobic workout, but not too hard to cause strain. That requires focus on an overall goal for the ride, rather than constant concentration on instantaneous heart rate or exertion level. Finding this balance on each and every ride is at the heart of the solution.

When I had back surgery several years back (laminectomy + microdiscectomy), I explained what was happening to my young kids with the story that an irritable old troll lived in my lower back, and that when he got mad, he tromped around my spine with a pick ax banging on my nerves, muscles, and bones, causing worsening pain. The story seemed to have stuck: the first question when I got home was, "Daddy, did the doctor get that mean old troll out?" He did, indeed. It was life-changing surgery for me. Activity is required to keep the troll away, however. Regular, low-impact, strenuous activities like riding a fixie for twenty miles at a good clip.

Stretching, too, with core strengthening exercises, planks, and balance drills, a regime which I plan to keep up the rest of my life. The first x-ray of my lower back told the story. The doctor reading it saw the story of a string of injuries from mountain biking, martial arts, football, bad lifting technique, etc, and told me straight that I was in for a long haul of aches and sciatica, and that there was no simple or surefire cure, but that strengthening my atrophied core muscles, particularly abdominals and the small but hugely significant multifidus in the spine, often helps. The multifidus, among others, is key to avoiding poor spine position from fatigue.

All these years of stretching and strengthening have done nothing to repair the damage to lumbar discs, the surrounding soft tissue, the nerves that were impinged and scarred, or to improve the poor structure of the lumbar vertebrae that I misused and abused. I'm more or less stuck with that reality. 

However, the exercise does directly work to keep the inflammation away. It appears to keep the nerves in a working, and non-irritated, state, which is what matters most. When the troll was at his worst, the only thing I could do was lay in one of a couple positions, in agony, with ice packs and max dosage ibuprofen. Opiates and muscle relaxers were of very limited help when my sciatic nerve went into major pain panic mode because runaway inflammation appeared to be the heart of the problem.

The vivid memories of those motionless days is strong motivation for me to figure out what works, and to keep doing it. Cycling, core strengthening, and walking are going to be part of my life as long as I can keep doing them. Stretching and core strengthening, position, cadence, and effort.

A section of "The Path Most Traveled" that still has lizards

On this particular ride, the one where I was getting reacquainted with my old wall lizard buddies on the noise wall in the photographs above, reflections on my strategies for dispatching the spinal troll were intermingled with thoughts about Sabato's writings and our present global human-caused catastrophes that seem so intransigent and entrenched.

Racism, violence, terrorism, these felt analogous to immobilizing sciatic pain. Whatever we do, whatever strides we may think we've made against them in the last hundred years, they keep coming back, apparently as strong as ever. X-rays of the patient tell the story: there may be nothing we can do structurally to alter the reality that we're stuck with a structure of a human world that's been misused and abused. There's no one simple or surefire cure. Every day it seems we continue to experience humans laying in the street in agony as the result of other humans.

What entered my mind next is possibly one of the constellation of ride-thought that feels so right in the endorphins of the momentary bliss of a longer ride in the warm December desert air, but which might not hold up later. So be it, they resonated with me in that setting, here they are. 

Like the parameters of my back pain management, humans c.2014 require a method for managing the seemingly intractable legacy of our history. So,
  • Position: forgiveness
  • Cadence: the relentless pursuit of understanding and justice
  • Effort: focus on the end goal of love and hope rather than on the irritants of the moment
I could easily stretch these analogous ride-thoughts beyond the realm of plausibility, so I will just try to wrap up with a few clarifying comments.

By treating forgiveness as a position, I want to clarify that I think forgiveness is strongest not when it's a singular event or response, but rather when it becomes a constant state of being. It works most effectively by being maintained relentlessly, prior to being wronged, while being wronged, and afterwards. 

By equating cadence with the pursuit of understanding and justice, I intend to connect them with a steady, unwavering pace of striving to understand while demanding justice for all. 

By connecting effort with an end goal of love and hope, I mean that these are only achieved long-term, and seldom in the moment. 

The human heart may be well and truly scarred by thousands of years of violence and injustice. A doctor reading the images of our tattered historic scrolls and comparing them with the news of the day would be justified in concluding as much, and telling it to us straight. But on this particular mid-winter bicycle ride, it seemed to me that by maintaining a position of forgiveness, while relentlessly pursuing understanding and justice for all, and keeping a focus on the end goals of hope and love, we might do better at overcoming the tendency of doing things which leave fellow humans laying in the street in agony.

This is going to require effective exercise, core strengthening and stretching, practice of the right muscles, particularly the seldom-used ones that are key to maneuvering into the position of forgiveness and to maintaining that position for the long haul without fatigue. We may not even know exactly what those are, yet. But, perhaps, waking up to the idea that the long-term goal is love and hope, we may just figure it out.

It's not only what you believe. It's also what you do. Hang on that ride.

Monday, December 22, 2014

A Craving for Actual Swan

The strikingly lovely scene, swans parading symmetrically in a fountain

"The day after Mardi Gras, in New Orleans, I had a terrible craving for filet of swan."
--Andre Codrescu, A Craving for Swan

You guess profound mysteries
under the hewn domes of your afternoons.
Soar on endlessly
but do not reveal to us what you see.

—from The Magic Bird, by Lucian Blaga, translated from the Romanian by Andrei Codrescu

"Our job when faced with mystery is not to explain it, but to increase its mysteriousness."
--Andrei Codrescu, quoting Lucian Blaga, in this video

While going through the photos from yesterday's ride, I discovered a surprise. I do not believe that I previously realized that the pair of swans frequently seen floating in this fountain next to a bike path in Scottsdale are fake plastic swan replicants.

Boom! The zoom reveals the Roy Batty of swans. No need to Voight-Kampff this one.

This second photo triggered an unstoppable goose chase for a specific book, which I felt certain was... somewhere in the house. Our two cats, who had been sleeping, seemed to pick up on my focus and energy, because they both followed me around the house as I knelt, reached, bent, and squinted at many different dusty bookshelves searching for just one. I think they recognized ardent foraging when they saw it. 

Digging in old dusty book piles, darting from one shelf to another then back again, tossing aside books which were not The Book I Need to Find, cursing and then standing in place motionless to try to wake up old neurons to give me some shred of a lead on where to start looking seemed to be a task they were down with. 

Where would I even shelve that book? Between Bill Bryson and Pico Iyer? Must not get distracted, must stay on task...hey, look at that excellent 900 page book on Canadian history that I bought around the same time and meant to read, maybe I'll just pick that up for a few minutes. Maybe with the piles of books of essays that I mean to read soon? Aldous Huxley, EB White, five books by John McPhee...nope, not there, either. Perhaps more coffee would help. 

One of the cats actually taps me with her claw as I grab the McPhee books and sit on the floor, ready to burrow in. No, her insistent predatory eyes intone, that is not the book you're foraging for. Keep digging while the trail is warm before you are engulfed in a landslide of folksy geology words. 

The sleeping teenage daughters were not amused at the literary archeology ruckus, but tough, because it was, in the end, fruitful.

Purchased at Changing Hands on 414 Mill on 12/5/1992 1:06pm for $5

I've seen egrets in this pond, ducks, and wading birds with long legs and long bills, and now I feel I doubt not only the memory of them, but the reality. Just as likely as rare water birds pausing here is a midnight bird modeller who sneaks out here under cover of darkness, and poses one or more of his plastic creations. They may be radio-controlled, equipped with cameras and WIFI, elements of the Internet of Wings. What's the IP address of that swan?

Nearby on the ride, close to sunset, I saw a man on the golf course piloting an RC glider above one of the greens. Silently it floated, turning at his command, rising and falling according to air currents and elevator position. In that moment, in the quiet scene, I valued the lack of motor noise emitted by his hobby, in contrast with the RC speed boat captains who tear up the pond just up the trail from here. The twenty foot tall rooster tails those model boats put out is awesome, but their sharp-edged motors do rip the afternoon's peace in two.

In the few photos I grabbed of the swans as I rode past, I cannot find the operator twiddling the joysticks of the radio controlled swans. (model Cygnus X-1). His goal may be faithful simulation, which would be ruined by his presence on a bench in the background. Relay drones would be more effective, hovering a hundred meters above the water, relaying his control signals down and the video of onlookers back to his display. Rotate swan #2 slowly while pivoting neck, gauge reaction. 

It may be time to break out my RC pterodactyl. See how the swans react to that.

All those ... moments will be lost in time, like rain.

Saturday, December 20, 2014

Resolved: Ride More, Lay in the Grass and Look Up at the Clouds

The crucial follow-up task to the primary 2015 resolution

Once again, we find ourselves near the concluding end of one year, looking ahead to the next. As tradition and convention dictate, after due consideration of the year now rapidly fading in the square silver of my helmet mirror, I have formulated the following goal, or resolution, to undertake in the year ahead:

RESOLVED: in 2015, I will ride the bicycle even more than I did in 2014. In addition, I will set aside time to lay in the grass and stare up at the clouds.

Of such hard-nosed resolutions is success forged. The analysis behind such promises is key both to understanding their necessity and origins, as well as in cementing the resolve to accomplish them, no matter how challenging. This particular analysis, performed during an otherwise pointless and goal-less bicycle ride, and clarified while laying in the grass in a park staring up at the clouds, was motivated by the strong feeling that riding more would be better, and fortified by the sensation that staring up at the clouds is a self-evident Good. That was the Genesis, if you will, of this particular resolution. Once formed, though, such ideas must be pondered for resolve to set in. So, 

Parking at a Pondering Place

I rode over to a Pondering Place, a quiet bench next to the Arizona Canal, to mull over the resolution carefully: 
  • Was it conceived with a True Heart? 
  • Was it based on Sound Analysis? 
  • Is its motivation both Pure and Good? 
  • Will its faithful execution likely lead to Good Results? 
  • Do the whispering waters of the Arizona Canal have any powerful counter arguments?
  • Does it fit in with my other goals and desires?
  • Does a dream made real change the world for the better?

What Jellies in the Sky, Cactii in the Water look like in daylight, while pondering

These bullet point items due not have quick, or easy, or simple, answers. In the asking, they almost compel long rides, and lazy, luxuriant cloud-staring, a mood something like an afternoon bubble bath, or, self-referentially, recursively, a long, mid-winter bike ride on a warm Arizona afternoon.

Sometimes our thoughts get stuck. In cycles, in ways, in words and stories that we tell ourselves, over and over. I'm using that. It's my method of applying the stuckness to something positive. My goal is to get stuck in pondering the clouds, thinking about peace and forgiveness, about compassion and tolerance, on long focused bike rides, over and over again. The plan is that this will stick and become a way, or state, or mode, rather than an event or a choice. Also, that getting stuck in that story would crowd out other, less nurturing, less positive possible places to be stuck in. 

Bicycles, parks, grass, and clouds are the tools for the successful accomplishment of my 2015 resolution. Time to ride to accomplish the work ahead.

Thursday, December 18, 2014

Cleanliness is Next to Loveliness

Yellowness darkened by gloves after just one ride. Already past consideration as beausage.

Suddenly, it became clear to me. In just one ride, in a flash, I understood more about cycling and color coordination. The apparent obsession with matching up colors had previously seemed somewhat foreign and incomprehensible to me, although if I'm honest, has never been far from my own practices in riding. 

One bike as black and colorless as it possibly could be was a version of purposeful color coordination. Another time, finally giving in to the conclusion that the long purple bar ends were not quirky or distinctive in their bright shiny purpleness, but were actually over the line into garish and unattractive.

But the extreme endpoint of color coordination, to me, had always seemed like matching up all the parts of a bike's colors, and then selecting and wearing clothing to go along with it. Come on, I would say. Wear what you have on. Just ride. Except for racing and being paid to wear brands and colors by sponsors, what's the point? I would ask / prod. And the endpoint of that extreme state of fashion and color would be: gloves.

In what was one of the most commented posts in the history of this blog, I just asked if gloves were a necessary accessory, or not. I do wear them sometimes, on longer rides, while mountain biking, and, relevant to this post, when trying out new, non-cushy, cotton bar tape for the first time. However, previous to this ride, matching the colors of the gloves to the colors of the clothing which itself matches the bike seemed far beyond the realm of possibility for me. Why do that, what could the point possibly be, in this case, of yellow everything, or yellow and matching tones, probably brown? Given that the pictured bike is a fixie, what kind of grief would I be asking for with my carefully coordinated color scheme? Wear whatever you have on!

Two experiences caused me to question the very foundations of these questions: the first ride on the recently more coordinated Flatland Commuter project bike, which is rapidly and purposefully evolving toward the far end of the YELLOW spectrum, and the post on Lovely Bicycle! about her (truly and indeed) lovely Mercian fixed gear bicycle.

The Mercian is equipped with snow white bar tape that verily lights up against the light purple of the frame. Given my other experience, outlined next, I wanted to ask: how the hell are you going to keep the bar tape that white?

On the first ride of the FLC project bike with it's new yellow cotton bar tape, I wore gloves to cushion what seemed like it might be a harsher ride with the tape, which is less cushy than the cork-like material my other bikes have on their handlebars. During the ride, that seemed true, and I would tend to continue to want to ride with gloves to balance the non-cushioning of the cotton tape on future rides. However, at the end of the first ride, I found the bars looking like the photo above: no longer bright yellow, but instead, marred with some dark smudges which clearly came from gloves. Either from an accumulation of dirt from lack of washing, or from black dye from the gloves, or, perhaps, black dye transferred from the other black cork-like bar tape to the gloves and just unnoticed due to the similar coloration. 

Or, possibly, both the black bar tape and black gloves were "overdyed" to begin with, and each time I rode, had a black dye party, with sweat, rain, and water bottle contents carrying the dye back and forth between the two unknown to me since this mutual sharing of pigment resulted in no obvious changes on either side. The party was over when yellow bar tape appeared like parents showing up at in inopportune moment to shut everything down.

So, two immediate problems, and one longer term one: what to do about the dirty yellow tape, what to do about the offending gloves, and, how does one keep yellow tape yellow (or snow white tape snow white)?

First, wash out the gloves:

Oh sweet Charon, I need an obol to penetrate this stygian darkness!

Even after vigorous scrubbing and many, many rinses, I do not believe that the black gloves will ever be a good match for yellow or white bar tape. They continued to throw off some dark substance, and I have given up on them for this use. Black bar tape only for the black gloves from here on out.

As for the formerly yellow tape, after much scrubbing, I believe I have gotten out the worst of it. The cotton tape is still damp at this writing, so I can't be certain what color it's going to be when dry. But now, I understand. I get it. Yellow or white gloves would be a much more sensible choice for me, going forward. And for snow white tape, I think only white gloves, or perhaps none, would do. A good bar tape shellacking would also be effective in one sense, but right now feels like surrendering to the darkness. Yellow gloves may be in my future.

Still, I'm not going with brown or yellow tires, or cable housing. Not yet, anyway. Wait, I better look closely at the brown leather saddle to see if...oh, no. Soon, I may resemble Tweety Bird, in the name of cleanliness.

Monday, December 15, 2014

Holiday Stress? Bike Ride!

Season's Greetings from Scottsdale's Aluminum Horsemen of the Deluge

Apparently, I've been riding my bike around in a timeless daze because it's been a full three years since I stopped by Scottsdale Watermark and propped my yellow fixie up on the pedestal to snap a pic with the wreathed equus.

I've been detecting, in the people around me as well as online, the occasional symptoms of holiday stress. I get it, sometimes I feel it myself. My usual recommended remedy is a long bike ride. It always seems to help.

Stopped by Push Button for Horseshoe Fountain, too

But if the bike ride doesn't do it, I suppose there's always travel.*

Also, sleep, Which I probably should be doing instead of writing a blog post. One more bus stop quote.

*Although if any of the stress relates to not having bought gifts yet, it may be more effective to stop procrastinating and go and buy the gifts. You could ride a bike to do that, too, however.

Saturday, December 13, 2014

Sometimes It's All Just Drillium and Rainbows

Short ride to try out new handlebars, stem, levers...oh hey, a rainbow!

The drillium will find work for idle hands to do, I believe the saying goes. Rainy and unsettled, the morning proved perfect for installing some new parts: stem, bars, brake levers, yellow cotton bar tape to match the yellow bike. The original 1973 Sakai Road Champion bars were too narrow, and the old stem a little too lacking in extension for my comfort. 

The new setup turned out with the bars about 3.5 cm wider, about 1cm closer, and about 2cm higher than the old ones. It's not a huge difference. But the new bars already seem more comfortable than the old ones, which felt cramped, with more positions and more room for my largish hands on the tops. I'll go into more specifics once I get some more miles on the combination, and get it dialed in. This was just the initial try-out ride.

As soon as I saw these TRP drillium* levers existed, my hands itched to hold them

Probably mainly due to the old bars, the levers I had were also getting a bad reputation with my hands. I generally like the Cane Creek SCR-5 levers, and will probably re-use them in the future. But once I saw these TRP levers are available in brown, I pictured the yellow cotton bar tape as part of the combo, and since the saddle is already leather, it was all over.

Vintage weather forecasting device: significant chance of rain

Everything seemed tightened and adjusted pretty well for the first ride. It may take a lot more miles before I settle in to what (if any) further adjustments I'll make. When I started the ride, I was still harboring a sneaking suspicion about the drillium levers. They certainly are not needed to lighten up this non-light old ten speed with the chrome steel stem. But the fast-moving storm to the north blowing through the city at sunset, kicking up lightning and thunder, hitting me with cold gusts on the way out and spattering me with showers on the way back, also generated a sunset rainbow.

The lighting seemed just right, low and bright, and I was imagining leaning the bike against a pole to catch some of the low rays on the yellow, when the rainbow appeared. I started to think, well, that's certainly fortunate, how nice for the blog photographs. Then, as if to shake me from my abstracting and yank me back to the concrete here/now, cold drops started splashing on me, and the wind started whipping up again. I headed for home, yes content in the initial impressions of the new setup, but also pulled into the moment by nature around me, by the bright colors and drama in the sky, and by the interesting texture of my fingertips touching cold, drilled chrome: sometimes it's all just drillium and rainbows.

Brown aluminum bar plug to seal the deal

Sun, and you can just glimpse the dark clouds in the upper left

*some real, actual, vintage drillium for your edification, over here

Tuesday, December 9, 2014

You Become What You See, Hear, Touch

Phoenix sunset, Monday December 8

We are what we experience. Genes plus life = self. The sum total of what you have witnessed is what you are.

See more, be more, feel more. What you touch becomes what you feel. Stop, look, listen, exist.

Whenever you feel like it. Not constrained by a metal box, a traffic light, a curb, an arrow, but rather whenever, wherever, whatever you feel like feeling, stop and feel it. Sense it. Make it you.

In summer the path-side icebox would be divine. I've been in this spot when it was 117°F and reaching into this cooler to scoop up a handful of ice cubes to run over my skin would be a moment of remaking of the self, a reinvention, an eye-opener.

I remember

From their shuttered web site, it would appear that the company responsible for the Zero Per Gallon stickers is No More, at a time when they continue to be relevant. We are fuel ruled there's no mistaking it. Truthfully I don't see a way around it let alone The Way Around It, but be aware that we are there, in it, living the era of high population and the cheap energy it depends upon, as the direction of your awareness (focus) also affects who you are and therefore what you do. It can be pulled in by a sticker on a fixie. For example.

The food you eat also becomes you. The food we eat is shipped around the world on cheap energy. The salmon I ate last night was caught off Seattle, shipped to China, deboned there, and shipped back. That protein is being converted to muscle and energy of me even as I type. The people at work who refuel their thirsty vehicles on the way into the office bring the gas station with them. 

We are this. I would rather be the sunset. Become it by pedaling fervently down that westward trending path.

Monday, December 8, 2014

Take Care, Be Aware: Proper Lookout

UFO area?

I think the first time I remember encountering the idea of maintaining a proper lookout was reading Bob Mionske's Bicycling and the Law: Your Rights as a Cyclist, which I recommend. Since much of bicycle space is shared space wherein other activities, sometimes of a sporting or energetic nature, are occurring simultaneously with the cycling, maintaining a proper lookout, exercising due care, seems like a good idea all the time.

When it really floods here, the water runs so loud you can't hear the "on your left!" call

Riding on two wheels is pulling a fast one over gravity. You can't overcome gravity or ignore it, but you can defy it for a while, balancing at speed, swooping through corners while keeping your eyes darting in as many directions as possible to be careful about where you're going, what's up ahead, and who may not be paying as much attention as you.

I've never had an issue with the many disc golfers who populate the better paths in Scottsdale. They always seem courteous and careful about their equipment. It appears that, sensibly, only a handful of disc fairways cross the path. Also, I've never been tempted, nor have I ever seen another cyclist attempt, to cross the Indian Bend Wash in flood time. 

But these reminders are here perhaps more to remind us in general. In addition to decreasing liability, I'm sure. Be aware. Always be looking. Attention attention. It's not a bad motto, but I have taken it and adapted it to my own uses. Which involve also paying attention to that which does not threaten. To the quiet, tree-lined path up ahead. To the rustle of a rabbit or quail in the underbrush. The flap of wing. The smile and wave of another. To the possibilities of a new week.

Attention! Attention! Solitude and peace ahead! Be aware!

Friday, December 5, 2014

The Billionth, The First

Bicycle under the 202 freeway

I passed the same spot on my Tempe-Phoenix-Scottsdale TCT ride for the billionth time, and it felt like the first. The fresh air post rainfall. Warm and humid. Light winds. Bright sunshine. 

Photons streaming beneath the freeway hitting my retina triggering neurons triggering other neurons firing muscles pushing camera button letting other photons impinge on semiconductor photosensitive surface knocking loose electrons detected digitized processed stored copied off to computer later processed again uploaded to Internet posted on blog sent across Internet to your computer de-digitized converted back to electrons sent to your screen exciting LED sending light to your retina triggering neurons triggering other neurons in your brain: now. For the first time.

I took a breath and listened to the quiet sizzle of my tire on the asphalt down the tunnel of Friday afternoon. For the billionth time, for the first time. This new moment, this old river, on the same old ride, the same new me. Now.

I wanted to see all this from that point of view: beginner mind. 

The quail's wing feathers concuss the air near to me and I laugh at that real sound so solid I can touch it. The distant mountains with four peaks called Four Peaks frequently obscured by pollution but currently crystal clear after the rain and with the light winds in contrast have their own sound, like singing winds and cracking rocks. Wait if those mountains could sing they would sound like cactus wrens, except loud, low, and slooooooow. 

Time, it stands still. Time, it rolls on.

Bicycle under the 202 freeway