Wednesday, November 30, 2016

Waterfront Grabs

Spin-a-ma-thing: #ScottsdaleSpins on "Los Trompos"

Be dazzled! You can make a wish in a well next to this.

Tree changes colors, dazzles

Newer signage, for a local route that showcases this part of Scottsdale

Saturday, November 19, 2016

Respite for the Sad and Strong

Need for the ride

Inside was cold acedia. Heat not on yet, indoors remarkably chilly after a cold morning, but warming up after dawn, which I saw because of broken and abbreviated sleep. Put on the coffee earlier than I wanted to on a Saturday morning, but I was up, and looked forward to it. Aches, though, pains--what the heck did I do to my Achilles tendon, anyway? No one knows, but I know it was stiff and sore. The spinal troll was also grouchy. You are unwelcome, spinal troll, go and hit your rock hammer some other place than my lower vertebrae, please.

Eventually: the mountain bike was sorted, the water pack filled, the gear arranged, the ride embarked on. With the starting spin, the muscles loosen and warm, the skin glows in the sunlight, the lungs breathe easier. This engine is strong even if the computer is glitchy. 

The start of the trail is rocky and uphill, however, and I pause to consider that coordination is required, balance needed, timing and some technique, so the computer will have to man the hell up and coordinate the engine and transmission effectively enough to avoid body damage. The computer does OK, with only minor glitches, mainly of a seasawing steering type variety, a few balance delays, a few line misjudgments, but nothing serious, nothing prosecutable.

Peaceful wash

At some point, balance was reinstated, the easy breathing and smooth spinning stretched out and unknotted the computer's kinked up cordage and helped it to run smooth again. I pulled off to the side, hopped over a little berm and felt a kind of floating ease as the bike settled back to the soft gravel floor. Whispy clouds caressing dark rocks on a warm afternoon and a steady breeze. A quiet spot on my mountain bike, respite for the sad and strong.

Sunday, October 30, 2016

I Am Rocky Pumptrack

Scene of rocky visions

Can cycling alone in natural (as opposed to human-dominated) places lead the mind to new and provocative places? Of course. Like listening to a kind of music you don't typically grok (try Carina Round), or spending time with new people, natural settings on their own, on your own, might move your mind to other places.

Trail 100 around Dreamy Draw on a record hot October Saturday afternoon is an empty place in the middle of a crowded city. In an hour, I saw maybe three other people. 

Listen. First, you listen for other people. Voices, boot steps, tires crunching on rock, but there's no one. Then you listen for familiar city sounds, traffic, sires, machinery, leaf blowers, car stereos, commercials, jet planes, helicopters, urban cacophony. It's there, but muffled and distant, held beyond arm's length, a mile or more far, and much less intrusive. Down in the washes, and behind certain mountains, it quiets entirely. 

So you make a wild leap: maybe, I could hear the sound of the cosmos, the voice of God, the whisper of Holy Spirit, or, at Halloween time, the whispers of ghosts, the creak of ghouls, the cries of the undead. 

How long can you go without pedaling, pumping through washes and whooshing berms?

Suddenly the term "sacred place" makes some sense. But, even listening at length, sitting still, closing eyes, murmuring come holy spirit come, this day only these sounds: wind, gravel and rocks beneath tires, call of cactus wren, buzz of insect. Only those.

Shade, swoopy trail, run of stream, desert sounds, identity locale

Initial disappointment, followed by soft realization: these sounds, of wind caressing my ears, of tires crunching through gravel, of shady palo verde fronds touching my helmet as I turn back and forth through their cool wash bowers, are sacred voices. This moment felt like that, anyway. Maybe to listen hard enough is to force hearing, but it is also true that forced not-listening guarantees not-hearing. 

Saturday I owned something that is not ownable: a desert trail all to myself, a sense of the sacred, a rocky pumptrack to call my own for an hour or two. I am Rocky Pumptrack, and I am listening. What do these sounds: wind, gravel and rocks beneath tires, call of cactus wren, buzz of insect, amount to? To hear them you have to listen. To know them you have to hear them. For that, I ride.

Monday, September 26, 2016

Mind Body Soul Mountain Bike Monday

Traffic jam on Trail 100 on Monday morning

Taking a day off to refresh mind/body/soul, and what better place than Trail 100 on a mountain bike. Although the weather was perfect, not surprisingly, there was almost no one else out there on a Monday morning. A few hikers, a few stray cyclists like me, but very, very quiet overall. 

I stopped a few times to listen to the wind, and look at the mountains. Spent some time watching a lizard darting around. Went slow, then fast, then slow again, with no one around to judge. Superb.

Got to the parking lot at the east end, and was greeted by the welcome site of no one parked there. Excellent.

Monday morning parking situation at the Tatum lot on Trail 100

Sunday, September 18, 2016

Just Be Glad: When Wheels Break

It's not supposed to be like this, but wait for the whole story. Expelled Slime sealant evident, but tire not flat.

"In an upstairs bedroom of Mrs. Florence Johnson's former home, I came across a dusty but beautiful blue padded box labeled 'Old Programs -- New Century Club.' Most of the programs from 1923 to 1964 were there. Each listed the officers, the club flower (sweat pea), the club colors (pink and white), and the club motto ('Just Be Glad')."
--from "Becoming Native to this Place," by Wes Jackson

I bought these wheels six and a half years ago, on sale, put them on my commuter bike, and rode them until the rear one broke. Six and a half years represents about 20,000 miles of commuting @3000 per year, so that's not bad at all. Excellent, in fact. When the wheel finally gave up the ghost, it did so gracefully. Although one spoke connection location was completely broken, and at least two more were close, I still rode home on it. It failed just when I pulled into work that morning, I think, because the wheel started making a funny noise with each revolution right about then. That it lasted so long, and still got me home when it was used up, is what I ask for in bike parts: last 20,000 commuting miles, and let me know gracefully when replacement time comes. Thank you, cheap commuting wheels: I'm glad like a member of the New Century Club may have been, in the ordinary things of everyday life which do their jobs well, without complaint or excess trouble.

Another one ready to go

Used up. Duty completed.
These rims have two layers, the spoke bed and the inner tube bed, so that explains why the top photo didn't mean a straight tire blowout when the spoke broke through. I'm sure they've been cracking for a while, since I noticed the back end feeling slightly wobbly on certain turns. Like the tire was a little low, or the rear rack a little loose. Both of which have been true, too, at times, so failing rear rim was not my first thought.

I explained in the first "Twenty Dollar Rule" post why sturdy, cheap parts that still ride fairly well are important to me on my commuter bike: since it could get stolen and/or vandalized any day, I don't want to invest much in it. If I had a more secure place to park, I would probably be riding Schwalbes on a Rivendell with a hub generator and lights, but my urban parking situations mean more risk and more abuse than I would be willing to put a bike like that through. So I try out different, less expensive, sometimes ugly components to see which ones work but don't attract unwanted attention at the rack.

These wheels with the stickers peeled off do the trick for me. Your mileage may vary. I think my riding style, the desert weather where I live, and my specific road conditions are unique and may not mean these would work as well for anyone else. But, since you may be wondering, yes: I replaced this one with another Vuelta Zerolite. Next time I see them on sale, I probably buy another set, too. So, 20,000 or so miles from now, I'll be ready.


Monday, September 5, 2016

Into Each Tire Some Cactii Must Poke

Cholla ball in my tire. Use a stick to remove. Did not flip up into my knee this time.

In enjoyment of Labor Day morning off, a wee dram of mountain biking was had. In the process, I got briefly up close and personal with some Teddy Bear cholla cactus, Cylindropuntia bigelovii, which is wonderful, beautiful, Sonoran Desert signature stuff, so long as you don't touch it, or run over its plentiful balls. The puncture protection layer in my tire seemed to work just fine, though, so no problem with a little kiss from a teddy bear cholla. I used a stick to remove the ball and associated spines, as I mentioned in the caption. No matter how easy it looks, you can't touch these things--they stick on you, and in you, and work their way in, and you can't get rid of them. Very affectionate, like. And they look so white and fluffy!

Here Teddy Bear, please hold my bike that you already put spikes into (bad idea 2). Balls=clone plant starters.

Into each tire some cactii must poke. With proper preparation, sealant, and puncture protection layers, though, it's no big deal. Remove ball with a stick, keep on riding. Since the dropped balls can root and grow on their own, these dense stands are often clones of an original teddy bear that moved into the neighborhood. The Cholla family stares as I pedal past them, shimmering in the morning sun. As far as I have been able to determine, the balls do not actually launch or jump at you, just cling tenaciously and painfully if you happen to brush by them, or otherwise contact them. Although it is a bit terrifying to think of that family of clones sitting there, quietly waiting for the unsuspecting mountain biker to pass them, launching a volley of pokey-sticky clone balls in the general direction of the motion, sound, shadow, or vibration. C'mon teddy bears, don't do it!

Saturday, September 3, 2016

Riding the Live End

Only in a car. On a mountain bike, life begins here.

Sticker to add to this sign: UNLESS YOU ARE ON A MOUNTAIN BIKE (or horse. Or on foot). Or more or less anything else OTHER THAN A CAR. Bring your dog, he/she will love it. It will bring a smile to your / your dog's / your horse's / your friend's / your friend horse's / your friend's horse / face. Come to think of it, park your car right here, sell it, use the money to buy a mountain bike / horse / dog / friend / and keep on going. This is the DEAD END FOR YOUR CAR, but not for you. CAR DEAD END, that works.

I kept on mountain biking this morning. No rain last night, or for the last few days, so the trail was more settled and clearer than it has been. So, more people were out, too, even though it's still pretty hot in Phoenix. Ah, September in central Arizona, when summer will just not end, while Autumn makes the futile effort to show her face. Hang on, Autumn, let's do coffee sometime in October, unless you want to meet up in Flagstaff, where it's quite pleasant now.

Lots of chill people on the trail. A few glarers, but I wear lots of glare screen, and just happy back at them full force. (by the way, glarers, maybe that's some baggage  you want to leave at the trail head).

I added a few lightweight but potentially useful/vital items to my hydration pack: a whistle, some waterproof matches, a space blanket, small roll of gorilla tape, knife, a compass, hank of paracord. I've already been carrying a snack, because you never know when a snack will come in handy. Plus a pump, a repair kit, cell phone w/Trailforks app, tire levers, wallet. I think that's it, so far. Be prepared, etc. Too much? Not enough? It's all for sharing, except the wallet, in case any fellow trail users (even glarers) need some.

The hills are getting a little easier. Progression! Most of it is mental, I'm certain. That sums up many feelings and perceptions, I suppose, that would otherwise hold us back, unless we just push through them, ride beyond the DEAD END signs, and keep on going, up and down the trails, staying relaxed and positive. While I would say that I observed myself staying more relaxed and loose today, I did notice myself grimacing either just before or during some just slightly rough or bouncy sections, and I thought, why? 

What good is it to grimace, and doesn't that facial expression just mirror or even induce a counterproductive state of not flowing through? For example, approaching the bottom of a hill, looking upwards, then grimacing: what effect is that going to produce which is supportive of going up the hill smoothly? Not a useful one, I feel, so grimacing was frown upon this ride. Smiles, or relaxed looks, only. Leave the grimace next to the car parked (FOR SALE) under the DEAD END sign, far behind.

I was kind of mesmerized by the vertical lines and the swirly straw erosion controllers.