Tuesday, September 28, 2010

So that's the Pain Cave they speak of.

So I finally decided to ride STeve up Snowbowl Road after work today. That was hard, and painful, and my legs are pretty fried. I kept asking myself why I thought this was a good idea, of which the answer was "To see if I can do it."

Of course, there's also the fact that I get to come back down the 7 miles of twisty-turny goodness.

My goal was to make it up to the lower parking lots in time to see the sunset, a goal that seemed to creep further and further away with every "I've gotta stop because I feel like I'm going to cough up blood."

Looking downhill.

But I did make it to the top, and more than that, I made it in time for the sunset, which in itself made every tortured turn of the cranks worth it:

The blast back down the hill, setting a new top speed of 44.9 miles an hour was just icing on the cake.

I'll do it again.
Mileage: 37

Saturday, September 25, 2010

Expecting the Spanish Inquisition

So, there's a thought in my head as I lay here trying to sleep.

There was a bike vs. car collision last week in an intersection near work that I pass through on a nearly daily basis, which turned out to be fatal for the cyclist involved. It's made me sort of hyper aware of the goings on around me while I'm riding, moreso than usual, as well as it's got me thinking, which is never a good thing.

Today I was browsing the bike forums and blogs, reading about other riders accidents, near misses, and other run-ins with cars on the road, and realized, that most (not all) of the incidents people post and rant about could be avoided if the cyclist rode more defensively, expecting the driver of the offending vehicle to do something stupid/illegal. In a perfect world, yes, everyone would obey the laws, and there would be no accidents of any sort, with the exception of those caused by mechanical failures or freak accidents due to any number of environmental variables.

But, we don't live in a perfect world, and with the ever increasing number of in-cab distractions, impatience, and generalized I-don't-give-a-fudge attitudes, the roads can be a dangerous and scary place to be. One way to deal with this is to stay at home, inside, as much as possible, never leaving except to take out the trash. But let's face it. That's no fun. And there's only so many places that deliver.

The other option is to expect the Spanish Inquisition.

See the car rolling down the street perpendicular to yours, and ask yourself if they're going to actually stop at the intersection before they turn right on red, or just roll it, and broadside you.

Don't go speeding along in the bike lane passing that backed up line of cars snickering to yourself about traffic. One may get sick of waiting and right-hook you as they decide to cut through a parking lot.

Even though you might legally have the right of way given to you by a green light, don't expect anyone else to respect that, especially police cars.

Bicycles are small vehicles, that are hard to see in a passing glance. So are motorcycles. I ride both. I ride like I'm invisible, as though other drivers can't see me. This makes me prepared, it helps me expect the unexpected. The vast majority of the time, it's unnecessary. People see me, yield to my right of way, and we all go on our way without incident and a minimal amount of annoyance.

But there's always that one time, when I think to myself "I bet they're not going to stop." So, like always, I back off, I cover the brakes, I check my escape routes. They blow the stop sign in front of me, nearly take someone else's front end off, and I'm left shaking my head, and glad that I anticipated it.

Some accidents are unavoidable. But I think if we all drive a little more defensively, and look out for ourselves, instead of counting on everyone else on the road to be responsible, we'll be a little safer. We just can't rely on the other guy.

Tonight, I rode home after midnight. There weren't many cars out on the road, and those that were out gave me plenty of space. Everyone saw me. I didn't need to be ready to try to avoid a run-in with a car.

But I was still ready.
Mileage: 10.4

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Le Tour de Lake?

I do enjoy riding out Lake Mary-ward. Usually Northern Arizona is fairly dry, and any water, streams or otherwise near town is pretty seasonal. A trip to a lake or other body of water is a nice change of pace, a treat.

The downside is people. Specifically, what they leave behind, or en-route.

I've never seen so much broken glass on the side of the road as I have today, and it really makes me wonder why. Along with the shattered bottles on the shoulder was the rest of the garbage littering the ditches. It takes away from the view, as well as adds to the flat potential. Fortunately I didn't get any flats; Excuse me while I knock on wood.

I did have an idea as I was riding home, though. One common complaint from motorists is that cyclists don't pay any sort of road tax, yet claim the same rights as a car. (I take issue with this for a few reasons, which I won't go into right now.) But maybe one way to give back in a visible way, to show cyclists care about taking care of the road, might be to organize a group of people, anyone with an Xtracycle, bike trailer, or any bike that can carry a decent load, and collect trash off a mile or two of road, hauling it away on bikes.

I know it wouldn't work the way I see it in my head, and besides, I'm sure it's been done before.


So, I took off out towards Lake Mary. Made it to the far end in pretty good time, and decided I'd go to Ashurst Lake, up on Andersen Mesa. I've never been to Ashurst Lake, up on Andersen Mesa, so why not?

The road to Ashurst Lake, framed with pretty yellow flowers.

One of the many little lakes of Andersen Mesa.

Annnd, Ashurst Lake.

After that, I tried to circle Mormon Lake, but smoke from the Weir Fire to the south was drifting across. I didn't feel like choking on the smoke, so I turned around.

Good ride.

Mileage: 59.4

Monday, September 13, 2010

Chasing that epic ride.

I rolled out this morning at 10:30. So much for leaving early. I started off on my usual Arizona Trail E loop, first taking the Loop trail to Skunk Canyon. What better way to start off a day of riding with a nearly all downhill cruise through an open canyon, that suddenly closes in on you as you round a corner? Now, down to and up Fisher Point. It's a long 1.2 mile technical climb, with something like 600 feet of elevation gain. Nothing terribly interesting, aside from grinding up the hill and looking back to a smoke plume:
Turns out it was a prescribed burn.

I was down there!

From Fisher Point, it was a nice cruise along the rim of Walnut Canyon, though it seemed much easier. I hadn't ridden this loop yet this year, which was odd, since it's one of my favorite trails. I ended up running into a trail crew doing some work on two major re-routes of the trail, bypassing a couple of really tough/scary parts. My feelgood moment of the day came from the lead guy, when he turned to everyone else and said "You wanna see hardcore? He's got no suspension, and only one gear!"

That may make me hardcore, but it doesn't mean I'm any good.

They offered to let me ride on the new section of the trail, which I turned down. It would have been cool to lay the first tire marks on fresh trail, but I didn't want to mess up their hard work by locking up my rear brake, what with the tread on my rear tire worn down. I also wanted to have a goodbye roll on that scary section. I ended up clearing it nearly perfectly, one of the few times.

It's nice to part trails with a good note.

Of course, I can't go on a ride without breaking something, it seems...
*plink!* It still held the bottle, though.

On past the Old Walnut Canyon Highway, to the Monument road, and out to Cosnino. I love these segments. It transitions from big pines, oak, and cedar, to pinyon and juniper, with open grasslands. The trail has good flow, with little climbing, and just enough rocks and loose sand to keep things interesting.

Under an old alignment of Route 66, I-40, and the railroad tracks. I always ring the bell through the tunnels, something TC and I started a while ago. It's all about the echos.

The trail on the other side loses some of its flow. It winds between trees, which become more and more densely packed. Looking through the trees, I see a corpse of a car, and decide to have a little fun:
I'm still not sure what I was trying to do.

Not long after the car, the trail takes me through a big field. Usually it's filled with sunflowers. The trail cuts through the middle of it, which always makes for some fun with my allergies. But it's late in the year, and most of the flowers have shed their petals and lost their pollen. My allergies rejoice, but not me, because this field is the end of the easy riding.

The trail takes me behind the cinder pits, through hillsides overgrown with nettles, thistles, and goathead thorns. This year is worse than last year. Nettles cling to my socks and make their way into my shoes. Thorns toss themselves across the trail, going for my tires. I ride with my fingers crossed, which makes it harder to grab the brakes, as I roll downhill into the Rio de Flag valley.

Now begins the slog uphill, as I call it. I could easily do without this section of the trail. It's mostly soft cinders, and it's mostly uphill, as you may have guessed. I ride as much as I can, which seemed to be more than I managed last year. Before too long, I wind up at the tunnel at 89:
The cinders are behind me now, the trails are made of dirt and rock now. But now, I'm faced with a question.

Where to from here?

I usually follow the loop trail to the Christmas Tree trailhead. and ride home through town, as I'm usually tired, or don't have much daylight left. But I've made it to the Winona/89 intersection faster than usual, and I still feel good. So I head up.

Up the Heart Trail, up the side of Mt. Elden, on a steep washed out trail made of loose rock shards and switchbacks. I'm not doing that again anytime soon. It was not a ride, since I pushed the bike probably three-quarters of the way. It was worth it for the views, though, and it did sap my energy, and tire me out. Now I wanted to get home, since the sun was getting low in the sky, and I had no lights. And I was out of water. On top of a mountain.

Down Sunset Trail, through the Hobbit Forest. Contemplate riding down Little Bear, just to the fire burn line, just to see, but decide against it. I'll miss that trail. Ride down Onion to the lookout road. I try one of the logjams on Onion for fun. I clear it. I try the next one. Tri may never forgive me for that, and I walk the rest of the jams. Blast down the Lookout road to the gas station on 180, and get a Sobe to get me home, and some soda for when I get home. It's all about priorities.

I couldn't see Fisher Point from the saddle on Elden, but I could see Walnut Canyon, and some of the route I took from there to get to Mt. Elden. Close enough.
It's interesting to realize I just pedaled (and hiked) from the hole in the ground over there to the mountain over here. Interesting and cool. It gives me a moment of "There's nothing I can't do!" But then I read about Noodle and her TransAmerica tour, and I come back down to Earth pretty quick. I wish I had just a bit of her stamina. And willpower.

Maybe someday.
First colors of Fall.

Mileage: 41.5, plus about 2 miles hiked.

Saturday, September 4, 2010

On Sunsets

TC's knees felt good enough to ride to Fisher Point last night. It was a nice ride, and we saw a huge herd of elk crossing the trail on the way there. I also did a bit of wandering up a drainage run to see where it went. (I thought it looked like a trail, and I've always been curious about where it went.)
I see you!

As the sun set, and lit up the sky, we sort of got on a bit of a discussion, about how it's very rare that anyone ever sits down and just watches a sunset. A sunset is no longer a show to be enjoyed as it happens, it seems, but now it must be captured, stored, and shared on blogs and facetube. That said, I fully include myself in that statement:

Because she took a similar one of me... we really are twins.

I love sunsets, and sunrises. And for me, taking pictures of them is a part of enjoying them, because I can share it with people who may not have the opportunity to see the show in the sky, even if my pictures don't do it justice. Nevermind the fact that with pictures, I can look at a sunset anytime. Some people may say that that lessens the feeling of awe when watching a real sunset, but I don't agree. I find myself more captured by the real thing, after looking at pictures of sunsets.

All that said, after the last picture, I put the camera away, and we watched as the sun sank lower and lit up the hanging wisps from the clouds with fiery reds and oranges, making the entire sky glow before fading to purple, and eventually gray as the last rays faded.

I'll admit, it was hard to keep from taking a picture of it.

Mileage: 21.3 yesterday.