Wednesday, May 30, 2007

The Cyclist Noir

Somewhere in the sweltering sandy city streets rides a bike commuter head to the wind and legs like giant sweaty pistons rising and falling in ceaseless rythym. It's not easy but then again, what is easy? Thats me, Crank Noir East Valley Commuter.
It was a warm morning in the tired old city in the east valley we call the big cheesy, that's right, Mesa Arizona. It's kind of a dry desert town where a neighbor would sooner call the HOA about your mailbox color than wave hello. Changes have been happening in the Big Cheesy as of late. With the longer days and harsh sun, the fairweather residents have packed up and left leaving behind the kind of scum like me that can stand this heat.
Leaving my driveway I was hailed by a big sweaty walrus type of fellow building a mailbox for the local neighborhood watch. I waved back, wondering if he approved of the color of my mailbox as I turned down a nondescript road that looked like every other nondescript road in this nondescript town. I wondered why he was spending his days building mailbox's? Why didn't he have a job? Why did he care about our mailbox's so much? So many questions, but I am a cycle commuter not a detective dang it!
Then, rounding the corner onto a slightly less nondescript street (it had a park) I saw her. She had a physique like Marianne on Gilligans island if only Marianne had been built like a ken doll and was 80 years old. She waved hi to me and I waved back. Apparently she too was one of the unfortunate scum unable to make the migration out of this sweaty sweltering city we called home.
Heading south I ran into a headwind that felt just like a speeding freight train would if it was moving at 10 mph and was made out of air. Doggedly I tried to get more out of my legs like a sleazy detective beating a source. Unfortunately the guy I call Mr. Exhaustion had got to them first. I figured he must be working for the crime boss we call, Mr. Headwind. Yes, it had his feel.
Knowing the ways Mr. Headwind works his victims and minions alike I made a quick right down a less nondescript but dirty road with scores of mediocre people streaming to the dusty city to sit all day at nondescript desk slowly eaking their life away one day at a time. Their cars frustrated the efforts of Mr. Headwind for now. Many questions flooded my mind. Why was Mr. Headwind getting involved in this from his southern dominions? What did he have against my poor legs? and why was my butt hurting? So many questions, so far left to go.
I was lost in these thoughts when suddenly I was caught by a hooker! She was a dizzy dame with the attention of a 4 year old who has just sat in a car for 8 hours and is suddenly let loose in Disneyland. Headwind must have let on that I was headed this way. Pretending to talk on a cell phone she made an illegal right turn just in front of me. I slammed on the brakes which engaged exactly like a properly adjusted brake wouldn't! Dang! I had forgotten to close my back brake after the last flat! Fortunately for me Ms. Hooker (first name "Right") had misjudged her distance and left me enough room to avoid her.
Turning south again I was again accosted by Mr. Headwind who had obviously been briefed on my direction by the deplorable Ms. Hooker. I could feel Mr. Exhaustion beating the life from my legs as Mr. Headwind asked for more and more. I passed another poor soul whose legs had been beaten into submission by the deplorable Mr. Headwind and his grungy henchman Mr. Exhaustion. Then I pulled my ace card! I made my last turn and an old friend I knew lived around here moved me out of the way of the despicable duo. Yes, that beautiful dame with the figure of a Barby Doll if they made Barbies like a supermodel, a voice like a whisper and a refreshing presence on a hot day. Yes, I had been saved by Foxy Tailwind. Together we sped along the dusty byway called Chandler Boulevard, free of the assaults of Mr. Headwind and his mercenary force. Yes, gentle readers, it was another Commute in the dusty town of the Valley of the Sun, a sweltering city in a dirty desert where excersize is hot, the handlebars are wet, and the sweat drips in your eyes. It's not easy, it's not even always pleasant, but it is what it is and I take it. After all, I'm Crank Noir, bike commuter.

Tuesday, May 22, 2007

Ok this week features something a little different. I have been on vacation in the hive of Politics, Law, and Death this week (Washington D.C., The first two are obvious, the last because there is a rather large amount of monuments to dead people in this down). The purpose of the trip was to see my brother graduate from Law School but since we were spending a whole week there a few perks were in order. I did a lot of running out on the old Mount Vernon Trail until one day it occurred to me that my running shorts were really triathlon shorts, and my Brother’s bike was just sitting alone and forlorn in the front room of his condo. So with my brother’s blessing and a hybrid bike betwixt my legs I set off into the early morning light to ride to Mount Vernon and back on the Mount Vernon Bike path.

The trail features quite a few wooden bridges that are very picturesque as they cross swampy inlets and bogs. I could not believe how green it was here. I had to keep reminding myself I wasn’t in Arizona anymore. Due to having a hybrid as opposed to a road bike I got passed a few times by some roadies but kept pretty good time. It felt kind of funny to ride around in a near vertical position without clip in pedals, but as the trail was beautiful I didn’t think about it too much.

The trail crosses several parks along it’s path. I saw numerous runners and if you can believe it dozens upon dozens of commuters. Of course, I think if we had a trail like that in Arizona more people might consider commuting.
The morning I had decided to ride (the last one possible) was just a stellar morning. The temps were perfect, the sky was clear, and the trail was not too crowded owing to the fact it was Monday and everyone else was either going to work (the other direction from me) or were already there. I decided not to push things as this was my last day in DC and it was time to breath in the last deep breaths of the experience and I was bound and determined to enjoy the ride fully.
I paused to get drinks everywhere I could as I had no waterbottle, fortunately there were water fountains all along the trail. Riding this trail was a vacation in itself as it was quite different from my usual rides. Most of the trail was forested and within earshot of the nearby road but a few sections went by houses. I had ridden the whole trail expecting the last mile to climb up some sort of mountain seeing as it was called MOUNT Vernon after all. I also had read that the last mile had a bit of climbing and had to laugh when the climb turned out to be about comparable to well, hmmm, it was comparable to, …. Well, that is to say, aah, hmmm, well It was such a small climb that there really isn’t anything to compare it to except a medium size roller perhaps. Anyway, imaging my surprise when I passed a sign that said there was a hill behind me that was steep enough to require dismounting! Well, I thought that funny enough to take a picture so there you go. The ride back was even slower due to a desire to drink everything in fully and to make the moment last. In a few short hours I would be back in the desert and riding my bike down hot dusty stinky roads with faded buildings and cracked parking lots filled with faded (but rust free) cars.

It amazes me the amount of effort Washingtonians have gone to to make decent bike paths to ride on. There were multiple spots along this trail that just took your breath away for beauty.

Much of the trail went right along the shore of the Potomac river. At this point I can kind of see where the easterners get their mirth when we point out the San Pedro River or the Agua Fria river as rivers.

Here is the house next to President Washington’s swanky digs

Here is the sign in front of Washington’s swanky digs. The digs didn’t open until 8 and I didn’t have $13 so I had to be content with seeing the wall around Georges Mount Vernon Estate. Incidentally, there is nothing Mountainous about Mount Vernon. In fact, it is not even the height of a decent roller back in Arizona so perhaps we could say that westerners know their mountains and easterners know their rivers.

Here is the mighty trek hybrid! Not a pinarello but surely not a roadmaster either! It offered a very pleasant and comfortable ride!

OH NO Mr. Bill! We’d better watch out for that STEEP hill! We want to make sure we dismount in time like the sign says.

OK we are going to hit the steep hill anytime! Better be ready!

We must be getting close now! Keep the hands near the brakes folks! Prepare to dismount!

Hmmm, Now where did that STEEP hill go to? I know it has to be around here somewhere. Otherwise why would we have a sign warning about a steep hill?

This was kind of a cool little section of windy trail several miles down the trail from the “STEEP” trail sign.

Here is a swanky neighborhood on the way back. Politicians and judges and lawyers OH MY! Politicians and judges and lawyers OH MY!

Um, be sure to be careful of sliding sideways on your bike in a wiggly pattern

The Jones point lighthouse (kind of small don’t you think? You think think the federal government is compensating for something?)

I think this guy is a bicycle tourist stealth camping due to the bicycle on the other side of the stairs but he might have been a bum. I wasn’t feeling adventurous enough to wake him up and ask him though.

Friday, May 4, 2007

Spring Winds

Well it was a windy ride in with headwinds and crosswinds all the way. The forecast for tonight is 20mph tailwinds so I might just ride home as it is always fun to cruise along without effort seemingly. I finished a full week of commuting and saved around $50 in gas. If I keep that up for a month perhaps I can get a present for that special bicycle in my life.

Thursday, May 3, 2007

Almost up to a week.

Well, we are now at 4 days in a row. It was a tough day too. Headwinds all the way in. I did manage to keep the heartrate a little lower. I was on the bent too so that helped a lot. I have been reading the reports of last weekends Brevets and wish I could have been there. Probably wouldn't have been up to it though after having been off the bike for several weeks.

Wednesday, May 2, 2007

Paul the hardcore commuter is back folks!

Well, I have now ridden the bike 3 days in a row and plan on riding in everyday this week. It has been a long time since I have racked up a full week of commutes. Time to start it up again. I used to do it all the time.
This morning was a little warm. Partially because I have lost my cool (Ok slightly dorky looking) coolmax bicycle cap that keeps the sun and sweat out of my face so the sweat was making a general pain of itself. I had my laptop on my back so my back was not too happy (I was riding the roadbike by the way, tough to wear a backpack on a recumbent). I practiced spinning a low gear and that helped though. I think drivers are stupider (is that a word? maybe more stupid is more correct but stupider sounds stupider so to speak) when I am on my roadbike. I guess it is because I am not such a spectacle. Anyway, it was a nice ride in this morning even if I was running a bit late.

Tuesday, May 1, 2007

A new concentration for training.

Well, I have switched focus on my training now. I am now in a fat burning mode of training so riding everyday in the morning is important. I woke up early this morning and my Son was awake to so we hooked up the trail-a-bike and headed off for the climb up to Red Mountain Park. My son complained of sore hands, I think we may need to get him some gloves for his birthday next month. We mades it up to the park and back in about 40 minutes which is not too bad for 9 miles with a trailer bike on the back.