Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Urban Traveler

Well, the week of Christmas finds me with a new job and a new commuting route. Due to a lot of rain last week I didn't start bike/bus commuting until Friday. This gave me a few days to make the modifications I needed to my bike and for my new Arkel "Commuter" pannier to arrive. I have always wanted a pannier that held a laptop and since my commute was to become such a precise affair in order to keep time to a minimum I sprung for it. Arkel does not make cheap bags. They are high quality though. I must say this one was a little bigger than I thought and I had heel strike issues as I rode. On Friday I lived with it and was dismayed to find that the bike ride from downtown Phoenix to my job was around 45 minutes as it was uphill most of the way. Other things that I found out on Friday was that it took over thirty minutes to head back despite it being down hill. Around 35 minutes to be exact. In my consternation at being late on the way back I decided to try and catch the express bus just before it gets on the freeway to save a half mile on hope that it had been delayed by passenger loading at the central bus station. Well, in further consternation I grabbed the first bus, arguing with the driver about how the valley metro website says folders are allowed on busses despite my missing the fact there was only one bike on the rack and the other cyclist at the stop was waiting for what would turn out to be the right bus. Yes gentle readers, despite my arguing, hurry, worry, etc. I had caught the wrong bus and was trapped in traffic on the wrong express bus heading over 20 miles into the great unknown. Fear siezed me for a moment, and then the person sitting next to me who had been nice enough to let me stow my bike under his feet informed me that the bus serviced a stop at Gilbert and Broadway which is a point only 5 or 6 miles from my home. So, though my knee was hurting a bit, I had a bike, I had a full light setup with a light that could go as far as I could, and energy to spare. I ended up making it home before I would have if I had caught the 5:20 bus if I had missed the 4:50 so the damage to my schedule was fairly limited.

Saturday I took all the things I noticed on Friday and went to work. First, there was the issue of the heel strike to deal with. Determining there was no way to adjust the bag to get out of the way of my heel it became evident I would have to work on the rack and with a few zip ties I found if I rotated the rack back a few inches I eliminated the heel strike in must positions of my foot but still had just a bit. Well, I fashioned some aluminum extenders to allow my rack to mount that far back and turned my attention to the pannier itself. Determining that if one of the top hooks that grabbed the top of the rack were raised this would have the effect of rotating the bottom of the bag back an inch or so I proceeded to dig out the drill and modify my very expensive pannier with some trepidation.

Next, I was determined to address the issue of the wide handlebars. Mountain bikers like a wide spread but being from the road cyclist crowd lately they were a bit wide for my taste. So, digging out my pipe cutter I proceeded to trim 1.5 inches from each side arriving at a width closer to that of typical road bike handlebars. They were much more comfortable as well as aero, not that this bike was necessarily to be configured for speed, being primarily a utility vehicle for me. Still, every randonneur requires a certain amount of utility for their needs.

This morning finds me pedalling down the street to make the 6:30 am bus. My headlight cuts the night and I am there with time to spare unlike Friday where I had to race the bus (which had a few more lights than me since it can't cut across the mall parking lot). A five minute wait and I am loading my bike on the rack, and in a seat on the bus. Now to dig out the cell phone and read some of those stories I put on my phone last night. I start with 20,000 leagues under the sea since it has been ages since I have read it. Next I will return to Smoke Bellew written by that no good pink commie scum Jack London :p , maybe I'll have some freedom fries while I read it.

Back to my commute. After a half hour of pleasant reading I am standing on 3rd street and moreland getting my bike ready and soon I am off. Passing under central avenue in the deck park I swerve around a homeless man snuggled deep within his mummy bag sound asleep as there is not so much as a wiggle as I cruise through. It is in the upper 30s, I have camped in colder but I wouldn't be too crazy about doing it every night. This area is the worst neighborhood on my commute but somehow I am not too worried. I don't think anyone knows how much my bike is worth, and since I am wearing mismatching gloves and have a huge bag hanging off the side of my bike, I likely fit in a little. All in all the neighborhood really isn't that bad. The house along the street I turn at are small but the yards are well maintained, they may be poor but they care about their neighborhood apparently. Soon, I am passing St. Joseph's hospital and the UnitedHealth Group building. I work for a subsidiary of Untied health group and it is a bit of an irritation that I still have 6 miles to go to get to where I work. Still, I am glad to be on the bike. I have not ridden much lately to get my knee feeling better. Friday's ride caused it to act up a bit but today it is fine. Of course I am not pedalling as hard either.

Up the Sonoran bikeway I continue to pedal. It doesn't strike me as very sonoran with it's palm trees, shrubbery, juniper bushes, trees, and bamboo. Yes fair readers bamboo. I suppose perhaps they call it the Sonoran bike way because it ends up somewhere you can see the desert but the section I traverse rides the edge of Phoenix's downtown concrete wasteland. The neighborhoods are pleasant enough and the traffic is slight. Add to this a minimum of stop signs and lights and it makes a great commute route. My typical beef with bike routes on secondary streets is they are deluged with stop signs and other devices to stop traffic which unfortunately stop bicycles as well. The bikeway makes use of speed bumps and neighborhood breaks with bike paths connecting them to keep thru traffic away and works amazingly well I am discovering.

As I turn East into the final miles of my commute the sun is about to rise and Piestewa peak (recently squaw peak) is silloueted in the morning dawn. I pass apartments and business which still bear the "Squaw Peak" name, not having guts to put their long earned name and it's reputation at risk by changing it to match the new name of the mountain.

At work a member of the building management sees me folding up my bike outside. This is the ultimate litmus test. If no signs or emails come out, then I am good. I have heard stories of commuters harassed by building management elsewhere. If I had know the managements office was right there I probably would have picked somewhere else to fold everything up. Oh well. The second commute is in the bag and I am an old hand. Now to catch the right bus tonight.

It wasn't that unpleasant an experience, really! I think I took the picture before I was ready.

1 comment:

Bruce's Bike Blog said...

Yo! Paul!
I want to see photos of the bike!
You are the toughest Randonneur I know--Good job on the commute!