Friday, January 23, 2009

Misty Morning Commute

Although I have a long route selected to try for my one or two days a week I want my long ride, I opted for the shorter commute as it was a bit wet out. The fenders on my new bike worked wonderfully even though I have put a nice and skinny pair of 1.35 inch tires on (as opposed to those hefty 2" big apples I had on). The performance is a lot better with these tires.
Anyway, back to my wet commute. The only rain that really fell was when I was in the bus but the streets were wet and it was cloudy. One has to appreciate the cloudy days in the desert. Everything shines with a green radiance. You can smell the rain. In the city everything smells clean. It is a pleasure to ride up the roads in the beauty of a wet morning.

Heading up 3rd ave I see a mailbox statue off to the right that has a rather sizeable drop of water hanging off his nose and I am siezed by an uncontrollable urge to wipe mine. I feel sorry for the poor bronze lad, doomed to feel a drop of water on the end of his nose for hours and hours. It slowly begins to itch, the itch raises in intensity slowly. Soon all he can think about is his nose. How long will it hang there? How long until he descends into statue madness? Oh well, could be worse. I suppose he could have pidgeons pooping on his head.

Sunday, January 11, 2009

Time with an old friend, and the 4 amigos.

Saturday morning and I am ready to try pushing my mileage up a little. Since I am laying off the hills, and since I am curious to see if it also affects my knee like the other bike, I have decided to pull the recumbent down from the ceiling and take it for a spin. I want to go to the Superstitions and back.

It is cold, but I have forgotten that the recumbent rides a little warmer than my other bike. I am not sure why, I am suspicious that a smoother airflow make for a warmer ride. In any case, University ave is not a ride in the country but it is a long almost imperceptible hill. No climbing involved, you just go a little slower than usual going the one way. As I get close to time to turn around I am close enough that I push forward to the edge of the Superstition wilderness and into the last houses in Apache Junction. I probably pushed my time limit a bit far as I was late getting to my rehearsal later. My knees acted up a little bit on the way back but not too badly. The great palisades of the flat iron are particularly impressive up close. I have not seen the half dome in Yosemite but I bet it is similar to this escarpment in grandeur.
I found out I don't have a lot of my bent muscles anymore and I needed to adjust the bicycle around to where it was comfortable again even if it wasn't quite so aero. I didn't have a bike computer on it so I didn't know how fast I was going but checking on mapmyride later I figure I went around 26-27 miles. That's the farthest I have gone since November.

In the afternoon I asked the kids if they wanted to go mountain biking or hiking and all but one voted for mountain biking. So I packed up the two 6 year old bikes, my 9 year old's bike and the trail a bike for my 4 year old. I really need to get a trailer or something to haul all these bikes around. The small bikes won't attach to racks because of their size so I end up having to strap them to the roof.
After fixing a flat on my bike at the trailhead we are off and raring to go. My boys and daughter have to walk the first hill, the first because their bikes don't have gears, and the second because she doesn't quite understand how to use her gears yet. From here though I am surprised as we take off up the trail through the cactus, creosote, and palo verdes. Large teddy bear cholla hold their arms far above my children's heads threatening to drop spiky balls as they weave in and out of the cacti and bushes.
As Joseph, Adela and I catch up to the other two at the first trail junction I am surprised that my daughter decides to go left up the moonrock trail. I haven't encouraged this in the past but I decide to let it ride and see what happens. The kids are caught in the thrill of explorations and tirelessly wander up the trail crossing creek after creek. I give tips to Joseph how to speed up down into the creeks so he can make it up the hills on the other side. I also remind him to use his brake instead of putting his feet down.
A few times Josh stops to walk a hill or two but I find Joseph has put my tips to great use and building speed before the hills manages to stay on the bike nearly all the way up to the blevins trail. I am astounded they have made it up here. Seeing as we are near the top I figure we should just go over to the upper parking lot and return on the Noso trail. I warn them to be careful though as there is a deep creek between here and the parking lot and I am sure Josh, being our little stuntman, would try and make it and hurt himself as the trail is steep and has trail bars across it. They follow directions (I know, I was surprised too!) and walk the creek and we have to stop again because they have sighted some playground equipment by one of the picnic tables now that we are up near the actual facilities of the park.

Soon we are off again needing to get back to the car so I can pick up the evening babysitter. The kids enjoy the next few miles of downhill enjoying the fruit of their spoils. I continue to be amazed that we have made it up here. There are a lot more trails open to us now that I know the kids can handle this stuff. as we enter an open space my four year old exclaims "Dad! I can see the whole town!". She was the one we had to kind of force out the door so this is good. I didn't even get any whining from the kids until we were about a quarter mile from the end and our little stuntman finding a straightway ahead of him as we ride along the levy, has suddenly become aware that he has not complained about the hard work to this point.

Taking a picture at the car I am amused by the poses of the kids. Kids find desert sticks while you are tying the bicycles to the roof and suddenly they are some sort of bicycling jedi kids. I am so pleased with them that a suggestion of dairy queen is pondered, and even granted. They have ridden 4 miles, most of it single track. That is probably the equivalent of 7 or 8 road miles. It has been a good day with the kids. Next week will be a hike since we have to make the one that didn't vote for biking this week happy.

Wednesday, January 7, 2009

Back in the Saddle

I have decided to do at least one longer commute per week. Next week I am planning on doing the full 30 miles into work and then seeing if I want to take the bus home. Today, not wanting to overdo it with my knee and not willing to stake being late on forging an unknown route of that length, I went to the park and ride at main and the 101 to cut my distance down to 18 miles. This way I would still be traversing 13 or so miles of unknown territory but I would have a little extra time worked in to figure things out.

I had the route in my head mostly as I had forgotten to bring a map. I knew that once I got off the frontage road for the 101 onto the Rio Salado Parkway I would get to Mill and then we would be onto unridden streets until we got up to the 51 when I had ridden the bike path a long long time ago to get home from some training I had ridden out to. The Park and ride lot had an attendant and I hoped he wouldn't have me towed when he saw I was biking, but then I thought he would probably just assume I was getting on the train with it.

So on arrival I put on my gear, turned on the hub light, and I took off, excepting a short wait at a light I gave up on near the train station. The frontage road had some traffic but not too much. The trip down the Rio Salado was pleasant. A few more businesses had forced some of the industrial properties out in the first part and so it was actually a bit prettier than last time I remembered it. I was amused to see construction at rural as the last time I road this there always seemed to be construction around here. That was around 3-4 years ago.

Crossing mill I turned left onto Washington after having gone under the 202. Washington had a really nice bike lane and was a really pleasant ride all the way to sky harbor where I turned right onto the canal which would take me to the bike path next to the 51/Piestewa/Squaw Peak freeway. The path had a lot of glass on it. It also did not have any underpasses but I found that I could usually find breaks in traffic in less time than a traffic light would have made me wait. The kevlar tires held up and I was amused to realize that I used to walk a portion of this path over lunches when I had worked at Inter-Tel's 44th street offices back in the day. The old neighborhood was about the same. Same old gang graffiti, same old private airport parking lots and sketchy used car dealers.

I was pleased to find the 51 bike path stretched all the way down to the canal and I didn't need to do any neighborhood scouting to get on it. That being said the bike path hops on streets sometimes, sometimes goes through park like areas next to the freeways, and sometimes it jogs right to another street. I must say I made 2 wrong turns which cost me probably all of 5 minutes but I won't make those again. It is a pretty good route as far as bike routes go. There weren't an excessive amount of lights thanks to it's proximity with the freeway but there were a lot of little annoying turns and jog right jog left kind of things. I think it could use better signage but oh well.

The last little bit of my journey takes place on a canal with underpasses at streets and eventually I hop on 16th street and ride for about 3/4 of a mile without a bike path but most traffic is going the other way. I arrived a little late but only a little bit. It was a good route and I think I am going to keep it.

On the way home I ran into moderate gang activity along the canal so I think the route is a good morning route but I will likely be taking the train/bus home after a full commute.
My knee started telling to back off about 5 miles from the car so I hopped the light rail for the last bit too. Glad it is there.