Best Dam Bike Ride

Participated in the Best Dam Bike Ride last weekend. This is a 150 mile, two day ride benefiting the National Multiple Sclerosis Society. We started early Saturday morning at Dysart High School in North Phoenix and rode out US60 to Wickenburg for Lunch. Then on through Aguila to Salome, where we camped for the night. Sunday morning, we continued northwest along US95 toward Parker and Parker Dam. This really was an excellent ride. There were sag stops every ten to fifteen miles and lots of friendly people to talk with along the way.

Orange Moon

While riding home this evening, I was headed east along Union Hills Road, and in front of me, framed just a tad off center of the road, was the moon. It had just come up over the horizon, was bright orange, and looked as large as the road was wide. It was beautiful. This is one of the reasons I began commuting by bicycle!

Historic Novel

The Long, Happy Life of Robin Stackpole, an excellent historical novel by Maynard Fox, depicts the kind of life my Grandfather experienced: growing up in rural farm communities, the Great Depression, raising crops for college tuition, and attending college mid-century … while wrestling with some of the same issues adolescents and young adults deal with today.

Mile High Madness

Rode in Mile High Madness at Payson. This was 30 miles of fire roads through cool pines and the high desert with a couple of river crossings thrown in. The first ten miles included a moderate climb and an excellent downhill run, dropping 1500 feet, from Marysvill Hill to Doll Baby Ranch at the bottom of the East Verde River Canyon. We paid for this fun during the next ten miles: rocky and semi-steep climbs, gaining 1200 feet, to Crackerjack Mine. The last leg of the ride included brief, but fun, downhill, dropping 200 feet, to the East Verde River Crossing and a moderate climb, regaining 500 feet.

In all, I didn’t ride any where near as good as I had hoped to, but much better than I thought I would. We were told the average rider would take five hours to complete the course. I came in at just over six. I definitely have a goal for next year!

Clipless Pedals

Picked up a pair of clipless pedals yesterday. John, from the Golden Spoke, told me that although I would really like them, I should know that I would fall down a few times. I should have listened to him.

I spent a good portion of this morning swapping pedals. It would only have taken ten minutes, but I found the old left pedal had seized. Since I don’t really have the proper tools, it took quite some time to get the pedal off without screwing up the crank arm in the process. Once finished, I practiced clipping in and out for about fifteen minutes while simply sitting on the bike. Then I loaded it in the van and headed for the Phoenix Mountain Preserve.

Since I spent most of my free time today swapping pedals, I only had three hours to ride the preserve. I quickly learned that John was right. The first time I came to a stop, I couldn’t get my feet loose … and fell over.

I’m sure it looked quite comical: I come rolling to a nice controlled stop, begin struggling in vain to get my feet off of the pedals, there’s a subtle change in the struggle as I attempt to keep my balance, and the last ditch spasmodic effort as gravity wins out and I fall in slow motion to the side while attempting to land in a soft spot among the rocks and sage brush. Oh well, nothing was hurt but my pride.

I fell over a few more times during the ride. I lost count exactly how many times, but at least I didn’t get hurt any more seriously than a few minor scratches. I did finally learn enough to get my feet off the pedals when I made intentional stops. I suspect — I hope — it’ll become habit soon and I won’t have to worry, to much, about unexpected stops.

More Riding to Mesa

Drove to Mesa both Tuesday and Wednesday while my rear wheel was being straightened after Monday night’s fiasco. Rode the bike yesterday and took the bus home. I planned better this time and was able to catch the earlier run which got me to Metro Center before nightfall, but I had my clear lenses and headlight just in case. Today I rode both directions and made much better time on the way home. I had also picked up a pair of Shimano shoes a few days ago and they’ve helped my feet quite a bit, but I’m still using clips — although they have a place to mount them, the shoes don’t have cleats — and I’ve found that my toes are now getting pinched in them. I see a set of clipless pedals in my semi-near future.

To Mesa again, but Problems on Return Ride

I got sent to Mesa again for another week of training. Since the heat has gotten rather unbearable, I rode the bike down to Mesa, but came back on the Bus. Since city buses all have bicycle racks now, this seemed like a good idea when I started out, but I soon discovered a few problems.

The Phoenix-Mesa express routes run exactly in the wrong direction — they all run from Mesa to Phoenix in the morning, and from Phoenix to Mesa in the afternoon. This leaves the “Red Line,” which runs all day long, in both directions at about thirty minute intervals, but takes nearly three hours to travel from central Mesa to Metro Center. To make matters worse, I missed the run scheduled immediately after my class and the next one, when it finally arrived at Metro Center, got there just after nightfall. I wasn’t especially prepared to ride in the dark.

I left Metro Center, with no lights or clear lenses, following the bike path north along the Cave Creek Canal, and riding slowly. The bike path ends just before Thunderbird Road and I was riding along the “unofficial bike route” through residential neighborhoods when I lost a contact lens — without clear lenses, I wasn’t wearing my riding glasses. I stopped and was attempting to replace the lense in my eye — it had only dropped out onto my cheek — when the rain started and washed it out of my hand. With only two miles remaining, I pressed on and began riding very slowly through the driving rain with one eye closed.

Surprisingly, this worked rather well. Until, only a half-mile from home, I misjudged the height of a curb and bent a rim — just enough to prevent it from rolling, at all, through the brakes. After disconnecting the brakes, I was able to finish the ride home.

This return trip from Mesa, with the never-ending bus ride and seven miles by bike, took just over four hours to complete. I’d have been better off taking my chances with the heat.

More Riding to Mesa

Since my feet were killing me from Monday’s ride, I drove to Mesa Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday. My feet felt pretty good this morning so I rode down to Mesa again with the intention of meeting my wife and kids at the Phoenix Zoo on the way home. Unfortunately, my wife ran into car problems in the middle of the day, so her sister picked me up from Mesa so I could get things running again.

Ride to Mesa for First Day of Class

I rode to Mesa again for the first day of class. I left at 5:30am, which is probably why it was so much easier to ride down this time. I made it to the YMCA, showered, and still got to class with well over a half-hour to spare. Although the day’s high temperature reached 105, the return trip wasn’t quite as bad as last time. I just rode slowly and drank lots of water. Unfortunately, the balls of my feet were killing me before I got home and I had to stop several times and walk them out. I realize now that my old sneakers just don’t cut it for long rides, I’m going to have to break down and get a pair of bicycling shoes.

Scouting a Path to Mesa

Okay, I admit it. I’m a wimp. I’m getting sent to a class in Mesa in about two weeks. I got a couple of maps a few weeks ago, planned my route down, and rode it today to see if it was, in fact, ridable. I also wanted to see what bicycle facilities might be available once I got there. From my maps, I figured it would be about 30 miles, one way, with about a third of it along the canal banks.

My first problem was when switching from the Arizona Canal to the Cross-cut Canal. Both have names on my maps, but are not signed or otherwise designated along their banks. I passed the intersection twice before I realized what/where it was. I also got lost once in Tempe after leaving the canal system. This wasn’t too bad and was easy to figure out but was a gross waste of time. I eventually found MCC and the YMCA and headed back — after a short stop at KZZP to pick up a “looooser” pack I won a week ago.

Unfortunately, I was baked after riding only half-way back, and the remaining miles were absolute torture. In all, I was off by only three miles: 33 miles, two and a half hours one way — we won’t discuss the other way (grin). I think that with the 6-8 hour class between directions that I could probably make it. Not sure if I can do it daily, but I’ll give it a shot and try it that Monday morning.

Bugged Out

This shouldn’t happen to anyone before their first cup of coffee:  As I was ridding in to work this morning, pre-dawn, cruising down Rose Garden at a decent clip, I found the road to be completely covered with dried seed-pods.  So covered that the lane stripes were difficult to see.  This, in itself wasn’t so unusual — at certain times of the year I’ve seen them blown about and scattered across the road by the wind.  It was only after about a mile of spinning through them, tires constantly crunching, did I realize they weren’t seed-pods, but were really grasshoppers completely covering the ground.  Not an easy thing to try to come to terms with so early in the morning.

Riding to the Ranch

Since the desert between north Phoenix and Carefree Highway is quickly being gobbled up by developers — especially along Carefree Highway where they’ve been widening it to four lanes all the way from I-17 out to Cave Creek Road. I decided that if I was going to ride across it to the ranch, I had best go do it.

I started by riding pavement to Deer Valley Road and 7 Street, then north along 7 Street, crossing the CAP aqueduct. Just a short distance across the CAP, is a small paved road heading east which has a break in the fence, on the north side, giving access to some faded double-track heading generally north-east. A couple of short climbs into the Union Hills put me past both the Cave Butte and Cave Creek Dams. The rest of the ride was over fairly flat and uneventfull land. As a matter of fact, I got bored riding along a freeway-smooth dirt road I found and headed off along a cow path that cut across the road. I did find the herd, by the way, they were all taking it easy in the shade of trees surrounding a large water basin. I eventually made a moderate climb and came out at the top of Central Avenue and Dove Valley Road in New River. From there it was just a short semi-paved ride to the ranch. In all, it was an hour and a half to loaf along 17 miles, six of which were paved.

Off to Grandmother’s House …

To test the new bike, and show it off some, I rode out to visit my Grandparents in Sun City. It was all on pavement, but today was very windy. There were a couple of times I just about got blown out into traffic by gusts when crossing a minor street. With the nasty head-wind, it took a bit over two hours to travel the 18 miles.

Replacement Bicycle

It’s been a tough month scraping the cash together so quickly, but I replaced my stolen bike today.  John at the Golden Spoke was very helpful, not only did he discount the bike to what I had paid last year — the price had gone up because Raleigh had made vast improvements to frame and components — but he also replaced all the little upgrades I had put on the previous bike, and didn’t charge me a dime for them.  Yes, he’s gained a customer for life.

Bicycle Stolen

Ever wonder why you can’t get an insurance “rider” for a bicycle, but they’ll happily over insure your fishing tackle? It’s mildly irritating when you’re looking for insurance and incredibly infuriating when you discover you definitely had a need for it. My bike became “just another statistic” last Tuesday.