Archive for the ‘BICYCLING ARIZONA’ Category
I recently came across this little movie (made in 2011-12 when I was living and bicycling in Tucson, AZ). This was my second crude attempt at shooting video from a moving bicycle. My first attempt can be seen here.
The setting is Sabino Canyon — an incredible little jewel in NW Tucson replete with waterfalls and riparian ecosystems. The paved walking and biking pathway ends 4-5 miles up the canyon at which point there are only unpaved, steep switchback trails leading into the wild Santa Catalina mountains.
On my second attempt, I finally made it to the top of Mt. Lemmon! This time, I started earlier in the day (8:30am at the base rather than 12 noon on my first try). Still, the temperatures climbed into the upper 90s during long portions of the ride and I wasn’t really in the kind of shape to make the ride carefree and enjoyable.
It helped that I went with a friend (thanks Marc!). He’s in good shape and runs 5x a week and described this ride as very, very tough. We took our time. Well, I took my time. I stopped 4-5 times, 10-20 minutes each time to rest, refuel, drink water, and desperately find some tiny patch of shade. And, once again, I still didn’t bring enough water. My two bottles were virtually depleted after the first 20 miles of hot, uphill riding.
Plus, the altitude is a factor. I noticed the air above 6,000 feet is palpably thinner. I honestly thought I might abandon midway through the ride. Nonetheless, I soldiered onward and upward. After 4+ hours of riding and stopping, I had a re-birth and actually began to feel pretty good. But that was when my friend Marc had his trouble spot. He wasn’t drinking much water and was eating little if any food (while I had consumed an apple, a little cheese, two small granola bars, some nut bars, and even a power gel). So I found a package of powdered electrolytes in my handlebar bag and poured this in his water. That seemed to bring him back to life for the final 5-mile climb to the summit, which took us over 8,000 feet in altitude.
At the top, we each savored a pizza at the pizzeria in Summerhaven. Best pizza ever — we both agreed.
I force a stop on the descent to make this image. The descent is about 60-minutes of pure downhill riding in which the air progressively grows hotter and hotter until, dare I say, it feels as though you are riding through an actual oven.
Last year, I wrote about my attempt to ride the Catalina Highway all the way to the little town of Summerhaven on the top of Mt. Lemmon. That attempt — for the record — was unsuccessful.
I attempted this epic climb again this past week-end and — this time — I reached the top! The long climb was quite challenging for several reasons. I plan to write a brief report about this 53-mile climb and descent soon.
Meantime, here is a view along the descent (and oh my, what a descent it is!), which takes you from Conifer forests above 8,000 feet in elevation down to the valley floor in Tucson.
Ingredients: filtered water, lemon juice, and sugar.
I don’t really understand the chemistry of it, but I find it’s not enough to just drink water here in the desert. You can still end-up feeling depleted.
So I dilute lemonade with equal parts water (sparkling or still) and this seems to do the trick.
That’s a Wald basket (approx. $19.99 new) on the Nishiki.
The javelina generates strong opinions, both positive and negative. Some people love them (I’m one of them), but others can’t stand them.
Javelina are to Tucson as deer are to Marin County: They’re omnipresent throughout the urban environment and homeowners are aghast at the creature’s ability to trample and eat pretty much anything in the yard or garden.
They are extremely social animals — you often see small herds of them walking in single-file as they forage for food. They also take turns scratching their mates posteriors with their snouts. They will defend their young at almost any cost, but have terrible eyesight and so they will panic and charge if they feel cornered or threatened.
I didn’t get much bicycle riding in during 2011 due to distractions (like my job and other photography projects) and the natural fall-off that came along with moving to an auto-centric city with a hot desert climate. I’m not sure what 2012 will produce. A multi-day bicycle tour would sure be fun. Europe would be great.
One thing that is clear: since I began this blog in early 2009, the so-called bicycling movement has gone from a niche activity to a fully mainstream cultural phenomenon. Core77 has an interesting year-end review titled How the Cycling Movement Gained Momentum in 2011.
Anyhow, today’s landscape image was made while riding through the parking lot of the El Con Mall (home to Target, Home Depot, and a 20-screen cineplex). I didn’t have a reason to post this during 2011, but I enjoy the photo so I’m making it my 2012 New Year’s Day image.
I hope everyone has a year full of joyful bicycle riding with family, friends, and loved ones.
Happy New Year!
Things started poorly for me as I somehow got a flat on the way to our meeting point!
This little pull-out — Javelina Rock — was a good spot for a short rest, some apples, tangerines, and a granola bar.
One of the highlights of the day was this nine-piece Mariachi Band.
They set up on the east side of the first river crossing (the Santa Cruz River) so that as we crested the bank we were treated to their beautiful costumes and lovely music!
This guy definitely deserves some kind of recognition for riding 111 miles on a unicycle. How he handled some of the steeper hills, descents, and cross winds, I have no idea.
This was not an easy picture to make while riding in a packed field near the start of the race. I have the Ebisu’s stable handling to thank for it.
Featured Comment by Andy: “I am the mystery unicyclist. I completed the 111 mile ride in 8:51:46 for a Silver finish. My unicycle has a 36 inch wheel with a geared hub that has 2 speeds 1:1 and 1:1.5. That allows me to go really fast in high gear and shift to low gear to tackle the steep hills. I have a detailed write-up of the day on blog page of my website www.tucsonuni.com.”
I was really excited about El Tour having heard so much hype about it over the years.
Things started great until about the 45-50 mile mark when I began to develop a sharp pain in my left knee (a recurring problem for me). I pushed on for another 10 miles or so, but the pain became excruciating with every pedal stroke. That’s when I knew my day would end with no chance of finishing the full distance. I abandoned the ride around mile 59, after about 3.5-to-4 hours of riding.
Still, it felt great being up before dawn and riding in darkness to the start line, then pedaling through the desert as the sun rose slowly in the sky.
Plus, I made a few nice images that I hope to post over the next few days.
Today is the 29th annual El Tour de Tucson — a 111 mile ride around the perimeter of the city.
This image has nothing to do with the Tour…(It was made on 4th Ave. last week-end)…but I really dig it!
Plus, for days afterward my housemates and I could not stop belting out Taaacooo Barrachooo in absurd operatic fashion.
Click below to hear award winning singer-songwriter and Bay Area troubadour, Forest Sun, giving his rendition:
I love mixtes and I often ride one despite the tendency of people to connote them with “ladies” or “girls” bikes.
In fact, I wrote about mixtes — their practicality and how they relate to my sense of manhood — in a post a couple years ago which you can read here.
The Greater Arizona Bicycling Association (aka GABA) had it’s Fall bike swap this past Saturday. Oblivious to the schedule, I arrived at 2pm just as everyone was packing up.
Maybe that’s for the best. I own four bikes already and I have two, unfinished, project bikes (which are basically just bare frames — an old Raleigh Supercourse with exquisite Nervez lugs and a very practical Peugeot mixte).
Still, I was secretly hoping to find another 1980s Fuji tandem with Campy and TA components like the one posted on Craigslist a couple months back (which I missed out on).
The warm glow of the desert at dusk.
I passed one car and one rattlesnake during the ride. Plus, I got to see the sunset.
Saguaro National Park is part of the national park system so bicyclists are required to pay an entry fee just like everyone else. The cost is $5 (with re-entry permitted for seven days with the receipt). Automobiles are charged $10.
As Laura commented in the previous post, a National Park Service annual pass can be purchased for $80, allowing unlimited entry to all parks and national monuments for 12 months.
This is a great after work ride since my day finishes on the east side of town.
The short, very steep descent immediately after you enter the park is a recipe for a wipe-out if you’re not expecting it. (Just beyond the shade in the above image the road plummets and makes a sharp right hand turn at the bottom!)
There’s a parking lot at the Sahuaro Baptist Church on Old Spanish Trail and Houghton, which turns this ride into a short 12-mile loop. Starting the ride at the church means not having to deal with streets like Broadway during the rush hour.
Ascending from the valley floor in Tucson to the top of Mt. Lemmon is equivalent to traveling from Mexico to Canada — in terms of the biological diversity and the number of ecological zones one passes through.
These high elevation mountain zones are called Sky Islands:
Weldon Heald coined the term “sky islands” in 1967 to denote mountain ranges that are isolated from each other by intervening valleys of grassland or desert. The valleys of this basin and range country act as barriers to the movement of certain woodland and forest species, somewhat like saltwater seas isolate plants and animals on oceanic islands – hence the common association with the archipelago phenomenon. Other species, such as mountain lions and black bears, depend on movement corridors between mountain islands to maintain genetic diversity and population size. (from The Sky Island Alliance website)
In Tucson summer is still hanging around with temperatures in the mid-to-high 80′s, but up at 8,000 feet in the Santa Catalina Mountains Autumn is in full swing.
The Aspen Loop from Marshall Gulch is alive with color this week.
Full disclosure: I didn’t bike all the way up Mt. Lemmon — I took an automobile — but there is precedent for me posting a holiday (e.g. Haloween, Xmas, Solstice) photograph, whether or not there was any riding involved. And now that the weather is cooling down, I plan to revisit the idea of bicycling to the top……really I do!
The biggest difference is that it takes about 60 minutes of riding to get out of town and into a more natural environment. Those 60 minutes can feel even longer as this time is usually spent traveling on very busy, automobile-dominated roadways, which I find rather stressful.
Don’t get me wrong, There are plenty of bike lanes and routes criss-crossing Tucson, but most of these routes (as mentioned above) do not inspire my style of carefree and joyous riding. It may be a surprise to some, but I’m not an ideological cyclist. I don’t fight against conditions be it weather, road surface, or personal safety just to prove that bicycling is a viable form of transit (although I respect those who do). I ride a bicycle simply because of its potential to enhance the quality of my everyday life.
In other words: I ride a bicycle out of an Epicurean desire for happiness.
Now there are always exceptions. Sometimes I ride for physical exercise. Sometimes I ride to accomplish a goal (e.g. to reach the top of the mountain, or to get from point A to point B within X amount of time). But for the most part bicycling is a way to enhance my own pleasure by drawing me closer to my surroundings and helping me feel the aliveness of my own body.
Wikipedia’s architecture notes:
Outside, San Xavier has a white, Moorish-inspired design, elegant and simple, with an ornately decorated entrance. No records of the architect, builders, craftsmen and artisans responsible for creating and decorating it are known. Most of the labor was provided by the local Indians, and many believe they provided most or all of the artisans as well. Visitors entering the massive, carved mesquite-wood doors of San Xavier are often struck by the coolness of the interior, and the dazzling colors of the paintings, carvings, frescoes and statues. The interior is richly decorated with ornaments showing a mixture of New Spain and Native American artistic motifs.
The floor plan of the church resembles the classic Latin Cross. The main aisle is separated from the sanctuary by the transept or cross aisle, with chapels at either end. The dome above the transept is 52 feet (16 m) high supported by arches and squinches.
Featured Comment by Laura: “My grandmother Dorothy, who lived near Tucson for many years, was a devout Catholic, had her children educated by the Jesuits, and especially loved San Xavier. After she died, I made a pilgrimage and fell in love myself. She would have so enjoyed these photos! I especially like your St. Francis statue picture. Also, the word “squinches.”
Nathan replies: Yes, squinches. This was a new word for me. All I could think of to relate them to were the flying buttresses used in Gothic cathedrals, but apparently they serve a different function.
On a recent bike ride, I ended up at perhaps the finest example of Spanish mission architecture in the United States.
- Constructed in 1692 (under the auspices of the Jesuits);
- Raided continuously, then finally destroyed by Apaches in 1770;
- Turned over to the Franciscans and re-built from 1783-1797.
Above, the obligatory bike portrait (with more pictures to come).
I took a nasty spill this past week-end when my front wheel got lodged in a curved section of Tucson’s downtown street car tracks.
I went down hard with my left shoulder and elbow absorbing the initial impact, leaving some raw, painful road rash. Both my knees and the tip of my right thumb were also bloodied. My head had nothing except a cotton riding cap protecting it, but luckily it survived unscathed.
Frankly, I’m surprised there aren’t some warnings about these trolley tracks (although maybe there are and I missed them!).
The accident occurred just as I was finishing a 30-mile ride to the San Javier Mission, about 3 miles from home.
I was a great day for a ride. The mission is beautiful! I hope to post some pictures soon.
I took a leisurely ride on my Nishiki city bike around the Reid Park Bike Path in Central Tucson this past Saturday. I intended to visit Kobe the polar bear (at the Reid Park Zoo) to see how she’s adjusting to life in the Sonoran desert and to see if she had any advice for me.
But dark clouds and lightning were quickly building and I decided not to linger outside too long.
I got caught in the deluge anyhow so I was mighty soaked when I arrived home (reminding me that I really need to get some narrow honjo fenders for this bike).
In total, 1.25 inches of rain fell Saturday. Temperatures have cooled considerably ever since, especially the evening temperatures which have dropped below 70 degrees the last few nights!
Nogales Highway, I-10 overpass, September 11, 2011
I need some help from my botanist friends to identify this flowering shrub.
Since I see these planted everywhere around Tucson, I’ve temporarily named it: flora omnipresenta.
I first noticed these around the start of the monsoon season when the flowers began to bloom. The plants are starting to get leggy and tired looking, but they’ve been in bloom for a couple months now!
Below is yet another specimen.
The picture was made mid-afternoon, on a very hot, sunny day.
These are tough conditions to photograph in. Avoiding harsh light and shadows can be difficult on a day like this. In contrast, the first image was made on a cloudy day, which accounts for the much more muted and subtle colors.
I attached my camera (and a big fisheye lens) to my new handlebar mount and made a short trip down the block to test the system.
Below is the video, with a Soloman Burke music bed added in Apple’s iMovie to make it a little more interesting!
Solomon Burke (March 21, 1940 – October 10, 2010) was an American singer-songwriter, entrepreneur, mortician, and an archbishop of the United House of Prayer For All People. Burke was known as “King Solomon”, the “King of Rock ‘n’ Soul”, and as the “Bishop of Soul”, and described as “the Muhammad Ali of soul”, and as “the most unfairly overlooked singer of soul’s golden age”…
Burke was “a singer whose smooth, powerful articulation and mingling of sacred and profane themes helped define soul music in the early 1960s”…Described as both “Rabelaisian” and also as a “spiritual enigma”, “Perhaps more than any other artist, the ample figure of Solomon Burke symbolized the ways that spirituality and commerce, ecstasy and entertainment, sex and salvation, individualism and brotherhood, could blend in the world of 1960s soul music.”
I love a good swimming hole, but until recently had no idea they could exist in Tucson in the middle of the summer!
Incredibly, just two weeks ago this creek was nearly dry. But our last big monsoon sent water cascading down the canyon slopes, which filled up various pools along Sabino Creek, and made many of them suitable for swimming.
[Note: I'm not Geo-tagging this image in order to keep the location a bit of a mystery. However, if you're curious and want to read a post from the archives -- I did reveal the location of another superb swimming hole near my old home just north of San Francisco.]
In the early evening, right before a rain, this small garden-park had a palpable feeling of serenity and harmony. Lingering here, I felt calm and more connected to nature — the plants, the stones, and the slight breeze.
I’m sure Tucson is full of little parks like this; I just happened to stumble upon this one (which was completely empty for some reason).
A zen rock garden — Tucson’s own Ryoan-ji?
Many professionals would object to the word “zen” in describing a traditional Japanese dry rock garden. The publisher of this delightful, bi-monthly journal is especially disdainful of the term.
Either way, the journal (I am a subscriber) is probably the best source of practical information on Japanese gardens and architecture around. Plus, it’s very easy to read!
Let the wind speak. That is Paradise. — Ezra Pound, Canto CXX
This is the end of Sabino Canyon’s paved road. Mosquito’s are biting my forearms and shoulders. Twilight is descending (note: for a twilight ride overlooking the Pacific Ocean see this post).
As I’m heading home, about halfway down the mountain, the light is 85 percent gone. Coasting slightly downhill at about 10-15 mph, I suddenly notice a shape in front of my wheel. Without thinking, I swerve. Actually, there wasn’t enough time to swerve; rather it was just a quick flick of the wrist and handlebars — first right, then left.
I immediately look back over my left shoulder and see a snake falling to the ground, as if recoiling from a near vertical strike.
The part of my brain that processes information informs me that the sensation I felt against my leg a fraction of a second ago was the rattlesnake defending itself against what it perceived as a large, warm-blooded creature (that is, me) bearing down on it.
I stopped my bicycle; went back up the road 20 feet; directed my headlight to illuminate the scene; and snapped this picture!
The encounter reminded me of one of my favorite pieces of writing — Snaketime — an essay originally published in the WildEarth Journal by Charles Bowden (re-printed in this book, which as of August 2011 had copies available for $.01).
Here’s an excerpt where Bowden suggests how a snake perceives the world:
For the snake a few things are obvious: I am large, and this is certain because of my footfall. She can hear the footfall of a mouse. I am rich in odor. She can pick up the faintest scents, identify them, and follow a single strand as clearly as if it were signage on an interstate highway system…And I am irrelevant unless I get too close. She will ignore me if I stay six feet away. She will ignore me if I become motionless for 180 seconds.
If I violate the rules of her culture, she will work through a sequence of four tactics. First, she will pretend to be invisible and hope I do not see her. If that fails, she will try to flee. If that fails, she will rattle in hope of frightening me away. And finally, if I am completely ignorant of simple courtesy and get within a foot or so of her, she will attack me…
She herself is cultured. In her lifetime, she will attack maybe twenty or thirty or forty times. She will never attack any member of her own species. She will never be cruel. She is incapable of evil.
–Charles Bowden, from the essay Snaketime
Here are some real Tucson-style city bikes.
Lovingly called “beaters” — bikes like these (especially the yellow-orange one) get you where you need to be, can haul or carry stuff, and you don’t have to worry about knocks and dents along the way.
My Nishiki Mixte fills this crucial bicycle niche for me (as does a rather aged Peugeot mixte I acquired with the intention of restoring, but never did).
A story a couple years ago in the New York Times defined the beater this way:
The beater is to the bicycle world what a well-worn Crown Victoria is to the automotive world, a sturdy workhorse machine that can take a few knocks and keep going. The ideal beater can soak up a few potholes, might repel thieves with its rust spots and will not break the bank.
Note to self: starting at my house — rather than the Sabino trail head – would make this an interesting 30 mile ride.
This small stone cairn caught my eye, perched in the middle of a mostly dry Sabino Creek.
The creek corridor is full of ash, cottonwood, willow, sycamore, and other riparian species. When the creek is running — as a result of snow melt and rainwater flowing down from the Catalina Mountains — Tucson’s underground aquifer is re-charged.
Sabino Creek also feeds the Rillito River, which feeds the Santa Cruz River, which feeds the Gila River, which feeds the mighty Colorado River, which in turn feeds the Sea of Cortez (or Gulf of California).
The hydrologic cycle comes full circle when this water returns to Tucson in the form of summer monsoons and winter rains, and flows down Tucson’s Sabino Canyon once again — a wondrous ebb and flow 10 million years in the making.
This trail leads to all kinds of hiking possibilities in and around the Santa Catalina Mountains and Mt. Lemmon. The road is paved for about 4 miles, then ends, after crossing Sabino Creek 7-8 times along the way.
More and more I reach for the Brompton when heading out for short rides. I suppose it was just a matter of time before I took the little folder up the Sabino Canyon Trail.
Just a few weeks ago, the Brompton was transporting me around downtown SF and now here we are out in the desert — such a versatile machine!