The Friday Cyclotouriste

a geo-photoblog chronicling my "excursions velo"

Archive for July, 2011

On the Road……Sabino Creek: An ode to Tucson’s watershed

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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.

Nathan

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July 31st, 2011 at 2:17 pm

On the Road……The Sabino Canyon trail

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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.

Nathan

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July 30th, 2011 at 6:51 pm

On the Road……A Sabino Canyon ride on the Brompton

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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!

Nathan

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July 27th, 2011 at 8:53 pm

On the Road……Rapha shop, San Francisco — and a question

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Eco-velo had a post today about the new Rapha shop on Filbert St. in San Francisco, which I stumbled upon completely by accident when I was visiting a couple weeks ago.

This place absolutely oozed San Francisco-hipster bike culture: a designer, bike clothing shop with an espresso bar and gallery attached; the machine the barista was pulling shots on: a La Marzocco — of course.

Rapha shop, SF

 

I loved it…but deep down I began to wonder, Is this all a bit excessive?

Is the bicycle’s renaissance (see my Golden Age of Bicycling post for more background) entering a kind of Dionysian-type decline, whereby the luxurious aspects of this utilitarian machine are fetishized to an unhealthy degree?

Or,

Are these kind of commercial ventures simply utopian celebrations of modern bicycle culture’s still-to-come zenith?

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Featured Comment by Hassan-I-Sabbah: “As I understand, Dionysus is associated with the chaotic beginnings of creativity not the eventual decadence and hedonism (for which I would ascribe the great god Pan).”

Rapha's espresso bar

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La Marzocco

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July 26th, 2011 at 8:20 pm

Random Images……Tucson’s Monsoon season has arrived!

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What is a Monsoon?

The word monsoon is derived from the Arabic word mausim, which means season. Traders plying the waters off the Arabian and Indian coasts noted for centuries that dry northeast winds in the winter suddenly turn to the southwest during the summer, and bring beneficial yet torrential rains to the Asian subcontinent.

Supposedly, it’s so hot in this desert that moist air from the distant Sea of Cortez is sucked inland and becomes rain here in Tucson.

However, I prefer to believe that it is San Juan Bautista (St. John the Baptist), patron saint of water, answering the Spanish explorer, Francisco Vasquez Coronado‘s sincere prayers.

I scrambled up onto my roof as the clouds were darkening to get these pictures.

The National Weather Service reports 1.6 inches of rainfall so far this month.

I estimate that this evening’s storm dumped another 0.25 to 0.50 inches (I just avoided getting caught in the deluge bicycling back from the grocery store) bringing July’s total to around 2 inches.

The wettest July on record: 6.24 inches in 1921.

Gracias, St. John!

Nathan

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July 24th, 2011 at 10:46 pm

On the Road……Pacific Coast, Highway One (revisited)

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I suppose I miss living near the ocean because I recently found myself looking through these photos from a memorable one-day trip down Highway One to Santa Cruz made in the summer of ’09.

My brother rode a classic Trek with city bars (see the final image below) and I rode my quasi-touring Ebisu, fitted with some snazzy Nishiki front pannier bags that I found on Ebay.

The photos are a couple years old, but looking at them gives me so much pleasure that I’ve decided to post them anyhow (and give them a nostalgic vignetting to account for their age).

Food and coffee stop…yum yum!

No bike lane; no shoulder; no looking down!

View to the northwest…the continent ends.

This is the last place. There is nowhere else to go.
Human movements,
but for a few,
are Westerly.

Lew Welch

More food; more coffee.

 

Nathan

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July 23rd, 2011 at 8:16 pm

Posted in BICYCLING CALIFORNIA

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Biking Culture……Bill Cuningham: “He who seeks beauty shall find it.”

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Bill Cunningham New York is a fascinating film about an 80-something-year-old man who bicycles around Manhattan and takes pictures of street fashion for his column in The New York Times.

He’s been doing this for nearly a half-century (with 28 bikes stolen) while living a monk-like existence in what is, essentially, a closet above Carnegie Hall with no kitchen and no bathroom.

He has no apparent interest in the superficial aspects of haute couture. The famous people who court him hold no power over him (he won’t even accept a glass of water from the hosts when shooting a high society gala event). Despite this simple, down-to-earth demeanor, Cunningham is a complex character and his deeper philosophy is suggested by what is perhaps the most famous quote of his from the film:

The wider world perceives fashion as a frivolity that should be done away with. The point is fashion is the armor to survive the reality of everyday life. I don’t think you can do away with it. It would be like doing away with civilization.

And when honored with the Officier de l’ordre des Arts et des Lettres by the French Ministry of Culture in Paris he tearfully reminds us that: “He who seeks beauty shall find it.” At that moment we, the audience, are aware that this is the larger purpose to which Cunningham has dedicated his life.

I enjoyed the film because of its depiction of this individual’s extraordinary humanity and because it was great fun to see him trundle around NYC taking photographs on his bicycle.

I’m not particularly interested in fashion, but I thought this was a spectacular film about a true artist.

This is one of his weekly ‘On the Street’ videos exploring NYC’s version of Ciclovia (note: I wrote about San Francisco’s version of this event here; Tucson has its own Cyclovia too).

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July 19th, 2011 at 8:59 pm

Posted in BIKING CULTURE

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Espresso Review……Il Gelato Naturale! Allegro, on Campbell and 6th

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My first “espresso review” since moving to Tucson is actually a “gelato review.”

Regular readers will know I adore my hand-crafted, Italian-built Guerciotti racing bike so a love of Italian gelato is to be expected.

The best gelato is differentiated from typical American ice cream by its:

  1. more intense flavors;
  2. velvety texture;
  3. lower fat content; and,
  4. small batch production methods.

You can call anything an “espresso” or a “gelato,” but the real thing requires the finest and freshest ingredients and an artisan’s touch.

So how is Allegro?

I didn’t interview the staff about their production methods because they were so busy when I dropped by, but based on taste I give them a solid 5 (out of 5) stars.

Allegro promotes its use of organic, fresh, seasonal ingredients. They offer about 20 flavors including novel ones such as (1) pineapple-basil, (2) cardamom, and (3) saffron. Their menu also includes seasonal sorbets such as (1) lemon, (2) peach, and (3) boysenberry.  All these flavors are made with fresh fruits and spices!

Btw, I see from Allegro’s facebook page they will have a fig sorbet coming up. I really dig figs so I’ll be back to try this!

If it isn’t already clear, this place is definitely worth a visit if you need a gelato fix.

Oh, there’s also indoor and outdoor seating and…wait for itbike parking right in front.

Nathan

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July 18th, 2011 at 8:33 pm

On the Road……Near UC Berkeley campus on Bancroft Avenue

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Another picture of my traveling companion.

From here, I rode to the dowtown Berkeley BART station, folded up the Brompton, and took the train to the SF airport. At the airport, I repeated my successful gate checking of the Brompton.

Without a doubt, this little British folding bike helped make a great trip even better.

Nathan

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July 15th, 2011 at 10:10 pm

Posted in BICYCLING CALIFORNIA

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On the Road……Jitensha Studio, Berkeley CA

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Jitensha Studio projects a humble store front, yet inside Hiroshi Iimura — a modern bicycle constructeur — creates some of the most beautiful, functional, and harmoniously integrated bicycles I’ve ever seen.

A constructeur (as opposed to a framebuilder) assumes a holistic approach to bicycle creation. The constructeur integrates lighting, fenders, racks, and pannier bags; and, simultaneously, balances the bicycle’s intended use with its frame geometry, tire size, clearances, and a myriad of other choices, e.g., stem length, handlebar width, chain ring sizes, saddle and peddle type, etc., etc.

The most famous constructeurs of the 20th century were Rene Herse and Alex Singer, both from France. Hiroshi Iimura reflects this tradition.

I love this quote from Hiroshi published in a 2006 New York Times profile: “If a customer wants a component that is not to my taste, I refuse…I have to satisfy my own tastes first.”

Jitensha Studios, Berkeley, CA

Unfortunately, Hiroshi’s shop was closed the afternoon I was in Berkeley so I missed the chance to say hello. Although, I suspect he gets tired of people dropping by to say hello since he always seems to have a bicycle project or three in the works.

Jitensha Studio, Berkeley, CA

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[Full disclosure: I own one of Hiroshi''s production Ebisu 650B models]

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July 12th, 2011 at 9:39 pm

On the Road……Jorg & Olif Dutch commuter bike spotted in SF

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A beautiful Jorg & Olif internally geared 8-speed with chain and skirt guards, rear rack, wicker basket, sprung saddle, double kick-stand, and a front generator light. The rider says she frequently commutes to work in the financial district on this classic ride.

It’s hard to say which is lovelier the bicycle or the rider?…I have to say — it’s the rider :)

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July 11th, 2011 at 7:35 pm

On the Road……San Francsico’s Marina District

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The next few posts will contain more images from my short trip to SF with my Brompton folding bicycle.

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The SMART car and the Brompton make a good couple in a dense, urban city like San Francisco.

The Brompton fits snugly (from hatch-back door to seats), but rather perfectly in the Smart car’s tiny, cargo area.

As E.F. Schumacher wrote, “Small is Beautiful.

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July 9th, 2011 at 8:24 pm

On the Road……Brompton along the Waterfront

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I’ve positioned the Brompton just north of Pier 1 and the Ferry Plaza (which boasts a good Saturday morning farmer’s market) with the western span of the Bay Bridge and Yerba Buena Island faintly visible in the background. It’s still early in the morning and there are few people around.

A new, eastern span of the bridge will open to automobile traffic in 2013 with a dedicated bike path (costing a cool $100 million) soon to follow. However, the western span (seen above) will still lack bicycle access.

Here’s an article with more details about this massive planning project. If you’re interested in getting involved in local bicycle advocacy issues, I’m sure these organizations would love to hear from you:

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July 6th, 2011 at 10:20 pm

On the Road……Travelling with my Brompton in San Francsico

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For a quick, week-end trip back to the Bay Area I wanted to travel light — no checked bags — just my folding bicycle and a backpack with the goal of leaving the airport via bike.

Last time I flew with the Brompton, I checked it as baggage. However, I had to deal with a giant, hard-shell suitcase once arriving at my destination.

So this time I tried a different approach: I brought the bike through security, put it on the x-ray machine’s conveyor belt, and gate checked it at the last minute like you would a child’s stroller.

The plan, which included carrying my back-pack on-board as a carry-on, worked perfectly.

The Brompton doubles as a luggage roller (albeit a tippy one) as you can see in the picture, made outside the Embarcadaro BART station early on a Saturday morning after my arrival from the airport.

At this point, I was able to easily ride to the Marina district where I was staying as well as make my way multi-modally (can I use this in adjective form?) to other appointments in both Marin and Berkeley.

End note: There is a solution to the Brompton suitcase dilemma which requires packing a portable, folding trailer. Here’s a chap elegantly demonstrating this option in a video in which he unpacks, assembles, and rides out of the Copenhagen airport on a Brompton with his luggage in tow.

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July 5th, 2011 at 8:51 pm

Bicycling Culture……Le Tour de France

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In honor of Day 1 — a few videos:

The first is a short history of the race highlighting many of its famous victors: Anquetil, Coppi, Hinault, Merckx, Armstrong, and my favorite Lemond.

The second video gives an idea of what this race looked like in the early days (the death defying descent at the 11 second mark is remarkable).

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July 2nd, 2011 at 9:50 pm

Posted in BIKING CULTURE

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On the Road……Busted by Pima County Sheriff, Catalina Highway

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I consider myself a very safe and considerate bicyclist, but I do practice the Idaho Stop Law when conditions permit such as:

  1. being outside the Tucson city limits;
  2. surrounded by desert; and,
  3. having clear lines of sight in all directions!

But this Pima County Sheriff was not buying my defense. In fact, I was given no warning and was issued a $200 citation for failure to stop at a stop sign, which he told me, carried the full automobile DMV points and insurance implications as though I had been operating an automobile.

Later, I found out the City of Tucson has a re-education program for scofflaws like me (which will wipe away the infraction)…I’m scheduled to attend this bicycle safety course next week-end.

For the record, this is the second time something like this has happened to me. I wrote about the first time here.

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July 2nd, 2011 at 9:08 pm

Posted in BICYCLING ARIZONA

On the Road……Still Descending AZ’s Catalina Highway

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Descending the Catalina highway toward Tucson.

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With about 10-12 miles of downhill miles remaining, I’m feeling pretty good about the day.

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July 1st, 2011 at 11:01 pm