Sunday, January 27, 2008

Slow Truly Defined

A week ago, I went out east and rode Hawes, etc. with a group of riders in much better shape than me. I warned them that I would be slow and, if they wanted to drop me I'd ride alone and maybe see them back at the parking lot. Turned out they were kind enough to wait for me at trail intersections and avoid comments like, "Godamn, you are the slowest sumbitch in the valley!"

I really felt slower than usual too. I had donated blood during the prior week and was in the second day of a headcold. I took some stopyourrunnynose pills and figured riding might actually help clear things up. Didn't, sucked.

Hawes is a very cool trail area. I rode it once in the early fall when the temp was about 100, and I was looking forward to the ride in cooler weather. I have only been there twice now, because its 50 miles from my apartment and I'm not a big fan of burning a lot of gas to ride my bike. Feels like it kind of defeats the purpose.

Speaking of apartments and driving to ride, I am moving to a new apartment that is about a mile from the 32nd St trailhead at Phoenix Mtn Preserve. The reason for the move is mostly economic (not a fan of paying almost $900/month for a 1 bdrm w/dumpster view), but my sweetheart says. "Its all about the bike." Actually, its all about the biking. Big difference.
Anyway, its temporary. When the house in Kansas sells and we make the big move, the location will be based more on politics and volunteerism than biking, but that's a story for later.

Thursday, January 17, 2008

Random Nations - Nothing yet

I haven't really given it much time, but so far, no hits from the countries names in the last post. Anyway, my 4:45 alarm went off and I had every intention of hopping on the bike and getting in the pre-work spin in Thunderbird Park. I could hear the wind blowing and knew the temp was supposed to be around 36, which is pretty cold for 'nix. I wimped out and reset the alarm for 6.

Feeling kinda like a slug for skipping the o-dark-early, I hopped on the bike when I got home at 6:45. Now, I know T-Bird closes at "Dusk", but when I got to the gate at 7 it was wide open, so in I rode. Hit the loop around the south side and made the usual climbs. At the top of the last hill, I shut off the headlight and enjoyed the fresh air and view. When I turned the bike around to head down and back to the 67th Ave gate, I saw the flashing lights and thought, "I wonder if they just chase stragglers out or ticket them." Not really wanting to find out the hard way, I left the headlight off and killed the flashing tail light. Still, wearing a hi-viz green windbreaker with reflective piping, I doubt I was invisible. Anyway, with my eyes used to the dark and being familiar with the trail, I rode down with lights off. There was a half moon high in the sky and visibility was actually pretty good. Anyway, got down the hill in one piece. As you approach the 67th Ave gate from the south, there's a small hill to climb, then a gradual drop out of the park. Again, not wanting to find out about tickets, fines, Maricopa County Tent City Jail, etc. I crept up the hill, keeping an eye out for flashing light. No sign of them. Quick, out the exit gate! Felt like being a teenager again.

Wednesday, January 16, 2008

More Analytics

Checking Google Analytics today, I noticed that an obviously very bored Finn from Kuopio stumbled accross this inane blog. It reminds me of ham radio operators who scan the airwaves hoping to make contact with anyone they can reach. Google gives a dashboard with dots pointing to the places that hit the web page. Makes me wonder, if I name some countries randomly, will folks from them stumble across the page?

Let's try it: Scotland Argentina Kenya Iran Denmark

I'll post a note if I get hits from any of the above countries.

Monday, January 14, 2008


Back in November, Sean came down to Phoenix for a few days to visit and ride. While he was here, he showed me Google Analytics. I dinked around with it and got it working, generating statistics about my pretty darned boring blog. Its interesting to check it every few days and see how, among the billions of people in the world, there are only 5 or 6 per day who are so misguided or plainly lost that they end up glancing at the miscellaneous ramblings of a fat, middle aged (if I live to be 112) non-competitive mountain biker.

I thought it was pretty cool when I saw that my blog had its first international visitor - some poor bloke from Sydney Australia who probably stumbled onto the page after I made reference to the Estrella Yacht Club. The EYC is absolutely one of the silliest things I have seen in Arizona. I guess they had to name it something important sounding. After all, who would join the Estrella Dinghy Club? I might, but I wouldn't want to belong to a club that would have me as a member.

Google Analytics is a fun diversion. It reminds me of the end of one of the Muppet movies. While the credits were rolling, one of the characters asked if anyone ever reads the credits. To which Kermit replied, "Sure, they've all got families."

Sunday, January 13, 2008

First Blood '08

It kind of reminds me of movie titles that qualify as oxymorons, you know them as well. How about "Death Wish II"? Shouldn't "Death Wish" have been the end of it? Then there's "Final Destination II" & III. The first "Final Destination" wasn't really final, I guess.

Anyway, I was working my way up a relatively steep and very rocky side hill in the Phoenix Mtn Preserve and manages to get a little crossways. Instead of dropping my feet and starting over, I tried to ride it out. Didn't work so well, Klein went off the embankment and I went for the high side of the trail. Managed to land knee first. Took a couple of minutes to pick the rocks out from under the skin, recover the bike and continue. Unfortunately, the picture wasn't very dramatic. No blood running down to the socks, no need for stitches....

Sorry I couldn't make it more interesting.

The weather today was awesome. Topped out at 67. Other than the brown cloud over the valley, the sky was clear and it was a great day to be outside. I took a couple shots in the Preserves because the desert is very pretty right now.

Piestawa Peak from the NE

Ocotillo leafing out. I didn't know until recently that Ocotillo leafs out several times each year. When I first saw this cactus in August, it was really impressive. A month or so later every one I saw looked dead. I wasn't expecting it to green up again until summer. Fortunately, the Desert Botanical Garden answers a lot of those questions.

In all, this was one of the best weekends for riding in Phoenix since I moved here. I put in about 20 miles over the two days and enjoyed it a lot.

Sean gave me a polyester jersey for my B'day, but it hasn't been warm enough lately to try it out. Polyester - yeah, the same stuff they made leisure suits out of in the '70s. No, I never owned a leisure suit (but grandpa did and wore it well into the '90s). The jersey works great, wicks sweat and stays dry. Interstingly, I ran it through the washer and hung it to dry while all the cotton stuff tumbled. By the time the dryer stopped, the jersey was already dry. I'm sure it wouldn't have dried that quick in other places, but this is Phoenix. Thanks Sean.

Saturday, January 12, 2008

Fantasy Island North

One riding area I'd heard and read about but hadn't tried is Fantasy Island North. Apparently named after Tucson's Fantasy Island (which I also have not ridden), it sounded like an interesting place. I have a thing about driving a bunch of miles to ride my bike, so I tend not to go not much further than the Phoenix Mtn Preserves. FINS, being 34 miles from my apartment, seemed like a lot of dino juice for another ride. The route passes through Goodyear, then into another of those weird housing developments on the outskirts of the metro area where nobody lives without 1 or 2 SUVs. Estrella Mountain Ranch. I was most impressed by the Yacht Club.

Who are they trying to kid? The "Yacht Club" sits on a man made lake that can't be much more than 10-15 acres. I wouldn't drag my 13 ft. sailboat to a lake like that. I can picture a table of old salts sitting aroud at the Estrella Ranch Yacht Club in their watch caps and peacoats, smoking their scrimshaw pipes and spinning yarns about the gale of '06, clawing off the lee shore of the pond, and fearing that the mighty swell would wash them ashore NNW of the 15th hole.

Sorry, but Yacht clubs in the desert are a bit incongruous.

Back to FINS. You park at the nearby grade school and ride about 1/2 mile to the start of the trails. And a great set of trails they are. The folks that built them put a lot of thought and hard work into them. Lots of narrow, winding singletrack with whoop-dee-doos, climbs and descents. This is a trail system that would interfere with my life if it was close to home. I'd be out there every day for hours while the mortgage didn't get paid and the family starved.

I rode for about 3 hours and only did a little bit of backtracking or repeats. I think I covered about 90% of the trail system and had a ball.

Riding an aluminum hardtail in Phoenix presents some challenges, and my old Klein hardtail is very rigid. It has an old Judy XC fork that I modified a bit because of my weight. The fork has no more than about 50 mm of travel. FINS was built for this bike. I'm certain the trail builders figured that sooner or later some geezer would show up on a bike like mine and the trail would need to have some flow. Thanks guys. The geezer showed up and loved it.

As Sean calls it, "Gratuitous bike porn shot."

Monday, January 7, 2008

Shaping up after Christmas

My Honey came into town for the holidays and stayed for about 2 weeks. Since we don't get to see a lot of each other while she's trying to sell the house in Kansas, I got on the bike only once during her visit. I was afraid that it would take at least 2 weeks to get back to my early December condition. Mind you, my early December condition wasn't all that great, but I was riding 5 days a week and getting in about 40 miles of trail.

My first day on the bike was an O-dark-early Thunderbird Park ride, my usual weekday loop. It didn't bode well, and I was thinking it would be a tough weekend.

Saturday, I rode the North Mtn Preserve, covering about 7 1/2 miles. Started at the visitors Center and rode northwest. I tried a couple of trails that petered out near a church, then worked my way back around toward the southwest ti the area around the T100 7th Ave trailhead. On the way back east, I found a trail leading southeast to overlook 7th St. That trail tied into a paved road that appears to be used for hiking. From there, I backtracked and made it back to the visitors center just as the rain started.

On Sunday, I rode out of Dreamy Draw and put in about 8 miles on trails between there and Tatum. On one trail that follows a hillside north of T100 and somewhere around 40th St, I came across the work of some rock fairies. A pile of rocks, about 5-10 pounds each was stacked on the trail next to a boulder and partially blocking the trail. It would have been easy to hop over, but I stopped and removed them. It was obvious that the rocks didn't end up there from erosion, too many of the same size in one spot and not enough anywhere nearby. I'd heard that the rock fairies leave their marks on that trail, but hadn't seen the result before.

In all, I was relieved that I didn't suck as bad as I expected, but Tinker Juarez still has no need to worry about me.