25 July 2014

Slow ride with flowers

This morning I reattached the Surly Nice Rear rack to the Pugsley and loaded up one of our big JANDD trunk-bags with my tools and tubes so I could wear my Cotton Carrier camera vest and carry my D40 on my ride today instead of my Camelback hydration pack.

These days I always have my iPhone with me when I'm out.  And, because it takes such nice pictures, I hardly ever take my Nikon on rides any more.  The iPhone is undeniably a fine lightweight camera, especially with an Olloclip lens attached, but it will never compare to a DSLR with a 50mm f/1.8 lens.

Looking even dorkier than usual, I stuffed a full water bottle in the Pugsley's one cage, rode really slow, stopped a bunch and took a lot of pictures of flowers.

It was a beautiful morning for it.





















14 July 2014

Be not afraid

Yesterday, as we pulled the tandem off the trail at one of our well-established top-of-the-ride snack-stops, my daughter noticed a young horned lizard darting through the duff and detritus nearby.

"Look, daddy!  A lizard!" she shouted.

"Catch it!" I proposed.  And, after a brief chase, she did, cupping her hands gently over the tiny beast and bringing it back for me to admire.  I was pleased to see how confidently she pursued and caught it, and also with how tenderly she handled it while it was in her grasp.

She's a woods-kid, always has been.  She took her first steps there, long ago, and her first stumbles, too.  She has no qualms about being out in it far from home, riding its trails, climbing its rocks, naming its flowers, sleeping beneath its stars, and returning home badged in the blood it has let from her hands and knees, richly adorned with its dust and mud.

As she set the lizard back down in a tuft of gramma grass she asked, "Can we have a snack now?"  I always have a small bag of Panda black licorice chews in my pack, and as I opened the bag to pour a few pieces into her hand I said,  "Wipe your hands off on your shirt first."

"Why?" she asked, a little surprised.  We always eat our mid-ride snack with dirty bike-hands and gloves.

"Well, reptiles like lizards and snakes can sometimes carry infectious diseases.  Remember, last time we handled the snakes at the Arboretum?  We sanitized our hands right after.  Same reason."

"Can you die from them?"  she asked, a worried tone, which I've been hearing with increasing regularity lately, now evident in her voice.

"No, not really.  I guess they can make you pretty sick if you're not careful," I told her.  "But you don't need to worry; we just need to be smart and do what we can to minimize our risk.  So, in this case, we'll take off our gloves and wipe our hands really good on our shirts before we eat our snack.  No big deal."

She accepted my explanation, wiped her hands on her shirt, and I poured a few chews from the bag into her hand.  As we ate, we talked.

I think she's been on the periphery of too much tragedy for her nine years, and that it is this fact that is at the root of much of her burgeoning worry and concern about illness and death.  I was at least ten before I ever knew anyone who'd died, and when it happened it threw me for a pretty good loop.   Her case is quite different.  She's borne witness to a lot more tragedy than I had at her tender age.  In the past few years we've grieved together over the (unrelated but equally tragic deaths) of both a well-known mother (of hantavirus) and father (of drowning) among our community of friends and coworkers, as well as the unexpected death of a student at my school, and of two of our friends' teenaged sons (one due to texting-while-driving and the other, most recently, from an accidental mixture of drugs and alcohol).  And, just before the holiday season last year, we endured the more timely but nevertheless tearful passing of her awesome 97-year-old great-grandma, Lala.

That's a lot of sadness for anyone to witness in a short period of time.  When you're nine, I think it's probably overwhelming.

"I don't want you to grow up to be a worrier, like me," I told her.  "Bad stuff happens, like sickness and death, and you've seen a lot of that.  I'm sorry you've seen so much.  Even still, I want you to be bold and courageous, and not frightened or filled with worry as you grow up.  I want you to be wise, too... and also to be able to be cautious, when caution is necessary.  It's good to know what the risks are.  But just because there are risks, that doesn't mean you can't or shouldn't take the risk.  Remember what C.S. Lewis said: usually the best things we do in life scare us to death.

"Just don't be a worrier.  It's a handicap that you put on yourself; I know, I've always been that way.  But, I think if we can learn to be smart and careful when we need to be, then we won't need to be fearful and worry so often.  Ya know?"

She nodded and was quiet for a little while.

Then she changed the subject, "Can I have the tandem when I grow up, so that I can take my kids on rides like this?" she asked.

10 May 2014

Run What Ya Brung

Way back when, when I was just a kid, we did lots of cool stuff with my dad.

Before we were old enough to ride our own motorcycles, my dad would take all of us, me, my two little brothers and himself, all over the Prescott National Forest riding four-abreast on his putt-putt 1960-something Honda Trail 90, to see extinguished forest fires, explore abandoned rail-beds, count ladybugs at the Potato Patch, drop rocks down deep-dark mine-shafts, crawl cautiously into abandoned adits, and swim in lakes or secret deep pockets only we knew of along the Rich Gulch creek.  We didn't wear helmets in those days, heck no!  But the Honda wasn't geared to go over about 20 miles an hour.  

We sure had a great time!

On Saturdays when we weren't at our cabin near Prescott, he'd often take us out to the desert to shoot guns or launch model rockets.  Sometimes both!

Now and then, we'd drive out past the orange groves and the cotton fields on the Pima Indian reservation to the Beeline Dragway so we could watch Big Daddy Don Garlits race his dragster, or privateers race their Camaros and Corvettes in the Run What Ya Brung races 

Once we even got to watch Evel Knievel jump a bunch of cars and trucks.  And he made it, too, ramp to ramp, no terrible crash!  No kidding.  How many times did that happen?

Almost never, I think.  

I always marvel when I find a discarded pedal-reflector way out in the woods on some remote trail, like the one I rode past this afternoon up on the AZ Trail.  I can't help but imagine the person who was riding the bike that shed this small plastic piece... probably something super-heavy from Walmart or Target, seat too low; the guy riding it is wearing denim shorts and sneakers, no helmet or gloves, a sweaty T-shirt, grinning from ear-to-ear... up to the point when his pedal, the one he was dragging at the bottom of its stroke, came down hard enough on a rock to dislodge one of the plastic reflectors on his flat, nylon pedals and, likewise, at least momentarily, to displace his smile, replacing it with a look of confusion and panic.

You see these folks out in the woods now and then, they're always in way over their head on the wrong bike, nevertheless sometimes, somehow, they're still having a ball, loving both the woods and the ride.

I'm always stoked to see them, especially when they're smiling, despite my concern for their well-being and the liability they present.  Because I know, some of them are going to get bitten by the bug and they are going change, metamorphose, fledge one day soon into real mountain bikers.

I've seen it happen many times before.  That first ride on a big, awkward, major-turd of a Walmart bike is sometimes all it takes.  After that ride there can be no turning back.  No matter the crappy bike and the lack of gear.  Bam!  You get it.  You're a mountain biker.

Others, well, they aren't so fortunate, because this ride goes terribly wrong.  There are no epiphanies, no moments of revelation.  Just hatred.  And resentment.  A commitment to Never Again.

These will not become mountain bikers.

But for those who will, the bike did not matter.  Not at all.  They run what they brung.  And it made sense.  There was an audible click. It was good.  

Real good!

There's beauty in that.

27 April 2014

First Tracks

Saw not a soul on my ride today

The day after a cold, late-April storm

There was bright sun

There were first tracks

31 March 2014


Wie Wasser von Klippe Zu Klippe geworfen 
Jahrlang in's Ungewisse hinab.
Though I always envied them and their well-coordinated ways, I was never a sports-kid growing up. I never played Little League or Pop Warner, and the truth is I really didn't want to.  I knew from the school playground that I lacked the innate abilities my friends possessed to catch and run and tackle and all else that was required to play ball-sports with finesse.  

But I've always loved to sing.  And it's my good fortune that many of my teachers recognized my passion for singing from an early age.  Despite the fact that my voice is neither golden nor unique, in lieu of membership on seasonal sports teams I have always felt at home as a member of a choir or an ensemble of singers.  I've been able to find interesting groups with which to sing pretty consistently throughout my life. 

Until quite recently I sang for several years with a small ensemble at our church.  It was also my great pleasure to sing for many years with the Master Chorale of Flagstaff.
Like water from thrown down from cliff to cliff forever,
Destined to disappear below.

We had the chance to learn and perform a number of great choral master-works during my time with the Chorale including Poulenc's Gloria, Bernstein's Chichester Psalms, Beethoven's Symphony No. 9, and Brahms' Schicksalslied (to which I am listening as I write).  

The Schicksalslied (Song of Destiny) is an especially awesome, evocative piece of music, and it springs to my mind often when I am out riding, especially whenever I am in the vicinity of streams of flowing water, as I was this past Sunday morning. 

I don't speak German, but I love the line Wie Wasser von Klippe Zu Klippe geworfen, Jaharlang in's Ungewisse hinab which I think literally means: like water thrown down from cliff to cliff forever, destined to disappear below

The Schicksalslied is an amazingly powerful and enchanting work to sing and the memory of rehearsing and performing it is seared into my mind. It will forever remain one of the high-points of my choral lifetime as well as an essential earworm while riding.

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