22 December 2012

Archival footage: The cleft of the rock

The following post was originally published at FlagstaffBiking.org on August 14, 2004.

You now know that it takes at least 30 minutes for rain to run down Mount Elden... and that in that time it will gather and regather until it rushes out the bottom in a series of tall cascades... and that it comes on with a roar like a train before it fills the dry wash nearby with a foot of new water.

You note that no matter what its form, you are nearly always impressed by the action and presence of water.  And you're sure, because there is a little spring nearby, that you're not the first to see these magnificent effemeral falls... the Eldens probably saw them every summer... others too most likely.

08 December 2012

Wild Turkey

Here's how close I am to being done with everything:

  • Last Saturday I met with my school-administrator cohort group (a more-excellent team you will not find, by the way) and together we presented our School Improvement Plan to the rest of the folks in our The Principalship class at NAU, thus completing my last class in this too-long, 18-month process working toward a real administrative certificate.
  • This Monday scores are supposed to be released for the 8-hour-long Arizona school-administrator professional knowledge test that I took back in November. Assuming I passed it, this test will allow me to apply to the state for a real administrative certificate.
  • Also on Monday, I meet with my university supervisor to review the components and outcomes of my administrative internship, which I've also been doing this semester, mostly all by myself, with my superintendent technically serving as my cooperating-administrator-of-record.  Assuming my supervisor elects to promote me, NAU will give me an Institutional Recommendation, which is the second piece I require in order to apply for a real administrative certificate with the state.
Today, to celebrate the almost-doneness of all this, I went for a ride.  My first real ride in a fortnight.  I had some surgery about two weeks ago, on my forehead, so I've not been allowed to wear my helmet while it healed.  

It's healing well.  

So today, to revel in both my almost-healedness and -doneness, I rode.  Only 13 miles.  And, man, was I slow.  But it was great to be out, freed from the things that have so recently fully-ensnared my disposable time.

Turkey (plural)
I saw a rafter of wild turkeys on Elden Look-out Road today.  Had to be at least 15 of them, maybe more.  Easily the largest gathering of such birds I've ever seen during my 20+ years of traveling about in these woods.  I stopped to take a picture of them, but they really were much too far away...

Chief among my goals for today's ride, second perhaps to just getting-out to ride, period, was snow.  It's been a dry month or so in these parts, which is a significant amount of time between snowfalls this time of the year, enough to have to worriers worrying and the scoffers scoffing.  But I figured there might still be a little snow left in the shady spots on Red Onion and Upper Brookbank, and certainly some half-way down Weenie's Walk, where there's always a little left-over snow, even after all the other snow in the area has gone away.

And there was!  Not a lot.  And scary-icy at speed.  But I'll take it, even if that's all there is to take.  Because it's the 8th of December. And a body ought to be able to enjoy some snow on the 8th of December, one way or another.

Better than a trip to the ice rink to play in the Zamboni-pile. And waaaay better than homework.

18 November 2012

Archival Footage: Concrete is an aggregate

The following post was originally published at FlagstaffBiking.org on September 27, 2003.

Each ride brings revelation; this ride brings two.

“Concrete is an aggregate,” my father would say. “Cement is an ingredient.”

It took me years to learn to recall this correctly.

To this day: refer to concrete as cement in my father’s presence, and prepare to be corrected. Likewise, when hanging around his workshop, don’t call a motor an engine; know the difference.

My dad suffered-long my childish mechanical ineptitudes. He tried to teach me to be a Man. I remember being instructed in the use of hammers, saws, lawn- and power-tools. I remember participating along side him on dozens of projects. But I also remember him saying, “Here, give me that; just do it like this,” and then sighing “John, that’s not how I showed you how to do it.”  He was patient while coping with my innate inabilities, but he was also, by training, compelled to make sure the task got done right.

12 November 2012

No base but dirt

If Facebook is to be believed, it sounds like most of my friends went to Sedona to ride this weekend. I can understand that.  It's cold here.  And Sedona's always rad.  And warm.  Nevertheless I chose to stay put and ride local, in our first-snow.

For the record, in my opinion, the snow-riding conditions were ideal: 1-3" of fresh, and no base but dirt.

I feel so alive in winter.

11 November 2012

Raccoon Tracks

Today on our walk we followed raccoon tracks in the snow.

04 November 2012

Our little nerd-girl (Love this kid)

When I asked my daughter if she wanted to ride the tandem with me this morning she said, "Well, I was going to play with my friends. But sure, okay!"  I was pleased that the prospect of riding with me on the tandem ranked higher on the fun-scale than running around the neighborhood with her girl-pals... at least for today.

But, a little bit later, as we pedaled away from the house together, my heart quite simply brimmed over with happiness when she asked, so knowledgeably, "Can we ride up Schultz to Onceler and then do Moto and Easter Island?"

Our little nerd-girl (the one who loves Star Wars; who's reading Harry Potter book 5 now; who digs musical theater) knows the trails. And loves them. Has her favorites and plans a route to include them in her ride.  Wow.

We could not have picked out a kid more well-suited to us if we'd placed a special-order for her at The Kid Store.

Love this kid.

02 November 2012

Archival Footage: Old Brown Shoes

The following post was originally published at FlagstaffBiking.org on May 10, 2003.

I've got an old pair of shoes, a set of simple, brown, eight-eyed Docs, that I’ve been wearing regularly, almost daily, for nearly ten years; I’ve never owned more useful footwear. I wear them to work several times a week.

I wear them when I'm working around the house.

I wear them when I ride Pipeline, Elden Spring, and Forces Of Nature home on my awkward Bianchi Incline commuter bike.

23 September 2012

Rock Stacking

Call it what you will, stone-balancing, rock-balancing, or rock-stacking (which is the term we prefer), my daughter and I enjoyed a few peaceful minutes together reconfiguring our front yard into a marvelous stone garden of balanced rocks this afternoon.  Just for fun (I really enjoy stacking rocks). And also because, unless decorated with fresh rock-stacks now and then, I tend to otherwise totally despise our crushed pink granite "lawn" due to its natural ugliness.

17 September 2012

Camper van BETOVN

I've been to two Camper shows in my life. The same for Cracker. David Lowrey, lead for both bands, is, 100%, one of the best acts going, no matter who he's playing with.

I didn't buy a camper-van so I could name it Beethoven.  But, as a fan, once I had one, it seemed the most logical choice.

To be honest with you, I was a more than a little shocked (and likewise just as disappointed) to find the vanity plate BETOVN hadn't been taken already.

What makes Camper great?  Songs like this:
 My little dog Lassie packed her bags and went out onto the porch
Her golden fur glistened in that sunny blue backdrop sky of Kansas
Before her stretched majestic wheat fields and over to that great city to the west
Lassie knew she had the duty to serve the youth of America and the stars above
The day
the day
That was the day that Lassie went to the moon

What makes a camper-van so great?  Pretty much everything.

We often refer to it as our back-up-plan (BKUPPLN was our second choice for vanity plate).  And so it is.

camper van BETOVN
Camper Van Beethoven

16 September 2012

More Glue Than Shoe

If I could afford shoes now
at the end of the summer-season
would probably be a good time to invest in a new pair.
My bike-riding shoes are probably six years old and
have been fixed and patched and mended too-many times.
The soles are cooked near-through
So are the cleats.
They are more glue than shoe.

14 September 2012

Archival footage: A foolish consistency

The following post was originally published at FlagstaffBiking.org on October 19, 2003.

What was it Emerson said?

“A foolish consistency is the hobgoblin of little minds,” right?

In the morning, the whole of Las Vegas looks a little bit guilty – from the tops of the towering theme hotels to the porn-choked gutters and drunk-trampled flower beds – the tourists still out roaming aimlessly after sun-up, even the smoggy-gray cloudless skies seem to wear the same expression, as if asking, wordlessly, “What the heck did we do last night?”

09 September 2012

Archival footage: Wheels changed me

The following post was originally published in July 2003 at FlagstaffBiking.org.

I only-half-jokingly tell my students at the beginning of each school year, while we’re all still taking the time to get to know one another, that I am genetically incapable of playing any sport that involves a ball.

While I’m unsure if my indisposition is genuinely genetic, I’m nevertheless quite certain: I’ve never been good at ball-sports, be they played with round or oblong, big or little, hard or soft balls, or should they require throwing, catching, shooting, or carrying said balls. The bottom line: I am a gimp on the ball field.

A reality. But, man, what a difficult, harsh reality to face when you’re ten. I tell my students this at the beginning of each school year for two reasons. The first: to let the gimpy kids know that I am kin, a fellow gimp. Second, to let them know, particularly while they’re still young, that I believe it is possible to outgrow one’s gimpiness (1), but that I didn’t really begin to outgrow my own gimpiness until I found wheels.

Skis came along a little earlier for me, and they helped along the way. This is a trait I’ve found I share with other ball-gimps; skis taught and encouraged the mastery of a coordinated skill-set that didn’t require a ball (2). But skiing is strictly seasonal, making it tough to hang on to, speaking in terms of its boost to a gimp’s self-esteem, throughout the live-long year.

Like most folks, I initially found the wheel in childhood using it as both toy and transport, but gave it up when I got my first car. My personal moment of epiphany, when I truly found the wheel, would wait until I was in my mid-twenties: broke, bored, and ready for change. As an isolated twenty-something new to Flag-town the wheel began to change me. After class, with nothing else to do and bereft of companionship (3), the woods and my cheap-but-capable bike were pretty much the only options I had.

Combining my assets, I began to ride. And the wheels began to change me.

It all sounds rather melodramatic, but for a lifelong ball-gimp, the ability to practice at something athletic and see marked progress, and at times even excel at it, was quite an uncommon experience. I rode. Got better. Made friends that rode. Got better still.

The wheels changed me.

All this might sound like bragging, but it isn’t. Extend a gimp some credit for finding something that worked, that helped him overcome a lifetime of being last-picked, passed over, and benched. Better still, give your own kid a break today and show them an alternative to the ball-oriented caste system that has already been engrained in their self-image; take them for a bike ride. Show them how much bikes matter to you; encourage them to value bikes over cars.

Save your kid from a lifetime of gimpiness: give your kid wheels (4)!


1. Gimpiness in this context should not be misconstrued as being synonymous with geekiness. By definition (mine) gimpiness is a purely situational malady, in many ways akin to being the proverbial fish out of water. Geekiness, on the other hand, is without question a genetic predisposition; it cannot be outgrown, outrun, or outsmarted. It can only be adapted to, to the best of the individual’s ability. I am living proof.

2. At first, like most, I skied alpine-style, fixed-heel boot, parallel turns on groomed corduroy, like everyone else I knew at the time. However, I was always curious and intrigued by the grizzled free-heel Telemark skiers that I would see gracefully making long turns below the lift on occasion. While there was nothing simple about the skills required to master alpine-style skiing, I didn’t really begin to appreciated the real artfulness of skiing until I began to Tele many years later.

3. By choice.  Mostly.

4. In my parent’s defense, they bought me many bikes and took me on many wonderful bike rides throughout my childhood. But, at the end of the day, they saw the bike as a toy, a bike ride as something to do for just for fun. Bikes did not define my parents. To some degree then bikes did not, until much later in my own life, begin to define me.

05 September 2012

Archival footage: Riding a bike is like that

The following post was originally published in November 2003 at FlagstaffBiking.org.

As a writer who often finds inspiration in words written by others, I worry some when it is Freud who lends me his best thought on a subject. I am a little scared of Freud like I am a little scared of Texas; it’s not likely that either can actually hurt me, but based on the little bit I’ve seen of each, they’ve both produced some unusual stuff.

But here it is anyway, my thesis d’jour via le plume de Freud: “Analogies... decide nothing, but they can make one feel more at home.” I think a good analogy is like Play-Do, like Legos, like Hot Wheels cars (and probably Barbie dolls, too); when we were little we played with these things, used them to make-believe and make sense of the world... to imagine what we could then only begin to understand.

Nothing much has changed, except that today, as a grown-up it’s often the bike that helps me understand; I believe the bicycle is perhaps the world’s most-adaptable analogy.

Three examples, chosen from among thousands:

22 August 2012

Archival footage: The Wrong Bike

The following post was originally published in January 2003 at FlagstaffBiking.org.

When I was in grade school I delivered newspapers, The Scottsdale Daily Progress, for 45 minutes after school everyday, plus Saturdays at sun-up, on my 1976 JCPenney bike. Years of demanding daily deliveries took their toll on it. The once-fluorescent orange paint faded to a strange pinkish color, the rear wheel lost any knowledge or recollection of truth, the bars and stem regularly stripped and swung away with little or no notice, and the saddle gave up its vinyl veneer for cheap foam.

But it was, nonetheless, a masterful ride: I could pedal it no-handed for hours, wobbly rear wheel notwithstanding, up driveways and back down, around suburban block after block, rubber-banding each newspaper in succession from a ready supply I kept looped on the handlebars. By design it was a bike ill-suited for newsboy work. But I never considered buying a new rig with my meager profits.

My faded orange JCPenny might have been the wrong bike for the job, but it would always be my bike for the job.

If you often (or exclusively) ride a singlespeed, a fixed gear, a vintage cruiser or maybe even a cyclocross bike, you probably already know: you’re riding the wrong bike. Not the wrong brand. Not the wrong size. Not the wrong vintage. The wrong bike; a bike that’s often not the most ideally suited to the ride you’re on. A bike that is somewhat (if not radically) ill-suited to many of the myriad tasks you demand of it. A bike that will challenge you to meet the landscape with less mechanical or technological advantage; a bike that will occasionally make you hurt, suffer, or cry out in pain and frustration; a bike that will regularly cause others to shake their heads in wonder at your compulsion to so obviously sabotage your innate capabilities. You know it: you’re riding the wrong bike. And that’s just fine with you.

The wrong bike can show you things the right bike is designed to miss, like rocks, hills, and time. The wrong bike can reinstate a sense of challenge and accomplishment where such has been lost. The wrong bike can be a lot of fun to ride. But, if you’re not already riding the wrong bike once in a while, here’s a suggestion: try riding the wrong bike! Do it as often as you like. And as often as you can! Sometime soon, just for grins: choose a ride and a bike that are logically mismatched.

You see: given the right (or wrong!) circumstances, every bike is the wrong bike! Try this: leave your fully suspended demi-motorcycle at home and ride an old rigid bike on your favorite Sedona ride. Take your fixed gear or singlespeed on your fast weekly group ride. Century on anything other than your lightest, fastest road bike. Hop on your vintage cruiser and go on a long, hilly ride off road. Or ride a few of your regular singletrack loops on your ‘cross bike, just after a good snow.

However you choose, whatever you choose... Ride the wrong bike!

20 August 2012

The unforeseen tragedy of the day

Today was a long day.

However, I came home after work and was compelled to smile, finding my wife happily walking the dog down the street, just as the sky began to drizzle.  Such beauty in so mundane a thing.

We drove over the hill together to retrieve our daughter from dance class.  I'm pretty sure I said very little.  Not out of animosity.  From exhaustion.

Once home again, I settled in by myself on the couch in the garage, with my feet propped up on the bumper of the Subie (I'm still so-posed right now), to listen to a little music while I flipped quickly through the new issue of Mountain Gazette, which had arrived in the mail this afternoon.

Instead of flipping aimlessly as I'd planned, I ended up completely engrossed in the editor's excellent three-part article about Ed Abbey and Hunter S. Thompson and read for perhaps 30 minutes, undisturbed, and for a few moments there, completely forgot about the tears and tragedy that had otherwise indelibly marred the day.

You know, I imagine myself as a kind of writer sometimes.  And I'm pleased that my friends at Commute By Bike occasionally give my words a somewhat more public venue, such as they have again today.

But, having now spent most of my day dealing with profound grief and a community's collective sorrow, and subsequently a part of my afternoon being reminded of what good writing really sounds like, and what good writing can really accomplish, my online review of a crate to carry beer bottles, which I'd hope to tout to you today with great fanfare, seems a little trite.

Therefore, with the unforeseen tragedy of the day in mind, and for a guy I didn't really know all that well, but who seemed to me to be a man who, while he lived lived Life with great purpose and vitality, I'd like to pass along a few great words, from another great writer, Henry Thoreau, of which I've been reminded repeatedly today:
"I went to the woods because I wished to live deliberately, to front only the essential facts of life, and see if I could not learn what it had to teach, and not, when I came to die, discover that I had not lived. I did not wish to live what was not life, living is so dear; nor did I wish to practise resignation, unless it was quite necessary.

I wanted to live deep and suck out all the marrow of life, to live so sturdily and Spartan-like as to put to rout all that was not life, to cut a broad swath and shave close, to drive life into a corner, and reduce it to its lowest terms, and, if it proved to be mean, why then to get the whole and genuine meanness of it, and publish its meanness to the world; or if it were sublime, to know it by experience, and be able to give a true account of it in my next excursion. "

05 August 2012

Jerome, Arizona

For no particular reason, we drove down to Jerome and walked around a bit today. 

29 July 2012

Berry Hunting

Oak Creek near Cave Springs
Himalayan Blackberry, Rubus armeniacus

May your trails be crooked, winding, lonesome, dangerous, leading to the most amazing view. -- Ed Abbey