Monthly Archives: May 2016

A Walk Into the Unexpected

So much of nature as he is ignorant of, so much of his own mind does he not yet possess.
–Ralph Waldo Emerson

On Memorial Day weekend Mai and I explored the New Mexico corner of the Colorado Plateau.  A vivid place beneath a steel sky.  Rivers meet and flow past monumental rock formations.  Canyons fall below snowcapped peaks.  Diversity characterizes the landforms, biota and cultures.  These photos are from Angel Peak, Kutz Canyon, Bisti Wilderness, and Aztec Ruins.

Angel pink light

Mai rocks

Silence rules the Bisti Wilderness.  The rock shapes leap out at you and change the way we see the world.  Bisti is dreamlike, opening the senses and awakening the powers of imagination.

Mai in the Bisti scape

Angel dance

Bisti red mounds

Kutz tree overlook

History speaks through these lands.  As Goethe said, if you want to study the ancients, “direct your attention to the real world, and seek to express it, since that did the ancients while they lived.”  The timeless quality contrasts with the  sprawling energy infrastructure.   Wells, roads, transmission lines, pipelines and equipment are rapidly changing the Four Corners landscape.  Diesel generators run all the time in Kutz Canyon, their constant thrum shaking the stillness.  The air quality is a factor, too, with ozone and methane pollution damaging the atmosphere.

Aztec

Angel Peak with tree foreground

Yet this grand and intimate land is still achingly beautiful.  We need more advocates for a more sustainable American West.  A better integration of shared values with an enduring way of life.

Huerfano landscape the country unknown

Angel scene landscape with trees

Mai at sunset day one

The land and people are resilient here.   Instead of increasing landscape fragmentation we can act to keep it whole, embracing the challenge of protecting the ecological health of the land.  From the high plateaus adorned with horses above the San Juan, to the exquisite canyon colors, and mountains reefed with white snows to the north, this place evokes immense gratitude.

Angel purple foreground

Angel waning light

Mai Bisti

“For answers to the question of how to live, you must turn not to the gods, not to history, not to the state or the family, but to nature.”  —Robert D. Richardson, from Emerson on the Creative Process

Resources–Conservation Science Partners quantifies land loss in Disappearing West
Every 2.5 minutes, the American West loses a football field worth of natural area to human development. This project maps a rapidly changing landscape, explores what is being lost, and profiles a new movement for conservation that is gaining ground.”

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Flavors of High Desert Landscape

I’ve cycled up La Luz trail road above Albuquerque lots, but I realized when Mai and I took a walk there yesterday I’ve hardly seen anything.  At first glance it was hot, dry, a vague sea of brown.  But as we crested the first ridge and dropped down into the canyon folds, vistas opened onto a whole new world.  It’s good to take time for a walk and have a look around.

La Luz Yes

La Luz boutique show

La Luz paintbrush flower

La Luz soft thistle

La Luz threaded rock

La Luz magenta cacti bloom

La Luz high ridge trail

Spring bloom in the desert

Morning Ride Together

Play is the highest form of research.  –Albert Einstein

We all want to have healthier communities.  The question for us was how to integrate health in a meaningful way into our outdoor recreation planning process.  –Alex Stone, RTCA planner

The morning bicycle ride together is a cool solution for the hot topic of improving public health.  It creates an opportunity to breathe fresh air, get the body and mind flowing, and spend time with friends.  It stokes that virtuous circle of enjoying outdoor amenities while conserving them.

dry-farmed-quionoa-in-sebastopol-ca-photo-credit-michelle-davidoff_handout

Dry farmed quinoa, Sebastopol, CA.  theguardian.com  photo credit:  Michelle Davidoff

Saturday morning I biked the Sandia Crest.  Beautiful to see so many cyclists out.  This time of year cyclists are training for the Ironhorse Bicycle Classic in Durango and summer events to come.  The weather was breezy, but that makes you dig deeper and builds up your strength and character.  The challenge of adapting to the natural elements enriches the bike life, just like the fluctuations in weather helps crops like the quinoa pictured above become more vibrant.

ground cover

I met a group of cyclists on the observation platform at the top overlooking Albuquerque.  They were having their picture taken.  What a unifying accomplishment, getting to the summit of the mountain together.  We talked about the progress of bicycle friendliness in New Mexico.  It makes it easier to get outdoors, leave the car in the driveway, and get some healthy exercise.

flowers I saw walking with Mai

We exchanged names and now we’re connected on Strava.  Strava is great for connecting with people, getting ideas for rides, and keeping a log of your routes and rides.  It is also good for referencing your times on local climbs.  It is not really for competition though, except competing with yourself, trying to improve.  Racing your bicycle in a sanctioned event is true competition.

Cholla flower sun

After the ride I recovered with some nice music.  Cycling up the Crest is a healthy high, and a great way to make indelible memories with friends and build a sense of place.  Then it is time to rest and recover, let the miles sink in.  On Monday morning you’ll feel like you did something extraordinary on the weekend, and you’ll come back stronger, ready for the next ride together.

La Luz trail

Resources–
Opening quote from Breaking Down Barriers–Parks and Recreation Connecting with Public Health
Strava is free.  All you need is a device with GPS (cell phone).  Meet new friends & play.

Great Cyclists from the Southwest

‘Cycling is freedom for me.  I can use the same thing I use as a mode of transportation as a form of exercise and as a form of competition.’  –Kyle Murphy, Professional Cyclist, Team Jamis

It amazes me how many great cyclists come from the U.S. Southwest.  Not all of them were born here, but the riding and lifestyle afforded by the Southwest is perfect for developing cycling potential.  Here are three notables with recent successes.

Brandon McNulty, 18 years of age, is having a stellar year winning top races.  In March he broke his own record on the South Mountain hillclimb above Phoenix by almost a minute.  Brandon said ‘the local race is special to him because he rode up South Mountain with his father when he was younger on Silent Sundays when the summit road is closed to traffic.’

Brandon-McNulty-South-Mountain-Time-Trial-2016

Brandon McNulty breaking his own record up South Mountain in Phoenix, May 2016. Photo from http://clippedin.bike/

Travis McCabe improves every year.  After nearly winning the overall at the Redlands Classic two years ago, he’s focused his training on maximizing sprint victories, playing to his strengths.  Travis has won stages at the Joe Martin Stage Race, Tour of the Gila, and Redlands this year.

Travis Mcabe wins the Sunset Roadrace at Redlands 2016. Photo Jonathan Devich/epicimages.us

Travis McCabe wins the Sunset Road Race at Redlands 2016. Photo from Jonathan Devich/epicimages.us

At age 36 when many pro athletes are retired and golfing, Eric Marcotte keeps winning and getting better.  He won the downtown criterium race at this year’s Tour of the Gila, and also won the road race in February at the Valley of the Sun stage race in Phoenix.  Eric’s determination continues after winning U.S. National Championships in 2014 (road race) and 2015 (criterium).

Marcotte soars to victory at the Tour of Gila criterium, http://velonews.competitor.com/

Eric Marcotte soars to victory at the Tour of Gila downtown criterium.  Photo from http://velonews.competitor.com/

I received an email from USA Cycling with a few inspirational quotes on why we race .  Here are a few of my favorites.  For me, racing is a way of riding into health.
“The sense of community keeps me coming back.”
“I have found incredible friendships through bike racing and these friendships have endured.”
“It’s a rigorous mental exercise.”

Resources/Credits–
http://www.jamissutterhome.com/roster.html
https://ice.usacycling.org/why-do-you-race-tell-us-and-you-could-be-a-winner.htm
McNulty Sets New South Mountain TT Record from AZclippedin

Building Community Through Safe Routes To Schools

Most people are worried that kids are going to be worse off than their parents…politicians have simply not paid attention to the best interests of kids…it is all short term decision making.
–Jim Steyer, from Common Sense Media, on Charlie Rose

Safe Routes to Schools (SRTS) is a great investment in kids, and the benefits extend beyond healthy commutes to school.   This report from the National Center for SRTS documents how safe walking and bicycling strategies for kids can catalyze community-wide changes.   The report lists five opportunities SRTS presents for extending the benefits of healthy transportation.

Mai flowers one

  • SRTS provides a logical starting point for innovative infrastructure to improve driver and pedestrian safety behavior at crossings.
  • SRTS programs create opportunities to try behaviors and inspire community-wide change.
  • SRTS initiatives serve as starting point for using bold ideas to tackle difficult safety issues like speeding.
  • SRTS creates safe networks for walking and bicycling.
  • SRTS attracts a robust base of support by promoting broader community benefits.

from 5 Ways SRTS Can Help Advance Youth Pedestrian and Bicyclist Safety Beyond the Trip to School 

Mai flowers three

Working with school age youth and their families provides a tremendous opportunity to listen to community issues from neighborhood-level perspectives.  It helps prioritize the safety of all street users and balances walking and bicycling considerations with motorized travel.  “SRTS programs bring together diverse people around a common cause: to improve the safety, health, and well-being of all children and their families.  They have helped improve local air quality; increase children and families’ physical activity levels; improve students’ academic achievement and reduce the number of days they are absent from school; reduce school transportation costs; and address the presence of street crime and violence in communities.”
(from Creating Healthier Generations)
 

Mai flowers two

Southwest Bike Initiative is happy to be partnering with ABQ Public Schools on SRTS!

Resources:
National Center for Safe Routes to Schools:  http://www.saferoutesinfo.org/
direct link to the report report from NCSRTS:  Advancing Safe Walking and Bicycling for Youth
Post photos:  from the phone of Sansai Studio, Spring bloom at the University of New Mexico

The Return of Cycling Transportation

“When we bring the buffalo back, we’ll bring the people back because we’ll re-learn how to structure our lives.”  –Jim Stone, Yankton-Sioux Tribe, Return of the Bison

The bison is America’s new national symbol, sharing the stage with the bald eagle.  This is a great story.  It’s the story of conservation as a guiding principle of our nation.  It’s the story of a nation embracing the character of a place and relearning our native culture and inheritance.

Native to America

Photograph: Josh Barchers/AP from a story in The Guardian online, “Return of the Bison”

I would love to see the bicycle adopted as our national vehicle.  Like the bison, the bike is a way to structure our lives.  Bicycles have been with us, but it is taking time for us to appreciate them and give them the large scale transportation networks they need to reach their fullest potential.

Crazy Cactus on La Luz

For the last seven weeks I was “bikeless” while I healed from an injury.  I drove a car more than usual, and found myself feeling disconnected, separated from my surroundings.  I felt anxious.  You would think separation from aspects of life in the city would increase comfort, but it fed my fear.  I was startled by beginning my day hurtling down the highway at 70mph amongst 80,000 pound trucks and 6,000 pound SUV’s.  I didn’t feel safer, rather I felt more afraid.

Specialized with Sandia Peak on La Luz

I started riding my bicycle outside again this week.  I feel so much better.  Cycling transforms road anonymity into neighborly relations.  I’m moving at safer speeds, and the mass of my vehicle doesn’t constitute a danger to myself or others.  I’m nimble and freer.  Cycling helps me feel a part of my surroundings and that I’m making a more humane transport environment.  Cycling restores my connection with the beauty in Albuquerque.  It makes good sense to me.

La Luz bliss

Credits–the first photo is from an article in The Guardian called Return of the bison: new American national symbol tells story of strife and credited to Josh Barchers/AP
The other photos are from my first rides this week.