Category Archives: bicycle rides

The fire inside

I clap my hands in infinite joy and amazement, before the first opening to me of this august magnificent, old with the love and homage of innumerable ages, young with the life of life, the sunbright Mecca of the desert.  And what a future it opens!  I feel a new heart beating with the love of the new beauty.  I am ready to die out of nature, and be born again into this new yet unapproachable America I have found in the West.  –Ralph Waldo Emerson, “Experience”

I cycle up into the high country
From a city at the edge of where the mountains touch down
Rising above the Río Grande’s winding course through the green center of town

At the top of the Sandias filling my water bottles
People approach me shining with lively curiosity
Conversation flows easily on this August day

Where did you start from?  How long did it take?
From home, not too long, you can do it too!
One foot after the other, eat, drink, be comfortable, take your time

And marvel at how cycling activates our care and joy
The fire inside us flowing upward like an awakening volcano
We see the world with new eyes rediscovering beautiful America

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Cycling in beauty

“This is the most beautiful place on earth.  There are many such places.”
–Edward Abbey, Desert Solitaire

Here are a few photos from places I’ve cycled the last few months in New Mexico.  One of the great pleasures of cycling is the sense of appreciation it builds for the places we live in.  Every ride the splash of wind, the lay of the light on the land, the wildlife I see gives exquisite pleasure and imbues me with a sense I am in the most beautiful place on earth in this moment.

Highway 64 takes you high into the Brazos Mountains above Tierra Amarilla with views of the Brazos Cliffs

The Sandia Crest road about halfway up. Those green patches are the ski slopes

Cycling is special like music.  It gives us a chance to express ourselves and sprinkles a little magic into our lives.  Every ride is a chance to be creative, explore our abilities, increase our capabilities, develop leadership skills, improve results and build up our trust and confidence.

When I go outside I experience the great mystery.  It’s like walking into an art gallery or concert hall.  The road is the pathway in, and the best ones are aligned in subtle ways to fit to place. Traveling there gives us an expansive feeling, like we are part of something greater than ourselves.  As much as we recognize this beauty, we can assimilate it into our understanding.  Cycling is a living communion, a humble conversation, touching infinity.  A way of learning.

Our effort, our sweat and breathing, is the sacrifice, the price of admission.  Suffering on a bike is not that bad, actually beneficial, when we realize we get way more than we give.  It’s a small fee to enter a much larger world.  It’s cathartic, cleansing, and happily satisfying.

“Every place, like every person, is elevated by the love and respect shown toward it, and by the way in which its bounty is received.” –Richard Nelson, The Island Within
I am grateful for cycling!  

Cycling to work and beyond

This week in May many cities celebrate cycling with a “bike to work day.”  Here in Albuquerque it’s Friday May 19.  I’m a believer in cycling everyday, and aligning a ride around work or school is a good way to get started.  That’s how my cycling began 20 years ago in Reno, Nevada.

There are more benefits than we can imagine in cycling to work.  We get to know our cities better.  We see life from a new perspective.  And we develop our cycling skills as we navigate through varied infrastructure to get to where we need to go.  Cycling to work is a healthy habit.

The key is making cycling a routine.  Transportation is a lifeway, just like eating.  When we try changing with a short term fix, like going on a diet, it usually doesn’t stick.  And cycling to work is going to be the same way.  The idea is to make it a habit that becomes integral to your routine.  We can celebrate cycling everyday!  Bike to church.  Bike to the store.  Bike to open space.

The amazing thing about cycle commuting is how much you accomplish outside of the trip itself.  First of all, cycling energize our lives.  We arrive to work fresh, and if the weather was bad outside, actually relieved to be at our desk.  Free shelter!  Many employers reward cycle commuters with health bonuses, and you become an example for your colleagues.  You boost morale and your enthusiasm is contagious.  People are proud to work with you!  And when you arrive home, you’re already refreshed and replenished with a happy and clear mind.

As a student of cycling, the bike commute is a masters course.  It gets us on the bike twice a day.  The preparation it takes commands concentration and mindfulness.  And we get to practice our cycling skills without having to carve away free time.  There’s an interview with our national hill climbing champion, Leroy Popowski, on the top of Pikes Peak in Colorado.  They ask him what he does to get fit, and he responds that most of his training is riding to and from work with a backpack.  He’s not kidding.  You can look him up on Strava.  Same route twice a day.  That’s ten rides a week.  Of course, then he goes off on the weekends and does more exploring.  But the bike commute is the core for a joyful cycling life.  I hope you seize the chance to begin this May!

Resources:
Find out more at Albuquerque’s member-driven volunteer-run not-for-profit, BikeABQ:
http://www.bikeabq.org
Check out Santa Fe, New Mexico’s bike to work day events:  https://www.biketoworksantafe.com
The League of American Cyclists bike to work month page: http://bikeleague.org/bikemonth

Quiet energy

The standard of beauty is the entire circuit of natural forms, the totality of nature…nothing is quite beautiful alone…but beautiful in the whole.  A single object is only so far beautiful as it suggests this universal grace.  —Ralph Waldo Emerson, “Nature”

On Saturday Mai and I headed south to two beautiful places–Bosque del Apache National Wildlife Refuge, and Quebradas backcountry byway.  The roads at Bosque del Apache are open to cycling this time of year, when the Sandhill Cranes are in their Arctic habitat.  The Bosque’s wetlands–engineered in the 1930’s by the Civilian Conservation Corps to mimic naturally occurring flood plains, and incorporated in 1939 by Roosevelt as part of the national system of lands dedicated to wildlife–nurture wildlife year round, and are surging with Spring runoff.  We saw Snowy egrets, Great egrets, a wild turkey, ducks, and many smaller birds.  With the new greens leafing out and wildflowers shooting up, it is serene and spectacular this time of year.

Bicycles are a perfect vehicle for exploring the refuge.  We stopped often to get a closer look and listen.  Details of the landscape appear and register with us the more time we spend there.  Gliding by bicycle, wide open to the world, with the warm sun caressing our skin, is sensational.

We came home through Quebradas, and stopped often to walk.  Flowers are opening, intricately timed for pollinators.  The Ocotillos are not quite out, still waiting for hummingbirds.  But the Creosote, Scarlet Beehive Cactus, yuccas, agaves, Indigobush, Lechuguillas and more are setting the desert afire in color this Spring, a time of quiet anticipation and emerging possibilities.

It’s amazing to be outside and see how it all fits together, and experience nature flowing into our lives.  These places are so healing.  Our civilization’s future depends on better including nature when designing places for people.  Each is a part of each, and our species requires great habitat too, like all forms of life on earth.  If our civilization–the things we do, build and make– invests more in ecosystem services, natural capital, and wildlife, that’s an indicator of progress.

Cycling Japan lights my fire

“Touch is the greatest thing on earth. “ –Ray Charles

After five trips to Japan with Mai, on my sixth trip I finally cycled there.  It made all the difference.  This time I was determined to take time for cycling.  I rented a bike on two different occasions, and cycled about 460 kilometers.  Cycling put me in touch with a lot of things.  Here are a few photos and a sketch of my cycling experiences.  I’ll add more detail in my next posts.

My first ride in Japan was in Kagoshima with Mai.  We took a ferry across the bay to Sakurajima, an active volcano.  Mai rented a bike there and we pedaled together on a combination of paved paths, village and farm roads, and highways.  What a beautiful way to experience Japan.  The next day Mai connected me with a local professional cyclist through the bicycle shop I rented from, Fun Ride in Kagoshima, and he led me on a ride through the city and out into the hills.

The vistas from the hills above Kagoshima looking out onto the city, bay and Sakurajima were mesmerizing.  Japan is over 70% mountains, and has more land covered by forest than any countries other than Sweden and Finland.  So once you get out of town, the landscape is rural and a complete contrast to the busy cities.  There are many small farms, and nature abounds.

After two days of cycling in Kagoshima, we took the Shinkansen (high-speed rail) back to Osaka where Mai’s parents live.  I rented a bicycle there, and ventured into the mountains straddling the border between Osaka and Wakayama, Mount Izumi Katsuragi, in the Kongo Range.

I was delighted by the back roads.  There are so many byways from the foothills up the mountains that are only a lane or a lane in a half wide.  There is hardly any motorized traffic on them so it seems more like a mountain bike ride.  Very peaceful, quiet and enchanting.  There are roads like this in California such as Ebbetts Pass (though it has more traffic) but Japan has an incredible network of them.   I had some knowledge of these roads based on what I’d seen on maps and Google Earth, but cycling them gave me an entirely new understanding.

The access to the mountains from Osaka is pretty amazing.   Since it was the start of Spring, blooms were beginning and farmers were busy working their fields.  Schools were on break.  It was a great time to be cycling, and I can’t wait to go back and explore more.  Arigato Japan!

Mt. Evans Hill Climb

crescent

path

2016 was the 50th anniversary of the Bob Cook Memorial Mt. Evans Hill Climb in Colorado.  You gain 6,630 vertical feet in 28 miles, starting at 7,500′ and finishing at 14,130′.  It’s the highest paved road in the northern hemisphere.  Half of the ride occurs above treeline.

Echo range

Mt. Evans solo

Mt. Evans mealtime

It’s you being challenged by the mountain.  Cycling Evans gives you an amazing sense of your surroundings.  There were nearly 1000 participants this year.  Over 400 racers, and almost 500 Gran Fondo riders, who are not officially racing, but are still taking on the challenge.  I think for everyone it is a kind of competition within yourself.  Can you make it to the top.   We all share the experience of suffering over the same course on one glorious mountain.

Bristlecones

tapestry of tundra

It’s incredible what you see up there.  Surprising how life springs forward under trying circumstances.  The ancient bristecone pines are some of the oldest beings on earth.  It seems paradoxical under such dramatic conditions those trees endure for so long.  But they do.  Getting up there by bike and sharing the experience on the mountain is a cool accomplishment.

tundra

Marmot home

Mt. Evans Sundance Images 2016

Credit for the last photo (all others mine):  http://www.sundanceimages.com/
Visit the event site at bicyclerace.com
Thank you Team Evergreen for putting this event on!

Rolling Valles Caldera

Two weekends ago Mai and I took a trip to Valles Caldera National Preserve to ride bicycles.  They have a cool network of back roads.  Cycling is such a spectacular way to explore a park.

Valles skyline

Valles Mai Sailing

Valles Caldera is a supervolcano that erupted over a million years ago.  It’s an enormous uplift with a ring of 11,000′ peaks encircling a broad expanse of  grassy meadows in the caldera beneath the rim.  There are thousands of elk there, meadows and forest, lots of open space.

Valles slant

Valles Mai leaning

Valles real live cowboy

There’s also a working ranch.  We spotted a cowboy herding cattle with his two dogs, decorative shirt filling with air, puffing out, waving in the wind.  Mai said this was the first cowboy on horseback working the range she’s seen in her two decades living in the American West.

Valles cruising with Mai

Valles on the road with Mai

It was a pretty sweet ride.  Just after noon the building clouds started to let loose in places, curtains of rain drifting in curves toward the treetops that make up the jagged skyline.  The summer monsoon is pretty predictable in the Jemez Mountains this time of year.  We finished our ride just before the lightning and roaming grey clouds closed in on our location.

Valles meadow

Valles Mai smiling

Valles water

As we celebrate 100 years of American’s National Parks, I wonder about our vision and goals for the next 100 years.  I remember reading Edward Abbey’s rants about industrial recreation, and there still seems to be a growing trend towards bigger, heavier vehicles.  That’s certainly not sustainable, as we are not growing any more open space.  It makes a lot of sense to park your car at the visitor center and ride your bike in if you can.  Experiencing parks by bicycle is perfect.

Valles Mai

Valles purples and blue

Resources–
Valles Caldera has a rich and interesting history in many ways.  One of the innovative developments that has come out of human interaction with this unique landscape is “A place-based approach to science for land management.”  More on that here:  https://www.fort.usgs.gov/sites/sense-place-place-based-approach-science-land-management/sense-place-place-based-approach