Category Archives: National Parks

Finding peace on the bike

Everyday when I get on my bike I learn something new about the transformative powers of cycling.  Creative thoughts flow.  If I’m angry or hurting, somehow cycling helps me work through those feelings, and turn that energy to the positive.  Cycling is constructive.  Cycling and sport in general helps us focus our energies, overcome fear and use our life for the good.

When I watched a story on New Mexico’s opioid crisis, it made me think of how cycling can change our course.  Then my friend sent a link to a video of Juanjo Mendez’s story.  Juanjo was injured in a motorbike crash, and felt depressed afterwards.  But cycling brought him back.

Dr. Leslie Hayes in Rio Arriba County suggests the real solution to drugs is to get meaningful things in peoples’ lives.  We are not going to arrest or medically treat our way out of the opioid crisis.  We need love.  Stories like Juanjo Mendez’s are proof cycling adds meaning and hope.

Cycling helps us cope with pain and trauma.  If addiction is an effort to avoid pain, as Dr. Gina Perez-Baron suggests, cycling and sport in general may be a constructive outlet to deal with our hurts in a healthier way, even focusing our energy to propel us towards our goals in sport and life.  To get super proactive building healthier lives,  we can promote cycling and healthy sport.

Sport has the power to change the world.  It has the power to inspire. It has the power to unite people in a way that little else does. It speaks to youth in a language they understand. Sport can create hope where once there was only despair. It is more powerful than government in breaking down racial barriers.  —Nelson Mandela

References:
“New Mexico deploys best practices to avoid the worst outcomes in the opioid crisis”
https://www.pbs.org/newshour/show/new-mexico-deploys-best-practices-avoid-worst-outcomes-opioid-crisis
Photos are from Saturday’s ride  https://www.strava.com/activities/1251054152

Advertisements

The Spirit of the Bicycle

Why should not we also enjoy an original relation to the universe?  –Ralph Waldo Emerson, Nature

Bicycles remind me of the Canadian rock band Rush.  They’ve never had the marketing machine elevating them to pop star status, but their audience grows over the years through consistent competency, practicality, artistry, value and pure fun.  They simply perform well.

west-looking

And so it is with the bicycle.  I was talking with a bike shop manager during a ride.  His ideal customer is someone just getting started and wanting an entry level bicycle, $400 or so.  They ride it until it wears out.  Through their experience, they have a clearer idea for the next one.  I told him that was my story.  I started riding almost 20 years ago on a Specialized Rockhopper.  It cost about $400.  Now, 20+ bikes later, I’m on a Specialized Tarmac.  Technology is wonderful, but the most important thing is your bike fits you, and is mechanically sound.  How much money you spend is irrelevant.  The ride characteristics come from you, the rider, from your heart and soul.  A good bike lets you do what you want to do.  It is intuitive, honest, trustful.  You are the instrument making the sound.  You make the bicycle go where you want to be.

wilderness-edge

The places we can go are fabulous!  When I was driving 18-wheeler across America for a living, I saw a lot of country.  But I missed most of what was out there.  The bicycle allows you to immerse yourself and get a 360 degree experience of the landscape surrounding you.   Cycling experiences make our senses and minds more impressionable.  It keeps us fresh, youthful.  If I would have had a bicycle with me on my 18-wheeler rig to ride during layovers, loading times, and rest days, I could still be truckin’.  We live in the best of both worlds.  We have macro-transportation capabilities to span the globe, and can find intimacy and serene pleasure too if we take the time to be quiet, humble, and explore under our own useful and fitting powers.  Keeping a balance is key.  We have to choose wisely, and accommodate ourselves to the world.

fr-445-specialized-action

The bicycle allows us to build an understanding of the world minus the scaffolding.  The structure of the cycling experience is almost unmediated.  What a brilliant, fun technology.  The bicycle is sustainable transportation.  It is practical and worthwhile.  My how we need it!

champions

tall-view

If you want to be a champion to future generations and create important changes now, be a champion of the humble bicycle.  Let people make music with the bicycle.  Embrace this technology and abide by it.   Unlike the rock band Rush, bicycles do not grow old.   We are on the precipice of big change in the world.  Bicycles help us move our story in the right direction and produce more positive outcomes, win-wins.  Bicycles build optimism, health, and–

  • get us out of our bubble
  • activate our inherent mobility powers
  • shift our perceptions so we tune in
  • stimulate creative thinking
  • help us meet new people, feel connected to our communities, and be a part of the world
  • assist us in creating change
  • deliver benefits in health and wellness, sustainability, and creative development

Bicycles put humans in a positive light.  Days are gifts as we pedal forward.  The bicycle abides.

at-the-dunes

resources:
Check out Specialized for bicycles.  The spirit of the bicycle is you!

Land of Peace and Light

Mai and I visited White Sands National Monument on National Public Lands Day.  We walked in the pale afternoon on the gypsum sand dunes.  I was awestruck by the land and light.

mai-stabilizing-climbing

white-sands-close

With free admission as part of the celebration, the parking area and picnic grounds were bustling with activity.  Families were barbequing, taking photos, and children and adults alike were sledding down the slippery gypsum sands.  What a marvelous, festive scene.

white-sands-way-out-there

mai-white

If you want silence and solitude, all you have to do is walk westward over the first dune, then another, further yet, new horizons of endless sand appearing over each ridgecrest, and in minutes the white sands have swallowed up all but a few intrepid people.  Silence rules.

white-sands-dunes-edge

white-sands-yucca-crystal-light

Walking is great in the park, and so is cycling.  White Sands offers full moon bike rides twice a year.  Bring the whole family.  Catering to cycling and walking like this, the National Park Service is my bike organization of the month for June, 2016 (a little catching up to do).  Peace.

white-sands-yes

Resources: White Sands full moon bike rides
https://www.nps.gov/whsa/planyourvisit/full-moon-bike-ride.htm

A Complete World (Great Sand Dunes continued)

I think we will wind up as a healthier community because we had to come together to restore the aquiferGeorge Whitten, San Luis Valley rancher, quoted in High Country News

If most of the earth will be a Phoenix suburb by 2050 as the Onion sardonically conjectured, Great Sands Dunes and the San Luis Valley of Colorado will surely be one of the last outliers of unconfined space.  Mai and I visited there to celebrate the National Park Service’s 100 year anniversary, when the entrance fee was free.  We camped at Piñon Flats for a couple days and vowed not to use the car, exploring the park on foot and by bicycle.  At first I felt conflicted about taking the car option out but leaving it parked was a most liberating limitation.

mais-cycling-journey

The San Luis Valley is a broad alluvium perched at 7,600 feet above sea level. Mountains ring the valley, supplying the Rio Grande, which runs through it.  The valley’s area is about the size of the entire state of New Jersey.  The San Juan and Sangre de Cristo ranges shield the valley from storms, an orographic effect, resulting in an alpine desert making the river and aquifers so very important.  The scale of the San Luis Valley is so expansive the huge sand dunes seem tucked right in and don’t even make a dent in the enormous space.  The dunes are eroded mountains, carried and anchored by water, blown by the wind.  Although the dunes appear simple and austere, the ecosystem is rich, complex and sensitive, and the management plan was updated in 2000 to protect more of the socio-ecological system and diverse habitats.

bee-plant-by-medano-road

We cycled to the visitor center after setting up camp.  Gliding through the clean alpine air, sun pressing on skin, drove home the sense of awesomeness of this place.  The campground is perfectly positioned at the sand sheet’s edge with walking access to Medano Creek, the dunefield and upland trails.  Plus they have a campground store with everything you need, kinda.  We needed ice cream after our bike ride underneath the white hot sun, and the store had ice cream available.  A good arrangement for replenishing the mind, body and spirit.

southwestern-diverse-habitat

exuberance

Boundaries in nature are not always obvious.  The viewshed from the park into the greater valley is integral to understanding how resources are used to make a living here.  Circular fields on 160 acre plots dot the land.  These farms use center pivot irrigation–a technology adapted from the Great Plains–to supplement the sparse 7 or 8 inches of annual rainfall.  Although the scale of the agriculture is industrial, I’m encouraged by the steps residents are taking to integrate sustainability into every aspect of planning and operations.  Some farmers are experimenting with crops that are nutritious but use less water, such as Quinoa.  The Nature Conservancy runs two ranches adjacent to the Park, Zapata and Baca Ranches, in a unique partnership to conserve the water and soil that sustains quality life and stabilizes the land.

lighting-up

Each morning we awoke before sunrise and walked.  Crossing Medano Creek and climbing up the dunes to observe the day’s first light pouring down onto the earth was spectacular.  When you walk into the landscape and immerse yourself, a whole other world reveals itself.

sunrise

The landscape exerts a certain pull on human hearts.   If you love this land, practicing conservation is true patriotism.  When it comes to experiencing our National Parks, conservation helps us see the benefits of encouraging walking and cycling in a new and clear light.  I’m glad we took the time to stay awhile and develop a personal rapport with this place.

specialized-does-parks

Resources:
http://www.oneonta.edu/faculty/baumanpr/geosat2/Dry_Land_Water/Dry_Land_Water.htm
Happy 100th Birthday National Park Service https://www.nps.gov/subjects/centennial/index.htm
#NPS100

Cool Sunshine

Here are some photos from a late August trip to Great Sand Dunes National Park and Preserve.  It’s been a while since I’ve blogged…Bob Dylan has won a Nobel Prize for Literature and Peter Sagan just won the UCI Cycling Road World Championships again.  Lots more to catch up on.  Full text for Great Sand Dunes and more posts coming soon.  Arigato and enjoy.

mai-in-cycling-awesomeness

mais-scene

sand dunes at first light

 

curvature

prairie-sunflower-trail

drop dead gorgeous

 

walk first thing

good morning

land light

 

prairie sunflower landlord

 

walks in beauty

bright hot wet

Urban Landscapes in Living Terms

“The journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step.”
Lao Tzu

One of the reasons I moved to Albuquerque was to work on urban sustainability.  The majority of the world lives in cities.  Cities are important places!  On a trip to Taos I had a chance to decompress beneath the extraordinary sky and consider urban life from a rural perspective.

Williams Lake

into the Taos mountains

Sage plains

I see our cities as an integral part of nature, and don’t think they need to be places where we want to escape from.  We can do better making them living and breathing landscapes.  The soundscapes, the night skies, the ecosystem functions of our cities can all be restored to produce high quality habitat that nurtures human life.  We don’t have to leave the city to learn about nature.  We are part of it.  Activities such as walking, cycling and growing food help us learn.  Cycling teaches me conservation and efficiency for example, since my energy is so precious and limited, and it reminds me to carry only what I need, to travel light.

majestic

streaming down

Cycling helps me tune in to places.  There are no walls around me when I ride.  I feel like I belong.  But when I visited the mountains above Taos, it was much quieter and I felt at ease and could pay attention to the subtle things a little more.  At our campsite I realized the automatic beeping from our car key fob was a significant disturbance to the soundscape, so I started locking the car with the key only, in simple mechanical fashion.  That way the car doesn’t beep.  Much better!  Sometimes we feel so overwhelmed by the magnitude of problems in the world we sabotage our journey towards solutions before we even start.  But big successes are made up of small victories.  Taking the opportunities presented, however tiny, add up, and carry us a long way.  Especially when we collaborate, embrace our cities and each do our part.

New Mexico Sunshine

Taos basin

Santa Fe aspen trails with indian paintbrush

Resources–
Here are some tips on making a difference from our National Parks.  https://www.nps.gov/subjects/sound/difference.htm

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