Tuesday, March 18, 2014

In the Desert - Days 1 and 2

Day 1 in the desert broke with some high clouds, light wind and moderate temperatures.  The Moots had been assembled the afternoon before and was ready for a shake-down ride.  I had planned on starting out around 7 am for a tempo pace ride and some time in the saddle.  Somehow after getting provisioned, dressed and out the door was delayed until 8:30 with temps solidly in the mid 60's.  So much for good planning.
The route was selected to get me out of town and away from golf carts (driven on the road and not necessarily related to the act of golf) which appear to be more prolific than cars and certainly driven as poorly or worse in most cases.  If I ever hear a motorist in Spokane complain about cyclists again I will encourage them to take a trip down to the burbs of Phoenix and enjoy the golf carts whizzing around piloted by seniors (queue the Benny Hill music,)
Sun Valley Parkway runs from Surprise, AZ through Buckeye and down to I-10 about 35 miles later.
The out-and-back route was perfect with light traffic and ample (12 foot) designated bike lanes the entire way. Locally, this lane would just be a nice wide shoulder and not designated as a bike lane which was cool, but I am not sure what the advantage was since a shoulder works just the same. Curiously, there are no bike lanes that I have found in the populated, incorporated areas which seems to be where they are needed.  Perhaps this is purposely since they would most likely be filled with golf carts driving in random directions resulting in foreseeable collisions and altercations.
It is almost desert-flat and any grades are very gradual.  I did not know how far I would end-up riding since the effect of the "heat" was unknown at that point.  The other advantage of the route is that there is a 55+ residential development called Sun City Festival which is touted as an "Active Adults 55 and Over Community."  The community has a great mini-mart to restock on water on the ride.  You would think that as active as the community is supposed to be a person could find a Clif Bar or something, but none were to be found.
Is one of these peeps a photo bomber?
You are assaulted with billboards showing people being active.  The most activity I witnessed was the frenzy to purchase Sunday papers for the TV guide (I am not making this-up) and restock on Bud Light. 
The ride itself was a 60 miler out and back with amazing vistas and desert scenery.  Getting a late start and not being acclimated to the arid air and warmer temps meant that I went through a lot more water than I would normally.   I also was overly exuberant given the temps heading toward the mid 80s but was just so happy to be out riding in the sun.  I must have looked particularly dehydrated or bucking a headwind because 6 huge vultures were circling over me at one point.
One of the most interesting parts of the ride was the discovery of a Mohave Rattlesnake (Crotalus scutulatus) in the eastbound bike lane.  It was a beautiful specimen of about 3 1/2 feet long and almost as big around as my wrist.  He seemed a little oddly positioned and was not serenading me with his 6 button rattle when I stopped for a visit.

The dark areas on the pavement are from my attempts to elicit a response with the strategic use of a water bottle stream from a seemingly safe distance.  Alas, I was too late and it had succumbed to a non-apparent mortal injury or was really good at playing possum.  He appeared to have been freshly or mostly dead and I had to wonder if another cyclist had run him over since it was apparent that a car had not. 
Regardless of his state, I imagined many interesting cycling scenarios where a pace line or otherwise unobservant cyclist would come upon one of these in the bike lane and the mayhem that would ensue (queue the Benny Hill music.)
Day 2 broke clear with some high clouds (is anyone sensing a pattern) and I got an early start with while the temps were in the high 50s.  The early start and better hydration and nutrition preparation atoned for my previous day's mistakes and made for an enjoyable 60 miler at 20 mph average speed.  I was more comfortable with my environment and spent more time enjoying at the surrounding mountains and terrain than the prior day trying not to die and outrun the vultures.  I looked for the prior day's snake but he was gone which left me to imagine many other scenarios including that he was just playing possum when we last visited.

The next installment will include Days 3 and 4 along with further exploration, wildlife encounters and some thoughts on the Moots Psychlo X as an all-round bicycle - until then.

Two Wheel Transit Bicycles - Cycling for Life.

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