Monday, October 06, 2014

Banana Cream

Cold weather and rain have swept through this part of the Reservation - I finally got out on the bike and put in some miles!  Now it's October and I can feel the change on the way.  Some of the ponies are looking healthy, like these guys up there - who watched me intently from the safety of the cliffs - others look thin.  I hope they can survive Winter!  Usually the wild ponies hide, but lately when they see me they want to get a closer look.  I envy their freedom, but they have a hard life - mostly people that own them can't afford to take care of them, so they release 'em into the Monument.  I've been told that they quickly multiply - let's say you have three and they go wild - in a short time there will be like ten or fifteen.

As I speed down the mountains from Tsaile, I can see Chile sprawled down below.

Just a few miles from the Canyon de Chelly Visitor Center HQ, I fly past Star and the group he's with.  I called out and so they started to slink away - I don't think they liked being spotted.  I turned around to try and get a picture of Star - he's the colt walking a few paces behind the white horse, and his mother is close behind.  She was not killed after all as I had thought.  She's the Roan with a white flank. Anyway, it was good to see Star.  This group looks in pretty good health.

This afternoon, I went down to the Thunderbird for lunch.  I sped past the mighty old Cottonwoods by the Trading Post, and then tucked my bike just inside the restaurant.  Really the Thunderbird Cafeteria isn't all that great, on the expensive side, and a tourist trap - but it's run by the Navajo Nation and well, why not?  The Banana Cream Pie looked good - I was hungry too.  And there was just enough chill in the air to make a cup of coffee go well with the pie.

As I sat down to dig in, a few bus loads of German tourists came in and the place was packed.  I got there just in time.

avec toothpick apres lunch
I rode up to the first pull-out just to get in an extra bit of climbing.  It was warmer and I know that being able to ride on warm days will more infrequent .  I was feeling petty good too.  Just nice to be out on the bike - the tourists are about gone so the road is quite - and the views of the Canyon incredible.

As you ride up, the canyon is much deeper.  Most of the local Navajo are hauling wood back and forth, getting ready for winter.  The corn has been harvested and the ponies seem to be getting that winter fuzz on their coat.

Heading back my friend the Tailwind shifted, and I had a tough crosswind this time.  Early October and there was a hint of chill in the air.  I needed my thin pair of arm warmers, and my longer knickers - so I was comfortable.  But I must tell you, Gentle Readers of This Blog - I started getting a bit tired as I climbed home back up to The College.

The pony on the side of the road is now just bones.  It was not Star's mom like I had thought.

The ride is almost done - this is Benally Hill going home.  Once I make this last climb, I get to sail back to The College - this is when and where I hit 40 MPH for the descent!  I am happy to report that I looked at my stats (from my Garmin and from Stava) and I had the best time on the segment going up.  That kind of surprised me as I felt kinda slow mes amis - but I'll take it!

If you look down at my handle bars, you'll see the "Blinder" I bought when I was back in Lawrence for a short trip mid-September.  After Cal was killed by a driver trying to pass a pickup truck, a lot of the local riders were thinking seriously about getting hit by passing cars on a two-lane hwy.  Some of my friends were there to pick up this little light that they had special ordered.  I bought one as well.  It's called a "Blinder" and it is BRIGHT -

But what I have to tell you is that fucking twice - TWICE on my ride back up from Canyon de Chelly, drivers passed and came right at me head-on - just fuckin speeding like bats outta hell!  Just reckless and high-speed driving.  I guess they just don't see me or don't care?  Unlike my friend Cal, I had three feet of shoulder, but it is unnerving to suddenly see a car pull out and pass the other car - especially when they are tailgating and then whip out and speed up to pass.  I didn't even see them, and they sure as hell did not see me.  Again, I don't think they care. The speed limit on Hwy 64, on the Monument Boundary is 55 but 80 to 85 is the norm.

Often what happens is that someone will slow down as they see cows or ponies by the road.  The speeder behind them will speed up and pass, not seeing the animals up ahead, and the plow into the horse or whatever as it's crossing the road.

Little Donkey that must belong to somebody - or did - wanders around and knows how to get around the cattle guards in the housing where I live.  She is very tame and you can pet her.  She likes to be around the little kids that live here and they play with her, and sometimes sit on her back.  She doesn't seem to mind their play and she enjoys watching over them like a Grandma.

Ride Safe!  Thanks for coming by the Blog!

Cheers!  Bruce

Sunday, September 14, 2014

Glass and Bones of Canyon de Chelly

You could ride into the Canyon if your brakes fail - ha ha
I made a quick ride down to the first Pull-out of the Park, Gentle Readers of This Blog.  Mornings are now cold - at times in the high 30s and low 40s.  But as the soon as the Sun comes up over the mountains, things warm steadily.   Since I got a much later start, I thought just a quick spin down to Mummy Cave would be perfect.  The Titanium LeMond Arrive has sat idle for a few weeks - I've intended to take her out after work - but it's been too rainy.

So while I had a few cups of coffee and a bit of breakfast, I let the Sun start up the Day.

Needed long-sleeves this morning
Still cool, I wore my old long-sleeve yellow jersey.  All my Navajo friends and co-workers are harvesting their corn fields this weekend.  Yellow would be an appropriate color for today.  Thing was that all the flowers and bushes and growing things were in bright yellow bloom too - so as I rode I felt like was blending right in with the Day!

I sped right into the parking lot of the Mummy Cave Pull-out - I brought money because I wanted to buy a necklace for Little Egypt from one of the Navajo guys I see and talk to who sells jewelry on the sidewalk.  No one was there - I think that means tourist season is over?

Very quite and serene.  The air is clean and the sky brilliant - I walked out to the very edge.  Probably about a mile to the other side, and easily 600 to 900 feet down.  Sitting quietly I hear the echos of ravens, and sometimes a whirl of wind.  Below where I'm sitting on the edge is Mummy Cave.  I'm not sure when, but when early tourist were here (over 100 years ago) and looters, they found people buried in the ruins - the Anasazi or Ancient Ones.

Further south from here, and about a mile away in this same Pull-out is Massacre Cave.  Spanish soldiers were chasing some Navajo circa 1800, and a group of women and children were hiding in a cave on the cliff.  The Spanish couldn't get to them but they did fire at them for several hours at the cave's entrance - bullets ricocheted into the cave from off the wall and that killed most of the people.  Their bones are still in there according to the people (who do not disturb the cave) and mentioned in a book I read about the rock art written by Campbell Grant in the 1970s.

Click to see bigger image
 Some tourists did arrive as I was walking out of the trees from the edge with my bike.  For a second they looked puzzled - did I ride up from the bottom of the Canyon or something?  No way?  I told them I was enjoying a quiet spot, and riding back home.

There is a nice lookout that you can walk around on with a railing.  I would not venture too close the edge because the rocks can be loose and a fall would be fatal.  Still I see tourists, mainly European, with their little kids, sitting on the edge of the Canyon with their feet hanging over.

Glass and Bones
It had been only last week that this pony was hit by the car - now mostly the pony is skeleton covered by hide and white ribs showing.  Glass and bits of plastic still litter the road.  Navajo Police most likely dragged the pony over into the ditch.
Pony Fast Bike
Riding home, the wind came up and I had a fragrant tailwind of cool canyon rain and pinion trees.  It seemed like a large grey rain cloud followed me up the road to see where I was going - it keep me cool as I climbed.

Dave Glasgow, Tucson, Arizona
I had a photo of Dave on my phone from my Labor Day visit.  I had tried for several months to reach Dave with calls, and I even sent him a few postcards.  Finally I got some information from my friend John.  Dave had had a spill in Saguaro National Park - a serious bike crash - and was slowly recovering from a broken leg, broken ribs, and a head injury.

Dave was able to meet John and I for an evening meal, which really cheered him up.  We insisted he eat - he looked very thin - and the owner of the restaurant, the Indian Oven, who was a friend of Dave's brought more and more and Dave got his appetite and ate hardily.

John had told me that he had seen Dave a few weeks before, and he looked in really bad shape.  I called and left messages for Dave, letting him know I was driving down to Tucson.  He did leave me a message while I was pumping some gas on my drive down, and told me he got my messages - that he'd been injured - and that it was very hard for him to reach his phone.

Anyway, it was good to see him and although he's older, he's still a force of energy and enthusiasm.

Okay, thanks for stopping by the blog!

Cheers!  Bruce

Sunday, September 07, 2014

Ride on a Rain Cloud

Cruising down the mountain to Chinle
Saturday was more like In-A-Funk Day.  After my Tucson trip, I had a ton of work at the office - and the eight hour drive back Monday evening was long and I was very tired.  Saturday I actually finished unpacking all the shit I brought down to Tucson - mostly tools and house-cleaning supplies.  I had tons of laundry to do, as I worked outside in the yard, had to dig a few holes for trees I planted.  I suppose I was just exhausted.

But as you can see, I'm flying down Hwy 64, the road that runs along the Park Boundary, and quickly will be rolling into the Park HQ at Canyon de Chelly.

Listening to "Sunday Morning Baroque" on the Public Radio out of Ignacio, CO
As it was only 45 degrees (actually felt colder) I waited for the Sun to come up and warm the air before I took off.  I made some coffee and got ready for my 50 mile ride down to the Visitor Center and back.

Really just a beautiful September morning.  Not hot and not cold - just right.

Pony on the road
There was no traffic at all, Gentle Readers of This Blog.  Only a few ponies, but not near the road which is where I like them!

I always see this Lizard every time I stop for water.
As I was coming down about 40 MPH the last few miles into Chinle and the Visitor Center, a cowboy in a truck came up behind me, but he slowed so I could take the whole lane.  That meant I could really stomp the pedals, and I flew into the Visitor Center like an arrow!

While I was riding down, I could smell hardy Navajo breakfast cooking on the fires in the houses and Hogans - I was getting super hungry!  I made a quick turn and went down to the Sacred Canyon Lodge to get breakfast at the Thunderbird.

But you know, I didn't pack my Debit Card - I only had a few bucks.  Really messed that up!  I just had a Cliff Bar and sat under the big Cottonwood Trees by the Trading Post.

The Navajo women working at the Cafeteria let me come in and fill my water bottles with ice!  I told them I had forgot my money, but I'd stop in next time!

Usually there's some traffic on the road right by the Park HQ and Visitor Center, and I usually don't ride down to the Thunderbird - but I did stop to take two quick photos for you.  The HQ you don't see because there's a sharp turn and it's tricky when you stop.  I know how the T in the road is but it always bewilders tourists.

I zoom over the bridge here on Chinle Creek as I'm coming down the last few miles into the Park.  Navajo friends told me they have seen water from the Canyon take out the bridge before!  It happens every so many years they say!

Hard to imagine the Chinle Creek raging with water from the Chuska Mountains up where I live, crashing through here and wiping out the bridge - that I'm riding over right now!

The Climb back up to 7200!

 I'm actually feeling pretty good - climbing and making quick work of the first five miles back up to Tsaile and The College.

Tsaile Peak appears about 20 mile North as I climb Hwy 64

Leaving Chinle's hot and dry sandy rocks, and now feeling the cool green of the Defiance Plateau, I'm done with the hard part, Gentle Readers.  Rain is forecast for today, and I feel a cool and strong tailwind, a tailwind that will help me up the road as I ride on the Boundary of the Park.

The Rain is Coming
As I was coming up the road, probably about five miles out from my descent down to The College, there was glass and chunks of plastic on the shoulder, and you could see up ahead where someone had gone off the road into the mud of the ditch.  Then the smell hit me - there was a dead pony.  It had been hit by the car.  A horrible smell - man o man!  I recognized the pony as well.  I hate to say it, but I think it was Star's mother.

I had seen just for a second, a small herd in the trees as I came down.  I looked for them coming up the road by never saw them.  Just the dead pony as I said.  I was sad.  But I sure hope the people in the car are okay.  I saw my friend Foster this week, and he's finally doing better after breaking his ankle when he hit a pony earlier this Summer.

I was starved!  I made some more coffee and fixed up a Randonneur's Breakfast for myself.  I am going to Haskell in few weeks to the new President's inauguration - I'll see Little Egypt and Rico, who is back from Germanland.

Cheers!  Bruce 

Post Card from Tucson

Le Tigre on McCain Loop
Over the Labor Day Weekend, I made a trip down to Tucson, Gentle Readers of This Blog.  I want to let you know that Triple B Ranch was dark for about 10 days due to technical considerations - but that is no longer the case!  Work, as you know all to well, keeps me busy and I'm just getting to this post - gosh!  a week later!  

Anyway, went to Dog Mtn and stayed in my house there.  I still have, and will continue to have ties to Tucson and plan to keep the place there up and ready for my use and Little Egypt too.  I got lots of yard work done, bought a few things, like a bed for me to sleep on rather than show up at midnight to stay with my neighbors!  

Yeah, it's a eight hour drive down from the Rez to Tucson.  I was lucky as I had a ton of comp-time built up, and then a colleague said she'd cover for me for my shift - so I was able to leave The College at 3pm and get a good start Thursday afternoon.  That gave me Friday to work at my place, Saturday too, and then Sunday to ride with Le Tigre!

Old Main renovations are done!  
We start at 6am and wish we could have started earlier even!  Expected temps would be 104, so you got to ride early and get done before you get cooked!  Le T and I met up and soon we were on our beloved U of A Campus - cool and quiet and a chance for my Old School Chum and I to catch up on things!

Corner of University Ave and Euclid
We're on University Ave, just through the Main Gate and on our way soon out of town.

UV arm protection - white is the new black?
So now all the Cool Kids wear these UV arm protectors - need one for my head because I get sunburned through the vents in my helmet - also the sunscreen starts to run down and into my eyes.  A very thin UV beanie might actually do me some good, mes amis!   

Sporting my Team Mooney Jersey!  
Hard to believe it has been ten years since school, riding with Stef, Le Tigre, John, Cathy, Dave...  I wanted to wear my Team Mooney Jersey once again in the old haunts.  It still fits, and I can still ride these mountain roads with the likes of young and ever-so-strong  Le Tigre!

Gates Pass
So here we go up Gates Pass.  I have to say I can still do this route - maybe even a bit better because I'm thinner, and I've been living at 7200 feet.  But I have to tell you, I'm accustom to much cooler mountain weather - it is HOT even at 6:30 a.m.  

Pull-out at top of Gates Pass
Had good times with all my friends here, Gentle Readers of This Blog.  We see other riders and it's all smiles and waves!  This is the place to ride, and like Ryan said, this is really the most beautiful part of Tucson.

What a great visit!
Le Tigre makes quick work of Gates Pass.  I enjoy the ride too, and I am struck by the beauty of  this place.  It really is remarkable, mes amis!  The land and the view and the plants are magical - I hope you get a chance to feel it for yourself one day.  

I think that's why cyclists are drawn out here - this is really a most sacred and special place.

Sand and gravel on McCain Loop
As you know, McCain Loop is the best place for fast rollers in Saguaro Nat'l Park, West, and Tucson Mtn Park.  Lots of rain so sand and gravel are on the road.  You have to be careful - lucky for us most of the sand and gravel were swept off.  You could be going really fast here, and other places on the Loop, and run across unseen sand - don't want to crash out here!  Just take in the air and sun and sights!

Le Tigre, Old College Chum from University Days
I had my camera ready for The Wolf.  If you know my blog and my Tucson Days, you know The Wolf is a legend - the Guardian of the Park.  The Spirit of the Road.  The One Who Rides Forever so the World is Right.

Le Tigre had told me that he had not seen him for quite some time, and I was worried.  As always, he "appears" and I get that quick photo.

This time on McCain Look he did not.  I was a bit heartbroken.  I really needed him to be on the road today, after everything that had happened to me -  all the strife and pain we went through to make things right again.  Little Egypt and I had to face some real nasty people who tried to cheat us - but we prevailed, Gentle Readers of This Blog!

We did not see The Wolf
Le Tigre, always watching out for the Old Dude (me?) got me talked into stopping at the Visitor Center (on the West side of Saguaro Nat'l Park) to get water.  They put in a new fountain for hikers and cyclists, and it was ice cold!  

As we pulled out and went on our way for the Home Stretch of our ride - THE WOLF APPEARED!!!  Oh I was so happy!  I waved and said hello, as did The Wolf with a bright smile and friendly way!  

All is Right in the World...  Thank God that The Wolf Rides in Saguaro National Park.

Picture Rocks Rd, in Saguaro National Park, West
Le Tiger took me on Picture Rocks Road - a road I loathe.  It is narrow and dangerous, and the people that live out here on the margins of the Park are red necks and haters.  I couldn't believe we were out here, and I have to say I was just wanting to pedal hard and get the few miles over with.

This is a road for the Brave at Heart - and really that is not me, not here.  But traffic was light, and drivers courteous and they gave us room.  Le Tiger took off while I fumble for my camera to try to get a photo of 'em on this little black ribbon of Hell and Heaven in Saguaro Nat'l Park.

Afterward, my old friend and I were cruising down the bike path back to car - laughing, talking about our lives and hopes and how much our boys have grown.  I am certainly older - Le Tigre, as always, slim and healthy (Vegetarian Beer Drinking Tucson Cat) ha ha ha

Hey I'm glad you checked-out my blog.  I hope you enjoyed your time off and got to ride!

Cheers!  Bruce

Tuesday, September 02, 2014

Star of Canyon de Chelly

This is my weekend ride down to the Canyon de Chelly Visitor Center and back - right at 49 miles and some change.  I had wanted to ride a few times during the week, but we had quite a bit of rain.  So going out this Saturday morning, the air was cool and had a sweet pine smell from the wind coming off the Chuska Mountains.

I got down to the Visitor Center pretty fast.  I roll in, drink up a water bottle, have a Cliff Bar, and then re-fill or top-off the bottles.  A young family pulled up and were on their way into the Visitor Center - it's the Park HQ - the young woman looked me over and said, "I don't see any panniers..." kind of in a puzzled voice.  "I teach and live about 25 mile up the road, at the college." I replied.  "Oh!  we were wondering because, like - where did you come from?"  

Like I've mentioned before, I'm seeing a lot of horses out near the Boundary, inside and outside.  Like all the ones I see, they tend to be leery of the bike - this time, this young colt stood defiant (still staying by mom) and the bright white spot on his forehead really stood out.  So I called to him, "White Star, my young friend!  I'll see you again soon!" 

I can see the road that winds in to Antelope House Pull-Out a few miles from the hwy as I ride back up.

After Antelope, I'll have eight miles of steady climbing until Mummy and Massacre Cave.  

This is the spot where you can see Black Rock from Hwy 64, to the East - click the image to make it bigger. 

I'm looking forward to getting home, and starting up the coffee maker, mes amis!

On the way back, I have two short, but tough climbs before the contour of the land levels out for a few miles. After I get up this one, I'm about two miles from the first pull-out, which means the work is about done.  

This is my landmark for the first Pull-out when I come down from Tsaile.  This is a pretty place, and I'm glad they chose it right where the Mummy Cave Pull-out begins.   

Still have to climb have of this 11 miles, but I'll get some tailwind and downhill!

The Home Stretch!  The College is about six miles from here - Tsaile Peak is another seven miles from Tsaile.  I sure have covered some ground today, and I'm happy to be riding and back with my blog!

Thanks for coming along for the ride!  Cheers! Bruce