Saturday, March 04, 2006

When Houses Fly

You know the old saying. If man were meant to fly, the Department of Intelligent Design would have procured no-bid wings for him. Although my agnosticism and science education disqualifies me from debating that issue, there is a corollary to that old saying which I believe that I am qualified to debate. If houses were meant to fly, they would be more aerodynamic.

Up north, we do things differently than they do here in Arizona. I know, you don't care how we do things up north. I understand that. I don't much care for the way a lot of things are done up north either. But please consider, just for a moment, that there may be room for some meaningful cultural exchange on the topic of residential aviation. Here's a story to illustrate my position on this topic.

About 15 miles into yesterday's ride to Tucson, I encountered a house on a flatbed trailer. At the time it was not moving, as it appeared to be waiting for a police escort. The house was easily a lane-and-a-half wide. Moving it down the single lane highway seemed to be a fairly precarious endeavor. I made a mental note to keep an ear tuned behind me, just in case it was heading my way. I also thought that maybe I would never see it, since it was likely to be moving pretty slowly. Back in the northeast they move things like this from time to time and they generally move them very slowly. If I got a few miles head start on it, I'd probably beat it to the next rest stop or turn.

20 minutes later, a state trooper flies past me in my lane, followed by another, but this one was moving against the traffic in the oncoming lane. They were apparently sweeping the road ahead of the house. I was wondering why they were moving so fast. It seemed to me that they were going to get too far out ahead of the house. But, maybe they were just leap-frogging to the next intersection where they would block off traffic until the house came by. Then they would fly up to the next intersection.

While I was trying to figure all of this out, I heard what sounded like a tornado behind me. Looking back, I could see it was the house. It too was flying along at about the same speed that the troopers were moving. I moved quickly to the edge of the narrow shoulder and slowed to a crawl just as the house flew by. Wow. That was some shock wave. Back home, something that big might move at 10 - 15 mph with plenty of escort. Out here, however, it seemed they handled things a little differently.

Fast forward a couple of hours. I had just finished the bulk of the climbing for the morning, and was descending toward Tucson. As I was flying down the mountain (although not as fast as that house was flying), a state trooper passed me going the other direction with lights flashing. Then another. The second car was in my lane, moving against the flow of traffic. I'd seen this before, so I had a pretty good idea what was coming. I pulled off the side and stopped to put my foot down. A head-on version of the shock wave I felt in the morning would have been pretty nasty.

Sure enough, there was another flat bed flying toward me (you have probably figured out by now that all of the references to 'flying' in this entry are figurative). Anyway, this flatbed did not have a house on it, but it was about the same size as the house. Maybe a little taller. It went by me pretty fast, so I did not get a good look at it. The shock wave was pretty harsh, as I expected. Shock waves aside, I would hate to see what would happen if the truck flatted a tire, needed to dodge a wandering cow, or came up on a car that had failed to get out of the way.

I clipped back in and headed down the mountain toward lunch. A few minutes later as I was descending, another trooper flies by me moving in the same direction as the flatbed. Another wide load? No. He was alone. And, he had his siren on, moving even faster than the earlier escorts. It was not until I arrived in Tucson a few hours later that I learned what he was up to. The shock wave from the wide load had knocked a cyclist down. The cyclist took a trip to the hospital in a helicopter. She was released the same night, so luckily it was not as bad as it could have been.

So, getting back the cultural exchange idea. I think there is room for improvement in the way wide loads out moved out here in Arizona. Cyclists and their individual judgment aside, moving such large and awkward load at high speed seems to be pretty dangerous. Perhaps someone at the state will take note of what happened, learn from it, and consider slowing these loads down.

Speaking of learning, I have a 'Lessons Learned' item for today...

Lessons Learned

Mistake: Posing.

There is this poser thing that cyclists sometimes do when they get off of their bikes. It goes like this. After dismounting your bicycle, you roll it up next to the curb. Then you spin your crank arm backwards until the curb-side pedal is touching the top of the curb. Then you let go of your bicycle. The pedal stays put, because it is now pinned between the curb and the resistance of the drive train. Voila. Improvised kick-stand. Cyclists do this to simultaneously demonstrate both their innate cleverness, and their political position on kick-stands.

While riding to Tucson yesterday, I joined an afternoon pace line with three of the 'fast group'. As a result, I arrived at the motel ahead of schedule and before the bike racks were set up. As I was about to lay my bike down on the ground, I noticed two other bicycles leaning against each other. How clever, I thought. I should participate in this impromptu engineering art exhibition. So, rather than lay my bike on the ground, I did the curb poser thing. As I stood around talking with some other cyclists about the absurdity of trying to break the sound barrier with a house, a strong gust of wind blew my bicycle over. Maybe that was the Director of Intelligent Design's way of letting me know just how easy it is to send a bicycle crashing to the pavement with a gust of wind. As if I needed another reminder after today. Or maybe it was just bad luck and stupidity. Whatever the reason, the result was a crack in my expensive carbon fiber frame.

Lesson: Clever can be stupid.


  • I will spare you the long story, but I managed to find a bike shop that had a carbon frame in my size and was willing to swap all of my components to it while I waited. I never really thought I would own an Italian frame, let alone a red one, but that was what was available with no notice. Unfortunately, I had previously built my wheels with silver rims and spokes to match my original silver frame. Sorry, I'm posing again... Anyway, the guys at Arizona Cyclist took pretty good care of me. They let me help with the build, scavenged a needed part from another bike shop, gave me a beer, and drove me back to my hotel. I did a little research on the frame when I returned. It appears that they also gave me a fair price.

  • Eat it before it burns.

  • (Friday's) Ride Summary

    Route: Sierra Vista to Tucson
    Distance: 86.5 miles
    Speed (avg/max): 17.3 mph / 42 mph
    Riding Time: 5 hours 0 minutes
    Total Time: 5 hours 43 minutes
    Power (avg/max) 134 watts / 599 watts
    Calories Measured at Wheel: 2,391
    Heart Rate (min/max/avg): 95 bpm / 190 bpm / 143 bpm

    Miles this Year: 1295

    Thursday, March 02, 2006


    Just a quick entry today. We rode out to Bisbee and back. My knee was feeling a little bit better today. There was a lot of climbing today, but the icing at rest stops (and once at a Burger King) was working well. I rode with my roommate, Ron, for the entire ride. We agreed that it would be a 'weenie' day since we both needed to recover. I was recovering from a hard ride yesterday, Ron was recovering from his 200km yesterday and to prepare for a time trial in Texas on Sunday. We ultimately rode a little harder than we had agreed to.

    Ron has this crazy gearing on his bike that allows him to pedal at up to 50 mph before spinning out. The big gears are really only useful for descending and strong tailwind situations, but boy do they work when needed. Coming down from Mule Pass, I was out in front moving at 40+ mph. Of course, I can't pedal fast enough to apply power at that speed, so I'm just lying flat on the top tube and letting gravity do the work. Just as I look down to see how fast I am going, Ron blasts by pedaling that crazy gear. He was moving at just under 50 mph and still had enough gear to pedal. It was hilarious. Well, we thought so at the time.

    The final 20 miles today has some brutal crosswinds, but we managed to avoid direct headwinds for most of the ride. So, I had my Bisbee coffee (a latte, actually) this week afterall. Tomorrow, it's back to Tucson, but we will be returning for Week 3 here in Sierra Vista on Sunday.


  • Sacramento Pit. Bisbee's, and Arizona's, first open pit copper mine.

  • Prison labor built Mule Pass.

  • Looking down from the top of Mule Pass. There are a few miles of downhill that cannot be seen from the top.

  • Ride Summary

    Distance: 60 miles
    Speed (avg/max): 16.2 mph / 44.5 mph
    Riding Time: 3 hours 42 minutes
    Total Time: 4 hours 48 minutes
    Power (avg/max) 158 watts / 695 watts
    Calories Measured at Wheel: 2,095
    Heart Rate (min/max/avg): 101 bpm / 173 bpm / 150 bpm

    Miles this Year: 1208

    Wednesday, March 01, 2006

    Take Off, Eh?

    I think it is safe to say that when most Americans are asked about Canada, they think of mundane things like hockey, Molson Golden, hosers, and that town on the other side of Niagara Falls. Or, just as often, they can't think of anything at all. They almost certainly never think of scary evil-doer stuff. Except in the possible case where the person you are asking is a lobbyist for the pharmaceutical industry.

    We don't even secure our border with Canada. The few times I traveled to Canada, I did not even have a passport. All I needed was my US drivers license. We have free trade agreements and other miscellaneous reciprocities dating back to the middle 19th century. We even have military policy, 'Fortress North America', that treats Canada as an extension of the US for defense purposes. Canadians are our friends. Members of the 51st state, even. No evil-doers in Canada, no sir.

    This is why it was somewhat of a surprise today when our Canadian riders were denied passage through Fort Huachuca. The Fort Huachuca Reservation is pretty large. How large I do not know, but it takes well over an hour to circumnavigate it in a car. The large size of the reservation is presumably why they let people drive through it. Except Canadians, that is. Don't get me wrong, I am all for the securing of US military bases. It was just surprising that the Canadians were excluded, given the steady flow of unescorted civilian traffic that flows into the base.

    Being a non-Canadian, I was able to ride through on my way to Elgin. Elgin is in the center of Arizona wine country. That is not a joke. They grow vinifera and make wine in the middle of the desert. I should have stopped in to taste some. However, my knee was feeling pretty good today so I was concentrating on getting a good workout. With the knee issues, I have not been able to get my power output and heart rate up to meaningful intensities in almost a week, so I took full advantage of the good day.

    The Elgin Winery website says that they grow a variety of grapes, but most are Italian varietals. I would have thought that they would grow Syrah, given the fact that Shiraz does so well in the harsher Australian wine regions, but they seem to focused on Italian style wines. They have a 100% Nebbiolo that I would like to try. If they can make a good Barolo in the Arizona desert, I would be very impressed. There is also a Cabernet that they age in chestnut. Could be interesting, if not good. If we go through Elgin again next week I may try to stop in, although I would prefer to find a restaurant that serves it. Unfortunately, all the restaurants here are either chains (with chain wine lists), diners, or Mexican food stands. If I manage to try the wine, I'll report back.

    Although I'm still icing my knee at every stop, it is definitely improving -- as the ride summary suggests when compared to other rides this week. Tomorrow, I intend to count my blessings and focus more on the pasty and coffee in Bisbee than on getting an intense workout. We do have to climb Mule Pass, but I think I should be able to spin easily for most of the 60 miles. Then, on Friday it's 90 miles back to Tucson and a rest day on Saturday. If I take it easy, I may start Week 3 with a clean bill of health.

    Ride Summary

    Distance: 60 miles
    Speed (avg/max): 16.5 mph / 38 mph
    Riding Time: 3 hours 40 minutes
    Total Time: 4 hours 45 minutes
    Power (avg/max) 156 watts / 705 watts
    Calories Measured at Wheel: 2,043
    Heart Rate (min/max/avg): 96 bpm / 183 bpm / 152 bpm

    Miles this Year: 1148

    Tuesday, February 28, 2006

    Fingers Crossed

    Our destination today was Tombstone, with an optional climb over Mule Pass into Bisbee. I tentatively planned on skipping the pass, due the knee situation. I figured if I made it to the first stop at the base of the climb, with no knee pain, I would make the climb. Since next week's routes are essentially a repeat of this week, I hope to climb everything next week with a good knee.

    Before leaving this morning, I swapped out my shoe cleats to get more float. For those in the know, I use LOOK Keo pedals. I switched from grey cleats to red. Basically, that means that my feet could now swivel a few extra degrees on the pedals. The existing cleats were almost worn out anyway, and I figured more float might relieve some pressure on my knee. The float thing can be tricky, however, since too much float can cause knee strain due to the extra work you have to do to stabilize your feet in the pedals.

    As I left the parking lot, I noticed something interesting. With the new cleats, the natural position of my foot was toed out to the maximum float of the cleat. That meant that with the previous, more restrictive, cleat I was probably not toed out as much as I should have been. Perhaps this was contributing to my knee problem. Prior to last week, I had not put more than 100 miles on them in any given week. A strained foot position could easily go unnoticed with so few miles. A glimmer of hope.

    During the first 16 miles to the base of Mule Pass, my knee hurt most of the time. I was getting pretty discouraged, but kept thinking that maybe the new cleat would help. Damage had already been done, and I could not expect the knee to suddenly stop hurting. At the first stop, I stayed a few minutes longer to ice the knee. I skipped the Mule Pass climb and turned west toward Tombstone.

    For the first 20 minutes or so, my knee felt good. Ice works short-term wonders on tendinitis. Then the climbing started, and my knee starting complaining again. In the 16 miles from the stop to Tombstone, my knee probably hurt half of the time but not as sharply as in the morning. The vistas on the ride to Tombstone, by the way, were absolutely amazing. Literally hundreds of square miles of basin terrain were visible at once -- with towering mountains surrounding it all. I did not try and capture them with the camera, because it would not have been possible. Only full motion video on a large screen could begin to capture the feeling.

    After lunch, during which I iced my knee again, I managed about 45 minutes of pain free riding before some hills brought on a dull ache. Irregardless, the final 20 miles back into Sierra Vista were some of the least painful miles since Friday. I am optimistic that things may improve some more tomorrow. There is, however, about 15 miles of difficult terrain on our way to, and through, Fort Huachuca.

    Tomorrow, my roommate is riding an unsupported 200km brevet with two other riders. I had been looking forward to going along, but I know it would set my recovery back. First things first. I've got my fingers crossed that the cleat change will speed my recovery. I have to get this knee better so I can stop posting about all of my complaints...


  • Beach Shaque. Kind of odd, given that there is no water anywhere nearby. But, perhaps that is the point.

  • City Limits

  • OK Corral

  • I guess they had drag queens in the old west too.

  • San Pedro River

  • While riding down the main drag in Tombstone, I accidentally had my camera in movie mode. It's not a great clip, but shows a few seconds of the town before getting random.

  • Ride Summary

    Distance: 50.5 miles
    Speed (avg/max): 13.5 mph / 36 mph
    Riding Time: 3 hours 45 minutes
    Total Time: 5 hours 15 minutes
    Power (avg/max) 112 watts / 614 watts
    Calories Measured at Wheel: 1500
    Heart Rate (min/max/avg): 89 bpm / 172 bpm / 134 bpm

    Miles this Year: 1088

    Monday, February 27, 2006

    Tasty Pasty

    About 25 miles into today's ride, I encountered a rundown looking house. At first glance, it appeared to be abandoned. The paint was peeling from the old wooden siding, the weeds along the perimeter were high, and there were various pieces of industrial junk strewn about the property. In contrast to the general appearance of the place was a hand painted sign on the side of the building. The sign, which appeared to have been maintained sometime within the past few years, identified the building as a diner. More importantly, the sign made reference to 'Home Made Pie'.

    Sure, the place was pretty ragged, but so was my knee. And what could be better for a bum knee than homemade pie? Surgery, you say? Please. Surgeons could learn a lot from pastry chefs. The place was certainly worth a look. Besides, I was only riding 40 miles today and needed to kill some time.

    As it turned out, the place was open and operating, but did not appear to have enough of a menu to be a bona fide diner. I asked about the pie, and the waitress said that she would check on it. Her caught-off-guard reaction seemed to imply that maybe there was only a slice or two remaining from some aging pie -- if any at all. She returned, however, to rattle off a list of about 10 different pies. Apple, Coconut Cream, Blueberry, Shoofly, Pecan, Strawberry Rhubarb, Blackberry Cream, and a few others that I cannot remember.

    Things were looking up. Some strawberry rhubarb pie and coffee would do my knee a world of good. And it did. That pie was the best pie I had in a very long time -- with the possible exception of the pecan pie that my neighbor made last month as the final sortie of her holiday campaign to fatten me up before training.

    My knee actually did feel a tiny bit better for the rest of the ride, but I stuck to my recovery plan and took it very easy the rest of the way. I also, of course, got a few photos.


  • The Road. Looking along Arizona 92 South toward Sierra Vista

  • Distant Fire. I hope you get that stupid song stuck in your head like I did.

  • Pie

  • Orchard

  • Border Patrol. Apparently, they use tethered airships here to surveil the US-Mexican border.

  • Somebody once told me that his mother-in-law's standard exclamation of frustration was 'Christ on a Mountain!'. Perhaps she was referring to this place.

  • Remember the laundr-o-mat fire last week in Gila Bend? For various boring reasons, I cannot access my photos of that event until I get a new cable for my camera. However, one of the riders from last week sent me his photo to share with you.

  • Ride Summary

    Distance: 37 miles
    Speed (avg/max): 13.2 mph / 32.2 mph
    Riding Time: 2 hours 48 minutes
    Total Time: 4 hours 7 minutes
    Power (avg/max) 102 watts / 350 watts
    Calories Measured at Wheel: 1025
    Heart Rate (min/max/avg): 80 bpm / 144 bpm / 120 bpm

    Miles this Year: 1038

    Sunday, February 26, 2006

    Two Wheels Down

    One of our riders went down today. I was not there when it happened, but I was told that it happened like this. While climbing the pass between Tucson and Sierra Vista, a motorcycle driver lost control of his bike and hit the guard rail. The motorcycle skidded along the rail and hit the bicycle. Last I heard, the cyclist was stable, but was transported via helicopter to a local hospital. The guy on the motorcycle reportedly broke a wrist, maybe both. I had not yet had a chance to meet the rider, as he was one of the new guys coming in for Week 2. His roommate is now my roommate.

    My plan for the day was to keep my cadence high, above 90, and my power low. If I stayed in my triple chainring and spun fast, perhaps I could keep my power below 150 watts and my knee would hold up. The weather, however, had different plans as the morning wind was brutal. With the incline toward the pass and the strong headwind, I had to push a lot harder than 150 watts just to maintain 8-10 mph. The final two short climbs to the first snack stop required almost 500 watts.

    My knee was starting to hurt by the time I got to the first stop, so I rode the van to the lunch stop with an ice bag. After lunch, I finished the ride. My knee hurt on-and-off during the final segment of the ride, mostly during the climbs, but it was not hurting when I rolled into the motel. I aconsider that progress. Another therapy session this evening and a another night of ice bags will, hopefully, get me closer to normal.


  • Bright Sky

  • Distant Mountain

  • 1492

  • Ride Summary

    Distance: 48.6 miles
    Speed (avg/max): 12.2 mph / 25.4 mph
    Riding Time: 3 hours 47 minutes
    Total Time: Approx 5 hours
    Power (avg/max) 145 watts / 483 watts
    Calories Measured at Wheel: 1980
    Heart Rate (min/max/avg): 73 bpm / 180 bpm / 146 bpm

    Miles this Year: 1001