Wednesday, July 14, 2010

WTF was THAT??

I was taking my morning ride, just before the sun came up. It was bright enough out that even the 100 lumen NiteRider headlight was hardly visible as more than a faint oval on the pavement, so I had the Blackburn set to blinky-mode.

About three blocks ahead, I saw a shape on the neighborhood street I was riding. It looked like something was sitting in the regal position of an Egyptian cat god, but I was having trouble believing it was a cat and I couldn't put my finger on why that was so. I went another block before it hit me ...

This guy is BIG!

He turned and looked at me. He did indeed have the large, upright, pointy ears of a feline, and his eyes flickered blue-green in my flashing headlight. He did not let me get any closer, but got up and gamboled off to the right in a typical catlike, coiled-back run. He had to be at least three feet long from the tip of his nose to the end of his bushy tail.

I slowed as I approached where he had disappeared behind a low, decorative block wall. There he was, sitting on top of the wall about fifty feet away, watching me. He was in that same royal position, and I had the height of the blocks to use as a reference to estimate his size. He was about two feet high from the top of his head to his rump. His coat was gray, and had some stripes across his cheeks and along his back.

I slowed further, reaching into my handlebar bag for my camera, but that was just too much attention for him and he disappeared.

I thought I knew all the critters in Arizona, but THIS guy was something I've never seen before.

Oh yeah, and I didn't see the little Barking Rat this morning, or last night for that matter. Hmmmm.

Monday, July 12, 2010

A Canine Quandary

Folks who know me know I have no love for dogs of the Barking Rat variety: pomeranians, toy poodles and --- especially --- chihuahuas.

For the last few days, on my morning ride, I have been chased for a couple of blocks by one of these noisy little abominations. I've been riding my 'bent, and that is the ONLY thing which has kept the little vermin from going to Doggie Heaven; if he were to chase me while I was on one of the mountain bikes, and I couldn't simply outrun him as I can on the much faster recumbent, I would slow down and the second he made a lunge at me I would squash his obnoxious little head onto the pavement. So, until now it has been just him and me; him yapping at me and fruitlessly chasing me, and me laughing at him and telling him the next time I pass I may have a couple of mousetraps which I'll use as caltrops to end his miserable little existence.

A couple of things have started to bother me. He seems to be widening his territory, so it now includes the route my wife takes when she is walking with our granddaughter in the stroller. If he were to start charging my wife, I would make sure he went to Doggie Hell. The other thing is I think the little twit has a collar, so he may be either lost or gets out of his yard by accident or on purpose.

My quandary centers around whether I should be a nice guy, and hoof it over to the area and see if he leads me back to his house and I can talk to his owner, or should I simply call Animal Control and be done with it.

You should all know that I tried the former strategy once before for another dog which got loose and charged my wife and me as we were walking our dog. That didn't turn out so well, as I almost got into a fistfight I would certainly have lost (the guy was a head taller than me and outweighed me by at least 100 pounds; plus his two sons were right behind him).

So, whatta y'all think?

Saturday, July 10, 2010

Biking in the Arizona Heat

(This was a post I made to the Bike Commuters site; some folks said it might be nice to see it here.)

The Arizona desert presents a unique set of challenges to the summer bike commuter.

For the vast majority of the year, unless your commute to work is very, very short, there is no way you can do it without having shower facilities. While other areas of the country face the challenges of high heat AND humidity, the desert has incredible heat but very little humidity. You WILL sweat as your body attempts to not only cool itself but also deliver moisture to the surface of your skin to protect it from drying out and dying. As that sweat dries quickly, and leaves behind a patina of dirt and body oils perfect for bacteria growth, you WILL stink and stink REALLY well. No amount of baby wipes are going to be able to deal with that, you need a genuine water stream which will get into every sweaty nook and cranny of your skin.

As far as riding attire goes, here again the desert is a very different environment which requires a very different set of clothing. Wearing wicking-type Lycra or other synthetics is out, for a couple of reasons. Number one is the fact that you WANT your clothing to hold the moisture close to your skin. That moisture is the only thing protecting you from heat exhaustion. There is NO way, short of an IV bag and tube, that you can take in enough water to replace the water wicked away by these efficient fabrics. Loose fitting cotton clothing is the rule of knowledgeable hikers, backpackers AND bike riders. Ignore this rule — and head out on a sunny, dry, 110° day for a 30 mile ride wearing your skintight Tour de France jersey and matching shorts — and the mortician at the end of your ride won’t have to put any embalming fluid into you: he’ll be able to simply pop you into the coffin because you’ll be as desiccated as an Egyptian mummy.

The second reason for not wearing bicycle synthetics has to do with that shower I was talking about earlier. Man-made fabrics stink … period … and they stink to high heaven when the brutal desert sun forces them to deal with the accelerated bodily processes which fill them with sweat and body oils. A word to the wise for any of you Arizona Lance Armstrong wannabes who ignore THIS rule: take TWO showers at the end of your commute, you NEED them because we WILL smell you.

When the weatherman says the thermometer is going to go up above 105°, I will usually pass on riding my bike to work unless I feel 100%, have begun the hydration process the night before and passed on the beer and steak and other foods which require more water to process them. And if he says it is going to to be 110° or better, I stay off the bike between 10 AM and 7 PM; if the temperature at the airport is 110° you can bet the temperature out on the pavement will be 115° or better.

More Zoo Biking

I'm a big fan of the Phoenix Zoo. Not only is it a great place to see African desert and American desert animals, but when you buy a year's membership it is one one of the best entertainment values going.

As I mentioned a couple of months ago, they also have bicycles you can rent to tour the Zoo on two wheels ...

Or on four wheels if that is more to your liking ...

You can also bring your own bikes if you want ...

This time of year, you need to head over there pretty early in order to beat the heat and actually see some of the animals. With a Zoo membership you can get in one hour earlier than everybody else, at 6:00 AM.

My little granddaughter is almost old enough to ride in the Schwinn Scout trailer, I can hardly wait.