25 October to 21 November: Cycling isn’t Easy Here – the Vegetation is NOT Friendly

What’s in a Bike?
The bicycle I have is actually Eric’s old bike.  My original one was heavy and clunky and died a rattly death about ten years ago.  Eric did not use his bike, so I asked if I could use it, and now it is in use all the time 🙂

While still in Winnipeg in the spring, I was riding to and from ERLPhase.  It was some 10 km or so through nice residential neighbourhoods, mostly – and mostly, a pleasant ride.  It was 45 to 50 minutes the first few days, and I had it down to about 35 minutes by the time I stopped riding in late May/early June, as I readied my “escape” to Phoenix.

Also, the back tire went flat and I didn’t have a chance to fix it.  I left that for when I got here.

So, I’ve gained even more weight since leaving Manitoba, time to get back on the bike.

I didn’t realize that they would take the bike to pieces, but I had to put it back together, which I did in late October.  I replaced the rear tire tube, and got moving.

The Route
The ride is not that long, but very stressful.   I ride a moderately busy street north for about 3 km (32nd St), then a reasonable cycling trail along the “Central Arizona Project” canal for about 3 km, cross a busy street (Cave Creek Rd), then follow the “Central Arizona Project” another km or so, but this time, it’s on top of an embankment up about 20 ft or so, with rough gravel and a lot of stones.  Then back down, following another very busy street west for 2 km (Deer Valley Rd).  Ride the very ugly rough sandy/loose gravel shoulder north along 7th St. for about a km, then a nice rarely used back entrance road into the airport west for about a km.  I go off road to get from there into the Fedex Ground depot parking lot, a bit more off road to get to the frontage road to the office, and I am there.

Flats, Flats, Everywhere There are Flats
Within the first week, I had a flat rear tire.  Hmm.  Replaced the tube.  Must have been a dud.  I put heavy duty goo-filled self-sealing “Slime” inner tubes front and back.

Then, on Monday, 04 November, I had a completely flat rear tire on the way home, in the Fedex Ground parking lot, only about 1/2 km from work.  It was a nice night, so I decided to walk.  Oof!  Big mistake!  It took almost 2-1/2 hours to walk the bike home.  By the time I got home, I thought my feet were going to fall off!  Those were terrible sneakers, almost worn out, should have been discarded long ago.  I didn’t care, I wasn’t walking in them, I was riding a bike!  Oh boy, they went into the garbage immediately.  It took me a full day to recover from that fiasco.

I patched the tube.  There was an ugly little furniture nail or something in it!  I fixed it, and continued to ride.

Then one day, I had a front tire flat.  I pulled the tube to patch it.  I found 3 holes in the tube.  One patch covered all three.  I checked again before putting it back into the tire.  Whoa, two more holes!  Upon inspection of the tire (which is pretty well shot by the way), I found half a dozen or so more “nails” – but these were not nails – they were thorns!  Yes, the desert was striking out at me.

Jim Blake, my boss, had told me about foam core tubes that don’t run flat.  I went to get some, but the salesman convinced me that an “armour strip” would be just as good.  This strip goes into the tire before the tube, has Kevlar or something like that on the outside, and can stop whatever might stick into the tube.  Sounds good.

However, I had another flat on the front tire just the other day.  I replaced the tube.  Then, today, 21 November, the rear tire ran flat as I rode.  I pumped it up, and it was soft again by the time I got home.  Time to get those foam core tubes.  I’ve been avoiding it because cash was tight.  Now I should be able to afford it.  New tires and new foam core tubes.

By my count, I’ve had seven fully flat tires, so far.  That doesn’t count once or twice when I came out to find a tire flat unexpectedly, just pumped it up and appeared to be fine.  I thought that my jealous co-workers were letting the air out during the day maybe (well it wasn’t a likely explanation but it was an explanation), but, nope, would have been a leak that the Slime actually did seal up.  Yikes.

Nasty Vegetation
The vegetation here is not friendly.  In Winnipeg, if you brush up against a shrub, or a small bush, or a plant in the garden, it will likely tickle, or maybe scratch just a bit.  Here, it will bite you.  Or stick you with thorns that are practically hypodermic needles!  Wow.  What a place.

But I am Getting Stronger
The upside of all this: cycling is getting easier.  Yesterday on my way in, I had the feeling that I was going to have “something left in the tank” when I got to work – that is, before the front tire went flat and I had to walk the last 2 km 🙂

Modified Route
It turns out if I just go down Cave Creek Road (busiest road in the area) and my own street E Utopia Road, it’s quicker and shorter.  A lot scarier, but I’m getting used to the fear of fast traffic.  Maybe I should check into how good of a life insurance policy I have, hey?  🙂

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