05 April: Easter morning!

Last fall, I formally joined Mission Bell United Methodist Church at 44th Ave & Bell Road.  It’s a great place.  The minister, Pastor Paul Self-Price, is a wonderful guy, preaches thought provoking sermons, and is familiar with the struggles of the 12 step program, which made it comfortable for me to talk to him.

Well anyway, last Easter, I attended my first “sunrise Easter service”.  This year, I attended my second.  I was at the church from 6:30 AM til after noon, attending all 3 services (sunrise, contemporary, traditional).   Ugh!  Then had to go to work to prepare for this trip to Lyon that I’m currently on 🙂  In between services, thankfully, we had a bit of a breakfast thing, which was very nice.

The only pics I got of the morning were of the Easter egg hunt.  So cute!!!  The setup for the egg hunt was interesting too – the older kids were asked to spread the candy-filled plastic eggs in the designated area.  The kids, especially the older boys, apparently have hearing difficulties, or can’t follow directions, or don’t care, or something like that – they put eggs all over the place outside the designated area – and got careless, tossing eggs several feet, not caring if they popped open and spilled their candy all over.  Heh, heh, pandemonium both on distribution and on retrieval!  Ah well, they are kids, and they all had a good time!  Sugar rush for many little ones that morning, eek!

02, 03 April: The Desert Blooms!

The summer heat is so stifling here, and the winter is so dry here.  I bought a house with a lawn front & back – small lawns, but lawns nonetheless – but now I see the wisdom of having the front & back yards in a “natural” state.  The sun is so hot, the air so dry (most of the time – but more about that another day), that you must dump copious amounts of water onto the lawn, just so it will survive.

The sun is so strong that it works as a bleaching agent – colours get washed out here, plants die unless watered – well, except of course for the weeds – weeds seem to flourish everywhere – and the cacti.

So, it’s amazing and wonderful when, all of the sudden, the desert blooms.  Here are a few pictures of the desert plants in bloom.  The first couple are in my yard.

In my backyard.  I just missed catching a hummingbird that was sipping at some of the nice flowers in the creeping vines…

In my front yard.  Since this picture, the whole tree has opened up in huge blossoms of red!

Landscaped area around water treatment plant along my cycling route to work.  Look at those gorgeous red flowers!

More along my cycling route.  Different colours for each type of cactus?

Catching other cacti along my cycling route.

Zoomed back shot along my cycling route.

More cactus along my cycling route.

In a front yard along my cycling route.  Look carefully at the top of the cacti.  I saw birds sitting on top as I rode up!

07 April: Be Afraid… Very Afraid! Sleep apnea is a scary thing…

My scary CPAP machine!

One story of the trip over here that I just have to share, right away, before I forget.

Upon arrival in Lyon, after some 17 hours of flights & layovers, neither my colleague Sam nor I had any cash.  I had been advised to just withdraw some at the airport, from my account back in the USA.  Sam spotted a cash machine and I wandered over and pulled 200 Euros out.

Sam, however, had brought US dollars.  Nope, they won’t do anything here.  So we set out to find a place to exchange some US dollars for Euros.  She went over and asked at information, and we were told that there were cash exchanges on up on level 2, terminal 2.  So, we wandered off that way.

It turned out to be a loooooong walk… again.  At least a kilometre.  About halfway there, I looked back and realized that I had my suitcase, and my briefcase, but not my CPAP machine case.  EEK!

I ran back toward the main floor, where we had been.  There was an escalator up, but I had to take the stairs down, with suitcase and (ugh) heavy briefcase.  I got to the bottom, and there in the middle of the floor, was my CPAP machine case, yay!

As I approached it, three security guards who were standing there, waved me away.
“Monsieur, ne passez ici!”
 “No, no, it’s mine!”
“Eet eez yours?”
“Yes, it’s my CPAP machine!”

Man, did they look relieved.  They were suddenly on their radios, apparently cancelling the police/bomb squad, who were already on their way!

They gave me a stern warning.  I opened the bag and checked that all the contents were undisturbed (if you know me, then you know that I would stress about such things).  I apologized profusely, and left, thankful that they hadn’t blown up my CPAP machine, heh heh.

I recall now that I had the CPAP bag hanging off the back of my suitcase, but it destabilized the suitcase, so I took it off and set it beside the suitcase, as I waited.  Curses, forgot to check that I had picked it up again!  Wow, I’ll be more careful next time.

Oh, and yes, the machine is working fine.  Whew!  How would I sleep, otherwise?

26, 28, 29 December: Let’s have a dram, shall we?

Rev. George Davidson, my friend and retired pastor of Headingley United Church, had some serious brain surgery in October.  They’ve repaired an aneurysm that was threatening, and confirmed that tumour concern was unwarranted, whew.

I had heard that he was still in the Health Sciences Centre, so on Boxing Day after doing a bit of shopping with Eric (did I say “a bit”?  Yikes, spent too much money at Mark’s Work Wearhouse!), I went to see George.  He was sound asleep, and looked very pale and tired.  I decided not to wake him, chatted with the nurses, and they confirmed he was having a rough morning and needed his rest.

When the blizzard abated on Saturday afternoon, I drove back to see if he was up & around.  He was again asleep, but this time the nurses urged me to wake him, so I did.  Was he ever happy to see me!  You could tell that he was tired, for sure, and drifted in & out of consciousness during our conversation.  He was certainly glad for the visit.  I stayed for over 3/4 hour, was good that I went.

I asked George if he’d like me to sneak in a flask of Scotch whisky so we could have a dram.  He said, “THAT is a damned good idea!”  I chatted with the nurses, and they said I could, as long as it was one, and as long as it was well watered down.  Well, it turns out that you are supposed to cut whisky with water anyway, so I decided to do it.

I went to the MLCC to pick up a mickey (12 oz bottle) of Johnny Walker Scotch, but they don’t offer it in mickey size 🙁   So had to buy Glenlivet 12 yr old single malt, and it was certainly damned good 🙂  I stopped at the dollar store and picked up an assortment of glasses that might serve the trick for drinking whisky in the hospital.  Of course, washed them as soon as I got back to mom’s place.

On Sunday morning, after zooming out to Warren and picking up the B.U.T. battery, I zoomed back, showered & changed, and went down to the HSC with the mickey and glasses.  The nurses recognized me of course, and George had just finished breakfast.  Again he was very glad to see me.  I poured us each a short shot and topped them off with water from the water cooler.  He took a sip of his apple juice and said, “Now that’s good Scotch!”  Later, he took a sip of his milk and said, “Now that’s good Scotch!”  Finally, he took a sip of the Scotch and said, “NOW that is DAMNED GOOD Scotch”   Nice.

On my way out, I asked the nurses if I could leave the bottle behind.  Donna is very strict and straight laced, and would be scandalized if she came around the corner and saw the mickey sitting there.  It might be worth the thirty bucks!  Alas, they said that it would just disappear (be stolen) in the night – so I took it back to mom’s.  I’ll take it to visit George again in the summer when I’m there, and we’ll once again have some DAMNED GOOD Scotch 🙂

I’ve since chatted with George & Donna’s daughter, Laurie Dixon, and brought her up to date.  She’s really running hard to keep up with her kids, her job, and taking Donna up to visit George, etc.  She said she would keep me posted.  I hope he improves rapidly – there are no guarantees, but there are precedents for excellent rapid recovery.  We can but pray and wait.

December/January: Cycling in the Winter, yay!

Part of the reason why I’m here is that I can cycle to and from work in the wintertime.  Now, I’m hoping to cycle all year ’round, but I have been warned that the extremely high temperatures here might make that a bit… um… dangerous (no freakin’ kidding, I got here last July, and wow!).   Once I start losing serious weight, I will be in better shape to cycle during the heat, shall see.  I hope so 🙂

Anyway, so for now, I am cycling about 6-1/2 miles each way.  There are two off-road segments not properly shown on the map – one where I cycle the path along a canal, and one where I cut through the desert to avoid Pinnacle Peak Road and its traffic, and save about 1/2 mile of riding.

Cycling Route… doesn’t show path along canal or through desert just north of airport

The path along the canal is not much fun – it’s a track for vehicles… but not normal vehicles.  It’s very stony and up & down.  It seems like they made an embankment along the canal, and that’s what I cycle on.

The start of the trail along the canal, off to the right of the service road, and up…

Once just before Christmas, on 18 December, I spied an easier route on the other side of the canal.  Much less up and down, it held some promise.

Ah, a much nicer, more level trail on the other side of the canal!

The trail showed signs of some use, although not much.  It had a fence on either side, no worries.  It turned out to have some seriously stony patches, so had to dismount a couple of times, but still was nice to ride on.  I got to the other end, had to navigate a bit around a few trees, up a slope, and guess what I came to?  A locked gate!!

They coulda done me a favour and blocked the other end of the trail…

Well if that didn’t give me a sense of deja vu from so many years ago, ha ha.  Remember the story of the barbed wire topped chain link fence at A. I. Dupont research campus in Wilmington, Delaware, on my very first business trip in 1984?   Hmm, a story for another time 🙂

Yup, so anyway, had to backtrack the full 1/2 mile over the stones, etc., and cycle the other side anyway.  Learned my lesson on that one.  Or did I?

On 27 January, I decided to try the route that Google maps shows – some kind of a trail that cuts off and saves the whole beside-canal thing altogether.  It turned out mediocre-to-OK.  The jury is still out on this new trail – it’s kind of rugged and loose material in spots (makes for difficult cycling), so I’m using it for now, but considering whether it’s worth the effort.  And – oh yeah – there’s a nasty dog along the way – but the yard is mostly fenced in, and he doesn’t see me until he’s corralled behind the fence and can’t get to me.  Heaven help me if he sees me coming and takes the long way around!

On the way in on 27 January, I had a few exciting moments.  First, at the stoplight on Cave Creek Road at the underpass of the 101 Loop freeway, I was waiting at the red light when an ambulance came toward us.  Since the traffic was stopped, it couldn’t get to the intersection.  It bounced out into our side, which was no problem because most of the traffic had stopped…  well, no, they hadn’t – and the ambulance ended up nose-to-nose with a lineup of cars coming down off of the freeway and turning to head north on Cave Creek Road.  They sat face-to-face for a bit, two rows of traffic blocking the ambulance, when finally someone in the second lane cleared out, and allowed those right in front of the ambulance to cut to the right.  Just about that time, the light came green for the traffic facing us to turn left onto the freeway, cutting across in front of the ambulance.  In spite of full lights and siren, the front car in the innermost lane pulled out to turn as the ambulance entered the intersection.   It blocked the ambulance!  With the horn blaring and siren screaming, the driver froze, blocking the ambulance from getting anywhere.  For over 20 seconds, the driver sat there.  Then tried to move to the right, as the ambulance tried to do the same.  Then tried to move to the left, as the ambulance did the same.  The entire intersection was empty, everyone else was stopped, but this driver was petrified.  After at least 30 seconds, finally the driver moved their car just enough that the ambulance could pass.  I sure hope that it wasn’t a fatal error on part of the driver.  Yikes.

Two blocks further up, when I went to cross the street (to enter the trail beside the canal), I had an opening in traffic and zipped across through it… but for some reason my rear wheel came loose and jammed against the frame of the bike.  With the traffic bearing down on me and the bike in too high of a gear, I just put my leg into it and powered across the opening, just in time.  I took the bike aside and realized that the quick release for the rear axle had come loose.  I tightened it and proceeded.

At the other end of the trail, I have to cross traffic again.  Everything was going fine, until I was in the centre of the road, trying to get across the last few lanes.  As I went to power through the gap in traffic, it happened again – but this time it jammed firmly.  I powered across the first lane and half the second, then had to jump off the bike and carry it across the rest of the way.  Fortunately, there was only one pickup truck coming, and the driver saw me and steered around.  It wasn’t all that close a call but it was a bit stressful.

It turns out that the cause of all this was that the derailleur had come loose and was working its way out.  I pulled out my tools (thankfully I have them 🙂 ) and fixed it.

Speaking of which, my backpack isn’t as heavy as it was a month ago – it sure is nice since my new work computer arrived.  From early August until early January, I was bringing my personal notebook computer back and forth every day.  When driving, that’s not much of a chore.  But when riding a bike, that extra four or five pounds was annoying – good for me, I’m sure, but it’s a lot better now that I don’t have to.  The tool kit is only a couple of pounds, so not that bad – and much more useful on the trail 🙂

24 December: FUN in the ‘Peg over Christmas! (getting there was fun too)

So the flight from Phoenix (well, Mesa-Gateway airport, bit of a ways away from Phoenix) was at 6:30 AM.  I was late getting to the airport, about 5:45 – and they had already closed the baggage for the flight 🙁  They re-opened it just for me, yay.  I got to the gate, they said to go to the last plane on the end.  I was literally the last person to get there.  As I walked out onto the tarmac (well, it is Phoenix, you don’t really need a covered walkway… well not in the winter anyway, ha ha) and there were two planes there.  As I got to the second one, I saw four more.  It was the last plane on the end.  So a quarter mile jog was in order.  Oh well.

All of my winter clothes had been shipped to Phoenix (dumb but hey I just told them to “pack everything” and they did).  I vacuum packed two winter jackets and wore a third, one that I thought was a good balance between light, and warm.  My yellow jacket 🙂

There were still people filing onto the plane, so no worries.  I got back to my seat – I had the window seat – and the other two were taken, ugh.  Oh well, in the back of the plane, you can sit anywhere you want, yay!  Hmm, very young child in front of me, around 1-1/2 to 2 years old.  Hmm.  The young mom apologized to me “in advance” as soon as I sat down.  Oh boy.

We set out on our 3 hour flight.  It was mostly uneventful…  and they offer you nothing to eat, nothing to drink.  Well, they gave me a bottle of water, which was nice.  I occupied myself by reading on my tablet, snoozing, and listening to some podcasts.

I was sitting in the 3rd last row on the McDonnell Douglas MD80.  This means that the engine was right beside my ear.  I used my noise cancelling headphones, that helped to alleviate the noise.  The child in the row in front made a fuss a few times, but it was no big deal.

When it was time to land, we were deep in the clouds, could not see a thing.  I could feel us turn, turn, turn, but that’s no surprise, I’ve felt that before on the approach to Grand Forks.

The captain came on and said something incomprehensible.  With the engine noise, and apparently a problem with the P.A. system in our end of the plane, all I heard was “clearing snow”, fuel” and “divert to Fargo”.  Oh boy.  So we turned, climbed, broke out of the clouds, and dropped back in, landing in Fargo.

We sat on the apron (the road from runway to the airport terminal) for at least 3/4 hour, and finally they let us pull up to refuel.  The engines were running the whole time, and it was quite monotonous, oh well.  Wow was it windy and blustery.

Out the Window in Fargo

Refuelling took another 1/2 hour, followed by 1/2 hour of de-icing.  Many folks were grumbling about getting off there, but of course they weren’t allowed to.  When the person behind me started to grumble, I reminded them that if they let us off, they would have to do the boarding process all over again, just to ensure that they got an accurate passenger manifest, and certainly they would not unload and reload all the luggage just to get the few folks theirs.

I was in touch with Eric by text, and he reminded me that there was a plane load of people waiting in Grand Forks to get on the plane and fly to Phoenix, so again, we were going to have to get to Grand Forks soon.

The young child was restless, threw a few tantrums, but mom and dad calmed her and all was well.

We took off from Fargo, and it was a difficult leg.  I know a little bit about flying – not much – but I could tell that they were struggling.  It was rough, turbulence and side to side, ugh.  We broke through the clouds and descended into Grand Forks.  The snow was swirling all right, and we were a-swingin’ from side to side as we came down.

Here we had to sit on the tarmac for another hour because there are only two gates and a plane in each one.

The young child went ballistic.  The poor mom had a tantrum, cried, and the plane was just generally crazy.  Eric has since snagged Dad seemed to have some candy in his jacket pocket, and that was just enough to get us over the crisis.

Finally we got to the terminal.  I went to zip up my jacket and…  Oh crap, the zipper is not only damaged, the toggle is missing entirely!!!  Ha ha ha!  Eric had to go get the car and bring it to the front of the terminal. 

Not sure whether this jacket will get repaired, or just tossed

Eric said that the drive down in the morning was white knuckle in spots, but the drive back was fine.  My 3 hour plane ride took 6-1/2 hours.  Ugh.  We got to Winnipeg late, and I was beat.  Safe though, and that I am most certainly appreciative of.

Well, I was only back in the ‘Peg for five days, but I got a good dose of winter.  For the first few days, it was relatively nice, perhaps -5 to -10C.  On Friday evening and through Saturday, we had a blizzard, then in the evening, the skies cleared off and we went into the deep freeze, an overnight low of -33C or something like that.  Eric drove me back to Grand Forks on Sunday, and I was quite happy to hand him my winter clothes and fly back to Arizona 🙂

 I visited with a bunch of people, and it was good to see everybody.

One of the things that I had to do while there, was check up on the B.U.T. (big ugly truck) that is stored out at the McRae homestead out in Warren, about 40 km or so out of town.  Eric was going to do that some time in the fall, but had not made it.  I was worried about the battery, most of all.

I drove out the Warren.  The snow was DEEP!  Good thing I brought my tall snow boots.  Fern had advised me to park in her driveway, which I did, and cut across through the deep snow.

Well, sure enough, the battery was so weak that it would not crank.  Sigh.  While I was fussing with it, and looking for tools in it, etc., I “kinda” locked the doors and closed the driver’s door.  OOPS!!!!   I had no spare keys with me.  Mom has spare keys at her place, but I’m driving her car…  Curses.  Then, to make it worse, I closed the hood – and since the hood release is inside the cab, that’s the end of the work on the B.U.T. for today.  Curses.  Now the battery will freeze, if the temperature drops much, since I drained out the last bit of juice from it, by trying to crank it over.  Argh!

Worse, that key ring was the set that I had brought from Phoenix, and it has some keys for Phoenix stuff on it.  Not that it’s the end of the world or anything, but why would I want to have those keys hanging there until June, when I come back???

I checked on a few other things, like the shed full of stuff (looking for the battery for mom’s cordless lawn mower that I have in Phoenix, for instance).  Then I sheepishly went back to mom’s place.

I was supposed to go back to Warren on Saturday, but per above, there was a blizzard, couldn’t attempt it.  On Sunday morning, it was absolutely frigid, but I dressed for the weather.  I zoomed out there and parked on the road rather than bother Fern.  With the spare set of keys and some tools,  I got my original keys, opened the hood, pulled the battery.  But now I had to trudge back about 300 ft through deep snow back to the car.  By the time I had got there, I was whipped!  But I was able to take the battery back to mom’s and put it indoors.  It wouldn’t freeze at least.

It turns out that I had pulled the flatdeck trailer winch battery and put it in mom’s basement already.  Plus, my old ’05 de Ville battery is down there – it was worth $300 and I don’t think there was anything wrong with the old one – had replaced it because the repair shop told me to.  So now there are three of my batteries down there.  She’s getting tired of running a battery storage facility.  At least they are each in battery boxes, so they aren’t a hazard or anything.

Since that time, Eric needed a battery for his pickup truck, so he’s snagged the flatdeck trailer winch battery.  Now only two in mom’s basement.

24 November: Grey Cup woo hoo!

Yes, it’s time for Canada’s big party!  I had tickets to the 101st Grey Cup game in Regina, but about a month ago I decided that it was too expensive to travel back for the game.  Eric wasn’t really interested in going (Regina was in the game, after all – and the Bombers this year were pathetic), and, well hey, it’s cold up there and reasonably warm here!

Eric’s girlfriend Terena bought my two all-party passes.  Check.

But I had Tickets to the Game!
A friend of a friend agreed to buy my Grey Cup game tickets.  Whoops, where are they?  They were sent to the apartment on Wilmot Place… at the end of October.  I have a year’s redirect on the mail, what happened?  Well Xpresspost apparently is a parcel, and parcels get no redirect service of any kind.  Rather than returning it to Regina (in which case they would have contacted me) or sending a notice to my mother’s address (where the redirect sends to), they did nothing!  For heaven’s sake.  So here we are, 2 weeks to the game, trying to get them back.  Had I have known, I’d have asked Eric to go down to the post office at the Osborne Village Shopper’s and get it, with a letter & ID of course.  But, no, they had to send them back to Regina, finally.  Well, that was over a week ago… and they have not arrived in Regina… still!

The person in charge of tickets in Regina was wonderful, and promised to overnight the tickets to my mother’s place, when they arrived.  Well, Wednesday and they weren’t in Regina yet… so she sent a pair of non-fancy simple printed tickets overnight.

They arrived, Eric made the connection, got a cheque, and all was well.

The fellow who bought the tickets would like the fancy originals for a Christmas collage / gift so I’m trying to track them down.  Sigh.

Watching Canadian Football in Phoenix
I have not been able to make the Bell ExpressVu dish work here in Phoenix.  It appears that all the doom sayers were right – Bell has switched to a new satellite whose signal does not show up here.  Sigh.

For a few games in the summer, I was able to watch using my computer and ESPN 3.  But there were very few CFL games on ESPN 3 toward the end of the season, and no playoff games. 

It almost looked like I was hooped.  But El & Gail Hay, MCAAC members from Winnipeg, have a trailer in Mesa, and I stopped by for a visit with El on Saturday.  He mentioned that they were watching the game on Sunday, and I begged to be able to watch.  So I was able to.  It was great.  I ate too much potato chips, drank enough wine to give me a headache (whose fault is that?), and had a wonderful supper…  although, as usual, I probably ate too much. 

The Game Itself
It was great to see the game, but too bad that the score wasn’t closer.  Those Roughriders were not going to be denied, so the Tiger Cats (well they seemed more like house cats on Sunday) are just going to have to try again next year.

Fixing The Bicycle?
…which leads me into why I had to fix the bike on Monday morning.  I got home, stuffed and with a headache (drink lots of water and take something for the headache… and it worked), just didn’t feel like fixing the bike.  I left that for the morning… probably just as well, wouldn’t have appreciated the frustration at trying to put those really stuff tires & tubes on the bike on Sunday night.

26 November: Riding again… oof!

I guess I was so traumatized that I didn’t mention it before – had a flat tire on the way home on Thursday evening.  My seventh.  I’ve had about enough of this!

Fortunately (or not), it rained cats & dogs through Thursday night, all day Friday, and into Saturday.   My riding was over for the workweek anyway.

On Sunday, I finally got a chance to stop at a bike shop – appropriately named Bicycles of Phoenix – and had a chat with the folks there.  They claimed ignorance of said “solid foam” tube replacements, but told me that there was a granular filling that I could use – but it needs periodic replacing, and is very expensive, oy.  I bought a pair of wicked heavy duty tires (with Kevlar or something else layer that should stop speeding thorns), and a pair of ultra heavy duty tubes, again filled with Slime.

I put them on Monday morning before work.  Holy mackerel, what a fight to get them on – they are so heavy and thick that it was really difficult, and took forever.   When done, I was sore and tired, ugh.  And late!  Had to drive to work.  Grrr.  Oh well.

Oh yeah, they want 45 to 55 lbs. pressure in the tire.  Wow, what a fight!  The foot pump I bought back in early September to pump up my bike tires, has sprung a bad leak in the hose (cheap pump / cheap hose ugh), so had to use my hand pump.  Took a long, long time, and, as I said, very tired when done.

Today I rode on those new tubes & tires.  The tires have a much less aggressive tread than the old knobby mountain-bike type tires, so they ride much more smoothly.   However, there is also a lot more mass there, so I feel like I have to pedal harder. 

The craziest thing is, although there hasn’t been rain for at least 36 hours, the “gravel” and “sand” along the side of the road, is soggy and soft – must be sand mixed with clay!  Oh boy, that 1 km stretch along 7th St., running past the Deer Valley Airport, was a mucky, heavy, strain-filled slog.  That chunk of off-road by the Fedex building was also mucky – leaving a coating on my tires – which flew off as I finished the last 1/2 km on the pavement. 

Later, when dry, of course that muck flew off of the tires like crazy this evening.  Most of the ride was in the dark, but fortunately the sand had dried that much more and was not as bad.  The only downside now is that it appears that some 4x4s have been tooling around back and forth across the shoulder, so there are very deep ruts in the sand & clay.  Almost dumped me on my butt – had to jump off of the bike, ha ha, yikes.

No matter, I made it.  I’m feeling better each day I ride 🙂

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?  🙂

12 October: Elizabeth makes Landfall on Utopia Rd.

I had visited Elizabeth in late September in her outdoor storage spot.  Argh, the car cover had completely disintegrated in the hot August sun, and was laying in flaky bits all around her!  And the hot sun had damaged her (up until now) like-new and pristine dash pad.  She needs to get indoors, and now!  But there is just too much junk in the garage.  Answer: build a shed for some of the junk, and get the rest sorted & sifted and put away.

Well, from the other post, you see that I built a shed, and that opened up one side of the garage.  Elizabeth went into the other side.  That is the “modern” car’s side of the garage, but, no matter, it has to be put in the garage.  The “modern” can sit outdoors for a few weeks.