The only thing about riding a bike from Portland to Phoenix is that in-between there is something called... NEVADA.

Friday, June 28, 2013

Cascadian Summer

Because riding to Phoenix from Portland in December was fun, we've embarked on a summer tour of Cascadia. Follow link 'Cascadia 2013' above to live this adventure vicariously!

Sunday, May 12, 2013

Data from the Trip

As mentioned in an earlier post, an automated data collector travelled with us to Phoenix. Mounted to the top tube of my bike, it collected a light and temperature reading every 5 minutes. Below are graphs created from that data.

Temperature: 2 24-hour periods had temperatures of nearly -10C : 12/13 & 12/23. 15 24-hour periods had temperatures at or below freezing. The highest low temperature was on 12/26, while the bikes stayed in the hotel room in Las Vegas on our rest day. One other pre-2013 peak stands out: 12/17. This was our rest day in McDermitt. After arriving in Phoenix on 1/1, the bikes stayed in the garage at night and didn't see temperatures below 10C.

Light: Before arriving in Phoenix on 1/1, two days show maximum daily light intensities of 0, 12/17 & 12/26. These are the two days we did not ride.

Sunday, March 10, 2013

Spring Solo Multnomah Falls; weekend refresher

The trips don't stop, and neither will the blog...

With a weekend forecast of solid sun followed by continuous rain, I decided it was a good time to make a break for the woods to break out of the city-grid for just a bit. 

34 miles in 3 hours. Let's say I used 1500 Calories (hard to say how much I actually used, but this is in the middle-range of the numbers given by those "calories burned" calculators, like here). Imagine a car that gets 34 miles to the gallon. One gallon of gas contains 35,000 Calories (just for fun, a pound of fat has 3500 -- an order of magnitude less!). So, had I driven I would have used 23 times as much energy (35000/1500) and had .0001 as much fun. What else to expect from bringing along 1 to 2 tons of extra weight? For more, see this

When leaving for Phoenix, we took this same route. Somewhere near Corbett we stopped to admire a vast expanse of Brassica - now they are nice roundy cabbages!

I flew up to Vista House in what must have been record time and with relative ease - a far, far cry from the first time I made this trip - Crown Point highway just doesn't take my breath away like it used to! (note: view has not depreciated)

While securing my bike at the base of the falls, I listened to a nearby tour guide. Apparently the trail to the top of Multnomah Falls is the oldest maintained hiking trail in Oregon, which seemed to justify the urgency I use in crossing the iconic, high arching bridge below the waterfall. Soon after surviving that ancient piece of concrete, I was befriended by another hiker. Focused on our conversation, the miles flew by; I didn't much notice the forest until it demanded my attention with an awesome tree-pillar-shafts-of-sunlight-cathedral display. 

Parting ways near Wahkeena spring, I continued on the trail to Devil's Rest, and began to see snow after about 2000'.


And these awesome leaves leftover from last year.


Reaching my intended campsite just at sunset, I found it already occupied.

Ravens woke me soon after sunrise, and under cloudy skies I dallied back down the trail, poking at the plant-life.

Step-moss is the best moss! (by some accounts) - A geranium-looking thing was shooting up everywhere - And Peppercress! That must have come in on someone's shoe?

 Lichenomphalia! Macrolichens of the Pacific Northwest has a picture of this that I notice often, seeing it in person was maybe how some people feel meeting a movie star? It is no ordinary mushroom.

Octopus on its nurse log.
Somebody count the rings-- Take that number plus how long ago this hemlock-octopus was cut (50?) plus time since nurse tree death (to attain proper rot - 200?) plus age of nurse tree when it died (600?) = years ago that big tree sprouted.

On the road again, I found the Crown Point Highway closed. Lacking a feasible detour I rode through, and enjoyed the steep winding climb free of beast-breath. Not until just short of Vista House did I get a hint at the reason for the closure. Fire trucks, a large group from Portland Mountain Rescue, police, all turned to look as I polished off the last of the steep climb. Unbelievably, I made it through the thick of this officialness without a confrontation -- until a voice called down from the high, castle-like Vista House: "Hey, where did you come from?" -- happily, the Sheriff allowed me to continue with only a warning.

Neat work being done with big rocks along that road.

GEAR! This is it: sleep stuff (40 degree down bag, tarp, mylar blanket), first aid kit for me (medical tape, sterile dressing, ibuprofen, benadryl, card with emergency contacts) and the bike (patch kit, tire levers, pump, multi-tool), credit card and cash, pocket knife, sunglasses, map, clothes (hat, gloves, wool shirt, bright hoodie, bright tanktop, stretchy riding pants, bandana), water bottle, bike lock, bag to put it all in, and bungee for attachment. Not pictured: food (bean and cheese burrito, peanut butter burrito, halvah bar, two carrots, apple, orange). Practice pays off, it fit on the bike with record ease:

Thursday, January 17, 2013

Chapter Three: Global Warming and Virtues of Ecological Restoration. Ronald Sandler

Chapter Three begins by explaining the concepts of values, traits, and virtues. In summary, "...a character trait is a virtue to the extent that its possession is generally conducive to promoting the good, and a character trait is a vice to the extent that it is generally detrimental to promoting the good" (p.67). The author continues by identifying character traits that are valuable for effective ecological restoration in a changing climate.

Global warming will increase both the unpredictability and the rate of ecological change, exacerbating the information deficit that already exists in restoration work. The author describes this well by saying "our ecological future is accelerating away from our ecological past with increasing rapdity, and [that] it is increasingly unclear where it is going" (p.64). Given this increased complexity, what character traits are most valuable in ecological practices?

The author identifies openness, accomodation, patience, restraint, humility, and reconciliation as important virtues. Promoting a less controlling and more hands-off approach to restoration, the author believes these traits are virtues due to the unpredictability of systems under a changing climate:

"In an age marked by amplified ecological uncertainty, technologies that are more control orientied are likely to be less successful than those that are not, and technologies that are more interventionist into complex ecological systems are likely to be less successful and have greater unanticipated effects than those that are not. This is a straightforward function of complexity and uncertainty in dynamic and integrated systems" (p.71).

The author also argues for the decreased importance of historical fidelity, or the attempt to make the system that is the object of an ecological restoration match what it has been at some time in the past (pre-disturbance). If the abiotic conditions in a particular place have changed, or will change, then an attempt to cultivate a species assemblage that thrived under that lost past may be doomed from the start.
Thawing permafrost in Churchill, Manitoba creates the "drunken forest" and thermokarst ponds.


Sunday, January 13, 2013

Last Leg

After many days spent in Arizona, it's time to go home. Having lost my riding partner more than a week ago (Kevin shipped his bike and flew home for the start of winter term classes) I made the ride ~40 miles south to the Maricopa Amtrak station solo. An unusually cold (for Phoenix) morning had me putting on extra layers at the beginning of the ride, but as the sun rose higher the thin layer of clouds disappeared, and by the time I left the Phoenician suburbs and their irrigation-canal-following trails for the open highway, it was plenty warm for one pedaling. A wide shoulder on a moderately busy highway made for a pleasant enough ride, leaving my eyes free to scan the ditch for oddities amongst the unusually thick scattering of trash - a stuffed dinosaur, blue plastic twine, yet another dead coyote...

Arriving in Maricopa, I quickly found the train station, bought a bike box, and packed up my gear. The bike box was so big I needed only to remove my pedals and handlebars (hanging by the brake and shifter cables), leaving the wheels on so I could actually roll the bike into the box and tape the flaps shut behind. The attendant took the box unceremoniously, and I wasn't sure whether to yell "goodbye!!!" to its retreating form, or plead with the attendant and make him promise to be careful. Hanging on to appearances and composure I did neither, instead turning to pursue the next item on the agenda -- could this finally be the town where I would find cricket tacos?

Walking up the main strip confirmed what riding down it an hour before had decided - No, no it would not. The town seemed to have been built yesterday, constructed entirely of pre-fabricated Standard American Boxes. Was this section of Earth really just a blank slate for Jack in the Box Carl's Jr McDonald's Basha's Subway Fry's Carwash Carlot Parking Lot? Apparently so, although the jagged and dark peaks on the near horizon hinted at something else.

After finding a reasonable burrito at a cheap price and devouring it on a sunny sidewalk, I stopped at the grocery store to search out snacks for the nearly 48 hour train ride. That is where I met "extreme butter hull-less popcorn". This product contained neither butter nor popcorn, but it cost only one dollar. Morbid fascination urged it into my hand, and the 14 grams of fat per serving from unspecified vegetable oils almost had their way with me, but in the end I begged the checkout guy to take it away. The mystery of oily cornmeal posing as buttery popcorn couldn't have been anything but a monstrosity.

Walking back to the train station a nagging desire chewed at the edges of my mind - what did it want? Coffee, chocolate? a house made from adobe and Saguaro? Biosphere 2 (a visit that will have to wait for cycle tour Arizona, round two)? No matter - thoughts of sinking deep into a window seat on a northbound train, and the phantom cyclists that had been following me since the Gorge finally being real again, trumped all. Homeward bound!

Thursday, January 3, 2013

The Actual Route

Here is the route we rode as best we can represent with Google Maps. Some of the bike paths could not be included with highway sections into a single map. Please contact us if you have questions on road conditions.
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MVPs of the Road

Alcohol Stove - small, lightweight, and virtually unbreakable. Fuel for this stove can be bought at most gas stations in the form of HEET, a cold-weather gasoline additive that is mostly methyl alcohol. Isopropyl alcohol and denatured ethanol also work.

The Sleeve - a soft scrap from an alpaca sweater. A last minute addition to Kevin's gear, this tight-woven piece of cloth became a balaclava for cold-weather protection.

Sunglasses - sun, snow, blowing sand, and wind protection. If you forget yours, just keep your eyes searching the shoulder and you may soon find a free pair, as Kevin did.

Silk Liners - sewn from old garments (found at Goodwill), silk adds lots of warmth without a lot of weight or bulk. Along with ~35 degree F down bags, mylar "emergency" blankets, tyvek bivy sacks, and closed-cell foam ground mats, hand-sewn silk liners played a big role in keeping our bedrolls both warm and packable.

Thin gloves - despite daytime temperatures below freezing, these minimalist gloves performed better than their technical cousins could have. Wind protection plus breathability keeps hands comfortable and dexterous while exercising in cold weather.

The Mar of The Car

The brightening eastern horizon marked the first morning of 2013. Day broke and Laura declared she wouldn't get up until the sun had melted the frost from her panniers. The cold night was cold, but it had prepared us a special breakfast - olive butter. Olive oil had turned into a spreadable delicacy, and we ate it on crackers with chevre and peanut butter. 

The day was warming quickly, and from our high perch we could see the highway stretching south in wide looping curves. After a quiet moment in the rocky desert forest of saguaro, ocotillo, palo verde, and creosote we packed up and hit the road. Shortly we came to the turnoff for the sanctioned campground, and turned down the steep road to fill our tanks with water.

Well hydrated, we climbed back to the main road. The shoulder was wide and smooth, the grade gentle, the weather warm and clear. Designated the "Joshua Tree Scenic Byway", we rode through a diverse forest of desert shrubs, cacti, and the spunky Joshua trees. After the Nevadan landscape, it seemed positively lush. Dark bluemountains on nearly every horizon framed the desert foliage, and the ride through this land would have been transcendent but for one problem - the traffic. Constantly streaming by, cars shredded the still air, providing a background roar that never ceased.

As the day progressed, the traffic built to a steady stream. Were all the people returning to Phoenix from New Year's festivities in Las Vegas? Would the motorized boxes never stop? Why don't the two layers of Chex stick together?
With limited vacation time, we arranged a rendezvous in
Wickenburg, 56 miles from Phoenix, for the final boost to our destination. Meeting Jim and Lois at a Shell station, we creatively strapped our bikes to the top of the vehicle, ate Mexican food, and were transported into the winter-time weather paradise of suburban Phoenix, AZ.