CategoriesFitnessUncategorized

4 Reasons I Turned to the Dark Side – Night Mountain Biking

A 10-second exposure of the moonlit desert at night. Check out the flash of lightning!

I used to have a lot of problems with night mountain biking. But over the past year, I’ve definitely turned to the Dark Side. It was around this time last year that a guy named Harry who found me on Facebook and some of his friends dragged me into signing up for the Kona 24 Hours in the Old Pueblo. I gave in because I have a hard time saying “no.” Here’s why I changed:

1. I found good, cheap lights. Most of Harry’s crew was hooked on the MagicShine GMG-900 light system. The guys all promised that I could get a good night riding system with a helmet light and a handlebar light for about $200. It’s easy to spend double that on similar lights. They were right. I love riding with these things. They’re simple to use, and the company has  updates on the way (I’ll post more about that in the future). So there goes the cost obstacle. I was also seeing a lot more of the distinctive green glow of the MagicShine power buttons. At least 10 other riders were sporting them. The secret is out! Check ’em out at Geomangear.com.

Snakes on a trail!

2. Since I had lights, I started riding at night more. And I sought out group rides like the McDowell Mountain Regional Park “Mountain Bike in the Moonlight” series. It’s very social, with more than 100 riders hitting the trails before enjoying some free cylindrical meat objects compliments of Slippery Pig Bikes. I’ve run into some old buddies like Bill from Adventure Bicycle Company and some of his long-time customers. Since I used to work there, it’s always very cool to see them – and I will tell anyone looking for a bike that you want to buy a bike from a guy that you’ll run into on the trails.

The park has done these night rides for years now, and it was the first government entity to sanction and host night riding. They have people sign on and off the trails to keep them safe, and it’s a good time for everyone. There is no better way to get into night riding than a Mountain Bike in the Moonlight session. Fact.

3. I love creatures. I’ve been seeing roadrunners in the twilight out at Papago Park – always one of my favorites! At McDowell, I’ve seen all sorts of kangaroo rats. And they are very cool little creatures with their big ol’ tails and hopping gait. It’s definitely a treat to see them – which you won’t in the day time. I may have seen some other rodent – it had an even longer tail with a big bottlebrush of fur on the end. I don’t know what it was. And after the Aug. 27 night ride, park supervisor Rand Hubbell spotted a young California king snake cruising through the dirt parking lot at the Competitive Track. He scooped him up to give us all a close-up view of this beneficial little creature – it eats rattlesnakes and is immune to their venom. Rand then dropped him off in a good spot in the desert so he could resume his king snake activities.

This is why a lot of bike people shave their legs - this would be a lot easier to clean without all that fur!

4. It makes old trails new. Seriously, you have less visibility. Everything happens in a relatively narrow cone of light. You can’t really goof off on the harder trails. I got a reminder of that last night – I know the Long Loop at the Comp Track pretty well … and I was about to descend into a chute I knew ended with a short, steep climb. And I couldn’t remember whether I was still in my big ring. I knew I’d need the middle, so I risked a glance at my gear indicators, which said “middle all the way.” When I looked up, I was about to start the descent – but the right side of the trail where I was had a nasty little erosion gully – just enough to catch front wheels and throw you to the floor. So I tried to ride through it – brakes off, letting the bike buck and kick through it. But that front wheels got caught, and I got pitched into a creosote bush. I was scraped up a bit, but I was back on the bike moments later. No harm – just a reminder to always mind your situation and don’t sweat the small stuff like what gear you’re in!

If you’re thinking about trying your hand at night riding -especially if you live in a place with broiling-hot summers- take my advice: Give yourself to the Dark Side.

CategoriesUncategorized

Desert Museum is Worth a Drive to Tucson, Ariz.

Visitors to Phoenix probably don’t give enough credit to Tucson. That’s a mistake – the Tucson area has some great cultural attractions, and the outstanding Arizona-Sonora Desert Museum is one you shouldn’t miss.

An owl readies for stardom at the Arizona-Sonora Desert Museum's Raptor Free Flight.

Arizona-Sonora Desert Museum Shows Southwestern Wildlife, Plants & Geology
The Arizona-Sonora Desert Museum in Tucson does a great job of showcasing the state’s flora, fauna and natural history. It’s also located in a very scenic piece of high desert terrain, so bring your camera.
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CategoriesUncategorized

How Did I Get on Anti-Park Fee Group’s Email List?

A website called nofee2hikeaz.com is now online fighting the Phoenix government’s proposal to charge for parking at 5 of its most-congested trailheads. Check my earlier post for some of the details.

Let me get this straight: The people who launched this site have the time and resources – in both time and cash – to design, code, launch and administer a website complete with YouTube videos. Yet they don’t have an extra $60 for a yearly pass for unlimited usage of those five trailheads. And they can’t park anywhere else, either.

That is just risible.

I also love the name: nofee2hikeaz.com.

How disingenuous and misleading can they get?

This is about five trailheads in one city. Let me repeat that: five trailheads, one city. Not even an entire city. It has nothing to do with the state of Arizona. Classic scare tactic from some local with delusions of Karl Rove grandeur.

But hey, what’s a little misdirection when there are $60 at stake!

I can’t help noticing that the video shows some awfully slick SUVs and sports cars in the parking lot. Maybe they could just skip a latte or two a week and apply it to the park fee? Nah, that’s crazy talk.

And here’s an interesting addition to the equation: Two days earlier, I received an email from Councilman Sal DiCiccio, the same one who railed against the proposed park fees, two days ago.

I have no idea how the councilman acquired my information. And I have absolutely no idea how the Webmasters of nofee2hikeaz.com acquired my information. NOTE: They did not use the email address associated with this Web site, but my private address.

This was the first email I ever received from Councilman DiCiccio. And the first I received from this group.

Is it a far stretch to conclude that the councilman provided the group with my information? I wonder if he was equally cavalier with the information of any other city resident.

And he has the nerve to talk about “stewardship” of tax dollar. As of right now, I don’t trust him with my e-mail address. Or yours.

CategoriesUncategorized

The World Hates American Travelers – Fact or Fiction?

It’s time for another in my series of posts on why relatively few Americans travel abroad. I’ve hit on how guilty family travel and fear keep us in our own borders.

Now I’m going to crush a myth for you: Contrary to what you hear, the rest of the world DOES NOT, repeat DOES NOT, hate American travelers.

What the world hates are obnoxious travelers. If you’re an obnoxious American traveler, the people in the nations you visit will hate you. But that’s because you’re a jerk, not because you’re a “bloody yank” or anything like that.

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CategoriesUncategorized

Fear – Another Reason America Doesn’t Travel

A few posts ago, I said that traveling to visit family is ruining the country and making us dumb. And it keeps us from seeing the rest of the world.

Now, I present another reason: As a nation, we’re a bunch of chickens. Fear rules us, and we’re happy to let it happen.

The “Internet Fear Monger” is Exhibit A in my latest prosecution.

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CategoriesAdventuresFitnessTravel

Outdoor Adventure in Iceland

Find out about the incredible outdoor adventure you can find on the Landmannalaugar - Hrafntinnusker hike in Iceland.
Ice covered in fresh volcanic ash from the recent eruption.

On most trips, Sarah and I have allowed ourselves a few days to settle into our surroundings before an outdoor adventure. Not this time. Less than 24 hours after arriving in Iceland, we had our packs loaded again. And we were walking back to the BSI terminal to catch a bus to the centerpiece of our trip.

Outdoor Adventure
On top of the lava flow, less than a half-mile into the hike.

The roads to the Landmannalaugar region had just opened when we arrived. They were finally free of snow and mud – at least enough to allow buses to get through. And when I say "roads," for much of the trip that means dirt roads. Narrow dirt roads.

We quickly left Reykjavik behind – Sarah and I were already starving since we had to leave our guesthouse too early for breakfast (this caused a bit of consternation – they told us that they’d be willing to pack sandwiches for us next time -- very nice of them!).

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