Bicycle Riding Day … 41 miles!

The sun came out and the wind did blow, but it was a good day for a bicycle ride. I headed south from Chula Vista, CA on Sweetwater Bikeway and eventually hooked up with the Bayshore Bikeway. As you ride the path, you will notice huge piles of salt. With some research, I learned this area has been salt works since the 1860’s. It is the second-longest running business in San Diego. Water evaporated from the salt ponds comes from the Pacific Ocean and there used to be 80,000 pounds of salt per harvest. In time though this salt works may be converted to an interpretative center for the US Fish & Wildlife Service. The salt ponds are within the San Diego National Wildlife Refuge. Brine flies and brine shrimp breed in those salty waters and are a source of food for birds, especially in the winter for migratory birds.

I continued my ride through Coronado. Ferry walkers and bicyclists can ride to 2 different locations about 5 or 10 minutes across the bay. Instead of taking the ferry, I enjoyed my lunch at a sandy beach and returned the way I had come to complete a 41 mile ride today! 

I did see numerous birds, but I did not stop to take photos; I wanted  to observe the birds and cycle. Many people were out on their bicycle today also. Certain beach areas were closed or only allowed passive activities, walking, jogging and no laying around on the beach.

People often ask, what is a typical travel day for me. My best answer is as follows:

I am usually awake about 7:00AM but I like to read the headlines, and maybe an article from the digital NY Times, play Words With Friends, complete the mini crossword and Spelling Bee games in the NY Times, check on emails and text messages since the phone will probably be turned off for the remainder of the day. I roll out of my sleeping bag and tent soon there after, have breakfast and coffee, and prepare for the day. I am always looking for birding hotspots, places to bicycle ride, and/or places of interest to check out. In these days of Covid-19, I also am watchful of crowds.

At night, I enjoy having a shower and dinner before sundown so I aim to arrive by 3 – 4PM. During or after dinner, my goal is to list birds seen during the day in my bird journal, take a quick look at photos especially if I want to include any for eBird, report my sightings to eBird, and finally read emails and write some notes for future blog posts. With dinner and dishwashing done, it is a perfect time to take a walk around the campground before my 8 – 10 PM “office hours” in my car. There I am with my laptop to finish whatever I did not get to earlier. Campgrounds are typically not full during weekdays and therefore quiet, so I may be one of the few people still awake at 10PM. After a full day of outdoor activity in the sun and wind, I sleep well! Tonight for sure, after cycling 41 miles with the wind not always at my back!

Time to Bicycle Ride!

Cycling, camping, birdwatching, outdoor activities and many other activities have become more popular during the pandemic because we are able to give each other space. My day began with a cool Californian morning which means cold to a southern Arizonian.  With overcast sky and slight wind in the air, I ate my breakfast and decided to have my coffee at Starbucks and finally have WiFi access since it is not available at the state park. It also provided me an opportunity to look at my photos from the previous days!

As the day warmed, I drove to Aliso and Woods Canyons Wilderness Park. While talking with a man coming off the trails on his bicycle, I asked for an easy mountain bike trail for a gravel bike, like his and mine. I knew there is a paved bike path, but why not first try some mountain biking on my gravel bike? Off I went with basics on my bicycle … bike tools, lunch, snacks, water and one camera…. I bicycled about 8 miles before I realized my bike lacked some needed front and rear suspension, so I decided to return and ride pavement while I still had a back and butt. The ride was beautiful and fun and I also talked with others on the trail who mentioned coming to Arizona for college searches.

Back at my car, I  went to the paved bike path along the Aliso Creek which I originally planned to do. Ah yes, smooth and easy on the body! Trail signs seemed to indicate there would be some closures, but all went well for me. I saw a white-faced ibis, mallards and swallows. The amount of white on a white-faced ibis is so small this name for the bird cracks me up. Anyway, here is a white-faced ibis:

Back at the campground, my tent was not blown away and the shower water was hot! Fifty-cents-worth, 2 tokens provided 3 minutes of shower water and I was thrilled! Another day outdoors and only speaking with 3 people so felt safe. At the Starbucks I sat indoors, alone thanks to their sign stating indoors was not open, yet when I asked if indoor seating was available, they said yes. Perfect!

Bicycling & Birding … Good Idea or Not?

I am not sure birding while bicycling is the safest combination of activities. My eyes are on the road, then the sky, then the road, then a tree and wherever else next! Thank goodness I am riding low trafficked roads or the Tucson bicycle loop to keep me safe while also birding. The other day I wanted to linger longer to check out a few ponds I do not ordinarily see at Sweetwater Wetlands, especially when wondering what is that beautiful bird! So the following day I went back, on foot, to walk about a half mile down the bicycle loop to check on the birds at a pond.

Many, many birds were hanging out and so too was the beautiful bird: a northern pintail.

As I was looking around at all the birds, a hawk-like bird flew onto a tree between the 2 ponds. Of course, the bird’s back was to me so it was difficult to identify it. As it wrestled around on the tree branches one of my photos caught a quick look at its face and now we know it is a northern harrier. If you look closely, see the owl-like facial disc that helps in identifying this bird. When it first flew in I only noticed the white band across its rump.

Plenty of ring-necked ducks and mallards were flying in and out of the area. All the birds seem to really appreciate the wetlands. I am glad the ponds are here for them too, as the treated effluent (water waste) is returned to the aquifer for future use. Reusing water in Arizona is a huge need.

While I enjoy bicycling and also looking for birds at the same time, I think it is safer for me to keep the two activities separate. Plus, I usually do not carry my camera with me while bicycling. I love photographing birds so that would be best within dedicated birding time. That’s not to say my eyes will not be on the sky or at a tree looking for birds while bicycling in 2021! I’ll also be looking for a vaccine, and 2 shots worth, so I can bird in other places in the USA and world! Stay safe everyone!

Cyclists & Pedestrians Counted!

It’s an interesting piece of equipment on the bicycle loop in Tucson. It records the number of cyclists and pedestrians, which would include roller-bladers, joggers, runners, along with walkers all passing the counter each day and provides totals for the year. This is definitely one of the busier spots where people are on the loop. Kudos to all using this multi-use path! (You may even see some wildlife while out there. I bet the roadrunner wished to be counted!)

Monday Memories: Solo Bicycling Trip

I decided I was not getting any younger, and I was reading about people in their 60’s bicycling across the USA! Could I do the same? I did not know, but I decide to attempt some distance.

Yes, in June 2018, I did bicycle 600 miles from Prescott, Wisconsin to Rensselaer, Indiana by way of many small towns following most of Adventure Cycling’s Northern Tier route. After a heat spell, I continued on on New York State’s Erie Canal trail for 100 miles before meeting friends in central NY.

People asked why I chose that area of the USA to bicycle ride. Since I typically fly over it, I thought it a good idea to actually see it. I saw many windmills, fields of corn, artwork and rolling hills.

There were sights to see. An Eagle Center, National Farm Toy Museum and the famous Field of Dreams to mention a few. I also stopped at activities roadside, such as this dog competition where they collect the bird that was shot. When I heard about saloon bars similar to an AZ bar, I checked it out as I did often stop in churches for a reflective moment.

Most nights I stayed at bed and breakfast, or motels, and did camp. My goal was to survive so I wanted comfort at the end of the day, especially since you never knew if the next 40-60 miles per day was going to be in the heat or a drenching rain. There is nothing worse than bicycling in the rain; stopping to check the weather radar to discover how many hours you may be sitting and waiting out the weather. Some places were entirely for myself and I would wander into the town to find dinner, and other places I spent hours talking and eating with the owner of the place. I always love connecting with people when I travel. All of my accommodations were wonderful from Motel 6 to some really nice bed and breakfast places!

One of my most fun places was at an old jailhouse. The woman helped me hoist my loaded bicycle up the five steps into the place, invited friends over to have a beer with us, and cooked delicious dinner and breakfast for me. She offered me an additional night, yet I decided to keep on my plan since the weather was good.

Enthusiasm for bicycling is beginning to take off in the USA as we develop the US Bicycling Route System to be added to many Rails-to-Trails Conservancy Routes and Adventure Cycling’s Routes. I did see a bicycle campground and I rode a bicycle path where each rider pays a fee. Men drove on the bike path to collect the fee from me and were pleasantly surprised when I could show them I had my receipt of payment.

I ate plenty of snacks, which I carried in my bag, and always a lunch. I loved Casey’s General Store located in many small towns. I was hooked on white cheddar cheese popcorn, until I broke a front tooth – later repaired in Buffalo, NY. I also bought Arizona green tea and Gatorade to supplement my water bottles. I love chocolate and that meant a Snicker’s bar too.

I discovered I was close to Route 66 so I decided to ride a portion of it, especially since I did not know if I would ever ride its entire distance from CA to IL. Lots of history along that route! The road was so busy at one point there was a passageway for people to walk under the road! Of course, there are still some old gas stations in the area, and portions of the road are grown over with grass in its cracks.

I met many other bicyclists on the road and all going from east to the west coast (I was going west to east). There was only one other solo female bicyclist, yet every single person always stopped at the bottom of a hill to say hello, check-in on how I was doing, and offer ideas of what was coming up in the next town or two. I really appreciated the camaraderie! One guy told me he was sleeping in ditches at night after cycling about 100 miles a day. Another guy told me of a free place to set a tent. A mother and daughter team had stayed at the lodging I was heading to on my 70 mile day. Other people at stores, bars, and their homes were very generous. One family offered their swimming pool to me as I laid on their front lawn, under the only shade tree I think in the county! Another guy brought out bottles of cold water for me as I sat by a church he was renovating for his family home. Another guy stopped in his pick-up truck and asked me if I was okay, and if I knew how hot it was that day. Yes, wherever I could find some shade, I spent time there. I could tell you more, but I think you got the picture!

The heat did me in! To hot to go on, dehydrated and with concerns of heat stroke, I decided to take the heat wave in the US seriously. Unfortunately I have been in hospitals needing fluids pumped into me other times when on hiking and bicycling trips. I knew I did not want that happening here. With the help of great people in Indiana, I rented a car a few days after getting my fluids back to where they needed to be and headed to Buffalo, NY. Along the way and there, I had wonderful friends allow me time to recuperate before jumping back on my bicycle to cycle the Erie Canal trail to central NY where I met other friends. Yes, I shipped my bicycle home and relaxed before planning my next trip. What an adventure this was … and cannot wait to do some bicycle travel again!

Bicycling the Path … an Issue

We are fortunate to have at least 131 miles of dedicated bike path available to us Tucson,AZ bicyclists. Why are we fortunate? It is so much safer to maneuver around other bicyclists, runners, walkers, roller bladers, and anyone else out on this dedicated path than to be on a roadway.

We have a beautiful, smooth bike path with appropriate signage and I feel safe cycling on it. (The farther I can be away from automobiles the better.) Yes, I hear people complain about speeding cyclists and working around walkers, but in the overall scheme of things this is all pretty great.

YET… my annoyance is when someone comes along and writes political messages in chalk on the pathway. I do not care what the message is, it should not be done! First off, I call that graffiti on a public space … I do not like it and would say a person should be found and fined. Secondly, we are all outdoors for exercise and a space to relax, not needing any prompts to piss us off!

Please keep your messages/gripes/political views to yourself and off our bike paths. Yup I was annoyed, so all I could do was squirt some of my water from my water bottle on those messages. Which annoyed me all the more since it was hot here and I did not want to be wasting my drinking water on graffiti. Geez don’t you know, water is precious here in the desert!

Bike path separate from autos.
People enjoy a graffiti-free, smooth and very long path.

Volunteering With Bike Repair

It is fascinating how many different kinds of bicycles there are! Just when I feel like I have a handle on how to repair a particular part of a bicycle, in rolls another bicycle to challenge my ability! But then again it is a reason for my continued interest in helping the GABA (Greater Arizona Bicycling Association) group repair bicycles at various Boys and Girls Clubs in the Tucson area. Besides the fact the young people do not have an air pump or do not know how to use it to care for flat tires, there are other needs such as new brake pads, inner tubes, chains, seats, and/or tires. In a 3 hour period of time, many bicycles get fixed and I learn something new each time too! It’s a great way to spend time with friends also! Good work all!!

Wayne knows his stuff!
Wayne knows his stuff!

Barb focuses on her work!
Barb focuses on her work!

Another new tire needed!
Another new tire needed!

Wonder What He’s Thinking?

Hmmm...
Hmmm…

Photography is my new goal…or maybe not so new, continued goal…I keep hoping it takes a lifetime to learn…just like tennis is a lifetime sport! Anyway, I like photos that are not the usual. I wonder what this guy is thinking?

Maybe:

Am I done for the day? Am I really ready to ride home on my bicycle with my surfboard? That ship really should not come any closer! Are the waves getting bigger or is that my imagination? Did I really need my full wetsuit today? Is it really necessary to be on my way or do I have another place to stop? Hmmm…

I know this guy had a great day! Did you? I did!

New City, New People, New Activity

What I discovered about myself is that I truly do get tired of the same old, same old. I think that was why the various jobs I had in my life were fulfilling! Teaching, I dictated the activity in my classroom; administratively every moment was dictated by the circumstances within the school; personal training and teaching tennis allowed me to meet the needs of my client(s); hiking guide enjoyed nature through rain, snow, or sun and made sure clients were safe; and travel, especially when solo, necessitated me to be on my toes!

And now I am in a new city, meeting new people, and enjoying new activities all allowing me to be on my toes, and I love it! I know this does not come easily to everyone, yet I am okay with it all. It energizes me! It is not the same old stuff! I hope others have opportunities to shake their life up every so often as I think it more importantly makes one respect and appreciate all that is in ones day. It is amazing and should not be taken for granted.

Road bicycling in Tucson is a big deal. With more than 130 miles of dedicated bike paths and many more roads with bike lanes, I have increased my bicycling time and enjoy it. Around the city there are different places to see. There is what is called the “Bicyclist Church” and always a good time to remember to wear a helmet and bright colored clothing, bike ride with traffic, be a defensive rider, remember your nutrition and hydration needs, wear sunglasses and sunscreen, and be respectful of others on the road, trail, or path. I’ll see you here on a bike!

Biker Church
Biker Church in Tucson

Snake!!!

The usual interaction with a bicyclist coming toward me on the bike path is a wave of a hand, a quick “hello”, or nod of head, But today, loud and clear, it was a simple word, SNAKE!

I had seen a snake when I first rode through this area and I did not stop to take a photo. It was just beginning its slither across the bike path. A woman said something to me and I responded that the snake simply wanted to get to the other side. As she stood there with her dog, I figured the snake may do an about-turn. But it did keep moving forward as she walked her dog away.

On my return trip on the same path, I thought for sure the snake would have been across the path by now and I would not see it. As I got closer to the area, a bicyclist rode toward me and with a loud voice yelled

, SNAKE! Okay then, maybe I will be in luck, see a snake and not have any other person or dog around.

I see the snake just finishing its trip across the bike path and on its way to someplace in the sand. I stopped to grab my camera and the snake immediately stayed in its place. No movement, and never did move until I get back on my bicycle to ride off.

Cool!

Slithered across a bike path in AZ!
Snake slithered across a bike path in AZ!