Observations – cycling edition

Lately I have gotten back into bicycling in a big way. I had fallen out of the habit a few years ago, and had several aborted attempts to rekindle the cycling mojo. But the recent diet and exercise plan, and the fact that I can ride without it causing my plantar fasciitis to flare up is all good.

About 16 miles of my usual route are on well paved paths that happen to follow the irrigation canals. Mostly in excellent shape, and mostly clean (some dirt and debris, as well as some potholes) make for good riding.  There are major road crossings about every mile or so.  I go from Williams Field Road all the way up to Broadway (past the 60) and back.

On these paths I have many encounters with people.  Mostly they are smooth, I call out that I am passing, and what side, and they don’t freak out. But not always.

  • The Headphones: Joggers, walkers and the like are almost always using their headphones to listen to music or whatever.  No problem. But a pretty large fraction of cyclists also wear headphones.  I know you aren’t on city street, dicing it up with traffic, but FFS, you need to be somewhat aware of your surroundings, and that means being able to hear. The number of times I call out that i am passing and it invokes no response is alarming.
  • Riding two up: Again, a bicyclist phenomenon.  Two (or more) people are our for a ride at a leisurely pace. Awesome. Glad you are out. But, when someone calls out that they are passing, and telling you what side they are coming on, it is time to fall back into a line. Sometimes they do, but often they are in the midst of a conversation and they are oblivious to the goings on around them.
  • Responding to the call out wrong: this one is perplexing. I call out “Passing on the left” and suddenly they practically jump to the left. Really, all I wanted was for you to not move, and nto freak out (or if you are riding/walking two across, to scootch over to the right to allow me to safely come by. But for some reason, people react wrong.
  • Dog walkers: I am a dog person, and i have no problem with people using the multiuse path for getting their four legged friends some exercise. But keep them on a leash, and don’t let them lunge at bicycles.  I know that some dogs are less socialized and freak out, but most are fine. As a cyclist, I have a few seconds to ger around safely, and I don;’t want to worry about the hounds. Also, if you are walking your dog(s) please don;t wear headphones. Dog owners have a responsibility to be aware of their surroundings. Sorry if this is harsh.

These are just some of the behaviors I see riding the canals. I also get to see some amazing wildlife (who would have thought that irrigation canals would foster a teeming ecosystem of fish, insects, and birds.  Last week I saw a turtle in the canal.

I also see a lot of people fishing. There are lots and lots of fish in the canals, some quite large (5# or more by the look of them).  Most are probably carp, or related to the carp family, but I see a lot of people fishing and pulling out fish.  I couldn’t imagine eating fish from an irrigation canal, but to each his own.

How you know you are from Phoenix

When it is 103F outside, and it feels cool.

When your pool is a tepid 92F

When people you know from around the world feel the need to joke about the “dry heat”

But mostly, I just don’t mind the heat.

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Grocery Store Observations

This afternoon I did a little shopping for the holiday feast tomorrow, and I got to observe some prime high quality behavior.

First, how hard is it to put your damn shopping cart in one of the little corrals that they provide?  Seriously, there are at least three per row of cars, but alas, it is too damn far for most people to put them where they are out of the way of other shoppers.  There must have been 40 carts strewn all over the parking lot, not in the pens provided.

Second, I don’t care if your significant other is just running in for a minute, but it is NOT cool to park and idle your big assed truck or SUV in the firelane in front of the store.  There were 4 of them today.

Third, there is plenty of steak. You don’t have to push and shove to get ahead of people at the meat counter. There is plenty of Mayonnaise, so you don’t have to block the condiments with your cart while you are trying to choose between the full fat, the canola oil version (yuck) or the reduced fat version.

I am sure I will have a few more posts about the insanity that grocery shopping brings out in people.

The downside of out of doors exercise

Not really a secret, I prefer to do my exercise out of doors. Whether it is hiking, or cycling, or even jogging, I vastly prefer to get out and pound the pavement (or trail). But it can be challenging when summer happens here in Arizona.
When the thermometer goes past 100F by 10:00AM, and at 5:00AM it is already 88F, it is difficult to get out and exercise. Yet I do it nonetheless. But I do take some precautions to make it a little more tolerable.
I take plenty of fluids. I have a camelback, and I fill the bladder with ice water (100oz). I also mix up a couple of water bottles with a product called Accelerade (thanks to Melinda Bullaro for getting me hooked on this stuff).
Wearing some of the perspiration wicking garments (Coolmax or similar) also helps you keep comfortable. If you wear cotton, it will soak, and it will make you miserable. But the wicking fabrics help you keep cool by efficiently wicking the sweat away .
But even then, it is a challenge to be out in the hot weather. You have to acclimatize as the temperatures begin to rise. I have been working on my fitness for a long time, so as it heats up, I am adjusted. Living in the desert, your body does adapt in some subtle ways. We do carry a lot of extra water. I am not sure how much, or why, but it seems to be quite true. When I travel to a high humidity locale, the first 3 days are miserable, as I dump the extra water.
Even with these precautions, it is important to know the symptoms of heat stroke, and to call it quits before you get into a dangerous state.
There is an out. You can join a gym, and workout indoors, but I hate the gym. A topic for another post…
(This is a test of the MacJournal blog connection)

How sad is that: 100F is “comfortable”

I am fully acclimatized to the Phoenix (and Arizona in general) weather. Yesterday, I thought nothing about pulling on shorts and going for a 4 mile run at lunch time (95F when I left).

Additionally, yesterday, it was 100F at the high. The lowest temperature this June (from my memory), and it felt very comfortable.

Of course today it will be 108, tomorrow 113, and Friday 117 or more.

Yes, I am sick.

Neighbors who aren’t neighborly

(Warning: I am going to use some harsh language below)

We live in a nice subdivision in Chandler, in SE Phoenix. It is a clean, well kept, and in general a very friendly neighborhood. But there always seems to be someone who has to stand out as a twat-waffle.

One of the best phrases I learnt on Facebook
One of the best phrases I learnt on Facebook

Our neighbors to the north are one such “family”*. They have a Son who just graduated high school, and he was a baseball player (you can see the batting cage they built in their backyard without even needing to snoop). The father is away a lot.  Sales?  The mother works nights and long shifts. I think you can see where this is going…

The “son” (Called Sonny-Boy) is unsupervised, and takes advantage. Last year there were some loud parties on the weekends that went until 4:00 or 5:00 AM. Really obnoxious, but I pulled the covers over my head and bore it. But now that he has graduated, Tuesday nights are the designated pool party nights. Stating about 9:00 and running until 1:00AM, they have been at it on Tuesdays for a month.

We have taken to calling the police to complain, and it appears that this group has a lookout, for they get really quiet when the police car comes by. They see and hear nothing, and leave a door hanger. 10 minutes later, the hooting and hollering are back up to amusement park rollercoaster level.

Last night we called the police again, and told them to check around the back.  That did seem to bring a lasting peace but they still partied until 1:00AM or so.

There are other downsides. After one of the soirees we have to go picking up cigarette butts that the kids toss over the fence, sometimes having to fish them out of the pool. Often in the front yard, there will be beer bottles (whole or broken, and why do kids drink Bud Light?  Sheesh, I had better taste at that age.) And, the inevitable barf pile will be around somewhere that our dogs get super interested in.

So, we live with it until the kid goes to college, or otherwise moves on.

*Family might be a loose definition. They behave like it is three roommates sharing a flat. Hell, Sonny-boy had his very tramp-y girlfriend spending the night every night.  It was a joy to have to dodge her as she peeled out leaving while my dogs and I walk in the AM. Truly makes you wonder..

Living in Suburbia

Warning: I am going to write about extremely boring shit for a few posts.

When we moved to Arizona in 2003, we were moving to Tucson. A great place, lots of charm, but truly a no plan sort of place for how they let growth happen. Consequently, you had lots of little communities scattered all over without rhyme or reason. We lived on the far east side of town, in a fairly low density neighborhood. We lived at the end of a road, with a lot of open space around us. We liked it.

Then last year we moved to Chandler, a suburb in south-east Phoenix. It is everything that Tucson is not. Well planned, plenty of green space, well maintained cities, enough population density to support local businesses (stores, restaurants and the like). The sidewalks are paved, and there are street lights. Yes, it is hotter then hell here, but the myth that Tucson was 10F cooler is pretty much debunked (we both track each other quite closely).

Why do people still do this?
Why do people still do this?

But Phoenix is a big city, there is no denial of that fact.

Chandler is where Intel is located. The Kyrene school district is one of the best in the state (all that Intel tax money), and the neighborhoods are well groomed.

But, I experience something here at a scale that is astounding in this day and age. Direct door hanger marketing. Almost every day, I come home to find a pitch, coupons, or offerings of service. Landscapers trying to sell their services (lots and lots of them ply their trade here), Baskin Robbins trying to get people to have a treat, house cleaning services, even the local Auto Row has put hangers on the door. Sigh.

I thought that this primitive form of direct marketing had gone the way of the Do Do. Apparently not, as it is alive and well, flourishing here in SE Phoenix.

In Tucson we had very little of this. Maybe a couple times a year. Before that in San Jose, I don’t recall EVERY having a door tag on my condo or any place I rented or lived. (There probably were some, but not enough to be memorable.)

Well, I guess it is better than the crap that is Groupon.

Next up: The joys of shopping with extreme couponers.


The search for good Mexican food

When we moved from Tucson to Chandler last year, the last thing I thought I would have trouble with would be finding a decent, authentic Mexican restaurant. I mean, it wasn’t like we were moving to Seattle, we were still in the southwest, and there are plenty of authentic people of Mexican heritage here. But it has been trouble.

Some background. Our first night in Tucson in 2003, we walked from the hotel about a block and into Casa Molina. It was Sonoran style Mexican food, and we loved it (they also made kick-ass house margaritas). We dined there all the time, and greatly enjoyed the cuisine. Not quite a hole in the wall, it was a family owned establishment, and had been a fixture on the east side of Tucson since 1947.

When we moved to Chandler, we started looking for our new Mexican restaurant. I tried Diegos (when I was commuting) in Mesa, and wasn’t impressed.  There was a little place not far from our house called Cafe Posada, that was passable (but not great. Anyone who puts carrots and peas in their spanish rice is meh). But they went belly up, and we had do hunt.

There are some great places that sell “street taco” style food.  Order and wait for it to come up, but that never really scratched the itch.

The problem isn’t that there aren’t Mexican restaurants, it is just that most of them are chains, and are too slick, too polished, and have so so food.

Last night, for our anniversary, we tried another place. Yelp! had it rated good (3.5 stars) and the reviews were good.  It is a local franchise, called Nando’s. The food was good, tasty, well cooked, and almost authentic. They have great margaritas, and we really enjoyed the decor.

We will certainly go back, often. But I am still looking for my “hole in the wall” Mexican restaurant. My latest theory is that the part of the valley that we live in 20 years ago was pretty much all farmland. There aren’t many places that have been here 20+ years, to acquire that homey feel.

I am not giving up though.

Crap, the frost we had wasn’t hard enough.

The house behind us has a large “shade” tree. It has an enormous quantity of fern like foliage that does a good job cutting the sun that beats down on our back yard.

All good right?

Except that when it loses its foliage, it dumps an incredible amount into our pool. How much? I have to skim and scoop two or three times a day, and still the filter gets jammed.

In December, we had a cold stretch. Lots of my plants died (never to come back to life). Another neighbor had a large tree completely die.  I crossed my fingers hoping that this messy tree would be dead as a dodo. Alas, it was not to be. Today I see the first signs of spring on it and it is beginning to grow.  Crap.


There is nothing like getting a nastygram (or two) from your HOA. In general, I don’t mind being in a community with an HOA. Lots of people whinge about the CC&R’s, and having to comply (no, you can’t have a 40′ “murican flag in your font yard, thankyouverymuch).

I have found that they have been very willing to work with you if you ask them. In our house in Tucson we had two primary interactions with the Silverado Hills HOA, both positive. First was to do something about the idiot ATV riders blasting through our property. The second was when we put solar PV panels on our roof (they were cool with it, as long as we tried our best to keep them obscured from view).

However, here in Chandler, where we moved in July of 2012, it has been less positive. I should back up. We bought a house that was foreclosed on, bank owned, and finally bought by an investor who did a great job cleaning it up before selling it to us. We are (mostly) really happy with the house, but we knew that the exterior paint was a bit rough when we bought it.

Last week, we came back from a short trip to San Diego to a nastygram. The one I expected was for the out of control weeds. It is astounding how fast they sprout up and take over the yard. But no, it was about our paint “not meeting standards” and gave us 10 days to rectify it.

The thing is, from the front it isn’t too bad. A hose to wash off some of the dust would spruce it up. The real rough parts are in the back, and that is clearly not in their purview.

So we got some quotes, and have filed an appeal. It has also caused us to look at the houses in the neighborhood.  There are LOTS that are in worse condition than us. I hope they all got the nastygrams.

But I suspect that they didn’t. I get the feeling that the HOA had been watching our house, and when owners came in, who live here they pounced on the painting.