Friday, April 26, 2013

Visit to Albuquerque, Part 2

Three girls in a treehouse.
Following our Paseo del Bosque Trail ride (detailed in Part 1 here), we did a bit more exploration around Albuquerque. It's a pleasant city that somehow feels smaller than its population of a bit more than half a million might suggest. Traditional New Mexican architecture abounds, and really contributes to a well-defined sense of community. The way space is used here, both public and private, differs from that of other areas of the Rocky Mountain West enough so that it feels as though it is another culture. Sure, there are malls and tract houses here and there, but much of Albuquerque has a very distinct flavor that I find very appealing.
My brother constructed this treehouse in a very artisanal manner, typical of many of the projects he's built around his house.

Look Daddy, no hands.
With little precipitation, old Volkswagens seemingly live forever here.
A little early morning hula-hooping in pajamas and cowgirl boots.
She's still got it.
An Alexander Calder-esque mobile of my brother's creation.
Scout claimed this as her cozy spot during our visit. 
Convex mirror fun.

Albuquerque is apparently experimenting with a variety of bike infrastructure implementations. Unsurprisingly, many of the bike projects are infused with art, either in a supportive or integrative capacity. A wide variety of styles and designs of bike racks pepper the landscape, along with more ambitious projects, such as bicycle boulevards and trail systems. I saw a lot of ambient bike use, including families on bikes, commuters, crusty old-timers on weathered cruisers, college kids on fixies, and even a bright red Big Dummy for which I was too slow with my camera. It's a great city for biking, as hills are gentle and key destinations are within easy reach. I wasn't able to sample the bike shops of the area, such as Two Wheel Drive, but I hope to during the next visit.

Lil Sis appreciated this sleek bronze jaguar bench.
Bike racks in front of the Albuquerque Museum.
This area was full of hipster hangouts and people on bikes. 
A Kokopelli-inspired bike rack.
The morning that we left, we accompanied Chris and Hazel on their ride to school. It was a perfectly clear Albuquerque morning, and we even spotted a hot air balloon on the horizon. Riding to school is fun any time, but it's especially enjoyable to see two eager seven year-olds pacing each other, while not forgetting to stop at stop signs. It's hard to believe how quickly they grow into autonomous big kids.

After a seven-hour drive, we were home. It was a bummer to leave a 75 F degree spring day in Albuquerque and arrive to a less-than-welcoming 24 F degrees in Denver. I like snow as much as the next person in Colorado, and I know we need the precipitation, but after three straight weeks of Spring snowstorms and unseasonably cold temperatures, I'm done with it. Here's to the hopeful arrival of actual Spring weather.

The morning after was a chilly ride on frozen disappointment.
Our annual backyard finches have already had their chicks, who are cuddled for warmth on a cold day.

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Visit to Albuquerque, Part 1

Seven year-old dirt bikin' cousins; each sporting pink and polka dots in her own way.
Update: See Part 2 here.

It had been quite some time since we traveled to another place as a family. So, this past weekend we took a road trip to visit my brother Chris and his family in Albuquerque. Between the two groups, we have a lot of girls and a lot of bikes, so naturally this situation called for some riding. Luckily, Albuquerque has a lot of great places for bikes, and among the best for biking families is the Paseo del Bosque Trail.

Scout and Pugsley are just as happy in the warm and dry as they've been in the cold and snowy.

My sister-in-law Jen recently surprised my brother with a new bike as a gift: an enormous XXL 24-inch frame Surly Ogre 29er. It was the first new bike for Chris in 23 years. He gave me his previous new bike in 2006, after 16 years of heavy service. In the interim, he had been riding his original mountain bike that he bought with earnings from a job at Dairy Queen during high school, a 1989 GT Avalanche that I rebuilt for him several years ago. The old GT had been his commuter/do-it-all bike, going through numerous drivetrains and a couple of DIY paint jobs. He deserves a lot of credit for making do with an existing bike, but as with any infrequently maintained machine under constant use, at some point it just makes sense to start anew. When Jen asked me to surreptitiously help her in the search, I didn't hesitate.

Chris remarked that it took him a while to become accustomed to riding the new bike, and I don't doubt it. At six feet, six inches tall, it's probably the first bike he has had as an adult that actually fits him. Curiously, at 6'1", I was able to ride his Ogre without feeling too stretched out, and cleared the top tube, if only by a slim margin. However, I would likely feel uncomfortable on the bike in rough trail conditions.

A big galoot on a giant Ogre.
One of the many snazzy houses along parts of the trail.
After inevitably taking a bit more time than expected both in exploring the trail and in the general nature of any activity involving a gaggle of kids, we neared one of our planned stops. We were met by a familiar-looking Gypsy on a familiar-looking bike, who led us into the Old Town Farm. Nicholas and Lael are world-class bike adventurers who have lived on the farm along the Bosque Trail for much of their time in Albuquerque, where they landed long enough to spend the winter.

The Old Town Farm is an idyllic oasis along the river, full of gardens, animals, old buildings and sundry equipment. The two adventurers seem to lead charmed lives, as one would be hard pressed to find a more pleasant place to winter in Albuquerque. One of the features of the farm is Bike-In Coffee, a food and drink establishment housed in a vintage RV, and which caters to bike traffic along the trail. Lael and Nicholas are naturals to operate such an enterprise; their fine rhubarb cake, chai lattes, hot cocoa and conversation were much enjoyed by our horde.

Rolling past the paddocks on the way to the farm.
Bike-in Coffee would do well in a lot of places. Great idea and execution.
It's unlikely that many Pugsleys have seen as many miles and places as this one.  It's in need of a new owner, so if you're in the market for a well-equipped fatbike with good karma, contact Nicholas.
Lael's seasoned '08 Raleigh XXIX in the foreground, Julie's new-to-her '09 Raleigh XXIX in the middle, and Jen's '99-ish Gary Fisher Big Sur with a Trek tagalong.
24" Surly Ogre, Trek Mountain Lion, and Kona Makena.
Getting close to closing up shop for the day. Lael's got a new pair of the Clarks boots she favors for seemingly all things, short of winning ultramarathons.

Sky-high five. 

Meeting Nicholas and Lael on their way to the Colorado Trail last year captured her imagination on what can be done by bike. We'll be keenly following their European travels.
Jen and Rosa are under way. Doesn't Jen look like she could use a nice steel 29er with a more upright riding position?
The farm's circa 1938 or '39 Ford truck.
Nicholas and Lael have ridden in some very scenic areas along challenging routes, and in a broad variety of locales. As impressive is the way in which they live; life on a bike encourages material simplicity, and a portfolio of experiences accrues value more dependably than many other investment possibilities. While it's not feasible for many of us to pursue the same path, a lot can be said for attempting to limit material accumulation and enjoying life as it occurs.

I bought this Revelate Sweet Roll bikepacking bag from Nicholas, who is dropping ballast in anticipation of a new adventure. I hope to put it to good use this year.
Back on the trail, this time on a paved stretch, though I stuck to the dirt alongside. 
I chatted for a while with the rider of this heavily modified three-speed mixte, and only thought to get a photo as she rode away.
At the end of our ride, kids, adults, and even dog were tired and hungry. We ended up at El Pinto, a restaurant and manufacturer of one of my favorite brands of salsa. Overall, a great day in Albuquerque. Part II coming soon.

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

The difference that a couple of days makes

Both girls on the back of the Big Dummy for our first official Daddy/Daughters/Dummy ride.
Last weekend, we were in the midst of pleasant, if a bit windy, Spring days. We took advantage of the time to ride the Big Dummy, which ended up being the first in which both girls rode on the rear deck. It worked out well, and I used the experience to think through some pending modifications to my home-built seat, which I'll document here. The seat itself predates this blog, but I intend to use forensic reconstruction to document how a similar seat may be built, for those of you who may have an interest in producing one of your own.

The ride itself was, by all accounts, a resounding success. As was the case with the older daughter when she was a new Big Dummy co-pilot, the younger daughter seemed to enjoy snacking along the way. Unsurprisingly, the furry daughter had no complaints about the ride.

Scout never seems to tire of bike rides.

Lots of waterfowl activity on and around the lake.
Back at home, the fun continued after the ride. Lil Sis is now able to stand well, with a self-assertive defiance. She also takes several steps in whichever direction that most advances her latest designs on world domination, though she isn't quite officially walking, yet.

Ready to rumble.
Savoring victory with a roar. Not joking at all. We're in for it with this one.
Judiciously avoids conflict.
The weather made a sharp turn shortly after our Daddy/Daughters/Dummy ride, dropping unseasonably intense and consistent snow. Today marks the third successive day of snowstorms. It also marks my 114th consecutive day of riding a bike, so the streak continues.

The Pugsley has a flat that I've been too lazy to fix, so the Cross-Check has been called to duty. 
Intermittent snow and melting. We're finally getting the winter we should've had a couple of months ago.
Big Sis did a good job on this snowman; racing the melting, wet snow.