Day Eight – Through the City, Hidden From View

Dockside estates

I thought I was in the desert, not Florida! Everywhere I turned there was water in the Phoenix area. This was in Sun City, shortly after heading out. Click on image to enlarge.

31 March 2011 (posted a day later, from Superior, AZ). I left my WarmShowers hosts late morning, after catching up on blogs and making some lodging arrangements. It was nice to relax a bit. Larry had provided me with detailed instructions for getting on my way.

Whenever I’m in an arid area, I love to look at how adaptation to the climate is handled. The dockside homes above are a particularly bad example of climate-responsive design. But I did see lots of features that made sense, such as low-water landscaping (xeriscaping). The multicolor stone mulches add a bit of color!

Multicolor mulch

You want a green stone mulch? No problem. I passed someone dutifully pulling weeds out of the crushed stone. Click on image to enlarge.

For being such a sprawling, car-dependent amalgam of some twenty cities, the Phoenix metropolitan area has a remarkable feature: a network of trails along the canals that carry water through the city, along the usually dry riverbeds, and along the stormwater conveyance channels.

I pedaled 38 miles today, nearly all of it on these mostly paved pathways (though a wrong turn did involve my pedaling several miles north instead of mostly east at one point—plus backtracking). There are underpasses beneath most crossing roads. They are really wonderful.

Wrong bike path--but pretty!

It turns out that I took a wrong turn and ended up heading more north than east; I kept expecting it to swing around. But it was sure pretty! Click on image to enlarge.

Where I made the wrong turn, I was looking for a pedestrian bridge across a channel, and it turned out that there were two; I took the first bridge; the right one (that I had been directed to) is just a few hundred yards beyond. Had I been on city streets it would have been very clear that I was going the wrong way, but on that particular trail there weren’t any names on crossing streets (nor as many underpasses). Anyway, a bit of frustration, but not the end of the world; it was a day of leisurely pedaling. It was a beautiful day—and I wasn’t about to get a snowstorm tonight (as we are at home in Vermont). It was in the mid- to upper-90s, but doesn’t feel that hot when you’re biking along.


Canal path

They've done an amazing job in creating a network of pathways along the river beds and canals in the metropolitan area. Click on image to enlarge.

Canal Path

A fine ride! Click on image to enlarge.

Middle path

Remarkably, the main canal has three paths: one on the north side of the dry bed (way to the left), a second between the dry bed and canal, and a third on the south side of the canal. Here I'm on the middle path. Click on image to enlarge.

Street underpass on the Canal Path

At most street crossings, there are tunnels you ride through--so you're not having to deal with traffic. How thoughtful! Click on image to enlarge.

As I neared my afternoon destination—Mick Dalrymple’s place next to Chimney Rock in Phoenix—I paid a visit to the Arizona Biltmore hotel, a hotel designed by one of Frank Lloyd Wright’s protégés. I had visited the hotel a year-and-a-half ago, after the Greenbuild Conference, when Pat Sapinsley and I were seeing some of the architectural sites of the greater Phoenix area, but it was night when we were there; I wanted to see it during the daytime. And it’s right on the Canal Trail!

Arizona Biltmore Hotel

The famous Arizona Biltmore, designed by Frank Lloyd Wright's associate, is right on the main Canal Path. I'll have to remember to bring my bike when I'm next staying there :-). Click on image to enlarge.

The Biltmore lobby

Kind-of like the Burro Jim Motel in Aguila--but no lines at the Burro Jim. Click on image to enlarge.

One of the Biltmore dining rooms

Wright's influence is very clear throughout the hotel's spaces. Click on image to enlarge.

Biltmore Conference Lobby

An outside courtyard connects the hotel and conference center--where a litigation conference was winding down. Click on image to enlarge.

Mick and I went into Scottsdale to a great Mexican (New Mexican) restaurant and talked for an hour about how to convince people that we need to change our ways. He and I know one another through green building activities; both of us have been board members of the U.S. Green Building Council, though he came on just as I cycled off. Mick works at ASU and also makes documentaries. We covered some interesting–but depressing–ground.

Mick and his daughter

Mick and his daughter in front of their house, with Camelback Mountain behind them. Click on image to enlarge.

Mick's House at Camelback Mountain

I got the full $2 tour of all of Mick's energy-efficient and green features of his home. He and his wife took a mid-70s house and made it pretty close to a net-zero-energy house! Click on image to enlarge.

All in all, a quite relaxing day. But I was out too late to post this tonight.

While I’ve enjoyed the bike paths, I’m ready to be out of the city that never ends! It stretches some 50 miles across, including Sun City, Phoenix, Tempe, Scotsdale, and Mesa. There’s no indication of where one city ends and the next begins; it all seems the same—though on the canal path, you’re not so aware of the city.

Tomorrow, I try to find my way back down to the planned route, which I veered off to spend a night with Mick and his family. That’s easier said than done I think—judging from the effort I just expended writing down all the turns from Google Maps! Did you know with Google Maps you can now select a bicycle route? Pretty cool!

I’m hoping to get all the way to Superior tomorrow, about 67 miles from here (assuming I make the right turns). With some climbing and temperatures in the upper-90s, it could be a tough day!