Thursday, January 3, 2013

Kendall's Alternative Transportation Blog, Entry 1

Kendall Kroesen, Habitats Program Manager

My 2013 New Year's resolution is to ride my bike to work at least once a week.

Having written about my resolution in the Vermilion Flycatcher (Conservation Corner, page 20, January-March 2013 issue), I cannot now ignore it! Well, I could, but some nitpicking Auduboner would eventually ask me the status of my resolution and I'm not a good liar. (If you don't receive the Vermilion Flycatcher, Tucson Audubon's quarterly magazine, in the mail, this issue will be posted some time in January at

My Trek 7.3 FX hybrid bicycle (mountain bike-style
handlebar; wider, puncture-resistant street tires)
So I'll be documenting the effort to comply with my resolution here on the Tucson Audublog.

I started today, January 3. I should say that I have ridden my bike to work before, irregularly. To put it in birding terms, sightings of me riding to work have been "rare" (defined in Finding Birds in Southeast Arizona as "present in very small numbers; occurs annually but easily missed").

Here is the story of today's ride. First I took a long breakfast, allowing the below-freezing early morning temperatures to rise a bit. (I also checked the weather report several times, looked at Facebook, petted the dogs, fed the dogs, read the paper, cleaned up the kitchen and took a hot shower.)

Realizing I was now late to work, I bundled up in a long-sleeved T-shirt, long-sleeved flannel button-down shirt, sweater, scarf, gloves, watch-cap, jeans, helmet and a bright yellow safety vest. It was somewhat hard to move, but I was ready. I reasoned that in colder parts of the country, even thusly dressed, I would be a snowball or ice cube in short order.

Rejoicing therefore at Tucson's weather, I stopped by my truck to retrieve something. The sun was now warming the cold steel carport, causing frozen moisture to drip to the ground. I waved goodbye to my trusty pickup and headed down the alley. My first obstacle was the still-unfreezing alley puddles left over from the last rain.

So far successful, I turned west onto Pima Street. Almost immediately I narrowly missed a mesquite twig that had fallen into the bike lane. The thorns on this twig--from one variety of South American mesquite--are 1.5 to 2.0 inches long! I circled back to pick it up so that nobody else would run over it, and so I could provide the startling photograph below. Please plant only native mesquites, which have much, much smaller spines and are probably better for birds.

Mesquite spines

I proceeded west on Elm Street to Tucson Blvd. My preferred route is to go south on Tucson, west on 3rd Street, through the University of Arizona mall and then west on University Boulevard to the Tucson Audubon office at the History YWCA building. Today I wanted to go by the bank, which is on Speedway. So I continued west, crossed Campbell and then went south along the east side of the University Medical Center, pausing to glance at the lawn where hundreds of memorials were left in the wake of the Tucson shootings almost exactly two years ago. (Poignant sights like this are harder to come by in an auto.)

I dodged construction of the new street car project and stopped at the bank. I left my lunch on the bike with the thorny twig strapped on top of it so that nobody would mess with my food.

By this time I was actually quite warm and took off the gloves, watch cap and scarf. The rest of the trip was uneventful, except for more small detours on University Boulevard where streetcar construction is underway. (Remember to cross rail tracks on the perpendicular, rather than near to parallel. You can get the front tire caught in the slot next to the steel track and take a bad fall.)

Well, I feel healthier already and I haven't emitted any greenhouse gasses yet today (well okay, my vehicle hasn't). I plan to ride home before dark to make it easier for drivers to see me, and to increase my chances of seeing birds along the way!

Stay tuned for more 2013 alternative transportation capers! I plan to carpool sometimes when I go to Tucson Audubon's Mason Center, and maybe I'll even try the bus. And the streetcar!

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