Thursday, June 16, 2011

Riding The Canals in Phoenix

Roadboy's Favorite Bicycle Ride

Friends of Roadboy are well aware that I am challenged in nearly all athletic endeavors. It defies logic, but there you go. I'm tall so I should be able to play basketball right? Nope. I have long arms, baseball? Nope. Long legs, tennis? Are you kidding, that requires grace! Swimming? I sink like a big chunk of concrete.

The exception? I love riding bicycles. Some days, I ride my skinny wheel road bike, others seem best suited my big fat tire mountain bike. It all depends upon the weather and how adventurous I feel. Whatever bike I select bicycling always puts me in "the zone". Sometimes too much so (who else do you know that has actually fallen asleep while riding?) A severe case of mangled wheel and some heavy road rash confirm that sleeping and riding a bike are incompatible. Go Figure!

So when life is too much, I simply strap on my helmet, slip on my gel pad gloves and go.

And Phoenix is sort of "the" perfect place for any cyclist. With our sinful oversupply of sunshine and miles and miles of bike lanes and bike trails, Metro Phoenix is truly a cyclists dream. Just be careful, with our wide roads, drivers tend to really speed, and bikes are no match when up against grandma's big Buick or junior's rice rocket.

So if you come to the valley your riding options are amazing. You can ride all day in either the North or South Mountain Preserve's. If you visit the NE valley there are the McDowell Mountains. The West valley has the White Tanks. The beginner has the Hayden green belt, any canal, or the gentle trails that lace Papago Park. The adrenaline junkie has the sphincter testing double diamond National trail (that runs the ridge top of South Mountain Park.) For my money the best list of trails (along with his accurate sphincter pucker ratings - I am not making that up!) can be found in Cosmic Ray's Arizona Bike Trails book. Ray covers the whole state and has provided me with awesome rides from Flagstaff to Mexico. 

I suppose every cyclist has their favorite "regular ride", and I am no exception. So I thought I'd describe my favorite in Metro Phoenix.

I live in North Central so I start by heading north along Central Avenue's 100+ year old Murphy Bridle Path. I ride that all the way to where it intersects the SRP canal in Sunnyslope. There I turn east and start riding the canal. A little digression: Central Avenue is Phoenix's Avenue / Street Zero. What I mean by that is all NS streets west of Central Ave are numbered avenues; first avenue, second avenue etc. Similarly all NS streets east of Central Ave are numbered streets; first street, second street etc.

Along this stretch of canal there are tunnels under all the numbered streets till you get to 40th Street. So for those keeping track that is 40 solid blocks of zero automobile interface! Nice!

Biking the Canals (Looking Toward Camelback)

Now here's why the architect in me loves this ride. In this stretch there are wonderful buildings lining the canal. Not to mention great views of Piestawa Peak. Which I've been told holds the most popular urban trail in the nation.

Off in The Distance Piestewa Peak

The Arizona Biltmore Hotel and Resort

The Sprites 
(From Frank Lloyd Wright's Midway Gardens)

My ride then passes the regal Arizona Biltmore. Built and owned originally by William Wrigley Jr. The Biltmore opened in 1929. It was designed by Albert Chase McArthur who studied under Frank Lloyd Wright from 1907 - 1909. That makes the Biltmore the last intact Wright inspired hotel remaining in the world.

Its has welcomed nearly every sitting president since it was built and is surrounded by lovely golf courses and zillion dollar homes. Celebrity guests have always loved its grounds and pools. Irving Berlin composed White Christmas here by the pool. And Marilyn Monroe frequently told people that the pool at the Biltmore was her favorite.  

On the hill overlooking the Biltmore Mr. Wrigley built what for many decades was the largest home in Arizona. Built from 1929 - 1930 "La Colina Solana" The Sunny Hill was Mr. Wrigley's 50th wedding anniversary gift to his wife Ada. And at almost 17,000 SF (and equipped with 12 bathrooms), it was Mr. Wrigley's smallest residence.

From the Biltmore we cross into Paradise Valley (which we simply call "PV"). This is perhaps Arizona's toniest neighborhood and has always been home to celebrities, Doctors, Lawyers, an occasional weapons merchant, sports stars, and politicians.

My favorite spot in PV is The Hermosa. Former home to Cowboy artist Lon Megargee, it is now a fine Inn and one of Arizona's most beautiful restaurants.

The Courtyard at Lon's


Lon's artwork includes the Cowboy on the Bucking Bronco found inside every Stetson hat!

From here I head north up Tatum past the PV Country Club. From Tatum I turn off at the (very easy to miss) east entry to the North Phoenix Mountain Preserve. Having truly saved the best for last I pedal the singletrack Trail 100. Here, despite being completely surrounded by the 6th largest city in America, you can find stretches where absolutely no development may be seen in any direction. I have encountered roadrunners, millipedes, javalinas and rattlesnakes (only once) along this trail.

Trail 100 
Singletrack Bliss

But of course the most dangerous predators here are the out-of-control fellow cyclists trying to set some new personal best riding time.

Me, I ride west to Dreamy Draw Park where I can refill my long empty water bottle.

At that point it is time to ride home and put my feet up.

Roadboy's Travels © 2011  


Michael Marinello said...

Do you ever allow others to use your photography? Would you grant permission to post on another site? I'd like to use one of your canal shots in a local news website header. Thanks!

Roadboy said...

Hi Michael
You have permission to use my canal shot as a header as long as there is attribution somewhere as follows: "Canal Photo courtesy of Roadboy's Travels"