Tuesday, July 31, 2012

The family that walks together eats together

One of the very best things about moving to Phoenix is that I now live in the same city as my cousin Angie (the cousin with the bike garage).  Angie and I were born about 15 years apart.  While she grew up in the northeast where most of our family still lives, I grew up in the southeast so we saw little of one another until the last 6 years.  Angie married a few years before Bob and I.  She has a little girl, who was born shortly after we moved to Arizona, so I've had the benefit of being a part of Camille's life all her life.

A walk down Monte Vista with Angie, Camille and Bob.
So it was a small thrill on Saturday morning for my cousin and her daughter to arrive at our doorstep to walk to brunch at Astor House with Bob and I.  Astor House is about five blocks from our house and since there are sidewalks for the entire route it was an easy walk for a small child.  Walkability was an important factor in choosing a place to live.  We not only wanted the convenience and safety of sidewalks but we desired places we could walk to.  Someone in Flagstaff commented to me once that Ponderosa Trails, our former neighborhood, was a "walkable neighborhood" but I had to disagree.  The neighborhood had the benefit of sidewalks and the urban trail systems, both great amenities, but, aside from the airport, we didn't have anything to walk to.  No retail or services.  No coffee shops, wine bars or restaurants.  No galleries, drug stores or movie theaters.  We could bike to those places but we couldn't walk to them very easily.  As much as I loved our house, with our roomy and comfortable front porch and peaceful backyard that we landscaped ourselves, the fact that I couldn't walk a short distance to  buy a carton of milk or to enjoy a glass of wine with friends really left me feeling a little deprived.  I value spontaneous social engagement, even if it's just a brief chat with a familiar cashier or barista, to be content in the suburb, which is really what Ponderosa Trails is and probably the preference of many who life there.  Not everyone wants commercial businesses shoulder to shoulder with residential development - but I'm not one of those people.

And I don't think my cousin is either.  I still remember her gushing at 14 years old, during a family outing to Boston, that the city was "so diverse!".  Angie probably lives five or six miles from us, also in the city.  Her house is within a few block of a Metro Light Rail station, which borders shopping and entertainment.  She's also within walking distance to banks, medical services, parks, and a really good local bike shop.  She's even close to a YMCA branch where she teaches yoga.  Angie still has her car; she just doesn't want to have to use it if she has other, more enjoyable options.

Follow the arrow to deliciousness.
Arriving at Astor House, the bicycle re-purposed as signage presents a welcoming entry.  Bicyclists are welcome; and we can assume those who get there by foot, people who live right here in the Coronado District, are encouraged to stop by.

Melt in your mouth goodness.
We ordered at the counter, helped ourselves to coffee and pulled two small tables together.  Soon we were all sharing off each other's plate.  And nothing says "share" like a plate of Carne puffed pastries. Aaaaah, yum. Don't mind if I do.   I'm so happy that I don't have to travel far for Astor House, and I'm so glad that my cousin is close by go there with me.

Friday, July 27, 2012

Accomodating to new biking conditions

Locked up in front of Nami, a 7th Street coffee shop.
I'm nearing the end of my second week in Phoenix, and I've been out exploring a bit on my bicycle everyday.  With temperatures well above 100 daily, I've taken the advise of those more experience Phoenix cyclists who posted here previously and hit the road as early as possible, which for me, at the moment, means around 10 a.m.  For each trip, I'm equipped with a bottle of ice water and a cloth for moping up the perspiration that erupts on my brow whenever I have to stop at a stoplight or lock up my bike.  I'm not even bothering with my helmet because it's just too hot to wear one without my hair turning into a wet sloppy mess.  No amount of lecturing or fear mongering in the world will change my decision on that.

Locking up at Coronado Cafe on Monte Vista and 7th Street.
So enough complaining about the heat.  So far, I love, love, love being back in an urban neighborhood.  Bob and I have so far visited about five locally owned restaurants within three or four blocks of our house since we moved in.  We either biked or walked to each. 

Urban Bean on 7th between Osborn and Indian School Road has a nice little bike corral.  And great lemonade.
Most of them don't offer any bike corrals but we've always been able to find something to lock up next to.  Wednesday we walk to dinner and nearly went into an ecstasy induced coma over stuffed dates and chicken crepes.  Last night we took an after dark stroll to another little nearby place and had dessert and pino grigio.  We're really enjoying the diversity of dining options, most of which are very reasonably priced.

A Nami patron.


The front counter at Nami.
Bob at Saturday brunch at Coronado Cafe.
Busy but quiet interior of the Urban Bean.
Coffee, tea, wine and snacks are served from the counter of the Urban Bean.
It feels just like old times back in Louisville in my beloved Original Highlands neighborhood.  I'm just a city girl who loves old urban neighborhoods where a little grunge mixes with houses with character, gardens gone just a little bit wild, funky yard art and an eclectic mix of personalities (we've yet to meet them at this point but I'm pretty sure they're there).  Lots of dog walkers.  Lots of people going somewhere by bike, too.

At Central Avenue near Van Buren, ASU's downtown campus.
One thing I'm struggling to get used to and feel okay about is pedaling on sidewalks.  Unless it's a mostly residential street or a side road, I never, ever see people biking on City streets unless they have a bike lane. Cyclists bike on the sidewalk.  The traffic isn't what I'd describe as congested; it just moves really fast.  I hate pedaling on the sidewalk - there are so many more distractions - but that just seems to be the norm.  Nonetheless, it really makes me feel like a rube.  Oh, well, when in Phoenix . . . I just don't have time to advocate on behalf of the issue at the moment but maybe once I get the house completely organized I'll be able to catch my breath and send someone (I don't know who at the moment) an email expressing my support for more bike lanes and segregated paths.

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Will bike for pancakes: Flagstaff's Crown Railroad Cafe

One of our last gastronomical adventures in Flagstaff was a bike ride to the Crown Railroad  Café   for breakfast.  Bob and I had packed up most of the kitchen and couldn't prepare the kind of healthy breakfast needed to sustain hours of packing and moving boxes to the garage so we went out in search of a good, inexpensive, sit-down breakfast.  I wasn't jazzed about a long wait at the IHOP on Woodlands Boulevard (and IHOP really isn't cheap either) so we pedaled across the street to the Crown Railroad Café.  We'd never been there in the 5.5 years we'd lived in Flagstaff but the location was near our house and the price point on the menu was very reasonable.

A model train overhead bring a smile to the face of an otherwise stressed out guy with a lot of packing to do.
The shopping center where the café is located provides a not great bike corral several feet from the front door.  It was empty so we were both able to lock up.  Inside, inside the decor naturally revolves around the country railroad theme.  I almost felt like I was sitting in a café at Petticoat Junction.  Over just-strong-enough coffee and conversation, we were quickly hypnotized by a model train circling the restaurant over our heads on a track mounted several feet from the ceiling.  Even for a girl whose life revolves around always owning a pair of pink kitten heels, it's really hard not to love model trains.
Some really to die for buckwheat, blueberry pancakes.  That's real butter melting on top.
Also hard was not being able to finish the entirety of my absolutely amazingly scrumptious buckwheat blueberry pancake.  I asked them to double the blueberries in the batter, and they did.  My tummy was happy yet full too soon.  I had a side of bacon that I couldn't finish it either.  Bob had some kind of chorizo omelet  that he  gobbled down but this post is about really delicious pancakes.  Even though I was on my bicycle and didn't really need to feel the ex-Catholic guilt about eating a whole 12-inch (if it was a day!) short stack, my only suggestion to the proprietors is to offer 4 - 6 inch stacks instead.  A short stack of 2 smaller pancakes is less guilt inducing to cut into and fully consume than a  12-inch short stack.  I could have ordered a single pancake but wheres the fun in that?    A uneaten, buckwheat, blueberry pancake is a terrible thing to waste.

Aunt Jane, Mom and Bob post a really awesome breakfast.
So anyway, if you live in Flagstaff or happen to be passing through and you've never been to the Crown Railroad Café, let me be the one to tell you, they server great pancakes, at an affordable price and there's no big wait.  We enjoyed our meal so much we took Bob's mom and aunt when they were in town the next week.  From what I understand, their French toast tastes is the best.

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Bike to movie night in Flagstaff: Clips of Faith with New Belgium Brewing Company

Randy and Rhonda, chatting it up over Sunshine Wheat on the Altitudes patio on July 12.
On July 12 New Belgium Brewing Company hosted their movie-short fest, Clips of Faith at Thorpe Park, just north of downtown Flagstaff. 

Will, David and Christine.
I met up with friends and visiting Tucson Beer Ranger, Rhonda, at Altitudes for brew and appetizers on the patio.

Randy and Rhonda, ready to roll.
Maggie, the bearer of the Clips of Faith poster.
Where there is beer and fun, David is usually the center of it all.
At the BNSF crossing at San Francisco and Rt. 66.
At San Francisco and Aspen.
Maggie and yours truly.
Afterward a few hours of cool ones, food and conversation, we pedaled over to Thorpe for movies under the star - or in our case thunder and occasion distant lightening.

Bicyclists heart New Belgium and Clips of Faith!
Here we are posing for a group photo near the admission gate.

They think of everything!
Bike parking was aplenty.

The New Belgium Cruiser is always stylin'.
The New Belgium Cruiser, auctioned to some lucky winner (who again, was not me).

Sue, keeper of the "I'm-old-enough-to-have-this-beer-bracelet."  Love her short haircut, by the way.
And I met Sue, a SRAB reader and fellow Breezer owner, who was checking ID for those who wished to purchase brew samples.  Thanks for reading Sue!  I'm still so shocked when anyone recognizes me - hope I didn't seem like a complete goofball.  I wonder how Jennifer Aniston does it?

My thumb, a sample of Valentine Ale and a list of New Belgium's other offerings.
It's movie time!
And a few last shots from the evening . . .
Getting comfortable.


I have no idea who this woman is but she looks to be serious about sampling.


Monday, July 23, 2012

First week in Phoenix: Damn, it's a hot place to be a bike commuter!

I mean, it is hot as hell in Phoenix during the summer time.  We've been here a week and the highs have been between 103 - 109 degrees daily.  I don't want to think about what we'd do if we were without air conditioning for any extended period of time - I guess just  move around with the shade all day long.

The new place in Central Phoenix.
The heat, however, has not kept me off my Breezer.  I've been on it daily, taking into account with each and every trip when I'd be out on the road and for how long.  As advised by SRAB readers in the know about biking through Phoenix's summer heat, I had water on me at all times and packed a wash cloth for moping up perspiration that erupted across my face and neck whenever I came to a stop, be it at a light, on the train or at my destination.  It is definitely more comfortable in this heat to keep moving rather than stop, especially if you are unable to stop in shaded area.   I think it goes without saying that I covered my self with an SPF lotion for every trip.

Waiting at the shaded light rail stop at Central and McDowell.
My first trip included pedaling to the nearest light rail stop, followed by a short trip on the rail to ASU's downtown campus for a meeting with the field placement staff about my fall internship.  Piece of cake, and I was able to lock my bike up to one of the many excellent bike corrals in front of the school building once I arrived.  Students were encouraged to bike and take the rail to campus rather than drive because parking passes are a bear.  I could probably (and most likely will) dress myself in JCrew for an entire year on what it would cost to purchase a parking pass.

Suffering from camera shake on the train, but you get the idea.
My second bike trip was at the behest of the Planner Guy who asked me to pedal up to the Home Depot at the 3700 block of Thomas for some cable to lock down our front porch and patio furniture (as we were advised to do by a concerned neighbor).  "It's not far", he said, which probably would have been a truthful statement if I had not waited until 2 p.m. when the temperature had soared to 106 to depart on my journey.  The entire trip was likely no more than 5 miles both ways, but I was in serious danger of heat stroke by the time I returned home.  Luckily, I realized the situation and cooled down and dehydrated at HD with a PowerAid and water (plus I purchased an additional bottle for the trip home) and took breaks in the shade wherever I found it.  By the time I arrived back at the house,  perspiration soaked my clothes and goosebumps covered my arms. My face glowed beet red.  I thought I had sustained a bad sunburn but it seems I was just overheated as my face returned to normal color within an hour.  As a precaution, I sank into a not especially cool bath (a cold bath would have required the addition of ice cubes to the water) and pondered my stupidity at leaving after noon.  Not really a humiliating defeat but I felt much more hip and urbane the previous day on the train.  Heavy sigh!

Our Central Phoenix neighborhood is close to many bar, restaurants and coffee houses and we visited several of them this week since our kitchen wouldn't become functional until our unpacking was done.  I'll report on those trips in a later post.  I'll also follow up on some as yet unreported bike adventures in Flagstaff that occurred before moving day, including the recent New Belgium Clips of Faith movie night.  At the moment, I'm still trying to get our new OLD house in order, as well as some loose ends regarding the start of classes and my field placement in late August.

Friday, July 6, 2012

Another unusual bike sighting.

A Trek-Schwinn alien hybrid!
What drives a person to build a bicycle such as this?  Is the owner a compulsive artist who must create with whatever implements are available or is he (I strongly believe it is a "he") obsessed with the question "Can it be done?"  I'm not judgin; I really want to know.  I also want to know how he gets on and off it.  Stepladder?  Wooden stool?

Tuesday, July 3, 2012

Bike commuting concession to the Planner Guy

Not trying to make a helmet statement; just honoring a request from my beloved.
Out of deference to my husband, I have been wearing my helmet somewhat religiously.   And by that, I mean whenever I am going to pedaling on city streets rather than the multiuse paths.


Since he has started his job in Phoenix, it gives Bob some false comfort to think that I am safer wearing a helmet.  So I wear it because I promised him that I would.  I've had this Nutcase helmet for about three years.  It still looks pretty good.

In short and sleeveless but still quite hot under than helmet.
But like the rest of the country, Flagstaff is suffering from unseasonably hot temperatures, and I am sweating under my helmet and my hair is a complete mess when I remove it.  My haircut is fairly low maintenance and, with a little fluffing, eventually recovers from helmet head, but still. . . .Sometimes I'm tempted to just leave my helmet on when I arrive at my destination because I'm so stressed out about helmet head.  Some people look really cute in their helmet but I'm just not one of those people.  Oh, well, at least I'm not having to wear the helmet in high humidity and heat!  I'm going to be testing a helmet cooling spray over the next month for Commute by Bike.  I have serious doubts but I'll let you know.

Sunday, July 1, 2012

Macy's European Coffeehouse: a Bike Friendly Flagstaff Destination

Sidewalk seating at Macy's European Coffeehouse.
The July issue of Sunset Magazine inspired me to pedal down to the Southside to enjoy a muffin and coffee at Macy's European Coffeehouse and Bakery, which was featured on page 60.  I set out bright and early on Friday morning, hoping to get there before all the seating was gone. 

The wait is worth it.
A real espresso bar and barista.
Macy's is always full 'cause there's some good coffee brewing there, along with good eats.  The people watching isn't bad either.

Locals immediately recognize the dog-centric work of Connie Townsend.
Macy's is such a landmark it is prominently featured in this painting by well-loved artist and animal lover, Connie Townsend.  I love her work.  This giant painting hangs above the espresso bar and order counter.

If you don't see a half-dozen bikes in front of Macy's, they are probably closed.
Sunset strangely forgot to mention that Macy's is a favorite destination of people who pedal.  I've never passed Macy's when theres no less than six or eight bikes locked up in front, and as many across the street.  Bicycles and the people who ride them are just part of the Macy's ambiance.