Feeling like a local

I can’t remember if I have written about this before. I know I’ve thought about it many times.

Whenever I travel somewhere, initially I have this feeling of being an ‘outsider’. Like everyone else can look at me and tell that I’m not from around here.

But when I get on a bike and out on the roads, I instantly feel like a local. It’s amazing how quickly it happens. Right now, I’m in Phoenix. Within a few minutes of riding the sense of foreignness started to change. The roads are still unfamiliar, but there is something different about experiencing unfamiliar roads on a bike versus in a car. You’re in more direct contact on a bike. And suddenly you’re “with” all the other local riders in the effort to avoid becoming road kill. You don’t get when you’re in a car, or when you’re walking.

Now, about Phoenix.

I was here 5 years ago, and did quite a bit of riding. I know that it was 2006, because I recall riding during the day and then watching Apolo Ohno in the Olympic speed skating in the evening. But what I remember most — even more than the nice weather — was how annoying it was riding around here.

The majority of the roads seem to be 6 lanes of cars racing to the next traffic light or strip mall. Then many of the smaller secondary roads don’t go anywhere. Well, do they do go *somewhere* but that somewhere often is a dead-end, or the entrance to a gated community. It’s as if most of the roads were built solely for the purpose of creating housing developments. There are some decent roads to ride on, but they often require a complicated zig-zag to navigate the dead ends.

I don’t know how you can look at this, against the backdrop of desert mountains, and not think that the planners and developers got it all very wrong.

I guess I feel a bit spoiled to be able to roll out my driveway at home and ride for hours, hitting only a handful of traffic lights. The roads actually get you from one place to another: Kirtland-Chardon Road, or Burton-Windsor Road. If we could only combine that with 300+ days of sunshine.

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4 Comments

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4 responses to “Feeling like a local

  1. Bill Marut

    It’s like that where my parents live in Florida, roads leading no where. I would ride the same off the beaten path go no where roads every day hoping to at least see see some wildlife to make things more interesting. I did see a Florida panther one time, which increase my TT workout that day. Have fun in Phoenix.

  2. Brian

    Found a nice route today. But I would still estimate that at least half the ride was on roads that I had to constantly ‘share’ with cars. It’s at least 8-10 miles to get out of the traffic lights.

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