by Randy Victory, Park Ranger
More than any other year, so far, 2008 will probably be remembered by many as the year that gasoline prices really skyrocketed. Once gas hit $4.00 a gallon, it seemed that there were more motorcycles, hybrids and small cars out on the road and more pedestrians around town.
The Rangers at Dead Horse Ranch State Park in Cottonwood were quick to make personal changes and adopt the most efficient form of travel ever invented — the bicycle. Dead Horse Ranch has a 8 staff members — from Ranger I to Park Manager III — who live both on and off-park. As a lifelong cyclist and committed bike advocate who hasn’t owned a car for many years, it’s not surprising that I’m one of those who ride. If you’ve ever met me, you know that I can pretty much drone on and on and on when it comes to bikes. But by September, 2008, realizing that four of us were commuting by bicycle much of the time, it seemed like a good idea to interview our bike ridin’ staff to find out what their motivation and experiences were. I asked David Gross, Park Ranger I; Justin Swiger, Park Ranger II, and Les Bovee, Park Manager III for their feelings on this healthy means of transportation.
Q: What made you decide to
commute by bicycle?
David: I began biking to work around the time of the Arab oil embargo back in the 1970s. I did it more for the enjoyment and the exercise than to save gas. However, at that time it was thought to be rather weird to ride a bike to work so I used the oil embargo as a rationale to justify it with my fellow workers. Since then, over the past 35 years, I’ve always biked to work two or three days a week. It could sometimes be a chore if I biked every day, so to keep it enjoyable and something that I always look forward to I found that three days a week to work for me.
Q: What do you think the benefits
of getting around by bike are?
Les: Bicycling has several benefits. Of course, there are obvious benefits to all-around health. What may not be as apparent are the benefits received from slowing down a bit. Getting a different perspective of the environment, in my case, the park. I’m on park trails more frequently and have found myself interacting with park visitors in the campgrounds more often.
Justin: Well, I don’t have to do cardio after my workout at home. My general health has improved, and I got some sexy legs now!
Q: What’s the most difficult/
hardest/worst thing about
Justin: The most difficult part of riding is trying to remember to pack a lunch. Once I’m at work I don’t want to leave.
Les: I’ve found it difficult, sometimes impossible, to transport bulky items. And, of course, when my time management hasn’t been the best, bicycling isn’t as fast as motorized travel.
Dave: Narrow roads with heavy traffic are the worst; I’m concerned about that one driver that might not be paying attention.
Q: What’s the best thing about
Dave: For me, it’s the exercise it provides.
Les: Oh, undoubtedly the closer contact with the environment.
Justin: Also, when I reach home it feels like I just conquered Baghdad, and I won a medal! (Justin served in Iraq before coming to State Parks in 2003.)
Q: Would you encourage others
to try what you’re doing?
Les: I would definitely encourage others to make bicycling part of their transportation plan.
Justin: Definitely, maybe not every day. But if you work locally, say within 10 miles of your job, riding two or three times a week will greatly improve your health.
Dave: I definitely would encourage others to commute to work and to use a bike for any errands that can be accomplished on a bike. I would suggest that they start slow. Find the route that they feel is the safest and they are the most comfortable with. I think it’s important that employers begin to encourage their employees to try biking to work. They can do this by providing convenient places with lockers for employees to shower and change clothes. Employers should also provide convenient and safe places for employees to secure their bikes, maybe even have some bike lockers available.
Q: Is there a “memorable riding
moment” you’d like to share?
Les: Well, I’ve had a mesquite branch or two get my attention and a cat claw bush that reached out and grabbed me! My first real “down in the dirt” crash was along a trail that intersected a small drainage ditch that I had forgotten about. Probably enough said … I don’t want to lose my bicycling privileges!
When the interview was over, it was great to think that something as simple as riding a bike had made such a difference in these guys lives! And it was humbling, too. I’d always thought of myself as an committed cyclist, but Dave Gross started commuting when I was still in junior high school. Being married with children, Justin Swiger has a full schedule. Les Bovee has made a full commitment to changing his lifestyle for the better, even riding off-road occasionally. Maybe more of us here at Dead Horse Ranch State Park and the Verde River Greenway State Natural Area will catch the cycling bug! Assistant Park Manager George Christianson logged tons of miles after leaving high school, and will join other State Parks employees at the 2008 El Tour de Tucson. Verde River Greenway Manager Max Castillo often rode his bike to work when I started at State Parks in 2000. Even Ranger Rob Burson has occasionally pedaled to work from time to time. And, as the price of fuel continues to rise, it’s likely we’ll see more folks on bikes, whether it’s to ride to work or not.
- Alamo Lake
- Buckskin Mountain
- Cattail Cove
- Lake Havasu
- River Island
- Yuma Quartermaster Depot
- Yuma Territorial Prison
- Dead Horse Ranch
- Fort Verde
- Red Rock
- Riordan Mansion
- Slide Rock
- Verde River Greenway
- Boyce Thompson Arboretum
- Fool Hollow Lake
- Lost Dutchman
- Lyman Lake
- Tonto Natural Bridge