Best Put-Together Urban Bike Ride 2019 | Indian Bend Wash/Rio Salado Paths | Fun & Games | Phoenix

Twenty-five miles of nearly uninterrupted bicycle path. You heard right. That's a huge stretch of pavement without worrying about cars or 18-wheelers taking you out. True, there are often other obstacles to weave through, like pedestrians, roller-bladers, and the scourge of humankind, electric scooters. But they probably won't kill you, and if it's later at night or hot, or if you get lucky, you'll have nearly the whole trail system to yourself. Doing the math: The ride could be a 50-miler out-and-back if begun at one end. In reality, that might be difficult to do. But the beauty of this ride is you could live in south Phoenix, Tempe, south Scottsdale, or north Scottsdale and still access the trail easily for a long, no-car bike ride. There are no signs, and not even a single online map for this one. Here are the tricks (start from either end): Catch the west end of the Rio Salado bike path at about 19th Avenue and the south bank of the Salt River riverbed. Continue through the Tempe Beach Park, and connect to Scottsdale's Indian Bend Wash path by either taking the pedestrian bridge to the north side, or using the walkway on Rural Road. That path soon bends north and runs all the way to Shea Boulevard. You might want to pack a lunch.

Don't get us wrong: There are plenty of bike trails with beautiful scenery all over the Valley, but there's something about looping through Usery Pass that feels epic. Once you ride up the 1,000 feet of rolling hills inside this county park, you can see downtown Phoenix from over 30 miles away on a clear day. There is lush greenery along North Bush Highway, which runs parallel to the Salt River. You can take a selfie next to one of the oddly shaped saguaro cactuses along the road, Bike anywhere from 20 to 40 miles, but come prepared —occasional debris from the large pickups hauling boats can flatten your tire real fast.

Metro Phoenix straightaways can be mind-numbing for the motorcyclist, causing us to crave any kind of handlebar action more interesting than a U-turn. Motoring out on our favorite longer rides, like to Tortilla Flat or Prescott, involves about an hour of arrow-straight freeway riding from our central Valley homestead before hitting any twisties. Going to South Mountain's summit, the fun starts much sooner. Easily accessible from much of the Valley, the entrance to the 11,000-acre park can be found by simply driving south on Central Avenue toward South Mountain. Soon enough, you're putting your bike through some paces with some nice back-and-forth driving. Watch out for gravel on the road, and mind the speed limit. There's a YouTube video out there featuring a guy taking a dirt dive from missing a curve — you don't want to provide a sequel. The lower speed limit (25 mph, 15 around blind curves) and treacherous cliffs make this a fun place for riders who feel the need for safety more than speed. Take the road up to Dobbins Lookout, or all the way up to the TV towers. It's a great place for improving beginner motorcycle skills or chasing away the boredom of the street grid.

The unassuming North Mountain Park sits on the southern side of the North Mountain and Shaw Butte area, on the northern end of Sunnyslope. Set back just enough from the cars racing along North Seventh Street, this desert park is a respite from the hum and grit of one of the city's busiest streets. From it, at night, downtown Phoenix is a sight to behold. The park, which comes with picnic tables and grill areas, slopes gently upward at the base of North Mountain, giving nighttime visitors a clear view straight down Seventh toward the glow of downtown against the jagged backdrop of South Mountain. If you slip into the park before the gates close around sunset, a ranger is unlikely to kick you out (in our limited experience), and if you're feeling particularly adventurous one night, we suspect the evening views from the top of North Mountain would be even better than from down below.

Tucked back in the Madison area of uptown Phoenix, Granada Park is a quiet, green area ideal for a quick lunch away from your desk or for an afternoon on the grass. A fishing lagoon jam-packed with ducks and turtles occupies the center of the park, while the dramatic Piestewa Peak dominates the scenery. Picnic tables and grills help with planned outings, while trees and grass make for perfect plop-down spots with a blanket, a book, yourself, and maybe a dog. There's also a tennis court, a playground, and a multipurpose field for those in your picnic party who are interested. Overseen by the city of Phoenix, Granada Park is open daily.

Mycophiles, unite! For those who appreciate store-bought mushrooms but are always yearning for more, there's a very simple solution: Go find your own. Not sure where to go or how to look? Enter the Arizona Mushroom Society, an organization that runs forays, lectures, classes, and of course, mushroom-centric feasts around the state. During morel season, weekday and weekend excursions take members and their guests to remote and rugged areas like the Mogollon Rim, where recent fires and rains provide the perfect growing habitat for these meaty treasures. Workshops cover topics that are a mushroom-lover's dream, like cultivating oyster mushrooms. The society's longtime members and leaders collectively have a wealth of information to help amateurs identify their findings and (most importantly) determine what's safe to eat. Mycophiles are a friendly bunch, and chances are high that you'll make a friend or two when you join a foray. Annual membership costs $15, with varying extra costs for specific events.

Free seeds! Free seeds! On the first floor of the Burton Barr Library is a board tacked with small plastic baskets holding tiny manila packets of just a few seeds each — melons, dill, squash, grains, flowers, herbs, eggplant, beans, peppers, kale, tomatoes, tomatillos, and more. Patrons can "check out" up to three seed packets at a time but, of course, don't have to return them after three weeks. This seed library is free, and we're thrilled with the variety that the library offers home gardeners. Although patrons receive just a few seeds in each packet, this sparing distribution is actually far more sensible than the $1, $2, or $3 packets containing dozens of seeds, only a few of which are likely to be planted. Getting seeds from the library means you can plant a few pepper plants, a few tomato plants, or a few dill plants without having to spend money on seeds that will ultimately go to waste. There are 16 Phoenix Public Library locations with a seed library, and the program also has free workshops on watering, seed-saving, and vermicomposting.

ESPN shouting head Max Kellerman tried to diminish the accomplishments of the most beloved Cardinal, Larry Fitzgerald, when he suggested on First Take earlier this year that Fitz might only make it into the Pro Football Hall of Fame "because of his longevity and willingness to keep playing despite not being an MVP-caliber player anymore." Stop it. Fitzgerald, who just turned 36, caught more than 100 passes for more than 1,000 yards in each of the 2015, 2016, and 2017 seasons, all after turning 32. That's hardly playing out the string. Yeah, his numbers dipped last season with a struggling rookie at quarterback, but so did the entire team's. No. 11 ranks second in receiving yards (16,279) in NFL history, trailing only Jerry Rice. He's made the Pro Bowl 11 times in his 15-year career, despite playing with 19 different quarterbacks. With new coach Kliff Kingsbury bringing in a pass-first offense, there's no telling what kind of numbers Fitzgerald will put up this season. Nevertheless, we'll cut Kellerman some slack for appearing to be brain-dead. It might happen to us, too, if we had to listen to his TV partner, Stephen A. Smith, yapping for two hours every morning.

When some of us measure 5 feet, 10 inches and weigh 207 pounds, the doctor says, "You need to lose some weight." When Kyler Murray hit those numbers at the National Football League Combine earlier this year, the experts said it almost certainly meant that the diminutive quarterback was big enough for the Arizona Cardinals to make him the No. 1 pick in the draft. That also made Murray the first athlete ever to be drafted in the first round by both the NFL and Major League Baseball, forcing him to choose the Cardinals over the Oakland Athletics. Even though as we're writing this, Murray has only made two starts, he's our easy choice based on what he's already done, which includes winning the Heisman Trophy by passing for 4,361 yards and 42 touchdowns in his only full season as a starter at the University of Oklahoma in 2018. We do have our concerns about Murray — not about his size, but about selecting him for this award. Our last two Best of Phoenix Male Athletes, David Johnson and Devin Booker, got hurt before the selection was even announced. Stay safe, little one.

Mesa native Julie Ertz now holds the record for world championships in the Ertz household. Her husband, Zach, won a Super Bowl as a tight end with the Philadelphia Eagles, but she has two World Cup soccer titles on her wall, starring for the winning U.S. teams in 2015 and 2019. She began playing soccer as Julie Johnston, and she and her sister, Melanie, were standouts for Phoenix's nationally known Sereno Soccer Club. College and pro soccer led her to a spot on the national women's team, where Ertz is a capable offensive player, but her forte as a midfielder is defense; she led the United States to four shutouts in its seven World Cup matches, including a 2-0 victory over the Netherlands in the final, when Ertz totally shut down vaunted Dutch playmaker Daniëlle van de Donk.

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