Friday, January 18, 2019

In Which I Contemplate Snow on the Ride

A dusting of snow on C Avenue sidewalk Wednesday morning. It turns out (below) I was not the only biker.

On C Avenue Thursday morning looking back at sidewalk between me and Collins Road. CR Biker is not amused.
I took a quick ride Tuesday afternoon, assuming it would be the last ride of the week.

As it turned out, the snow Tuesday night was no more than a very light dusting. And so Wednesday morning, I donned the warm underwear and snow boots and wheeled out the mountain bike.

For the most part, while I had to be a bit careful, the ride was not eventful. Except at the corner of C Avenue and Collins Road. A sidewalk was installed on C Avenue there, and the office complex there has not learned to clear snow.

I had to walk the bike for about half a block. Otherwise, the ride was cool but uneventful.

Friday the snow apocalypse was scheduled for the afternoon. So in the morning, I needed to go out to get some gas for my snow blower, and took the hybrid bike because I could strap the gas can to the back rack.

And I rode the Lindale and a part of the Boyson Trail. It was quiet and cool.

Frozen and bumpy trail. But nevertheless I persisted.

This one is for you, Cate Sheller. A testament to man's ability to generate electricity.

View from bridge on Boyson Trail, and then I turned around and went up to Boyson Road, rode on bike lane to Casey's and got some gas. Ready for the snow, snow blower willing.

I had to go to campus then, and drove, expecting that snow would be falling the in afternoon when I came home. I was wrong, the snow was late, but whatever.

I got two rides in for the past two days, and three in for the week. During the winter, that’s not bad.

The snow has finally arrived and is piling up outside—it’s not clear when I will be able to ride again.

All in all, it was a nice biking week. But business at the corner of C and Collins? Shovel your walk.

Wednesday, January 16, 2019

In Which Before Snow I Take a Short Ride

Lindale Trail, about 4:30 p.m., Jan. 16. From the woods, below, a deer watches as I pass by on the trail.

Snow Saturday was followed by temperatures in the 30s, so I had some hope for biking this week.

Mother Nature had over plans. Cloudy, cool weather included bouts of freezing drizzle, making this a week for driving rather than riding.

Drove to campus Sunday to work on the newspaper--a bike in the rack by the library. Not my bike. Winter is hard.

By today, I thought “maybe,” but did not have time this morning (students gave speeches yesterday and I was up late finishing all the grading). And mid-day, something odd happened—a bright source of light appeared briefly in the milky Iowa winter sky, bathing us with visible star radiation. I drove home about 3:30 and felt a bit sad that I had not biked.

Snow person at the top of the hill.
I stopped to gas up the van—I’m picking up my wife at the airport tomorrow, if all goes well (knock on wood, and I feel for you, unpaid TSA agents). I also picked up some groceries. By the time I got home, it was still just a few minutes before 4. I had planned to feed the birds, so I filled the feeders in the back yard—and it was still light out.

The days are getting a bit longer.

I wheeled the mountain bike out of the garage. I didn’t plan a long ride, I have more grading tonight. I rode up to the Lindale Trail and went back and forth on the paved part of the trail. And then, because it was such a short ride, I went up the Hampden Hill, down the back side of the Crandall Hill and then back again.

Snow is expected tonight, with more in the next week. I’m not sure when I’ll be able to ride again, and I’m glad, even if it was short, that I did take a ride today.

Another view of snow figure at the top of the Bowman Woods hill.

Wednesday, January 9, 2019

In Which the Wind Comes Whistling Across the Lake

Cedar Lake late Tuesday afternoon--calm north end.

The week started warm and wet, and I drove on Monday. By Tuesday, a cold front was passing through and winter was on its way back into Iowa—arriving with buffeting wind.

It was still damp Tuesday morning and flurries were possible that day, so I rode my mountain bike. I need not have bothered—the sky, in fact, in Cedar Rapids became increasingly clear as the day went on, and even if it was windy and cool, at least the light was good.

Cool, windy Tuesday morning, sunrise at Collins pond on C Avenue.
Late in the afternoon, I left work. Despite the chill wind, I was in the mood for the longer trail ride, and I headed over to the Cedar River Trail and circled Cedar Lake before heading home.

I was not unhappy to be on the mountain bike. It’s my slowest bike, but in the wind I would not have made much speed anyway (and you all who know me are thinking “you would not make much speed in any case, CR Biker,” and to be fair, you would have a point). It does feel like a very stable bike on a windy day.

I had my good camera with me. I had photographed a basketball game Monday afternoon, and for some reason felt it was important to photograph the first sunny ride of the week. When I got down to the lake, the sun was very low. Geese were all huddled at the north end of the lake, where the water was fairly calm. But anywhere else, especially on the south end, the lake was choppy. I was impressed with the sound of the wind and the water smashing against the shore.

You Californian family members who see actual waves on an actual ocean would be amused, I’m sure, but I was impressed with the surf.

Water splashing against rock at south end of Cedar Lake.

I was also surprised that, unlike geese, some ducks didn’t seem to care to hang out where the water was calm. There were several duck pairs bobbing up and down on the choppy lake, sometimes with feathers ruffled by the wind. There are silly sayings about wet weather being the kind of day that would only make a duck happy—but in this case, despite it being sunny, I’m sure these ducks were getting quite wet and sad. A duck’s face does not have expression, but I could only imagine them quacking vague duck curses under their breaths as they questioned the wisdom of wintering in balmy Cedar Rapids.

I headed north to home and thought the flag at Harding Middle School looks pretty in the late golden light, so I shot some images of it—not realizing until I looked at them how frayed the flag seems. Then again, maybe it wasn’t frayed so badly when it was raised Tuesday morning.

It was that kind of day. Every once in a while, I shifted into a climbing gear on flat ground to ascent the wind hill. I was thoroughly chilled by the time I arrived home, but still rode my bike up to a dinner invitation a half mile or so from home.

The mountain bike has lots of lights. Why not?

Today, it was getting colder and was still breezy in the morning, but luckily not so windy. Winter was back, but there are mittens and warm boots and long underwear, and your biking correspondent was still on two wheels, although today I rode the hybrid bike.

Here are more images from my windy Tuesday ride:

Geese in golden light on lake.

A great wave hit the little ship. "Hold on," Captain Jim told his men.

Flag waves vigorously at Harding Middle School.

Cedar River Trail north of Cedar Lake--pretty sky and golden light of late afternoon.

Ducks, riding waves on Cedar Lake.

More lake waves.

Saturday, January 5, 2019

In Which Dinosaurs Prove Elusive

I could hear them and see them—at one point, in a group of about 5 or 6 males, chattering in the bushes, flitting about—but scattering when I unlimbered my camera. Even with a long lens on the good camera, I didn’t do well in photographing them.

There were birds on the bike ride Friday, but elusive ones on this warm winter day, including this elusive flock of male cardinals who were there, but preferred not to be photographed.

The best shot I got, just one of the boys hiding in the bushes, Cedar Valley Nature Trail, Jan. 4, 2019, maybe 10:30 in the morning.
I was scheduled to take my wife to the airport that afternoon, but Friday morning I took advantage of the sunny January day—temperature in the morning in the 30s—to ride north on the Cedar Valley Nature Trail. My original plan was to circle the city park in Robins and head back—but the side trail to the park was too shady to be cleared of ice and snow.

Maybe with my mountain bike, I might have persisted, nonetheless. But in this case, he did not persist because he was riding a road bike.

The trail to the park in Robins does not appear road bike friendly.
So instead, I just made a quick ride up to Tower Terrace Road before turning towards home.

Shortly after I turned back, a hawk that had been on the power line took off to soar across a field. Aha—another photo opportunity! But alas, my phone rang just at that second, and like Pavlov’s dog, I gave my conditioned response, although not a slobbery one. “Hello,” I dryly said.

Am I in the market for cheaper health insurance, the robo lady inquired. No, in fact, I would pay much higher taxes to have a national health plan that covers everybody so nobody would have to ask that question, but that’s a rant for another blog.

The hawk did not wait. In the few seconds I was pointlessly listening to robo caller, the dinosaur slipped away.

Well, even if the dinosaurs on this bicycle ride proved elusive, at least the sunshine did not. It was a very pleasant morning for January, and I did ride about 16 miles or so. It was a morning well spent.

What the Cedar Valley Nature Trail was like Friday morning--mostly clear, a few other bikers and walkers out, very sunny which made the winter drab even a little pretty.

Sunday, December 30, 2018

In Which I Praise the Twilight Light

A jogger ahead of me on the Cedar River Trail as I near J Avenue. He was pretty good--never caught up with him as I rode.
The last time I went for a winter ride, it was a grey morning before a cold rain. It was, as it turned out, a nice ride, although short to avoid the rain.

St. Ludmilla seen from Sinclair Levee Trail.
Today was a cool, but nicer day. Rain last week was followed by freezing drizzle and snow, which by Saturday left my small part of the universe slick and risky for riding. But the sun beat down this sunny Sunday, and by afternoon the temperature was well above freezing. Wherever the sun was shining, pavement was bare.

Still, there was water, ice and snow around, and I wasn’t sure if all the pavement in town would be as bare as the street and sidewalk in front of my house. So, I decided to take the winter beater today, rather than the fast road bike. I was helping to entertain grandchildren in the morning, and a nap was a post-lunch priority, so what with one thing and another it was around 3 p.m. when I opened the garage and wheeled the Fancy Beast into the driveway.

The day was windy, a little raw when I was headed south, but sunny and nice. I had a quick errand to run, and after that headed over to the Cedar River Trail in Hiawatha.

Because of the sunshine and warmer weather, plus the weekend, there was a bit more traffic on the trail. I saw a number of bikers, walkers and runners—nowhere near as many as I would on a fine summer Sunday, but still there were people out enjoying the sunshine.

The light this time of year is not long in the afternoon, although the good news, as the coldest part of winter still lies ahead, is that the days are getting longer rather than shorter. The sun was low and shadows long by the time I got to Cedar Lake.

Bridge on Cedar River Trail. Much of the trail was clear but there were times I was glad to be riding my mountain bike.

Cedar Lake.

Shadow of CR Biker at Cedar Laker.

Ice on the south shore of the lake. Turned on my lights at this point.

Cedar River as I head south.

Cedar River bridge in late afternoon light.

On the way home, colorful sky reflected in ice of small outlet of Cedar Lake.
But, since the ride around the lake was the end of my previous ride, I wanted to press on. By accident, I had left the rear light of my bike at home—I had changed the batteries but left the light in the kitchen. But, I figured, I do have a light on my helmet, plus a strand of Christmas lights on the Fancy Beast, so as I left the lake, I stopped to shoot some images of the shoreline and turn on my lights.

I headed across downtown, and neared the Bridge of Lions. My original plan was to cross the river and turn around at Sokol Park, but for some reason the desire to head down the Sinclair Levee Trail. As I turned around to head home, the sun was just touching the horizon.

That time of day as the sun sinks from view has always been about my favorite. As a boy, my fondest memories of summer are of the hazy blue twilight. One advantage of winter is that the pretty golden light and deep blue sky of the end of the day comes sooner. As I headed home, steam plumes from an agricultural factory on the west side of the river were turned a pretty coral pink.

Christmas lights were shining downtown during my return journey. When I got to Cedar Lake, it appeared geese were having some sort of noisy end-of-day committee meeting on a small patch of open water. Whatever motion Stephanie Goose had made, it was causing loud, active discussions.

Christmas lights on a street in downtown.

Christmas tree in Greene Square.
The light was fading as I neared home. It was not full dark as I crossed Noelridge Park, which is good because the sidewalk on the north part of the park is not lit, but the sun was down. It was early night by the time I was on C Avenue—late enough that the sky was turning from deep blue to black, but still too early for most stars. A planet, Venus, I presume, was twinkling by the time I got to Blairs Ferry.

I still have not had the time to go past Ely to check the new trail, but the ride today was nice nonetheless.

Sinclair Levee trail as I start ride home.

Pink light of sundown.

Flock on power lines seen on the way home.

The goose convention on Cedar Lake.

Friday, December 28, 2018

In Which Winter Returns to Iowa

Cedar Lake is mostly iced over, but birds congregate on the patch of water at the north end of the lake on a cloudy Dec. 26, 2018.

The day after Christmas, 2018—rain was in the forecast. An Arkansas winter was the theme of the week, with sometimes bone-chilling wet rains, sometimes freezing drizzle and now and then a bit to snow.

Frankly, at this time of year, I would prefer the white stuff, thank you.

Anyway, skies were grey and rain was in the forecast for the afternoon, so I decided to go for a morning ride. My original plan was to start early and head south, maybe going far enough to check out a bit of the new trail on beyond Ely.

It was not to be. Christmas had been grand including mulled wine, a large feast and family games—I was not exactly bright eyed and bushy tailed the next morning. I was not in bad shape, mind you, just tired and slept in.

By the time I puttered around, had a nice breakfast, read the paper, showered and dressed it was pushing 10. My weather ap said rain would start at 12:30 p.m., which proved wrong, but I still jettisoned my original plan and set out on a more modest ride.

I rode Argent, my road bike, figuring I need the practice on it, and I could cover the maximum distance in the shortest time. I pedaled down to Cedar Lake and circled it. A few hardy, brave souls were out jogging or walking around the lake, but I saw few other bikers and had the rest of the trail up and back to myself.

It felt damp and chilly and was also very cloudy—but despite the dullness of the day, I felt almost euphoric. I had not ridden in several days, and it felt grand to be on the bike, pumping away. Despite the whine of traffic on Interstate 380, the Cedar River Trail felt tranquil. I enjoy the quiet of a winter ride.

As it turned out, while the rain held off until later, it was the start of several wet or icy days. The morning after Christmas was my one ride in this, the last week of 2018. Given the snow and ice today, it's likely to stay that way.

Which makes the 16 miles I rode that day all the more delicious. And when I go home, my wife and youngest son were out on a walk. I texted them, picked them up and we headed to Taste of India for another post-Christmas feast. It was a nice after-bike ride celebration and a warming meal for the start of the cold, wet season here in Iowa.

Thursday, December 13, 2018

In Which Gray Is OK on a Cool Day

Cedar Lake--cool afternoon.

It was quiet this afternoon on the Cedar River Trail. I was heading home about 3:30 this afternoon, and the clouds were so thick that I was riding with my lights on.

It was in the 30s, which is not particularly cold for December, but it was moist, the kind of dampness that lends a chilling edge to the temperature.

On my way home, I headed down to Cedar Lake. Despite the gray day, it felt good to be outside. As I paused to make some images of the reflections and geese on the lake, trail traffic picked up a bit. A few brave joggers were out, as well as just a few other bikers.

Save image of Cedar Lake, in color and black and white.

And despite the cries of geese and other birds, the afternoon felt peaceful. I like blue skies and springtime and all that, but I did feel somewhat refreshed by a shot of Mother Nature.

As I headed north to home, the mist increased a bit and the pavement just started to get damp. But I did get home before it really go damp, so it was a good ride.

Geese on lake.