Monday, April 14, 2014

In Which Morning Snow Is Warmer Than Evening Wind

A bit beaten up by Sunday's storm, first blooming Iris on MMU campus seen Monday morning.

It was cold on my bike rides both this morning and this evening—it was snowing on me on the way into work. Only lightly, not accumulating, but it was snowing.

Despite the morning snow, there are undeniable signs that today was a spring bike ride day. Dry Creek was swollen from spring rains. On the way across campus on my bike in the morning, I paused, briefly hopped off, and photographed the first irises blooming in the garden between Warde Hall and Basile Hall.
A very wet Dry Creek seen from the C Avenue bridge Monday morning. You can't see them, and I snapped this photo hoping you could, but there are lots of snowflakes in the air, too.

And this evening, the ducks were back in their customary puddle at the corner of Lennox Avenue and 40th Street.

Most of all—the morning’s most undeniable sign that the season has indeed changed most definitely—here is a photo of the parking lot at Rockwell Collins looking south towards Collins Road.
Risking life as I snap this photo--because I'm in motion, crossing Rockwell-Collins parking lot. We're looking south towards the corner of the lot where mountains of snow were piled all winter long And there is no more snow to be seen--my first view of this lot this year with no snow in it.

What don’t you see? No snow. This is the corner of the parking lot where the company piles its mountains of white stuff, and the dirty piles of snow were visible well into April, even last week.

But, not today. I don’t know if it was the 80 degree day Saturday or the 4 inches of rain Sunday, but today there was no snow here. Finally.

Because it’s spring. Hip, hip, hooray!
The ducks in their puddle Monday evening.

Sunset view as I peddle through campus Monday around 7 p.m. Guess we really should replaced that poor tattered flag.

Saturday, April 12, 2014

In Which We Ride Together And I Top 400 Miles

Warm Friday afternoon around 3:30--getting ready for first joint ride of 2014.
Grandchild at the park.
It was just gorgeous Friday afternoon. I got done with a newspaper meeting around 2, and walked by my wife’s office.

She was finishing up a meeting with a student, and she suggested that I ride home and her bike ready, and we could have a ride together. Well, that was a very fine idea, so it’s exactly what I did.

I arrived home first, and had time to get our bikes out and lubricate her chain and pump up her tires. She arrived, we changed into more casual clothes. She had texted one of our daughters and arranged for us to meet at a park that is about 2 miles from our house.

And we were off. She had told our daughter that we would meet them (the daughter and her children) at the park around 4, but as it turned out, we left a bit early and got to the park maybe 5 minutes before the daughter did.

The bike is mightier than the minivan. Or, two old people get ready for a journey more quickly than 4 young children.

After an interlude of play at the park, they hopped back in the van and we hopped on our bikes to meet again at a restaurant in Marion.

The ride there was fine, but our time at ZJ’s wasn’t so fine. It took an hour for four dinners to be prepared, and four children 6 and under to not wait that patiently. Anyway, the irony is that Audrey was chatting with me about whether I had installed lights on her bike (I had), and I though the discussion irrelevant because we were eating around 5:30 with plenty of daylight left. I didn’t count on still being at the restaurant after 7.

Well, we took the Boyson Trail on the way back home, and my bike computer confirmed it was 3 miles to the restaurant and 3 miles home—a 6-mile ride. The meal was unexpectedly long, which meant we got to test the lights on Audrey’s bike on the way home. The lights work just fine.

It was a very pleasant ride. At the end of the summer last year, my wife and I started riding together more often than we have in the past. I hope that trend continues. And sometime during the ride, I broke 400 miles for the year so far.

Monday, April 7, 2014

In Which The Gamble Still Pays Off

Around 7:30, corner of F Avenue and Collins Road looking west. That's a thunderstorm sky, but the storm was falling apart rather than gaining strength.
It was cloudy this morning, but dry There was a chance of rain today, but I rode.

A brief sprinkle did fall late afternoon, but it was before I headed home. By the time I left MMU at a bit after 7, the sky was getting interesting, with a dark bank of clouds in the west.

Still, I made it home. And I’m heading to bed at 10, with still no rain falling.

It seems to be the start of another good biking week.

Sun peaks under thin bank of ominous clouds along C Avenue near Blair's Ferry Road.

Sunday, April 6, 2014

In Which Spring Rides Are Finally Here

Granddaughter enjoys fine afternoon weather April 5. We took our time and a long loopy route from her house to mine, including most of the Boyson trail. Here, we stop at a bridge to check out the water, one of her favorite things to do on a bike ride. I don't know, what do you think? Does she like bike rides?
Well, the week was surprisingly good, with rides every day. I had snow smack me in the face this week, and I gambled with the weather a bit, but still, 5 rides and never once did I have to use a car. That’s a pretty good week.

The weekend had good biking weather, and I managed to squeeze in a few miles (a few more than 20 between Saturday and Sunday). Time was too pressed, due to other events, but spring was sure in the air. In fact, the past three days have been about the best weather for biking so far.

Consider some biking scenes:

Birds on Cedar Lake. I went to work late in the afternoon of April 6, and made a little trial detour to tool around the lake on my ride back home.

Ducks check out street puddle during my evening ride home on April 4. Earlier in the week, I had been pelted by snow. Now, it's warm enough that the grass is just starting to look green.
Blackbird singing as sunset on Cedar Lake seen during a bike ride April 6. Actually, he was not singing. More like yelling, as blackbirds do. They don't appreciate human attention.

Friday, April 4, 2014

In Which I Contemplate The February Dip

Magic of Excel. My bike monthly mileage totals so far in 2014.

Now that winter is over (knock on wood), it’s interesting to see how the biking year has gone so far.

Thursday, I managed to squeeze out an unexpected day of biking. As a rule, CR Biker doesn’t like wet and will avoid a rainy ride. I know, I know, true bike commuters are like mail carriers under the old motto of the U.S. Post Office—neither rain nor snow nor dark of night, yadda yadda. Well, I’m not a mail carrier, and even if I’m not the Wicked Witch the West, I drive a bike that makes me look a bit like her.

I won’t melt in rain, but neither Francis nor I enjoy wet. It’s more serious for Francis. If I get wet, I have to dry off. If my bike gets wet, the cancer of rust spreads.

Anyway, rain was in the forecast Thursday, which normally would have called for a driving day. But, sometimes when it is going to “rain,” that doesn’t mean all day—it means rain now and then, and Thursday’s forecast was of that type. So I checked the radar in the morning (one of the minor positive aspects of modern life—when I was young, no random bike commuter would “check the radar”) and saw that, splotched with rain-green as the state might be, none of the splotches were on me.

So I rode, and I was fine.

On Thursday afternoon, I was lecturing, when I looked out the classroom window to see it raining. I had been talking about my bike at the time (it was relevant to class), and the class interpreted my nonverbal reaction to mean that Francis had been stolen. Well, no, my bike was parked inside the building in the hall by my office—its usual “rain” spot on campus—the dramatic pause was just my reaction to the rain and the prospect of a cold, wet ride home.

Fortunately, as it turned out, the ride was damp and cool, but the passing shower had passed by the time the class period was in the past.

I’ve been keeping an online bike log on Google Docs to track my miles. I had a dip in February mileage, caused, I’m sure, by the harsh winter we had. March was a winter month in Iowa this year, but my mileage nicely rebounded. According to my bike log, I’m up to 324 miles for the year as of Thursday, and just shy of 200 of those miles were in March.

My goal this year, if you recall, is 5,000 miles. I will have to average more than 400 miles a month to get there, but I knew in setting that yearly goal that many of those miles would be packed into summer months. So to near 200 in March isn’t bad.

Here’s hoping for 300 or more in April!

Tuesday, April 1, 2014

In Which The Maples Bloom As Cold Winds Blow

Sunday afternoon. Lots of traffic on the Cedar Valley Nature Trail north of Hiawatha and Robins.

I just topped 300 miles today, although I’m not sure I’ll get many more biking miles in this week. Rain and possibly snow are to fall, starting tomorrow.

Well, we need the rain. And, while April snow is not exactly a welcome guest, snow falls pretty much every April in Iowa.

Still, there have been good spring rides this week. Sunday was very warm, and on the way to campus I rode north a bit. There were lots of people on the trail. I was feeling pretty powerful, until I turned around—heading south meant heading into an a stiff afternoon wind—a very strong one.

Monday, the morning was fine, but there was rain in the forecast. Some moved through around noon, and I thought I was in the clear, but as I rode home, and it got to be close to 7:30 p.m., storm clouds gathered in the west. Luckily, I did make it home before the next quick round of rain fell.

Sun setting through a bank of storm clouds Monday around 7:30, corner of C Avenue and Blairs Ferry Road. Rain did fall and a quick thunderstorm moved through, but I made it home first.
Tuesday, if felt like winter in the morning. It was in the 20s, but with a very stiff west wind that gave a single-digits wind chill. I had not planned to wear long underwear in April, but I did today, no fooling.

Despite the cold morning, and the wind, I kind of enjoyed the ride. And I noted, when I passed a church that I go by almost every morning, that a stand of maple trees wasn’t pregnant with buds anymore.

The trees are blooming. We’re in for some cool weather for the rest of the week, but spring is still on its way.

Tuesday morning--winter cold, but signs it's spring anyway. Maple blooming in church yard that I passed.

Saturday, March 29, 2014

In Which A 25-Mile Ride Features Snuggling Snakes

The world is winter brown, but there are a few tiny signs of fresh spring green. One of the photos I snapped during my mid-ride break. Yes, it's a plant, it is growing, it is green.

Ice on shady embankment of Cedar River. It's several feet thick.
Spring on Cedar Lake. There is ice halfway across, but much of the lake is open water now, reflecting a warm spring sky.

Spring! When a young man’s fancy turns to what apparently snakes may be thinking of, too.

But, let’s save the love, if love it was (maybe it was totally platonic and I’m misreading reptile behavior, or maybe the little snake though it could eat the big one?) for later.

Today, I graded all morning, and felt pretty brain dead by noon. At lunch, my wife discussed taking an afternoon walk. “I know you’ll want to go on a bike ride,” she said.

She is wise and she was right. I got Francis out and lubed and inflated (him, not me), and headed out by about 1:30 p.m. I could only ride until about 4—we planned to go to church at 4:30 tonight—so I wanted to get some quick miles in.

Looking out over railroad bridge that crosses the Cedar River from a fenced trail bridge.

I headed over to the Cedar River Trail via the Noelridge Park route, and turned south. And peddled and peddled. In about an hour and 15 minutes (the time I had allotted until I had to turn around) I rode 12 ½ miles. I thought 25 miles would be a nice number, so I stopped just after Highway 30 at the T intersection where the trail to Kirkwood diverges, intending that to be the turn-around point. I hopped off the bike to take a short break and walked over to an abandoned rail line which runs right next to the trail at this point, and snapped some photos.

A middle-aged mixed gender couple who had been riding from the other way had also stopped. “What are you seeing?” the man asked.

“Just a little green,” I said. “Signs of spring.”

“It’s about time!” the woman exclaimed.
Old rail line near trail.

Well, who can argue with that? The world is still largely in its winter brown, but I don’t think I was imagining a tinge of green on some grass, a swelling of pregnant maple bulbs, a shift in “things.” There was a caterpillar crawling across the trail. A bit of ice can still be seen beside the river, the but the river runs free and the eagles have departed the patches of open water that sustained them in winter—there is lots of water to fish in, now. Today still looked like winter, but felt like spring, and there were signs of the coming season.

I agreed with the woman, it’s about time. On my return ride, I snapped a few more photos, which are what illustrate this post.

But, time was running short and, after I passed by Cedar Lake, I decided I had no more time to snap photos. I must hurry home.

But then I spied something that stopped me.

It was a snake. The first snake of the season, which was somnolently sunning itself on the warm asphalt of the trail, was just off to my left.

Snakes alive! Who put these mother-loving snakes on a trail?
Well, whether I was short on time or not, I wasn’t going to pass up snapping an image of spring’s first serpent! I was a little worried about said snake, which was so still I was thinking maybe it had been run over (fortunately, not by me because I would have felt terrible at crushing the first reptile of the seasons). Anyway, as I paused to snap said snake's photo, it slowly lifted its head and slow-mo flicked its tongue at me in a totally ineffective threatening manner.

Just then, ,as if on cue, another, smaller snake burst from the cover of the grass across the trail, and rushed to the first snake. I thought there was either going to be a quick attack on the paparazzi, or snake-on-snake violence.

Hey pinkie! Why you taking his picture? I want my picture taken, too!

No. There ensued some rather unseemly snake snuggling. I’m not a studier of snakes, so I don’t know what it means, but I felt as if I should gently suggest that these two find a hole.

Well, there you have it. A 25-mile bike ride complete with, maybe, snake foreplay. I saw other bikers, dog walkers, runners and others out enjoying the trail, but I only saw two snuggling snakes. While I would have rather seen eagles, I have to admit it was a very nice ride.
OK you two. I know it's spring, but really.