Monday, August 29, 2016

In Which Stormy Biking Brings Egrets

Big bird on Cedar Lake late Tuesday afternoon. Is it a Great Egret, blog reading bird fans?

Not regrets—egrets, I think. Anyway, as you can see, I encountered big, white birds.

It’s been a warm, muggy time in Iowa, and I rode Clarence to campus today in the knowledge that I might have to call for rescue this afternoon, as thunderstorms were possible. While radar said my sisters in the Quad Cities and Des Moines may have been getting soaked this afternoon, when I was ready around 4 to head home, most of the sky in Cedar Rapids was still blue.

Note that there is another Egret on the other side of the tiny peninsula. And, yeah, the sky.

 Just most of the sky—at its edges, both north and south and a bit in the west, the firmament had some very interesting white, grey and black peaks, as if thunderstorms could roll in at any minute. Still, I decided to take the trail ride home and gamble with the weather.

I have no regrets—and I did get to see some egrets. Along with that, there was some track team practicing by running on the Cedar River Trail, which was fine by me, although a large number of runners congregated on the south shore of the lake, creating a bit of a hazard for a passing biker.

Runners—you are pretty, thin little things. You don’t want 270 plus pounds of bike and old man to slam into you at trail speed. I did slow down, but still. If we do collide, it’s probably going to be worse for you than me. Physics says so—mass times acceleration and all that. Still, it won’t be great for me, either, and I would rather not run the experiment.

Biking south along Cedar River Trail at Cedar Lake. Cotton balls in the sky.

Anyway, although it was uncomfortably muggy and I got damp, I did enjoy the ride today. Odd bird sightings continued later in the ride away from the lake—I went home via the Harding Middle School route, wherein I cross Noelridge Park before heading through the middle school grounds. Behind the school, in what appeared to be a dry field (although, to be fair, it was also near small creek) a bunch of geese had congregated.

Hiding out, I assume. They gather geese and feed them to poor people in this town.

Geese flee feast behind middle school. Geese flee being feast.

As I neared home, the northern sky got really dark and gloomy. I was half expecting a twister at any minute—not kidding on that point, the area saw a tornado during similar warm mugginess yesterday—but the raindrops held off and I arrived quite dry.

Well, no. I actually arrived very damp, but from sweat, not hail nor rain. And I don’t regret that.

Wicked Witch weather, but I didn't end up in Oz. Corner of C Avenue and Blair's Ferry Road.

Friday, August 26, 2016

In Which A Cop Avoids Being Smushed

According to a story in the Aug. 26 Gazette, Iowa City Police Officer Ashten Hayes is one lucky woman.

She was struck by an SUV while riding her bicycle. She got pretty banged up, according to the paper, but didn’t break any bones.

Ashten Hayes
supplied of her wheel.
Her bicycle, as she notes in the news story, is “mashed potatoes.”

Hayes seems to have a good attitude about the whole thing—saying it was just an accident and describing the SUV driver as a “gentleman.” But for a bicycle commuter, it’s a reminder of the dangers of two wheels sharing the road with four.

And yes, I ride bike trails when I can, but trails don’t go everywhere.

Best of luck, Ms. Hayes, as you heal. You are quoted in the Gazette as advocating all bikers have lights and helmets—check and check. CR Biker endorses that idea. You also urge us to be aware of our surroundings—again, for a longtime bike rider, it may be easier said than done, but that doesn’t mean it should not be done.

And SUV drivers out there—please be careful. Don’t smash any bikers, neither IC cops nor old man college professors.

Tuesday, August 23, 2016

In Which I Take a Morning Detour

On the way to campus this morning, I decided I wanted to ride on the Cedar River Trail.

Not usually that big of a deal, but roadwork in Hiawatha means my usual route to the trail is less useful—especially in morning traffic.

So I rode a rather convoluted route that had me on Old Marion Road and 42nd Street for a time. A few drivers were grumpy, one small yellow car barreling past unnecessarily close despite a wide lane. But I made it to the trail via 42nd Street, and before heading into work, went down to Cedar Lake.

I often photograph it in the afternoon, looking west into the setting sun. Today, some images looking east at the rising sun. It was cool and nice, and rather peaceful on the trail, especially once I got there away from car traffic.

Cedar Lake, Tuesday morning.

Later, on campus, I was at a meet-and-greet event between faculty in my department—Communication, Literature and Art—and new students. One activity was to get a henna tattoo, and I did—of a bike.

Abby, an art student, draws in henna on my arm. Looks like Clarence to me, and Clarence was indeed the bike for the ride today.

The day ended at an “Involvement Fair” where I helped get prospect names for both the Bike Club and the student newspaper.

All in all, despite the odd detour and the rude yellow car driver, it was a great day to be riding a bicycle.

Sunday, August 21, 2016

In Which Mirror 2 Helps Me Look Back

Opening day Thursday at MMU. A bit foggy in the morning, campus looks pretty as I cross it.

On Tuesday, I picked up Clarence from the bike shop, where a new derailleur was installed during the free 30-day checkup. I also bought a new rear view mirror, and installed it Wednesday.

But a half mile into the ride to campus, the glass popped out and shattered.

Me in new mirror Friday before ride to campus. Swung by Cedar Lake, below. Nice week for biking.

It was Friday before I had time to take the mirror back to the bike shop, but they cheerfully replaced it. I didn’t want the same style—the first mirror had been hard to force inside my handlebars, so I got a round mirror of the same style I used to have on Francis. While a bit more complex, it fit easily and snugly—and has stayed on for three days.

I think we have a winner, in the mirror department.

Wednesday, August 17, 2016

In Which Clarence Gets More Bling

Picking up the bike at bike shop in downtown Marion. My stuff is already on back for the ride to Mount Mercy.

And we have a winner in the name the new bike contest. I was playing with “Clarissa” as the name for the new bike, in honor of a childhood family VW van, but didn’t think a female name suited this boy bike too well.

So, I suggested “Clare,” a version of Clarissa that is usually feminine, but can be used for a male, too. One of my sisters made a different suggestion on Facebook: How about “Clarence?” She noted the angel in “It’s a Wonderful Life.”

Well, the Urban Dictionary says a Clarence is also a sexy metrosexual, which is not exactly what I’m going for here, but the name resonates with me. The meaning seems close to Clarissa, so it’s enough of a reference to the old van--so, I call it. Meet the new bike, Clarence, which just went into the bike shop for its 30-day checkup and emerged with a new front derailleur. It’s been a fun bike to ride—as you may have read, I attached a Tag-Along seat hitch to it, and have taken numerous grandchildren out for spins.

A couple of grandchildren pictures, above and below, showing reaction to Tag-Along seat in use.

Clarence in full bus mode. Don't be too sorry for me, the little guy in back is an extra motor.

The back rack from Francis fits nicely, and so it’s got the carrying capacity to be the main commuter bike. Next addition, which I already bought at the Marion bike shop, is a rearview mirror.

When I purchased it, the teen working the cash register gave me a little speech on how to install it. “That’s OK,” I said. “I know how to bling up a bike.”

The older gentleman working on a bike nearby chuckled. “Yeah,” he said. “That bike has gained a few things since the last time we saw it.”

In my first 30 days with Clarence, it gained lights, a bell, a bar to hold a baby seat and the Tag-Along hitch. I rode Clarence to campus Tuesday. Monday was a ride on Argent.

The contrast between them is not as great as it was between Francis and Argent—Francis was a much heavier bicycle—but there is still something about getting the road bike out now and then for a quicker spin. Still, especially with the seats in front and back, I’m very much enjoying biking with my sexy metrosexual.

Sunday, August 7, 2016

In Which I Had a Hammer

If I had a hammer, I’d … repeatedly beat the seat post of my new bicycle.

Really, I would—and Saturday, I did. In spring, we purchased a used tag-a-long bicycle wheel and seat—one of those things that looks like half a bike and attaches to the rear of a larger bike so a child can bike along with an adult. Part of my argument for acquiring the yet-unnamed new blue hybrid bike was that, besides a pickup truck for commuting, I wanted a grandpa-bike--one I could attach a toddler seat to, and the hitch for the child half bike behind.

The hitch was a hitch. The attachment piece was not original, it was a sturdy piece of steel welded by a friend or family member of the previous owner—and the inside diameter of the piece was way too close to the outside diameter of my seat post.

I used WD40 and chain lube, but they were not enough. The hammer proved more persuasive, and 40 minutes of me humming “Working in the Coal Mine” or “If I Had a Hammer” later, the hitch was firmly in place.

The nut to hold it to the seat post was mostly installed as an afterthought—I’m sure this sucker isn’t going anywhere. Installing it required me to raise the seat on my commuting bike—today’s planned ride to the Hiawatha Farmer’s Market will test how well that worked, although I did take a short ride after installation, and the bike felt fine.

The new bike, with child bike attached and toddler seat in place. What shall we call this?

My experience with bike shops is that they usually adjust my seat too low. I know you don’t want to unbend your leg all the way on the down stroke, but I almost always end up raising the seat after they’ve adjusted it.

Anyway, I had to take the toddler bar off to installed the hitch, and putting that back on was difficult. Today’s ride will test that system, too, although again I checked it out and it seems OK.

So, now that the bike is ready to tow grandchildren, what do we call this new vehicle? I know it’s the wrong color, it’s blue and not a yellowish green, but I am tempted by “Clarissa,” the name of the first family car I remember, because Clarissa, a chartreuse 1959 VW Microbus, was a people hauler, too. Then again, this is a manly bike--is there a masculine form of the name Clarissa?

So, friends and family, what do you say? What do we call the new bus, or rather, bike?

Sunday, July 31, 2016

In Which RAGBRAI Karma is Complex

In camp the first night in Shenandoah--a RAGBRAI rainbow.

Eldon Rocca and I don’t look much like a superhero and his sidekick, but we got to play those parts briefly in Leon, Iowa.

We saved Delbert. Or maybe Dilbert—I’m not sure.

Anyway, the other two members of Team Joe were biking that morning, and Eldon and I had packed up to drive out of Leon. As we headed down a street, Eldon spotted an old man in a power chair who had turned a corner from a sidewalk to a gravel alley too abruptly and had tipped.

Eldon stomped on the brakes of the Eldonmobile, and he and his sidekick (CR Biker) sprang into action. We helped the man stand, evaluated his injuries (scratches, but he was coherent), and righted his chair.

In the process, Eldon’s shirt got some blood on it, and he had to change, so the incident did delay our trip to that day’s meeting town, Humeston. That was unfortunate, because the first leg of riding that day was rather short, and our bikers beat us to the meet town.

At least we had a story to tell. And we thought we had had the RAGBRAI adventure of the week.

Wrong—more dramatic events were in store when one member of our team slipped in the shower in Centerville, ending her RAGBRAI ride three days early. Her head injury was serious enough that she blacked out briefly and required a CAT scan at the local clinic. Fortunately, no cats were found. She ended up being mostly OK, although it was a scary experience.

It was a RAGBRAI to remember. It was the best of rides, it was the worst of rides. The ride featured a “mile of silence” on the first day to honor bicycle riders who died in accidents, and one such death took place on the ride. There was a serious injury in the first campground, when a man in a tent was dragged by a vehicle.

Team Joe at the end of RAGBRAI. Crazy guy with the gloves is CR Biker.

And yet it was RAGBRAI, a week of summer sun (for the most part), hospitality and decadent food. Iowans can sure make pies.

Team Joe was mostly four people, until the injury knocked us down to three, but we were six on Sunday, and seeing my son and his girlfriend that day was fun.

I was also passed twice during the week by Nate Klein, am MMU business professor who clearly needs to slow down.

I did try to do a few good deeds on this ride. In addition to helping to rescue Dilbert, I gave several strangers squirts of my hand sanitizer outside cornfield restrooms. At one such stop, a woman pulled off the route. Somehow, she looked distressed, and I asked her if she was alright.

“No,” she said. “My chain came off.”

Well, the chain was not broken, and luckily she hadn’t continued to pedal after it slipped off the gear—because a slipped chain can get really mashed in there and be hard to extract. This one wasn’t, and I was able, despite my limited mechanical abilities, to fix her bike in a manner of seconds.

And I bombed ditches with Milkweed seed.

My bike's bomb bay is loaded. Ready to toss some balls to spread Milkweed.

Still, my karma wasn’t all positive. In Sigourney, seeking Marco, I turned left in front of another biker, nearly toppling him. I didn’t mean to create a near accident, but I did—and it was clearly my fault because I was the biker making the sudden, unexpected and unannounced, move.

You’ve got to be always careful on RAGBRAI.

Ottumwa was an especially enjoyable stop this year. The town camp was at a large and beautiful park. There was a concert by Rick Springfield, the one such event I did attend this year. Also, on the way out of town, there was the best food stop of all of RAGBRAI, in my opinion—a magnificent breakfast provided by student groups at Indian Hills Community College.

Eldon added to his Karma when I had a minor situation Friday morning. During the night, one of my foam earplugs had become embedded in my right ear.

That was bad news for several reasons, including that I normally hear better out of my right ear, so my hearing was cut to less than 50 percent. I decided to seek help at a medical tent—but before I did, Eldon decided to see if he had a tool that would help.

What Iowa countryside looks like. Very pretty.

His multi-tool had tweezers, but they were too small. Still, with the pliers part of the tool, he was able to painlessly grab the foam and pop it out of my ear like a cork from a wine bottle.

Highs and lows of this year’s RAGBRAI:

High: One of my daughters discovered and recommended “Not Your Father’s Root Beer,” a sweet and very alcoholic drink that tastes like dreamy root beer. We took to the drink like thirsty RAGBRAI riders, and root beer became the Team Joe official flavor. We took the idea one more step by inventing the alcoholic root beer float—which is quite good.

High: Iowa scenery and the enthusiasm of small town folk.

Low: Riders who don’t understand that “car back,” especially when said car is an ambulance carrying an injured biker, means get the heck out of that left lane.

How the vehicle route is marked. Rather badly, and not at all inside towns.

The weather this year. True, we had some rain, but no terrible storm and no soakers. After last week’s heat wave, we can’t complain at all.

Low: It’s over. So suddenly it passes. By Monday, you feel you’ve been on RAGBRAI forever. By Wednesday you realize you are halfway. By Thursday morning, you suddenly understand that there isn’t much RAGBRAI left.

Overall, this was a very nice RAGBRAI, although I would have very much wished for our team to finish full strength. Still, the sister who fell in the shower was able to meet us and ride a few miles on the last day, which was nice.

What do I wish for future RAGBRAIs? Somehow, at some point, I would like to do a full RAGBRAI again—to actually ride all of the miles. I felt in better physical shape this year than I have in the past, and I don’t want to miss any sights. I also wish for safe biking for my team and for all of RAGBRAI.

On the final day, my youngest sister and I stopped at Beekman’s for ice cream. We were running ahead of schedule, and didn’t want to get to Muscatine too early, since we knew we were meeting one of my other sisters there.

The ice cream was good. And our sister was waiting for use in Pearl City, but hadn’t had to wait too long.

Rescue Cindy, at right, woman who aided a fallen member of our team. And below, Rescue Eldon, friend of hearing and Delberts or Dilberts everywhere.

Somehow, that felt like good karma. If you want to, explore more of my photos.

Some RAGBRAI thank yous: Joann, the final stay in Muscatine was perfect. Al and Lorna, you made our night in Washington very easy. Rescue Cindy, wherever you are, Team Joe is a fan. Eldon, gadget guy can even fix up an ear. I feel like a real cyborg. RAGBRAI—I can quibble with details of your efforts, but overall, kudos. You put on a great ride this year.

I hope Team Joe grows a bit next year, although that will depend on the route, to some extent. We shall see. For now, farewell, RAGBRAI 2016. We’ll miss you.