Wednesday, October 19, 2016

In Which We See All Kinds of Fall

Fall! What a great season to be a bicycle rider.

On Tuesday, following the final day of work before break, I swung by Cedar Lake on the Cedar River Trail, and there saw more majestic water birds ready for their commute south. I've seen pelicans and egrets before, but not often at the same time.

Then today, first day of break, I rode probably 30 miles--riding to the gym in the morning, taking an afternoon ride with my grandson on the Boyson Trail and then a longer ride a few miles north on the Cedar Valley Nature Trail. Not sure of total miles--I logged 21 on Argent's computer, but also rode Clarence on several rides today, and I don't have a computer on Clarence. Anyway, the rest of this post is just a photo gallery of some of the cool stuff I saw while riding my bikes during this gorgeous fall week:

Sunrise Tuesday morning, getting ready to cross Collins Road on F Avenue.

Pelican (and egret at right) at Cedar Lake, Tuesday early evening.

Zooming in on pelican. Note egret in background.

Egret takes a stroll on Cedar Lake.

I think he's posing for a photo. Egret reflections.

Wednesday late afternoon ride--milkweed behind commercial development at corner of C Avenue and Boyson Road.

It's 5:30. I'm only 3 1/2 miles north of Hiawatha trailhead, but decide I have to head home to make supper for self, daughter and grandson. Argent in setting sun parked by Cedar River Trail at turn-around point.

Sumac along trail back lit by setting sun.

I just crossed Robins Road, looking west from the bend the trail takes there. Final view of sky as setting sun and clouds makes spotlight effects.

Thursday, October 13, 2016

In Which We Think of Hitchcock Films

The crow in the corner calls the morning bird meeting to order.
See the power lines, which I photographed on a cool, cloudy Wednesday morning during my bicycle ride to Mount Mercy University. This is on Eastern Avenue.

“The Birds,” right? The crow that seems to be chairing this meeting did squawk a bit menacingly at me as I paused to photograph this group—sadly, only one crow so it’s just a group of birds, not a murder—but I don’t think it quothed “nevermore.”

And so I emerged from said spooky October dinosaur photo shoot unscathed.

It’s fall y’all, and the seasonal bird sightings continued Wednesday afternoon. I choose the trail route home, and there wasn’t just one white bird of unusual size at Cedar Lake—two flocks of pelicans graced the lake with their awkward, stately presence. They were pretty to see, and I may swing by the lake today to see if they’re there in the bright, cool, pretty fall sunshine of today.

The pelicans have landed. There were in two groups, one on the lake near the north shore (first two photos) and one that came in for a landing in the middle of the lake (bottom photo).

Finally, get a load of the deer. This is not the same photo shoot as in my previous blog post—this is later on my ride home Wednesday, almost there—the deer are right beside C Avenue near rush hour—I hope they don’t become McMeat via any car (or bike) dodging!

Light is fading, so walking deer is a blur. There were three in this group.
Today featured featured the first frost of fall–definitely a jacket morning. I looked, but did not find my winter gloves, and my bike gloves did not quite cut it. My digits were frigid by the time I got to campus, although not too frozen to shoot an image of the frosty grass at sunrise.

First frost--I hope you can see it on the oak leaf. Sunrise on hillside at MMU this morning.
Fall is indeed second only to spring as a pleasant biking season. I love the cool air. The advantages that spring has are: Flowers. And the bugs aren’t out yet. But with frost in the air, we may be getting to the end of mosquito season in Iowa. The true bug hammer won’t come down until the first hard freeze, which isn’t even in the weather forecast, yet.

Maybe that’s a good thing. I still have time to find those gloves.

Friday, October 7, 2016

In Which October Features Great Skies, Critters

Morning ride earlier this week, sun just coming up a bit after 7 turning C Avenue pond golden.

Cooling off now in the upper Midwest—I heard they had snow in South Dakota and are even talking blizzard in parts of Iowa west of here.

Not here. Maybe frost. Cool nights are starting to settle in, and this was the week I had to wear a jacket to ride one morning. But cool doesn’t bother me—in fact it make biking more pleasant—so I don’t mind.

As our hemisphere shies away from the sun, the mornings have become time to ride with lights, but also times of very pretty skies.

Later that same morning, Tuesday I think although I am not sure--sky as I arrive at top of MMU hill, Rohde Plasa.

And I think critters are starting to note the changing season—large water birds in odd places, like an egret this morning in the small Rockwell-Collins pond on C Avenue. Dinosaurs are on the move as the seasons shift.

Wednesday afternoon? Deer by C Avenue bridge in the evening.

Friday morning, C Avenue pond. Don't see big water birds there often. I am zoomed in, but this bird is pretty close--maybe 15 yards away at sidewalk-C Avenue end of pond.

Cedar Lake Friday about 5 p.m. Bird above was walking around (below).

I’ve been pretty sick the past two weeks, but still have been able to bike. I’m finally starting to feel just a little better, so here’s hoping next week also features some pleasant, cool fall biking!

Sunday, October 2, 2016

In Which We Tour Two Lake Parks

Selfie of one--"Bike Club" ride Sept. 30.

Friday was cloudy and cool. Due to personal illness—I’ve been battling a severe cold that has kept me sub par for more than a week—I wasn’t sure if I would stick around for the Bike Club ride, but Friday, while not exactly feeling well, I felt better than I had for a while.

But, when 4:30 came around, there were no student bikers. Well, it was a cool day, with clouds, and my student biking buddies do tend to be fair weather bikers. So the bike club selfie consisted of a self portrait.

Trail around Cedar Lake Friday was ... open! Extra pond to the right.

I headed over to the Cedar River Trail, and aimed for Cedar Lake. I did not really expect to get there, because the Cedar River reached major flood stage this week, and the lake and its area were under water.

Surprisingly, the trail was open around the lake. You could kind of tell water had been there—the pavement was dry, but had an odd sort of sandy-mud patina on it—fortunately very thin and not wet.

At the north end of the trail—the “low” end—it was much damper, but even here it wasn’t muddy nor difficult to bike.

North end of trail--damper, but still easy to bike.

Well, the flood of 2016 turned out to be less of a deal than expected for this trail. Whew. There are homes and businesses dealing with damage, and among the great sigh Cedar Rapids sending up that this flood wasn’t a 2008 flood, we ought to remember that, too.

Anyway, Saturday we had a little field trip to Ames planned, to visit our son who is a math PhD student at ISU, and to harvest some seeds. He lives in an apartment complex near Lincoln Way, and has quite a stand of common Iowa milkweed growing in a ditch in front of his buillding.

Milkweed pod in ditch in Ames--with passenger. I left him alone--I was only after pods that were starting to split anyway.

This weekend, we decided, based on cell phone images he had texted to his mom, that some was dry enough to harvest. Audrey, my daughter, my grandson and I all piled into our van, loaded on two bikes and took off for Ames. We met Ben, had a satisfying lunch at the CafĂ©, rode our bikes around Ada Hayden Heritage Park (or walked, in the daughter’s case, or both rode in a stroller and rode on a bicycle in the grandson’s case) and collected some seeds.

The park is very nice. It belies those who say “prairies are ugly,” which is a line I heard recently, as the drying native grasses and flowers add a quaint beauty to the small lake.

Audrey and Ben (and my bike) on bridge at Ada Hayden Park. Looking across the lake (below). Pretty drying grasses and my daughter finishing her walk (bottom).

I’m not sure, due to location, whether Cedar Lake will ever be this pretty. But, Cedar Lake is what we’ve go in Cedar Rapids, and I’m glad the trail around it wasn’t damaged in the most recent flood.

So Friday and Saturday added up to two cloudy, cool rides around two very satisfying lakes.

Thursday, September 22, 2016

In Which Money Appears on Shifting Streets

Amid fall leaves starting to appear on pavement--this. Well, OK.

A very mixed week of bike commuting—I was dodging rain for much of the week, but was still able to ride.

I wish they had less rain north of here, as the Cedar River is expected to make a mess in downtown Cedar Rapids next Tuesday, no doubt playing havoc with trails in that area. Of course, the damage to businesses and homes are a much more serious blow than washed out bike trails, so here’s hoping the raging waters of the mighty Cedar scare us more than scar us.

Thursday--the rain came down pretty hard, but briefly. Walking back to Warde Hall from the library to get Clarence and head home. Wet pavement, but dry skies, and I'll take that.

Anyway, early in the week, not sure if it was Monday or Wednesday—it had to be one of the two because its darker on Tuesdays and Thursdays when I leave for work earlier in the morning—I found a dollar on the sidewalk on C Avenue. Money has an odd impact. For a few coins, I won’t stop; in fact I’ll hope that if a kid lost them, she or he comes back and finds them.

For $100 (or more) I would call CR Police. But a one spot seems to be in that sweet zone—too easy to blow away to leave in place, too small to not claim. Thank you, universe, although I’ll probably end up slipping it into a church collection basket—I need the good karma more than anything a biker could buy with $1.

As I said, much of the week was spent dodging rain, but I was largely successful in that. I did have to wait until about 7 to leave Thursday night, but otherwise the storms we had were not time during my commute.

I did run into another problem. The City of Cedar Rapids apparently had decided that pavement is passé, and seems to be converting many streets in the Kenwood neighborhood into gravel roads. F Avenue, an almost unavoidable main road of my commute, has been closed for several days, and the alternative streets to the east all have fresh, loose gravel on them.

It's too loose for comfortable biking, that's for sure. And too many signs like the one below. Sigh.

Not exactly a bike friendly surface, although I’m been more worried about a sharp pebble flat than a spill—fortunately, Clarence is a very stable bike and I’m an old man biker—one skill we old man bikers have is we can balance when the bike is moving very slowly. Maybe a physics guy can explain it—does big guy equal big momentum equal stable biking at very low speeds, or am I just conditioned by years of slow biking to balance well while barely moving?

Anyway, I will be glad, I think, when the street work is done. But I hope they don’t convert too many of the streets I ride on. Gravel! In the midst of a city!

Not a fan.

Wednesday or Thursday? Foggy morning on the way to work, crossing MMU campus. Pretty sky, below, on Wednesday. Clouds sadly have brought too much rain to the area, but they can made the sky look nice.

Sunday, September 18, 2016

In Which We Ride Some New Rides

Thursday night--photo of Harvest Moon I took while on bike ride.

Some new biking experiences were the theme of recent rides.

On Thursday night, I attended a lecture at Mount Mercy University that is part of our Fall Faculty Series on immigration. I wrote about it on one of my other blogs. Because of the lecture, I was riding home well after dark, with my Nikon camera, which I don’t usually carry on my bike.

It was the night of the Harvest Moon—shine on, shine on Harvest Moon. So, I stopped now and then to take Luna’s picture.

Kenwood School, picture I took on my ride home.

Friday, the MMU Bike Club hosted “Club Friday,” and then was set for a ride later that afternoon. Only two students—the club president and one other, showed up, so I proposed to the small group that I show them my commuting ride, after which we could head over to Dairy Queen in Hiawatha.

They agreed, but before we left campus, two other riders joined us.

Bike Club selfie before Friday ride.

It was kind of funny. I think Mark, the club president, was half joking, but he kept asking, after about 2 miles or so, “do you live here?” It was sort of like being on a drive with a young child who asks “are we there yet” every few minutes.

Cloudy afternoon-Bike Club crossing parking lot at Rockwell-Collins. We are almost there. Mark decided I probably own Rockwell-Collins, although I don't think I do.

About 4 miles later, we arrived at my house and invited Audrey to go to DQ with us. It’s about 2 miles from my house to DQ, and along the way, Mark noted that this was the longest, craziest route to DQ he’s ever biked on.

Well, sure. As Audrey would say, when you let Joe pick the route, crazy things happen.

Bikes at DQ. Rack was empty before we arrived. Mine is first bike in line.

Saturday was cool and pleasant, and late in the afternoon, Audrey and I took two grandchildren for a ride on the Boyson Trail. One grandchild, 9 months old, rode on a toddler seat in front of me, the other grandchild, age 3, rode the Tab-Along seat behind my bike—so Clarence was acting like the people carrier he was named after.

The ride was probably the farthest that the 9-month-old has gone on the bike. He likes rides, but he also wants them to be short, because being strapped in and wearing a helmet is not his thing. It was good we stopped at Hanna Park and let the kids swing—he needed the break.

Swinging in the park.

Still, overall, he was OK with the ride. The older grandchild was thrilled. Audrey noticed that she has figured out she has no reason to pedal, since the bike moves if she just sits there, so I’m sure the outing was good exercise for me, too.

So, Thursday, Friday and Saturday represented some new ride experiences for some people—a nice trio of fun biking days!

Wednesday, September 14, 2016

In Which I View the Morning September Sky

OK, I know I’ve done a sky post before—but enjoying the changing light of morning (or late afternoon) is one of the perks of being a biker. I know you car pilots see the same sky, but not as clearly or fully as I do, so there.

The first four photos are from the weekend, last Sunday, Sept. 11. I know it’s a sad day, and I haven’t and won’t ever forget, but there was a cool early fall misty, dewy morning as I rode my bike on the Lindale and Boyson trails.

Morning dew gleams in grass near west entrance of Lindale Trail in Cedar Rapids.

Lindale Trail--shafts of misty sunlight.

Don't panic, citizens. Orb web gleams beside Lindale Trail--no spider in view.

Boyson Trail creek view. Day is slowly warming up and mist clearing.

The next are from today, Sept. 14—partly cloudy sky around 8 a.m. just looks pretty to me, with sun playing peekaboo behind the cloud cover. And it’s amazing how low in the sky the sun is at 8 a.m. in mid September!

Looking east at corner of F Avenue and Collins Road as I wait for light to change.

Looking east across lawn of Kenwood School.

Winter is coming. But Clarence and I are ready!