Tuesday, March 14, 2017

In Which There Is a Biker in the Mist

Pretty in Iowa this morning. And cold. Sun coming up on C Avenue--and yes, I am riding my bike. Long underwear is not just a good idea--it's a requirement!
March 14—pi day, although I don’t get any pie. I know that’s against all the rules of RAGBRAI and bike etiquette, but the current “30-day challenge” my wife and I are on is to avoid sweets, and pie is best when it’s pretty sweet.

Anyway, snow fell Sunday and Monday here in Iowa, as the temperamental March weather lurched from warmish spring back to Arctic winter. We had a few inches of snow, although I know we’re lucky compared to what will hit the Northeast.

Anyway, this morning felt very cold as I biked to work. I regretted not having grabbed a scarf, but I was otherwise dressed well for the cold.

And it was still a pretty ride—mist rising from a bit of open water at the Rockwell-Collins pond on C Avenue was quite fetching. With bitter cold tonight, I bet that pond may be an ice rink tomorrow morning—and I will for sure grab a scarf then!

After that? March—it’s going to be spring no matter how temperamental it is. You could tell that by the snow. It finished falling Monday morning—and by Tuesday, pavement in town was clear enough for a bike ride in Cedar Rapids.

The one good thing about March snow is that it’s not very persistent.

Wednesday, March 8, 2017

In Which I Watch March’s Changing Sky

Wednesday afternoon, shadow of a biker on C Avenue.
March skies—they are starting to get lighter. The time change is this weekend, and suddenly it will be daylight into early evening (but dark in the morning for a time).

Nearly the same spot--nearby pond on C Avenue, but the rising Monday sun is on the other side of the sky. Interesting looking sky is foreshadowing of bands of strong storms Monday would bring.
Already March has been warm, cold, windy, sunny and rainy. Snow is coming this weekend.

Ready to head home Monday-dark clouds in west promise coming storm. Still, a pretty sky--I like that Venus is shining before the other stars briefly appear on the ride home. Glad I made it before the storm rolled in!
 It’s an exciting month for a Midwestern biker. This week, the theme has been wind. Cool winds Wednesday morning, breezier, more pleasant winds Wednesday evening.

Two views of a slightly choppy Cedar Lake at about 5:15 p.m. Wednesday.

Monday? Monday! A pretty, cool, quiet morning. A windy, stormy night, complete with a tornado warning (yes, I was home by then, although I left campus at night due to a Monday night program).

So here you have it, many March sky images from just the first two days of bike rides this week. And I liked the way, on Tuesday, how the sun, when it was nearing 6, was so low it distorted the shadow of my bike and made me look like I was riding one of 19th century things with the giant front wheel.

Wednesday 5:45 p.m. shadow as I head home on Cedar River Trail.
Well, I battled headwinds all the way to work on Tuesday morning. Other than that, this breezy, changing month has been pretty good for biking. Still—it’s only early March. And snow is on the way.

One more shadow shot--crossing Rockwell-Collins parking lot. Not far from C Avenue where I will, in a few minutes, shoot the first image on this blog post. We've come full circle, like a bike wheel.

Saturday, March 4, 2017

In Which Bike 12 Is OK For An 11-Person Ride

MMU Bike Club reading for first ride. I'm on number 12, bike I've never been on before.
I think there were 11 of us. I kept counting early in the ride, and the count varied a bit—it’s hard to see everyone in a group going down the trail. And I’m pretty sure I was not including myself in the count, so if I counted 10 bikers in front of me, there were 11 of us on the ride.

We were missing two who should have been there, so our total ought to have been 13—but 11 is a very respectable number for an MMU Bike Club ride, especially one I almost didn’t go on due to a catastrophic mechanical failure.

My wife and I decided today to ride our bikes to the MMU campus to meet the bike club for its first 2017 ride. And we decided to also bring along a grandchild. So I put the toddler seat on Clarence, and we helmeted up and headed out.

The grandchild likes bicycle riding, but tires of it after a time. Sitting still is not something toddlers do well. However, it was such a nice day, and the grandchild could see grandmother, so the little one was still in a good riding mood as we approached the MMU campus. Our end point was Lundy Commons, so I turned onto campus by Warde Hall, peddled to the sidewalk leading to the commons, and headed that way.

 First, you swoop down a little incline. Then, you have a short hill to ascend to get there. I made a mistake by trying to shift into an easier gear as I headed up that little hill—I was peddling a bit too hard for shifting, and there was an unpleasant “chunk” from the rear. And very quickly, my grandchild and I were stopped on the bike, maybe 20 yards from where the ride would have ended.

Busted chain.

Well, as it happens, another family member was on campus anyway, so Audrey took the grandchild home using a car conveniently located at MMU. I locked up Audrey’s bike and mine, and checked out an MMU bike.

Lundy student employee checks out bike number 12 to me.

I had not ridden an MMU bike before and, to be honest, I wasn’t relishing the experience. The university owns a set of second-hand bikes that look like a motley crew. I chose one of the larger bikes, a hybrid Schwinn built in a similar style to my old hybrid bike Francis. It was number 12.

As it turned out, number 12, despite its unimpressive looks, was lighter and easier to ride than I expected. It was a 24-speed bike, 3 in the front, 8 in back, and the gears were well suited for both hill climbing and flat riding.

Bike Club member crosses bridge on Cedar River Trail.
Kudos is due to you, number 12, for being such a nice bike to ride.

Even if I am disappointed my posse couldn’t be with me, the ride, which took us to the Cedar River Trail and then north to Dairy Queen in Hiawatha, was quite pleasant. There, since my wife and I have given up sweets for 30 days (it’s not a Lent thing, we do a “30-day” challenge every month, whether it has 30 days or 28 or 31) I had a hamburger.

Treats at Dairy Queen in Hiawatha.
 We then rode back to campus. It was getting to be around 3:30 by that time. As soon as I got to campus, one of my daughters texted me that she was there with our van and bike rack, so I didn’t have to call for rescue nor wait long. We left campus and she agreed to swing by the bike shop in Marion, which was still open when we got there.

I went inside, told the bike guy my tale of woe, and he said “we’ll get you fixed up in a few minutes.” I was surprised to get service that quickly, and informed him I didn’t even bring my wallet—and he just said “I won’t charge you for this.” So he took 5 minutes to replace the blown link in the chain, and I was able to ride Clarence home. More kudos, this time to Cranky’s Uptown Bicycles.

More of my photos. All in all, I would say it was about the best biking day featuring a broken chain that anybody could have a right to expect.

Wednesday, March 1, 2017

In Which We Have Early Spring, Followed by Snow

Biking to the gym last Sunday, I think. Or Saturday. Anyway, went over the Bowman Woods hill and used trail--which was a bit mushy, to be honest. Still, Dry Creek looks quite pretty in a sort of somber, late-February way.
March 1--snow! Glad I parked my bike inside.

March in Iowa: It rained yesterday, and so I rode in with my wife. Today, Ash Wednesday, it was damp in the morning and misty, but not too wet to ride, so I did.

And in mid-morning, I happened to glance out my window to see the lion of March was coming in with a wave of snow. For a few minutes, it looked pretty intense—but the warm ground would yield nothing, an when it cleared this afternoon, despite being windy and cold, there was no snow around anymore.

Biking was slightly a challenge due to said wind, and I almost wished for long underwear. Still, after driving yesterday, it was nice to be on the bike!

On the way home, along C Avenue, about 5:30 p.m. Clouds starting to break up, and sun peaks out.

Thursday, February 23, 2017

In Which, Despite More Health Woes, Biking Continues

Cedar Lake earlier this week. Spring temps sadly are leaving us for a while, but before the Thursday rain and Friday chill, it was a good week to be a biker.

The knee is a bit better this week—still sore, but not really painful.

I’ll still have to start PT and see how things develop, but I’m feeling better and more hopeful about RAGBRAI.

Still, my slow deterioration into the physical problems that bedevil my younger sisters continues. I am becoming Cate. I had a nerve test on my left arm this week at Mercy Medical Center, a test that involved electric shocks and then needles.

It was probably not as unpleasant as that makes it sound, but it wasn’t exactly pleasant, either.

Anyway, where does the left arm pain and numbness come from? The nerve doctor said it’s carpal tunnel syndrome.

Cool, misty Wednesday morning. Sun coming up on C Avenue at Dry Creek (above) and at Collins Road along F Avenue (below).

Oh well. I’m clearly not young anymore. Unless I plan to live to 116, I suppose calling myself middle-aged is a bit of a stretch. I am not exactly old yet—but what is a biker at age 58? If one between childhood and teen years is a tween, am I, between the middle and the end game, a twenior?

Whatever. Didn’t bike today—cold rain in the afternoon. But I have been biking this week.

Related to that—an old B52 song. I misheard the lyrics (surprise, surprise) for many years, and though it could be a biking song because I thought the chorus was “roll if you want to.” Well, I suppose roaming is something bikers do, too. Happy biking and roam if you want to—maybe on two wheels! 

Saturday, February 18, 2017

In Which We Meet My New Biking Buddy Arthur

Cedar Lake on a pretty warm February morning--first day since Monday that I rode a bike.

I’ll start by quoting Casablanca: “Fate, it seems, has decided to take a hand.”

I haven’t registered for RAGBRAI yet, and I hope to soon, but first I have to figure out my new relationship with my biking frenemy Arthur. As in, arthritis.

Monday, I rode Clarence to work. The morning was normal, except that shortly after I got to campus, I started to feel very intense pain in my left knee. The knee has been sore for some time—in fact, I had already called my doctor last week to make an appointment this week to get it checked out, but this wasn’t “sore.” This was “pain.”

I had a faculty meeting that day, and resorted to using Clarence as the poor-man’s wheelchair—sitting on the bike and wheeling around was less painful than standing or walking. Walking sucked. Mine was the only bike parked in the midst of Betty Cherry Hall at MMU.

Well, by Tuesday things were slightly better, and improved a bit more Wednesday. Thursday was the doctor’s appointment, and after checking me out, the doctor recommended an x-ray.

And Friday, shortly before class and I did not have time to ask many questions, I got a call from the doctor’s office. I have arthritis in my left knee, I require physical therapy and if that doesn’t ease the problem, an orthopedic medical referral will be necessary. Honestly, I don’t know more than that at this point. I don’t know what kind of arthritis I have nor anything about the prognosis.

After Monday, I was off the bike all week, and it was a terrible week to be off the bike—spring-like sunshine Thursday, Friday and Saturday, with record highs for February.

Well, Saturday I just couldn’t take it anymore. I rode Argent to campus to print papers I have to grade. I took the longer trail route to Cedar Lake, so rode about 12 miles in total Saturday. The knee was tender after that—but no more so than it had been on days when I had not ridden my bike.

But a RAGBRAI distance, 60 miles or more in a day … well, I don’t know, yet. We’ll have to see what develops between me and Arthur.

Saturday, February 11, 2017

In Which We Consider 50-Mile Bookish Rides

Early February--Feb. 2, I think. Cool mornings with pretty sunrises, at Rockwell-Collins pond (above) and MMU (below).

An acquaintance from the neighborhood just “friended” me on Facebook, partly so he can invited me to his group there. He is planning an interesting bicycle ride—from the Marion Public Library to the Iowa City Public Library, a journey that would travel mostly on bike trails, with some streets near the start and in the final third of the journey.

He says the rout would be about 50 miles, which makes it a doable ride by May, I think. It will have some hills along roads beyond Ely, but since most of the miles of the ride are on bike trails, most of the miles are also fairly flat. Besides, I do need some hill climb practice, too.

Well, I’m happy to have been invited to the Facebook group. The plans aren’t final—no date has been set—but I assume at some point others would be welcome to join this Reader’s Ride, the Biking Bookworms, the Page Peddlers. (I think the B idea is closer to his title).

I’ll let you know when I know more.

Anyway, it’s been almost a fortnight since I last updated the world on my biking life, and I’m almost certain you’ve bene clamoring for an update. Clamor no more, here it is.

Feb. 9--Faux Spring no  more--winter is back, baby! Morning of my winter-coat ride.

 The past two weeks have certainly ben a study in contrasts. In Iowa, the first half of February has featured some warm days that foreshadow spring, and some bone-chilling cold mornings, too. Snow this past week, kept me off my back for a grand total of one day, as it wasn’t much snow, and I was able to wear enough clothes to brave the sub-zero wind chills the next morning.

Speaking of sub-zero wind chills, I made a happy accidental discovery. Last year, my wife got me a new winter coat. I don’t usually wear it to bike—it’s rather heavier than I usually need, and I like the thin hood of a windbreaker that I normally wear. But on one super cold morning this week, I just wanted more warmth, and reached for the winter coat. But I wanted head protection, too, so I put on the winter coat hood and mashed on my helmet—and, well, even the winter coat’s hood came be made to fit under my helmet.

So I was way more comfortable than usual on the coldest morning this week. The week ended with rides that were far from cold—in the same week that I discovered I can wear my heavy winter coat to bicycle, I also rode home (Friday) for the first time sans coat, because it was too warm for anything more than a sweatshirt as my outer layer.

Today, a granddaughter is coming over to celebrate her 4th birthday—she insisted that grandma host the party, and the child’s parents certainly weren’t against that plan. Anyway, with any luck, she may come over a bit early, and if the rain stays north, as it should, I may hitch the Tagalong seat to Clarence and take her for a birthday spin.

That would be fun And springlike.

Turkeys at top of Bowman Woods Hill--did the hill climb on my way home from the gym Feb. 11.