Friday, January 6, 2017

In Which I announce RAGBRAI 2017—Middle Earth

OK, I mean my route guess for RAGBRAI 2017. Don’t y’all submit the same cities to the RAGBRAI contest, because that would not be kosher.

I toyed with the idea of the “urban tour,” and trying to fit Iowa’s largest cities into one route, which would be something You might be able to include Iowa’s 5 largest cities on one RAGBRAI. You could start in Sioux City (bigger than Council Bluffs) and hit Des Moines, Waterloo, Cedar Rapids, Iowa City and Davenport all in the same week. You need stops between Sioux City and Des Moines, and between Des Moines and Waterloo, so I’m not sure it works.

I just think it’s a cool idea. Not the 2017 theme, however, which instead I’m calling “middle route,” because I think it’s going to be a middle route so we can cross Middle Earth and toss the ring of power in into the Mississippi were it was forged, and “why not stop in Des Moines and Cedar Rapids?” just because I can.

Here is my unlikely-to-win guess:
  • Sunday: Missouri Valley to Harlan
  • Monday: Harlan to Carroll
  • Tuesday: Carroll to Des Moines
  • Wednesday: Des Moines to Marshalltown
  • Thursday: Marshalltown to Cedar Rapids
  • Friday: Cedar Rapids to Tipton
  • Saturday: Tipton to Clinton
That’s my route. Maybe they can plan the “Urban Iowa Tour” in 2018. Anyway, we shall see soon where RAGBRAI 2017 will actually go! Iowa, I’m thinking.

In Which I Ride Some Cold Rides

Sunset Jan. 4 on my ride home. Cold, but pretty.
There was a dusting of snow Thursday morning—not much, but I wasn’t sure about the streets. I’ll ride when it’s cold—even subzero wind chills—but snow is a game changer. And although the streets were fine in the afternoon, in the morning, the pavement was not really clear.

So Thursday I drove.

Today is a “work” from day home—I have done, and will do, some work, although I don’t think writing this post exactly counts—so no bike riding today.

Despite the two-day respite, I did get some riding in this week. Wednesday, for example, was very, very cold, but I bundled up and rode and don’t regret it.

You can dress for cold. And I did see some other bikers out, so I’m not the only one riding the streets of Cedar Rapids this winter!

Sunday, January 1, 2017

In Which I Photograph a Murder in 2016

To some, that’s the kind of year 2016 has been—the election of an inexperienced narcissist president, the loss of many beloved celebrities—a year of ups and downs with more than its share of downs.

I can understand that. The year ended with me photographing a murder while I was on a bike ride. Of course, many of you have already anticipated the joke—it was a group of crows down by the Cedar River.

Dec. 28--Murder on the Cedar River Trail!

The year in which I photographed a murder was, in biking terms, a pretty good year. RAGBRAI went through a part of southern Iowa I hadn’t seen much and ended in Muscatine. Of course, a team member was also injured, which was decidedly not fun, but it was still an interesting RAGBRAI.

I went with the MMU bike club on the High Trestle Trail, our first “remote” ride, and it was a blast.

Francis, my trusty hybrid commuting bike, gave up the ghost—but I really like riding Clarence, the new commuting bike.

New bike trails, like the short one at Daniel’s Park that I rode Dec. 29, have opened in Cedar Rapids. Of course, old ones seem to be closed for a while—on my murder ride Dec. 28, I was a bit surprised to find the Cedar River Trail for now ends abruptly at the Cedar River. Well, I’m sure that’s a temporary situation which appears to be related to flood control work, and I certainly don’t mind flood control work.

New trail at Daniels Park.

Note: This is how you should put in bike racks--on paving, and set back from the trail.

Took H Avenue bike lane after leaving Daniels Park--ended up blocked by parked train. There was a long line of cars waiting, too. Fortunately, I was able to backtrack on sidewalk to side street and shoot up to J, which was not blocked.
Anyway, the pretty-good-year that was 2016 ended with a pretty good week. Sadly, I was too busy Friday to take advantage of what seemed like the final decent biking day of the year, but I did get in some decent rides Wednesday and Thursday.

Wednesday’s ride was almost 30 miles. I was testing a new camera, and also riding my road bike, so I went pretty far.

New back light on Clarence installed Dec. 28--although on the long ride, I took the road bike, Argent. Some photos below form that right, many more on Facebook link in paragraph above.

Thursday was just a ride to campus and back, but I did inspect a new trail at Daniels Park I had not ridden before, and rode back home via the Cedar River Trail.

Well, 2016, you’re history now. What will 2017 bring? On a macro, political level, I shudder to think. But I hope it continues to be a good biking year. I’m looking forward to a year when the Cedar Valley Nature Trail is paved all the way to Center Point, for example.

Happy biking to you all in 2017!

Two of the Wednesday ride images in black-and-white because I just like the way that they look.

Tuesday, December 27, 2016

In Which A Nice Ride Is Not As Planned

Here was the plan: For Christmas, my wife gave me, among other things, a set of new, bright bike lights. Argent, my road bike, is already fairly well lit, but I wanted better lights, especially a bright headlight, for Clarence, my commuting road bike.

So, Audrey kindly bought them for me.

In another piece of news that seems random but, in fact, is related: She is teaching a class in January that travels to England. “Healthcare in the UK” includes stops in Canterbury, where there is a university that has a coop deal with Mount Mercy, and a short stay in London.

For the trip, we purchased a new point-and-shoot digital camera. We figured she could use her phone for photos, but it’s nicer, sometimes, to have a camera—and that way she won’t have to fuss with charging her phone in England. They have different electricity there.

Anyway, so, although I lamented the lame state of winter biking in my most recent post, in fact this is a fairly dry, warm week. While I have to do prep work for my January class, my plan is also to get some biking done this week, too, since the weather seems cooperative.

And the plan for today was that I would install my new lights and take the “London camera” for a test drive. As it turned out, no, and no.

I didn’t get up super early this morning—I awoke after 7—and by the time I had a leisurely cup of coffee, it was after 8 when Audrey and I left to do our morning exercises at the gym. It was well after 9 when we started to return home, and we had to shower, dress and prep the house for some out-of-town visitors who were coming for lunch.

After a very pleasant lunch, we went to a couple of furniture stores—a storage bench we had used in our front entryway is now in a new three-season room we have added to the house, and we wanted a new bench for the entry.

We found one we liked at Tuesday Morning, but it wasn’t morning by the time we got home. It was after 3 p.m.

I opened the new light set and read the instructions, one of which was “fully charge before first use.” So I plugged the headlight, which is a rechargeable USB unit, in.

I also unpacked the new camera. Its battery wasn’t dead, but wasn’t all that lively, either. So I plugged it in.

And by then it was 4 p.m. on Dec. 27—an hour or so until dark.

So I gave up on plan A. Plan B was simply to take a bike ride. Given the time of day, I decided a trail ride was more prudent then a road ride, and I also wanted a fairly short route so I would be home before full dark.

So I headed south on the sidewalk by C Avenue, pausing at the C Avenue bridge to photograph a trio of deer who were traveling east along Dry Creek. They kindly stopped and posed for me.

Deer trio peeks at me as I photograph them from C Avenue bridge.
After that, I headed east down Lindale Trail to Boyson Trail, turned south, then turned onto the Krumbholtz Trail. I took it to the end and rode on city streets back to Hanna Park and then to the Boyson Trail.

I had been concerned that the trail, mostly a limestone route, would be mushy due to wet weather, but the winter ground is still pretty dry, apparently. It’s also pretty frozen, and there were many icy patches where I had to ride slowly and carefully. I was glad of my choice to bring Clarence rather than Argent—the trail was definitely not road bike ready.

Trail near Frisbee golf course. There were even icier patches, too, although overall the trail was fairly clear.
Unlike a winter ride several years ago on the same trails, I had no spills. I was on Francis then, and that heavier bike had a higher center of gravity. The lightness of Clarence and its lower build may have helped today, but I think there was also more ice when I went on the former ride. Anyway, today I was passed once by another biker who wished me a Merry Christmas, and saw several walkers—some just walking, some escorting dogs on their constitutionals.

Despite the ice, it was a nice, pretty winter ride. As you can see, Indian Creek, which I crossed several times on the route, was looking quite fetching in the early evening fading light.

View of creek and woods from bridge on Krumbholtz Trail.

Indian Creek near Menard's end of trail.

View of Indian Creek from bridge on Boyson Trail not far south of Hanna Park.
Plan A? When I got home after about an hour’s ride, both the new camera and the bike light were fully charged. We’ll see what tomorrow brings!

Sunday, December 25, 2016

In Which Winter Break Has A Biking Day

C Avenue. Rode sidewalk north to 74th Street. It was cleared most of the way, but at one small section I walked the bike.

Snow and ice—there has been a lot of it this winter already. Luckily, last week there were a few sunny days in a row, and by Thursday it seemed possible to take a bike ride.

I chose Clarence for the wider tyres, plus I planned to take my grandson on a short ride first. He was OK with the idea, but glad to be home. After that, around 3 or so, I took off solo.

Cedar River Trail, above, is pretty well cleared. At Cedar Lake, note how sun in clouds has "echo," sun dogs that you get sometimes in winter. Tiny partial rainbows from ice in the air. I associate those with really, really cold days--but this day it was around 30 or so. Not all that cold for winter. Maybe much colder up where the clouds are.

It was cool, but gloves and a jacket were OK, with no long johns required. I rode the Cedar River Trail down to Cedar Lake, enjoyed the geese crowding a small patch of open water, and returned home as light was failing.

I guess that counts as two rides, one short, one longer—so two rides in the past week.

It rained today, Christmas, and I don’t know if it will freeze overnight. It will be a few days at least before I can venture forth on a bicycle again.

Geese on Cedar Lake. The one nearest seemed like a guard or scout--kept his eyes on me and approached to check me out. No goose attacks, thankfully.

Friday, December 16, 2016

In Which Bicycles Appear In Music

No biking this week, it's official. It is Friday, and it's snowing in Iowa again.

So, instead, another bicycle music video. The song is not about bicycles, but I think it's kind of catchy and the video features bicycle riding ....

Tuesday, December 13, 2016

In Which Big Clompy Boots Won’t Save Biking

Photo from a cold day last week, Friday, I think. These boots are made for biking, and that's just what they'll do--but last week, not this week.

So far, this week of December is a complete biking bust. Arctic air has arrived in Iowa, with subzero lows expected.

That’s a level of cold that’s iffy for me as a biker, but not beyond question. If the wind forecast is calm enough, I might bundle up and hit the road at a few degrees below zero (and European friends, we are talking Fahrenheit, not Centigrade. Zero Centigrade is almost sweatshirt weather). After all, I have the winter biker’s secret weapon: Big, clompy winter boots.

Thursday of last week, arriving home as afternoon fades early to night. We are in the dark weeks of winter in Iowa. Me on C Avenue bridge--I don't look it, but I'm fairly warm in a air temperature of about 10 degrees (not wimpy Centigrade degrees either.)  
I wore them last week while biking, which was also a cold week, although not quite this cold. We had a bit of snow the weekend before last, but after streets were plowed Sunday and sunshine ruled Monday. By Tuesday I was able to ride to work wearing my big, clompy boots.

Winter riding requires long, insulated underwear, multiple socks and shirts, a headband under a hood under my helmet and warm mittens. A coat, and often, a scarf, are also part of the kit. The clompy boots, made for stomping around in the snow, feel very awkward to wear while riding a bicycle—but they have the huge advantage of being insulated, which is important for winter rides.

So, for most of last week, including Saturday morning when I had a Santa gig on campus, I rode. The return ride home on Saturday was with snow falling, but luckily it was early in the storm and the pavement was not yet slick.

Not sure of date of photo--very early in December before first snow. Early morning light a biker sees at MMU.

Lindale Trail, again, before the first snow. Stark beauty of bare trees in brown time of year.

Winter sunrise after first snow at C Avenue pond. This has to be Tuesday or so of last week--later in the week, the pond had frozen over.

Last week--ice forming on Dry Creek.
But this week, although there has been some sun, the air is so cold that the quiet streets of Cedar Rapids, never well plowed (or plowed at all) are a slick mess. It’s not the cold that usually keeps me from riding in winter—it’s the slick. I need a few warm, sunny days to clear the pavement off those unplowed side streets.

It does not look like I will get them before the semester ends. Oh well. Here’ hoping that future snows will be followed by enough sun to melt or sublimate the icy stuff on the quiet streets. I’m itching to ride again, even in my big winter boots.

Photo from Monday of this week--air temperature in upper teens Fahrenheit. Note edge of snow--even weak winter sun will melt snow on pavement, if the pavement is mostly clear. That's why is such a problem that side streets don't get scraped--even if not all of the snow were plowed off, a partly plowed street will become clear even in sub freezing temperatures, but even half an inch of snow won't melt. Blow--lawn at MMU, where no snow melted this week.