Tuesday, October 14, 2014

In Which The Frost Looks Kind of Pretty

In yard near C Avenue bridge over Dry Creek--frosty cottonwood leaf on Saturday morning in sunrise.

Morning gym ride Oct. 11—it frosted finally in my part of Iowa that morning. There was a coating of ice on the car and grey crystals all over the grass. The TV weather talked about a “hard freeze,” but I struggle with calling it that because it only dropped down to 32—I think of a “hard” freeze as in the 20s.

Still, it was a definite frost. It must have stayed at 32 for some hours. Luckily, on my morning bike ride to exercise at the gym, there was little wind, so even with an air temperature just chilly enough to induce a state change in water, I wasn’t frigid.

And the clear morning sun make the ice sparkle, don’t you think?

It's not the same leaf--there are two here--but it is the same lawn.

I was hoping it was a foretaste of rides to come. I actually like cool, icy bike rides—a frosty morning in the 20s, if it’s also dry and not windy, is both pretty and comfortably ideal for a large man like me who is riding on a bicycle.

Alas, this week it was not to be. It started to rain on Sunday, and this is Tuesday night now—and it has not let up. So I drove for the two days of school this week. Now it’s fall break.

I might have heard a small voice. Did it say "we are here?"

If I’m lucky, I may get some break rides in, although I also have work to do because mid-term grades are due right after break. Anyway, my wife and I plan to visit our youngest son in Ames later this week, and we may bring bikes and try out some trails there.

I hope so. After this rain, I feel the need to hit the peddles again. May it be soon.

And may there be more pretty, frosty, sunshine mornings.

Later Saturday. 1-year-old granddaughter. She has lately become an enthusiastic biking buddy, but we spent our time playing in leaves I had raked. Maybe later this week we will go for a ride--I hope so.

Wednesday, October 8, 2014

In Which I Praise the Fall Sky

Moon morning of Oct. 8--cool, nice morning for an eclipse.
Grotto at MMU. Can't really bike here, but it shows how nice a fall day midday can be. On a walk Oct. 8 at MMU, we took a bit of a detour just to pass through the grotto.

Fall is biking season, for sure. Crisp air, blue skies, no more summer heat—of course, parts of fall can be wet and dreary, which is not fun, but so far Fall 2014 has been textbook perfect for bike commuting.

There has been some rain and some winds, but frankly wind  is OK. It can be a problem on a long cross-country ride, but when your commute is only 4 miles, even a pretty stiff headwinds is not such a big deal.

It’s just a nice season to be outside.

On the MMU walk.

Most of these photos aren’t actually from biking. I did take the sunrise over the Rockwell-Collins pond this week—I know it’s not that different from an earlier picture, but I like it anyway. The moon is early (around 6 a.m.) from Oct. 8, when the moon passed through the Earth’s shadow. Otherwise, these are pictures of the Mount Mercy University Campus, several during a fitness walk Oct. 8.

Flag at MMU during walk.
There is something nice about the fall sky—interesting clouds, deep blues, a nice light angle from the southern journeying sun. Summer light can be more overwhelming, and winter is a bit too faded with long shadows midday.

Spring is nice, but your attention is more drawn down, to the first flowers. And in Iowa, fall is often dryer than spring, which makes it a bit more of a sky-viewing season.

So, welcome bikers, to the best commuting season of all.

The pond at Rockwell-Collins in the morning. Tuesday, I think.

Saturday, October 4, 2014

In Which I Put The Briefcase In Back

Friday morning ride view of the sky. Pond at Rockwell-Collins. I have both my jacket on and I'm wearing gloves (not biking gloves, gloves to keep my hands warm). After a quick sunrise, clouds rolled in as a strong cold front dropped the temperatures all day.

My bike basket is a bit temperamental. When I put something large, like my briefcase or backpack, into it, it’s likely to come off when I try to unload.

And Friday, before a cool ride to work, I had some folders in my briefcase. Paper is heavy, and I didn't like the idea of having extra weight in the front basket.

Did it work? It did.
So, I thought, how hard would it be to bungee the briefcase in back? But I was in a hurry, so I made a deal with myself. If I could get the briefcase in place in under 5 minutes, it’s a go. Otherwise, just stuff it in the basket and get to work, you slacker.

I unclipped the strap. 10 seconds. I undid a bungee I keep in back, and put the briefcase in place, and then prepared for several minutes to struggle to try to stretch the cord. Hmmm, grunt—what?

It was, I think under a minute total. The bungee stretching required modest force, but turned out to be very quick. And the cord was tight enough I was reasonably sure the briefcase would still be there when I got to work.

It was. A small victory for your biking commuter.

Message scrawled on pillar of newsroom at Mount Mercy. All you need is love, air in your tires and some good chain lube.

Thursday, October 2, 2014

In Which I Have 2,369.1 Miles To Go

My miles this year. peaked in July, on the way down now.

In July of this year, I rode 688 miles. As of the end of September, I’m estimating (I only have a computer on one bike that I ride, and it’s not functioning well) that I've ridden a total of not quite 2,700 miles—2,630.9 to be imprecise (estimating, remember?). That leaves me almost 2,400 to go to reach 5,000 miles.

One of the places my bicycle took me this month--Stello Performance Hall at MMU before the STEPS induction ceremony on  Sept. 28.
I think we can call this one, folks. My personal goal of riding bicycles 5,000 miles in a year doesn't have a prayer of coming true in 2014. Well, I can’t say that I’m terribly broken up about it—the number was arbitrary when I chose in January. So maybe the goal next year should be 4,000 miles. Given the mileage trend this year, and three months to go, I’m likely to top 3,000 miles in 2014 and might approach 3,500 this year, weather willing.

Catherine McAuley statue in late afternoon light Tuesday.
My September miles were down from August, which is not a huge shock given that I work all day and can’t just bum around on bike trails. Still, if the weather is good (knock on wood), it’s been a decent biking year so far. The lowest monthly mileage was the snowy February, during which there were few biking days and I only got 38 miles in. Almost 250 in September is more than March, although less than April. Since there is a school break in it, maybe I can get more in October.

I have run into a few mechanical issues this month. The Beast broke a spoke, and I can’t fix it, and in the meantime the back wheel on the Fancy Beast has developed a wobble. I looked and did not find a broken spoke, so I’m hoping I’ll be able to deal with that problem soon. Time for experimental bike mechanical work has been short of late.

So now it’s Francis and Francis alone. I hope he holds up well! And may October rival September for beautiful biking days!

Big water bird standing in Dry Creek. Saw it Thursday while on a walk with my wife, daughter and one grandchild. I often bicycle along the Boyson Trail were I saw this, but on Thursday it was during a stroll.

Friday, September 26, 2014

In Which I Enjoy The First Rides of Fall

Me, first day of astronomical fall, temperature in the 40s, bike jacket on. As the week warmed up the jacked got stowed again. I won't mind wearing it, though. I like a cool bike ride.

Monday morning, the equinox: In climate terms, September is the first month of fall, but in astronomical terms, fall awaits the Earth’s balancing act that happens in the final half of the month.

It had been a cool month before this week, and the first morning of fall was the first one where 40-something temperatures drove me to find my winter bike jacket. It has been located, but was used just that day—because as the dry week stretched on, the post-equinox sun was still powerful enough to give us warm days.

And Thursday, on one of those warm days, I had the pleasure of riding the Boyson Trail area with my wife. It was a slightly buggy, but still extremely nice, ride. She would argue it was nicer for me because she went first and acted as my bug screen, which may have some truth in it.

Anyway, a gallery of what the Boyson Trail and associated side trails looks like a fine fall evening when we just have time (before I have to rush back to campus for a bell rehearsal) for a fantastic fall ride:

Cheating a bit with this one. MMU campus in the afternoon, my wife and I are enjoying scones, and we've just made the decision to go home and take a bike ride. It's too gorgeous outside to do otherwise. Rest of the images are all from the ride.

Saturday, September 20, 2014

In Which A Wobbly Two Tour Is Made

Me and Frances--but not my bike. A bronze of Frances Warde who brought the Sisters of Mercy to America. I've biked to MMU and repaired my ride, and then checked out the two new statues.

Two seemed to be the theme of the biking day today.

I tried to repair two bikes, but only fixed one. I went on a ride to a lake I had not seen in a while, and rode by another one, too. I wobbled to Mount Mercy because my handle bars were slipping, and saw two new statues.

First, the repair that did not work. The Beast has a broken foot. Actually, a spoke. I took apart the back wheel, planning to go to a bike shop to replace the spoke, but found that the only way to insert a spoke in this particular hole is to take the gears off. I don’t have a cassette adapter, so there isn't any way for me to accomplish that goal. If you have one (the adapter) and you don’t mind me borrowing it, let me know. Otherwise I’ll just take the wheel to a bike shop and hope they don’t sneer too much when they have to touch a department store rim.

My oldest son and his wife were visiting because they have a wedding this weekend to attend in Davenport, and I was half hoping we (my son and I) might get a ride in, but he had too many errands to run this morning—and also, around noon, it rained.

So it was wet this afternoon, but sunny, and I still wanted a bike ride. Around 2 (of course) I saddled up the Fancy Beast, which I think I made 10 times more useful this week by adding a water bottle holder, and off I went.

I rode towards the trail east of here and had my choice of (of course) two directions—north or south. I decided to head south because I haven’t been near the Prairie Parks Fishery for a while, and why not? I even toyed with the idea of the Sac and Fox, although I also wondered about its condition.

Anyway, as I was cycling south, I noticed a bit of a disturbing wobble. Luckily, it was not the type of wobble The Beast suffers from—it was not a broken spoke. But the handlebars were becoming loose. Oddly enough, the thing that I did that made them jerk the most was shifting gears.

I decided that the Sac and Fox would be out of the questions, and was debating whether to go as far as the Prairie Parks Fishery. But I also recalled that I keep a small toolbox in my office, so I thought maybe I could make repairs before I came home. So I passed by Cedar Lake and headed through downtown and went to the fishery.

Lake at Prairie Parks Fishery. It was a bit windy, but still a very warm, nice fall day for a bike ride. Lots of grasshoppers!

The fishery lake was nice, and sometime in the past few months (I think the last time I was here was in a June pre-RABRAI training ride) they’ve put up some public art, a giant picture frame at a point where you can view the Cedar River. I shot a photo there and also ate a snack.

Art by the river near a lake. And someone is on the Cedar in a canoe.

As I headed back west, the handlebar was getting looser and looser. I don’t think I was ever in danger of anything catastrophic happening—I could tell that two of the screws were still snug so there was no way for it to fall completely off, but since both top ones had shaken loose and were getting looser, the bar could move, both up and down and side to side.

A handlebar is not something that you want a lot of play in, I decided.

Anyway, I finally made it to campus and checked in my office. I not only quickly found the tools, but was lucky in another way. The screws that hold the handlebar on Fancy Beast have an odd star-shaped head, but my little tool kit has a fairly good collection of interchangeable screwdriver heads—including several sizes of star-shaped ones.

And we are all ready to ride again

One fit snugly, and a few turns of the screws later, the handlebars were snug.

It was getting a bit late in the afternoon by now—around 4:30—and I had recalled that two new statues were to be installed on campus today. I went and viewed and photographed them, and then headed towards home.

I thought the rain was all done mid day, but by 5 one dark cloud overhead just kept getting darker, and although the sky never clouded up all the way, indeed the spigot was opened before I made it home. It started with a sprinkle and moved on to a shower.

Catherine keeps her eye on the Fancy Beast at MMU's central plaza.

Still, at least this wasn’t the scary late-thunderstorm ride that I had earlier this week. There were neither booms of thunder nor electric flashes of lightning, and frankly I did not miss them. I was wet by the time I got home, but otherwise fine.

And even if the final 10 minutes were not the highlight of the ride, I have to say that twos-day was still a good Saturday for a bike ride.

I am wet, Bob. But I am apparently not a wicked witch and I did not melt.

Maple at MMU shows signs of fall.

Saturday, September 13, 2014

In Which I Have Two Fun Animal Rides

The deer family Relena and I watched on my first bike ride today.

Animals were the theme of the rides today. My daughter planned to donate blood, and we watched her children for a while this morning—they left after lunch.

Anyway, as I had hoped, I managed two short bike rides, totaling 10 miles together, with two granddaughters.

Relena, who is 1 ½ years old, went first. She was pretty excited by almost everything, but deer were the theme of her ride. We rode down the Lindale Trail and turned north when we got to the Boyson Road trail. Several deer crossed the trail in front of us in the open meadow area. When we got to Boyson Road, we turned back on the branch trail that leads across the narrow bridge over Dry Creek.

After crossing that bridge, we came again to an open area, and a whole deer family—mom and her two offspring—were munching grass. Relena squawked excitedly, and the two fawns bounced over nearer to mom. Mom herself was pretty indifferent. We paused to peer at the deer briefly, and then went on.

After I got home, I took Amelia for a slightly longer ride. Relena got 4 of the 10 miles, Amelia got 6. This time we turned south and simply looped back to the Lindale Trail when we were done.

We saw lots of birds, including a goldfinch that paralleled us for 30 yards to so, pausing as if to wait for use to catch up and then going ahead. There were lots of dogs, too, but no deer this time.

Still, it was a very nice ride on a gorgeous day. A sunny day after a cold night in early autumn—that, I think, is when Iowa is at its best and ought to be biked in.

Maybe they should have a special RAGBRAI in mid-September just for retired people? They can wait nine years or so to set it up, but then let me know and I’ll be there.