Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Day 2, I Listen to the Whirring

Still on Ben's bike. I did not get a chance to take mine in this afternoon, so it may be a little while.

With rain in the forecast, I may not be on two wheels for the rest of the week , either.

Still, today was great. Cool but comfortable in the morning, gorgeous in the afternoon. I had to cycle over to the Lindale Mall area to pick up a school camera at Photo Pro, always a bit exciting, but it went well.

This morning, as I cycled in, I was thinking about sound. While I was on C Avenue, I thought Ben's bike was silent.

Then, when I was crossing the parking lots at Rockwell Collins, I was far enough away from traffic to hear the bike noises, the stead whir of the rubber on the road, a low tone as my passage through the air make a slight breeze that crosses my ears and makes a soft noise like blowing across an old glass pop bottle.

One of the advantages of biking is that you can see and hear so much more than any motorized travel. The birds, the cottonwood leaves in summer, even the rubber and the road.

It was a great day to be a biker!

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Biking On A Borrowed Machine

There you see them, my son Ben’s bike and mine, together on the driveway (with, by the way, some snow, although this was the snowiest pavement on my whole ride this morning).

My bike is temporarily out of whack. I’ll take it to the neighborhood bike shop to repair two broken rear spokes, adjust the rear derailer and grease the chain.

In the meantime, my son Ben has graciously consented to me riding his bike. Granted, he’s at ISU and the bike is in Cedar Rapids, but still, it’s nice of him.

So today’s commute felt a bit odd. Ben’s mountain-style bike has substantially smaller wheels than my street bike, and it felt a little bit like I was riding a “toy.” (And no, any smart alecks out there, most bikes are serious vehicles, not toys.) I was concerned that using an unfamiliar steed with shorter legs (smaller wheels) would add up to a longer commute this morning.

It didn’t. I left at 8:05 and arrived at Mount Mercy University at 8:29. Twenty-four minutes is comparable to my time on “ol’ blackie,” so the blue mountaineer must have gearing that makes up for less wheel diameter.

I do miss my comfy old-man seat. And my basket wouldn’t fit on Ben’s handlebars, so I was sans carrier for my briefcase and had to wear it on the way in to work.

That’s not ideal, but it will work short term. Although snow did fall in Cedar Rapids this morning, it was merely cloudy and cool for the a.m. ride—not a trace of slickness or even wet on the pavement.

Although I have already claimed that spring is here, there is one true sign I’m watching for. The snow hills of the Rockwell-Collins parking lot are now just modest snow mounds, but when they’re gone, CR biker will know for sure that morning snows are a mere memory.

In the meantime, if you see an old man on an inappropriate looking blue off-road style bike, sort of like an old man with pants too low or with a soul patch, please excuse him. The days are getting too nice to not take them on two wheels!

Photos with this post:
  • Old blackie (my bike) with mountain blue (Ben’s bike).
  • Broken spokes on blackie’s back wheel. I bought this bike new in October, so it seems a bit soon for spokes to be failing—but then again, a really heavy old guy rides this bike almost every day.
  • Rear view of today’s transportation. Moved my lights over to the new bike, but the basket didn’t fit. Oh well.

Saturday, March 26, 2011

A Cool Return To Spring-Starved Iowa

The photo is crocuses in bloom in Seattle earlier this week, but I was pleased to see that it wasn't so far from reality in Iowa where a few art blooming in my garden.

My sister noted on Facebook that her crocuses in her yard are abloom. I rode my bike to MMU this afternoon for a couple of hours of work (paying for my Seattle trip now!), and I noted some getting ready to bloom in at least one garden along the way.

It was a cool re-entry today into the world of bike commuting, but it could be worse. We flew back from Seattle to Minneapolis Thursday, and Minnesota is blanketed in snow. Then, we connected with a flight to Omaha. The ground was bare when we landed, but Thursday night, you guessed it, it snowed--about 3 inches. The next day, we drove across Iowa, and the snow was pretty much gone by the time we got to Des Moines.

So the pavement in Cedar Rapids was nice and bare on this chilly, early spring day. It will freeze pretty hard tonight, and I just hope it doesn't nip all the tulips and hyacinths already poking out of the garden through last fall's leaves.

Looks like I'll be biking to campus tomorrow (more makeup work) and Monday. Tuesday's weather forecast is a bit dicey now, but we'll see.

At least I'm home. I loved visiting Seattle, but it's great to be back home and back on my bike.

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Three Bike Encounters in Seattle

CR Biker took in a plane museum today and enjoyed it very much, including the reproduction model of a plane used by the bike mechanic who first flew a powered vehicle.

Anyway, I noticed, at the Museum of Flight in Seattle, one bicycle that was part of an exhibit-a late 1930s era bike casually posed with a Flying Tiger plane.

The Flying Tigers, if you recall, were volunteer American airmen who helped China against Japan.

That was one of three very minor bike encounters March 23 in Seattle. The second took place when I was walking with Jon and Audrey to get ice cream after our day at the museum. You see lots of bikers in Seattle, but one almost got me as I crossed a street. She stopped in the ta-da, knick of time--which was probably luckier for her than me. Physics favors large bodies in collision situations, and I was definitely the large body.

The oddest and most intersting bike sighting was in a park near the ice cream shop we walked to. Inside a fenced tennis court with net removed, two teams were playing bike polo with mallets and a little orange ball.

It looked like a team of three women versus a mixed male/female team, but neither scored while we ate our ice cream and watched. I didn't try to photograph the game, the image in this blog post is Jon and Audrey walking home after the ice cream break.

RAGBRAI with my son in 2011? Sounds like a possibility for CR Biker. Bike Polo?

Heck no.

Monday, March 21, 2011

Bikeless in Seattle

Not biking this week--I'm visiting my son in Seattle. I've seen a fair amount of the fair city on the Puget Sound, however.

Many of it's streets are marked with "share-ows," marks that indicate to cars that bikes may use that street. It's an OK idea, as long as enough streets are available for bikers to get around.

Photo is taken by me while I was walking on a street-pedestrian bridge over I-5, marked for bikers too.

I suspect that enough streets are marked in Seattle. It seems like a biking kind of place. My son commutes 16 miles to Microsoft from the Capitol Hill neighborhood, and, while he doesn't bike daily, does it often.

He's thinking of doing RAGBRAI this year . CR Biker hasn't been tempted to do that before, but is interested this year.

Any bikers out there in blogsphere, what do you think? Should an old, bum-kneed biker try to tag along with his young son on RAGBRAI 2011?

Thursday, March 17, 2011

Spring Is Officially Here

I saw them this morning--was too rushed to grab my camera, so you'll just have to take my word for it--but some purple crocus will bloom today in my back garden.

I've noticed this past year that the changes in seasons in Iowa have tended to be sudden and dramatic. It seemed last year that the shift from winter to spring and then from summer to fall and fall to winter were all one-day events. This week saw a frosty start, and now flowers are blooming.

Well, that's Iowa. In a month, it will be easy to forget there ever was a snow pack, even if the risk of a parting winter shot isn't that remote.

Sadly, I had to drive yesterday and today, so I only biked twice this beautiful week (I'm only counting my workweek commute--yes, I know, 3 days are recorded in my log). I was even hoping to ride in the St. Pat's parade, but have other commitments (which explains the ride, too).

Given my plans over the next week and the MMU spring break, this blog will be on brief hiatus as CR Biker isn't biking in CR for a bit. Catch you all on the flip side when break ends and the rhythm of my commuting gets into gear!

Early bike log:

Sunday, 10 miles.
Monday, 10 miles.
Tuesday, 10 miles.
Unrecorded last week (trail route home on Friday, 2) miles.
That's 32 miles this week, a mark I hope to start beating routinely after spring break.
Year so far: 198. So close to 200!

Monday, March 14, 2011

A Frosty Spring Morning

I think since it requires a certain humidity as well as related temperatures that are low, but not too log, a spring hoarfrost is different from the fall frosts.

The fall frosts are the end of it all, a sign you don't have to give the dog heartworm medicine because the mosquitos, tomatoes, annual flowers and all other non-Asian beetle or box elder bug creeply crawlies have either died or gone to sleep.

A spring hoarfrost seems more like an opening chapter. It's way too cold for mosquitoes (and frankly, who misses them?) but box elders are starting to stir.

The ride in this morning was frosty, temperature in the 20s, but it felt good, and this afternoon is sunny and springy. I've seen green things sprouting in my backyard gardens and on the campus of Mount Mercy University, but no sighting of that first blooming snowdrop or crocus yet.

Still, despite being a brown ride, it feels, after this daylight savings time change, like a spring ride. It's a good season to be a two-wheeled commuter!

Saturday, March 12, 2011

Traffic on a Terrific Ride Home

Well, my bike log this week was a bit of a lie.

I biked a bit more than I reported, because I left slightly earlier than usual Friday and biked home on the Cedar Valley Trail. Add 2 miles, at least, to my score.

It was a terrific day. I had received a bit of good news that is too personal for me to share on a blog, but it was very nice. The day was mild, the sun was shinning and there was a fair number of people out enjoying the trail.

Saw an MMU student on a run--don't often see MMU students on the trail, and it's pretty handy to campus.

Anyway, I was stopped at 42nd Street when the honk of a horn make me jump. Turned around, and there was my sister Cate, stopped at the corner behind me, driving home.

It was the first of two "startles" on the way home. I took this photo at the corner of the trail, which runs up Center Point Road, and Blair's Ferry. Note that I, or at least my shadow, is also featured. There is lots of traffic at this corner, but nice walk lights, so it's not too hairy an intersection to cross--except a slightly odd guy on a bike behind me shouted "you better run" when the walk light came on.

Well. I was a lot bigger than he, so I shouldn't have been spooked, but I was, a little. He gave off that sort of hard to define "I'm weird" vibe. As it turned out, although he was smaller and thinner than me (thus being in the vast majority of humanity now that I'm into my second half and, as I told my youngest son today, twice the man he is--literally), my regular biking speed was either faster than his, or he sensed I was slightly weirded out and hung back.

Whatever. I prefer to think that I was a gazelle, despite the fact that middle-aged ladies often pass me on the trail. A very large gazelle, I'll grant you, but still.

Anyway, even with two "startles" it was a very pleasant ride home. My mood improved even more when I got there, as the grandkids were over, always a pleasant surprise.

And I'm sure the ride and the shocks to my system were all good cardiac workouts.

Friday, March 11, 2011

Weekly 2011 Bike Log Issue 3

This week was a slightly short week, due to early snow, but is ending on a strong note.

Sunday: 12 miles (trail route to school, regular route home)
Thursday: 10 miles.
Friday: 10 miles.
Year so far: 164 miles.

Thursday, March 10, 2011

The Camera Store Ride

Can't post a link to it--the newspaper site was not updated this week--but here is a picture of a story that the Mount Mercy Times at MMU ran this week about bike trails in Cedar Rapids.

The story focused on trails used by students and how to visit them from campus. I was a "hidden" source for the story, in that I suggested a map and helped the design editor plan routes for that map.

She didn't actually use my routes verbatim, however. For instance, the paper suggests riding north on C Avenue to get to the Boyson Trail in Marion.

Naw. When I head north from MMU, I spend over half my time on E Avenue. Despite the fact that Kenwood School is there, it's much better for biking than the busier C Avenue.

Anyway, I had to take a newspaper camera into the shop today, which meant taking 43rd Street to C and riding just one harrowing block on that avenue before a right turn into a quiet alley leading to a back parking lot of a business complex. There is a fence between that complex and the mall area where Kohls and Barnes and Noble are located, but also a deliberate hole in that fence, for access to the mall area. Rode slowly through this (mushy ground) then east through Mall parking lot, a 4-way stop and by HyVee and Lindale Mall to PhotoPro.

The route home from the photo shop involved the access road that goes by KMart, a jaunt through a steakhouse parking lot and then north on Northland to Blair's Ferry, where I ride on the sidewalk.

All in all, a cool ride, but still. a ride. Glad to be back on the bike again!

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

A Short Week for Riding

Between cold, rain and snow, this is almost a "lost week." I rode my bike Sunday, but have been driving the Beetle ever since.

Well, at least things are looking better for at least tomorrow. As gas prices rise, it will feel even better to by on my bike.

Today, Ash Wednesday, it's the start of Lent. Audrey and I talked last night about what we would do, and mostly it was working on eating habits. Today, Fr. Vu talked about additional ways to give alms or fast that aren't traditional--such as fasting from Facebook.

I'm not going to give up my blogs completely for Lent, but I think he has a point. As far as biking is concerned, Lent is a time not just to give up things, but to go to the desert by doing more.

I'm hoping my Lent includes more biking. May the weather cooperate!

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Sunshine Sunday, Followed By Cloudy Days

Snow, snow, snow, show!

It won't be long before we're done with snow!

Snow--I long to see the melting of the snow.

OK--that was 3 re-written lines from a song from "White Christmas." In that movie, Bing and Danny wanted snow so that they could help the hero General and bed the ladies. Worthy goals.

Me, I'm very ready to be over snow, but I know, being an Iowan, that it's only March, and the northern hemisphere won't swing to old Sol any faster, no matter what my impatience. So, we'll just wait it out, flowers are starting to come up in the MMU Grotto and snow will soon be first a memory and then a magical phenom to be awaited as a sign of approaching Christmas.

The rain and snow has kept me off the bike and in the Beetle for two days. A better man than I might have ridden yesterday, but it did snow and get a bit wet, and I drove. Today, it was dry and tempting in the morning, but rain is expected this afternoon.

Well, at least Sunday, while a little cool, was still nice. Sunday was a pretty heavy work day for me, as the semester approaches its first mid-term mini climax--it's amazing how many assignments just a few students in two classes can generate. Then again, I have a group of 4 students doing an editing course as a "directed study," which makes as much work as a "regular" class.

On Sunday, when I got ready to head down to campus, I said "what the heck" and took the Cedar River Trail. Getting there takes a 20-minute detour west through Hiawatha, including a ride under Collins Road on a golf course underpass. Once there, it was a pleasant ride to Mount Mercy.

Sadly, my commute crosses the least interesting parts of the trail--the Hiawatha suburban branch, with a few snatches of nature tossed in along with an Interstate in Cedar Rapids. Going either farther north or south, the trail gets better. Still, I like even this jaunt of the trail.

Rode home on my "regular" direct route, which takes roughly half the time.

It was nice to have a Sunday ride to make up for no ride on Monday or Tuesday. Wednesday looks a bit iffy this week, so it'll be late week by the time I'm riding again.

Impatience. Can I give it up for Lent?

Friday, March 4, 2011

Weekly 2011 Bike Log Issue 2

Did not ride today due to rainy weather forecast, did not ride Monday due to late night Sunday and lack of morning time. But, I did get 3 rides in this week, Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday:

Tuesday: 12 miles (commute and quick trail ride)
Wednesday: 10 miles
Thursday: 10 miles

Total so far for 2011: 142 miles.

Thursday, March 3, 2011

A View From A Bridge

There were clouds in the sky today, and I was wondering, in the middle of the day whether the weather would hold turn wet.

Well, luck was with me this fine late winter/early spring day. The sky turned from cloudy to a milky sunshine, and the ride home was very pleasant.

Two images from my ride home, both from the C Avenue bridge. There was plenty of traffic on C Avenue, but still, even in the city, it's nice to be outside, to not be enclosed in a glass and metal box as you go from place to place--to be able to see and hear the woodpecker in the maple tree.

The dominant color outside now is brown, and I'll enjoy it more when green starts to take over. But even the brown countryside of March can be pleasant on an unexpectedly nice afternoon.

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

See the CENMAR--A New CR Trail

It was much colder today, March 2, than March 1, which meant I wore long underwear for the morning commute--but I still rode my bike! With 2 pairs of socks, I wasn't too cold--luckily, the wind was from the northwest, which meant it was only a problem for brief periods on my mostly southward commute.

Anyway, yesterday, March 1, as I blogged, was a very nice day.

I texted Audrey, my wife, in the afternoon to see if she wanted to go for a walk around the MMU neighborhood, but she was meeting my daughter and grandkids for a stroll around the Bowman Woods area where we live.

I have bell choir practice in the Chapel of Mercy every Tuesday at 5, and just on a lark, at 4:30 I decided to check out the CENMAR trail. The newly opened trail terminates right across Prairie Drive from Regis Middle School, so it was easy to get to.

The photo shows the trail with late afternoon shadows crossing it; I was about as far north as I could go on the short stretch that starts near MMU--this is looking south at the north end.

The trail itself is (as a new trail should be) in excellent shape. It's a bit barren now, but grass hasn't started to come up. I hope the city will plant some trees nearby to shade it a bit--nearby utility lines means that they can't be full-sized trees, but even a few crabapples or redbuds would provide some cover. Please plant them just west of the trail, so on sunny summer afternoons there will a bit of relief.

Anyway, I had plenty of time--the whole trial, round trip, was about a 5-minute ride, and that's old-man, bum-knee, going slow minutes.

Not to complain. I'm excitetd that the city is building the CENMAR trail and happy to use even this tiny piece of it. When it's done, it may become my new commuting route, because I can get to the Boyson Trail in Marion very quickly from my house--we'll see!

For now, happy trails!

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

March Madness--Spring Sort Of Arrives

Sun was cool this morning--and the breeze from the south was in my face most of the way to MMU.

That wind was biting cold.

But the sun was still bright and the afternoon is really beautiful.

The picture shows some flowers just starting to emerge at Our Lady of Sorrows Grotto, MMU.

A gallery of Grotto images on this first day of March can be seen at my other blog, crgardenjoe.

Anyway, back to work, for a while. I have "bells" today so I must stay on campus, but maybe my wife will want an afternoon walk. And, even if it's twilight and cool by the time I have to leave, it's great that the first day of March was such a nice day for a bike ride!