Saturday, April 30, 2011

Congrats! You're invited to chafe and sweat!

Good news, blog fans. CR Biker is apparently going on RAGBRAI.

The Register stated on its web site that it would announce riders May 1, but when I checked at 10 p.m. April 30 ,,, well, the screen shot tells the story. I'm in!

Still waiting to hear from Jon--the whole reason I decided to finally do RAGBRAI is because my son is coming home to do it.

I've been wanting to exercise more and lose weight, this should help me to do it. And an MMU group is planning to do a day of the ride, I hope I see them.

Anyway, I've been hoping for this news. It's a bit scary to finally get it, but here we go!

UPDATE May 1: As important news often travels, word came by Facebook and was good. Jon is in too! He suggested a 30-mile ride to celebrate--excellent idea, but my schedule today might not allow it. Still, I'll make a point to ride some, and we're both riding this summer!

Thursday, April 28, 2011

What is so cool about biking?

That's right, Fun Fruits are cool. That's a shot from Easter Sunday, my grandson Tristan enjoying some fruit snacks.

Biking is cool, too, though Tristan is too young for it. I attended a reception tonight at the official president's residence for Mount Mercy University, located about a mile from the MMU campus. Rode my bike there, which means I got the best parking place.

So what was cool about biking in Cedar Rapids today?
  • The weather. It was cool (and damp this morning, although dryer and nicer going to the prez res and coming home).
  • Parking. I didn't want to leave old blackie out in the morning mist, so I walked my bike into my building . My office is at a dead end stub of hallway, so I was able to simply park my bike outside my door. Try that with your SUV.
  • Wearing a light that blinks on your head. Small children, in particular, seem to like it. It wasn't today, but one time when I was biking I heard a young boy, probably around 3, explain to his mother "he's got a light on his head!" Yes child, I do. How cool is that? Freaking awesome.

Monday, April 25, 2011

Rain, Rain, Go Away?

As a blogger, I’m a bit divided. I write a general, garden-theme blog at Wordpress——and this biking blog.

One of my blog IDs doesn’t mind rain, unless it gets really excessive. For a gardener, wet is better than a drought.

But for a biker, rain is not too helpful. Now, I know if I get into RAGBRAI, I may have to ride in some rain, but I don’t commute when it’s wet. Both too uncomfortable, and too dangerous.

Anyway, I did get 10 miles in today, commute to and from MMU. And I was sprinkled on in the afternoon, but got home before the rain really started.

From the looks of things, I’m driving tomorrow. Hope to be back in the saddle later this week.

Saturday, April 23, 2011

Lucky 13 Photos From 20 Mile Ride Today

Today, I rode my bike out to the 7 mile marker on the Cedar Valley Nature Trail and back again.

From my house, it took me 25 minutes to get to the Boyson Road trail head, about the same time it takes me to ride 5 miles to Mount Mercy. So, let’s conservatively say that I rode 3 miles to get to the trail, 7 miles out and back and another 3 home. Voila! 20 miles!

It took me 2 ½ hours, which is pretty darn slow, but I timed the first few trail miles carefully, and I was going at 12 miles per hour (5 minute miles). At that pace, why did it take so long? Well, the trail is not paved after about 4 miles, and recent rains left the limestone path a bit mushy, so I’m sure I slowed down. I’m also sure I sped up at the end, because the wind favored me heading south and I rode in 15th gear, which I had not used headed into the wind, but the slowness of the mushy trail more than made up for the wind-enhanced speed.

I stared on the trail at 5:27 and returned to the zero mile marker at 7:05. Obviously, I fell behind the 12 mph pace. I was hoping to approach 15 mph, because that would mean a 75 mph RAGBRAI day would be a 5-hour ride, but I’m not riding that fast.

Anyway, pace is not as important as endurance. My back is pretty stiff and my butt is not happy with me right now, but I’m thinking my legs, in particular, my knees, may be able to survive RAGBRAI if I keep pushing the distance.

Of course, I don’t know if I’m in RAGBRAI yet, but I’m getting ready just in case! The day was a bit breezy, cloudy and cool when I rode, but I’m sure glad to have this trail handy.

Sadly, lots of trees have been mowed down on the stretch I rode in preparation for paving work. Then again, I have to admit that my ride kind of showed the need for asphalt on that part of the trail!

I hope sometime in early June maybe Cate and I can ride to Urbana. That would be a 13 mile trip there, for 26 miles on the trail or around 32 overall from my house. About half an easy RAGBRAI day.

Notes on photos:

First one is zero miles as I start the trail.

Second is six mile marker, where I first considered turning around.

Third, a robin yelled at me at the six mile marker while I was thinking of turning back, so I felt duty bound to go on for another mile.

Fourth, the seven mile marker where I did turn around.

Fifth, this sign amused me. No matter how fast you ride your bike, I think you could tell that there is a tunnel up ahead in plenty of time.

Sixth, a view of the next tunnel (headed south now). Requires no warning sign other than a generic wildlife one, I guess.

Seven—mushy trail north of five mile marker.

Eight—another reason ride took a bit of time—stopping to take all these photos. For this one I dismounted (yes, it’s my bike). Some of the county equipment that is ripping out trees to get ready for paving a stretch of the trail.

Nine—some removed trees left neat stumps. Others looked like they used dynamite to cut them.

Ten—mushy trail on Otter Creek bridge. Don’t know why, but it surprised me the deck of a bridge would be so mushy.

Eleven, looking west at Otter Creek.

Twelve-one mile marker, almost back to end of trail. Sumac grown here where power lines cross trail, somehow this photo captures both the beauty of nature and the bleakness of this particular day. I’m fond of Sumac, not poison Sumac but the generic, harmless bush commonly found in sunny forest glades in Iowa. It has attractive foliage and interesting fruit.

Thirteen, just for my plant fans, a final look at some Sumac near mile marker one.

Well, I survived the ride. I’m ready for more journeys!

Friday, April 22, 2011

RAGBRAI explained

Hmmm. Doing serious research into the RAGBRAI culture.

Anyway, actually, I saw this video on a Des Moines Register blog while I was doing research on the Iowa 2010 Caucuses, and this is much more fun than any political contest in which any lame people take Donald Trump seriously.

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Old Tree, New Buds

My commute this morning was a bit unusual. It was a wee bit chilly, but really not too bad. That wasn't the unusual part--I had a class scheduled to tour The Gazette in downtown Cedar Rapids.

I stopped at my office first, and then headed downtown. I left about 45 minutes to get to The Gazette, and it turned out, via the Cedar Valley Trail, to be a 25 minute trip from MMU. So I had a bit of time to kill and took these photos in Greene Square Park, which lies sort of between The Gazette and the Trail.

One photo is an aluminum art "thing" that was installed in 1999. Next is some very young buds on a very old tree--what looks like some sort of pink infection is just redbud buds on a gnarly old trunk of a redbud tree that has far exceeded that tree's normal lifespan in this climate.

One the way back to MMU for my next class, I had to pass through quite a bit of construction and detour. I came back through the Evil Empire (Coe College), and ended up parked for my next class at Busse Library.

To get back to my office, I biked down to The Pit and back up the hill near Warde Hall. So this morning, I biked up Mount Mount Mercy three times.

That counts as something for RAGBRAI training.

Monday, April 18, 2011

Wear Your Helmet. Jawohl!

Photo shows WWI German helmet I photographed at Liberty Memorial World War I Museum in Kansas City in December. My bike helmet doesn't look that cool, but I bet it's lighter and more comfortable.

Ben had a potential near death experience recently. He reports he was riding a friend's bicycle in Ames, when a car failed to stop before making a right turn directly in front of him. It basically nudged him, forcing an unplanned right turn.

Ben and the friend's bike are fine, but to me, the scary part of the story is that Ben was not wearing a bicycle helmet. My bright boy who is contemplating adding pre-med to his math and biology majors, and who has studied two languages in college, could have lost it all at once.


When I was much younger, in the early 1980s, a sister-in-law of mine was hospitalized with a serious head blow resulting from a close encounter with a street drain cover in Davenport, Iowa. Since she suffered that head trauma, CR Biker has been pretty consistent.

When I bike, I wear a helmet. Just as I would not think of driving a car without wearing a seatbelt, I won't ride a bike without a helmet. Human skulls were not built for falls form 7 feet up at speeds in excess of 15 mph.

Ben wants us to bring him his bike when we see him this weekend. We will. And a helmet. It's a need, not a want.

Saturday, April 16, 2011

Snow on the daffodils in the a.m., biking in the p.m.

I used this photo in my other blog, which has a gallery of photos from the snow this morning. See it here.

Anyway, despite rain yesterday followed by a brief, but intense, snow this morning, I was able to ride old blackie to the office this afternoon. It was windy, cloudy and cool, and the wind made biking not as pleasurable as it can be.

But it was doable. And I'm glad I did it.

By late in the afternoon, the sky was a mix of clouds and sun. Despite the persistent wind, I took a long way home--partly because I want to increase my weekend riding in preparation for RAGBRAI.

I headed down J Avenue near the MMU campus and wento the Cedar Vally Trail, heading south to downtown Cedar Rapids. I'm not sure why, but I enjoy this ride a lot. You go by a trout stream, which morphs into a concrete culvert, then a lake (with a hissing steam pipe and railroad tracks on your other side) through the Quaker Oaks factory complex and on through downtown.

The contrasts are amazing, and the transit through downtown, while requiring vigilance, pretty easy.

My ride ended at the site of the massive new federal courthouse. The trail simply runs smack into a fence there. I suppose I could have found a way around, but with the wind and the chill, decided it was time to head home.

Heading home meant riding into a stiff headwind, and I was glad I had not ridden further in this, my first training ride.

Well, even with the chill, it was a nice ride. Many more to come, I hope.

And yes, bike shop, it was a little damp. I'll be good and use my chain lube.

Thursday, April 14, 2011

No More Bike Logs Here

OK, I've given up on week-by-week recording of my mileage. It's just a hassle looking up last week's figure, and frankly, if I don't care, why should you?

There's a bit of irony there, since I just downloaded a RAGBRAI training schedule. I'm not in bad shape according to it, but need to do some longer weekend rides. Time for training will be tight during the school year, but with a baby shower going on this weekend it might be a good time for me to disappear for a couple of hours.

I had to drive today--was dropping someone off at the airport, and I don't think my passenger would want to ride in my basket. Still, there is some chance of rain, so maybe it's a good day to drive, anyway.

At least I was able to ride on Sunday, Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday. Next week looks a bit dicey right now, but may some sun shine through so I can ride! And, as a gardener who has some new grass just starting to sprout, I can't say I really mind a little rain now and then.

Monday, April 11, 2011

Happy Zach Johnson Day!

The Master's Golf Tournament ended recently and somebody not named "Tiger" won.

How does that make me feel? Totally indifferent. Sorry, but golf never appealed much to me--not after the one golf lesson my father gave me terminated in a neighbor's broken window, anyway.

But Zach won the big tourney a few years ago and a street in Cedar Rapids was named after him. Oh happy day today! The daffodils are in bloom at MMU (those pictured are in Our Lady of Sorrows Grotto) and I found Zach Johnson Drive NE!

I'm not sure you understand. Well, daffodils you probably understand. But my commuting route has reached a zenith of perfect with the discovery of the drive, near Elmcrest County Club. It's existence at the end of Eastern Avenue means I don't every have to bike along any busy street south of Old Marion Road--the entire route to MMU is along very quite residential streets.

What, I've lived in Cedar Rapids 10 years and commuted for at least 5 and just now am finding the optimum route? In my lame self defense, exploring takes a lot longer on a bike.

Well, now my route home from MMU is like this: Take Prairie to 26h, 26th to Eastern, Eastern to Zach Johnson, then zigzag (the route varies along various lettered Avenues and numbered streets) until you're at F behind Kenwood school, then north of the school to Lennox to 40th to E to 42nd to F to Rockwell Collins to Blair's Ferry and C, and then home along C's sidwalk.

What a nice ride it was today. Very springy even if it I was leaving work around 7:30 and it was twilight. All in all, a wonderful day to ride on a street named after a hero of a sport that otherwise has nothing to do with me or biking !

Friday, April 8, 2011

Black is Back!

It's back! Picked up old blackie (name is a joke, it's my new bike) from the bike shop Thursday.

It was a slightly odd experience. Audrey and I walked to the shop, and I started to ride home--but on my way out of the parking lot, I noticed the brakes were practically dysfunctional. I immediately went back and they nicely and quickly tightened the brakes, all the while assuring me that they had not touched them.

Maybe, but the brakes seemed very loose.

They also informed me that I ride in the wrong gear and that means that I'm too hard on the bike. But I rode my previous bikes for many years, primarily in first gear, without causing any damage that I know of.

Well, OK, I'll start in 4th gear from now on.

On the plus side, although the mirror needed gluing and the cool P-51 model Cate gave me officially is gone (broken propeller), it's nice to have the black beast back. The cost was very modest, mostly just a chain lube, as most of the repair job was covered under warranty, and that's probably worth any price difference you would ever get from buying a bike at Wal-Mart. So shop your local bike shop.

Now? Home, James!

Thursday, April 7, 2011

In Which I Confess Criminal Tendencies

I hope that the CRPD isn’t reading my blog too closely—I may come close to admitting a few crimes.

Not serious ones, mind you. Not kicking puppies or stealing cookies from HyVee. But, by their nature, traffic laws were written mostly to control cars, and by their nature, bikes and bike riders have some problems following them.

That is sometimes a source of friction for car drivers who don’t appreciate bikers. My own philosophy is that wherever I’m biking, I’m to some extent borrower turf from someone. If I’m on a trail or sidewalk, I owe pedestrians the respect of an audible warning if I’m approaching from behind, and plenty of room if I’m passing the other way. The walkway belongs first to them.

If I’m on the street, I try to cycle in a way that doesn’t obstruct or bother motorized vehicle drivers. However, I do think it’s important to note that streets were originally built for horses and carriages and then bicycles—in the scheme of things, historically, cars are borrowing the street from me. Those of us on two wheels were there first.

Practically, however, that doesn’t mean much. As a biker, I am a much quieter, slower and smaller vehicle than any car or motorcycle. I can easily get in the way but not be seen or heard. For my own safety, I can’t pretend that I own the streets.

So where does crime come in?

First of all, many bikers, including yours truly, will do “California,” or rolling stops at some stop signs. I don’t at any busy intersection, and certainly I don’t at any 4-way stop when a car is on the other street. But as a biker, I can see and hear differently than people driving cars can. I have better peripheral vision and I’m out in the open with my ears tuned only to birds and traffic. Trust me, car drivers, even if you’re in a Prius, you’re noisy compared to a bike, and I’ll hear you long before I see you. So, if I’m at the corner of, say, Lindale and 27th Street, do I come to a complete stop at the stop sign?

Sure. If I hear a car …

You could argue that the CRPD should ticket me next time I do a rolling stop just to teach us bikers a lesson. I would think you’re nuts, but you could argue it. The next piece of scofflawery, I think, is more systemic. I have less choice in the matter if I am to bike in Cedar Rapids. Sometimes, inevitably, to get from here to there, I will run a red light.

Gasp! The horror! Before you drivers pick up torches and pitchforks (or tar and feathers), let me explain.

Many traffic lights these days are controlled by sensors in the street. Those sensors are not sensitive enough to respond to a 280-pound weight (me on a 30 pound bike). If I am to cross, say, Old Marion Road at F Avenue, I’m either waiting for a car or running the light when I think it’s clear.

Please don’t think less of me, but what, honestly, would you do? You’d run the light, too.

At Collins Road and F Avenue, I have more patience. But I do “steal” the light. Let’s say I’m headed north, going home in the afternoon. Rockwell Collins employees will be doing the same thing, but they’ll be exiting Rockwell Collins, headed south.

Their SUVs and cars will trigger the light. And when the Collins Road lights glow red, there will be a 2-second delay before their southbound F Avenue light turns green.

That’s when CR Biker steals the light—crossing when my light is red, but only because my light will never turn green until a car comes along going my way.

Be very careful if you ever “steal the light” at this corner—you have to watch the traffic and make sure no Collins Road driver is going through a “pink” light, or that no left-turner is jumping the gun. You have to watch both Collins Road lights—usually, one turns red and a left turn signal comes on for the other direction on Collins before the F Avenue cycle starts. So you have to know both the lights and the traffic patterns.

But if you do know the light, you’ll steal the light, too. It’s what all bikers do because we have to. Even if, historically, we were there “first,” traffic control lights are car-friendly and not bike-friendly, and many corners don’t have accessible pedestrian signal lights that bikers could use (I do use pedestrian lights if they are available and accessible, but sometimes they are there but not useful, like at F and Old Marion where there is a cross light, but one you can’t reach from a bike).

CR wants to be a bike friendly town. Figuring out a way to make traffic signals bike friendly would solve a lot of my biking-in-the-city problems.

Anyway, I’m hoping my crime confessions won’t get me in too much trouble. We’ll see.

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

The Hills Aren't Alive, They Are Long Gone

When did it happen?

I'm not sure, but happen it did.

The snow hills at the Rockwell Collins Parking Lot are gone, gone, gone. No snow or sign of snow or ice left in Iowa.

After 80 degrees and impressive thunderstorms Sunday, the lack of snow isn't a great surprise, it's just that in my inattention, I totally missed this transition to spring. At least I caught this crocus blooming in my front yard.

Oh well. It was in the 20s this morning on my ride--cool, but not so cool that I needed my hood. Hoodless riding--another sign that spring is indeed here. Biking season is officially underway!

Monday, April 4, 2011

Cool Spring Ride on New Bike Route

I took my chances on a damp morning and bicycled to work.

Ben, just in case you're reading my blog, I put your bike inside. Late in the morning it did spit a little rain, but the loaner mountain bike stayed nice and dry.

I had bell practice tonight at 6, so it was probably 7:15 by the time I left work. I tried a new route I'd' been contemplating--basically, staying on Eastern Avenue NE headed north until I got to 35th Street. After going east on 35th, I turned and went up F behind Kenwood School.

It was a breezy, cool ride heading into a brisk wind on the way home. Still, there was a mix of clouds and sky, and it was just after sunset, which made the sky all kinds of pretty deep blues and bright pinks, colors that you wouldn't see as well or have the time to enjoy in a car.

I liked this route, and it may be useful those few days when there is traffic at Kenwood--going around behind the school may help me avoid that, which is good from my point of view and from the point of view of those moms and dads dropping off kids, too.

I may be later again tomorrow--have an interview supper at Biaggis. It may be a bit darker when I'm headed home tomorrow, but it will probably be warmer!

Saturday, April 2, 2011

Bike is Now in the Shop, and log

Turns out the bike had 4 broken spokes, I had noted only 2. Since I hadn't taken it in for new bike tuneup, the bike shop is being very nice about it and it may not be too costly for me to get it back into shape.

So this week's miles are logged on Ben's bike:

Tuesday: 10 miles
Wednesday: 10 miles
Saturday: 8 miles
Year so far: 226, over 200 miles!

Did not ride Thursday or Friday due to other family needs for a second car on campus (we had a young guest and Audrey was doing a project Thursday--since I had to watch kids Thursday I had to drive Beetle to school so Audrey would have it while I used van to ferry kids, then used Beetle take our young guest to school Friday morning).

Did, however, get some miles in by biking over to Nikayla's Saturday birthday party. And I did try to register for RAGBRAI Friday, we'll see if I get in!