Tuesday, May 31, 2011

The Importance of "Bike On Your Left!"

It was a beautiful day for riding, and I was lucky that, although I had some work I had to do today, I could spend a couple of hours biking, too. Did 30 miles today and wish I could have done more.

Shown is the Cedar River Trail near Cedar Lake. To round out my 30 miles, I rode from MMU south to Quaker Oats, and then turned north and rode to the 3-mile mark on the Cedar Valley Nature Trail past Boyson Road.

The "incident" took place as I was headed for home. I was approaching a young lady walking with a male companion. 'She was kind of ambling in the middle of the trail.

I followed what for me is standard procedure on any walking/biking trail. I have a bell, which I cheerily rang, and then said "bike on your left" in a loud, but not rude, voice.

I heard a rather unpleasant sounding reply, although it was complimentary to me. "Thank you!" she shouted. "You're the first one that's done that."

"That," apparently, is sound any warning before passing a pedestrian.

Now, I'm frequently either a biker or a pedestrian on trails, and even if I wish she had sounded nicer to the biker who did what she wanted all bikers to do, I would agree she has a valid point. Only a minority of bikers sound warnings, and all ought to.

Of course, there is some risk. A colleague of mine at MMU can describe a mishap where he said "bike on your left" and the woman moved to her left and BAM. She and he were both hurt and shaken, she more than he.

So, I also try to time it to leave a little reaction leeway. If a pedestrian steps in the wrong direction, I hope I'm still able to evade.

In any case, I think it's both safer and less rude to sound the warning. So, bikers, remember these words of wisdom: "Bike on your left." Say it loudly, clearly and with enough time for you and Ms. Walker to both react.

Monday, May 30, 2011

Even the Cattle Wanted Water

It was summer hot today, a perfect afternoon to get some "heat" practice in, so I rode 20 miles starting a little after 3 in the afternoon.

Took water with me, which was a good move.

Well, the first half of the ride was not bad. I rode west to Hiawatha to catch the Cedar River Trail to the Cedar Valley Trail, and headed north on that trail for 6 miles. I had planned to do 5, but the 5-mile-marker was missing so I did one extra mile by accident.

I felt pretty powerful. It was hot, but not too hot, I was sweaty but not uncomfortable, all was going well.

Until I turned around. Forgot that a 15- to 20-mph south wind was making it hot. Well, at least the wind in my face helped cool me down, but it also made me work very hard.

Taking the photo of the cattle which were visible from the trail was an excuse to stop briefly on the return journey (and gulp the last of my water).

Still, I suppose, headwind training for RAGBRAI is a good idea!

I was supposed to be home by 4:30, but rolled in after 5. Oh well.

Sunday, May 29, 2011

10 miles puts me 40 over goal

First time I've exceeded the RAGBRAI training goal, and I did it by 40 miles this week.

According to the schedule, this should an an "off" week of 75 miles, but school gave me many previous off weeks, and a 10 mile ride today put me at 115 for the week.

The photo shows what the sky looked like on the way home. It was a bit sunny for a few minutes of the ride, but mostly cloudy and humid. We're in for summer heat for Memorial Day, and somehow the look of this sky is appropriate for that "remember" holiday.

Anyway, today I went south to Regis Middle School to catch the south end of the short CENMAR trail. Rode to the north end and then back home--about a 10-mile loop and a fairly easy ride, after yesterday's hilly marathon.

I feel I'm doing well, and so far (knock on wood) the new back wheel on my bike is holding up!

Saturday, May 28, 2011

Good to See an Old Friend Back

Well, I’ve had two pretty good training days—yesterday’s Cedar River Trail ride with Cate and an even longer ride today.

I rode the Sac and Fox trail today. I think it’s one of the crown jewels of trails in Cedar Rapids. Sadly, it’s isolated—does not tie into anything or go from any useful place to any other useful place—and it’s a slightly iffy biking trail, a soft limestone surface that can be sandy or muddy in places, so you have to watch it.

But the trail winds along Indian Creek and the Cedar River, and provides the most “wild” trail ride in Cedar Rapids.

In 2008, when devastating floods carved the heart out the city, the trail was basically destroyed. A year after that epic flood, I wrote a post on my other blog about how tragic it was that, a year later, the trail was still totally wiped out.

Well, today it’s back. The only part that I saw closed was the bridge to the Indian Creek Nature Center—not sure what the issue is there, but the Sac and Fox trail itself was glorious. It was a cool day today and sprinkles fell in Cedar Rapids, so the trail was very web and mushy—I had to watch it.

In addition, horses use the trail, and I had to watch for their marks, too.

It was an interesting ride. I saw six deer-only one pair, the rest all as individuals. Could not get any photos as they moved too fast. I also saw two kayakers on Indian Creek, something that I’ve not seen before. We had a brief conversation as they floated by while I photographed them—they said the creek was shallow in spots and they had to portage their kayaks a couple of times, but were having a good trip.

Anyway, as I slowly rode the trail, I stopped now and then to take some pictures. Some flowers that I saw are on my other blog.

The most treacherous part of the trail was where Indian Creek flows into the Cedar River. The trial was very soft and muddy, and obviously had flooded recently. It was still passable, however, and I did do the entire 7.2-mile trail.

Combining those 14.4 miles with my ride to and from the trail, and I figure it was close to a 30-mile ride. The ride featured the ascent of Cottage Grove hill—excellent RAGBRAI training.

See this blog post for pictures of some of the flowers I saw today.

Well, people of Cedar Rapids, of all the trails I’ve been on lately, the Sac and Fox was the least crowded, but most deserved more use. Get out there and walk and ride!

Friday, May 27, 2011

What Would Urban Trout Taste Like?

I got a good 15-mile RAGBRAI practice ride in today, courtesy of my sister Cate.

I was not sure I would get a practice ride in today, but the time opened up for one later this afternoon--so I called Cate, and she was available.

I rode over to her house via 73rd Street, and from Cate's we went to the Cedar Valley Trail in Hiawatha and followed it into the little lake by Quaker Oats in downtown Cedar Rapids.

Not that it's a totally original thought, but we were amused by the McLeod Run--Only Urban Trout Stream in Iowa signs. What kind of fish would an "Urban Trout" be? One with several extra hooks as well as tattoos? One you don't want to catch because it'll pull a switchblade on you? One that dresses all in black and rides a skateboard everywhere?

Cedar Rapids is barely home to anything urban, let alone sophisticated fish. One images there being more Urban Trout Seattle (or Boise, for that matter).

Well, the day was cool, we got sprinkled on a little, the geese greeted us with hisses as they tried to protect there goslings, and a teenage girl told me my bike was "hot."

Somehow, I don't think she was being sincere. Cate cajoled me--"what, you don't trust the sincerity of teenage girls?"

No, I do not. I'd rather trust an Urban Trout. Even one with fins so loose, they appear to drag on the floor. That's right. "Fins on the Ground."

Photo from Joseph Wu Origami, posted on Flickr--one look at urban fish.

The Bridge To the Great Beyond

I wrote about it on my other blog, and if you want a blog post that's a bit of a downer, it's available here.

But, I won't blog here about loss.

I rode twice to campus today, which makes it a 20-mile day. The second time, I left around 7 and met Audrey and the grandkids at Noelridge Park.

They had been there for some time, so it was only a few minutes before we all left--they in the van to pick up some quick pizza for supper, me on bike. I made it home first, by the way.

Snapped this photo of a pedestrian bridge at Noelridge for this blog, although I ended up using it as a sort of a sybmol of the bridge to the afterlife in my other blog.

The route from MMU to the park was a bit meandering, as I don't really know the way. From the park to home, I'm in more familiar territory, although two school parking lots I used to cut through were both shut off.

Oh well, made it safe and sound, and got this cool photo on the way, too.

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Why I Bike

Check her out, Amelia Jayne Sebers, my third granddaughter, born today.

One reason to bike is to try to stay healthy so I can see Amelia graduate from high school, attend her wedding and dance with her then.

Of course, there are lots of other ways to exercise, so it's not just to try to live a healthy life--enjoying the birds and the breezes and the flower and the sun have a lot to do with it, too.

Still, the birth of a healthy grandchild makes any day great, and is a great excuse for a ride.

30 Miles in 3 Different Shifts

Sitting in my dining room, with a sweatshirt on, it's almost hard to recall how warm it was yesterday.

But it was sunshine and 80 yesterday, and I put the day to good use. When I got up, I decided to ride my bike to the gym. After my workout, I went to the Boyson Road trail in Marion and rode the length of it, before returning home (and riding to the top of Brentwood Hill).

Later in the morning, I went to MMU, via bicycle, and after a couple of hours of work, headed home. But, when I took J Avenue to the trail, I headed south, rather than north. Rode past the new federal courthouse, took a detour to reconnect with the trail, but ended up turning back just before crossing the Cedar River (the grandkids are staying overnight when their mother gives birth to another grand child, and I wanted to be home well before the little guests showed up).

All in all, I calculate my total mileage Tuesday at around 30. That's pretty good, except I didn't ride today. Still, I am up to 40 miles this week--and hope to break the century barrier. I'll aim for at least one 50 mile day soon, as long as the weather and my time allows. Finally getting some longer RAGBRAI training rides in!

Sunday, May 22, 2011

At 95 Miles, not too shabby

Riding home in the dark at 11:30 this Sunday--stayed late so that the student newspaper coverage of MMU's graduation would be posted.

Well, cool. Rode in to campus for Mass this morning, riding home tonight 14 1/2 hours later. There was a big storm in between, but my bike is her in my office with me, I've got lights, the radar is clear and I'm headed home.

Anyway, much of the hill at MMU was off limits to cars today, as the campus was set up for graduation. But I took advantage of "biker rights" and peddled up the hill to park right next to the chapel for morning Mass. Nobody else got a better parking place!

Did 95 miles this week, not too shabby!

Friday, May 20, 2011

Ring out them bells! 75 miles and counting!

Ride bike to work day turned wet today, but I had come home in the afternoon before the rain.

This was a 5er week for me--rode Blackie to work 5 times in 5 days (more if you count some round trips). And the week total is 75 miles, pretty good with 2 days left. I might have made the century mark, but sadly there is rain and graduation events and grading that probably will prevent that.

Still, a good biking week, and even if I'm not up to the RAGBRAI suggested training miles yet, I will get there and have added miles each week.

So ring them bells!

The bells are from just before graduate graduation today, May 20, in the Chapel of Mercy at Mount Mercy University. I play in the handbell choir, and ring a low A and G. I like how the light reflects off of them. Note in the closer photo, on the rim of the bell between the trumpet part and the handle, you can see my gloved hands holding my camera, too.

Graduation is underway, which means more biking it coming, too!

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Bike To Work Wheely Good News!

Bike to Work Week--and the folks at my local bike shop get a "thumbs up."

As you know, blog fans, during a trail ride this weekend one of my spokes when "sproing." That's a fairly rare event, as biking mishaps go--it's much more common to break a chain, a de-railer, get a flat--but spokes are supposed to be strong.

Anyway, I took the bike in about 1/2 hour before Northtowne Cycling closed Monday evening. I was all set to have a little bit of "attitude," due to having a spoke broken for the second time in two months (in 40 years of biking, these represent the only spokes I've ever broken).

My 'tude was quickly deflated. Instead of a long wait--I thought the bike would be in the shop for a week--a bike mechanic quickly assessed it, proclaimed the need for a new wheel to fix the problem, and said it was covered by warranty.

Well, cool. And to top it all off, he got it fixed in about 15 minutes. Photo is my new back wheel this morning before the commute.

Blackie is back! Riding to work during riding to work week on my own bike again!

Sunday, May 15, 2011

The Spoke That Broke

Yikes. Old blackie has bad ankles, or something.

I am in my office, dealing with a backlog of grading, and on the way here took a detour on the Cedar Valley Nature Trail. And I was in Hiawatha, headed the way of MMU, when I heard a "pop."

Stopped to check. A spoke had broken. I was riding pretty fast and pumping hard, but really--I've never had a bike before break so many spokes so quickly--second time in a few months that the bike will be headed to the shop with the same problem.

A bit of a worry with RAGBRAI coming. I hope the bike shop has a not-expensive idea on how to solve this problem. At least I had done about 10 miles before it happened, and Ben's bike is home so I'll see if he'll let me borrow it again.

I was busted--Audrey thought I was in my office already. Well, I am now and better cut this short.

Should I carry spare spokes on RAGBRAI?

Saturday, May 14, 2011

The Bike Deficit: Miles to Make Up

The numbers:

What the RAGBAI site suggested I should have ridden the past 4 weeks:

60, 80, 90, 105 miles.

What my guestimate of actual miles biked the past 4 weeks is:

40, 40, 60, 55

Rain accounts for the 55, which would be more like 65 or 70. And the deficit doesn't depress me too much because I new I would be "short" until school ends.

But, I've got a lot of riding to catch up on. It's like grading. You get behind one week and next week students turn in a new bath of assignment and voila! The semester is almost over and you feel guilty about taking a 15-minute grade brake to write a quick, whiney training post.

Well. Back to grading.

Friday, May 13, 2011

The Accidental Training Ride

Jon posted on Facebook that anything he cooks tastes great after a 50-mile training ride.

Have not done that distance yet, but I did some extra riding yesterday, partly by accident. The Mount Mercy University "Times" student newspaper staff planned an end-of-year part at Buffalo Wild Wings, which is in my neighborhood.

Not really my kind of place. I don't drink with students, so I couldn't have a beer, and it would taken a fair quantity of beer for me to enjoy this establishment. I don't like "loud," I'm not into sports and I prefer some salad with my meal. But, it was good to sit and shout-chat with the students for a while.

During the party, I got a text from Audrey that she and the grandkids were at a park. They were actually at Bever Park in Cedar Rapids, but for some reason--distracted, no doubt, by 1,000 decibels of background "music," I mis-read the name as Thomas Park, in Marion.

I got the text as I was leaving the Bar/Restaurant/Pit of flashing images and Hellish noise. I hopped on old blackie, headed over to the Boyson Road bike trail which leads to Thomas Park.

It was very crowded, but I didn't see our dull red Chevy minivan, so I texted Audrey and discovered by errors. So I simply rode the rest of the trail, including a new side trail that, so far, ends in the midst of nowhere. I'm not sure if this is the part that eventually might tie into the CENMAR Trail from Cedar Rapids, but right now it leads to a rough dead end.

Still, its was a fun ride. I knew it would be a good day, despite morning grey skies. The afternoon was the perfect, partly-cloudy, post rain, slightly warmish day that makes part of an Iowa spring great.

On the way to and from the trail, I climbed the Bowman Woods hill on my bike--good hill training. The tree in sunset is the "summit ash," luckily not removed yet as the city has taken out some ash trees in the neighborhood--the summit ash, on a side street of off Brentwood Drive is, as far as I can tell, the hightest point in my neck of the woods. I went by it on the way back home form the trail. The other photo I shot earlier Thursday, on Eastern Avenue, not far from MMU, just to show how pretty a day it was even on just a plain old street.

As I said, a nice day for a ride. Not time yet for a 50-mile one, but soon, Jon, soon.

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Sticky, Warm, Summer Ride


It is HOT today, for a big middle-aged biker.

I decided to devote more than an hour to biking on my way to work this morning--I was leaving home before 8 and figured I could afford to get in at 9. So I went to the Cedar Valley Nature Trail and headed north for 3 1/2 miles to where the pavement ends. Photo is idyllic country view at the turnaround point of my ride, looking west from the trail.

I got there in 15 minutes. I was biking about 15 mph. Folks, for me, that's lightning. I was feeling pretty smug.

Until I started biking back. Oh. That wind, that steady strong breeze that's attempting to move me to Waterloo, that moving air was what pushed me to the that speed, and I have to fight it all the way to MMU.

I arrived, somewhat after 9 a.m., and I calculate that with the ride to the trail, 7 miles headed north and back, that I can credit myself with 15 miles from just this morning's ride. That means, a minimum, this will be a 20-mile day, and if I bike a second time to campus later today (I plan to for bell practice), that means I'll put in 30 miles. I won't have time for many 30 mile days before graduation, but if I can squeeze in one a week, well, that's helpful!

And on this muggy, July-like day, doing half of those miles before 9:15 a.m. was a very good idea.

Friday, May 6, 2011

The Bike and The Devil in the White City

I just finished reading, with an MMU faculty/staff group, Erik Larson's excellent nonfiction book "The Devil in the White City."

I note that a movie is in the works. I hope they don't mess it up too much.

Anyway, the book is the parallel story of the Chicago World's Fair of 1893 and a serial killer who built a hotel to lure young ladies for murder. It's both gripping and gruesome.

And bike friendly. At the time, cars weren't around yet, and the transportation in the book is via horse, train, streetcar or "safety bicycle," as the newly invented bike without the huge front wheel was known.

The fair featured the world's first Ferris wheel, a huge contraption rising hundreds of feet with rail-road car sized enclosed gondolas.

Whew. Wish I had been there, in some ways, although, honestly, the book also makes you appreciate modern foods, medical care and sanitary water supplies.

In the book, Chicago is known as the "windy city" not due to it's climate--but due to the bombast of its promoters.

Well, it's a great read. Even if the killer is among the bikers.

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

The Dash from The Deuce

The weather patio was a nice place, a new garden-set for Channel 2 news.

Four students from Mount Mercy University and I enjoyed a tour of "the deuce" this morning. I was a few minutes late, because although Broadcast Park is only a stone's throw from my house, no easy bike route leads there. I ended up, briefly, on the jutted shoulder of Collins Road before crossing grass to make it to the parking lot.

The tour was fun. Thank you Aaron Shaffer, Kelly O'Connell and all of the other Channel 2 people who kindly spoke with my students. I think the tour was informative.

It also ran long. How do you tell Kelly to stop when she's talking? She talks so well that the answer, really, is you don't.

Instead, the usual 25 minute ride to campus became a 15-minute dash. Well, I did it. Both I and old blackie survived.

Shown is Shaffer and my students listening to O'Connell on the "weather patio" outside the Channel 2 studio.

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

In Praise of Grey Skies

Grey is the color of the day.

It can put you into a bit of a funk, if you let it. This time of the semester life gets to feel like the gerbil wheel is greased way too well and its hard to keep your little legs pumping without tripping and tumbling.

But there is an upside to grey. Although the morning was the coolest this week, in one way, because I wore my winter gloves on the morning commute--have not had to do that for a while--in another way, the clouds are good news indeed.

Little or no frost that I saw in Cedar Rapids. Delicate buds probably weren't hurt much, at least not in my area. The photo was actually taken last week during another grey morning--it shows a bud on my tulip tree.

Probably a leaf bud, which would be hardier than a flower bud, anyway. There are lots of flower buds on my other trees--buds that probably owe their future flowers to clouds that rolled in overnight.

Clear skies aid frost. Clouds are a blanket. And the birds were still singing. Clouds can be our friends.

Monday, May 2, 2011

Frosty Mornings, But Sunny Days

I hope my apple trees manage to weather this chill. The crab apples are budded and ready to bloom, the weeping cherry is already blooming--but the apples haven't really shown their buds yet.

Although they are also young, so maybe the just won't bloom much this year anyway.

But, while frosty morning are a bit iffy for the delicate flowers of this cool spring, they're great for a big guy on a bike! There's another rainy stretch of weather ahead next week, so I've got to bike while I can.

And on these pleasant, fresh air frosty mornings, I sure can. Bell choir practice kept me on campus until almost 7:30 tonight, and it was just starting to get nippy as I rode home--again, from my point of view, a bit of cool is a good thing for me on a bike.

A hawk, for reasons unknown, flew at me and landed in a tree above my head. It was odd to be stared at by that substantial bird of prey, but he had been thinking of making more of a dive for me, he also obviously thought better of it and decided to remain in the upper branches of a tall tree.

It was cool, both in the symbolic and literal sense. A hawks is a welcome sight among many other on these beautiful spring rides!