Saturday, October 29, 2011

Two Views of The Rising Fall Sun

Two views of the morning sunrise this week, the little one shot with my cell phone Thursday, the larger image Friday's less cloudy sunrise, both looking east at the corner of C Avenue and Blairs Ferry Road.

Cold weather, morning frosts, are finally arriving in Iowa, and that’s not a bad thing from a biking point of view.

I did have to wear the hood (corrected, used to say "hook" which would be cool as a costume on Halloween, I suppose) of my biking jacket once this morning, but it’s a thin hood that fits between my helmet and head. I have warm gloves that I think I inherited from one of my sons, but frosty, 30ish mornings are way too warm to worry yet about long underwear, and CR Biker enjoys the crisp morning air.

Anyway, I’ve enjoyed seeing the morning sunrise and wanted to share what Thursday and Friday looked like—Friday’s photo is not as dramatic, but it’s bigger because it’s with my point-and-shoot digital camera, which I try to have with me when I bike. The Thursday photo is a cell phone image—the sky looked great, the light at Blair’s Ferry was red so I had time, so I figured what the heck.

Hope you’re enjoying your fall!

Monday, October 24, 2011

Lights Are On But I’m Not Home

My bike this morning, with battery-powered flashing light shining. The other light would be on at night, but in the dim morning sunshine, I think one light is enough.

We’re at the awkward few weeks of the year. The equinox has passed and the solstice is still in our future, but the Northern Hemisphere is tilting away from Sol, so the days are closing in.

So, I have an odd sensation in the morning—riding with my lights on.

Lights are a key tool for CR Biker. I can’t commute without them.

In my biking time, I’ve used a variety of lights. Back in the day, years ago, when I purchased my first 10 speed, I also bought a generator-activated set of lights, which of course would shine only when the bike was in motion, and were a bit of a pain due to noise and drag.

Signs that technology can deteriorate—that generator set, purchased around 1975 or so, lasted for most of the rest of the 20th Century. In the 21st Century, when I started biking to MMU a few years ago, I was riding a Trek and purchased another generator set for that bike. It was a hunk of junk and lasted for less than a year.

So it goes. That’s not the only bike “thing” that has gone down in quality, by the way. My first frame pump, again from the disco era, lasted for several decades and was a fairly reliable little metal tube that could, with some effort and time, fully inflate a tire. My current frame pump is a rather silly plastic thingie that can barely puff more air into a tire than I could just exhaling into it.

Yeah, I’m sure quality lights and frame pumps are available. Just being a crotchety old biker, pining for the days when lights were lights and pumps were pumps and toasters were all metal, too.

Anyway, now, I’m a battery man, although my battery lights are not always as reliable as I would like. I’ve long had redundant front lights, and wanted redundant back lights, too, so Audrey bought me what looked like a sturdy bike light set. But the back lights, the most important ones since I already have more than one front light, failed within a few weeks.


Well, I don’t mind riding with lights. It was cool and slightly frosty this morning, and those slightly frosty mornings are the best biking weather there is. Better than summer, when it’s just hot and you have to drink, drink, drink to stay alive. Better than winter, with its long-john underwear, multiple socks and chilled nose.

So I’ll run with my lights on, but be glad when we can turn the clock back so there’s more light to ride in!

Speaking of lights are on, an ear worm for your Monday:

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Friendly Fall Winds

The sidewalk that goes under Council Street, that I take when I'm going to ride the trail to MMU. This is Wednesday morning, a nice morning. The second photo is Thursday, a bird of prey in the pretty fall sky at MMU at the end of my morning ride.

It’s been a cool two days commuting by bike, but not bad days. Some clouds have rolled through, but, on the other hand, I’ve had to wear sunglasses, too.

Winds don’t usually make for a great bike ride. If they are at your back, they can be your friend, but from any other direction they are a pain. That leaves too many pain directions.

Still, it was so nice Wednesday that I took the trail. It was also cool in the morning, so I wore winter gloves, one of which I lost when I started to feel warm and switched over to bike gloves.

Today was nice, twice, sun after clouds this morning and a sun this afternoon.

Fall, I think, is one of the nicest bike seasons. The winter forecast is not so good, with La Nina threatening cold and snow. Well, the cold I can usually bear—it’s snow that interrupts bike commuting.

At least winter is not here yet.

Sunday, October 16, 2011

The Poetry of Autumn

My sister Mimi wrote, and shared via a family e-mail group, a nice poem about a fall walk on the Duck Creek bike path, which runs through Davenport and Bettendorf, Iowa.

I especially like the vivid opening line:  “Red, gold, purple, bronze splashes against green, punctuation marks in a seasonal conversation.”

Fall is indeed a season of contrast.  Yesterday, Tristan and the other grandkids were over.  After a raucous, and fun, Skype session with Amanda, it was recreation time.  Nikayla wanted a walk—the other day, she and Tristan and I had walked in the neighborhood and discovered the joy of tossing leaves in the air, and she wanted a repeat.

Tristan?  As usual, his main request was:  “Bike?”

So bike we did.  Amanda, Nikayla, Amelia, Theresa and a baby grandson went for a stroll as Tristan and I went on our own bike ride.  It was cool and breezy, but beautifully blue in the way a clear day in October in Iowa can be, where is sun is wandering around the southern parts of the sky, too low to feel hot or oppressive, but high enough still so it doesn’t feel December or January weak.
Tristan and I paused and played at C Avenue park, but Mr. T was mainly into riding, so that’s what me mostly did.

Today, I should be grading, and I will be in a few minutes, but it was a beautiful ride to my office.  Despite being breezy, cool, and somewhat cloudy—the air was fresh after overnight sprinkles, the day a bit cooler than Saturday, and the air heavy with that walnut, leafy autumn odor of fallen leaves, ripe nuts and ripe berries—it was nice.

Well, if I were the poet my sister is, I might have penned some verse.  I can see why fall in Iowa awakens the muse.  Now, back to work.

Friday, October 14, 2011

Joe Had a Bad Day (Not Really)

That rhymes nicely, in a way, but it’s a lie.

The commute this morning was a bit windy and cool, but not bad.

I had to give students in two classes mid-term exams, which I haven’t graded yet, but I bet they didn’t do badly.

I scored a free lunch at Mount Mercy’s ACE and not only was it not bad, it was good. Doritos as the only way God intended them—as part of a walking taco.

I was inspired during one exam to fire off a rant on my Garden blog, but I don’t think it was too bad.

And I have another commuting earworm. Is that bad? You be the judge:

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Running Down A Dream On A Cool, Wet Fall Ride

My bike in my wet driveway at the start of the journey, and with the backdrop of clouds at journey's end.

I expected it to be cool this morning. It was, but not as cool as I expected. I was pretty warm in my sweater.

I expected it to be wet this morning. It was, but my driveway, a low area on the north side of an Iowa building, was much damper than any of the streets I had to pass through.

Despite clouds that were hanging around after yesterday’s rain, it wasn’t a bad morning for biking. And the forecast is for a better afternoon—already it looks nicer out my window.

I had my lights on for the ride, due to clouds. But it was a nice morning. For some reason, my morning earworm was courtesy of Tom Petty. After I got to the office, I looked it up on YouTube and had no idea how weird the video was. Still it’s a nice song to have stuck in your head for a 25 minute morning bike ride.

I’ll be running down the dream in more sunshine this afternoon!

Saturday, October 8, 2011

Glorious biking weather


Early October nature, a set on Flickr.

Despite my near death experience Monday, this week has been ideal for biking. A bit windy near the end, but not too much to make it unpleasant.

Here are some October photos to show what kinds of days I've had.

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

A New Biker Boy?

Mr. T may or may not be a biker some day, but one thing he and I agree on: We both would usually rather be outside. Mr. T in the bike trailer Saturday morning, ready for me to give him a ride. Later, we went for a walk in the woods behind the house, where I sat him on a dead tree to snap his picture.

It’s way too soon to know, and I don’t mean to presume anything about his future.

Because, for one thing, I’m only the grandfather. I am not the parent. I get to play with the boy, sugar him up and send him home.

And even Katy and Wyatt, Tristan’s parents, can’t determine for Mr. T what he will like or what he will do. Eventually, like all humans, Mr. T will devise his own path.

Maybe on two wheels?

Hard to say. Yet, when he came over for a visit Saturday, this busy, talking post-toddler little boy, not yet to his second year, mainly said one thing.


We have a bike trailer attached to Audrey’s bike—it’s a Schwinn trailer and she has a Schwinn bike and it seems to fit better than on my bike. When Mr. T comes over, he is anxious to have his helmet put on, so he can be strapped in and enjoy the world going by as I power this under-sized (for me) lady's bicycle with my legs.

Tristan’s love of biking, or at least being towed behind a bike, is a bit of a surprise, because sitting in the trailer tends to knock the helmet on his head slightly forward, so he’s riding around back there with a big plastic cap pulled low on his face, and I’m not sure he can see a darn thing.

Maybe he doesn’t need to see much. Maybe it’s the feel of motion, the sounds of the birds, the movement of air—beyond sight, biking is still an appealing sensuous experience, which is one reason I like it so much even as I always have my eyes wide open.

Well, Mr. T. We’ll have to wait and see. Will you one day be a new CR Biker?

Somehow, that would be nice. Maybe in 2025, Jon and I will repeat RAGBRAI for oh, the 10th time or so. Maybe.

And maybe we’ll have Mr. T along, too.

Big dreams. Even if that fantasy doesn’t come to pass, it will still be fun someday sooner for me and Mr. T to bike the byways of Cedar Rapids. Together.

Monday, October 3, 2011

In Which Someone Tries to Harm CR Biker

Eastern Avenue isn't quite this well lit, but it's not dark, either, and I do ride with lights. Paris at night (with bikes) from pictalogue on Flickr.

I’ve had run-ins with rude drivers before—as I wrote on this blog some time ago, a lawn service van once pulled right in front of me on a slick street during winter, for example

But, tonight’s adventure was special and especially chilling.

I had bell choir practice tonight, which didn’t end until 7:30, so I was biking home in dark night. With, I hasten to add, lights on—a flashing red light to the rear, two flashing lights, one on my bike, one on my helmet, to the front.

I was headed north on Eastern Avenue. I had crossed 29th Street, and it was a block or so before 32nd Street that I had the first encounter. A cream-colored Ford four-door sedan passed me, a bit close for comfort, and stopped a few feet in front of me. A voice yell out: “Get your ass off the road,” and then the car sped on.

I approached it while it was stopped at the corner of Eastern and 32nd. I was ready with some choice words of my own, but the car sped through the intersection, then turned around in the side parking lot of the Rockwell-Collins plant that is between 32nd and 35th streets on Eastern. The car entered the parking lot, sped to the next lot exit and turned left, south—towards me.

I had just stopped at the stop sign and had resumed riding north—and I was beside a parked car when the Ford in front of me crossed the center of the road and veered straight at me, heading south on the northbound side of the street.

It was intimidating, but the car stopped with inches to spare and then sped off.

Apparently, Mr. Ford driver forgot a few things. Like the fact that I wear glasses. Like when a Ford is behaving badly to me, I can recognize and describe a cream-colored Taurus to the police. And that I can read (and did read and recited on the way home) a license plate number.

I called the CR PD as soon as I got home, and they sent a patrol officer out very quickly. I had a brief chat with her, and, I thought, that was that. But no, about 30 minutes later, my phone rang and it was the patrol officer.

She had found the car. And the driver.

He told a dramatically different story—something about me turning right in front of him. His story is pretty ridiculous on the face of it—I ride north on Eastern Avenue all the way from 27th Street to 35th Street, continuing north on Zach Johnson Drive. Given where the car was and where I was when we had our encounter, I wasn’t turning in any direction and would not have “turned in front” of him.

And the jerk kid denied coming back at me at Rockwell-Collins.

Yes, a kid. The car apparently was driven by a 17-year-old boy who was out with one of his buddies. The buddy did the yelling.

Well, it doesn’t appear the CR PD can do anything beyond giving him a stern talking to—it would be a “he said, he said” situation, and the dumb young jerk had his jerk buddy with him too, so it would have been the word of two teens vs CR Biker.

Yet, as the officer told the kid, his story was not very believable. She reports that he at least was left in tears and was embarrassed in front of his parents.

Well, good. I hope he learned something and will grow, and I’m glad nothing worse happened to your biking correspondent for the sake of that life lesson.

The lesson: Even if you’re 17, it’s not OK to be a jerk behind the wheel. And kids, remember, if the old fart on the bicycle is healthy enough to pedal 10 miles a day, there’s a good chance he can read and recall license plate numbers.

Saturday, October 1, 2011

In Which I Attempt to Steal Sister’s Bike

Image of costume from yeah, a basket just like she would have on her bike.

There’s a new family legend out there in cyberspace. I’m not just Joe, mild-mannered bike commuter and college professor.

No, like Bad Horse, I’ve apparently ridden to the wild side.

I’m Joe, Bike Thief.

I was enjoying a beer in the new University Center at Mount Mercy University after the dedication ceremony Friday, when my cell phone rang. A raspy voice in code set up the heist. Actually a nice man whose nondescript name I don’t recall—Steve or Nick or something—told me “we have a wheel for you.”

He was referring to my rear wheel, where I had broken the spoke Wednesday. It was good news to hear from the bike shop Friday, and Saturday, today, I went to retrieve the bike.

The gentleman at Northtowne asked for my last name, which I gave. He then wheeled out a cream-colored Raleigh with a back rack. A lady’s bike, too. My manly non-Raleigh bike is black with no rack (I hang a basket on the front, wicked witch style).

I told them this bike wasn’t mine, and they quickly located the right one.

No harm done, until tonight, when my sister posted on Facebook, “hey Joe, hear you tried to steal my bike today.”

Yes, yes I did. Trying to join the Evil League of Evil, or whatever the Bad Horse-run group in “Dr. Horrible” was called. Not that I’m wild about a lady’s style bike—although I do tow grandchildren around riding my wife’s lady bike because that’s the one the trailer hitch is attached to—but I did like that rack.

Still, give up my wicked witch basket? Naw. Lets hope the looks alone win me points with those to whom I want to appear evil, like college freshmen or Bad Horse.