Tuesday, January 31, 2012

50 on the Final Day of January

It was a nice March day in Iowa today—just odd that it was last day of January.

Then again, the warm temps were even stranger at the start of the month. At least it’s almost February, a month that traditionally is warmer than January.

But not this warm. Not 50s.

It was weird how wet the pavement was this morning. It was wet everywhere. Not just where snow was melting and water running across it. It did not get below freezing last night, and there must have been a lot of moisture in the air. And the relatively cool pavement gave the moisture a nice place to form a heavy, heavy dew.

Well, blog fans, I’m sure you’ll be relieved to note that CR Biker waited until afternoon before heading to the office today. It was still very damp in places, but not damp everywhere. My cool yellow vest is being washed tonight due to the tossed mud of this damp day. Lubing my chain is a daily chore due to the wet.

But heck, can’t complain. Sunshine? 50? Heck yes I’m back on the bike again.

Sunday, January 29, 2012

Twice In a Lifetime?

Des Moines Register map of 2012 towns.

Last year, I did the full week of RAGBRAI with my son Jon. The decision to do so was fairly spontaneous, based mostly on the fact that he invited me while Audrey and I were staying in Seattle with him and his lovely wife Nalena.

It turned out to be quite an experience. I had avoided RAGBRAI in the past because it seemed like the kind of noisy, circus, crowded event that doesn’t appeal to a person who prefers a good book or an old movie to a disco.

Yet, I had a great time. It was, I think, the combination of hanging around with Jon and conquering the physical challenge. Serial eating, a key part of RAGBRAI, didn’t hurt either—I don’t mind Hobbit-like eating habits. Second breakfast—eggs in some cheese sauce with sausage, for instance, or a ham ball on baked beans—seems like a good idea.

And I met up with a Mount Mercy group for one day, although I managed to miss them for lunch. Oh well.

Anyway, so this year I figured I would do a day or two. Frankly, that’s still the plan, but the route is very tempting. See the Des Moines Register map that I took a screen shot of on Ragbrai.com. It starts in northwest Iowa and passed close to the area where we lived—I wonder how close the route will go to Early, Iowa? It goes from Cherokee to Lake View, which means it cuts through that area of Sac County …

And it ends in Clinton, Iowa. I went from third through eighth grade in Clinton, and played a lot a Riverview Park, where the ride will terminate.

It’s going to be a while before the full route is announced. I will be curious to see how they get into and out of Cedar Rapids. Last year, eastern Iowa was the worst due to traffic—hopefully CR will put Iowa City to shame on that score.

A day or two? For sure. The full week? Don’t know. That worked last year partly due to the group I was in.

But, now that I see the overnight stops on the route—being advertised by the Register as a much easier ride than last year’s—I will confess it.

I’m tempted.

Thursday, January 26, 2012

The Biker Is Back With a Wet Back

Why I parked my bike inside, and my bike parked inside. Why 3 gnomes? My point-and-shoot has had a sick computer for a while, but seemed healed today, for some odd reason. Must be the Karma from my bike computer. I was just trying the backlit shooting mode.

There was some slosh to my rides today, but I decided to take a chance and try it.

And it wasn’t too bad. I altered my route and stayed on E Avenue headed south rather that ride my usual route west of Kenwood School. I know that the back streets were ice and snow covered, and I didn’t want to try them on two wheels.

So I took 35th Street from E to Eastern, a busier street than I usually prefer, but the employees at Rockwell-Collins were apparently at work before 8 a.m., and the traffic wasn’t bad.

I was a bit surprised, because it was foggy this morning, that many drivers didn’t have their lights on. Mine were. I had a few spots where the pavement was caked with ice and straddled my bike with my feet on the ground and skated across, but they were few and far between.

So, a bit damp, I arrived at work. The ride home was wetter but less icy—only one “skating” spot, and in this case, I was actually more sloshing through slush.

Has biking season started again? Not sure. Snow is in the forecast for Friday night and I don’t know if I’ll bother go to campus Friday at all (one term has just ended).

Still, after a long bike break, it was nice to be on two wheels. I had to wash my new vest once I got home, but the ride was pleasant. Given the amount of free pizza, scones and pretzels I ate today (thank you, biodiesel class, English class that went to Britain and MMU ACE) it was good that I rode again.

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Playing The Waiting Game

Ice on my drive, many streets are in worse shape. Come on, old Sol, melt it away!

It’s a bit misty-cloudy in Iowa at mid-day today, which is too bad. I’m playing the waiting, game, just hanging around, hoping for the ice to melt.

Many of the streets that I would commute on might actually be passable, but many are not. We need some ice melting.

It will be warm enough today. You don’t have to get to 32 degrees to see ice recede—even when the air temperature is in the 20s, sunshine will warm pavement enough to turn a little bit of ice to water, and in dry winter air, trace amounts of water quickly dissipate. And water, a tricky substance, can go from solid to vapor.

But, I’m clearly nowhere near ready to ride. I expressed the wish earlier this week to get back on two wheels by week’s end, but on Wednesday that looks pretty dicey. Maybe if the sun shines for a while this afternoon ….

Probably wishful thinking. See photo of my driveway. As ice encrusted as it is, it’s much clearer than many back streets in Cedar Rapids.

I can and will alter my route some once I think my driveway is clear enough. When will that be? Don’t know.

Waiting, just waiting.

In the meantime, yeah, I shouldn’t … but I did:

Sunday, January 22, 2012

You Need a Sleigh to Bike Today …

Jan. 21--Amelia as bike mechanic, Tristan in sled.

It may seem weird on a day with freezing rain falling from the sky, but the biking forecast is improved a bit in the coming week.

We’ve been through an active patch of Iowa weather lately. After an unusual warm spell that allowed me to bike early in J Term, snow has returned to Iowa for the past week and a half. I’ve been vanning it for the past week, since that fateful ride last Sunday, and will try to be a bit more patient as I wait for the slick white compacted snow on Cedar Rapids’ unplowed side streets to slowly melt.

But, there is nothing set to fall from the sky for nine days of the 10 day forecast on the “local weather” forecast I get form Microsoft. Not that the MS weather is particularly the most reliable, but with luck I might be on two wheels by week’s end. A frustrated biker can dream, anyway.

Saturday was a lesson in alternative winter transport. I had a “play date” with my grandson Tristan, and we spent several hours outside, trudging through snow that was sometimes waist deep on a 2-year-old.

But, he loved it. It took some persuading to get him to try a sled, but then I got to play pack animal and pull his sleigh through the snow for a while, and he was giggly, especially when headed downhill.

As I detailed on my other blog, he discovered the utility of snow as ammo when a tempting older gentleman is handy to serve as “target.” He always wants a walk in the woods, and so we went through the get into the semi wild Dry Creek bed behind the house, where he was carried half the time and trudged through deep snow the other half.

Water, it turns out, is fascinating, particularly when it’s just a small patch of bubbling open stream under the C Avenue bridge.

Well, I’m on bike holiday, snow induced and now ice enforced. But the weather ahead has some promise to it, and it was nice to have a bit of outdoor time, even if a sleigh is more practical than a bike right now.

Here’s hoping for more biking in the coming weeks!

Sunday, January 15, 2012

What the F Avenue? Or Why is my Butt so Wet?

The good, the bad and the ugly. First the bad: E Ave, white glaze. The ugly: F Ave, where my sense of foreboding started, half slush, half white ice. Finally, 35th Street, looking like one would expect all streets to look three days after snow.

Well, blog fans, it was a surprising and interesting day for CR Biker. For the second time, I slipped on ice on a day when I really had no business slipping on ice.

You see, it snowed last week in Cedar Rapids. Four inches of fluffy white stuff fell from the skies Wednesday and blew around Thursday.

We were a little worried about whether there would be school Thursday, but there was.

Anyway, I chalked up last week as a loss, from a biking point of view. Thursday and Friday were minivan commute days.

But I watched the neighborhood streets. We had a cool but sunny day Saturday and an even warmer sunny day today. Brentwood Drive and C Avenue were bare pavement this morning, which seems right, 72 hours after any snow problems. Surely, I thought, it ought to be OK to ride my bike today.


I can see why the people in Kenwood neighborhood think their city government has forgotten them. Or at least the street department has. Beyond main streets, old CR is a slick mess. There is either a slushy slurry on the street, waiting for nightfall to turn to black ice, or, even more widespread, a thick frosting of polished snow, a special white glaze which grows slicker on a warm day like today as its surface becomes more polished.

I had no trouble navigating sidewalks (nicely cleared) to Rockwell Collins or transiting Rockwell Collins parking lots (not so nicely cleared, but RC, you’ve got CR beat all to heck) until I came to the crossing of Collins Road at F Avenue. As soon as I crossed Collins, I entered a treacherous multi-block zone of winter horror.

I had a harrowing ride to my office early this afternoon. And slush makes for a damp and chilled backside, I can tell you. Once at my office, I hoped the afternoon hours of sun would improve the situation, and at 4 I started for home.

But the temperature had started to fall, and rather than improving, the streets had grown even more treacherous.

Hence the slip, which happened on E Avenue north of Kenwood School.

Now, there is good news. Two years ago, the last time I slipped on ice, I was badly hurt and had a sore right knee for months. The knee was still touchy when Jon issued his RAGBRAI invitation last year, but now all is pretty well in my knee-ther regions because today I was going very slowly (about 4.4 mph as my still working computer recorded) when the bike attempted to buck me off by slipping sideways.

I had time to react and put my feet down. What could have been a disaster instead became a non-event, like Rick Perry’s or Jon Huntsman’s presidential campaigns.

I’m safe and sound, and not sore, at least not in body. But I’m a bit sore at the city of CR. When we residents shovel our walks, we’re expected to get down to bare pavement. We don’t leave an inch of snow to compress in traffic to a white glaze.

And I’m not some Stephen Bloom, some outsider who is a Joey Come Lately to Iowa. I graduated from Sacred Heart School in Clinton in 1972 and Muscatine High School in Muscatine in 1976 and Marycrest College in Davenport in 1982. I lived for 10 years in a tiny village in northwestern Iowa.

I know snow. I know Iowa snow. I’ve seen many Iowa cities wrestle with snow plowing. None, I am sad to report, as pathetically as Cedar Rapids, the land that plows forgot. Yeah, the main drags are nicely cleared, and that is a big job.

But ALL the streets need to be plowed, Ron, et al. As I wrote in this blog after my first spill—and I still mean it today: Mayor Ron, if you really want to favorably impress the voters of CR, take one dramatic step. Plow the darn streets.

It can’t be that hard. In fact, in all my Iowa residences and years, I’ve never seen a hamlet, village or town that had so much of that odd white frosting that dominates CR’s quiet streets. I think the fifth season is a time of traction to recover from injuries (or a time of no traction that causes them).

It seems other towns can plow even quite streets down to the bare pavement.

Why can’t we?

Bah. I had been all excited this morning, I wrote on my garden blog about what a springy day it was, and as I got ready to ride I put on sunglasses, yeah, due to the snow, but also due to my sunny mood. It lasted until I crossed Collins Road. I had a cheerful earworm all planned, CR, until you spoiled it. Oh well, I did have the shades, so even if it no longer matches the mood of this post, here it is: