Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Lunch With Bill and Builders

Bill in Ellis Park.
Monday’s bike ride was almost pure pleasure.  Almost.  There was a bit of a poignant note to it, too.

I rode to the north end of the Cedar River Trail beyond Hiawatha and Robins, and there was a sight to behold—actual construction/paving trucks on the actual trail.  The trail about 3 miles north of Robins has been closed all summer—not convenient for RAGBRAI training—for paving a few miles north to Central City.  It’s been frustrating seeing the serious-looking barriers and nothing else, and today was the first sight at the south end of the construction zone of actual work taking place.  My hope, of course, is that they started at the north end and are finishing the south end, but I suspect it will be some time before the trail is opened.

The last update on linncountrytrail.org was from May and said the project was ahead of schedule due to good weather, and the trail “could be opened before the end of summer.”

Well, I don’t want to sound whiney.  Along with, I’m sure, most Cedar Rapids bikers, I’m thrilled that more of the trail will be paved.  The ride south to Ely is nice, and it will be great to be able to head north, so a few months of inconvenience now are totally worth it.

A sight for sore eyes--the north end construction site.
And it was great to see the truck.  Construction is underway!  In fact, construction, for one reason or another, became the theme of this Monday ride.  I saw work going on to replace lights at the railroad crossing on 42nd Street NE in Cedar Rapids, continued exterior work at the new federal courthouse, some construction barriers at Veteran’s Memorial Auditorium adjacent to the newly opened City Hall, and, of course, work at the Five Seasons Center or whatever it’s called now.

I had my trusty new Canon with me and present some building photos—not bothering to show all the sights, by the way.  There was more work going on than I bothered to edit and post.

Never noticed before, but the big company downtown
is not Quaker Oats, but "Quaker Oars." Do they
mold paddles from grain-based plastics?
Cranes seem to be a part of the Cedar Rapids skyscape these days.  My personal favorite is the new central library.  If I do RAGBRAI again in the future, I’ll still find time to relax in the library.  A big new library right adjacent to the bike trail—well, blog fans, how could it get better than that?

Anyway, when I turned south, I decided that Ellis Park would be my lunch spot for an early afternoon stop.  The odd thing about the ride to Ellis Park is that much of it is on an under-used west side river walkway, disconnected from a nearby under-used bike path, and then a slightly iffy jaunt down Ellis Boulevard before you get to the park.  I kind of wish the city would simply sign and paint the river walk for bike use, and there could easily be a nice, continuous bike trail linking the east side downtown trail at Sokol Park to a west side river trail that goes all the way to Ellis Park.

The poignant part of the ride?  If you’re biking to Ellis Park, then when you get onto the nice, new, levee-topping east side bike trail, what’s on your left is a partial wasteland of flood devastation.  There are a few houses, but mostly block after block that was swept away by the Cedar River.  Two years after the mighty flood, there is a lot of good that has been done in Cedar Rapids (see the library and courthouse), but a lot of scars, too.

New federal courthouse being finished, conveniently on the bike trail.
If I commit a federal crime, I'll be able to bike to my trial on the trail.
Bicycle parking at new federal courthouse, more convenient than car parking, I'd wager.

Voters have twice rejected funding for west-side protection.  I don’t know why.  Lack of trust, I suppose, but I voted “yes” both times.  Tax me and protect my city, please.

Well, enough of politics and back to our tale.

I arrived at Ellis Park on a gorgeous, warm but not hot, summer afternoon and ate lunch with Bill.  William Shakespeare.

There is a “Shakespeare Garden” in the park, a bit of faux historic kitsch.  It’s not quite as impressive as the tree museum in Storm Lake, Iowa, which is an idea maybe Cedar Rapids should repeat—only can we make it the historic moss or fungus museum?  I’m kidding, let’s stick with trees.
Work on RR lights at 42nd Street.

In Storm Lake, Iowa, they have trees in a park along the lake that come from seeds or shoots of trees that are somehow associated with historic figures or events.  It’s both weird and cool at the same time.  Like a Shakespeare Garden for no particular reason in Cedar Rapids.  How about a Vonnegut garden?  Let’s do it before Iowa City wakes up.

Anyway, the literary park within the park is a nice, a quit alcove for a biker’s brown-bag (actually, green lunch box) meal.  And, as I looked across the Cedar River, of course, there was a utility vehicle doing something along the power lines that follow a railroad right-of-way there.

I headed back, crossed the river on one of the one-ways north, re-linked to the trail, then turned around at Sokol Park and headed north on the east side trail.

A new furnace is being installed at my house Tuesday, so if I take a ride, it will have to be an early evening jaunt—so it might be a while before the bard and I break bread together again.  But Monday’s ride was beautiful.  And I’m getting excited just thinking about it.

They’re paving the trail!
Convention Center downtown, being rebuilt.

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