Friday, September 28, 2012

A Bike Ride In the Dusk

Maple leaves with almost full moon in background.  Tree is near Indian Creek along bike trail in Marion.

My wife and one of my daughters were ready to do some shopping, and suggested I might want to go on a bike ride.

Well, they were right.  It was a beautiful fall late afternoon, just after 6, the warm air of the evening getting its first twilight chill.  It was light enough to ride and take some photos, but late enough for that special autumn evening air.  Summer air, to me, can seem “used,” when it’s hot and humid.  It feels like it’s been exhaled by some large, unpleasant mammal before you event get to breath it in.  Crisp fall evening air feels fresh and new.

Ivy along new bike trail linking Cedar Rapids and Marion glows in late afternoon setting sun.
There are still some night sounds, a few die-hard crickets chirping in the woods, but since we’ve had a couple of freezing nights, the insect noises have died down.  It was quiet and comfortable as I rode along, stopping now and then to snap some fall photos.

I rode south along C Avenue to the trial that runs behind Walgreens.  There are some “road work ahead” signs posted, and the primitive trail in Cedar Rapids has been cleared of brush.  One suspects that the city is finally going to do some limestone resurfacing to match the already completed trail in Marion.

Hawthorne in Marion park near trail.  Leaves are not yet turning, but fall berries are pretty.
I rode to the Marion trail, then did the southern loop through the Frisbee golf course, back over by Menards, along a few quiet streets, through a city park and then back home via the trail and C Avenue again.

What a ride!  I needed my lights, but I enjoyed myself, and I hope you enjoy seeing some of what I saw.

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

A Fine New Helmet For A Fine Fall Ride

Me in new helmet.  I am surprised how cockeyed my glasses look, but doubt those who know me are surprised.
Audrey bought me a new helmet!

I had complained that the lights on my old one weren’t working well.  I can’t turn off the flashing red rear light on my old helmet, and when I turn on the headlight, it turns itself off after an indeterminate time—sometimes a few minutes, sometimes a few seconds.  Suddenly having that light switch off while I’m riding some dark section of a Cedar Rapids street is not fun.

Anyway, I had in mind getting just new helmet lights, but didn’t find any I wanted at my usual bike shop, Northtowne.  My sister Cate suggested trying Hall’s a downtown bike shop that she said may have more of a gadget selection.

Meanwhile, on a separate shopping outing to Wal-Mart, Audrey spotted what became my new helmet, with built-in lights, and bought it.

I’m of mixed mind.  On the one hand, I like having the lights separate because you don’t have to buy a new helmet should a light break.  On the other hand, helmets do not last forever, and as long as the light lasts for a decent interval, say two years, having to toss it when the light breaks is not a bad thing.

Well, we had a bit of a struggle with the new helmet this morning.  One of the small plastic tabs that they add when they factory-install the batteries did not want to come out and required a partial disassemble and reassemble, testing the outer limits of my modest mechanical skills.

Pumpkins at a HyVee Drug Store along the Cedar River Trail.
But, the new helmet was on my head for the morning ride.  It made me feel a little giddy, so I took the trail route, a bit of an indulgence, and shot some fall color photos.  I’ll put a few here and more on my other blog.

For now, I’ve got a new helmet and new lights in said helmet.  Not sure why this makes me happy—constricted brain blood flow?—but it does.
Sumac along the trail.

Saturday, September 22, 2012

Sis Shows Me What’s On Beyond Lafayette

I got done with a retreat at MMU at mid-day, and headed home, where I took a nap. When I woke up, I hopped on my bike and rode over to my sister’s house.  I had talked with Cate earlier, and we agreed to meet for a 3 p.m. ride north on the Cedar Valley Nature Trail to where the pavement ends.  I had not gone north of Lafayette yet, and wanted to see what there was.

As it turned out, I got a bit lost on the way to her house due to the never-ending roadwork on 74th Street Northeast, so I was a bit late getting there.  Then we headed off into the a cool fall north headwind.

Despite the wind, it was a nice day for a ride—cloudy and cool, and only a bit breezy.  Around 10 miles north on the trail, the pavement ends at Schultz Road, and Cate suggested we carry on for about two more miles to stop for a break at the depot in Center Point.

So we did.  I didn’t start to snap any photos until the return journey, so here they are:

Starting out, Cate pauses near fall-looking maple in Center Point to put on gloves.

Headed out on crushed limestone northern part of trail.   Shadows will grow!

Combine near road that the trail crossed.  Sky is sunny with a few clouds, harvest weather.

Closed?  Not to us.  Note that across the road the trail is paved.  We really, really appreciate the paved surface!

Near end of new paving, about to get to area of "old" paving . Note how Cate's shadow has grown.

On my own, after leaving Cate at home.  Sun sets as I get ready to cross Boyson Road at C Avenue Northeast.

 It was indeed a fun ride.  The trail pavement is indeed nice, and I’m sure I’ll enjoy this northern route next summer during RAGBRAI prep.  But, now it’s Saturday night and I have none of my weekend work done.  Yet, I’m feeling pretty good.  It just was that kind of a day.

Friday, September 21, 2012

A Few Words of Advice To A New Biker

I was pleasantly surprised to learn, via Facebook, that someone I know who has not ridden a bike in more than a decade has started to cycle, a bit, again.

Well, bravo.  Welcome to the biker universe.  As a long-time resident of this existence, pleas indulge me as I offer some advice.

First of all, take it easy.  I know that your legs were in pain following your first ride.  One of the prime rules of biking is that it only has to be as vigorous as you make it—it’s OK to go slow.  Even a slow biker will get around amazingly quick compared to a pedestrian, and you don’t need to compete with the gazelle bikers out there.

Second, get a light.  Even if you don’t ever plan to ride in the dark, it’s a good idea.  The days are drawing short, and sometimes even clouds can made a light a good idea.

Third, keep it up.  Biking is like anything.  I bet it will grow on you.  You’ll start to notice the trees, the little houses or lawn ornaments you used to pass by in a car without seeing.  Biking means being out in the world, and the world is an interesting place.

Fourth, don’t let jerks discourage you.  Sooner or later, probably sooner, these days, you’ll encounter a rude driver who might shout something or zoom angrily by you.  Well, even an interesting world has its percentage of jerks.  I would hope you choose not to let them have any impact on you.

Fifth, don’t let yourself discourage you.  The sore legs will heal.  If you keep biking, it won’t be long before the legs are not sore anymore.

Well, that’s it.  Somehow, I doubt this new rider will be doing RAGBRAI any time soon.  Then again, I didn’t think I would do RAGBRAI either, and I was wrong.

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

What Omen Is The Silent Snake?

End of the day sky looking west on the Cedar Valley Nature Trail north of Hiawatha and Robbins.
The year is slowly closing in, weather wise we are into early fall, and astronomically that season is just hours away.  By the weekend, dark outweighs light in our sky.  Tonight I was feeling a bit tired and overwhelmed.  It’s been a good week, but an exhausting one, and I feel like I have not made enough progress on the mountain of grading that is before me.

So, naturally, I took the long way home.  I rode the trail, and didn’t turn east in Hiawatha, but instead continued north for a few miles.  I probably only went about 4 miles north, just barely into the new paved area of the trail, but it was a peaceful, much-needed midweek break.  New grass if greening along the new paved area, which gives it a less “raw” look, which was nice.

At the edge of twilight, there were still many users on the trail, bikers, walkers, joggers and even roller bladers.  I was running with lights, and glad to, as a slightly cloudy sky made the late afternoon light fade even more quickly.

Looking north at Cedar Valley Nature Trail.
As I passed a flat stretch by a cornfield, I was struck at how pretty the sky was, how like a typically “prairie” it was.  So I will show two views, one looking west and the other north.

Then, I turned to home.  I had some work to do to get ready for a morning class, and after that installed Office on my home office computer—it turned out, surprise, that after all that I didn’t get around to the grading.

Well, poo.  It will be a busy weekend, too.  Four weeks in, and the semester feels like it’s suddenly on overdrive.

I had a Fat Tire tonight, and it helps, a little. But I think the bike ride helped even more.

As I headed home in the twilight, I passed a snake on the trail, and was glad that I didn’t accidentally run over it (as a gardener, I consider Iowa snakes to be friends).  Then, it spit rain, briefly.  Well, I was willing to endure snakes and rain, two good omens in this dry year, in my book.

Here’s hoping for a fine fall weekend soon with less commitments so I can finally take the trail north as far as the new pavement will allow.  I’ll hope my sister is available, but I’ll be happy to ride either way.

Monday, September 17, 2012

It’s A Cool, Cool Autumn Tonight

Parked in a hallway, locked to a table, it looks like a beast peeking around a corner.  My bike in Warde Hall at MMU.  It was inside during the afternoon rain, and will take me home tonight.
A front moved through today and brought a bit of rain, which is all to the good, but the north winds behind it seem pretty chilly.

My bike, if you recall, had a broken spoke last week.  It’s back, now.  I got a call Saturday while I was out of town saying the bike was ready, and the shop was closed Sunday.  Today, at mid-day, Audrey gave me a ride.

As I rode my bike from the shop back to campus, rain started fitfully spitting.  I parked inside, locking Old Blackie to a table. Anybody could lift the table and free her, but it would be a minor hassle and the wheels would still not turn.

Anwyay, a bit of rain passed through, and now there are the cold winds.  The ride home, due in about hour, will be a bit darker due to clouds, so I’m sure lights will be called for.  I do have a very bright reflective garment—not my vest, but a similar bright hoodie—to wear.

All in all, I’m glad to be riding again.  There may be some rain later this week, but as the year cools off, the riding becomes even more pleasant—until, of course, it gets really cold and it’s not as fun anymore.

Still, despite the wind, I think I’ll enjoy my brisk ride home.  Here’s hoping the spokes all stay intact!