Saturday, December 29, 2012

In Which CR Biker Contemplates An Escape From Iran

From the official movie site, Ben in grey jacket, back to us, with fleeing diplomats pretending to scout movie locations in a (sigh) yelllow VW bus.  Where are the bikes?

I just saw the movie “Argo” at the Collins Road Theater in Cedar Rapids.  It’s nice to see Ben Affleck in a historic drama in which he doesn’t have a silly romance or an urge to re-write the history of the Doolittle Raid.

And, among many memorable actors, it has Alan Arkin.  It’s a genuine pleasure to see you again on the big screen, Alan.  Hope to catch you again soon.

It’s an excellent movie, and it featured a tense scene of Ben driving the fleeting Americans around Tehran in a VW microbus.  Among my other reactions to the movie was: “Where can I get that bus?  That looks fun to drive.”

Argo has a more relevant—more relevant to this blog—mystery.  Six Americans fled from the US Embassy in Tehran, and ended up being sheltered by the Canadian ambassador.  To get them out, there were competing ideas, including the “Bicycle Idea.”

It’s 300 miles from Turkey to Tehran, according to the film.  Some characters in the movie suggested the BI—getting the diplomats bicycles so they could cover that distance on two wheels.  Thus would have been born USGBRAI—Uncle Sam’s Great Bike Rice Across Iran.  If it worked, and they decided to repeat it, it could have been USAGBRAI, pronounced “us-ag-brie.”  Taking place each winter, with small Persian towns competing to attempt to thwart the fleeing band of Yankees with roadblocks, USAGBRAI would be the hostile off-season counterpoint to RAGBRAI.

I wonder what bikes they would have used?  In the late 1970s, I was riding what is still my favorite bike, a 1974 Schwinn Continental, which sadly broke for good in this century, but I’m not sure those would have been good for a 300-mile stealthy journey across semi-mountainous terrain in winter.

Would they have been on six fat-tired mountain bikes?  Did such things exist in 1979?

Anyway, I suppose the “Argo” ploy worked better.  Still, it would have been nice if bicycles had somehow been part of the plot.

Then Ben and Alan could have told each other: “Argo bike yourself.”
John Goodman, Alan Arkin and Ben Affleck. All were good in the movie "Argo."  Image again from movie's web site.  I'm sure Goodman is just saying "Argo bike yourself."

Monday, December 24, 2012

In Which Snow Ends The Biking Season For Now

Snow-covered sidewalk at MMU on Sunday.  They do a good job clearing walks, but the U is closed.  Most streets are better than this, but some are like this, and it's not clear enough for biking.

A snowstorm on Thursday of last week has left the streets of Cedar Rapids too slick and snowy for biking.  To give the city credit, I scouted the streets to MMU and found that that weren’t coated with that special white snow icing CR usually leaves behind on quiet residential avenues—but there’s still too much snow and ice to make two wheels a practical way to get around.

Today is Christmas Eve, and a light frosting of snow, less than an inch, was added as a nice holiday frosting to the world.

Well, even if it might be a while before the streets are bare enough for me to resume commuting via bicycle, I still say Merry Biking Christmas to all of you out there.  And here’s hoping for bare pavement in the new year!

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

First Ride With Basket-to-Wheel Renewal

Views of my new wheel and new basket. 
Note how clean the new chain looks! 
Blogger is being poppy about the vertical photos, again. 
So you'll have to turn your heads to the side.

Well, I manage to hook on two lights to my new basket, so this morning was the first ride on the new “strong” rear wheel and with the new front basket.

Both performed well, as far as I can tell.  The ride home tonight with lights ablaze will be a bit of a test (although it won’t be a late ride).

Anyway, the new basket caused the biggest adjustment, and I’m not sure I’m totally done.  The front lights I have are constructed on the assumption that a biker would hook them to a stem or handlebars—but because I put a large briefcase in a front basket, those placements don’t work for me.  The old basket had an open design which made it easy to MacGyver the lights into place.

The more closed-mesh design of the new basket meant neither of my customary front lights had an obvious place to be installed.  So, I enlarged two holes of the mesh with a screwdriver to put one light in place, and simply used a bungee cord to attach the other light to the bottom of the basket.

I think that will work.  As Red Green once said:  “This is only temporary.  Unless, of course, it works.”

Well, the new wheel was fine.  It had one huge advantage—I could use the ultimate hill-climbing gear without having the derailleur grind against the rear spokes.  I hope that lasts.  I know, I know, I should have learned to turn the adjusting screws to prevent the problem on my previous bike—I just never seemed to find the time when the penultimate gear worked well enough on the steepest hill (“the” hill at MMU) that I normally climb.

Still, hill-climbing gear, I’m glad you’re back.  Please say a while.

It spit a bit of snow on me as I rode in, so I parked inside to keep the new chain dry.  It’s about 3 p.m. right now and I’ll be leaving soon—but it’s cloudy enough that it already looks fairly dark.  So I’ll be testing the lights in their new configuration.

Here’s hoping that all goes well, although I expect it will!

Monday, December 17, 2012

In Which CR Biker Is Seeing Future Snow

KCRG weather map of snow forcast, which I got from The Gazette,  Cedar Rapids is right in the pretty teal "y'all are gonna get dumped on" zone.

I regret that I did not bike this morning.  The reasons are complex.

The bike was in the shop Thursday of last week for what I thought was a broken spoke.  Turns out the rear axle had also snapped, so the bike shop recommended a new, hardier, wheel.

In the meantime, Audrey and I picked out a new basket, and installed the bracket to hold it.

But what with one thing and another, including an enjoyable time performing with a bell choir in a concert Sunday and some nice family time that day, I didn’t get my lights switched over from the old basket, and ran out of time this morning before I had to get to campus to give students a final exam.

“Give,” I suppose, is not as good a word as “administer.”  The A word sounds more sinister, and I’m sure in this season of giving that my students thought of it that way.

So I drove today.  It was cloudy and cool, but I totally could have biked.  And now this is in the forecast.

Well, I hope I get those lights in the right spots tonight.  I for sure want to ride Tuesday—it may be the last time for a while  Snow is finally on the way.

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

In Which A Faithful Friend Fails

Above:  Note the "hook" on the right, which is not hooked to anything because the basket is broken.  Below: The whole photo is a bit on a slant, but note how one side of the basket droops.

Epic fail.  My beat up old front basket is now beaten.  12/12/12 wasn’t a lucky day for it.

The basket predates my bicycle—it was the front basket on a previous bike for several years before that bike fell apart and Audrey bought me my current bicycle.  This basket has been on RAGBRAI twice—as much as I have.

But yesterday, when I parked my bike and then intended to go into the house to open the garage door, the bike suddenly tipped and landed, as it usually does the infrequent times when it falls, on the front basket.

Well, that’s happened several times before, including at least once on each RAGBRAI.  Part of the basket frame actually snapped due to a RAGBRAI fall, but I was able to fix the basket, two years ago, with some wire.

It’s a peculiarity of my particular bike that it tends to be a bit tippy when using the kickstand so there is a fall now and then.  So I merely picked the bike up and put it away.

This morning, when biking into work, I noticed the basket looked drunkenly lopsided; it was badly leaning, tilted to the left.

Well, it would.  Lean to the left I mean, since it’s the bicycle basket of a southpaw political liberal.

On closer inspection, a weight-bearing wire that connects to the brace that holds the basket on the bike is snapped.  That’s the death knell for this particular basket

Anyway, it’s not the first, but rather the second, front basket I’ve had for bike commuting purposes (and no, I am not counting the small plastic flowered one that a daughter of mine got for me as a joke).  This one has lasted longer and been more places, but it’s just a basket.

It’s we who endow things with meaning, we who miss the house we grew up in or the old family sedan or that fire-engine bedspread that was on our bed during our childhood.  It’s not the things so much that mean much to us—instead, it’s the memories and feeling we have which the things trigger.

Anyway, it’s a mere basket.  It’s a utilitarian thing.  It’ll easy to move on to a new basket.  But I admit on an irrational level a tiny bit of silly sadness as if a friend were passing out of my life.  It’s not you, basket, it’s me.  Still, so long.

Friday, December 7, 2012

In Which CRBiker Parks Near USN Donnelly

My bike in an unusual parking spot.

My bike parking adventures at MMU continued today.  It was not as mysterious as the incredible shift north during the day that I wrote of earlier this week.  Today, in honor of Pearl Harbor Day, however, I was parked near the MMU building that most resembles a battleship.

No kidding.  When I walk across campus, I often think that the triangular prow of the Donnelly Center would look at home with a nice gun turret on top.

Anyway, I was parked there today because a project was going on at the northeast side of Warde Hall.  Pigeons have made the rafter area their little dinosaur village, which means the area is stained with dinosaur poop.  The maintenance folks noted that an entrance to Warde Hall would be closed today, and they let me know when I asked that it was a good idea to park my bike elsewhere today.  MMU brought in a contractor to both fix the aging gutters of Warde Hall, and also to install some rows of spikes in pigeon town to encourage its residents to move on.

Hopefully, not to the upper decks of the USN Donnelly.
Work underway on pigeon eeviction at Warde Hall.

Monday, December 3, 2012

My sister thinks I need lasers

She's totally right, of course.  Cate posted a message on Facebook saying that I need these lights, which create "instant" bike lanes at night.

See the video.  I do need them. I also need the techno music as my biking background theme (although I guess then I would be less likely to hear the birds, so maybe not--or maybe only at night when their either aren't birds or I don't want to hear them anyway).

Cool as these lights are, they would be slightly cooler if the lasers were powerful enough to slice through steel.  See if a bully in an SUV would ever crowd CR Biker then!

Saturday, December 1, 2012

In Which CR Biker’s Bike Mysteriously Moves at MMU

The Wednesday mystery.  When I parked Wednesday morning, the front wheel was on the sidewalk.  But this is the bike Wednesday evening around 4--note that the wheel is far from cement now.  How did the bike move a foot north?
Wednesday, 4 p.m.  I’m ready to head home, a bit earlier than usual.  I have bells on Monday until 7, Tuesday until 6 and a newspaper meeting Thursdays that starts at 6:15 and ends just in time for me to cycle quickly home in order to not miss the start of “Project Runway All Stars.”

Anyway, so Wednesday is one of my few “early” days, along with Friday, meaning it is not pitch-black when I head for home on those two days of the week.

And when I went to my bike to prepare for the ride home Wednesday afternoon, the surprise was that my bike was not where it had been.  It had moved.

That’s a bit disturbing.  Am I stuck in some new Stephen King horror story, this one about a bicycle that is really a demon from Hell?  Called “Christina” (because Christine was a car)?  Or, since it’s a bicycle, “Barbara Ann?”  I don’t know why that sounded like a demon bike’s name, it just did.  Like a bike that could sever your limbs.  “Take my hand, oh Barbara Ann ….”

OK, a better bike name would be “Daisy,” which at least references an old bike song, but who would have fear running down their spine caused by a demon from Hell named “Daisy?”

Anyway, while it had clearly moved, it was still easy to find because it only moved a few feet.  Some weeks ago, the maintenance department at MMU relocated the bike rack by Warde Hall into a garden area near the building.  While this means that I’m not parking on pavement—which is a bit disconcerting—it was a positive move due to poo.  Pigeons perch in the upper regions of Warde Hall and freely let their feces fly on sidewalk, pedestrian and parked bicycle.  So the rack move to the garden meant my bike would no longer be sitting all day in the pestilence pigeon poo zone.  I approve.

But, when the rack was first moved, it meant that when I parked, the front wheel of my bike would always intrude, a little, on the sidewalk leading from the Pit parking lot to Warde Hall.  This made me feel bad.  Not really, really bad, mind you, just a minor “meh” bad since there was still plenty of sidewalk to use.  I was a bit concerned, having a black bike that stays parked until black night, that some unwary walker could one evening become entangled in my front basket.

Either the demon that inhabits my bike or the ground crew at MMU must have had the same thought, because on Wednesday morning, when I parked my bike, the front handlebars were trespassers in pedestrian space.  But on Wednesday evening, when I came out to unlock my bike, the front handle bars were a few inches away from the sidewalk.  The whole rack had been shifted a couple of feet north.

By MMU custodians?  Or merely pushed there by the demon in my bike?  If so, at least it’s a rather polite, thoughtful demon.  “Pardon me while I possess this bicycle and torment its owner, but in the meantime I shall push this rack so as not to intrude upon you, dear walkers.”  Stephen, would the demon in Christine have ever been so nice?

A nice demon.  What shall we call her?  Of course.  Daisy.