Thursday, February 28, 2013

In which the Rubicon is reached and crossed

My blog pal Jenion wrote an interesting post today about making changes in your life.

In a nutshell, the change process is not hard:

1)    Wish it.
2)    Will it.
3)    Do it.

Of course, that's easy to say and difficult to do, as is so much in life, but it does crystallize the issue. And so, I have created the “CR Joe” group on the RAGBRAI web site. I’m committed to the ride. I will it and I will do it.

If you want to join the group, you have to register on the RAGBRAI site and then send me $150—the RABRAI fee. I expect my “group” to be comprised of myself, two of my sisters and up to two in-laws, but I’m certainly open to having more.

We’re planning to have a support vehicle and to share the ride—so we’ll rotate through the group members as to who is driving and who is riding on any given day. That’s a bit of change for me—I won’t actually be doing all seven days of RAGBRAI, but it’s OK. We’ll have a mid-week stay at a house in Des Moines.

Registering now is a minor gamble for me because I’m scheduled for jury duty in July. Here’s hoping I’m not picked or the case ends before the final week—but, that’s not a huge gamble.

Anyway, I’ve decided I won’t just wish it—as the pavement is too covered by snow, I’ve decided to make it official. I’m in.

Saturday, February 23, 2013

In Which The Moon Shines Over Warde Hall

Moon over Warde Hall as I pass MMU campus on my way home.
Same view as the ride earlier this week--fairly clear trail, snow abounds elsewhere.

Well, after a fun visit day with family—Nina is home to meet her new niece and new nephew and we had a family brunch—my wife and daughter were headed to the cell phone store.

It was around 5, I was alone, and so nature took its course. I went for a late afternoon, then twilight, ride.

I wasn’t sure what shape the route would be in. But I knew the city crew had already cleared the sidewalk on C Avenue, so I could at least get started.

As it turned out, the city has cleared the Cedar River Trail. There were spots I had to stop and walk over mounds of snow, places where I did the “tripod slide” that involves putting one foot down to reduce my chances of a spill—but the ride was not too bad.

As it got later, I decided to leave the trail at J Avenue and head home via my MMU commuting route. I wondered what the usually awful streets in the Kenwood neighborhood would be like.

Well, they were not good, but they weren’t totally covered in a slick later of white ice, which is a pleasant winter change. Do I thank global warming, or has the city changed its approach to snow scraping? I must say, this winter the streets have, in general, been in far superior shape following snowfalls, so if you’re doing something different, city of CR, bravo.

Anyway, I had planned to be home before 6, but what with one thing and another, did not make it until 6:30.  I began the ride with sunglass lenses snapped to my glasses, and ended running with full lights.

And it felt good. Snow is forecast for much of the work week, and I don’t know how much riding I’ll get in.

But I rode for more than an hour today!
OK, she just cut it off a box of Little Debbie cakes, but I got this late biking Valentine from my sweetie. Awww.

And The Winner is From Cedar Falls

Well, I roughly guessed the RAGBRAI route, but was not this close: The winner got 6 of 8 town in the organization's guess-the-route contest.

In the meantime, I'm moving from the "thinking about RAGBRAI" stage to "starting to make plans for RAGBRAI." It appears I'll do the whole route again, especially since it sounds like two of my siblings have similar plans, and the ride stops mid-week in Des Moines, where one of my riding sisters lives.

My wife suggested that we might use a van as a support vehicle and trade off driving--not a bad idea, if we can figure out how to fit one of Eldon or Brigid's trikes in. I will contact my brother-in-law in Fairfield, too, so see if we can arrange a stop at this house on a farm north of town.

Anyway, more snow will fall this week, so it may be some time before I start riding in earnest. But, I've done this before and feel that I can do it again, and doing it with a group again sound like fun!

Thursday, February 21, 2013

In Which The Trail Awaits The Snow

The Cedar River Trail, where it crosses McLeod Run and then loops under the bridge. You see the trail on both the left and the right, empty of all but one lone photographer/biker. Despite grey, cool winter desolation, there is a charm to the landscape--but I"m ready for the landscape to green up and get a whole lot more of spring charm going!
Well, blog fans, I didn’t ride Wednesday, which was not quite a cold as Tuesday, because I had an early class in the morning and ran out of time.

But I did ride today. It was chilly, but not as crazy a day to be out there as Monday was. Anyway, a winter snowstorm is due to hit Cedar Rapids this afternoon, but fortunately I don’t have any afternoon classes, so I was able to head home around 12:30 p.m.

I decided, for no particular reason, to take the Cedar River Trail. It was cool, and a bit grey and desolate, and it’s a bit odd to be on the trail in winter. It’s a much greener, more pleasant place in spring or summer. And I had the whole trail to myself—again, very different from warmer weather.

A few flakes were floating down by the time I made it home, but now, 2 hours later, the storm is still making its slow approach. Still, today's longer ride was definitely more pleasant than Monday’s cold one!

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

In Which CR Biker Wonders If Vikings Had Long Johns

Was it cold this morning? Does the Pope wear funny hats?

Yeah, yeah, I know, not for long. But, yes he does. And yes it was. The air temperature was above zero, but only by a few digits, and a strong northwesterly wind was howling into Cedar Rapids.

How did that make me feel? Sort of like this:

There weren’t enough hot springs, however. My digits got pretty cold. Then again, I suppose your sympathy, dear blog reader, might be tempered by thoughts of: Well, that’s what you get for being crazy. For being a weird Viking biker out there in the cold, wondering if Eric the Red wore Long Johns the white to keep him from being “9-toed Eric.”

To be truthful, it was very uncomfortable when I began my ride, but as often happens, once I turned south, I started to warm up a bit. When the wind wasn’t in my face, I wouldn’t say it was a pleasant ride—my toes still have not completely forgiven me—but it was doable.

For a Viking. Which, I’m not. But I guess I’m crazy enough to be a Viking biker. So now you’d better stop and rebuild all your ruins. With bike trails, please.

Sunday, February 17, 2013

In Which Babies Don’t Enhance Biking

On Friday: Me: I’m going to ride my bike today! Sunny day, why not?

Reality: You are going to stay up past midnight Thursday night and still not get all your work done! In the morning, your will be so pressed for time, and so fuzzy of brain, that you won’t leave home until about 20 minutes before class starts. Which equals no biking.

I was on bike exactly twice this week, which is a shame because conditions have been favorable. But life has not. Last week, one of my daughter’s gave birth to a son, and this Wednesday, a second daughter gave birth to a daughter. Two grandchildren in the space of five days—and my wife and I were the designated babysitters during hospital stays.

I know people who have young children and manage to commute by bike, but I’m not apparently one of them.

I rode one day—Monday, I think, but this week has been a blur. Wednesday I didn’t even make it to campus, I cancelled classes, which I rarely do. I did go on a short ride that day, however, as it was something to do with my 3-year-old grandson while his sisters and my wife were at preschool.

Well, babies are usually cute and grandbabies especially so. I can’t complain about the extended sleepovers, as it’s been fun to see and play with the grandchildren.

I see that there’s a chance of rain Monday and snow later next week. I’m still toying with the RAGBRAI notion. I didn’t get much riding in this week—but riding is always going to be a bit intermittent in February anyway. Spring, and more biking days, are just around the corner.

And, for now, forgive me blog biking fans, but yes, I do think this is a good excuse for missing a few days on two wheels:
Relena Morrigan Sebers, born Feb. 13 2013, 8 lbs, 12 ounces, one of two new grandchildren recently born.

Friday, February 8, 2013

In Which CR Joe Is Starting To Reconsider RAGBRAI …

Pavel Novak took this photo of Mount Everest, which I downloaded from Wikicommons. Is the Karras loop my Mt. Everest? Is this the year?

RAGBRAI 2012 was tough. Very tough.

Hundred-degree afternoons. Headwinds. Unrelenting sun in the drought-stricken desert of western Iowa. An ill-timed thunderstorm in Marshalltown that robbed me of sleep when I was already worn out.

But then, it changed. The final days were spent in company—first, I saw some MMU friends on the pleasant day I rode into CR. It was only 95 that day and the wind was not our enemy. A ride of more than 80 miles in 95 degree heat with side winds doesn’t sound like fun until you realize how vastly more pleasant it is than a ride of 60 miles facing a stiff headwind in 105 degree heat.

And company always helps.

That night, and the next, I slept in my own bed, and the next two days, I rode with two siblings and a brother-in-law.

I wrote yesterday that I was in Des Moines, attending the Iowa College Media Association Convention. That night, I sent my sister and her husband a Facebook message that I was in town, and they quickly made plans for a noon trip so that they could just say hello for 10 minutes in a hotel lobby.

Ah. Shucks. It was sure nice to see them. And they are starting to think—you know, Des Moines is on the RAGBRAI route this year, so one day mid-week would be in a “house,”—maybe this whole-week bike ride thing is not so cray cray. . .

And if they do it, and if my other biking sister does it, well. Hmm. Food for thought.

I had planned to do only a few days of RAGBRAI this year for three reasons: 1) Last year, 2) A trip to Paraguay will cut some of my training time and 3) I wanted to walk the Bix this year with my wife.

The wife, however, seems to be encouraging the bike ride. I don’t think she minds the week alone, and we can go for walks at any time. And, while we can’t predict what the weather will do—who knows, it could be another hot, dry summer—the RAGBRAI route is much easier this year. Plus, it goes through Des Moines and Fairfield, two towns I have connections to.

Today, at the ICMA convention, I listened to a very uplifting speech by Charlie Wittmack, a Des Moines attorney who completed the “world triathlon,” swimming the Thames and the English Channel, riding a bike thousands of miles across Europe and Asia to reach Nepal, and then scaling Mount Everest.

After describing the ordeal of riding across deserts and mountains, Wittmack said, “all I had left to do was to climb Mount Everest.”

Yikes. And I balk at a bike ride I’ve already done twice?

The story was both inspiring—and oddly familiar. I remember someone chatting about this guy before. Who do I know who is also a lawyer in Des Moines? Oh, that would be my sister. She also bikes and so does her husband—who, I think, was the one who raised the topic of Wittmack one summer weekend when Brigid and Eldon and Cate and I did the Raccoon River Ride.

At ICMA, Wittmack talked about the importance of doing something just a bit more than you thought you could. Me, I hate to stand on a chair, and I guarantee I’ll never climb Everest. It’s there and it can stay there. But a third RAGBRAI? Maybe even the 100-mile loop?


Thursday, February 7, 2013

In Which I See The Light In Des Moines

Well, bike and blog pals, I’m hoping the winter bike commuting hiatus will come to an end soon. There are signs it might. I’m briefly in Des Moines, attending the Iowa College Media Association convention, feeling slightly guilty that I forgot to give my sister who lives here a heads up, but honestly I’m just going to pop into town and then scoot home, so there really wasn’t much time for a visit.

Anyway, it rained all the way here, and the snow is mostly gone. There was more in Cedar Rapids, but I bet even there the wet stuff melted much of the white stuff. It will have to dry up enough so that evening chills won’t make all pavement icy, but we’re close to biking seasons opening again.

I saw another sign while taking some students out to dinner after the Mount Mercy Times won nine awards at the newspaper convention. It was between 7 and 8, fully dark, and some brave soul on a yellow 10 speed was cycling in downtown Des Moines.

My sister?  Nah, her bike doesn't look that that at all, and he was a he. Well, at least he had lights!

Biking season is again soon to begin.

Monday, February 4, 2013

Random Biker Thoughts When Not Biking

An image from My wife and I have only just started watching Dowton Abby, and have ordered Seasons one and two--this is Lady Edith from season two.  On a bike.  Nice riding outfit, Lady E!

As expected, the week looks to be a total bust from a biking point of view. While it’s definitely warm enough, snow last week has left that peculiar Cedar Rapids white frosting on may residential streets, rendering biking just too dangerous.

To be far, it seems to me, in a totally unscientific way, that street clearing in snowy CR seems marginally better than in times past, but that might be an artifact of warmer weather following this winter’s snows.

Anyway, I’m looking forward to the second half of February. February and early March are still winter (are at least they were in living memory, these days, who knows?), but the increasing sunshine tends to make a snowpack less persistent—and the snow does not have to be “gone” before I can back, just basically retreated from most pavement.

So what are my random biking thoughts?

  • My spouse wants to toss the junk bike as a useless money hole. She has a valid point, I admit, but I’m secretly hoping to get a new rear axle before spring break in March. My daughter from England will be visiting, and her husband bikes, and it might be cool if we could get some trail time in while he is in Iowa—it would only be fair, since I borrowed one of his bikes when I was in Norridge last year.

  • I’m really, really happy with my back rack. It has made transporting books so much easier. I’m not as in love with my new front basket, which seems pretty flimsy. But, as Red Green once said, it’s only temporary—unless it works.

  • The older grandchildren have bikes now, I think. I know Nikayla does, and I thought that they bought a bike for Tristan, too, although I’m not sure. Anyway, I want warm spring weather to arrive so I can be on the Boyson Trail with a grandchild or two who are riding their own bikes. It will be a new family biking thrill.

  • I haven’t seen many bikes in Dowton Abby, yet. It does not seem like the British upper crust in the 1920s spends enough time outside, and the servants certainly don’t have the spare time. Still, this is a generation after the “safety bike” craze, and surely bikes are a common commodity in Britain post Great War? What’s the point of beating the Hun and retaining the Empire if one can’t pedal about a bit? (Yes, I've seen some images  from earlier seasons. I have not viewed those seasons, yet.) And I would love to see the Dowager Countess use a three-speed to arrive for some formal luncheon …

That’s it, for now. I’m sure when the weather turns, as inevitably it will, I’ll be back on two wheel.