Monday, April 29, 2013

In Which The Trail Snakes Through Utility Construction

Where the trail ends on its way north.

Heading back south. Nobody walks their bikes, silly sign.

In the construction zone.

I headed north after work today, going along the Cedar River Trail. Whenever possible, I’m going to use the trail ride home to add some miles to my daily commute.

I didn’t go very far north. At Robins Road, the trail is closed due to the installation of new utility poles along the trail. And getting that far was a slightly dicey, as I had to snake through a utility construction zone in Hiawatha.

But, it was a fine day to be on the trail. There were plenty of trail users, but no close calls, which is good. And I did manage to ride for a bit more than an hour, which might mean I did close to 15 miles today—about a fourth of one RAGBRAI day.

Let the training continue.

Saturday, April 27, 2013

In Which I'm Starting Some RAGBRAI training rides

Top: Re-painted wall at Cedar Rapids Art Museum, which I rode by twice this week. Bottom: newly renovated TV newsroom at Kirkwood Community College.

I won’t have a lot of time until the semester ends, but with an overseas trip planned this summer, I won’t have a lot of time then, either. So, I started this week to carve out a few longer-than-usual afternoon rides.

Wednesday, I simply went south for about 5 miles before turning back north and going home. I went along the Cedar River Trail, through downtown Cedar Rapids and to the Mount Trashmore area. I turned around as I didn’t have time to go further, but at least I’m sure I topped 15 miles that day.

Friday, Kirkwood Community College had an open house for its renovated media rooms. I think I topped 20 that day, since I made the trip to KCC via the Cedar River Trail. My sister has made some references to the “Bowling Street Trail” as a route to Kirkwood, but I don’t know where that is, so I used my old route to the east entrance on C Street.

Anyway, my legs were pretty sore both days, but especially Friday. However, when I woke up Saturday, I was mostly good again. I didn’t do much riding Saturday, but will take a longer ride Sunday to continue to pile on the miles.

Happy RAGBRAI training to all of you! And it’s almost May 1—time to start packing on the miles. Trust me, when RAGBRAI comes, you won’t regret any miles you ride now.

Wednesday, April 24, 2013

In Which CR Biker Covets A Totally Impractical Ride

Blame this one on Amanda and the silly Dutch.

My oldest daughter told me to Google “Gazelle Cabby.” It turns out it’s a heavy-duty cargo bicycle introduced this year by Royal Dutch Gazelle, a Dutch manufacturer of bicycles and electric bikes. This one is human powered, and since the bike itself, with bag attached, weights in at 85 pounds, one can assume the name “Gazelle” is ironic.

I assume this bike is probably a bit more practical in Holland than in Iowa, since Holland is a land not noted for the bumps in its topography. I’m not sure how it would be to try to push this puppy up the MMU hill. It’s a seven-speed, and one wonders at the mountain-climbing ability of its most extreme gear.

But, still—can I picture myself on the Cedar River Trail, gliding along, with Tristan and Nikayla, ages 3 and 5, in front? Sure. Stop fighting, you two. You can have a Granola bar when we stop.

I can also picture myself with Amelia and Audrey riding along. After all, the front basket can carry 160 pounds, which is comfortably a granddaughter with a grandmother thrown in, too.

Then again, that means I would have to move 160 pounds with the power of my aging legs. I don’t think we’d put in a bunch of miles, although the few miles I could do would be fun ones.

So, the Gazelle would not be a practical primary bike for me. At close to $3,000, I would have to have a lot of extra disposable income before I purchased this puppy—it’s a bit down on my wish list after a big ass macro lens, a vacation cottage on the Mississippi and a full suite of toys that being with “i.”

But a man can dream. And yes, if I was rich and I owned 4 or 5 bicycles—and what rich man doesn’t need 4 or 5 bicycles, in all honesty—I bet one would be a Gazelle Cabby.

Then, I could carry both Audrey and a Brompton in it. A bike with a spare bike. Why not?

Monday, April 22, 2013

In Which CR Biker Celebrates Earth Day

Magnolia in bloom at MMU.  Not that you have to be a biker to see it, but I did notice it first as I rode my bike by this morning.

The magnolia next to Warde Hall is starting to bloom, along with daffodils at MMU and in my own slow gardens.

It sprinkled on me this morning as I rode in, but since it’s Earth Day, I felt sort of honor bound to bike, if possible. It was possible. We’ll see how I feel about the gamble this afternoon, but despite the sprinkle, it was clearly a spring ride—a sweater was plenty. No jacket or glove.

I also saw that Des Moines has released its logo for the overnight RAGBRAI stop this summer—I got the logo via RAGBRAI’s Facebook post. I’m not sure that either the town or the ride are the “world’s greatest,” a slogan that makes them sound a little like the "world's best" coffee in the movie “Elf,” but I like the logo and it puts me in a RAGBRAI mood.

The unfolding flowers are a reminder of warmer weather to come—and that one reason to bike is to have a closer daily connection to the changing seasons. And the Des Moines RAGBRAI logo is a promise of the upcoming great biking event of the summer. Maybe it is the world's greatest.

From: this is the Des Moines RAGBRAI logo.

Friday, April 19, 2013

In Which CR Biker Is Ready For the Cold, Cloudy Ride

It's spring in Iowa, which today means a grey sky, winds of 40 mph out of the north (the direction I have to head) and spitting snow while the temperature hovers a few degrees above freezing.

So why bike today? Because I can. Because, what is a bike? Hit it, British Sea Power:

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

In Which We Stand Around In the Rain

About 10:10 a.m. today, parking lot near Warde Hall becomes a colorful tapestry of umbrellas. It was windy, too--would have been a good day for Mary Poppins.
Fly on crocus on a warm Sunday. It was not quite that warm
Monday or Tuesday, but good enough to ride.
They had a mandatory evacuation drill today, with the temperature in the 40s and rain pouring down.

I brought my jacket and umbrella, as did many others. During the drill this morning, the parking lot became a sea of colorful mushroom shapes, sort of like a RAGBRAI campground, but sweeter smelling, I’m sure, and these were hand-held rain protection, not canvas housing.

The evacuation didn’t last long, thank goodness.

But it was not a day for biking. Nor does it seem it will be tomorrow. I did ride Monday and Tuesday—and the weather had been much nicer earlier in the week.

I’m not sure the delicate flowers shown above will survive the downpour. And my RAGBRAI training today was riding indoor in the gym.

I’ll be glad when the rain eases enough for me to get some bike miles in.

Saturday, April 13, 2013

In Which a Cold Wind Blows on a Spring Day

Snow in a parking lot--not all is melted yet, but spring is still coming on.

So, this week wasn’t stellar in the biking department. I rode Monday, and then again on Friday—cold rains in the in between days kept me off my bike.

The Friday ride was definitely the colder one. The temperature was around 40, and there was a damp chill in the air following the rainy week. A brisk wind from the northwest was an added feature of the day.

I noticed that the snow hills of the Rockwell-Collins parking lot, while they’ve shrunk to sad, short reminders of their former selves, had not completely melted by Friday. I wonder if they will be gone before next week’s rides, assuming the monsoon season allows for some rides next week?

Still, even if it was a chilly day Friday for a bike ride—especially on the ride home which felt even colder than the morning ride because I was faced into the wind—the day was definitely a spring day. Grass is green, birds are singing in the morning, maples are in bloom and a few buds on other bushes and trees are swelling. I noticed the first daffodils in bloom Friday—not in my yard, but still, in some sunny spots, the pretty yellow flowers of spring are already out. So the Friday chill, and the remaining snow hills, does not bother me all that much.

Monday, April 8, 2013

In Which I Enjoy A Wormy Taste Of Summer

The morning ride--dodging worms brought forth by warm spring rain.
Things changed by afternoon. Crocus blooming in grotto at MMU.

How warm was it today? It started with rain, and it was rather damp on my ride in. The rain had largely ended, but the pavement was quite wet and strewn with worms.

Daffodils dangerously (for them) close to my bike.
It had not gotten much below 40 in the night, and felt warm. I rode with my sweater on—another sign of spring. No coat. I’m sure I was a bit damp in the nether regions by the time I got to campus, but my back rack and front fender for the most part diverted the water.

And yes, I did lube my chain before starting out.

This afternoon turned glorious and warm. It was a tragic day to be gainfully employed, and I wasted some time after an early faculty meeting taking some spring photos in my small region of campus. The grass is suddenly green, the fish in the pond were swimming un-coyly around, there were plenty of bugs—a damp, lively, springy kind of afternoon which makes you think that the trees won’t be wasting too much more sunlight before they bud out.

I’m not sure how much riding I will get in this week—too much rain in the forecast, and a chance of snow Thursday. But I’m sure the ride home tonight, in which I won’t even need the sweater, will be a foretaste of good weather to come.
Early iris between Warde Hall and Basile Hall on MMU campus.

Sunday, April 7, 2013

In Which Marion Earns Kudos for Trail Maintenance

Me and granddaughter Juliet before pleasant sunny ride.  Why do I look like a maniac? And why did Juliet's mom, who took the photos, not throw herself in front of the bike to stop me? Anyway, I was a careful biker despite my crazed look. In middle photo, Juliet's older sister Lizzie inspects the bike.

I took Juliet out for her first ride in my bike today. Her mom took our picture, and after I saw them, I’m surprised she let us go. I think I look like some sort of dangerous lunatic. I’m not exactly sure why I look that way—I just do.

Anyway, at about 3:45 p.m., Juliet and I headed south on C avenue to the Lindale Trail. When we started out on the trail, it was rather rutted and a bit soft, and I wondered at the wisdom of even going this way. Juliet didn’t seem to mind much, and kept up a low patter of nonsense singing as we went along, every once in a while exclaiming in some syllable.

The further east we went, the better conditions got. I was concerned about the hill beside the old rail bridge where the trail ends in a T intersection in Marion with the Boyson Road Trail—but as it turned out, post-flood maintenance by the city of Marion apparently smoothed out most of the rough spots, and despite rain yesterday, the hill and the rest of the Boyson Trail that we were on were in decent condition. Kudos, Marion.

Anyway, the trail was alive with bikers and walkers. There were Frisbee golfers out in force, fishers along the creek—a sunny day with the high near 60, and people were taking advantage.

Juliet really seemed to enjoy the ride. She was a bit tentative at first, she mentioned “mama” a few times as we started out, but by the time we were on the trail and saw our first puppy, I think she was sold on the idea.

We didn’t take the time to do the full Boyson Trail or the new trail that heads out to Menard’s—I just when to the park at the south end and then doubled back. By the time I got back home, I think Juliet was ready for more. When I stopped at my house, she gave me a look that said, “What are we doing here? And why have we stopped?”

All in all, a very good first ride. I could not persuade her sister Lizzie to have her second ride—Lizzie informed she that she had done a bike ride with me already, as if it’s crazy to ever go on more than one, but that’s OK. We had a pleasant family walk instead, and that was fine.

And it all goes to show that no matter how crazy you look, you might still be able to take a grandchild on a bike ride.

Thursday, April 4, 2013

In Which The Jacket Is In The Bag, Baby!

Ready for the ride home, bike vest on, but no jacket--a light sweater is all you need on a fine spring day.

I took the slightly longer trail route home this afternoon, to celebrate.

Today was the first day where the afternoon ride was so warm that I didn’t wear my biking jacket. A light argyle sweater was enough to keep the chill off. And it was time for biking gloves.

The morning was still frosty—still jacket weather, but you could tell that the day was different. Recent mornings have been in the 20s, while 30 degrees this morning felt warm.

It was pretty and sunny, however. By afternoon clouds had rolled in, but it was argyle sweater warm.

Hooray for warm spring bike rides!

Pretty early iris in bloom at Mount Mercy University today. Soon, I think, it will be green!