Wednesday, May 29, 2013

In Which the Bike is Back

After the ride, we played on the deck, tossing maple "helicopters" in the air. Our resident cardinal did not appreciate the show, and scolded us from high in an oak tree.

The broken bike was fixed very quickly at Northtowne Cycling. I got the call early this afternoon and rescued Francis from the garage.

Later, I offered the new riding grandchild a second ride, and we cycled part of the Lindale-Boyson trail route. We had to use the park bypass—the shorter trail that ends on Parkview and goes by Donnelly Park—because the low bridge on the trail was closed by flood waters.

The grandchild enjoyed the ride. I think it's partly because of the cool bike seat I have, and I got a request from a niece about that seat I use. It’s called the “Kangroo” and is make by a company called WeeRide. Here is their video about the seat:

The video is pretty true—the front seat is stable compared to a back seat. I do use the toddler seat a lot.

Anyway, I didn’t tackle the hill today, but I’ll do it again tomorrow. A new chain should last a while, right?

Tuesday, May 28, 2013

In Which Some Wet Rides End With A Sudden “Chunk”

Noelridge Park on the way home. Puddle on the walk, misty air and cloudy sky, although it never did rain on the ride home.

I probably got a bit of a late start this morning. I knew I had to go into the office today, but was worried as the pavement was wet from overnight rain, and I didn’t want to get rained on again. So I kept checking the radar and delaying my departure, and it was around 10 by the time I finally left for work.

You guessed it. If I had left at 8:30 or 9, I would have arrived reasonably dry. But about 10:10, even before I was across the parking lots of Rockwell-Collins, rain began. It was light, but it wasn’t just a mist, either, it was rain, and I got fairly damp on the way in.

Oh well. It was only a light rain and I was only damp, not soaked.

After an afternoon registration session, I headed towards home via the trail around 3:30. I planned to do a bit of a bike ride, and headed south. But the sky clouded up and I was worried about a more vigorous repeat of the morning experience, so by Cedar Lake I turned around. As I rode north, I contemplated heading past Hiawatha, but although it did not rain, the sky kept looking ominous, and I turned towards home.

I decided I would cycle up Bowman Woods Hill, and then maybe ride around for a while close to home.

Two thirds of the way up the hill, however, there was a “chunk,” and my pedals started spinning as my bike slowed and started to back up. I had busted a link of my chain.

So I guess I was lucky that it clouded up and I didn’t head too far south, since that meant that I was within easy walking distance of home.

The bike shop guys say they’ll have Francis up and running by tomorrow, so it’s all OK. Apparently, I had banged the rear derailleur on something and damaged it a bit, which put stress on the chain. Anyway, I’ll get a new chain, and the derailleur can be repaired.

The broken chain.

Well, it was just one of two unexpected bike adventures in the previous two days. The one before had been more pleasant. I had a grandchild who is of cycling age, as in large enough to fit in the bike seat, who had never ridden. But, after seeing my granddaughter Amelia arrive on my bike at a park, this other grandchild decided to take a ride—and loved it. I’ve won another child over to biking.

Just hope the chain is fixed before that grandchild visits again. I think there are more rides coming.

Saw some blooming trees on the ride. Anybody know what they are? The top ones are full-size trees common on the Cedar River Trail. The bottom ones are among three planted in one yard in my neighborhood. Yes, it's true, I'm shopping for a new tree to plant ... given the wet, this seems like the  year for it.

Saturday, May 25, 2013

In Which Moving Water Fascinates an Impish Passenger

Amelia watches the water on one bridge.

A different bridge. The water is so beautiful.

View of Indian Creek from bridge on Krumboltz trail.

A day after the epic journey to Ely with Cate, I took a shorter journey, a quick ride of the trail system near my home.

Well, quick is an exaggeration. Amelia, who was slightly miffed she didn’t get a ride Thursday when Tristan rode on my bike home from C Avenue Park, got a morning ride with me. She was bundled up—it was in the lower 50s Friday morning—but I think she stayed comfortable for the whole ride.

She has clearly made herself at home on the bike. For one thing, she is much more ornery now, definitely a sign of comfort in that girl. She would spontaneously grab one of my arms and shout “got you!” Or reach up to my torso and wiggle her fingers, shouting “tickle, tickle, tickle!” Or, sometimes, just lean her head way back so I could get a clear view of her face as she stuck her tongue out at me.

And she had a new routine on this ride. At every bridge we crossed, we had to stop and watch the water for a while and talk about what we were seeing. Maybe it’s my fault for telling her before the ride that we might see hippos, but she was pretty excited by ducks and fish.

Even with the pauses and the cool air, it was a very nice morning to be on the trail with a tickling, grabbing, tongue-sticking, little, ornery passenger.

Thursday, May 23, 2013

In Which The Frozen Yogurt Is Tempting, But …

Trail we road on was named after this guy.
Mr. Cedar River.

I passed it up because I was in a hurry to get home—the grandkids are staying over night tonight.

Anyway, my sister Cate invited me to ride to Ely today, via the Cedar River and then the Hoover trail. She mapped the ride at something close to 38 miles, and since I subsequently rode my bike to C Avenue Park and back, I’m claiming it as a 40-mile day. Not exactly RAGBRAI—and there certainly were not enough hills to be like RAGBRAI, although we did climb the Bowman Woods hill at the end. Still, a good practice day.

Cate brought along energy shots, which proved fortunate. I started to black out a bit over halfway through the ride, and we paused and I took one of her shots, which helped a lot. I think I may have been partly dehydrated, and I plan to dig the camelback out again soon. I had water with me, but could not reach it conveniently during the ride, and we did not stop much.

Despite that incident, the ride was very pleasant. We didn’t get much talking done, as we couldn’t hear each other well, but it’s still good to ride with someone. Cate suggested we stop for some frozen yogurt at an ice cream shop near the trail, which was a good idea, but that's when I passed up that plan to get home a bit sooner.

I’m already committed to a ride tomorrow, too. After Cate and I rode, as I mentioned before, I went up to C Avenue Park to meet Audrey and the grandchildren. Tristan wanted to ride the bike home, and I had put on the child seat just in case, so he got his wish. Amelia was slightly distraught, but satisfied with a promise of a ride tomorrow.

As Ben noted, I seem to have two future bikers in the Sebers family. All in all, it was a very good biking day.

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

In Which A Quest For Bluebells Finds Other Flowers

I remember them blooming in a shady area next to Dry Creek on the route to the Cedar River Trail. I like bluebells, so when I planned to ride for several hours today as RAGBRAI training, I was looking forward to photographing them.

And I failed. I could not find the bluebells. Had I imagined them? Is CR Biker seeing images of bluebells that are not there? Hmmm. Have to check on how tight my helmet is …

Anyway, despite the lack of bluebells, and even though it was a cool, breezy, cloudy morning, it was a fine ride. I planned to head north, but was stopped by utility work in Robins, so headed back south and rode the Lindale-Boyson-Krumboltz trail route instead.

I took a fair number of flower photos, most along the Cedar Valley Nature Trail early in the ride, a few later. Wild phlox are in bloom, honeysuckles perfume the air, irises are flowering in many yards—it was a fine day to bike and view flowers.

Even if I missed the bluebells.

Willow seeds--look a bit like flowers.

White and pink honeysuckle.

Closer look at pink honeysuckle.

The scene along the Cedar Valley Nature Trail--I got sprinkled on, but never seriously rained on.

Phlox. Why does it grow all over the trail but won't in my gardens?

A cluster of irises in a front yard along Council Street.

I like phlox, which are largely blue flowers, but come in white and purple, too.

Matt, have you bred sterile dandelions yet? And when you get rich off of them, remember they were my idea first.

Thursday, May 16, 2013

In Which Big Birds Are Seen In Cedar Rapids

A bird that is a pelican on Cedar Lake in Cedar Rapids on May 15, and one that is not. Below, this is less than half the crowd. There were many birds--maybe 30 to 40 or so--all crowded together along a sandbar on the lake.

We’ve moved quickly from cool early spring to sudden, warm summer. It’s suddenly green. A few late bushes and trees are yet to leaf out, but for the most part, everything is green, green, green.

The pears are already fading, but lilacs and crab apples are still in bloom and smelling sweet. And I saw a sign of the changing season yesterday that really made me pause. I went downtown for a meeting and was on my way back to campus when I was passing by Cedar Lake.

There were large white birds at a sandbar along the north shore. At first I thought they were swans, which seemed odd to see in such a crowd, but as I got closer, I saw that they were pelicans.

Well, cool. It was not an encounter as majestic as the time Matt and Ben and I saw eagles—nothing seems as impressive as an eagle unless you meet a live T-Rex—but cool nonetheless.

I learned, via the oracle Google and the Iowa DNR site, that these are probably American White Pelicans just migrating through. They are on their way to summer fun in Canada, and apparently can be spotted in Iowa twice a year—in fall on the way to vacation in Mexico and in spring on the way to vacation in Canada.

I’ll have to swing by the lake on my way home today to see if the big white bird party is still underway.

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

In Which A Finger Is Wagged At Dangerous Bikers

May 21 update: The posting is anonymous, but a person identifying herself as the mother of the injured biker commented on this post on May 20. If you read this post, please also read her comment.

As longtime readers of this blog may know, CR Biker has had a few close calls.

Once, I slipped on ice and banged up my knee. Several times, rude drivers have cut me off or ignored the presence of a bicycle—indeed, crossing Blair’s Ferry and C Avenue is always the most “invigorating” part of my daily commute because it’s a roll of the dice whether right-turning car and truck drivers will notice or care about a “walk” sign and a biker in the crosswalk.

And once, at night, a pair of teens actually seemed intent on trying to do me harm.

So, I’m a bit defensive about bikers and car drivers. And I was ready to take umbrage when I opened my paper this morning and there was a column with the headline: “Bicyclists, please put safety first.”

Then, I read the column. And my umbrage melted away. I don’t know Nick Gearhart (great name for a biker, by the way), but he’s right. In the column, he describes a scary accident where three bikers ignore a traffic signal and one of them is hit. We’ve all seen them, fast bikers who don’t seem to care if there is traffic or traffic controls or lights.

Somehow, it does not surprise me that the trio of bikers he saw ignoring a traffic light existed as a trio. Like teens in cars, groups of bikers don’t always behave better than a lone biker would.

This is bike to work week. I’ve noticed a few more bikes on the streets and sidewalks, although we two-wheelers are still far from a crowd in Cedar Rapids. I’ve been riding to work every day—not exactly a surprise since I commute by bicycle all year long, stopped only by rain, snow and ice on the road. This has been a good commuting week.

And Nick and his wagging finger? Frankly, I can’t find anything to disagree with in what he wrote. He’s right. CR Biker agrees—while it’s more important for car drivers to be respectful of bikers, on the theory that they can do more damage, it’s also important for bikers to recognize and follow basic rules of road civility, traffic laws and common sense.  “Share the road” goes both ways.

Nick finishes his column in the Gazette this way:  “Let’s all put safety first.” To which CR Biker can only reply, “hear, hear.”

Friday, May 10, 2013

In Which Small Yellow Birds Are Chased North

Goldfinch by the trail, at extreme magnification. They did not let me get very close.

The state bird of Iowa—the goldfinch—put in many guest appearances in your correspondent’s biking adventures today.

I left campus around 4:30, knowing that I would take a somewhat longer ride home. I toyed with the idea of heading home and doing the Boyson Trail, and, as fate would have it, that would have been a good idea. Instead, after a trip around Cedar Lake, I decided to head north on the Cedar River Trail until it turned into the Cedar Valley Trail, just to see if it was still closed by utility work.

The signs were not good when I crossed Boyson road headed north. The “trail closed ahead” warning signs were still in place. I was riding up a slight “wind hill,” the chill breeze actually fairly welcome, but I would prefer a nice cooling side wind to a headwind, just in case you’re wondering, universe.

Anyway, despite the clouds and chill, it was a fine day for riding. I think perhaps because I commuted most of the winter, and maybe due to some small training rides I’ve done already, but I felt like I was really moving along (although other bikers still mostly pass me).

There were plenty of birds-lots of robins and cardinals, but also some small crowds of goldfinches, pretty little yellow birds that complained and scattered and fled north before me.

I wasn’t sure where I was going. When I crossed Robbins Road, the fence for the construction zone was open, and I kept going north. I had just passed the 4-mile mark, when my phone signaled a text.

Would I like to go over to Katy’s for supper and see the grandkids? Why, yes I would, except I’m 4 ½ miles north of Hiawatha and 2 ½ miles from home once I get there …

I figured it would take me until 7 to get home. I was wrong—the north wind I’d been battling was a helper on the way back and I made it home around 6:45. After a quick break, I climbed Bowman Woods Hill, and headed over to Katy’s. The ride home was cool and required lights, but still nice.

The grandkids wanted to get their bikes out of the garage at their new house, which we briefly did, but I’ll have to take over some tools and tighten a few seats and wheels up for them. I wish I had put on my toddler seat while at home—but there will be more chances in the future to give grandchildren rides, I’m sure.

So this afternoon was close to a 3 hour training ride. I’m not sure how far I went in that time, but at least I did climb The Hill and also herded yellow birds.
The trail, 3 miles north of Hiawatha. A cool, cloudy, pretty spring evening for a ride.

Thursday, May 9, 2013

In Which An Interesting Sky Is Still OK

Walking across the MMU campus in the afternoon, heading for my bike ride home--this is the sky. Very interesting. Luckily, I stayed mostly dry.

There was rain in the air today, which made it not a great tragedy that I had a flat yesterday. I would have hitched a ride with Audrey anyway, which is what I did this morning.

But I grabbed the bike pump. And at lunch time, I swapped the punctured tube in my front tire with a new tube. I don’t think that the tube had been punctured with any object. A hole had formed where the valve as attached to the tube—why, I don’t know, but in a few minutes I had the tube changed.

After an afternoon video editing session with a student, I headed back to Warde Hall to pack up and head home. You can see how interesting the sky looked. But, despite a few drops in the air, I thought I might have a chance to make it home without being soaked.

As it turned out, the gamble paid off. A few sprinkles but no real rain, and certainly no lightening. And when I got home, more daffodils were blooming in my front yard. The only slight off note?

I totally forgot to climb the hill. I’ll have to do that tomorrow.
Daffodils at home. Friendly, sunny flowers.

Wednesday, May 8, 2013

In Which I Conquer The Hill and The Hill Beats Me

The view from the top of Brentwood Drive. Above, in the mirror, looking east from whence I came. Below, looking forward down the other side I think I might have broken the speed limit on the way down.

Tuesday, 7:45 p.m., the sky is turning from its pale day hue to a deeper blue ringed with yellows and pinks. It’s pretty, but I don’t have a lot of time for admiring the view. I am pumping hard.

I’m approaching The Hill. Not Mount Mercy’s hill, which I ride up every morning, but a steeper, taller, more challenging hill.

Which, by chance, is also where I live—it’s the Bowman Woods hill on Brentwood Drive NE. If Robin Hood had lived in these parts, the sheriff’s castle might be at the corner of Crandall and Brentwood Drive.

I’ve taken, lately, to using the Cedar River trail to go home, which adds maybe 1 ½ miles to my evening route. I need to squeeze out every mile I can, especially since three training weeks for RAGBRAI will be spent out of the country in a Land With No Bike Trails.

On the other hand, after my sister spied me on the trail Monday, she posted on Facebook how she had done 17 miles and had seen me. A friend of hers asked if she was in training, and when assured she was getting ready for RAGBRAI, added this follow-up: “Train going up hills a lot. That is what killed me. Iowa is so not flat.”

Sage advice. So Tuesday, when my wife texted me that she was taking the grandchildren to Taube Park in Marion for a picnic supper, I gamely decided to bike on over east after work. And once the picnic had been consumed, it was time to head home. By then it was well past 7, pushing 8.

But, I was running with lights on, and it wasn’t really dark yet. So despite the fact that The Hill is busy with traffic at some times of the day, I decided to try it. I plan to climb this hill a lot in the coming weeks anyway, I might as well get started.

Because my sister’s Facebook friend is right. Time on seat, miles traveled—those are important in training for RAGBRAI, but so, very much so, are hills climbed.

As I approached The Hill, I wondered if Frances (a name Dr. Ochs suggested for my bike, and let it be so) would let me into Granny Gear. Frances has always had minor derailleur issues, in that he doesn’t like either the biggest gear in back or the smallest in front. Fortunately, the two shifting devices, while constantly out of whack, have never synchronized their out-of-whackness, so I usually have trouble with one gear or the other. The current state of affairs is that first gear in front usually remains unavailable.

As I approached The Hill, I shifted into third in front—the big, fast gear, not the hill-climbing gear. My rationale was that if I attempted to skip second and go straight to first from third, the momentum might make that rare hill gear shift happen.

It did.

So, with the front in first, I shifted to the big cog in back and proceeded up Brentwood Drive at near walking pace. As an experienced biker, I’ve discovered the ability to ride in a stable manner even at fairly slow speeds. If the stop is brief, I can come to a full rest at a stop sign and not put a foot down. And I am a grandpa, so I feel entitled to granny gear a lot.

Anyway, I conquered the hill. Technically, I didn’t climb all the way to the top—the apex of the hill is not on Brentwood Drive, it’s on Crandall—but I think for a first ride this was OK. When I next attempt to conquer the hill on my way home, I’ll make the Crandall turn and get to the summit.

There is bad news today, though. I rode in this morning, but must stay on campus late—I’m ringing bells in MMU’s spring concert. There is rain on the radar, so I decided to move Frances inside—only to discover this afternoon that he is lame.

Luckily, the cure won’t involve a bullet—just a new tube in the front tyre (CR Biker is a “tyre” zone).

For those of you keeping score at home, if we count this flat on MMU’s hill as a victory for The Hill (and it’s my blog, so I make the rules and I don’t care if it doesn’t make any sense), then right now we’re tied: Joe 1, Hill 1. Stay tuned.
Sad sight today, Frances needs a repair job. And I'll have to buy another tube.

Tuesday, May 7, 2013

In Which The World Is Suddenly Green, Sniff

My bike on the left. Another bike on the right. As the weather warms, maybe there will be more.

Looking north from the bike rack. Beautiful day for a ride. I note that the usually brown hillside I see to the north is now starting to turn green. It won't be many more warm days before the trees leaf out. I'll miss being able to easily see the birds, but I'll still enjoy the bike trails even more when the world turns green.

CR Biker has a cold that came on suddenly after a party Monday, and so I am awake at 3:30 a.m., which is a bit odd. Your correspondent has done a little school work, but feels like being less productive.

Anyway, spring fever is ready to hit. The days are suddenly warm, and the somnolent trees are slowly coming to life. Look at the ash branch that frames my view of the hill beside Warde Hall, when looking north from the bike rack—not only are there a few baby green leaves on that tree, but the wooded hillside in the distance is no longer it’s uniform winter brown—it’s starting to green up, and in a week or so, Iowa will be a very green and shady place.

Well, good. Despite the cold (in my head, the weather is warm), I enjoyed the biking Monday. There was a lady’s bike in the rack in back, so my bike didn’t have its usual lonely day. I took the trail route home, which adds maybe a mile or so to my commute, and saw my sister passing by. She noted on Facebook that she had done just a bit more than 17 miles Monday.

I’m sure I didn’t bike that far, but I’ll claim 10 for the day. I think it’s the start of a very nice biking week. Even being awake at 3 a.m. won’t spoil it—and biking on little sleep is, I suppose, good training for RAGBRAI.