Sunday, December 28, 2014

In Which I See Water Smooth and Roads Rough

The rough surface of the Lindale Trail. So I turned back and rode on pavement.

The longest ride of the Christmas break so far, and it came on the same day I spent two hours at the gym and the weather also cooled off so the day was below freezing. Strange how that worked out.

I woke up early, for no particularly good reason, and went to the gym a bit after 4 a.m. “Law and Order” did not start until 5, and my wife and I (she had showed up just before 5) enjoyed first one, and then a second episode. We decided by 7 we had to leave, so she want to pick up doughnuts for breakfast as I went home.

Well, after that sugary breakfast, I went back to bed and slept most of the morning away. I woke up after 11 a.m., had some leftover pizza for second breakfast/lunch, and spent a little time putting out birdseed and putting used bottles in the van.

By around 2, I decided the day was too nice to stay inside, and I dressed for another bike ride. It was cool, but I wasn't sure long underwear was called for. I decided warmth was better then coolth, and opted to risk over heating rather than hypothermia.

I set out, planning first to do the Lindale-Boyson Road trails and then maybe head over to the Cedar River Trail. But, once I got past the half-mile or so of paved trail to the limestone surface, it was both uneven and mushy in places. Although it was only 30 degrees, there wasn't a cloud in the sky, and the low winter sun was still warm enough to make water on rock liquid rather than solid.

I decided that once I get one of the mountain bikes fixed, it would be OK to ride this rutted trail, but I probably won’t do it on Francis and definitely not Fancy Bike.

So then I had the bright idea to stick to paving—and to go down to the Prairie Parks Fishery via the Cedar River Trail.

Birds on Cedar Lake.

I think it was a good idea. Cedar Lake, when I got there, has started to ice over again (early next week we’ll have lows near zero and it will probably mostly close). There were some walkers and riders on the trail, and plenty of birds were on the lake where water and ice met.

Closer look at some ducks. I like how the blue sky turns both ice and water blue.

Traffic was light as I traveled through downtown. When I go to Otis Road, the approach road to the fishery, Cedar River looked quiet and peaceful—even Mt. Trashmore was pretty reflected in the river.

It was such a pretty day even Mt. Trashmore, viewed from Otis Road, looked nice.

When I got to Prairie Parks Fishery, I was pleasantly surprised to find quite a few people strolling or fishing—it’s good to see a park in use. The other surprise is that, unlike Cedar Lake, almost no water birds were crowding the lake. Then again, the river is nearby and birds seem to like it a lot—maybe the moving water stirs up more food.

On north end of Prairie Parks Fishery Trail, look south (top) and you see the lake, turn around (bottom photo) and you're looking north across the Cedar River.

Anyway, I ate the snack I had brought and then headed back home. The last half hour, I was riding with lights on, but by 5, when I go home, it was dim, but no longer fully dark.

While the coldest six weeks of mid-winter lie ahead, it’s nice to realize that the star which warms us by day is slowly rising higher in the sky and giving use more light each day.

Part of the route between the Cedar River Trail and the Prairie Parks Fishery--two blocks of brick street near downtown.

With my computer on the fritz, I’ll be guessing wildly at mileage. But I know this ride felt longer than the trip out to Lafayette yesterday, and that’s about a 20-mile ride. Did I go close to 30 in a bit over three hours?

It’s possible. And whether it was 30 miles or not, it was still a pleasant ride. As the sun slowly sank and the air turned colder, it turned out the long underwear was a good idea, too.

Traditional view of low sun over Cedar Lake, but it does look nice, no? Turned on lights after taking this photo.

Friday, December 26, 2014

In Which I’m Bathed in the Pink Glow of Fusion

Bike at Lafayette.

Boxing Day was another biking day in Iowa.

I had gone on a nostalgic trip to Middle Earth with my youngest son around noon, but The Battle That Ate Two Hours was over by about 2:30. When I got home, I suggested a bike ride to my wife and son, but he opted to stay at home, and she said “go away.” In her defense, she was trying to take a nap at the time.

So away I went. I briefly toyed with the idea of taking Fancy Bike out, but it had been ridden just yesterday, and my shoes aren’t as sturdy as my young son’s—I’ll probably swap out pedals before I take Fancy Bike out.

It was about 3 when I left home. I took the northern route through my sister’s neighborhood—I had texted her to see if she was interested—but it turned out she was busy.

So I was alone on the trail. Honestly, if the ride is not a long one, “alone” is not a terrible thing to be on a bicycle. This time, instead of heading south to Cedar Lake, I struck out north.

My goal was to make it to Lafayette by 4. I made it by 3:55.

It was cool and grey, but there were some breaks in the clouds, and I was hoping for a nice sunset after a quick snack break in Lafayette. The sky did not disappoint. There were a few breaks in the clouds, and they were strategically located in the southwest sky, so as the sun sank to the horizon, it bathed me and the trail in a pretty pink glow.

Picture one. Sky a little while after I left Lafayette, heading south on trail around 4:15 or so.

I don’t know yet how the photos turned out, but I took some of the pretty sky as I headed south. If they turned out well, I will post several.

A few minute later.

By the time I got to Hiawatha, she’ll be rising. Sorry, ghost of Glen Campbell making a pointless guest appearance. By the time I got to Hiawatha, the light was definitely fading, but I had turned the lights on before I left Lafayette.

Getting close to Hiawatha, near Tower Terrace Road.

Final sunset picture on final leg of trail before Boyson Road.

Well, I rode around 35 to 40 miles on Christmas Day and Boxing Day. Biking in Iowa in late December doesn't get much better than that. And the rear derailleur is still working, too. It was a nice late afternoon ride.

Lights of Hiawatha as day fades to night.

Thursday, December 25, 2014

In Which The Sun Shines At Christmas

Me and my son, ready to ride. I have new Christmas vest on, son is borrowing the old one.

It’s been a bit of a dull, grey December in Iowa—not terribly cold, in fact warmer than November, but we have seen a lot of rain, drizzle, sleet—dull, grey weather.

So it may be a bit unromantic that this year we didn't have a full white Christmas, even if there was a light dusting of snow early in the day that the sun quickly burned away. But we did have sun, and warmth. It was a Christmas fit for bicycling and I had a new bike vest to wear anyway.

Around noon, my wife, youngest son and I set out of a walk after our morning brunch and gift opening. The stroll was terminated a bit early for the best of reasons—a daughter from England called and wanted to Skype, so home we went.

It's not often in Iowa on Christmas Day to encounter a caterpillar while you are out on a walk, but we did. Air temp is only in the 30s, but even the weak winter sun must warm the pavement up a bit more.

We had a nice time seeing her and another daughter who is visiting across the pond and the grandkids and son-in-law. By the time the Skyping was done, it was getting well into the afternoon—and the question was, what to do?

I suggested I might, instead of napping, go for a bike ride. My wife wisely suggested I invite my youngest son. It all worked out. My oldest son’s bike is being stored here for a few months while he is again out of the country, and needs to be ridden now and then, so I greased its chain (and mine) and pumped up the Fancy Bike’s tyres. I did not bother to swap pedals—the bike has those pedals meant for shoes with bike clips, but the youngest son has sturdy shoes and I figured he would be OK without “normal” pedals.

He was.

We headed over to the Cedar River Trail in Hiawatha, then turned south, going down the trail to Cedar Lake. By the time we rounded the lake, it was getting well past 3, and we didn't want to be out in the dark, so we cut through Noelridge Park, a slightly shorter route than the one we originally took to the trail.

What Cedar Lake looked like this afternoon. Sun sort of looks like Christmas star, no?

I used some WD-40 on my rear derailleur, and it seems to be functioning now, so I had fast gears on Francis.

Not that Francis can compete with Fancy Bike. For a time, on the way south, I let the young son go ahead, knowing that it was hard to ride at my pace on that fast bike. Still, even I was moving OK on the slow bike today—it was a gorgeous winter day, a sunny Christmas in the 40s. Cedar Lake, which had almost frozen shut in November, is open again. We don’t have trees blooming as they do in England now, and much colder weather is expected next week—the lake will probably be frozen by New Year’s.

Francis casts a long shadow at Cedar Lake. We paused for a quick snack of nuts and then headed home. I'm using new Canon camera we got as a sort of mutual Christmas present--my wife will take it to England this January..

Days like this are precious to us. No white Christmas? Brown was OK and better for biking and it was good to see some sunshine. The ride was around 15 miles, and the time was well spent.

And finally: A Christmas song first posted for me by my sister Cate on Facebook. It seems like a good way to wish all you bikers out there a Merry Christmas:

Monday, December 22, 2014

In Which I Want Bicycle Repairman

It's been some days since your biking correspondent checked in, but those of you in Iowa know that it's been too wet--a cold, miserable December wet--for biking lately.

And, of course, I need my winter beater fixed still. Have not been brave enough yet to face the bike shop with my cheap discount store mountain bike with the broken spoke.

Francis is fine-well, the rear gears would be handier if they shifted, but fine enough to ride. Just not in this rain.

So, for now, a classic bit of bicycle-related comedy:

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

In Which A Christmas Star Shines In The Sky

Dec. 17, what is that bright object so low in the sky? We haven't seen it for a while. Rising sun peeks through artwork behind Warde Hall on MMU campus, Cedar Rapids, Iowa.

The talking voices on 93.1 FM were arguing about the weather forecast this morning. For those of you who wonder, 93.1 in Cedar Rapids is the oldies station, listened to by old people on their way to and from the gym early in the morning.

Anyway, one of them deliberately choked on the word “sunny” in the forecast, and the other berated him because most local forecasts said the day today would be cloudy. Voice A noted that the National Weather Service was calling for sun.

Well, it was cloudy this morning as I hopped on my bike, and I wore my non-biking glasses. I have one pair of glasses that the clip-on sunglasses I stow in Francis’ saddle bags fit, and the other pair that I usually wear on non-biking days—but I figured clouds count as sunglasses, so I didn’t need the biking specs.

I’m happy to report I was wrong, and person A on radio, at least as of noon, was right. The grey skies were broken by some patches of blue, and as I rode (slowly, my bike is stuck in a hill-climbing gear at the moment), the sky became clearer and clearer.

The photo is what it looked like by the bike rack behind Warde Hall—a clear sun rising, something we haven’t seen in these parts for some days and honestly don’t necessarily expect to see a lot of—there are many clouds in our weather picture.

Still, it’s nice for the nearest star to so brightly shine and light our days. Despite a cold commute, it feels better to be biking with old Sol lighting up the route.

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

In Which It’s Too Early For Eagles

Dec. 10--grey, cool late afternoon at Cedar Lake, but a nice afternoon to bike around the lake anyway.

Birds—lots of them—were gathered at Cedar Lake this afternoon. I finished teaching for the semester with a class that ended at 11:30 a.m. It was a little frustrating—students had done speeches on Monday and I had finished grade reports for them that I could not print before class.

And, what with one thing and other, I didn't leave campus until around 4:30. It has been a long week, the hill to hump day was pretty steep. Computer problems at the campus newspaper, end-of-semester stress, getting stuff done for terms that start right after Christmas—well, it’s been a long week.

And although it was cool and light was fading, I decided that 4:30 wasn't too late for a quick trail ride around Cedar Lake.

There were lots of birds there. No eagles, yet—in late winter, when open water is precious, those majestic big birds are often clustered near open water at one end of the lake, but right now there must be way too much open water available all over North America—despite a cold November, lakes and rivers and streams are not totally frozen over.

Cedar Lake was maybe 33 percent open—enough ice making places where ducks and geese clustered. They seem to like the edges between ice and water, and must be well insulated—swimming in a giant bowl of ice water doesn't seem to bother them.

Crows were also clustered in trees near the lake and called in their cacophonous voices as I rolled by.

Warmer weather is forecast for this weekend, which is nice. If I’m lucky, I may get down to the Cedar River on Francis to see how the season is going there. It did feel good today to ride a few extra cool, dusky miles at the end of a stressful semester.

Thursday, December 4, 2014

In Which The Computer Computes For No Reason

Wednesday at about 4:45 p.m., I'm walking across campus to begin my bike ride home on a cool, but no longer bone-chilling cold, day. Very pretty. But can it fight? (Sorry, I don't know why 'The Dirty Dozen' suddenly came by for a visit.)

I got out my bike Wednesday morning, pumped up the tyres (trying to go back to the British spelling as I stated I would in an earlier blog post) and oiled the chain.

Was there something about tire pressure or chain lube that my bike computer craved? It’s been somnolent since RAGBRAI, a ridiculous expensive bike watch that now is an hour off, since I don’t know how to change it for daylight savings time.

And yet, when I began to pedal south towards work, suddenly numbers flashed up on the little screen. It was, for unknown reasons, registering my speed and miles.

Well, the computer has sometimes woken up for just a few seconds, so I didn't think much of it. But as I passed the halfway mark on my journey, it was still registering numbers, as you can see.

I am headed up a slight incline and turning a corner—that speed is slow even for me, but I chose to take the photograph when I was going slowly so the danger to life and limb was reduced. My earlier post said biking is relatively safe—but not when you do crazy stuff like this, so if I crazy stuff, at least I can do it when Francis is rolling slowly. I topped 19 mph just minutes before headed down a hill before this slow stretch and rode about 11 to 12 mph on straight stretches of the commute.

Well, it’s warming up in Iowa and staying dry. Today I didn't even bother with the long underwear—it was well over 20 and not very windy in the morning, I would have been sweating if I hadn't cut a layer. The commute Wednesday night and this morning were both in dim light, although the light was failing at night but growing in the morning. I barely noticed that the computer, which has sprung to life so inexplicably, is back to wrong-time watch mode once again.

It worked for the whole 4.5-mile ride to work. And then died once again. Do I have to air and lube before every ride?

Because the sky, in both afternoon and morning, was spectacular—just enough high thin clouds to give the yellow and pink low sun something to work with.

It has turned gorgeous in Iowa—at least as gorgeous as it can be before the crocus bloom again—and it’s been a good mid week to be a biker once again.

Wednesday, December 3, 2014

In Which a Magazine Documents That Cycling is Safe

Well, not totally safe. Slightly riskier than driving or walking, but in that range--and safer than riding a motorcycle. And, like walking, the risk is offset by health gains. Click to see:

Cycling is Safe

Monday, December 1, 2014

In Which I Dream Of Warm Summer Rides

Bike suspended from ceiling at Iowa History Museum. Interesting RAGBRAI display is up there.

My son Jon is off for a while. He and his lovely wife Nalena were home for Thanksgiving, but now have gone back to Pittsburgh and then are going to Portugal in the new year.

But he is already planning to come back next summer to ride RAGBRAI. He is unsure of officially joining Team Joe, because he’s willing to stay in the campground in order to avoid having to drive any shift—he wants to ride every RAGBRAI mile.

More museum transit photos.
Grandson loved stairs.
I don’t blame him. I’m not sure I could have physically ridden all of the miles in 2014—I had a few issues this year with my health—but I did ride all of the miles in my first 2 RAGBRAIs, and there’s something to be said for doing that. Maybe if I can get into slightly better shape … well, we’ll see. The Team Joe strategy—riding most of RAGBRAI but also driving a few shifts—does provide some helpful breaks, too.

So I am not sure of my plans yet. Except that they seem to include RAGBRAI. Just how much remains to be seen—then again everything about RAGBRAI, besides the logo, remains to be seen.

Anyway, the warmer weather this weekend gave way to an Arctic blast today, but the wife had bought me new long johns, so I braved the cold today and rode. My rear derailleur is out of whack, but luckily got stuck in a hill-appropriate gear. The bike still works for a cold, quick commute, but clearly being able to shift will come in handy at some point. And while it was cold, I hasten to add that it wasn't in the “can’t ride” cold category, it was just in the “wear layers when you bike” cold category.

Museum had old plane that look like they have bicycle tires.

And today, the incredible lightness of being has improved for my bike. My wife bought me two spelunking style head lamps that I’ve strapped to my bike helmet. Not only do these improve safety through high illumination, the lights are incredibly cool because they use AAA batteries—which means these lights will last a long, long time.

Long enough, probably, to be of use in next year’s RAGBRAI.

New lights on helmet. Note sophisticated technology (rubber bands) used.

Monday, November 24, 2014

In Which A Hero Rides A Trike

From USA Today, an
Associated Press photo by Mike Christy.
Former Rep. Gabrielle Giffords on her Rocca bike.

Well, some good news came out of Arizona this weekend that made me think of my sister and brother-in-law.

Former Rep. Gabrielle Giffords, terribly wounded by a crazed shooter in 2011, completed a 12-mile bike ride Saturday, “El Tour De Tuscon.”

And she rode something that looks very familiar—a trike of the style that some in my family like to ride on RAGBRAI.

It’s a bit too cold and icy for bikes or trikes in Iowa today—no bike commuting for a while, I’m afraid. But I’m glad to see Giffords on what appears to be a Rocca-mobile. She’s one of my heroes, and it’s a thrill to think that she’s also a fellow biker.

Saturday, November 22, 2014

In Which I Praise The Drab Late Fall Beauty

Seeds near the Cedar River Trail. And a bike, too.

We've had more than a week of winter here in Iowa, even though it’s only fall.

Fall decided to show its face again today. It warmed up, and after an icy morning, it became a damp day. But at midday, it cleared off a bit, and around 2, my wife returned from Target with all her Thanksgiving groceries and said, “why don’t you go for a bike ride?”

One might assume that putting away the holiday feast was just easier without a husband in attendance. I decided to take the hint and I went.

First, I lubed my chain—it was, after all, a damp day. Then I headed over to the Cedar River Trail and went south through downtown.

Cedar Lake has lots of ice and gulls, but no eagles yet. Not that I was expecting any—I’m sure there is too much open water still north of us, and it will be some weeks before the eagles arrive.

Down by the river, however, there were plenty of geese standing on ice or sandbars or in the shallow water. Despite almost all of the snow melting in the past 24 hours, the river and streams are low—not that much water content in a bit of snow, I suppose.

And on C Avenue, a red-tail hawk was guarding a sign by Rockwell Collins.

It remained a grey day, and I’ll enjoy the spring sunshine and green when it returns in a few months. But the drab, brown November world still has beauty. I like being able to see the river more, for instance—down on the south short, where there are woods between the trail and the river, it’s not easy to spot it well when the trees have their full foliage. They stand naked now, and one can see the land and the river much more clearly.

And even if we don’t have the vibrant greens or pretty flowers of spring and summer, seeds and berries and dried grass have a more subdued attractiveness about them.

So I paused now and then to snap a few photos. I didn't go much more than a mile past Sokol Park after I crossed the river—it was starting to mist and I decided to turn back. Still, I got in a 2-hour ride. Given the weather forecast for this week—rain and then snow—it may be a while before I ride again.

But I am glad that I rode today. I wasn't totally alone, as a few hardy bikers and joggers were out on the mostly empty trail.

And when I got home, my son had arrived from Ames, and my wife had returned from a walk. We went out to eat at a Mexican Restaurant that opened recently in our neighborhood—so I’m sure it was a good thing I got some exercise before that feast!

Final images near Cedar Lake--the lake at top, and some milkweed pods bottom two images. Hope these sprout and support some Monarch  Butterfly caterpillars next year!

Thursday, November 20, 2014

In Which Snow Should Give Way To Stars

C Avenue sidewalk around 8 a.m. Wednesday morning. Snow fell Sunday but it has been very cold since and little has melted. Not enough, it would appear, has been shoveled, either. but if you are careful you can pick you way via bicycle to the top of this hill--take my word for it. I tested that theory.
As you can see, the commute Wednesday morning was slightly treacherous in parts. The C Avenue  sidewalk was not totally ice covered, but covered enough it required great care in the morning. 37th street, part of the “land that snowplows forgot,” the neighborhoods around Kenwood School, was, true to form, especially icy on a downhill stretch.

37th Street. No optical illusion, we're looking at a downhill stretch straight into a slick icy patch. Did I and Francis survive? Well, are you reading my blog?

Still, overall the commute was not all that bad, and was better by that evening. This morning was windy and cold, and I sorely wished I had found a headband that could fit under my hood and helmet, but the sidewalks and streets are slowly improving.

On even cold winter days, sunshine will do that. It turns ice into vapor, and whatever bare patch of pavement there is will warm enough, even if the air is colder than freezing, to make the ice slowly disappear.

So I don’t regret biking Wednesday nor today. I do regret, a little, that I haven’t fixed a winter beater bike yet—wider tires would be nice—but Francis has been of use.

I don’t have any late afternoon appointments, and so may leave while the sun still shines on this cold afternoon. If so, I might check out the Cedar River Trail—in the past, the city has actually plowed that trail, and if it’s clear, it may be a nicer route than dodging ice on 37th Street.

I can’t help but look at that trail a bit differently, however. It could be so much more.

My sister Antonia posted a link on Facebook to an NPR story that described a bike trail in a Dutch town inspired by the Van Gogh painting “starry night.”

Photo of a Dutch bike trail that I really want to ride on. From the company that created it, Studio Roosegaarde:

Our own artistic heritage in Cedar Rapids is usually pegged to Grant Wood. But he was in Europe at one time. Surely he may have seen a Van Gogh—or, at least, some starry nights in France.

Some Dutch Person at twilight on a solar-powered starry trail. Can we do this around Cedar Lake, please?

That should be enough. Let’s claim Cedar Rapids as Van Gogh’s American vacation playground that he just never got around to. If Riverside can be the future home of Captain Kirk, we can be the could-have-been-but-weren’t American hideaway of Van Gogh.

And then we could do this to our trail. And that would be so cool. And we would have a new theme song for the City of Five Artistic Seasons, too:

Sunday, November 16, 2014

In Which I Wish For Dry Pavement

My sidewalk, after shoveling this morning. It looked better late afternoon after the sun was shining on it, but I do not think the C Avenue sidewalk has been cleared and I doubt most of the streets on my bike route were plowed today.

Well, the day was not so bad today. I had to shovel snow, but it was only a couple of inches of fairly light white stuff.

After photographing the first snowfall, I spent the bulk of the afternoon grading papers. Not a terribly exciting afternoon, and not much that makes a biker’s blood pump faster, but it was that kind of day. My wife and I even managed an afternoon stroll to the local HyVee Drug Store, and I just enjoyed a Blue Moon, which is part of the groceries we picked up.

I don’t think we would want to be walking up there now. We are at 10 degrees and headed down, and the wind chill is already minus 4.

With the snow we had Saturday, and the expected windy, cold night, my chances of biking Monday are very low. I don’t have a winter beater bike ready at the moment, and even if I did, I don’t want to face too much ice even on a mountain bike—and from what I could see of side street conditions today, ice will be an issue Monday. It didn't snow enough for Cedar Rapids to plow many side streets, so that special white icy glaze that is a feature of Cedar Rapids streets in winter is likely to prevail.

I will attempt, this winter, to ride as much as I can—but I will also attempt to avoid riding on ice.

We’ll see what the week brings. It will start, I’m afraid, with me driving a Mercury rather than riding on a bike.

But maybe, after a few sunny days, things may improve. Where the snow was shoveled this morning, the pavement will probably be pretty bare by tomorrow, if the wind doesn’t shift the show around too much.

Wish me luck, bike blog pals! May the sun shine strike some bare pavement enough to clear me a biking path. I’ll let you know when I’m back on two wheels, but I’m pretty certain it won’t be Monday.

Friday, November 14, 2014

In Which A Rodent Contemplates Anti-Bike Violence

I'm watching you.

As the late afternoon light was just starting to turn the world a little shadowy, I was getting ready to ride away from Mount Mercy this afternoon.

Some people on campus asked me if I had ridden today, and then acted faux surprised when I said “yes.” I think it’s a game they play on cold days. Honestly, although the temperature was colder this morning, it actually felt better today than yesterday. I’ll take 10 with little wind over teens and windy, which was the difference between today and yesterday.

Anyway, a bit after 4 I was ready to head home. I packed my stuff and headed out to the bike rack. As I loaded my things on Francis—it took a few minutes because I had so much stuff in my briefcase there was some bungee cord readjusting required—when I noticed it watching me. A squirrel was in the redbud tree by Warde Hall, giving me a disapproving stare.

As I unlocked Francis, it climbed from the redbud into the branches of an overhanging ash tree, directly overhead. Another employee was leaving work and spied the squirrel, which was still intensely eying me.

“It looks like it might jump you,” she said.

I took out my camera and snapped its picture. It never made angry squirrel noises, but was clearly stalking me.

Well, luckily I didn’t feel any little tree rat paws on me before leaving campus. Despite a squirrel stare of doom, it was a pretty pleasant ride home.

Ice on Dry Creek. Mid-November is a bit early. Temperatures have been more January than November lately.

Thursday, November 13, 2014

In Which Flurries Fall On A Dark, Cold Ride

From Wikicommons, uploaded by Boxstaa. Bike with car lights.

I have redundant lights on Francis for a reason. I figure when one battery fails, it means that the world can see me. Well, the universe didn’t go according to plans Wednesday.

Yesterday morning, for whatever reason, I could not find the yellow vest I wear when biking. Well, it’s wasn’t all that dark, and with lights, I figured I would be OK. I didn’t worry much about the afternoon ride—I was planning to leave campus before 4 anyway, and it would still be light out.

As often happens, I was late. A student was ill and I had to distribute the newspaper, an hour-long task. So by the time I left campus, it was 5.

And both front lights looked sickly pale when I flipped them on. Before I was even 1/3 of the way home, they were pretty much dark of the moon blank.

The only good news is that my main headlight uses AAA batteries—a rare treasure among bike lights which tend to use hard-to-find expensive little batteries that seem to cost more than the lights do. Part of the throw-away culture, I’m afraid.

Anyway, my wife was a big help in getting the batteries changed. She had also bought some new little lights, because sets of them were on sale for $1 each (again, much cheaper than buying just the battery would be). My yellow vest had been missing Wednesday, too, but Thursday morning I managed to locate it in a “glove drawer.”

It was cold today, too—but not quite as cold. And I was riding with lights on, which was also a big step up. My lights are on and I’m ready to ride. Hopefully the weekend snow will be cleared for next week’s commutes.

Saturday, November 8, 2014

In Which The Week Ends Fall Rides

Bambi is now king of the forest and does not entirely approve of bikers.

Not really—November is a fall month, too, but it feels different, there is certainly a taste of oncoming winter. We may see snow here Monday, so I’m not sure what the biking week ahead will bring.

The biking week behind brought some nice weather, but it was also cool. One night I ended up leaving my bike at work, and another day I drove a car to work, but I still go some extra miles in.

On Wednesday, for instance, I swung down by Cedar Lake on the way home. As I headed back north after checking to see that there is, indeed, still a lake in the middle of Cedar Rapids, I noticed a buck rather casually consuming bark on a tree near the trail.

Profile view.

Now, I know deer chew bark in winter, but it seems there would be lots more that would be greener, more succulent and easier to chew available to this buck right now. But then again, it’s that time of year when male deer go quite lovelorn crazy, and maybe he was just drowning his sorrows form a jilting by a doe by chewing up a tree.

The days are now cooler and the trees more barren. I still think the browner world of the colder months has its charms, and I do enjoy still being outside, but it will be nicer still when leaves are growing on the trees rather than blowing along the ground.

And that wind. Totally option, in my opinion.

Roof work going on at MMU chapel earlier this week. They are getting ready for the cold and maybe wet months ahead.

Friday, October 31, 2014

In Which Catherine Doesn’t Quite Get Her Glow

I had what I thought was a bright idea while biking to work Thursday morning.

Clouds were just rolling in, and a little open sky in the east made for a very pretty sunrise. As I was at the halfway mark on my commute—passing Kenwood School—there was a pretty conch shell pink glow to the eastern sky.

Which made me think of Catherine McAuley. There is a new statue of her on the Rohde Family Plaza at Mount Mercy, which I bike by most mornings. And, I thought, why not take her picture as the rising sun behind her turns the sky pink—it would sort of be an arty looking halo effect.

Well, the best laid plans of mice, men and photo bikers …

By the time I got to campus, the patch of open sky was gone. There was a solid grey ceiling to the morning. I suppose that was a blessing anyway, since I have an 8 a.m. class on Thursday and did not have time to stop to take the picture anyway.

But I had time today. However, I didn't have a mostly cloudy sky with just the right opening for the sun to turn those clouds pink.

I tried taking the picture, thinking the back-lighting sun would make it interesting. The results? In one image, Catherine’s head is glowing like she’s a special character in a D movie made for Halloween. Not exactly the look I was going for. The next picture is OK, and I like the shadow of the random student crossing the plaza, but again, not the effect I saw in my mind.

Oh well. Sometimes the challenge when taking photos for this biking blog is that the eye can see so much in more detail in more lighting conditions than the camera can. Although in this case, the camera was right—things did not work out. Well, some day when they do and I bike by, I may try, try again.

Picture 1--Catherine as a superhero shooting power ray form her eyes.
Image 2--She looks better and the I like the long shadow, but not yet the effect I wanted. Send in the clouds.

Wednesday, October 29, 2014

In Which The Leaves Pile Up on Francis

Before the ride home. I had a warm sweater on, so did not wear the jacket, but I probably could have. It was a bit nippy, but that's OK for biking.
In the photo, it looks like either Francis has been been sitting in that rack for some time, or there were a whole bunch of leaves falling.

Fall has definitely passed it prime in these parts, although leaves are indeed still flying. We’ve had a couple of cool, windy days—and in fact, the leaf bank that Francis sits in was already there when I parked my bike in the morning—an accumulated leaf drift courtesy of Mother Nature.

Despite the cool, windy days, riding has been pretty pleasant. Wind is not too much of a factor for me, really, because my route is mostly flat and just not that long. I don’t enjoy fighting a headwind for 4 and a half miles, but when I have to, it probably just turns a 30-minute ride into a 35-minute ride.

Today, at least, the breezes have eased. It was chilly, but I so enjoyed not having to ride into the wind that I took the longer trail route home, and even went out of my way south to circle Cedar Lake before making the trek to my house.

It was just that kind of day.

Cedar Lake late in the afternoon. Bare trees, but pretty still and pretty still, too.