Saturday, April 26, 2014

In Which The Bluebells Bloom In Woods By The Bridge

Bluebells in bloom beside a bike trail in Marion.

It’s been getting further into spring in Iowa, the grass is green now, daffodils and tulips coming into bloom. I took a morning ride on the Boyson Trail, just to get on the other side of the Brentwood hill for RAGBRAI hill climbing practice.

Same plant, second view.
I was thinking how much more green it’s looking, but beyond the crocus and daffodils, I haven’t seen many flowers, especially outside of gardens.

And suddenly, they were there. In the low wet soil, a bunch of pretty bluebells. And once I had spotted them, it seemed like flowers were everywhere. Dandelions are suddenly dotting lawns, violets peek out from forest cover, there are anonymous small pink and white flowers among the forest grass.

Small trees are just starting to leaf out. Maples are beyond blooming and showing their tiny first leaves.

The morning ride was a bit odd—I ran into some sort of organized race along the trail that I didn't expect—but in the quiet of the woods it was nice to see confirmation that spring is fully underway.

And today I got in 19 miles--did not have time for more, but that wasn't bad. Just over 300 so far in April, and with rain coming, that may end up being it for the month.
View from the trail bridge is getting more and more spring green.

Wednesday, April 23, 2014

In Which I Reflect On the Morning Ride Reflections

View of creek beside Cedar River Trail this morning.

It was a bit cloudy this morning, but I took the slightly longer trail route in to work. The Cedar River Trail parallels a creek for much of the way. I was thinking about how water in morning light pleasantly reflects the sky and trees— how pretty that can be, but how hard to capture via a photo.

A photo freezes an instant of time. But part of the pleasure of seeing water as you ride is movement—the water’s and yours. And there is sound. Of course the hum of traffic on nearby I-380, but also the various voices of birds declaring  their territories in the morning light. And the quiet sounds of the bicycle itself, the little squeaks of the pedals, clicks of shifting gears, the mild rumble of tire against asphalt.

On this morning’s ride, one unfamiliar pretty bird darted in front of me. It was red and brown and white with an interesting double V shape to its wings, and I couldn't tell what it was, and then it was gone.

For some reason, a mama duck amused me as she sat in a puddle of a tire rut beside the trail. There’s a creek nearby, dear, and there you won’t have bikes practically on top of you.

Lady Duck in puddle by the trail.

The afternoon ride was not quite so pleasant—it had started to rain, and it was a cool, penetrating, cooling rain.

It must have motivated me to peddle faster. I was home in 25 minutes, and the 4-miles to Mount Mercy usually take me closer to 30 minutes. I guess a faster bike ride is one way to try to stay warm!

Friday, April 18, 2014

In Which The Afternoon Adds Up to 40 Miles

Bird in Cedar River seen during my ride. It's pretty far away and the photo a bit funky--I  have not figured out how to make focus work on little Nikon for distant objects.
As I neared the end of the ride, I noticed I was close to 40 miles. It was 37 something as I crossed Blairs Ferry Road on the way home late this afternoon.

I had taken a nap and practiced piano, and then it was 4 in the afternoon and a gorgeous day. My wife was out with a daughter and granddaughter on a “girls’ day out,” so I decided: Bike time!

I was going to ride on the Cedar River Trail. I wasn’t sure whether to go north or south, but I started riding down C Avenue southward and somehow that direction felt good because I was heading into the wind, and I thought heading into the wind was a good strategy—when I turned around, the wind would be more helpful.

I wanted to go to Ely, but it was getting late by the time I go to the edge of Cedar Rapids. I decided that when I reached a bench on the Hoover Trail just a bit south of Cedar Rapids, I would rest a few minutes and turn around.
Francis on Hoover Trail near bench were I briefly rested.

Worn wood of bench where I rested. Just though it looked cool.

I tried to calculate the miles home, I figured the total ride for the day would be about 40.

But the readout on the bike computer was just approaching 38 as I was getting just half a mile from home. So I rode the paved part of the Lindale Trail, and even up and down Teakwood Drive a little.

Still, I was about a tenth of a mile short when I got home, so I rode up the street a bit and then turned back.

As you can see, I managed it, I reached 40 miles for the day.

What I didn’t realize, but discovered after I entered the mileage on my bike log, those 40 miles means I’ve just reached exactly 500 miles for the year.
Second turn around point--end of paved area of Lindale Trail. A shorter rest while I put on sweatshirt--it was getting chillly.

In Which I Introspect as I Inspect The Boyson Trail

View of Dry Creek from low bridge on Boyson Trail. It was that pretty of a morning.Note that the browns are finally turning to green.

I went to the gym this morning after sleeping in, and decided to ride on the Lindale-Boyson trails on the way home.

Let me say I’m pleased with the city of Marion. That trail had been extremely rutted earlier this week, deeply roughened by the passage of bikes on mushy limestone. They’ve scraped it, and it was nice.

It was a cool, contemplative, pleasant ride. I felt I was in a strange mood, enjoying beautiful spring sunshine while I meditated on death and suffering on this Good Friday.

Still, it was a gorgeous morning to be out. I will have a busy weekend and don’t know how many rides I will squeeze in, but I am glad the first was very nice!

Looking the other way on the same bridge. Why does the violent water seem to evoke more serenity than the still water on the other side of the bridge?

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

In Which The Daffodils Bloom In Passed Lawns

It was chilly this morning, again, and windy and cloudy this afternoon—but still getting more and more into spring.

Today was a flower show.

The magnolia behind Warde Hall on the MMU campus is in bloom, and I walked by it on the way back to my office after my piano lesson, so the magnolia photos are from just before my bike ride.

Three views of magnolia near Warde Hall.

Despite the wind, which made riding east or south a bit cool, I decided to head to the trail, and when I got there, I rode down to Cedar Lake before turning north. It was especially windy by the lake—a large flat expanse that the rushing air just whips across.
Choppy waters of Cedar Lake.
I noticed, along the ride in residential areas, that many daffodils are starting to bloom. I have lots coming up in my yard, but none in flower yet. I like seeing this cheery yellow sign of the new season of growth.

Later, near home, I took a loop down the Lindale and Boyson trails just to get on the other side of the Bowman Woods hill just so I could climb it. RAGBRAI training, don’t you know. Still no long rides this month—no time yet—but I’m doing fairly well, and I’ve done more than 450 miles so far this year.

Still considering that 100 mile loop ….
Lawn in neighborhood south of Rockwell-Collins--daffodils in bloom in a garden by a house. None in bloom in my yard yet, or at Mount Mercy, but they are coming up and will bloom soon.

Monday, April 14, 2014

In Which Morning Snow Is Warmer Than Evening Wind

A bit beaten up by Sunday's storm, first blooming Iris on MMU campus seen Monday morning.

It was cold on my bike rides both this morning and this evening—it was snowing on me on the way into work. Only lightly, not accumulating, but it was snowing.

Despite the morning snow, there are undeniable signs that today was a spring bike ride day. Dry Creek was swollen from spring rains. On the way across campus on my bike in the morning, I paused, briefly hopped off, and photographed the first irises blooming in the garden between Warde Hall and Basile Hall.
A very wet Dry Creek seen from the C Avenue bridge Monday morning. You can't see them, and I snapped this photo hoping you could, but there are lots of snowflakes in the air, too.

And this evening, the ducks were back in their customary puddle at the corner of Lennox Avenue and 40th Street.

Most of all—the morning’s most undeniable sign that the season has indeed changed most definitely—here is a photo of the parking lot at Rockwell Collins looking south towards Collins Road.
Risking life as I snap this photo--because I'm in motion, crossing Rockwell-Collins parking lot. We're looking south towards the corner of the lot where mountains of snow were piled all winter long And there is no more snow to be seen--my first view of this lot this year with no snow in it.

What don’t you see? No snow. This is the corner of the parking lot where the company piles its mountains of white stuff, and the dirty piles of snow were visible well into April, even last week.

But, not today. I don’t know if it was the 80 degree day Saturday or the 4 inches of rain Sunday, but today there was no snow here. Finally.

Because it’s spring. Hip, hip, hooray!
The ducks in their puddle Monday evening.

Sunset view as I peddle through campus Monday around 7 p.m. Guess we really should replaced that poor tattered flag.

Saturday, April 12, 2014

In Which We Ride Together And I Top 400 Miles

Warm Friday afternoon around 3:30--getting ready for first joint ride of 2014.
Grandchild at the park.
It was just gorgeous Friday afternoon. I got done with a newspaper meeting around 2, and walked by my wife’s office.

She was finishing up a meeting with a student, and she suggested that I ride home and her bike ready, and we could have a ride together. Well, that was a very fine idea, so it’s exactly what I did.

I arrived home first, and had time to get our bikes out and lubricate her chain and pump up her tires. She arrived, we changed into more casual clothes. She had texted one of our daughters and arranged for us to meet at a park that is about 2 miles from our house.

And we were off. She had told our daughter that we would meet them (the daughter and her children) at the park around 4, but as it turned out, we left a bit early and got to the park maybe 5 minutes before the daughter did.

The bike is mightier than the minivan. Or, two old people get ready for a journey more quickly than 4 young children.

After an interlude of play at the park, they hopped back in the van and we hopped on our bikes to meet again at a restaurant in Marion.

The ride there was fine, but our time at ZJ’s wasn’t so fine. It took an hour for four dinners to be prepared, and four children 6 and under to not wait that patiently. Anyway, the irony is that Audrey was chatting with me about whether I had installed lights on her bike (I had), and I though the discussion irrelevant because we were eating around 5:30 with plenty of daylight left. I didn’t count on still being at the restaurant after 7.

Well, we took the Boyson Trail on the way back home, and my bike computer confirmed it was 3 miles to the restaurant and 3 miles home—a 6-mile ride. The meal was unexpectedly long, which meant we got to test the lights on Audrey’s bike on the way home. The lights work just fine.

It was a very pleasant ride. At the end of the summer last year, my wife and I started riding together more often than we have in the past. I hope that trend continues. And sometime during the ride, I broke 400 miles for the year so far.

Monday, April 7, 2014

In Which The Gamble Still Pays Off

Around 7:30, corner of F Avenue and Collins Road looking west. That's a thunderstorm sky, but the storm was falling apart rather than gaining strength.
It was cloudy this morning, but dry There was a chance of rain today, but I rode.

A brief sprinkle did fall late afternoon, but it was before I headed home. By the time I left MMU at a bit after 7, the sky was getting interesting, with a dark bank of clouds in the west.

Still, I made it home. And I’m heading to bed at 10, with still no rain falling.

It seems to be the start of another good biking week.

Sun peaks under thin bank of ominous clouds along C Avenue near Blair's Ferry Road.

Sunday, April 6, 2014

In Which Spring Rides Are Finally Here

Granddaughter enjoys fine afternoon weather April 5. We took our time and a long loopy route from her house to mine, including most of the Boyson trail. Here, we stop at a bridge to check out the water, one of her favorite things to do on a bike ride. I don't know, what do you think? Does she like bike rides?
Well, the week was surprisingly good, with rides every day. I had snow smack me in the face this week, and I gambled with the weather a bit, but still, 5 rides and never once did I have to use a car. That’s a pretty good week.

The weekend had good biking weather, and I managed to squeeze in a few miles (a few more than 20 between Saturday and Sunday). Time was too pressed, due to other events, but spring was sure in the air. In fact, the past three days have been about the best weather for biking so far.

Consider some biking scenes:

Birds on Cedar Lake. I went to work late in the afternoon of April 6, and made a little trial detour to tool around the lake on my ride back home.

Ducks check out street puddle during my evening ride home on April 4. Earlier in the week, I had been pelted by snow. Now, it's warm enough that the grass is just starting to look green.
Blackbird singing as sunset on Cedar Lake seen during a bike ride April 6. Actually, he was not singing. More like yelling, as blackbirds do. They don't appreciate human attention.

Friday, April 4, 2014

In Which I Contemplate The February Dip

Magic of Excel. My bike monthly mileage totals so far in 2014.

Now that winter is over (knock on wood), it’s interesting to see how the biking year has gone so far.

Thursday, I managed to squeeze out an unexpected day of biking. As a rule, CR Biker doesn’t like wet and will avoid a rainy ride. I know, I know, true bike commuters are like mail carriers under the old motto of the U.S. Post Office—neither rain nor snow nor dark of night, yadda yadda. Well, I’m not a mail carrier, and even if I’m not the Wicked Witch the West, I drive a bike that makes me look a bit like her.

I won’t melt in rain, but neither Francis nor I enjoy wet. It’s more serious for Francis. If I get wet, I have to dry off. If my bike gets wet, the cancer of rust spreads.

Anyway, rain was in the forecast Thursday, which normally would have called for a driving day. But, sometimes when it is going to “rain,” that doesn’t mean all day—it means rain now and then, and Thursday’s forecast was of that type. So I checked the radar in the morning (one of the minor positive aspects of modern life—when I was young, no random bike commuter would “check the radar”) and saw that, splotched with rain-green as the state might be, none of the splotches were on me.

So I rode, and I was fine.

On Thursday afternoon, I was lecturing, when I looked out the classroom window to see it raining. I had been talking about my bike at the time (it was relevant to class), and the class interpreted my nonverbal reaction to mean that Francis had been stolen. Well, no, my bike was parked inside the building in the hall by my office—its usual “rain” spot on campus—the dramatic pause was just my reaction to the rain and the prospect of a cold, wet ride home.

Fortunately, as it turned out, the ride was damp and cool, but the passing shower had passed by the time the class period was in the past.

I’ve been keeping an online bike log on Google Docs to track my miles. I had a dip in February mileage, caused, I’m sure, by the harsh winter we had. March was a winter month in Iowa this year, but my mileage nicely rebounded. According to my bike log, I’m up to 324 miles for the year as of Thursday, and just shy of 200 of those miles were in March.

My goal this year, if you recall, is 5,000 miles. I will have to average more than 400 miles a month to get there, but I knew in setting that yearly goal that many of those miles would be packed into summer months. So to near 200 in March isn’t bad.

Here’s hoping for 300 or more in April!

Tuesday, April 1, 2014

In Which The Maples Bloom As Cold Winds Blow

Sunday afternoon. Lots of traffic on the Cedar Valley Nature Trail north of Hiawatha and Robins.

I just topped 300 miles today, although I’m not sure I’ll get many more biking miles in this week. Rain and possibly snow are to fall, starting tomorrow.

Well, we need the rain. And, while April snow is not exactly a welcome guest, snow falls pretty much every April in Iowa.

Still, there have been good spring rides this week. Sunday was very warm, and on the way to campus I rode north a bit. There were lots of people on the trail. I was feeling pretty powerful, until I turned around—heading south meant heading into an a stiff afternoon wind—a very strong one.

Monday, the morning was fine, but there was rain in the forecast. Some moved through around noon, and I thought I was in the clear, but as I rode home, and it got to be close to 7:30 p.m., storm clouds gathered in the west. Luckily, I did make it home before the next quick round of rain fell.

Sun setting through a bank of storm clouds Monday around 7:30, corner of C Avenue and Blairs Ferry Road. Rain did fall and a quick thunderstorm moved through, but I made it home first.
Tuesday, if felt like winter in the morning. It was in the 20s, but with a very stiff west wind that gave a single-digits wind chill. I had not planned to wear long underwear in April, but I did today, no fooling.

Despite the cold morning, and the wind, I kind of enjoyed the ride. And I noted, when I passed a church that I go by almost every morning, that a stand of maple trees wasn’t pregnant with buds anymore.

The trees are blooming. We’re in for some cool weather for the rest of the week, but spring is still on its way.

Tuesday morning--winter cold, but signs it's spring anyway. Maple blooming in church yard that I passed.