Monday, July 7, 2014

In Which I Have A Brilliant Plan

Sunday sunset on Cedar Lake.
Well, blog pals, I’ve had a busy Weekend. On Sunday, I did a lot of yard work and went to a daughter’s house for a fun family barbecue—and then, around 7, left for a late ride along the Cedar River Trail.

I rode The Beast because Francis suffered a flat tire Saturday night when I rode north to Schultz Road along the Cedar Valley Nature Trail.

Anyway, Sunday’s sunset on Cedar Lake was grand, but I caught a flash of light as I circled the lake. It was dim by then, and I was running with lights on—so I thought maybe the flash was simply an optical illusion, a trick caused by my own front flashing white light. It couldn't be lightening.

It was lightening. There was more as I returned north. The good news is that the Cedar River Trial has been resurfaced around Cedar Lake and is open again. The bad news is that rain started to pelt down before I make it home, which made me glad I was on The Beast. I don’t worry as much at getting the winter beater bike wet, and The Beast has nice wide tires to grip damp asphalt. Luckily, I made it home before the rain really got heavy, so I was only damp, not drenched. Even luckier, the lightening had been off in the distance and didn't kill me. I prefer it that way.

Anyway, my plans today were more ambitious. You may recall I've toyed with the idea of doing the Karras Loop for the first time during RAGBRAI this year. That would make for a 105-mile day. I wanted to put in some serious miles today to see if I could possibly ride that far.

But, what with one thing and another—a failed attempt to get my bike computer working (I think it’s permanently dead) and a successful, but time consuming, attempt to change the front flat and install a new water bottle holder—it was about 11 a.m. before I finally headed out.

I took the new traffic light route Cate showed me to cross Center Point and hit the trail, then turned north and rode. It was warm and muggy, but gorgeous. I had several snacks and some sports drink tablets with me, so I thought maybe I would make it to Urbana.

I wouldn't. I snacked first in Lafayette, then headed north to Center Point. My plan was to eat lunch there, and then head farther north. But when I go there, my lunch wasn't with me. In a middle-aged memory moment, I had left my lunch box on a picnic table in Lafayette.

Well, plans changed. As I headed back south, I was really hoping the lunch box was there—I wanted that honking huge peanut butter and Nutella sandwich that I had packed.

When I got close to Lafayette, my heart sank a bit—I could see there was no lunch box on the picnic table I had used. But then, I noticed the fence. Someone had seen that a lunch box had been left at Lafayette, and had placed it on the fence. All my stuff was there—my snacks were intact.

Happy days, Dawson. My munchies are on a fence.

So I munched my PB&N as I contemplated the brilliant plan that I had also been thinking of on the hungry trek south from Center Point.

It has to do with butterflies. According to a recent article in The Gazette, there are efforts afoot to aid the ailing Monarch Butterfly by planting more milkweed—but one of those efforts is to put milkweed in natural flower plantings along roads.

Which sounds OK, but Monarchs, which are avoided by birds because they taste terrible, apparently, are often killed by cars.

A butterfly I saw today.
My brilliant plan was prompted by the fact I had just seen a Monarch beside the trail. It also may be related to the caterpillar on a milkweed plant I had seen during the recent Tour the Raccoon ride near Des Moines.

Instead of planting more milkweed plants along roads, put milkweed along bicycle trials. Bikers would love to see the butterflies, and bicycles are a low mortality risk for Monarchs. Trust me on this—in 45 years of bike riding, I think I have yet to run down my first butterfly. They can’t move fast enough to avoid an SUV barreling down an interstate at 70 mph, but can easily flit away from a 15- to 20-mph bicycle.

Maybe bike groups could join the cause. Maybe I could talk the Green Club at MMU into sponsoring a mile of milkweed plantings. Maybe I could form a new group: “Bikers for Butterflies” or “Pedals for Flowers” or “Gears Aiding Monarchs” or something like that. Are you in?

Milkweed along trail north of Lafayette.
Of course, it’s possible that the few milkweed I saw on the trail represent deliberate planting that is already underway. If so, great. If not—well, let’s get those milkweed in the ground. We need to encourage more Monarch sex—and not among English nobility.

It was a hot day. I don’t know how efficient the organ between my ears was being. But the idea seemed hopelessly appealing to me—and still seems like a good one although, to be fair, I’m sitting at my laptop after consuming two beers, so maybe that has something to do with the brilliance of the plan.

Anyway, after recovering my snack pack, I continued south. I stopped at a bike shop in downtown Cedar Rapids, and used two gift cards I’d received at MMU to buy a back bag for my back rack. The list price of the bag was $50, but after the gift cards, I only owed the tax, which was $3.50. A pretty good deal, if you ask me.

I’m just over 1,500 miles for the year. I credited myself with 45 for today, but may have ridden more or less (dead computer, my mileage figures now are rough estimates). The rear bag will be helpful on RAGBRAI and useful during the school year, I think.

Still, the main thing I’m thinking about from recent rides is butterflies. And bike trails. A good mix?

Installed new water bottle holder before ride, and purchased back bag late in the afternoon. I may need more training, but Francis is pretty much RAGBRAI ready.

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