Saturday, August 30, 2014

In Which I Have A Most Excellent Birthday Ride

End of the ride, the happy bikers. The older one on the right just turned 56 today.

I turned 56 today, and my wife said I could do pretty much what I wanted.

So I completely ignored the backlog of work for a whole day. The morning started with a gym workout, followed by a drive downtown to Kathy’s Pies to buy a birthday desert—apple pie. And then it was off to breakfast at Perkins. When we got home, we skyped with a daughter who lives in the UK.

The plan then was to ride our bikes and take a nap, but both of us decided that naps could come first. So it was a bit later that I got out Francis and my wife’s bike. I thought of riding The Beast so we would be on similar bikes, but we wanted to carry snacks and that’s just a lot easier with Francis. I pumped up tires and lubed chains and then we were on our way.

I had planned to take the trail south, but forgot my turn on F Avenue and we ended up down by Mount Mercy before we finally took J Avenue to the trail.

Art outside the museum.
We haven’t been on a lot of joint rides this year, but this was a very nice day—just a little warm, but with a nice breeze, and just enough clouds to keep the sun from feeling hot. We rode down to Cedar Lake and decided to keep going. We paused for selfies at the Museum of Art, and when we got to Sokol Park, we enjoyed nuts, raisins and animal crackers—a pretty good biking snack. We decided we weren’t done in yet, so we continued on the trail until we got to about 11 miles or so from the start—right at the bridge that crosses railroad tracks. There we took more pictures and headed back.

On the way back, we paused at Parlor City for some ice cream. I had not tried a Boston Shake before, but it (a sundae on top of a shake) seems like an excellent idea. I had hot fudge on chocolate. Maybe I will try caramel on strawberry next time.

We all scream. Well, not really. But we eat ice cream.

Before that, we had paused at the park at Cedar Lake to use the restrooms, where I rescued a damsel in distress. Her chain had slipped off, and she and her daughter were unable to get it back on. She was struggling with her bike chain with one hand and talking with some guy on her cell phone with the other.

I walked up. I’m no bike mechanic, but I’ve put chains back on enough times to be of some aid. It helps if you at least know how to make the chain slack by holding the rear derailleur.

So I sort of just dived in there.

“Some guy is helping me,” the woman exclaimed on the cell phone. I hadn't verbally communicated with her before that point, because she was yakking on her cell phone.

“Is he weird?” a male voice from the phone queried.

“You’re on speaker phone,” she said.

Then I added: “Yes. He’s very weird.”

Maybe it’s a good thing it didn't take me long to get the chain on again. I never met the man who belonged to that voice.

North shore of Cedar Lake, the wife pedals along. It was a very nice day.

Anyway, we decided chivalry deserves a reward, so we stopped for the ice cream later. Don’t worry blog pals—if I had not rescued Miss My-Chain-Came-Off, I’m sure my wife and I would have decided that not running over caterpillars on the trail would have also qualified as chivalry, so ice cream would have been in order anyway. Or if we had hit a caterpillar, and my wife thinks I hit at least one, we would have been drowning our sorrows. In any event, there was ice cream.

“This sort of negates the ride,” she said as she enjoyed her turtle sundae.

No, I don’t think it did. I think it completed a very nice birthday ride. We went home, I did some yard work as she prepared a spaghetti feast for me, then we watched “Tea With Mussolini” and enjoyed our Kathy’s pie.

It was definitely a nice biker’s birthday.

On the bridge before turning back. 

Sunday, August 24, 2014

In Which Trails Are Popping Up All Over

End of my morning ride--sidewalk beyond the end of a trail that will eventually lead to downtown Cedar Rapids.

This morning, the Gazette, besides featuring a column by me that I wrote about on my other blog, also had a front-page story that explains how more regional transportation dollars are making long-term bike trail plans a reality in the coming years.

I was riding on the Boyson Trail and related trails this morning, and I took a new sidewalk that leads up into the shopping area where Menards in Marion is located. It felt odd to be able to get out of the trail via that end, but useful, too.

And eventually, maybe before I’m 60, I may be able to ride trails all the way to Mount Mercy, with a route that goes under Highway 151 and under First Avenue. I wonder a bit at the “under First Avenue” part, but that is what the story says.

Can’t wait.

End of the line for now--part of the interface of sidewalk and trail (can't see the paving which is "below" the photo). This trail ends at Highway 151, for now, but eventually will head south and west to Mount Mercy.

Friday, August 22, 2014

In Which I Practice Taking Selfies By A Tank

Two bikers blocking your view of a tank down by the baseball diamond. Darn bikers get in the way all the time.

I took a morning ride with my son Jon. He’s just back in the states after a two-year stint in the Peace Corps. He’s visiting us for a few days before relocating to Pittsburgh, where his lovely wife is entering graduate school.

Anyway, he arrived late Tuesday and spent Wednesday visiting with his mom and one of his sisters and her children.

Thursday was reserved for his first long bike ride. Yes, folks, the owner of Fancy Bike is back in town and ready to roll. But, like a mouse’s plans, his Thursday ride didn't quite take place. Luckily his bike wasn't done in by a plow (bonus reference to Scottish poetry), but rain pelted down midday right after he got his bike ready to ride.

He did manage a short ride before going on a walk with his mother, but it wasn't exactly what he had planned.

Today, I had an internship meeting at a baseball stadium located across town. I offered to let Jon tag along so that I can refresh his memory on how to get to the Cedar River Trail.

It was very warm and muggy and grey when we started. I was worried we were headed into a rainstorm, since rain had popped up quickly yesterday. But, we were lucky and stayed dry. Well, as dry as you stay on a warm, super humid Iowa morning when you’re riding a bike—which isn’t really all that dry at all, and I wished I had on a biking shirt, but I had a polo shirt on so that I could look business casual and all sweaty. It worked.

Anyway, we had a bit of an adventure on the way there. I had ridden by the stadium on my wait to an interview at KZIA earlier this week, but clearly did not have perfect recall of the route, since we ended up lost for a time. It took an hour to get there—not much longer than it should have, but a bit.

Jon had popped out of bed and hopped on his bike, so he sat outside and ate a granola bar and banana while I met with an internship supervisor.

The meeting went well, and we found the street I had intended to use in the first place. But, surprise, surprise, I turned off too early and got lost again. This time, when I oriented myself to place, I knew we were six blocks or so from Czech Village, so that’s where we went.

I felt I should reward Jon for his patience, and reward me with second breakfast because of my patience, and reward my wife with some treats that she doesn't know about and which will be a surprise to her because it’s extremely unlikely she will read this blog post, so we stopped at a Czech bakery, Sykora Bakery, for some coffee and kolaches. You get a price break if you buy half a dozen, so Audrey, some apple and cherry rolls are headed your way.

Jon is eating his kolaches. I've finished mine. No wonder I look so serious.
After the break, we headed down the Cedar River trail through downtown Cedar Rapids. I am in my office, avoiding urgent work by writing this (although I have worked and it is noon, so I can justify this as part of my lunch break). Jon is out there, somewhere, riding, and not getting sunburned, I hope.

Anyway, it was a good ride. Oh, and in case you wondered, the heart test I had this week went well. I do have a heart and it apparently is working. The pain? “You might have some skeletal, muscle issues,” the doctor said.

Here’s hoping kolahces can cure that.

My coffee and some Czech roles. Not mine--I had rhubarb and strawberry. This is apple and cherry, treats for my sweetie.

Sunday, August 17, 2014

In Which The Local Trail Makes a Slow Comeback

Aug. 16--new interface at Thomas Park parking lot (above). Sidewalk under construction leading to side trail near Menards (below).

Over the past two weeks, I've been on the Boyson Trail area several times.

Since June flooding, the city of Marion has been working on the trail. They aren't just putting it back the way it was—there are some improvements. The parking lot near Thomas Park wont’ “cross” the trail anymore. A new sidewalk will lead from the end of a side trail to the city streets in the Menards area.

Well, it may be some weeks before it’s all done, and the way work has been going, some time before I can enjoy the results. But I hope we catch a break for a while from the floods—the trail is going to be nice.
OK, it has nothing to do with trail, but I was pleased to see full bike rack Friday at MMU.

Sunday, August 10, 2014

In Which The Fancy Beast Rides Almost 50 Miles

I knew I was going on a longer ride, so I ate a biker breakfast.

The bike. What shall I call it? Fancy Beast?

I took a bike we inherited from the Moscou’s storage shed, a Raleigh bike, out for a test drive.

I wasn’t expecting much. It’s a mountain bike like the beast. But it felt fast, a nice ride. It’s lighter than the beast, but when I was pumping along the trail just north of Boyson Road, it felt like I was going fast, faster than I do when riding Francis.

Which was weird. The Beast is a slower bike than Francis. And this mountain bike had a top gear of 6—it’s only an 18-speed bike, not 21 like Francis or the Beast, although it was travelling fast in 6.

I was not always moving fast. A long train late in the ride had me waiting for a while.

And I made a mistake. I don’t recall exactly why—whether there was a slight upgrade I started to climb or it was because I was coming to the first road—but I shifted. And since I was not used to the bike, I made my mistake.

I thought I was shifting from 6, the highest year, to 5. Instead, a number that had not been visible—hidden after a little gap.

7. Holy guacamole, this is a 21-speech bike, and there’s a faster gear than 6. And when I was in seven, the fat tires sung on the trail and I zoomed towards Lafayette. It was 7 miles and took about 35 minutes to get there.

Selfie at Tait Cummins before heading home.

So, what a surprise.

The long test drive of the new beast-style bike produced unexpected results.

I rode to Lafayette and down to Tait Cummins park. I don’t have a computer on this bike, but I think it was around 45 miles.

And they went by faster than I expected.

I saw what I thought was a swan  on the Cedar River, but it honked like a goose, and besides the white feathers, acted like a goose, honked like a goose and was handing out with geese. Well, there are species of white geese, but why was this one here?

It was the second day of new rides. Friday, Audrey and I rode out to Culver’s. That time, I rode the beast because it’s a closer match to my wife’s bike. I think it was our first ride of the summer, and it was really nice.

Two days and two new rides.

Friday night at Culvers. Our bikes parked at the rack.

Tuesday, August 5, 2014

In Which I Enjoy Some Cool-Day Lilies

Lily in garden behind Warde Hall. As you can see, it's a grey, cool day--but every outdoor thing seems fresher following much-needed rain.

Yesterday and today have featured some extra biking. I ended up riding 26 miles yesterday, partly because I had forgotten to get a check for my piano teacher and had an extra commute to and from campus as a result, and partly because one of my daughters invited us over for supper, and I bicycled out to her house.

And the extra trips continued today. It rained during supper, so I left Francis in my daughter’s garage. After morning exercise, my wife drove me over to retrieve the bike.

It was a cool, foggy ride home at a bit past 6 a.m. It wasn’t dark anymore, but fog made it seem dim, so I rode with lights on. My glasses started to mist up, but then cleared off by themselves.

After arriving at home, it was time to eat breakfast and prepare for the day. I was on an Iowa Private College Week panel, so I stowed an extra shirt in the van in case my first shirt got too sweaty on the ride to campus.

And another kind of lily from the same garden at MMU.

Luckily, the fog was still around and the humid air was still pretty cool. I didn’t seem too soggy at all, which is good, because it turned out my spare shirt is still in the driveway of my house—my wife decided to drive a car today.

Well, I think I got the better deal. Despite the greyness of this post-rain world, it is a nice day for a bike ride. I have more than 10 miles in today already, and we’ll have to see when the evening commute begins and what kind of mood I’m in.

Maybe it’s time to check out Lafayette again …

Saturday, August 2, 2014

In Which I Find Where Cheap Beast Bikes Go To Die

Bike lock at apartment complex locking nothing to the rack.

I've noticed before that bike racks near dorms at Iowa State University are a bit, well, chaotic, with many abandoned bikes accumulating.

They seem to run to inexpensive mountain bikes, like The Beast. I suppose if you had a nice road bike, you’d be unlikely to be taking it to ISU or parking it outside, for that matter.

Friday, we moved Ben back to college. He’s in graduate school now at ISU and lives in an apartment complex near the campus. And it seems the such complexes have racks much like a dorm building.

So this is where beast bikes go to die.

A cluster of dying bikes at a rack near ISU in Ames. Crazy wheels.

Ben is near a shopping complex with both a HyVee and a Goodwill. One end of the complex featured a totally empty bike rack, but then again it is summer in Ames, maybe it will see more use later. And it was near a health clinic—perhaps the sick don’t pedal to their appointments. To be fair, there were some in-use bikes chained up at HyVee.

Empty shopping mall bike rack. Near an SUV. Sigh.

Goodwill featured many pink girls’ bicycles—seems to be a glut on the market for those.

Bikes for sale at Goodwill. All the small girl pink bikes you can possibly want.

The empty bike rack was a bit discouraging, sort of like an empty park on a beautiful day. Oh, wait. Ben’s apartment is next to a nice city park. With an empty playground on a nice summer day. Parents, turn off the electricity in your house and chase the kids outdoors. Even if the kids are in their 20s. Bike racks and playgrounds are only good if they are used.

Empty city park on a nice summer day. And only person we saw recreating outside was a comply lass in a tiny bikini working on her skin cancer. It's a crazy world.