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.

Friday, October 24, 2014

In Which I Dodge Pickups In The Mist

Dripping bike spokes at Warde Hall bike rack. Not my bike--I parked inside.
It was quite foggy this morning. I didn’t ride yesterday due to rain, but decided to chance the morning mist.

Well, I rode with lights on, but didn’t have any dicey moments. A student who drives down 380 from north told me she feared for her life at one point, due to thick fog that prevented her from seeing traffic as she barreled down the autobahn.

Me, I tool along quite residential streets at modest speed. The fog limited visibility, but didn’t make the world invisible. I had to stop three times to take out my handkerchief and wipe my glasses, but that was all.

Corner of C and Blair's Ferry this morning at 8 a.m. Time for lights.
Web I saw leaving house.
Don't fret, sister, no spider.

The air was actually fairly pleasant. When wet air is warm, as in a summer afternoon when both the temperature and humidity are above 90, it feels “used,” almost like you’re sharing the breath of a warm-blooded, and very damp, dragon. When wet air is cool, high 40s, for instance, and there is a mist in it, it moistens the nasal passages and feels a bit refreshing going down. It was that kind of morning.

When I got to work, I parked inside. I though water might collect on Francis otherwise, and the drops on a bike parked in the bike rack seem to substantiate my conjecture.

I’ll put some chain lube on when I get home this afternoon, but for the most part, the damp ride wasn’t as wet as I thought it might be, nor as scary as it could have been.

And it was nice to back on the bike.
Thursday--sunset. My wife and I are out on a stroll. the clouds start to break up, but overnight they will return at surface level. Not foggy, but cloudy at noon on Friday.

Thursday, October 23, 2014

In Which RAGBRAI Sets Its 2015 Logo

It has been an eventful week, on the bicycle and off, which is one reason your biking correspondent has disappeared briefly off the face of the blogosphere. But, I am back.

Screen shot of logo video.
RAGBRAI made me come back. I saw on Facebook their post about the logo for the 2015 ride, and of course I had to check it out and kibitz. Here is their announcement.

Meh. I give the logo a 7—it’s pleasant enough but not inspired. Tractors are OK, although it seems one of their more complicated logos. Not sure how it will fit on a water bottle.

Still, not only am I seeing Facebook posts about next year’s RAGBRAI, but my commemorative DVD of this year’s ride arrived this week in the mail. I haven’t had time to watch it all, and frankly, parts of it are a bit unwatchable—the accolades for RAGBRAI in the “history” chapter grow quickly wearying—but whatever. The DVD reminds me of the RAGBRAI that was, while the logo makes me look forward to RAGBRAIs yet to be.

Another screen shot. Tractor morphs into a bike.

Next year, my biggest goal is to train with a few more days that have consecutive long rides. My medical checkup following the chest pain scares on RAGBRAI 2014 indicated a healthy heart, although the cardiologist who did my heart test had to point out, needlessly, I think, that: “You may be having some skeletal-muscle issues. You’re not 25 years old anymore, you know.”

Clearly, I am not. I need more long rides to get into shape. Then again, I’m also not too old for RAGBRAI.

More on that in a minute. But first, a diversion into my biking week. Last week was fall break, and I enjoyed a very pleasant hour-long bike ride in Ames along a trail that parallels Squaw Creek. Steve H, I saw Ames High School for the first time—it’s at the north end of the trail we were on.

Oct. 16 afternoon bike ride in Ames.

And although I drove today due to morning rain, this week again has been a mostly good one for a bike commuter. Wednesday night, I took the trail route home just because I could, and my computer, which has been mostly comatose lately, woke up for a mile or so to let me know I was trucking along the trail at about 15 mph. I was feeling pretty good, like a pretty fast biker.

I exited the trail, feeling powerful with my RAGBRAI-trained legs, and was ruminating about the pleasant, leafy smell of fall air. Then, as I was riding on some quiet street near Noeldridge Park, I heard it: a “click-click-click” sound, like someone riding a bike not quite in gear.

It wasn’t me. The sound gained on me. And a gentlemen on what looked like an ancient yellow ten speed shouted a cheery greeting as he click-click-clicked on by.

So much for powerful RAGBRAI legs. Then again, even an ancient ten speed is more built for swiftness than Francis—a sturdy but slow commuting bike—is. Then again, this man, who looked old to me (at a guess I would say he was probably around 80) was zooming by me with his chain not quite hitting the gears correctly.

He reminded me of a World War II veteran who rode by me on his first RAGBRAI just a couple of years ago. Then again, this guy honestly looked like he could have been the same WWII veteran. How many 80-year-old bikers are out late enough in Cedar Rapids on fall evenings to have to run with lights on so they can click-click-click past startled, late-middle-aged professors?

Well, I can’t be too old to ride. Clearly, Mr. ten speed wasn’t. That old man gave me some hope, like the new RAGBRAI logo, a reason to look ahead. Maybe someday, I’ll be on some fast yellow bike, and I can zoom by some young whippersnapper in his 50s.

All in all, it has been a good biking week.

OK, we took a walk at ISU after the bike ride, so this isn't a biking picture. Still, last Thursday was this kind of day. Lake Laverne at Iowa State University.

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

In Which The Frost Looks Kind of Pretty

In yard near C Avenue bridge over Dry Creek--frosty cottonwood leaf on Saturday morning in sunrise.

Morning gym ride Oct. 11—it frosted finally in my part of Iowa that morning. There was a coating of ice on the car and grey crystals all over the grass. The TV weather talked about a “hard freeze,” but I struggle with calling it that because it only dropped down to 32—I think of a “hard” freeze as in the 20s.

Still, it was a definite frost. It must have stayed at 32 for some hours. Luckily, on my morning bike ride to exercise at the gym, there was little wind, so even with an air temperature just chilly enough to induce a state change in water, I wasn’t frigid.

And the clear morning sun make the ice sparkle, don’t you think?

It's not the same leaf--there are two here--but it is the same lawn.

I was hoping it was a foretaste of rides to come. I actually like cool, icy bike rides—a frosty morning in the 20s, if it’s also dry and not windy, is both pretty and comfortably ideal for a large man like me who is riding on a bicycle.

Alas, this week it was not to be. It started to rain on Sunday, and this is Tuesday night now—and it has not let up. So I drove for the two days of school this week. Now it’s fall break.

I might have heard a small voice. Did it say "we are here?"

If I’m lucky, I may get some break rides in, although I also have work to do because mid-term grades are due right after break. Anyway, my wife and I plan to visit our youngest son in Ames later this week, and we may bring bikes and try out some trails there.

I hope so. After this rain, I feel the need to hit the peddles again. May it be soon.

And may there be more pretty, frosty, sunshine mornings.

Later Saturday. 1-year-old granddaughter. She has lately become an enthusiastic biking buddy, but we spent our time playing in leaves I had raked. Maybe later this week we will go for a ride--I hope so.

Wednesday, October 8, 2014

In Which I Praise the Fall Sky

Moon morning of Oct. 8--cool, nice morning for an eclipse.
Grotto at MMU. Can't really bike here, but it shows how nice a fall day midday can be. On a walk Oct. 8 at MMU, we took a bit of a detour just to pass through the grotto.

Fall is biking season, for sure. Crisp air, blue skies, no more summer heat—of course, parts of fall can be wet and dreary, which is not fun, but so far Fall 2014 has been textbook perfect for bike commuting.

There has been some rain and some winds, but frankly wind  is OK. It can be a problem on a long cross-country ride, but when your commute is only 4 miles, even a pretty stiff headwinds is not such a big deal.

It’s just a nice season to be outside.

On the MMU walk.

Most of these photos aren’t actually from biking. I did take the sunrise over the Rockwell-Collins pond this week—I know it’s not that different from an earlier picture, but I like it anyway. The moon is early (around 6 a.m.) from Oct. 8, when the moon passed through the Earth’s shadow. Otherwise, these are pictures of the Mount Mercy University Campus, several during a fitness walk Oct. 8.

Flag at MMU during walk.
There is something nice about the fall sky—interesting clouds, deep blues, a nice light angle from the southern journeying sun. Summer light can be more overwhelming, and winter is a bit too faded with long shadows midday.

Spring is nice, but your attention is more drawn down, to the first flowers. And in Iowa, fall is often dryer than spring, which makes it a bit more of a sky-viewing season.

So, welcome bikers, to the best commuting season of all.

The pond at Rockwell-Collins in the morning. Tuesday, I think.

Saturday, October 4, 2014

In Which I Put The Briefcase In Back

Friday morning ride view of the sky. Pond at Rockwell-Collins. I have both my jacket on and I'm wearing gloves (not biking gloves, gloves to keep my hands warm). After a quick sunrise, clouds rolled in as a strong cold front dropped the temperatures all day.

My bike basket is a bit temperamental. When I put something large, like my briefcase or backpack, into it, it’s likely to come off when I try to unload.

And Friday, before a cool ride to work, I had some folders in my briefcase. Paper is heavy, and I didn't like the idea of having extra weight in the front basket.

Did it work? It did.
So, I thought, how hard would it be to bungee the briefcase in back? But I was in a hurry, so I made a deal with myself. If I could get the briefcase in place in under 5 minutes, it’s a go. Otherwise, just stuff it in the basket and get to work, you slacker.

I unclipped the strap. 10 seconds. I undid a bungee I keep in back, and put the briefcase in place, and then prepared for several minutes to struggle to try to stretch the cord. Hmmm, grunt—what?

It was, I think under a minute total. The bungee stretching required modest force, but turned out to be very quick. And the cord was tight enough I was reasonably sure the briefcase would still be there when I got to work.

It was. A small victory for your biking commuter.

Message scrawled on pillar of newsroom at Mount Mercy. All you need is love, air in your tires and some good chain lube.

Thursday, October 2, 2014

In Which I Have 2,369.1 Miles To Go

My miles this year. peaked in July, on the way down now.

In July of this year, I rode 688 miles. As of the end of September, I’m estimating (I only have a computer on one bike that I ride, and it’s not functioning well) that I've ridden a total of not quite 2,700 miles—2,630.9 to be imprecise (estimating, remember?). That leaves me almost 2,400 to go to reach 5,000 miles.

One of the places my bicycle took me this month--Stello Performance Hall at MMU before the STEPS induction ceremony on  Sept. 28.
I think we can call this one, folks. My personal goal of riding bicycles 5,000 miles in a year doesn't have a prayer of coming true in 2014. Well, I can’t say that I’m terribly broken up about it—the number was arbitrary when I chose in January. So maybe the goal next year should be 4,000 miles. Given the mileage trend this year, and three months to go, I’m likely to top 3,000 miles in 2014 and might approach 3,500 this year, weather willing.

Catherine McAuley statue in late afternoon light Tuesday.
My September miles were down from August, which is not a huge shock given that I work all day and can’t just bum around on bike trails. Still, if the weather is good (knock on wood), it’s been a decent biking year so far. The lowest monthly mileage was the snowy February, during which there were few biking days and I only got 38 miles in. Almost 250 in September is more than March, although less than April. Since there is a school break in it, maybe I can get more in October.

I have run into a few mechanical issues this month. The Beast broke a spoke, and I can’t fix it, and in the meantime the back wheel on the Fancy Beast has developed a wobble. I looked and did not find a broken spoke, so I’m hoping I’ll be able to deal with that problem soon. Time for experimental bike mechanical work has been short of late.

So now it’s Francis and Francis alone. I hope he holds up well! And may October rival September for beautiful biking days!

Big water bird standing in Dry Creek. Saw it Thursday while on a walk with my wife, daughter and one grandchild. I often bicycle along the Boyson Trail were I saw this, but on Thursday it was during a stroll.