Saturday, January 17, 2015

In Which The Geese Gather for Their Party, Too

Thursday--Francis parked near library at MMU. Only bike rack on campus that is not buried in snow.

Well, I don’t know if I win any prizes for schmoozing, but I did have a good time at a bar Friday night, which is pretty unlikely for me.

I’d received an e-mail invitation from The Gazette to attend a “Pints and Politics” event at the New Bo Alehouse. My wife is in England right now, and there was free food—a biker goes where there are snacks.

It turned out Friday was a warm (upper 30s) and sunny day. It was also slightly breezy, which made it feel colder than it looked, but still …

I had considered driving, since I knew I was going to be out well after dark, but then again I was going to a bar and there would be alcohol. I do not recommend drunk biking any more than drunk driving, but I also knew I was not going to get drunk. In fact, I had just one beer that I nursed through three rounds of appetizers, which was my evil plan all along—but even if I have only one beer in my system, I still prefer the slower pace of biking to trying to drive a car. Call it “mellow biking.”

I’m an introvert, so I was not quite sure if the event would be fun. The ride there was nice, though—other than the Thursday parked bike photo, that’s when I shot the other images on this post. Still no eagle sightings, but I did see a whole big party of geese clustered on a small open patch of water on Cedar Lake.

Geese cluster around a small patch of open water on Cedar Lake. I left a bit early for the Gazette party and had time to circle the lake. Someone walking by thought I had a GoPro on my helmet, but it's just a light. The light came in handy later on during the dark ride home!

I got to the bar, circled it a couple of times. The bike racks are plentiful there, but also buried in snow. I ended up chaining Francis to a couple of chairs in an unused patio area.

The party was easy to find. I signed in, got my nametag, chatted briefly with some MMU colleagues who were there, and then sat at an empty table. Yes, I know, the introvert's usual mistake. But a few minutes later, a woman who was at the party alone joined me. It turned out she is the finance person at the University of Iowa nursing program, so we spent a pleasant time chatting about the nature of academia—speculating about how changes in state funding will impact colleges, talking about the resignation of the UI president, etc.

A man who was much more of a social butterfly than I am—which, by the way, is very easy to be since I’m more like a social caterpillar—also stopped by several times and rather noisily joined in the conversation. I think he actually livened things up. The Gazette had provided some political conversation prompts in the form of policy questions that were on each table—for example, should the minimum wage be raised and, if so, to what?

Those provided some lively conversation.

The appetizers were good, the conversation nice, the bar an interesting old bank building. It turned out to be a pleasant outing.

The Gazette's logo for the event.
I guess I was expecting a bit more in terms of actual Gazette experts weighing in—maybe a panel discussion and some Q and A. The setting, however, wasn't really conducive to that. Some Gazette journalists were circulating, but didn't make it around to my table. After a while, they tried asking some of the prompt questions, but I couldn't join in raising my hand because I could not near well enough to know what question was being asked.

That’s OK. It was the first time The Gazette tried this event, and I’m sure they’ll tweak it for next time.

The ride home was an adventure. I thought of taking a street route back, knowing that Cedar River Trail would be very dark in sections and the streets better lit. But, I also knew that the trail was, on average, much more clear of snow and ice than the streets are, so I opted for the road more plowed. It did occur to me, as I was riding slowly north of J Avenue in full black darkness, that if I hit some ice and were knocked unconscious, I would be there for some time. I was passed by one crazy biker going in the opposite direction, but otherwise the trail was mine alone.

I decided to leave it at 42nd Street and take the Wendy’s-Noeldridge Park route home. I had two concerns—did they plow the sidewalk at the park? Happily, yes. Did they plow the sidewalk behind the middle school? Sort of—probably before the latest batch of wind, because some sections had drifted shut and not been cleared since. Still, I only had to walk the bike a few yards through snow on that walk—otherwise that route home proved to be OK.

I got home by a bit after 7. It felt later, one of those days in which not much happened, but it seems like a long day anyway.

Today? I have a painting party at a Habitat for Humanity House south of the Cedar River. Google says it will take 45 minutes to bike there. I think they underestimate the time for two reasons: I’m slower than Google expects any biker to be at the best of times, and winter, when you have to watch it and deliberately ride slower anyway, is not the best of times.

But given how well the biking went Friday, you know how I’ll arrive at today’s MMU workday. On two wheels.
I had a little time to kill before going to the bar, so I rode to the lion's bridge. This is the view from the bridge looking back  at the downtown--it looks pretty stark, but this was a nice afternoon for a bike ride. I like the patterns of ice, too.

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