Sunday, March 29, 2015

In Which I Have Registered Our Team

Grandson rides bike. He's testing it, wearing new slippers, which he is pretty proud of. After we determined his bike was ready to ride, he put on shoes and we went around the block. He's not quite ready for RAGBRAI, but I hope he and I may ride that together in the future.

RAGBRAI, here we come.

After a spring break trip to the East Coast, which you can read about here and here, I’m back in Iowa. I missed a week of biking, and partly made up for it by walking more than five miles a day, but when you normally bike about nine miles a day, that doesn’t seem like much.

Anyway, I got in at 1:30 a.m. Saturday, and Saturday afternoon picked up The Beast on campus to ride to my daughter’s house. There, I did a little maintenance on my grandson’s little bike—the crank shaft had come loose, for some reason, and I don’t know if I did a permanent fix, but I did enough that he could ride, and we did go around the block together.

Later, the bigger biking event of the day—I signed up for RAGBRAI. Team Joe is down to four, but the original core is ready to ride.

I hope to see some extra friends late in the week, as we ride into and out of Hiawatha. And the ride goes through Storm Lake this year, which will be nice. Davenport was a good stopping place the first year I did RAGRAI, and we’re ending there again.

Plus, I probably will get to see Jon again. He will be with his own group—they prefer later partying and more camping than Team Joe—but it will still be nice to share some biking time with him.

I’m really looking forward to the ride this year!

Friday, March 13, 2015

In Which Spring Is Busting Out All Over

I showed the British Sea Power video “Machineries of Joy” in class this morning—we are talking about music and what songs mean to someone. I’ve used the video on this blog before, so I won’t repeat it, but this morning’s ride marked several firsts, which show that the joyful spring biking season is underway.

For one thing, because we’ve switched to Daylight Savings Time, I’m more likely to see the early morning sun. and it was very pretty coming up this morning. Not exactly a first, but the sun looked so nice and the air felt so good, that today, March 13, marks the first time I left my biking jacket at home on the morning ride.

Early morning sun shines through the trees growing near Dry Creek, seen from the C Avenue Bridge around 8:25 this morning.

It was in the 40s, and I’m not sure it was an excellent decision—I missed the jacket a bit, and the gloves even more, but still, somehow, it felt good to be riding a bit lighter.

As I crossed Blair’s Ferry Road at C Avenue, I noticed the first tracks in the mud. Some bicycle riders have been by, and I don’t like it that they left their mark. I’m usually pretty careful about staying on pavement anyway, but this is a bad time of year to stray—not only might you fall in the mud, but because the mud rests on a layer of still frozen soil, you can scrape a layer of grass off of a lawn during these March days. Please, bikers, stay on the pavement. I’m happy to report that none of the track are mine, even if I do bike this route.

Tracks in the mud. My bicycle did not make these, and I wish others wouldn't.

Spring arrived very suddenly, and although there is none in the forecast, it would not be a shock if we saw some more cold weather or snow. There’s a tradition in Iowa of having a blizzard during high school basketball state tournaments, and even if that hasn’t happened this year, it’s still March. Snow in early May is not pushing the averages too much.

Still, I always figure it’s really, really spring when the snow hills at Rockwell-Collins have melted. They haven’t yet. The snow mountain is still taller than I am, although I’m joyous at its daily shrinking size.

Snow hill in Rockwell-Collins parking lot. It probably has lost half its mass, but is still taller than me. It takes some time to melt this big blob of frozen water!
 A bit later in my ride, I paused to let traffic go by some utility worker. From a distance, I assumed that they were trimming a tree because I could hear the chainsaw. They weren’t—they were trimming a utility pole. I didn’t know you had to trim them with chainsaws—do they really grow?

Spring--more outdoor work going on. So watch out, bikers! Eastern Avenue this morning. (Why do they trim a telephone pole?)
And when I got to campus, the final pleasant spring first. I could have ridden Francis today, but have not stopped at the bike shop yet to get a new tube—so I’m still on the winter beater bike despite the warm weather.

Well, The Beast has been kind to me this winter. I’ve put in more miles than I had at this point last year, although, of course, that’s because, despite our extraordinary early March chill, last year’s winter was harsher and longer. But kudos to The Beast, too.

Anyway, the final spring first? The snow has melted from the bike rack. The first time it’s nice enough for me to park my bike outside Warde Hall.

Still waiting for those snow hills to melt, and I’m still betting we’ll see snowflakes again, but hooray for spring!

Sure sign of spring--I park The Beast in a bike rack, which recently was cleared of snow by Mother Nature. Below, as you can see, closer to Warde Hall there is still some snow to melt.

Wednesday, March 11, 2015

In Which RAGBRAI Sets the Full Route

All route maps from See them at:
Well, it’s time for Team Joe to get organized. Susan is getting married, so won’t be with us this year. Jon is probably going to be doing RAGBRAI, but has arragted to ride as part of his group of tech friends from the Seattle area. I’m looking forward to seeing more of Jon, even if he’s going to skip the pleasure of camping with the Big Snore (aka, CR Biker).

Anyway, Cate, Brigid, Eldon, I hope you’re all in. For the day into and out of Hiawatha, we’ll probably have some added members—I think Theresa may ride at least one of those days.

The route this year looks very interesting. RAGBRAI announced the full route Sunday, and if you follow the link on the first map above, you can watch their video discussion of the route and read what they say about it. Hilly the first day, which is no surprise, but kind of hilly the day we pull into Hiawatha, too.

The first few days will take me through the old neighborhood—it used to be that Sioux City was “the big town,” and when we needed to go somewhere with books story and toy stores for Christmas shopping, it means the drive west an hour to Sioux City. Audrey taught there at both Briar Cliff and Morningside.

The first overnight town is Storm Lake, where I worked for 10 years when we lived in Early. The next day will feel like a reenactment of many Friday or Saturday drives—we go through towns like Newell, Fonda, Pomeroy (if the weather is good and I feel like some gravel riding). I was in many of those places when I had middle school or high school kids attending St. Mary’s in Storm Lake. Glad I won’t have to be in a cold bleacher at a track meet this time!

Of course, later in the week, we pull into Hiawatha. Honestly, that will put us closer to my house than the year we rode into Cedar Rapids. I had to get a ride home that year—this year we’ll be so close that we’ll probably just peddle over.

Finishing in Davenport will be nice, too. The victory dinner will, I hope, include some Quad City family members.

Well, the details of the route make RAGBRAI 43 look pretty good. April 1 is the full week registration deadline.

Team Joe: Assemble!

And maybe I'll go to the Sioux City party, because, you know: 

Tuesday, March 10, 2015

In Which The Lights Are On And Off

View from a loading dock. I've arrived at MMU on Monday, March 8, the day after the clock change. This is around 8 a.m., but the sun is just coming up over campus. I had my lights on for the morning ride.

The time change this week has my biking upside-down. Just last week, I rode with sunglasses on in the morning and lights at night.

But on Monday, I rode with lights in the morning. I still needed lights (it was a late night) at night, too, but it was much lighter later than it has been.

I miss the sun in the morning, but I hope on Wednesday I will have a little time for a bit of a longer ride in the afternoon on my way home. The warmer weather cries out for it.

Tonight, I had a bell choir rehearsal until 6 p.m.—and rode halfway home before I flipped my lights on. It’s that light that late now.

I suddenly wish that I was retired. I don’t want to be that old, but I wouldn’t mind the time for longer bike rides during this first warm week of spring after that bitter Februrary!

Saturday, March 7, 2015

In Which The Switch To Spring Is Thrown

Me, after morning ride Thursday.
Note beard ice.

Lets hope it stays thrown. I’m ready for spring biking.

I biked four days this week—Monday, Thursday and Friday commutes to work, and Saturday a longer ride, partly to go to a Mount Mercy-Habitat for Humanity house build.

The coldest day was Thursday, when the air temperature was well below zero, but I rode anyway. And despite the frozen beard by the time I got to campus, my full winter regalia worked decently, and I did not regret the ride.

It was much more pleasant by Friday, and pretty warm on Saturday. Many more people were out on the Cedar River Trail Saturday, which felt like the first really spring-like day in Iowa.

Well, another winter, knock on wood, over. For biking, it was not as bad at the Great Long Winter of 2014. February was indeed cold this year, but March, although it started frigid, is warming up much earlier.

And I have to note that, in my experience, the streets of Cedar Rapids have been cleared much more efficiently than I am used to. I have had to change to my commuting route a bit, as some of the quieter streets I would normally bike on are too ice and snow covered—but F and E avenues, and most other streets, have been reasonably cleared.

I've complained about Cedar Rapids snow removal before, but not this year. So, thanks CR. Keep up the snow plowing.
Lennox Avenue NE on Monday. I have not tried to ride on it since. But, overall, streets have been better than par this winter.

Same day, drive leading to central campus at MMU. Facilities department has done excellent snow removal this season. And more CR streets look like this than look like the one above, and that has not bee in the case in the past. Not sure what the city is doing differently, but I hope they keep it up.

Sunday, March 1, 2015

In Which Spring Riding Begins with Ice on the Lake

Someone is out on the lake being towed by a parachute. Some man, I assume.

March 1—start of spring. Well, true, it’s a few weeks until the equinox, but this is the month when we usually see the first flowers.

Not that there were any flowers, or signs of them, today. We had snow last night, but luckily it was very light. In fact, with temperatures in the 20s and bright March sunshine for much of the day—the pavement was pretty clean.

So I rode my winter beater bike to campus. First, however, I indulged in a little detour by taking the Cedar River Trail. There were a few snowy and icy parts, but the trail was fairly clear. There were a small number of joggers and bikers out. I don’t know what it says about my gender, but the tiny number of trail users on this cold late winter day were mostly men—I think I saw one woman in a group of mostly male bikers, and otherwise it was just guys.

I wasn't close enough to confirm his gender, but one man, I assume, was even using a parachute to tow himself across the ice of Cedar Lake. He was at the south end, far from the tiny patch of open water at the north end, and the ice pushed out of the lake on the short seems quite thick, but I still don’t think I’ll take The Beast across the lake.

At the north end of Cedar Lake, many ducks congregated in a tiny area of open water. As I approached, many of them flew up and then walked along the top of a nearby train. Where is Samuel Jackson? Wherever he is, perhaps he's very tired of all these ducks on a train.

Anyway, it was still refreshing to be out. The later dark ride home at night was a bit more harrowing—on the quiet streets there are more icy or snowy stretches then on the trail—and the temperature was dramatically dropping.

Still, all in all, I got at least one day of biking in. I hope I manage more biking than in the cold February that is mercifully over.

After all, it is time for spring!

Creek that runs into Cedar Lake--some open water. I just thought it looked nice.