Monday, April 13, 2015

In Which New Things Arrive In Spring

Mark, the president of the MMU bike club, asked me if I rode at night. I replied that I do sometimes due to commuting. I rode with lights tonight--these are photos I got at sunset, around 7:45 p.m., as I made my way back to Warde Hall to pack up Francis for the ride home.

I have lived most of my life fairly north in the northern hemisphere, so I have some of the cultural prejudices of those parts, such as thinking of the year as having four seasons—winter, spring, summer, fall. If I had lived in many tropical locations, the seasons would be rain and not rain. Or one season of hot and humid.

But even in Iowa, spring, to me, is really four seasons:

1) Brown, early spring. In the early spring, the ground is dominantly tan and dull. The soil starts to melt, which makes it slick and treacherous to walk on at times—in early spring, sometime a layer of mud will form over buried frost, and dramatic, traumatic dirty slips are possible. When something falls from the sky in early spring, it can just as often be white as wet. Nights are below freezing—but despite the chill, there are subtle signs of change. Tiny daffodils start to knife through the soil. A few box elder bugs wander aimlessly on the slightly less cold afternoons. The first day it tops 50, college students stride about determinedly in shorts, their flesh goose pimpled as their bodies aren’t fooled at all. But spring is still in the air, and maples flower.

2) Ante-mid spring. In the ante-mid spring, suddenly crocus burst forth. Color! Snow drops hang from their impossibly green stems. More tinges of green can be seen in the mowed grass, although most of the woods and areas with taller vegetation remain brown. Then, suddenly, you get a cool rain followed by a sunny day—and it all changes—the lawns switch from winter dull to emerald bright. There are no leaves on the trees, but green is slowly creeping up from the ground—buds on low bushes swell, tentative tiny leaves peek out on crab apple trees. There are a few early daffodils.

3) Post-mid spring. Flowers! Daffodil are suddenly everywhere. Peony don’t bloom yet, but are shooting up from the ground. Crab apples burst forth in glorious, perfumed splendor, and then—most memorable of all—the air is sweet with the heady aroma of lilac. Some trees can’t take it anymore and poke out leaves—late frost be damned. Oaks are amused at the rush expressed by maples—oaks know better and wait a few more week. Until …

4) Late spring. Fecund spring. All is green spring. Flowers everywhere, crocus are all faded and most daffodils are done, but lilies are coming on and Hosta are growing vigorously. Even oak and walnut are chiming in to the green spring song, and the whole countryside is suddenly green, and just as suddenly buggy.

We’ll, we’re not quite in post-mid spring yet, but ante-mid spring is nice. And in this spring stage, there was something new that came up at Mount Mercy. The MMU Bike Club held its first ride.

It was just three of us. The ride was on a day that threatened rain (it did rain, but fortunately after our ride and after I got home), and it was right after a dance marathon at MMU. It was cool, cloudy and windy, so it took some brave or foolish souls for that first ride.

Bike Club President Mark Mettler looked a little worn, but he was there, as was club member Joseph Mulangalivo (I hope I got Joe’s name correct).
Mark and Joe (not me) get ready for ride
by getting MMU bikes.

The ride was a bit spontaneous. I had assumed, for reasons known only to a forgetful middle-aged brain, that the ride was starting at 2 p.m. So, I sat down to grade some papers late Sunday morning, and I checked my campus e-mail first. It was 10:35 a.m., and there was Mark’s reminder of the ride, starting at 11.

Well, shoot. It usually takes me 30 minutes to ride to MMU, so I thought of skipping it. But I wanted to ride with the club, to show support for a student group I’m excited to see get going. So I got The Beast out (due to threatening rain, I didn’t want to use Francis) and peddled like a mad man to campus.

I made the 30 minute ride in record time. It was perhaps 11:05 when I met Mark waiting at a table in Lundy. He said Joe (not me, the other Joe) was coming, and he wanted to wait to see if there would be any more students.

So it was perhaps 11:15 when we left. I had forgotten my camera at home, so the cell phone picture of Mark and Joe unlocking their MMU steeds is the only documentation of the trip.

We started off. And didn’t get anywhere. Mark had a flat, so there was a delay while he swapped bikes.

The original plan was to head to the Cedar River Trail and ride north to Lafayette, or at least as far north as riders were willing to go (Lafayette is probably 12 miles north of MMU—it would have been a close to 25-mile ride). I suspect Dairy Queen in Hiawatha might have proven distracting.

Anyway, Mark suggested that we head south instead, so we did. I suggested the Prairie Park Fishery as a goal, but when we got downtown, with the skies looking more and more rainy, the students wanted to stick to the trail. We continued over the bridge of lions, past Mt. Trashmore, and finally turned around on the bridge over the railroad tracks just past Tait Cummins Park.

All in all, we rode about two hours, and probably went 15 miles or so. It was, I think, a good start.

May there be more students to enjoy future trail journeys. May my service idea for the club (I’m still pushing for it to plant Milkweed flowers at MMU and along bike trails to aid monarch butterflies) take off. May we soon see the grand splendor that is the village of Lafayette. And may this new club, sprouting this spring, provide memorable good times for MMU students.

Two views of the world Friday. Following rain Thursday, suddenly grass was all green Friday. And these windy spring skies can be dramatic and pretty, too--something that bikers get to see more of! MMU campus above, Cedar Lake below.

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