Monday, June 29, 2015

In Which We Ride Hills and Go 35 Miles

My daughters and I. Ussie before starting ride at 2 p.m. We finished around 6--35 miles in 4 hours.

Two of my daughters plan to ride a day of RAGBRAI this year, from Hiawatha to Coralville. We met this afternoon for a practice ride.

They are both pretty new at this biking game, so to start the ride, we rode the neighborhood hill loop, going up the Brentwood Hill heading east, then going around and doing it again headed west. It was my second time, since I had already done the loop this morning.

Then, we rode to the Cedar Valley Nature Trail, me leading the way since I knew how to get there, and headed north. It was, I think, the first visit to the village of Lafayette, and to the train station at Center Point, for my kids.

Center Point, where we turned back and headed for home.

The day was perfect—a mild headwind headed north, which worked to our advantage on the way home. One daughter rode a nice road bike, the other a heavier mountain bike, but both gamely kept up.

I think the day shows that they can handle a RAGBRAI-like ride. Granted, there is more climb in a RAGBRAI day, but the hill loop at the start showed them that they can handle hills. And 35 miles is not a RAGBRAI day, but it is over half of such a day.

So the group had a good day today. And I had a slightly better day. Together, we rode more than 35 miles. Add to that the 5 miles I rode this morning, and I topped 40 miles.

I get the feeling that theses two are also plotting. “You go ahead, we’ll catch up,” they’d say, and then there would be the murmur of conversation. I can’t wait to see what happens later this summer.

Daughters finish ride, above and below.

Sunday, June 28, 2015

In Which We Ride Our Bikes in the Sky

Group selfie on the High Trestle Trail bridge. Ben and Audrey squint into the sun. I grin like a madman because that's what the combination of pleasure, beauty and great fear will do to your face.

If there is a better bike trail in Iowa, I have not found it yet. Then again, I would like to ride many more bike trails—maybe a long one along the Mississippi could rival it, I don’t know.

But the ultimate trail, to me right now, is the High Trestle Trail. Honestly, it does have a few rivals. The trail around Grey’s Lake in Des Moines is also extremely nice. The Cedar River Trail in Cedar Rapids is interesting too, mostly due to its quick contrasts of urban and rural in just a few yards.

Last Friday, I was in Ankney for the annual summer meeting of the Iowa College Media Association at the DMACC campus there.

I told my wife the meeting would be over by 1. She said I would be lucky if it ended by 2. It ended about 1:35, and she informs me that’s a “win” for her.

Anyway, while I met and talked about media matters with other Iowa media teachers, my wife went shopping in Ames and then picked up our son, a PhD math student at ISU.

She picked him up around 1, and they decided to head back down to Ankney before eating lunch. It was raining off and on during the day, and cloudy and wet when we first met around 2. We drove around for a while looking for a likely lunch spot in Ankney, and finally, out of desperation and starvation, settled on a Subway by the interstate.

I had coffee (lunch had been courtesy of ICMA) and they ate their subs. The day was still cloudy, but it was getting less wet and the sky was slowly morphing from dark grey to lighter shades with small patches of blue here and there.

So it was mid-afternoon by the time we sought the High Trestle Trail. I know, we could have stayed in Ankney, but the trial is more than 25 miles long and the bridge itself way the heck over at the other end, and we were going to do an easy ride and see the cool bridge, not a 50-mile ride, so we were seeking the northwest end of the trail.

We didn’t quite get there. I couldn’t tell from my map exactly where the trail ended, but knew Slater and Madrid were near the end that we wanted. So we took the interstate north to State Highway 17 and headed west. Going through Slater, we didn’t see a sign for the trail. In Madrid, we encountered the trail several times by accident, and drove past a trailhead at the west end of town.

We turned around and parked, and then rode. It was just a few miles—less than three, I think—to get to the bridge.

If you’ve never ridden the trail, you should. I loved the approve from the east, headed from Madrid towards the bridge. It’s clearly an old rail line you are following—in Iowa, rail lines run on ridges and in deep little vales—cutting through our rolling landscape on as straight a path as possible.

So the woods grow close and your vision grows limited, but you start to realize that you’re close to something dramatic. Rather than going through clefts in the land, the land started to fall away in steep, wooded hillsides. The signs that reported the approaching bridge started to have impossibly small distances. And yet, because the old rail line goes around a slight curve so the bridge could be aligned with its route from one river bluff to the other, you don’t see the bridge until suddenly the entrance pillars are right there and you pass them and then you’re not on a hill or in the woods—you’re riding on a slim ribbon of pavement in the sky, surrounded only by birds with a pretty river valley far below.

Turkey vulture hawks circle overhead. They don’t exactly add comfort to the experience.

To be clear, I’m afraid of heights. I don’t like leaning out over the 8-foot hallway in my house to turn on or off the light on the ceiling fan. Changing a lightbulb that requires the use of a chair takes a moment of screwing my courage to the sticking point before I’ll do it—I will do it, because I’m that heroic, but it takes a moment.

And here I was, riding on my new bike Argent, zooming along on in the sky. Jesus. No disrespect or blasphemy intended, it’s just about the only thought in my mind. Jesus.

You have to slow down on the bridge, as the foot traffic does not allow fast biking. Frankly, that’s OK with me. We stopped to admire the view and take a selfie.  The grey skies had cleared into a pretty, partly cloudy blue, and the afternoon was turning super nice.

I rode my bicycle across that, and lived to tell about it. My heart must be OK.

That’s the way it has been this summer. It’s either raining or almost unbearably pretty, and you forget what an Iowa summer is usually like, the 90 degree heat and the 90 percent humidity, and you almost wonder why half the world’s population doesn’t live in this gentle Shire of a place. We don’t have mountains or ocean or anything dramatic, but what we have that is pretty is so plainly, honestly pretty that you quickly fall in love this summer.

Not every summer, I’ll admit. And not usually in February, which is when the other ICMA meeting is.

But here we were in late afternoon in the most dramatic and prettiest place in a not beautiful, but pretty state.

On the way back, looking over new bridge from remains of the old one. Son and wife.

My son and wife had not been here before. It was my second trip. We’ll be back, I’m sure. Ben speculates he can probably get there from Ames via bike trail, because he thinks that there is a trail from Ames to Slater.

We rode on from the bridge to the west end of the trail and then turned around, and lingered for a while at the lookout that is the stub of the old bridge and then we crossed the bridge again.

I put camera lens up to the binoculars on trail overlook.

So I rode the sky twice in one day and survived both times and that’s a miracle enough. But wait, there’s more.

We rode back to our van, but it was a bit past 5, too early for supper and we had only ridden our bikes about 10 miles. We didn’t want a 50-mile fide, but 10 felt inadequate. So we headed east.

Ben goes all monkey at Slater park.

It was 7.5 miles until the next town, Slater. By then, the coffee and water had caused rather urgent needs, but we found a city park adjacent to the trail with decent restrooms. And by then we decided that the journey was long enough—by the time we got back to the van, it would be a 25-mile ride.

And we were off. It had taken 40 minutes or so to ride into a headwind and reach Slater. Without consulting me, my wife decided she wanted to make the return journey in 20 minutes or so.

Sometimes, I think we should buy a better bike for my wife. She’s starting to ride more. Other times, I sometimes think her bike is too good for her—that old Target-purchased Schwinn mountain bike seems to fly along, powered by will and leg muscles of a very strong human.

I was on Argent, a decent road bike. And I had to pump it pretty hard and work to keep up with that zooming lady on the mountain bike. We didn’t make it in 20 minutes, but we were back at the van in 25 minutes.

I thought surviving the bridge ride was something. Little did I anticipate the tour de Iowa race from Slater to Madrid.

For supper, my wife offered us two options: Des Moines or Ames. The kicker was that my son and I could have beer if we chose Ames (my wife was unwilling to drive the interstates near Des Moines).

So we closed the day with a nice dinner at a Mexican restaurant in Ames. We’ve been there several times, and the waiter knows my son well enough to chat with him in Spanish, and to try to persuade him to pay the bill, which has not worked yet.

Anyway, that Corona and that spicy food somehow were the perfect capstone to the nearly perfect bike ride.

The next day I cycled maybe 15 miles total, going to and from the Freedom Festival Parade in Cedar Rapids. It was a nice day, warm and sunny, and I enjoyed getting there by bike.

In the afternoon, I rode the old bike to give a grandchildren a ride, too. And so the summer of biking continues.

RAGBRAI? May it be full of the perfect days and not the rainy ones!

Bike at west end of trail. Bikers, proceed no father.

Thursday, June 25, 2015

In Which a Dozen Photos Come From Two Short Rides

Argent and outdoor art at Lowe Park.

Two things you can bet on from my photos on this bike blog: Many will show flowers. And there will be a bunny.

I had too much to do today for a long bicycle ride. The morning included assembling some bookshelves (assembling kit furniture is always a trial for me—a reminder of why, when I chose a career, I wanted to work with my hands on a keyboard and not in a tool box). The afternoon included going to a nearby town to watch two cute grandsons.

But there was riding, and the riding that there was turned out to be very pleasant riding.

First, the morning ride. I was going to the gym to exercise, and though it looked cloudy, I decided to try biking. Since I was carrying my gym bag, Francis, my commuting bike, was the logical choice. I went, I exercised, and I headed home. Before going home, I decided to cycle on the paved portion of the Lindale Trail. That and doing the figure 8 on the neighborhood hill would make even just a few miles count as decent biking.

The first unusual animal I saw was a bit unpleasant—a tiny dead mole. Driven from its hole in the recent storm by water and killed by exposure in the chilly night air, I assume. Well, that didn’t exactly make my day, and I was thinking slightly dour thoughts about mortality and wondered if I should do the neighborhood hill, when, just before the end of my trail loop, a doe sauntered out of the woods some 20 yards from me and wandered a bit nonchalantly away from me before unhurriedly stepping into the brush on the other side of the trail.

What, we worry? Doe wanders across Lindale Trail.

I’m not one for omens or signs, but somehow the sight of the doe just switched my mood, and I then charged up the Brentwood hill before breakfast and felt pretty good doing it.

After working on the shelves, I had about an hour to kill before leaving town. Paging Argent, it was time for a quick ride, and Argent is my new quick bike.

I took 5 minutes to raise the seat yet again—I was tired last time I rode Argent, and conjectured I was not extending my legs enough. That seemed to have done the trick—this was a more comfortable fast ride on this fast bike.

I decided to head out to Lowe Park in Marion. My wife had told me that she had found a bike-friendly route there. There’s a trail from Lowe Park to Excelsior Middle School, and it always seemed odd to me in past years that this nice little trail was so isolated, unreachable by bike. Maybe things have changed.

Audrey said she had ridden past Novak School, so I turned north from Boyson Road to Geode Street. Crossing 29th Avenue, Geode became 3 St (that’s what the signs say, not Third Street nor 3rd Street—3 St. Marion, what the heck kind of street name is “3 St?”)

The street of odd number name terminates in Tower Terrace Road, at a stretch with very nice bike lanes. I wasn’t sure where to go next, but turned left, which turned out to be the right choice. When I came to Irish Drive, I turned right. A dire warning at the end of the street said “sidewalk closed,” but the “sidewalk” was neither closed nor really a sidewalk. It was the trail I had been seeking, the bike route between Lowe Park and Excelsior Middle School.

And what a fine enhanced trail it turned out to be. Both it and Lowe Park have changed since I last rode there. I headed first to Excelsior and got slightly sprinkled on by the dark grey sky, but then I turned back towards Lowe Park.

Here comes the train again, falling on my head like a tragedy, falling on my head like a new emotion. Fortunately, not much rain, and it was over quickly. Wet sky when I reached the Excelsior end of the trail.

Lowe Park! Egad, what happened to you? You were such a nothing baby park the last time I saw you, an isolated arty reception building in the midst of nowhere. Now the building is all surrounded by display gardens and outdoor sculptures, and it was like I’d gone through the wardrobe into springtime in Art Narnia.

I’m sure I’ll be back. Riding the whole trail and the route to and from it was just a bit over an hour—and only because I paused to take many photos. It would be a comfortable one-hour ride otherwise. Maybe a bit more on Francis with a toddler in the seat, but we’ll have to try that experiment sometime soon to see.

Well. So there will be art as well as flower photos to see, of course:

Bunny where Irish Drive "closed" sidewalk, which was not closed at all, meets bike trail. All photos below are details of arty end of trail near Lowe Park building. Very nice, worth a second look when I'm not in a hurry.

Wednesday, June 24, 2015

In Which a Long Ride is Followed by a Ride

Near the end of the day--getting close to 9 p.m. Audrey rides off into the sunset east along Boyson Road.

I had a modest goal Tuesday. Since it wasn't going to rain, I was going to ride.

But first I had several other things to do. Primarily, I had to go to the bike shop, purchase some supplies and do some bike repair. My new bike had a flat back tyre, and the brake shoes on Francis were losing their grip.

I thought of driving to the bike shop, but my mind was changed when I stepped outside late in the morning. It was just too pretty a day. So I hopped on Francis and cycled over.

I purchased two new inner tubes for Argent—if I decide on that name for the new bike. (What do you think? Some have suggested “Silver” as the name, and I’m playing with that theme.) And brake shoes for Francis.

What I bought today. Don't mix left and right shoes, but which is which? Below: yeah, the old shoes were worn.

It was getting to be past 11 a.m. by the time I got home, so I naturally had lunch. Then, it was bike maintenance time.

I figured changing brake shoes, even though I had never done it before, would be the easy job, so I did it first. I hope I did it right—the brake shoe package had a dire warning that “shoes are left and right, do not mix,” but the shoes themselves not only seemed identical, they were not marked with a handy “L” or “R” or any other directional marking. Still, once I had the new shoes on and the brake tightened, the efficiency of braking was vastly improved. So far, so good.

Next, the tubes. I had not changed road tyre tubes before, and asked the guy at the bike shop if there was a trick to it. “Not if you've changed tubes on other bikes,” he said. Well, he was mostly right—it might have been good to note how the valves work differently, but I have put air in Presca valves before. I was expecting it to be much more difficult than hybrid or mountain tyres, and it was a bit more of an ordeal, but not as bad as I expected.

The biggest hitch, which is true of any bike tyre, was getting the tyre back on the wheel rim after changing tubes. There may have been some speaking of tongues involved, if there is a language of only 4-letter words. Still, I got the bike put back together.

I wanted to do it myself primarily because I figured if I’m going to own a road bike, I need to know how to fix a flat.

Argent parked north of Lafayette as I check Milkweed in the ditch. No caterpillars, but no flat tyre, either.

It was getting close to 2 p.m. by the time I was ready to leave home, but off I went. Given the complexity of going south, I decided to head north on the Cedar River Trail. It was a great afternoon for biking—warm but not hot, a mix of sun and a few high clouds. All went well. I rode to Center Point and back, a ride of about 30 miles. I also did the hill route, so call it at least 33 miles.

I might be underestimating the miles for Tuesday. I had to backtrack a bit--route under Council Street closed by high waters of Dry Creek.

I got home at about 6 p.m. And the front door was locked. My wife, I figured, was out on a walk. So I opened the house and put my bike away—but her bike was missing. “Someone broke into the house, locked the door and stole your bike,” I texted her. She explained she was meeting the grandkids at Indian Creek School playground, and invited me to cycle over.

Really. I was already up to about 35 miles on the day (morning ride to bike shop, long afternoon ride) and I was tired. I’m not used to the new bike yet. I discovered that the different position and angle means my legs get much more tired quickly on the new bike. It’s ironic—Argent is a very, very light bike compared to Francis, and clearly built more for speed and distance, so it’s the right choice for RAGBRAI, but I’m a way better biker on Francis right now. Not faster—however. I think one reason I was extraordinarily tired was that on Argent I’m invited by the design to zoom along. Other bikers still pass me, but I can tell, even sans computer, that I’m travelling faster on the new bike.

Anyway, I decided to tough it out. I got Francis out and put the toddler seat in the front basket, just in case, and cycled off to meet my wife. She’s been doing a lot of biking herself this summer—she was off finding a new bike route to Lowe Park that doesn't involve 10th Street or Alburnett Road. Anyway, we met at the corner of 10th Street and 29th Avenue in Marion, and headed east to meet Katy and her kids. We encountered them a few blocks east of the school, and turned around to ride with them to the playground.

Audrey crosses 10th Street in Marion to meet me. Below, we've met Katy and the kids and are on our way to the playground.

It was a nice, low-key visit. Afterwards, we biked over to a nearby ice cream shop, and Katy bought a round of cones.

And I did need the toddler seat. Amelia claimed it.

We then rode over to Katy’s house with her and the kids. It was 8:30 and getting a bit dim by the time we headed home.

With all of that, I’m pretty sure I topped 50 miles. It wasn't exactly a RAGBRAI day, but close. I was tired a bit sore. Still, it was a good RAGBRAI training day.

OK, maybe bike maintenance would have been quicker if rose and lilies in my front garden didn't distract me ...

Monday, June 22, 2015

In Which Flowers Help Ease the Pain of Emptyness

Bike. Anonymous other biker passes by my bike, which has a rare flat tyre.

A flat tyre! On only the third ride!

The unnamed new bike cannot be ridden at the moment. On Father’s Day, my youngest son, wife and I went out at about 10:30 for a bicycle ride. A muggy, but nice and sunny, ride.

I could do whatever I wanted to do that day. What I wanted to do was ride my new bicycle.

We again used the Cedar River Trail, and again went south, because I stubbornly wanted to find the detour. If you read the previous post, you know that I wondered were the trail detour went after it took you east to Council Street, where it appears it wanted you to go back west.

The apparent answer was oddly comical. The detour leads back to Center Point Road. So it goes all the way a half mile east to Council and then doubles back so that it can have you cross 42nd Street at a corner with a “walk” light, which is commendable, I suppose. Except that there is also a walk light at Center Point Road. Why not just cross there—why the pointless ride east to Council Street to get a walk sign that was available way back there? Bikers wonder.

Anyway, I don’t know how far the detour goes along Center Point Road, because when we got to the New Pioneer Coop, we knew we could cross the street and head up a little side street to the trail. So we did. And right as we started to ride on that little side street, that’s when I noticed my back tyre was flat.

And the tyre was not a little flat. Not a “pump it up every few miles and keep going” flat, although we didn't have a frame pump with us anyway. I’m talking an empty void, totally hollow, flabby and useless, like a Donald Trump campaign speech.

So the son and the spouse headed back north to go get our van and rescue me, while I locked the crippled What Are We Going To Call It to a bench.

To pass the time, I photographed flowers. It doesn't seem like a particularly flowery time of year, but in a short stroll near the bench were the crippled bike was locked, I found quite a variety to photograph.

Milkweed in bloom, and vertical, too.
Why Blogger, why?
I was on a mission, of sorts. I wanted to find Milkweed, which is in bloom now, and I also wanted to take a cute photo of a baby Monarch Butterfly.

There is Milkweed along the Cedar River trail, but none near the bench were my bike rested. (MMU bike club, what should be done about that?) However, I spied a patch growing adjacent to a nearby parking lot, so part of my mission was fulfilled. Sadly, there were no caterpillar sightings, nor did I see a chrysalis, although I don’t know for sure if I would recognize one. (Then again, given the size of Monarch Caterpillars, the chrysalis should be pretty big).

Oh well. Better luck next time. And I don’t aspire to collect flat tyres (in case you’re wondering, I just like and use the British spelling on this blog because they invented the bike tyre and ought to be allowed to name it), but I guess practice changing tyres on my RAGBRAI bike may prove of value.

We were planning to go kayaking later anyway, and we did. And here are the other flowers or berries:

Sunday, June 21, 2015

In Which the Detour Leads To A Lecture

Ben and I , sideways. Blogger does not play with vertical.

He was technically correct, which was a bit frustrating because it shows how, in the words of that old song, “you can’t please everyone.”

A few months ago, a student of mine ranted on a blog that I had assigned him to write about how bad it was that bicyclists clog up street traffic. In his opinion, bicycle riders needed to heed what he said was the advice he received in childhood form his parents: Stay on the sidewalk.

That notion is wrong on many practical and legal grounds. Bicycles are vehicles. They move at speeds that are impossible and dangerous for pedestrians. A brisk walk or even a very brisk jog does not approach speeds of 20 mph on the flat, but even an old man on a bike may zoom along at that pace. And sidewalks are called “walks,” not “rides.”

So bicycles and bikers, particular big guys on fast bikes, are an unacceptable hazard in a walkway designed and reserved for pedestrians.

And yet, practicality and safety tend, in certain conditions, to push bikers in that direction.

Saturday, my son Ben and I were riding our new bikes. It had rained that morning, and threatened to rain that evening, but we were hoping to get a few relatively dry miles in.

We headed to the Cedar River Trail via the northern, 74th Street NE, route. Once there, we turned north. The sky above was clear, but grey and threatening to the west, and we conjectured a bit about the direction of the clouds. Ben thought we were OK riding north. I thought we were headed into rain.

It started to sprinkle. We decided I was right, and, at about 3 miles into the Cedar Valley Nature Trail, which starts at the end of the Cedar River Trail at Boyson Road in Hiawatha, we turned south.

The Cedar River Trail has a detour due to a project at 42nd Street NE. The detour directs bikers to use Center Point Road, a busy 4-lane-road with a 35 mph speed limit for cars. Or, as I like to call it, “the kind of street where a cautious biker will, in minor defiance of the law, but for the sake of safety, use the sidewalk.”

At 42nd Street, the detour turns east. That, again, is a “use the sidewalk” kind of street. We arrived at Council Street, and things got a bit confusing. One detour sign directed us to turn left, another to turn back, still another to cross south, another to cross north and a fourth to head east.

I decided that the detour headed south on Council Street NE.

Council eventually becomes Broadway, and as we passed Wright Brothers School, it occurred to use that we had not seen a detour sign for a while. When we got to Oakland Road, we again started sidewalk riding, due to traffic.

We passed the HyVee store there and turned back west, hoping to find the trail. But the sidewalk on busy 32nd Street peters out before you get to the trail area, and anyway, I think 32nd passes well over the trail via a high bridge without a way to get to the trail.

So we turned back to Oakland and resumed going south, where, as the sidewalk by Family Video ended, we met the sidewalk corrector.

A young man in a wheel chair was there, parked in the lot, apparently visiting with a comely lass who was crouched nearby. He mumbled something at us, and I didn’t quite catch it, so I stopped and asked him what he had said.

He informed me that bikers were not allowed on sidewalks.

Well, given the state of Cedar Rapids sidewalks and his life-enforced use of said treacherous paths, I can see how big men on bikes would be particularly galling to him, so I just politely explained we had been trying to use a trail detour and got lost. He nodded his head west and gruffly instructed, “Go that way.”

No thank you, sidewalk corrector. That was, in context, a fruitless direction we had already tried. So we went back to the 32nd and Oakland intersection and instead headed east (on a street with enough traffic that, had there been a sidewalk, I might have used it).

Anyway, we went east to Prairie Drive NE and then went south to Mount Mercy. From there, we pedaled over to J Avenue, planning to use it to rejoin the bike trail.

Ben speculated that the detour actually was intended to take us to the Council-42nd intersection east on the north side of the road, and then west a way to some other street on the south side of the road, and I think he might be right. If he is, then the detour signs call for bikers to ride in the opposite direction as car traffic, which means the Powers that Be deliberately designed the detour to require sidewalk bike riding, so there.

When we got to J Avenue, the sky was getting very threatening, Ben had turned on his bike lights and I had turned on my helmet lights—I have no bike lights yet on the unnamed new fancy bike I was riding—so at J Avenue, we decided to turn home. Rather than chance finding the trail detour, we took a shorter route, basically returning to MMU and then using my commuting route home—which involves mostly street riding on quite residential streets, to irritate my blogging student, but also a bit of sidewalk riding on busy C Avenue, just so that the sidewalk corrector can also get irritated.

Well, you can’t make everyone happy. In fact, there are plenty of people who just don’t like bikers at all, no matter where we ride. I know that many of them have reasons—there are rude bikers who hog walkways or fail to obey traffic laws when street riding.

But, bicycles and bike riders are actually unclogging streets by using smaller vehicles than cars, and are also reducing the cost and size of our healthcare system, as long as cars don’t hit them. So when I can, I ride in the street as I ought to. The student blogger was just wrong. And when it’s too busy, I resort to the sidewalk—sorry, sidewalk corrector, but I do believe in safety first. Were I to encounter you on such a sidewalk, however, I would also recognized that I was “borrowing” the walkway from you, and I would endeavor to get by you in the least disruptive way I could, short of risking my life in a busy multi-lane street.

You can’t please everyone. So you’ve got to please yourself.

Saturday, June 20, 2015

In Which We Hang Out In Bars and Dance

Lunch at the Sag Wagon.

The past two days have been fine ones for Francis. The as yet unnamed new bike was ridden to campus Thursday, which is good, but I need to put on more new bike RAGBRAI training miles.

Still, my old pickup truck of a bike comes in handy, especially when young grandchildren are around.

On Thursday afternoon, a daughter of mine who has two young boys brought her bike to town. I had to do some maintenance on her bike to make it ready to ride—the back brake was stuck because one of the shoes had gotten out of position—but it didn’t take long to get her bike ready to ride.

She and I both have toddler seats, and her boys are 4 and 2, in the age range for said seats. She’s planning on riding one day of RAGBRAI this year, so we’re trying to get some practice miles in this summer. Said daughter, my wife, the two young boys and I thus took off late afternoon Thursday for a pleasant trail ride.

The Boyson trail had been closed last week by a minor flood last week. It is open again, I’m happy to report, but it is also a bit soft in parts. Luckily, the daughter and wife were both riding mountain-style bikes, so they had wide tires to handle soft trail conditions. I was on Francis, but I was OK.

We stopped at a city park in Marion along the way and let the boys play for a while, but had a pleasant bike ride, maybe going about 8 miles.

Friday, the wife and I had a slightly longer ride, a bit over 13 miles. We were watching a 2-year-old granddaughter, a cousin of the boys who went on Thursday’s adventure.

Said granddaughter is a Francis fan. One of her favorite catchphrases is: “Ride grandpa’s bike,” which she uses both as a question and a command. It wasn’t hard to persuade her to get her bike helmet on. The only issue with this little one and biking is to get her on the bike before she has time to touch it—she is a natural born button pusher and device player, and she becomes a chain grease magnet, if you’re not careful.

Friday, we managed to get her on the bike without her getting too messy. We headed over to the Cedar River Trail, using the Noelridge Park—42nd Street route. That is where we hit a snag. They are redoing the trail crossing at 42nd Street, and we ended up biking along Center Point Road, a rather busy street, to find a way to get to the trail.

We got there, eventually, and headed down to Cedar Lake. It was pushing noon as we circled the lake, and my wife suggested we stop for lunch. The Sag Wagon, a deli and bar, was handy.

And that’s where we went. Service at the Sag Wagon is not exactly speedy, but it’s a pleasant place to stop for lunch. There is great seating by the lake, and the 2-year-old was amused by watching the lake. She was also amused by the music, and at one point grabbed her grandmother and danced for a while.

This tot likes to hang out in biker bars and dance. We’ll have to keep an eye on her.

Anyway, after a nice lunch, we headed back. To avoid the break in the trail, we cut over to the Mount Mercy area to ride on quieter streets on the way home—so technically, now that she is biking a bit more, my wife has actually ridden home from work, even though she wasn’t working that day. I doubt that I’ll ever persuade her to become a bicycle commuter, but at least we’ve proved the concept is possible.

The granddaughter dozed a bit on the bike, and fell into a slumber. That was OK, except her head was resting on my right hand, which felt a bit squished by the time we got home.

Despite the mashed hand, all in all, it was a fine, warm day for a bike ride. I hope for more weather like this, and to get quite a few more miles on the new bike—but honestly, it’s great to have Francis and the toddler seat available when there are young grandchildren around.

Monday, June 15, 2015

In Which the Envelope Has Arrived

I got it in the mail today—the fat packet from Des Moines.

My team’s RAGBRAI materials arrived. Four participant guidebooks, four bike and rider bands, four luggage tags and one vehicle sticker.

It’s official! Team Joe is ready to roll!