Thursday, July 2, 2015

In Which I Ride The Seven Hills of CR

Me, ready to ride. Wearing water on my back, and RAGBRAI-ready monkey paws on my hands. Turns out wearing water on your back is not that big of a deal..

Well, technically there are more than seven hills in Cedar Rapids. I didn’t even ride the Brentwood Drive hill right next to my house—not only was I tired after a 40-mile or so ride, but it looked like rain, so I thought better of it.

But Wednesday, I rode a substantial number of miles for the third day in a row, and that bodes well for RAGBRAI. I deliberately wanted to pick the hilliest ride possible. I am not sure of my miles today—maybe Cate can comment on that—and “seven” hills counts only what I consider to be really substantial hills, not any minor up grades.

For some reason, as you’ll see in my photos, it was also critter day Wednesday.

Anyway, the hills I climbed:

First was the “back drive” entrance to Mount Mercy University. This is the service drive that goes by Andreas House, the Villa and garage, and ends up in front of the library. In my opinion, it’s the most challenging of the five rides up the MMU hill.

This large tree at Mount Mercy lost a limb some weeks ago, and I recall an MMU janitor telling me the whole tree would have to come down because it was rotten inside. Much as I love trees, I think he was right. They were cutting down this tree today as I rode on campus.

Second was the long driveway that loops by Sacred Heart Convent. This ends up by the library from the other direction.

Third was the sidewalk by Warde Hall, leading to the Warde Hall parking lot, and fourth was the sidewalk between Warde Hall and Basile Hall.

I heard a familiar scream as I climbed the Basile Hall sidewalk towards Warde Hall. Falcons. Three are in this photo, on chimney, on cupola and sliding down roof. Groundskeeper told me they had quieted down in recent weeks but are getting noisy again--I wonder if it's because junior is flying around more.

Those are the four “substantial” hill climbs at Mount Mercy. You can also get on to the MMU campus by taking the drive between Lower Campus and Warde Hall, but that’s the least hilly of the routes, and thus not the most useful for today’s hill-themed ride. That fifth way, the drive by Warde Hall, is, however, my chosen hill exit route—it’s the safest way to get off the MMU hill via bicycle. For each of my MMU rides, I rode to Rohde Family Plaza before exiting campus, and there I posed for a photo after the four climbs.

Victory pose at MMU. I have climbed the hill four times riding Argent.

After riding to MMU and climbing it’s hills four times, I rode to the Cedar River Trail. I’m not counting J Avenue as substantial enough, so I basically rode all of the way around Cedar Lake and through downtown to the Prairie Park Fishery without doing any substantial hill climb.

Skunk! In field near Cedar Lake. Fortunately, I had to zoom in to get this image--skunk is maybe 40 yards away. That is close enough for me--hope later trail users didn't have closer skunk encounters.

Pelican joins usual goose and duck crowd at Cedar Lake.

But I was several hours into my ride and getting a bit weary, so I stopped and had my snacks. Then, I returned to Otis Road and rode up the next hill: Memorial Drive.

My hill ride snacks, all eaten at Prairie Park Fishery.
As it turned out, Memorial Drive was memorable for broken pavement on downhill stretches. I rolled along several inclines and “declines.” I was expecting the road to end at Cottage Grove, and hill six was going to be the Cottage Grove Hill, but Memorial Drive actually leads to Bever Park. So I rode through the park, all the way—and I would count the park itself, which unexpectedly had a nice hill at its west end, as the next hill.

When I finished my park ride, I was pretty much lost. I was in a winding neighborhood of stately homes along streets that aren’t familiar to me. Eventually, however, I ended up on the street that leads to Washington High School—and Washington abuts Cottage Grove.

So, that provided the seventh hill. First, I rode rode east down Cottage Grove hill, then I turned around and rode back up the hill.

One time I wish I had my nice Nikon rather than my Canon point-and-shoot. There were lots of nice butterflies at Prairie Park Fishery, but I could not get a decent butterfly image with my little camera--the big one with the big lens would have come in handy! Still, a trio of butterflies on clover at the lake.

It was quite a hill to serve as the final climb, and I wasn’t even planning for it to be the final climb (if it hadn’t clouded up so much, I was toying with the idea of climbing the Bowman Woods hill from three sides, just so I could justify claiming I had climbed 10 hills).

The ride was “short” only because I got a later than expected start. My plan was to be on the bike by 11, and to take and eat lunch on the way. But I also wanted to use a Camelback—partly to see if I have all of the water backpack pieces for RAGBRAI, partly just to get used to wearing the darn thing. I really shouldn’t call it a “Camelback,” which is a trade name, when I have a generic water-holding backpack, but that’s the name most people would know.

Anyway, I was able to assemble, from two different bladders, a complete set. And then I greased my chain and inflated my tires—just because I’ve been putting in a number of miles lately and thought Argent was due for those minor bits of bicycle maintenance.

Well, it was about noon. So instead of packing lunch, I just ate a quick PBJ and some chips. Then I got ready for my ride.

It was probably pushing 1 by the time I left, and it was about 5:30 when I got home.

So the miles today would not count as a RAGBRAI day, and I’m not sure how much climb there was. But there were seven hills—some of them quite impressive (try riding a bicycle up the Cottage Gove hill). So I’m going to say it’s a day in the “win” column for RAGBRAI prep.

From Tuesday, not Wednesday. My wife and I rode to Center Point. It was like the ride I did Monday with my daughters, only faster with fewer stops. If you need a training coach, my wife would be much tougher than my daughters.

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