Saturday, November 28, 2015

In Which I Take a Nice Camera for a Ride

Bike parked in rack at Regina Hall. It took me a long time to try to get this shot, but here I am in the cracked mirror of Francis. About to start on my way, wearing the Nikon.

I had to meet a student on campus today so that he could use a newspaper camera to shoot a basketball game.

I brought my good Nikon camera, too, just to practice a little, and I wrote about that in another blog.

So when I got ready to head home, I decided to document my 4-mile commute in a bit more detail than usual, using the good camera. In short, the things I saw fit into four categories:

1) Creatures of the road. Before I left campus, I noticed a hawk sitting on the cupola of Warde Hall. I shot it from the campus side, but it seemed to be facing away. As I headed down the drive beside Warde Hall, I was almost accosted by another form of wildlife: There were some angry tree rodents. I’m not sure why they took issue with me. Maybe having a hawk up high makes them nervous, although how scampering around and making angry tree rodent noises at me helped solve that problem is a mystery—if anything, I would think they were making themselves more visible to the bird of prey. Anyway, after shooting the squirrels (with a camera), I also photographed the hawk from the street side of Warde Hall.

First squirrel, above, is in mulch-covered garden surrounding crab apple trees at Warde Hall. He or she merely eyed me balefully. The two below (they are two different squirrels) sprang up a tree beside the drive, and proceeded to heckle me as I photographed them. Hey, squirrels, I have a right to be here too. And I"m bigger, and I'll live decades longer than you, so neener-neener-neener to you.

Two views of the cupola hawk.

2) Signs of the season. There was a man putting up decorations on his garage on Eastern Avenue, but I was too shy to photograph him. But here are some other decorations I saw.

Santa on Elmhurst Drive across the street from MMU. Tree in lawn (below) near Kenwood School.

3) The stark, bare trees of late fall. It’s starting to look a lot like winter. The ground is not yet frozen, but leaves are history. I prefer trees with their foliage, but the bare branches have their own stark charm, too. Some of the trees along the ride.

I like green leaves, but the shape of bare trees, like roots reaching into the sky, is pretty cool, too. And you can see nests like the one below. The tree that held this nest had five large ones in it, made we wonder who the tenants in that bird apartment building had been, and if they had any amusing sitcoms made about themselves.

A few oak leaves cling to tree at Kenwood School.

A couple of tree reflections in pond at Rockwell-Collins.

4) Some transit signs. I took the shortcut through a weedy lot at the end of F Avenue just south of 42nd Street, and wondered at a bike leaning against the golf course fence. And I photograph new traffic control measures at the corner of Collins Road and F Avenue. I e-mailed the city about that corner, which has become more difficult to cross, and their e-mail indicated they are putting in these video controls. That might be good news for bikers—I know the ones at the corner of Prairie Drive and 29th Street seem to “read” bikes OK, so I’m hoping that this corner will again be easy to cross.

Why the bike, against a golf course fence? I don't know. But crossing the path beside said bike did bring some tyre leaves to my bike (below).

New traffic control on F Avenue at Collins. Set to see bikes, I hope. City informed me in an email that it probably will be set to see bicycles in a certain lane "zone" that may be marked later on.

Most snow is gone, melted in rain Thanksgiving Day--but a few mounds of dirty snow are left at the edge of parking lots, and I think they are morphing into interesting shapes as they slowly melt.

Tuesday, November 24, 2015

In Which The Road Is Surprisingly Nice

Hill heading west behind Kenwood School--usually an icy thrill ride. Totally clear this morning--that's bare pavement, what I like to see and so rarely do during winter on this street.
I’ve learned a painful lesson in past winters: The condition of Brentwood Drive NE is not necessarily a good indicator of whether one can bicycle to Mount Mercy.

The problem is the Kenwood neighborhood that I ride through—or, as I sometimes call it, “The Land That Snowplows Forgot.” While the street in front of my humble above may be bare pavement, there is often a dangerous frosting of compressed snow on the unplowed streets surrounding Kenwood School.

So I thought I was gambling today, with my biking plans. Turns out, the gamble paid off, big time. The road may be long, with many a winding turn, but it didn’t have much snow on it.

Of course, it may be that, despite 7 inches of wet snow Saturday, the ground was simply too warm and the street frosting merely melted. But I would like to think it has something to do with the Cedar Rapids Street Department. I don’t know it for a fact, but I thought I detected a bit of “plow” evidence on the usually treacherous back streets of CR—snow “drifts” left on Lennox Avenue that could have been caused by a plow working around parked cars, chunks left at the edge of 37th Street pushed by something, probably not a glacier.

Early evening ride home on Cedar River Trail--like the streets, well cleared of snow.

Well, kudos for a job well done, CR, if indeed you did it. May this be a good omen for the possibility of winter biking. It’s not usually the cold that stops me, but snow and ice on the streets.

I had to take care in some spots today, where melting had taken place and then freezing after the melting, but by and large, both streets and the Cedar Valley Nature Trail were well cleared. Hooray!

A few sky views. Moon rising over Noelridge Park--north part of Cedar River Trail closed, so I was on the old summer detour. Even quiet streets behind Wright Brothers School were nicely clean. Moon (below) rising over pond at Rockwell-Collins, and (bottom) view of sunset on C Avenue as I near home.

Saturday, November 21, 2015

In Which I Dream of Biking Spring

Burning bush in my yard today. It was a bit winterish outside.

For many bikers, weather like today would be the end of the season. Overnight we had more than 7 inches of snow, and in this suddenly cold Saturday (after a long and warm fall) it feels like the “winter” switch was thrown rather abruptly.

Well, I shoveled my sidewalk and took some winter photos today, but did not ride a bike. Then again, it’s not the end of the bicycle season for me—depending on the weather and my assessment of street conditions, there is a decent chance I will bicycle to work Monday, although I may regret that neither of my mountain bikes is ride-able at the moment.

Today would have been the last hurrah Mount Mercy University Bicycle Club ride. More than a week ago, in our sunny, warm fall, the MMU club officers and I decided one last longish ride on a Saturday, before the bikes were all stored, would be nice. Weather permitting.

Weather did not permit.
KCRG posted map of snow totals. It SNOWED.

Still, we had a bike club meeting Friday, which I was able to attend just the tail end of. I had a bunch of newspaper contest entries that had to be submitted by a Friday deadline, and I had been tied up earlier in the week by the impending end of a faculty series that I coordinate—so I got to the 4 p.m. meeting about 4:20 or so.

Anyway, even if we’re done riding (we, the club, not me, the crazy CR biker) for the year, the students are making some exciting plans. There will be bike club shirts available soon, and you all need to buy one. The club wants to look into the cost of arranging a day-trip “away” ride, possibly to the High Trestle Trail.

And butterflies came up. The club is still working on service ideas. One that they definitely plan is some sort of bicycle safety program to present to some school group in town.
US Fish and Wildlife Service photo.

The other is my idea. I want the club to join ongoing efforts to promote the Monarch Butterfly by planting milkweed. We could either find space on the MMU campus, or aid some local conservation group that is already planning Milkweed planting.

Well, time for some spring bicycle dreams.

May many more students—and staff and faculty—be motivated to join us as the weather warms and we resume bike tours of the Cedar Rapids area.

May we figure out the details and some Saturday actually visit a cool trail elsewhere in Iowa.

May we find new leadership, as Mark, the main moving force behind the bike club will graduate.

And may we plant some pretty native flowers that feed an increasingly scarce, majestic butterfly.
Another USFWS photo, both on the agency's flckr stream Butterfly image by Michelle Woods, flower image by Francie Stotz. Both images show Monarchs of varied ages on Milkweed plants.

Saturday, November 14, 2015

In Which I Sum Up Many Rides

A photo of a young ginkgo tree at Mount Mercy BS--before storm. Trees are pretty bare, now.

I’ve been too busy to write on my bike blog lately, so here is a quick update.

We had a rather shocking thunderstorm blow through Wednesday in Iowa. Luckily, it struck Cedar Rapids around 5 p.m., since I had a Vietnam event scheduled for 7 p.m. that night at Mount Mercy. Because of the rain, I got a ride home Wednesday night, leaving my bike in my office. So I missed riding Wednesday night and Thursday morning, but otherwise it was a pretty good week for biking.

The bike club even had an officers’ meeting Tuesday, and the full club meets at the end of this week.

I’ve been using the trail route when I can to get in a few extra miles, and noticed this tree in Noelridge Park, apparently felled by the odd, late seasons thunderstorm that rumbled through. Those were some strong winds!

I think I was on my way home Thursday when I saw this--tree down at Noelridge park. Pretty good size to be blown over like that--you tend to see trees uprooted before you see a trunk snapped like this.

The photo of the ginkgo tree is a new one planted last year at Mount Mercy. It’s a nice looking tree this fall, but I bet most of those leaves blew off mid-week. We’re in the empty tree, brownish part of fall now.

Finally, on my way to MMU late morning today, one brave old grasshopper left crawling slowly on the trail. A few Asian beetles are still around, but even in this odd, warm fall, the frosty mornings are finally catching up to the bugs.

I do miss the green leaves and flowers of spring and fall during my winter biking. But no bugs is a nice bonus!
Slow grasshopper trying to warm up in the weak November sun along the Cedar River Trail at Cedar Lake.