Sunday, December 27, 2015

In Which I Ride 10 Miles Before The Storm

Deer munch in a harvested field at Lowe Park, Marion.

Today, my sons who were visiting over Christmas left to go home—one flying to San Francisco, the other driving to Ames.

It was a cool, cloudy day, but I wanted to get a bike ride in today, if possible, because we are supposed to get socked by a nasty winter storm Monday. The only question is: How much will fall as ice and how much will fall as snow?

For a biker, a secondary question is: For how many days will streets and sidewalks remain slick?

Anyway, we had an exciting time dropping Jon off at the Waterloo Airport this afternoon because the ticket dispenser at the entrance to the airport parking lot would not dispense and the gate would not go up so that we could park. After a time, because the parking lot is not that big, Jon just elected to walk across to the terminal. I hope the rest of his journey on this busy travel day was less eventful!

Anyway, we got home about 3:15, and by 3:45 I was pulling Argent out of the garage. I had replaced my bike’s broken pedals with a spare pair we had from a long defunct bicycle. That job was done before Christmas, but this was my first ride on my pedlal-replaced bike.

Tennis court at the end of the trail. My turnaround point.

We had encountered some moisture falling from the sky on the way home from Waterloo, but that must have been a random passing cloud, because the nasty isn’t due until later tonight. I was lucky, the sky stayed cool and mostly cloudy, but also dry for my ride.

I decided not to use the Boyson Trail, because I figured that limestone surface would be mushy with recent rains, so I rode into Marion and headed up to the bicycle trail that goes to Lowe Park. There were a couple of people walking on the trail, but otherwise I had it to myself. The wind was biting, but the ride was nonetheless decent.

Two views of grassy-wildflower area near east end of trail. For a cloudy day, it was an interesting sky.

I stopped to take a few photos to show the stark beauty of the park in December, and also to flip on lights.

It wasn’t yet full dark when I got home around 5 from a 10-mile ride. That’s good. There may be a winter storm on the way, but light is also slowly returning to this dark corner of the globe—and that foreshadows better biking in the future, if not this week!

Tuesday, December 22, 2015

In Which We Brave the Darkest Day to Ride

Jon with both of our bikes at MMU 4 miles away from end of 18-mile ride.

Happy Winter Solstice day—shortest day of the year!

My son Jon, who recently moved to San Francisco and commutes there by bicycle and train, is visiting over Christmas. Today, I finally swapped pedals on Argent (Jon says I should have named my other bike, Francis, Tina so that together the bikes would be Argent-Tina—he inherited my sense of humor). So we had two bikes we could ride.

It was cold today—in the 30s, cloudy and breezy. It would be warm for biking in late December in most winters, but it felt like bitter Siberian weather in this odd, warm December. Anyway, it was about one in the afternoon when we were finally got ready to ride. (Swapping pedals involved a search for tools and then some language unfit for family consumption except at a Trump campaign stump speech.)

I was a gentleman and let Jon ride Argent. So I was on Tina—or rather, Francis. We headed over to the Cedar River Trail. As we rode south, we noticed Audrey and Nina at Dairy Queen in Hiawatha—Audrey tried to claim they were going to the library, but they don’t serve soft-serve at the library.

Anyway, we headed south. Along the way, we had to dodge some trucks on the trail—crews were out trimming brush for some utility project. But we made it to Cedar Lake and started circling counter clockwise. But at the south end, there was another truck blocking the trail, so we headed back the other way, and stopped at the Sag Wagon.

It appears Tuesday afternoons are old man day at the Sag Wagon. There were maybe half a dozen guys of about my vintage hanging out inside. They bartender brought us menus—I had a taco salad, Jon chose the beef sandwich. An older guy at a nearby table noticed my Mount Mercy shirt and said his daughter had graduated from there with a criminal justice degree. He was very friendly and chatted for a few minutes, and then said goodbye as he left.

“That never happens in California,” Jon noted.

There was some sort of local beer on sale for $1 draws, so we washed our lunch down with two each. It was some Turner Alley beer, and was good. Jon has a beer app, and rated it 3.75, which he said is a decent rating.

Then, we headed downtown to stop at a fancy candy shop before heading home. We took the non-trail route, which involves bike lanes and then streets, to head home. On the way, we rode by MMU and took a restroom break there, and then did the obligatory “we survived the ride up the steepest route on the Hill” ussie with the Catherine McAuley statue.

Ussie, two views. Me and Catherine and Jon.

It was around 4 by the time we shot the photo. On this, the shortest day of the year, it was time to turn on lights as we headed home. All in all, we rode about 18 miles, not a bad ride at all on the shortest afternoon of the year!

Thursday, December 17, 2015

In Which I Check: Cedar Lake Is Still There

Sunset viewed from Rohde Family Plaza, Mount Mercy. Not sure what day this was, but it was last week--maybe last Wednesday? Or Tuesday after bells? Anyway, pretty sunset.

I have not had much time for bike blogging lately—too busy at the end of a busy semester.

For biking, December has been a mixed bag. I have been able to ride most days, although I have not taking time to change pedals on my fast new bike, so have been riding the pickup truck, Francis. That’s OK, since the rides have not been long and since I’ve often had loads of papers and/or books, which are easier to carry on the sturdy old commuting bike.

But it has been damp and cloudy. I don’t react well to rain as a biker, and cold December rain is especially not my thing, so several days in the past two weeks have been driving days.

Still, even windy, cool and cloudy days have been OK for biking, and I’ve biked more than I’ve driven. Sunsets in this odd, warm December that feels more like late October have been early, but sometimes, when the clouds are not solid, also very pretty.

Today, the sun was actually shining in the afternoon, and since I don’t have classes—just a mountain of grading—I left campus a bit earlier than usual and actually rode down to Cedar Lake, just because I haven’t in some time.

The lake is still here. Around 4 p.m., with the sun getting low and a cold wind blowing, it’s still a pretty place to be.

Two views of Cedar Lake around 4 p.m. today. Top one is southeast corner of lake, bottom is north end of lake, showing geese at geese party. It's been very cloudy recently, so a sunny day, even a cold windy one, was a treat.

Mornings rides have pretty much all been with lights on. Most days the ride home is in the full dark, although full dark arrives around 5. We’re in the dark weeks of the year, not normally the best for a bicycle rider, but I’ve been lucky so far. I’ve had to wear the coat and gloves, but neither long underwear nor mittens.

Snow? I don’t really miss you much. But rain? The creek behind my house spilling over its banks in December? That’s more than a bit odd.

Two views of Dry Creek out of its banks Tuesday morning as I biked to work. More often, at this time of year, you can go for long walks in its dry bed--but not this year.

Well, world leaders in Paris. I’m trying to do my bit. I’m sure I contribute some carbon to the atmosphere as I huff along the chilly, dark December streets of Cedar Rapids on my old back bike. But far less than if I drove them, I’m sure.

And I get to spend more time in the pretty sunsets.

Friday, December 4, 2015

In Which I Enjoy Cold Rides, But Not a Cold

I’ve had a cold, which is finally starting to break. Thursday was rough—I hadn’t slept all that well the night before, and was very tired.

But the weather was good, though chilly, so I rode my bike to work. Just a bit more slowly than usual—so I arrived barely in time for my 8 a.m. class, which luckily I co-teach with my wife, so she could teach both sections while I cheered her on by coughing on the sidelines.

The history lecture in my next class felt rather long, even though I love history.

I debated about whether to bike that morning, but am glad I did. Despite the cold, and my cold, it felt good to get some fresh air. Although the lack of sleep and the cold (the virus, not the air temperature) left me so tired that afternoon, that during the second half of an office hour, I gave up and “measured my futon.” (I have a futon in my office, and on the rare days when I take a nap on it,I call it “measuring the futon.”)

As luck would have it, as I was losing consciousness, I sensed a voice out in the hall. “I’ll just leave this in Joe’s bike basket, I’m sure he’ll find it there,” I thought I heard someone say.

Later, I found a note in my bike basket, with a very nice thank-you card and tickets to a Christmas concert.

The card was signed by the president of the university I teach at—and  it was probably her voice that I heard as I drifted off to dreamland.

My usual futon-measuring session is about 20 minutes. This time, I knocked off at 1:30 p.m. and didn’t glance at my watch again until after 3:30. A two hour nap is very unusual for me … but it was very refreshing. I think it marked the end of the “bad part” of the cold. I was feeling just a little better as I biked home Thursday night.

The cool days and evenings have actually been pretty nice for biking. I’m just using my old bike for now—I have not had time to swap pedals on Argent yet (I broke the right pedal, probably by cracking it on a curb, but I have a spare set of pedals to put on). Honestly, on the 4 miles to work, the slower, older bike is not much of a handicap. On the rides this week, I have had to watch a few icy spots where the streets were wet and frozen, but mostly the only issue with the rides is that I always have to use lights, morning and afternoon.

Anyway, it was very frosty this morning, about 28 when I rode in. Because I didn’t have an 8 a.m. class, the sun was already up, but it was early enough and cool enough that the frost still lay across the world, leaving a grey, sparkly blanket on everything. It was pretty.

8 a.m. sun this morning on frosty lawn at Kenwood School during my bike ride to work.

Tonight, I had an extra ride, I was meeting my wife and daughter at a restaurant for supper. It was in the 40s, but a bit windier, which meant it actually felt a chillier on the way home.

But, I could pretty much taste the food. I still have a lingering cough, and sniffle, but the cold is thankfully fading. So the riding is even more pleasant. And I hope I will be awake next time when the president stops by!