Saturday, February 27, 2016

In Which the Eagle Has Landed

Some bird photos from Friday ride home--took the trail route.

Tristan, age 6, just started riding a bicycle without training wheels last year, and hasn’t had much time to practice this winter.

But today, a warm, mild day that seemed perfect for biking, Tristan came over. His mom had texted me earlier in the week, and apparently it was Tristan’s idea to ride his bike and to see trains—and he knew who to take him on this journey. CR Biker.

Tristan looks at trains across Cedar Lake.

We loaded bikes on a van and I drove us down to Cedar Lake. Tristan remembers a cold March walk a year ago when Audrey and I took him on a walk to see the trains. I parked in the lot at the small park on the east side of the lake, and Tristan was super excited to use the binoculars there to look at train across the lake.

It turns out that starting is not something Tristan has learned yet, but once I gave him a little push, he was off. I rode behind him, giving him advice (stay in your lane) and alerting him to hazards (bikes coming!).

He went off the trail a couple of times. But he never hurt himself, and we just started and again went on our way. We circled the lake counterclockwise, enjoying the sunshine, the trains and all the other bikers.

When we got to the point where the trail meets a street, we stopped and turned around, although we also spent some time looking at the lake from the bridge that divides the smaller from the larger lake. I think Tristan thought the lake was almost as cool as a train.

On short leg of trail headed to Quaker Oats. Mr. T is doing well staying in the middle of his lane. "Grandpa, I'm doing really well," Tristan said to me several times. He was telling the truth.

We were going to return around the lake clockwise, but Tristan didn’t turn right at the intersection, so we kept biking for a while to Quaker Oats, and again turned around when we got to a street.

Tristan had been having some trouble on corners—it was one place he would usually stop—but he executed a perfect left turn to return to our route. As we approached a right turn, I asked him, “Do you want to go turn right and go to lunch now or keep going and ride a while longer?”

He opted to ride. We again followed the trail to the next street an turned back. All in all, we went 4.14 miles, which is about my ride to work each morning, but for Tristan was quite a ride on a small child’s bike.

Tristan during a drink break near end of ride. My bike is behind him. Trains and nearby, and Tristan is pretty excited by trains.

He wanted pepperoni pizza for lunch—from Pizza Ranch. He napped in the van on the way there—the ride had worn him out—and he had a good appetite when we got to lunch.

At the end of the ride, Tristan was again looking at the lake as I loaded the bikes. A large bird settled at the edge of the ice in the middle of the lake.

I couldn’t see it clearly. We saw lots of birds at the lake—gulls, geese, ducks. This didn’t look like any of those to me. And I wondered—hawk? Something else?

So I looked through the park binoculars. Hooked beak, white head—wait a minute.

The eagle had landed. Well, cool.

Big bird on Cedar Lake. Looks like an eagle to me.

Friday, February 26, 2016

In Which We Hum “Hawk Child in the City”

The context shot--bird of prey on symbol of praying.

A bit of a cool, gray late February Friday morning—not that I’m complaining. Unlike the harsh winter several years ago where a super-cold February was followed by a super-cold March, the seasons seem to be turning this year, and a slightly cool, cloudy morning ride isn’t a bad thing for a city biker.

At least I don’t have to bother with the long underwear—it’s not that cold anymore.

So I biked to campus and decided to scale the hill by going up Mercy Drive. If I’m not in a super hurry I take this route; it’s a good hill to ride for RAGBRAI practice. I arrived, breathless, heart pounding as usual, and started to cross the Rohde Plaza in front of the U Center.

And then I saw it, sitting atop the cupola of Warde Hall.

I zoom in. Hawk is atop 5-story building and hangs out like it just doesn't care. I guess I"m too big to eat.

An Iowa Hawk, not from the big U to the south, but from the sky. I didn’t know how long it would sit there, so I started to shoot some photos with my little camera from ridiculously far away, but it just sat there as I cycle closer to Warde Hall.

It was facing away from me, so I decided to circle around to the front for a better view—and there it was, a second hawk. I had decided to leave my Nikon at home this morning—I might bring it back to campus tonight for Vegas night—and I wished I had it, because I would have liked to capture hawk two in flight. The second hawk, more skittish then the first, roosted briefly in a pine tree in front of the building.

Hawk 2 in tree.

I snapped away, and then the second hawk flew away, but hawk one maintained its perch atop the copula.

Well, it’s nice to see some birds of prey at MMU again. Will the summer be filled with screams of young birds once more? Will Warde Hall be guarded by a stern looking juvenile, as it was for a good part of last year? I don’t know, but I did enjoy the nice dinosaur punctuation to the end of my morning ride.

Two views after I park Francis--back of hawk has more colorful feathers, and it looks like there might be a nest there at the base of the copula. Welcome back, hawk pair.

Saturday, February 20, 2016

In Which I Picture the Warm Morning Miles

Today I present a photo essay on early spring rides: True, it’s February, and winter is not over yet, but recent days have felt spring like.

In fact, here are two biking signs of spring—neither Friday  nor today required a jacket for the ride to Mount Mercy University. And today I rode Argent, my fast bike, rather than Francis, my slower but commuter-friendly bike, due to its carrying capacity. I was willing to expose Francis to winter weather, but not my good RAGBRAI bicycle.

For no particular reason, on both morning rides I decided to photograph at the mile marks—miles 1, 2, 3 and 4 of my barely over 4-mile commute. One nice point—the computer on Francis is a bit sketchy and bonks out now and then, but Argent, which has a nicer, newer computer, basically showed the miles marks at exactly the same spots, which means even though I had to shake the computer on Francis several times Friday to wake it up again, it basically seems to have recorded the whole ride.

Anyway, what I saw Friday and today at miles marks on mild February mornings:

Mile 1: Street on the Rockwell-Collins campus.

Golden light of morning on street between Rockwell-Collins parking lots. Saturday morning, at end of mile 1. Selfie at basically the same spot (below), also Saturday. Friday photos didn't work as well at this point, but it was basically the same spot.

Mile 2: 42nd Street before I turn onto E Avenue.

Morning sun shines Friday on 42nd Street--end of mile 2--a wetter morning to ride than Saturday, which made me feel good about using Francis that day.

Mile 3: At corner of Zack Johnson Drive and Eastern Avenue.

What is my right hand doing in this Friday morning selfie? My poor right hand, it often does not know what it is doing. My brain seems only to be wired to my left hand.

Mile 4: On Friday, at base of sidewalk going up to Warde Hall. I rode up the Library Drive (Mercy Drive) on Saturday, but again the mile 4 mark fell basically at the base of the hill.

End of mile 4 Friday, above, about to ride up the hill on the sidewalk by Warde Hall. End of mile 4 Saturday, below, on Mercy Drive headed up to Busse Library. Hill is much longer near the library end of campus, but I was on the lighter bike that day, so the climb was actually easier.

I would not have guessed where the mile marks are. I always though of Kenwood School as my halfway point on my commute, but on the way to work, it’s well over halfway to MMU, which means, I presume, it’s less than halfway home coming from MMU.

Both mile 3 and mile 4 feel much longer to ride than mile 1 and 2. Mile 1 barely seems to count—I’m not even to Collins Road yet. I would not have guessed mile 2 ends on 42nd street, and both miles 3 and 4 have so many bends and twists that they feel as if I had ridden a long way during those miles. It’s in the final mile that I have the longest traffic waits, and maybe that’s a factor in how different the miles seem instead of what they actually are.

Well, there you have it, the miles marks on my morning ride. And the end of the two rides:

Bird on roof of Warde Hall watches me Friday morning. "Hey, pinky, want some poop on your bike?" I hope the hawks return to their nest on top of Warde Hall soon.

Luckily, bike rack is far enough away from Warde Hall that the resident dinosaurs didn't decorate it for me. Another sign of spring--when I start to park outside at MMU.

Saturday, parked at rack near Regina Hall, across Mercy Drive form the library and chapel.

Friday, February 12, 2016

In Which I’m Thinking About Getting High

Photo I took months ago when Audrey, Ben and I rode on the High Trestle Trail.
Today is one of those deceptively sunny winter days—clouds and flurries moved in overnight, and behind those, clear skies are complete with Canadian air. It’s windy and it is cold.

Not so cold I could not ride. In fact, it’s not even the coldest day I’ve ridden my bicycle to work this week. But, an event last night had me thinking of warmer days and of getting high.

On the High Trestle Trail, that is. The MMU Bike Club had its first officers’ meeting last night, and I was there as adviser. The students are planning to resume rides near campus in March, weather permitting.

Of course, on this cold, windy winter day, I think “weather permits,” but the MMU students seem not to agree.

Anyway, Mark, our fearless leader, announced tentative plans for a bike rodeo, to feature safety rules, like “wear your helmet”—something more MMU bikers could remember—at a local school. The early April event is the club’s service project this year, and it’s a fine idea, although I still hope we can get some milkweed planting going, too.

And I suggested that the club plan a day trip to the High Trestle Trail. As it turns out, the university will supply transportation, within limits, so it’s not an expensive thing for the club to do. We’ll use an MMU van to take riders and a maintenance pickup to take bikes, and ride high in the sky. The tentative dates are either April 23 or April 30, but those are not locked in yet--I don't know, for example, if the vehicles are available then.

But the officers of the club were quickly sold when Mark Googled images of the High Trestle Trail, which pulled up lots of pretty pictures. Some showed the bridge lit up at night. My original idea was a day trip on a Saturday, but the students are interested in an afternoon-early evening trip. They want to see the lights. That partly will depend on getting more bike lights at MMU, but it’s a part of the plan I’ll be checking into.

I have to admit, when I think about getting high, the lights of the bridge sound like a good idea, too.

Morning shadows--clouds are blowing away as I finish my morning bike ride. Two views from the Rohde Plaza this morning.

Wednesday, February 10, 2016

In Which I’m Cold But See Spring

Late afternoon Saturday at Cedar Lake. I took the trail home from campus and diverted down to the lake because I could.

Wednesday bike ride to MMU: long underwear, two pairs of socks, warm boots, two shirts including a long-sleeved T, sweater, jacket, neck warmer, scarf, hat, hood and gloves.

Yes, I was reminded of A Christmas Story. Preparing to go to school was like getting ready for extended deep sea diving.

It was 5 and just a little breezy. Luckily I don’t have to bike west very much, because every time I turned to the west the Polar Express hit me in the face.

When I was going south, my dominant direction, however, it honestly was not that bad. No, really.

Saturday at the late. Ducks and more ducks.
And this follows a ride to campus Saturday that was rather warm. Ice was melting, the sun was shining, birds were singing … it was possible Saturday to imagine that spring would come. Of course, it’s possible to imagine that today, but it required much more mental effort.

Still, spring is the cards, if not yet in the air. It is staying lighter later. The bitter cold days are punctuated by late winter melts. I don’t think we will see a March like we did two years ago, which was basically February twice in a row.

True, I’m not that fond of February. But it’s a short month, and we are on the downhill side of winter now. Knock on wood.

And, according to The Gazette, plans are moving along to turn a ruined rail bridge into a bike-pedestrian crossing of the Cedar River. That will make a bike road from Mt. Trashmore to New Bo--between that and possible sprucing up of Cedar Lake, the Cedar River Trail may yet become a regional bike attraction. A spoke magnet. A chain lane. OK, I will stop.

Get here soon, new bridge, and bring some warm weather with you, too. I would like my spring more actual than imaginary, soon, please.

Friday, February 5, 2016

In Which I Set My Mind on Capital Things

Catherine McAuley wears a snow shawl at sunrise this week.

I am in Des Moines now, and I bicycled to get there.

No, I didn’t really bicycle from Cedar Rapids to Des Moines, although I suppose I have done close to the reverse route on RAGBRAI a few times.

I rode Francis to MMU Thursday before picking up a van and driving a group of students to the annual Iowa College Media Association Convention. It was cool, cold enough Thursday morning for the long johns, but a pretty morning. We even saw some flurries on the drive to Des Moines, sometimes we had blue sky—sometimes we had blue sky and flurries at the same time (snow can blow a distance before it lands).

Selfie with Francis on Rohde Plaza, MMU, Thursday morning.

Anyway, what with a winter storm this week, it actually didn’t turn out too bad for biking. I rode Sunday, Monday and Thursday, and the plan is for me to ride home Friday night after I return the Toyota to MMU.

So, greeting from Des Moines, where I’m sure I won’t be biking on this trip. But biking, is seems, must keep one young. My name tag at the ICMA convention:

Monday, February 1, 2016

In Which I Take Two Damp Final Rides

View of MMU campus as I cross Rohde Plaza on Francis this morning.
Not final forever, I hope. But snow, snow, snow tomorrow—and by the time the streets of CR are passable again, at least three days, maybe more with the cold coming and the lack of snow removal on residential streets, plus the fact that I’m out of town at the end of the week … well, no more riding this week.

Still, it was not bad work for a winter week, since I got an extra ride in Sunday.

The morning ride was a bit dicey due to ice. Several cars were slipping around corners, and it was the kind of damp morning where it was hard to distinguish the wet from the slick. My wife and daughter left before I did, or I might have changed my mind about biking, but by the time I got Francis out of the garage, bicycling was the only way to go.

Along one street, a man was pitching ice form a storm drain into the street. I suppose it was civic minded of him to clear the drain (or he didn’t want his driveway any more iced in), but the transit of little burgs, especially since it was on a downhill stretch of road, made life briefly more exciting than need be.

Still, despite the grey morning, I made it OK. The ride home was just as damp, but fortunately warm enough that the cars were no longer ominously sliding all around.

It’s probably good I biked. After the Iowa Caucuses, we celebrated with cookies and ice cream. I was burning the calories in advance.

Just getting ready to leave plaza for ride down walkway to Warde Hall. No, I did not strike the students in the walk, but rode very slowly and allowed them to proceed.