Thursday, March 31, 2016

In Which The Deed is Done

As it turned out, registering for RAGBRAI was a bit of a hassle--I had to create a new identity. A friend on Facebook stated that RAGBRAI was using new software and making all previous riders recreate identities, which is fine by me, but it would not let me use my usual email address because it said it was taken--which would have been by my last-year self, so if everyone has to create a new identity, does everyone have to use their secondary email?

Never mind. The deed is done! Biking to Muscatine--not for the first time in my life since before the age of 18 many rides began and ended in that fair city, but for the first time in my RAGBRAI riding.

Wednesday, March 30, 2016

In Which Jet Lag Pleasantly Combines with Sunrise

6:30 a.m. Tuesday--shortly after leaving home. Morning sky at Rockwell-Collins pond on C Avenue.

I thought I was late Tuesday and was a little anxious as I got Francis out of the garage.

Maybe the inky darkness should have been more of a hint. My body clock is still on UK time, and far from being late, I was pretty super early—as in, leaving home around 6:30 a.m even if my body thought it was early afternoon.

With the time change, it’s just starting to get light that early in the morning. Of course, I was running with lights on. It was still, cool and very pretty.

I am not typically a morning person, although on RAGBRAI I usually rise at the crack of dawn. I guess it’s a matter of the situation—in my family, I have a reputation, deserved, for being among the first children awake on Christmas Day to see what Santa brought (and I’m not talking about when I was a kid—I mean now).

But anyway, other than being the first full day back in the U.S.A. and the first day of class after spring break, there wasn’t anything special about Tuesday that would have me biking at 6:30 a.m.

I don’t plan to make dawn biking much of a habit. But the world was a pretty place at that time—theyroyal blue sky reflected in the pond at Rockwell-Collins, the buildings of MMU batched in pinks and yellows.

Two views of the Tuesday morning light--U Center on Rohde Plaza bathed in pink, above, and, below, looking from Warde Hall bike rack towards the Battleship Donelly, turned golden by the rising sun.

Today, Wednesday, I wasn’t quite so crazily early, so I didn’t see the dawn’s light. But there were daffodils in bloom at the end of the ride, so I guess the biking morning was special today, too.

And she is off ... 6-year-old on bike sans stabilizers.
I’m did a lot of walking in the UK, and my knees seemed to have benefited. While there, I observed a 6-year-old granddaughter taking off confidently on her sister’s bike—the one they had removed the “stabilizers” from because it’s smaller and little legs can reach the ground better.

That was fun to see. It was fun to be in a country where biking is more common—racks in downtown Norwich are filled with the vehicles of commuters and shoppers.

But I am glad to be back home. The sky is bigger here—houses in town are not so close, so on a dark early Tuesday, you can really enjoy the cool expanse of blues and pinks as the new day begins. Best enjoyed, of course, on a bicycle.

I was a bit later leaving Wednesday morning, and the morning was cloudy and grey. I hope I beat the rain home tonight. Anyway, at least on Wednesday, I noticed this daffodil in bloom near the bike rack at MMU.

Thursday, March 24, 2016

In Which I Assess UK Biking

Granddaugher and daughter out on long walk with me in the UK.
Lego bikers--I was playing
with a granddaughter. And Legos.

I’ve got to get ready to register for RAGBRAI—the deadline is coming soon—and in preparation, I’ve taken the week off of biking.

I’m visiting my daughter in the UK. I’m not exactly UK bike ready, and there isn’t a bike for me to ride, either. I’m making up for it with extensive walking this week.

So a few brief, random observations on British biking:
  • Despite narrow streets and sidewalks so narrow that parked cars half block them, bicycles are more common on British streets. And because cars are smaller and go slower, I doubt despite the lack of space that British bikers are more in peril. Probably the opposite. And in going to school to pick up grandchildren, a fair number of parents have a kiddie bike attached to the back.

  • Bike racks in busy areas, such as downtown, are often full. Many bikes have baskets and carry bags, as well as fenders. British common bikes seem built for serious use, rather than the main purpose of American bikes, which is recreation.
Bike rack in downtown Norwich, England. Grey, cool weather does not keep these bikers home.

  • Helmets and reflective vests exist in Britain, but are not quite as commonplace as in the U.S. On most points, I would say the Brits are ahead of us in biking, but on this point, I would say Americans are ahead. Yay.
Anyway, I do feel that the week of intense walking is doing me some good. I have a sore left knee that actually seems to be getting better. Walking in the UK is challenging enough—you have to train yourself to look in the opposite direction when crossing the street—I suppose it’s OK I’m not trying to bike here. But I am looking forward to getting back to the states and back on my bikes!

Daughter and wife on walkway of 1,000 year old cathedral. I guess this is one place I would not bike. And below, view from upper floor while riding double deck bus. More busses as well as bikes in UK.

Wednesday, March 16, 2016

In Which It’s Looking Green For A Half-Irish Biker

My commuting bike Francis, parked this morning by Regina Hall on green, green grass.

The eve of St. Patrick’s Day, 2016: I attended an out-of-town funeral yesterday, so no ride then, but given the morning rain and evening storms, it seemed like a dicey day for a ride anyway.

Following the thunderstorms that rumbled through last evening, we’re having a super windy day, a howling gale from the west. It is lucky that my morning ride is mostly south, so the winds tried to knock me down now and then, but there were only brief parts of the commute where I had to face into the wind.

And the commute is changing. You see a few shades of color in the trees as buds swell and maples bloom, but trees are mostly asleep still.

The brown March ground, however, is changing rapidly as grass starts to put on its lush green spring colors—just in time for the day before St. Patrick’s Day, which warms the heart of this half-Irish bicycle commuter.

I parked Francis on the “other” end of campus because I was giving a morning exam in the library. But, as I walked across the sidewalk that I would normally bike on, I stopped. I’m sure if I had been biking, I would have stopped, too.

First flower I've seen blooming at MMU. I have crocus in my gardens already, but it's nice to see this one on campus.

 The first flower, a pretty little early iris (or crocus that looks like an iris) is in bloom on central campus. It’s not the first flower I’ve seen—there were daffodils already south of here that I saw Tuesday during my trip, and the first crocus in my garden bloomed last week—but I always think of this Mustang-colored flower (blue and yellow) as being the MMU official herald of spring.

It’s green. There are flowers. Despite the wind, that’s all the more reason to get on your bike and ride.

Another flower view at MMU.

Thursday, March 10, 2016

In Which Mother Nature Wins

Tuesday morning, corner of C Avenue and Blairs Ferry Road. It's nice to the west, but rain is moving north and increasing.
There were sprinkles moving through Cedar Rapids Tuesday, and I decided to see if I could ride my bicycle. I fired up the iPad and checked the weather radar, where I found some ominous looking splotches, but they seemed east and where heading north, so I didn’t think they would hit me.

So I got Francis out. Foreshadowing—there were an isolated few drops falling from the clouds, but I figured the ride would be OK.

I started out, and as I rode the first half-mile to Blair’s Ferry, the “sprinkles” became a drizzle.

Then, as I was waiting to cross Collins Road at a traffic light, a drizzle became rain.

I really had no option but to soldier on—my wife had long left for work driving our van. So I did. I regretted my decision not to don a jacket—it wasn’t all that cold despite the rain, but rain sure is water and water makes one wet and I don’t enjoy, in this context, wet all that much. A warm shower or a swim in a cool pool on a hot day—those are good. Riding your bike to work? Trust me, dry is a far superior state to be in.

My pants and my outer shirt were soaked by the time I sloshed up the MMU hill. I took my shirt off and hung it on my radiator, where it was at least slightly dryer for the afternoon ride home.

My pants I wisely left on, since I had class, and frankly they dried more than the shirt did, but I think that’s because the light dress pant material doesn’t soak up as much moisture in the first place.

Luckily enough, my inner polo shirt was not too bad.

Thunderstorms were again in the forecast, and I had a music rehearsal so I could not leave campus early to ensure missing the mist, but the gamble that I lost in the morning went better in the early evening. Rain didn’t move in again until later.

Wednesday morning, very different, more biker friendly looking world--sun coming up as seen from C Avenue about 3/4 of a mile from home.
And since then, the rides have been a little cloudy, but nice. It does feel very springy. There is still snow about—the snow hills in the Rockwell-Collins parking lot look dirty and sad, a poor shadow of their more majesty, but they are still there.

Wednesday morning, I looked for, found and used a container of chain lube. Rides Wednesday and Thursday morning were very nice.

Happy spring to you, fellow bikers, and may I see you on street or trail enjoying the new season soon!

Above--my shadow during Wednesday afternoon ride. Nice for it to be sunny enough for there to be a shadow. Below, those low hills are melting snow at the edge of a parking lot.

Monday, March 7, 2016

In Which A Rider Strips Down

Monday morning selfie at Blair's Ferry and C Avenue, waiting for the light without a jacket in sight. I look so happy, don't I?

Monday, March 7, 2016—a day that will live in history.

Because, for bike’s sake, where else do old days live?

Anyway, I donned my sweater and went to the garage to retrieve my two-wheeled carriage, and then made the call.

End of the ride Monday, sunshine on the Rohde Plaza at MMU.
No sugar tonight in my coffee, no sugar tonight in my tea. And no jacket needed on a warm March spring morning.

Pond at Rockwell-Collins on C Avenue. But it's really a picture of the sky, with clouds hiding the rising sun.

We may yet have snow. Rain is forecast for later this week, but after all, in Iowa, snowflakes are normal in April and have been seen in early May. But the weather has clearly turned to a biking friendly direction. A spin of old Earth and Sol is beaming down and the grown is the bare brown, with tinges of green, which promises the warmer months.

I biked 25 miles Sunday because I had a concert at Mercy Medical Center to ring at and just because one should not waste an early spring warm afternoon.

Sunday afternoon, Hallmar retirement home at Mercy Medical Center. Skylight reflected in one of my bells. I didn't play all that well, but never seem to for this concert. Someday.
The scenery, in its bare greys and browns, is not yet much to see, but I was hoping for an eagle sighting down by the river. I’ don’t know for sure if I got one, but I did see several very large birds very high very far off, which looked like they had “fingers” and straight wings, which at a distance could be eagles, or not.

Cedar River, March 6. Stark spring beauty, but I will welcome the warmer, greener, lighter world when it arrives.

Anyway, there were plenty of others enjoying the somewhat jumbled (closed by sewer lines and bridge construction) trails in Cedar Rapids. I was impressed most by the interesting, milky sky, and Monday’s March sky was equally milky and interesting.

Spring! Get on your bikes and ride. No jacket needed.

Cedar Lake, March 6. Sun and clouds. The look of March.

Friday, March 4, 2016

In Which I Travel Over and Under

Early Thursday, wet, sometimes slick sidewalks, empty bike rack.

Well, Thursday there was snow—too much to bike in. This March snow was an ephemeral thing, however, and was gone by Friday.

On the way to class in Thursday morning, I wore snow boots and walked outside. I went back to grab some coffee when I had a little extra time, and then didn’t bother with the snow boots (I had shoes with me) so I traveled back to the library the Mount Mercy way—underground, through the tunnels.

Early Thursday--cold on campus, but kind of pretty.

Looking back towards Warde Hall and I walk towards Rohde Family Plaza at MMU.

Looking across campus from the plaza. We're ready for winter to be over, but it does look pretty.

Catherine in snow.

The walk back, with coffee. It's warmer down here, but a bit prettier outside.

But by Friday, the Thursday sunshine had done enough to make the walkways and streets bike ready.

The morning was frosty, but blue and pretty.

Clouds rolled in for the afternoon commute, and I was stung a bit by nasty cold rain that felt like it had ice pellets in it. Still, it only sprinkled, and I met my wife and daughter for Peanut Buster Parfaits at a Dairy Queen in Hiawatha.

All in all, considering the snow, the biking weeks worked out fairly well.

Friday morning after I've biked to campus. It was cloudy in the afternoon, but kind of pretty. The ground is grey with frost, but the snow cover has mostly melted away. The roads were just fine for morning biking.