Wednesday, May 18, 2016

In Which H is for Harrowing

Looking south from north bridge on Cedar Lake. Very pretty day--peaceful, once I finally made my way to the trail.
Linn County Trail Association map.
Part of my route along H Avenue.

It was such a sunny, nice afternoon, and I have a mountain of work to do, but I really, really wanted to get a few extra bicycle miles in today, which meant I really, really wanted to ride the Cedar River Trail home rather than taking my shorter street route.

But, J Avenue, the usual route from Mount Mercy University to the trail, is closed by a street project. I noticed, in the UK, by the way, that when they tear up a street and sidewalk, they actually provide a sidewalk detour—something to consider, CR, rather than just blaring “sidewalk closed.” Back to my story. What the H, I figured—they probably wouldn’t close a busy street with an interstate exchange like H Avenue. I’ll just ride along the east edge of Daniels Park, turn right at H and end up at Cedar Lake. It will be a piece of cake.

And, honestly, although as is my right I will whine some soon, it wasn’t bad. I am amused by the “CEMAR Trail” signs that seem arbitrary in the Daniel’s Park neighborhood, marking random streets in a confusing manner, leading anybody who would follow them down strange, bike unfriendly paths.

Take Maplewood Drive NE, for instance, the street I used to get from J to H. It’s quiet enough that biking isn’t too dicey, but so strewn with bumps and potholes that it sort of makes up for the lack of traffic by including other fun obstacles. And, as far as I can tell (the signs are confusing so I’m not sure), it might even be designated as part of the “lost CEMAR Trail,” the trail that is theoretical and aspirational near Daniels Park, not the tiny actual trail leading from nowhere to nowhere near MMU.

And then there is H. H is for harrowing. H Avenue NE is a rather busy street at about 5 p.m. The first two blocks I rode were marked “share the road” with friendly street signs nobody seems to pay attention to. Once I got past Oakland Road, things did improve due to a bike lane, but it’s a kind of dicey bike lane, full of refuse, broken glass, and even, at one point, killer street drains—you bikers may know the ones I mean, large metal grates with slots parallel to the direction of travel on the bike lane. I’m glad I didn’t come up upon them after dark—and I wondered why I came up upon them at all, in a bike lane.

So I was a bit unraveled by the time I passed under I 380. Then I was at Cedar Lake.

A comely lass was rolling north along Shaver Road NE, riding a skateboard in the street. I was startled, a bit, for some reason—riding a skateboard in the street, even along relatively quiet Shaver Road, seems like a gutsy or clueless move when it’s shortly after 5 p.m., and CR Biker, who uses trails in CR fairly often, is used to gangly Sk8er Bois, not comely Sk8er Girls (or would it be Gurls? Some hip misspelling).

She was, if anything, a portent of calmness to come. The beauty of the afternoon meant a few people were on the trail, but I think I was there early enough that commuters weren’t home yet and the trail was still relatively quiet. And the lake was still and pretty. Even the parent geese , walking along the path with their goslings, seemed to have a placid attitude. A few honked at CR Biker in an unenthusiastic way, but I heard no hissing, saw no neck weaving and encountered no wing displays—clearly the placid afternoon had the geese by the lake in a somnolent state.

They must not have heard the city’s plans to feed them to homeless people. Shhhhh.

On bridge at end of Cedar Lake, looking north at creek that feeds into Lake. Ahh.

The rest of the ride home was mostly uneventful, except that I decided to use the bike lanes at 42nd Street to head towards Noelridge Park—I was getting into a “get home” mood. To ride on 42nd Street is no bicycle picnic, although, on the other wheel, 42nd Street NE has nothing on H Avenue NE.

On the way home, I added about 2 more miles to my route by taking the Lindale Trail loop just so I could climb Brentwood Drive hill. I did it this morning, too, in the other direction. I don’t know that I can do it on every ride—Thursday morning is jam packed with urgent grading—but it does feel good to be getting in a few extra miles a few hill climbs. RAGBRAI will be here soon enough.

Anyway, this is Bike to Work week, which means some local media attention for bikers. The Gazette just posted this interesting story about some biking plans the city is making. So CR wants more than a bronze? Well, even if today’s ride on H was a bit harrowing, I would agree that the city has noticeably improved in recent years for cyclists. Bravo, CR.

Now, about those bike killer street drains … couldn’t the slots be perpendicular to the street? That would make H a bit less Harrowing Avenue and a bit more Harmony Avenue.

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