Thursday, June 30, 2016

In Which I Return From Urbana

My bicycle in rack in Urbana--and no flat tyres! Trail in behind bike. I didn't do chalk art, but it adds a bit of class.

I was tied up for much of the day Wednesday, so it was close to 4 p.m. before I could ride my bicycle.

That still makes Wednesday better than Thursday, so far—I had planned an afternoon ride today, too, but we are about to have a thunderstorm, so I’m writing a blog post instead.

Anyway, my sister was riding Wednesday, and I texted her to see if she was still “out” when I left home. She was, but, as often happens when I’m biking, I didn’t hear my phone ping with her message—she had gone south to Ely, and I would have ridden south to meet her if I saw the message. Instead, when I got to the trail, for no particular reason other than I was riding for speed and miles, I headed north.

Ride fast, enjoins a RAGBRAI training blog post. So that is what I was doing—knowing I had a late start and would not be out for hours, I decided to make the limited time count for the greatest distance possible, thus, the need for speed.

I reached Schultz Road on the Cedar Valley Nature Trail, the end of the paving 10 miles north of Hiawatha, and there was a sign stating the trail at that point is going to be closed July 18.

The news is good—they are closing the trail to pave the 3 miles to Center Point, and I’m all for that. Being able to ride to Center Point on pavement will be very nice next year, and Center Point is a more logical destination-turn around point on a road bike ride than lonely Schultz Road is.

But, if I’m trying to get miles in, and the trail north is closing—well, heck. I had not planned to go north of the paving at all, but I pushed on to Center Point.

And I reached the railroad depot museum by about 5 p.m. That’s around 16 miles in one hour. Now, you bikers understand—the first three miles were in town, and the final 13 on the trail, and I did have to stop at intersections—so when I was moving, I was MOVING. I topped 20 mph now and then, and if my bike was being ridden by Sandra Bullock and was set to explode if it went under 15 mph, I would have only blown up at intersections. I was flying.

Heading south, warning sign of upcoming I-380 tunnel.

The final 3 miles, on the unpaved section of trail, was not the fastest, but the trail was OK. And it was only 5 p.m., and I was already in Center Point, and I couldn’t help but recall that the trail to this point is going to close soon. So, I decided to push on to Urbana.

It’s only about another 6 miles from Center Point. Not the best 6 miles, mind you—6 unpaved miles that has some holes and soft road crossings.

Last time I rode to Urbana, I was battling a headwind and got a flat tyre on the way. This time, I am happy to report: Headwind, no; flat tyre, no.

I reached Urbana by about 5:45 (final 6 miles were indeed slower). I ate a quick snack I had brought with me, and then turned Argent south.

When I got to the tunnel under Interstate 380, I decided to record a video for your entertainment, so here it is:

Anyway, I was home by about 8 and had gone 47 miles. In the end, that’s just shy of 12 mph as an average, so I clearly slowed the pace as the light faded and I grew more tired. Still, if my average was 12 mph—including all the times I stopped at roads, for snacks and restroom breaks—I was maintaining a pretty good pace.

Yes, RAGBRAI training blog, I rode faster than usual. Today, I decided to nap before riding—and I usually nap for 30 minutes to an hour. I woke up 2 ½ hours later with a storm bearing down on Cedar Rapids, so no miles yet today.

Maybe a few later, but it’s 5:30 now. No run to Urbana today!

Looking back north at I-380 and trail tunnel. Clouds did look a bit interesting, but no rain sprinkles Wednesday.

Tuesday, June 28, 2016

In Which the Hills Are Alive With the Sound of Panting

About 7:45 p.m. Tuesday--late ride on Boyson Trail. I thought the light in the trees was pretty.

Puff-puff-puff—the loud sound of me, going uphill.

The rides so far this week have not been long. I rode to campus Monday and did a quick 12-mile ride late Tuesday after spending the day in Ames.

So, I emphasized hills. In the short Tuesday ride, I climbed the Bowman Woods Hill 5 times. I did the same number of climbs of the MMU hill late Monday morning when I arrived on campus—and had done earlier climbs in Bowman Woods.

I have to say, it was too bad I had the meeting in Ames today. Not that it was a bad meeting, but I noticed on Facebook that my sister had ridden more than 40 miles, and today seemed the day for it. At least I did get some hill practice in.

And as you can see, during this one gorgeous week during what promises to be a very hot summer, Iowa was indeed a pretty place to be.

During my ride home Monday, I passed a cluster of Milkweed plants behind the shopping complex at C Avenue and Boyson Road. Butterfly visits Milkweed.

Late Monday morning--I think I arrived on campus about 11 a.m. Two views of many flowering plants added to garden by Rohde Family Plaza at Mount Mercy University.

Saturday, June 25, 2016

In Which 10 Hills are Climbed

Quick ride to Schultz Road Thursday afternoon. Milkweed north of Lafayette (above) and some Black-Eye Susan (below).

I didn’t get a huge number of miles Friday or Saturday—not enough time and too much else to do.

So I tried to make the miles count for RAGBRAI practice by emphasizing hills. After a quick ride Thursday to Lafayette, on Friday I went to campus to do some work (not enough, much more to do), and I climbed the MMU hill 5 times, including twice doing the Villa route to the library with is the steepest, most intense hill climb.

That ride came after I had already climbed the Brentwood Hill three times. I added two more climbs this morning—so in about 30 miles, I climbed 10 hills.

We’ll see if I fit in another ride this afternoon.

Two views of balloon and moon from top of Bowman Woods Hill on Friday morning.

Tuesday, June 21, 2016

In Which 60 Miles Features Milkweed

Lindale Trail, morning ride. Milkweed in flower.

I haven’t seen many Monarch Butterflies this year. Not none, mind you, but not many.

Still, Milkweed is in bloom. It’s a fairly pretty flower, and when I was photographing some along the Lindale Trail during my morning ride, a butterfly showed up.

Not a Monarch, but still, pretty, and attracted by the Milkweed flowers.

Butterfly on Milkweed, Lindale Trail. Drinking, above, and flying off, below.

I rode 15.55 miles this morning. The immediately post breakfast trip included a loop out to the Lowe Park trail, and a bit of the Boyson Trail, at least to the Lindale Trail. That, and two hill climbs, got me the miles.

Two Lowe Park Trail images--bunny, above, and flowers in prairie planting near art building at east end of park.

In the middle of the day, we went to pick up grandchildren at swimming lessons, fed them lunch, and after they went home, took naps.

I woke up and posted some images, and then decided to take a bicycle ride. It was about 4 p.m. when I left home.

I knew time was limited, so I was deliberately going for speed. I went 11 miles, to Sokol Park, by 5 p.m. Then, since I was there anyway, I had the bright idea to call my wife with a suggestion. Our daughter was arguing a case in court today (she has a summer internship with the Johnson County Attorney’s office), and I thought it might be nice to treat her to supper out.

And Sokol Park is darn close to New Bo …

My wife liked the idea, but I knew my daughter would not get home until close to 6…so I continued south to Ely.

By the time I got there, I had ridden about 20 miles in the afternoon—so I had 35 for the day, and was close to 20 miles from home.

That’s when I started to think that today might be my second 60-mile day.

We met at Parlor City for a nice supper, and they drove home while I hit the trail again.

My supper, a nice break during a long bike ride. A Ruben at Parlor City in New Bo--about the best Ruben I've had in CR. And yes, that is a beer, too. Parlor City has quite a selection. Below--wife, daughter and grandson in post-dinner ussie before they head home. I  headed home, too, but by bicycle.

I took some images of Cedar Lake as the light faded, including Milkweed in the setting sun. No Monarchs or Monarch caterpillars to report today, but I’ll keep watching.

After that, to gain a few miles, I went north to Boyson Road before turning south again and heading home. I also took the longer “northern” route north of 74th Street.

Along the way, I had brief, pleasant chat with my sister-in-law Paulette. She is married to my sister, and my sister is a member of Team Joe for RAGBRAI.

Anyway, I got a little lost headed home along the northern route, as light faded. I’m not that familiar with the streets in that suburban part of Cedar Rapids.

But getting lost was OK. It was dark enough to run with lights, but not too dark, and I needed the miles.

By the time I got home, the bike computer said 44.68 miles for the afternoon ride. Add the 15.55 from the morning, and I rode 60.23 miles today.

And I lived to tell the story.

Cheating, a bit, with this one. It's from Monday--Mr. Nut Cheeks was watching me as I prepared to bike home from campus of Mount Mercy University.

Bike, second from left, parked in New Bo with others. Nice planter, too. Wife and daughter drove to meet me, these are stranger's bikes besides mine.

Around 7:30 p.m. or so, Bridge of Lions shines in late afternoon light.

Cedar Lake as sun dips. Several views. I circled the lake to ensure I would reach 60 miles.

Milkweed on the shore of Cedar Lake.

I've left the lake, but not by much. Paused when I hit the 50-mile mark for the day for a  "this is what I look like at 50 miles" selfie.

Sunset along Cedar River Trail. Bridge where trail crosses itself.

Sunday, June 19, 2016

In Which We Rate CR Biker Bars

At the Kickstand.
Father’s Day 2016—my own daughter leads me astray.

For some reason, we planned a bar pedal. This morning about 11, my second-oldest daughter and I pedaled out of the driveway with the express goal of checking, and rating, three bars: the Kickstands, the Sag Wagon and the Broken Spoke.

It was all part of a warm mid-day Father’s Day bike ride.

First stop: The Kickstand. A new bike bar near New Bo, it was one block off of the Cedar River trail.

The bar was cute, with some bike decorations and a wide open feel. Beer was dispensed with a new system that fills glasses, via a magnetic plug, from below. There were 5 beers on tap, my daughter and I both chose New Amsterdam brews—Slow Ride for me, Fat Tire for her.

The bar was OK. It didn’t seem to offer any food. It was a bike friendly atmosphere, but lost a point for being a distance from the trail. There were also too many TVs inside. A biker bar should not feature many TVs.

On our loose 10-speed scale, we ranked it an 8. It was good, but not a 10.

Sag Wagon selfie.

Next stop: The Sag Wagon. The most familiar of the three, it was hard not to already be in love with the Sag Wagon. It’s a deli and bar, with a large, attractive outdoor seating area on Cedar Lake. The bar is right on the trail and on the lake—full credit for location.

Sipping cider beside Cedar Lake.

We love the Sag Wagon, including the old bike d├ęcor. 10 speeds.

Finally, the Broken Spoke. Now, we had been at two bars by the time we got there, so I’m not sure how accurate our final ratings are.

But it turned out to be pretty fantastic. I had the most beers on tap, an extensive menu (although we didn’t eat), a bike friendly atmosphere and a very pleasant back deck.

Final biker bar. Broken spoke.
It was another 10 speed stop. Even without being on a lake, we couldn’t come up with any deductions.

Above, beers on tap on patio of Broken Spoke. Below, sipping on the patio. Bottom, interior decor of bar/restaurant.

The miles total 25.62. Not sure what the blood alcohol content was. Truly, it was RAGBRAI training.

Friday, June 17, 2016

In Which We Fry and Travel 24 Miles

My wife's shadow on the Cedar Valley Nature Trail between Lafayette and Hiawatha.

I had a fun interlude this afternoon. One of my daughters invited my wife and me to go to the Marion Pool and play with four grandchildren.

A pleasant time was had, although I think in the 90 minutes of pool sunshine, I got rather fried, despite sunscreen.

And then we thought about what to do with the rest of our busy Friday. The morning had been spent on one of the most dreaded and difficult rituals of summer—cleaning the garage, a process that sadly must continue Saturday.

So the afternoon break was very welcome. And then I suggested we could ride our bikes to a restaurant for supper.

And a quick trip out for a meal, for no other reason than it was a nice afternoon and we were in the mood, turned into a ride out to Lafayette.

Twenty miles after leaving home, we were at Culvers in Hiawatha for supper, and then we rode another 4 miles home.

I’ll still somewhat fried—I’ll need to use some lotion before going to sleep tonight—but I do have to say that, between swimming and riding my bicycle, the afternoon sure beat the morning!

Thursday, June 16, 2016

In Which Mr. B Drinks and Rides With Me

I had an idea for a bike blog post as I rode along a 20-mile loop this morning to the Lowe Park Trail and Boyson Trail complex in Marion, Iowa.

The idea was how in tune to the route a bicycle rider has to be. In addition to watching traffic, as a car driver does, a bike rider, especially a road bike rider, must pay attention to sand, cracks, sticks, etc.

So, anticipating my theme, I took some pothole and soft trail photos.

The morning was warming as I rode, and it was around noon when I was on the Krumbholtz Trail, the side trial off the Boyson Road trail that leads to Mendards. I noticed a number of butterflies that like to sit on the warm trail, and they usually flit up dangerously close as I ride—a few seeming to pass through my front wheel.

Well, I hope no butterflies were ground up to make this post, but I think they all are OK. Although I could ride close, when I stopped to get out my camera, the butterflies would flit away.

But one didn’t go far. As I got the camera out, it landed on the left side of my chest. As I watched, it extended its curled tongue and took a drink. I must have sweet sweat.

Its photograph, I managed to take. As I got ready to put the camera away, it leapt into flight—and landed on my front wheel. Well, I wasn’t going anywhere for a few minutes, so I shot it. And it leapt again—but this time it landed on my shorts and stayed there as I took off.

Wheel rider.

I was going to write about—and probably will—the hazards of watching the street, but I guess another hazard is trying to videotape a passenger as you bicycle along. But, I did.

Anyway, that was way cool, and makes dodging holes in the street well worth it. My hole photo gallery is below. I don’t want to mislead you and make you think streets in my areas are crumbling to dust—Geode Street in Marion, where some of these images are shot, is a nice new street with fairly good pavement. I guess my point is that a biker obviously must be vigilant on an older street like Brentwood Drive NE in Cedar Rapids, but also on a new street, too. No street will be free of cracks and holes that can bump a bike.

And stopping now and then to think about holes is a whole lot better when a butterfly joins the party.

Road hazards gallery:

This photo and one above on on Geode Street, a rather nice "bike boulevard" in Marion.

Soft part of Lindale Trail. On unpaved trails, soft places and ruts are always to be watched for.

Wednesday, June 15, 2016

In Which Rain Finds CR Biker

Boyson Trail Tuesday morning. I like paved trails on my road bike, but have to admit I throw caution to the wind and ride this trail.

I rode my bike Tuesday in the morning, rather than going to the gym, and enjoyed the ride. Later, my wife and I picked up some swing set anchors she had ordered, and went out to lunch.

Clouds were moving in, but I thought the forecast was for storms later in the day. I had locked my bike outside, anticipating another ride Tuesday.

Well, you know what happened. The sky opened and rain poured down. After we got home, I wiped the bike off and lubed the chain before putting it away in the garage.

Heading up C Avenue Tuesday afternoon--interesting sky.

I had planned to pedal to campus in the afternoon to help week a veggie garden, but took an afternoon siesta that turned out a bit longer than I expected—I fell asleep about 1 and didn’t wake up until 3:30.

And went out in the back yard and installed the anchors to make the new swing set officially done.

It was almost 5, but I still wanted another ride, so off I went. The sky looked a bit iffy—patches of blue, patches of white, patches of grey, some rather bubbly looking clouds soaring overhead like giant heads of cauliflower. You don’t necessarily want an “interesting” sky for a bicycle ride.

Anyway, I decided to stick not too far from home. I rode up the Brentwood Drive hill, and then headed up to the Lindale Trail. I was hankering for more miles and no rain had fallen, so I thought I might head over to the Cedar River trail via Noelridge Park.

On the way, as I was crossing the Rockwell-Collins parking lot to the F Avenue-Collins Road intersection, a cloud opened up and rain came pelting down. Rain, when the drops are big, stings. I was a hot, humid afternoon, but rain is also cold.

It was, briefly, rather uncomfortable. But the rain was a brief event, and, thankfully, there was no hail nor lightning.

Getting ready to cross Collins Road at F Avenue. Rain is ending, it was quick and intense, but I'm glad it was over soon.

As I crossed Noelridge Park, baseball teams were practicing at ball diamonds and soccer teams were kicking balls around. I wasn’t the only one braving the chance of rain.

I did, however, turn back at Noelridge Park. I thought discretion was the better part of valor, and, anyway, it was getting later in the afternoon and I didn’t mind the idea of going home for supper.

About 20 miles for Tuesday. Not as many as I would have gotten if I woke up earlier and helped weed the garden, but not a bad number for a stormy day.

Sunday, June 12, 2016

In Which I Pass the 60-Mile Barrier

I investigated this side trail in Robins on the second ride. It turned out to be less than I expected--it leads to a sidewalk on a rather nondescript suburban street, and the large building that looks like it could be an elementary school or small hospital turned out to be a rather dull suburban office building. Dunder-Mifflin could have been there.

There was a fair amount of bike traffic on the trails today.

I took three rides today, with the goal of reaching the 60-mile mark in one day. In the morning, I rode to the gym, going up the Brentwood Drive Hill several times and riding on the Boyson Trail on the way home. The 2-mile ride to the gym thus accounted for about 9 miles.

In the late morning and early afternoon, I rode north to the end of pavement on the Cedar Valley Nature Trail, 10 miles north of Hiawatha. With the ride to and from the trail start, that added 31 miles, bringing my day total to 40.

After a leisurely lunch break, and a root beer float party that happened after my wife and daughter came home from a long walk, by about 4 I was ready to go on ride 3. I set out going south on the Cedar River Trail. I went to a bench near Tait Cummins Park, and knew from my computer that I had topped 50 miles and was more than 10 miles from home.

Trail south of Cedar River near my turn-around point. It had been somewhat cloudy earlier--I even got sprinkled on during the day's first ride, but it's pleasant and sunny, if a bit breezy, in the afternoon.

I paused to enjoy a bag of nuts and rest a bit off the bike, when two bikers passed by, one wearing an MMU Mustangs jersey. “Hi, Joe,” said the second biker. It was Dennis Dew, the psychology professor who has the office next to mine. He was riding with Don Damsteegt, a retired psychology professor who still teaches some classes.

Temp on Gazette sign. Nice day.
They went by just as I was getting on my bike, and since they were headed north, I was able to catch up with them and had a pleasant chat. They stopped at Sokol Park to meet friends, and I rode on.

As I was nearing home, on 42nd Street, where I had left the trail, my odometer hit the 60-mile mark. I paused for a little photo session.

42nd Street near Council--I just hit 60 miles. Turning the camera the other way, below.

All in all, the 60 miles were, except for the morning hill climbs, very flat trail miles. So it’s not the perfect RAGBRAI analogy. And the part that sits down, where the biker meets the bike, is indeed quite sore. Still, it’s good to ride a RAGBRAI-like distance. I hope to increase that—my next goal is to reach a 75-mile day, and I would like to do at least one century before RAGBRAI.

Final computer reading. Almost 63 miles.

Friday, June 10, 2016

In Which 20 Hot Afternoon Miles Pass OK

Otis Road, headed home from Prairie Park Fishery. This bare stretch of road is a tad toasty on a hot afternoon. I was grateful for the clouds, which provided occasional slightly shadier conditions.

I took two bike rides today, and overall I would say it was a good day.

This warm morning began with a hill climb on Brentwood Drive. Then, I rode to campus, with a loop on the Boyson Trail first. On campus, I climbed the MMU hill four times. That morning ride totaled 10 miles.

Victory selfie with Sister Frances on MMU campus after four morning hill climbs.

My goal today was to make a preliminary plan for the Fall Faculty Series at MMU, and do some other work. I never did get to the “other work,” but planning the series was rewarding. It’s good to look ahead to an exciting event, whether it’s RAGBRAI or our fall series this year on immigration.

I left campus a bit before 3. It was hot, but it was my plan to get some “hot” miles in today. Riding safely in heat is a key RAGBRAI skill, given that the ride is during the hottest part of an Iowa summer. In June, there aren’t likely to be that many days with a temperature over 90, so today was an opportunity.

I took advantage of the heat by riding to the Prairie Park Fishery. Despite it being over 90—a bank thermometer on the way home read 94, and by then I think it had started to cool, just a bit—the ride wasn’t so bad. When it gets over 100, any breeze can make things worse by blowing hot air over you, but if the air temperature is below body temperature, even just by a few degrees, moving air helps, and the air was moving today.

Cedar Lake. Water a bit choppy and conditions a bit windy, but some hardy person is out on a kayak. I was eating a bag of nuts at about 4:30 p.m., taking a break. That's one key to hot rides--ride for a while and then rest awhile.
Bank thermometer near my house.
40-minute ride from Cedar Lake.

I deliberately took it easy. I’m normally not a fast biker, but I was lazing along, even for me, and ensuring I took drinks at least every 15 minutes. I felt a little bad about 5 miles into the ride, but honestly felt better after that—I think my body adjusted.

Anyway, the afternoon ride added another 20 miles, so I hit 30 for this very hot day. I still haven’t done a 60-mile day, and want to do that soon—but I’ll save that for a day when the bank thermometer isn’t reading 94.