Thursday, September 22, 2016

In Which Money Appears on Shifting Streets

Amid fall leaves starting to appear on pavement--this. Well, OK.

A very mixed week of bike commuting—I was dodging rain for much of the week, but was still able to ride.

I wish they had less rain north of here, as the Cedar River is expected to make a mess in downtown Cedar Rapids next Tuesday, no doubt playing havoc with trails in that area. Of course, the damage to businesses and homes are a much more serious blow than washed out bike trails, so here’s hoping the raging waters of the mighty Cedar scare us more than scar us.

Thursday--the rain came down pretty hard, but briefly. Walking back to Warde Hall from the library to get Clarence and head home. Wet pavement, but dry skies, and I'll take that.

Anyway, early in the week, not sure if it was Monday or Wednesday—it had to be one of the two because its darker on Tuesdays and Thursdays when I leave for work earlier in the morning—I found a dollar on the sidewalk on C Avenue. Money has an odd impact. For a few coins, I won’t stop; in fact I’ll hope that if a kid lost them, she or he comes back and finds them.

For $100 (or more) I would call CR Police. But a one spot seems to be in that sweet zone—too easy to blow away to leave in place, too small to not claim. Thank you, universe, although I’ll probably end up slipping it into a church collection basket—I need the good karma more than anything a biker could buy with $1.

As I said, much of the week was spent dodging rain, but I was largely successful in that. I did have to wait until about 7 to leave Thursday night, but otherwise the storms we had were not time during my commute.

I did run into another problem. The City of Cedar Rapids apparently had decided that pavement is passé, and seems to be converting many streets in the Kenwood neighborhood into gravel roads. F Avenue, an almost unavoidable main road of my commute, has been closed for several days, and the alternative streets to the east all have fresh, loose gravel on them.

It's too loose for comfortable biking, that's for sure. And too many signs like the one below. Sigh.

Not exactly a bike friendly surface, although I’m been more worried about a sharp pebble flat than a spill—fortunately, Clarence is a very stable bike and I’m an old man biker—one skill we old man bikers have is we can balance when the bike is moving very slowly. Maybe a physics guy can explain it—does big guy equal big momentum equal stable biking at very low speeds, or am I just conditioned by years of slow biking to balance well while barely moving?

Anyway, I will be glad, I think, when the street work is done. But I hope they don’t convert too many of the streets I ride on. Gravel! In the midst of a city!

Not a fan.

Wednesday or Thursday? Foggy morning on the way to work, crossing MMU campus. Pretty sky, below, on Wednesday. Clouds sadly have brought too much rain to the area, but they can made the sky look nice.

Sunday, September 18, 2016

In Which We Ride Some New Rides

Thursday night--photo of Harvest Moon I took while on bike ride.

Some new biking experiences were the theme of recent rides.

On Thursday night, I attended a lecture at Mount Mercy University that is part of our Fall Faculty Series on immigration. I wrote about it on one of my other blogs. Because of the lecture, I was riding home well after dark, with my Nikon camera, which I don’t usually carry on my bike.

It was the night of the Harvest Moon—shine on, shine on Harvest Moon. So, I stopped now and then to take Luna’s picture.

Kenwood School, picture I took on my ride home.

Friday, the MMU Bike Club hosted “Club Friday,” and then was set for a ride later that afternoon. Only two students—the club president and one other, showed up, so I proposed to the small group that I show them my commuting ride, after which we could head over to Dairy Queen in Hiawatha.

They agreed, but before we left campus, two other riders joined us.

Bike Club selfie before Friday ride.

It was kind of funny. I think Mark, the club president, was half joking, but he kept asking, after about 2 miles or so, “do you live here?” It was sort of like being on a drive with a young child who asks “are we there yet” every few minutes.

Cloudy afternoon-Bike Club crossing parking lot at Rockwell-Collins. We are almost there. Mark decided I probably own Rockwell-Collins, although I don't think I do.

About 4 miles later, we arrived at my house and invited Audrey to go to DQ with us. It’s about 2 miles from my house to DQ, and along the way, Mark noted that this was the longest, craziest route to DQ he’s ever biked on.

Well, sure. As Audrey would say, when you let Joe pick the route, crazy things happen.

Bikes at DQ. Rack was empty before we arrived. Mine is first bike in line.

Saturday was cool and pleasant, and late in the afternoon, Audrey and I took two grandchildren for a ride on the Boyson Trail. One grandchild, 9 months old, rode on a toddler seat in front of me, the other grandchild, age 3, rode the Tab-Along seat behind my bike—so Clarence was acting like the people carrier he was named after.

The ride was probably the farthest that the 9-month-old has gone on the bike. He likes rides, but he also wants them to be short, because being strapped in and wearing a helmet is not his thing. It was good we stopped at Hanna Park and let the kids swing—he needed the break.

Swinging in the park.

Still, overall, he was OK with the ride. The older grandchild was thrilled. Audrey noticed that she has figured out she has no reason to pedal, since the bike moves if she just sits there, so I’m sure the outing was good exercise for me, too.

So, Thursday, Friday and Saturday represented some new ride experiences for some people—a nice trio of fun biking days!

Wednesday, September 14, 2016

In Which I View the Morning September Sky

OK, I know I’ve done a sky post before—but enjoying the changing light of morning (or late afternoon) is one of the perks of being a biker. I know you car pilots see the same sky, but not as clearly or fully as I do, so there.

The first four photos are from the weekend, last Sunday, Sept. 11. I know it’s a sad day, and I haven’t and won’t ever forget, but there was a cool early fall misty, dewy morning as I rode my bike on the Lindale and Boyson trails.

Morning dew gleams in grass near west entrance of Lindale Trail in Cedar Rapids.

Lindale Trail--shafts of misty sunlight.

Don't panic, citizens. Orb web gleams beside Lindale Trail--no spider in view.

Boyson Trail creek view. Day is slowly warming up and mist clearing.

The next are from today, Sept. 14—partly cloudy sky around 8 a.m. just looks pretty to me, with sun playing peekaboo behind the cloud cover. And it’s amazing how low in the sky the sun is at 8 a.m. in mid September!

Looking east at corner of F Avenue and Collins Road as I wait for light to change.

Looking east across lawn of Kenwood School.

Winter is coming. But Clarence and I are ready!

Sunday, September 11, 2016

In Which I Contrast Three Days, Three Rides

Thursday ride--this is in the afternoon. Warm and muggy. Pretty sky as I head home. Corner of Blairs Ferry and C Avenue.
Despite global warming, there are signs of autumn here in the upper Midwest. For one thing, on a beautiful, slightly cool Saturday afternoon, when my wife and I were on the bike trail near Lowe Park in Marion, Iowa, the grasshoppers were like Donald Trump’s fake promises, orange hair and ego: huge.

It was the third of three rides in three days that provided some seasonal contrast.

On Thursday, it felt rather muggy and almost summer like warm. I arrived at campus a bit damp in the morning—I’ve considered wearing a different shirt for the ride and changing into a new one for class. It was that muggy. The day was sunny, and even if September shadows were a bit long, it felt very much like an Iowa summer.

Friday was decidedly different, especially the afternoon commute. Storms had rumbled through in the afternoon, but my bike was parked inside next to my office, so that was OK. In the early evening, just before 6, there was an opening in the radar view on my computer. Clearly, time to saddle up Clarence and ride like the wind.

Sprinkles fell on me as I departed Warde Hall, but as I rode on, the sky dried out. However, ominous grey and black colors were building in the west—you could tell a second powerful storm was nearing.

When I got to Rockwell-Collins, I decided to gamble and check out the new C Avenue. The southern part is open for parking lot access, so I rode there and headed north on the sidewalk along C. But it was closed where they are installing a new curb cut along the part of the street that is still under construction, so I had to detour around that part, which involved, briefly, crossing very mushy lawn.

New section of C Avenue--crossing at new traffic light. Looking south toward Collins Road.
 Sorry for the trench. I was in a bit of a hurry.

Anyway, I did make it. Less than five minutes after I parked Clarence, the skies opened and rain pounded down.

I did a little biking Saturday morning, going to and from the gym and climbing the Bowman Woods hill. But the afternoon ride was a bit farther and a bit unexpected. About 3 that afternoon, my daughter left home with her baby boy for a play date. I had expected to nap, and I knew we were planning to go to church at 4:30—but my wife said “why don’t we take a short bike ride?”

It was sunny and cool, the kind of beautiful day you sometimes get after a storm, but a bit cooler than a summer day. There was definitely fall in the air, and I wore blue jeans, not shorts, for this ride.

On Tower Terrace Road bike lane, headed towards turnoff to get to Lowe Park trail. Pretty Saturday afternoon.

As noted earlier, we went out to Lowe Park and back. In one direction, the ride was fine, although there was a brisk wind from the west, so there was some slogging up a wind hill.

Still, it was a very pleasant ride, and seems like a foretaste of fall rides to come. Cooler weather means more comfortable bike riding.

Wednesday, September 7, 2016

Tuesday, September 6, 2016

In Which Labor Day Becomes Cycle Day

Some large water birds with white bodies and black wings fly over the High Trestle Bridge on the High Trestle Trail Aug. 4, 2016.
Since I ride my bicycle to work, perhaps it’s appropriate that Labor Day weekend 2016 became something of a cycle-rama for me. As noted in my previous post, the MMU Bike Club took its first ride of the year Friday.

That was followed by a series of weekend rides—both Argent and Clarence were in use this weekend.

Saturday was High Trestle Trail day. We picked up Ben in Ames and met some other family members for dinner in Des Moines, and then hit the trail at Woodward. We were being lazy—starting our ride just 2.5 miles from the bridge.

I had felt a bit spent on Friday’s ride—got unnaturally heated and faint feeling and had to sit and rest for a bit. So I was glad to have the lighter bike—Argent—for Saturday’s ride. Fortunately, no return of the “faints” on any of the other bike rides.

For some in our party, Saturday’s journey was their first trip to this trail, and the High Trestle Bridge. You Iowa bikers know—if you haven’t done it yet, do it.

Me and Audrey (and son) on bridge.
We lingered on the overlook and bridge for a little while, and then proceeded east to Madrid, where we pulled off to find the local ice cream shop.

There was some sort of Labor Day weekend festival going on in Madrid, which made our trek to said shop a bit more complex than it usually would be, but we enjoyed the outing.

It was full dark by the time the last scoop of frozen dairy was ingested, and we headed back toward the bridge to see it lit up. Well, it was quite impressive. It was a beautiful, cool fall evening, and the bridge worked its magic. There may not have been that much shock, but there was some awe.

Still, I have to say that the ride on the dark trail was a bit dicey. It was surprising how many pedestrians were out in dark clothes, sans flashlight or any other illumination. And they weren’t alone—there were bikers riding without lights along a dark, tree-lined trail. Even some parents had little children with them, all riding along like owls in the dark.

Well, CR Biker does not approve. Waggle of my finger at you, fellow Iowans. If you ride (or walk) the High Trestle Trail at night, remember that only the bridge is lit up—not the several miles of trail you travel to get to the fridge. Bring lights, and use them.

Still, I’m sure we’ll include the trail again in future rides, and probably see the bridge at night. It’s just too darn much fun.

Sunday was a bit quieter. My wife and I put the baby seat on Clarence and rode the Boyson trail with our almost 9-month grandson. He enjoyed the outing, and we did, too.

Sunday, Sept. 4, on Boyson Trail. We are stopped on a bridge, and grandson is way more interested in the creek than in the camera.

Monday morning was the Mayors’ Bike Ride, an annual Cedar Rapids tradition. (I am never sure if it is mayor’s bike ride or mayors’—since more than one mayor usually attends, I’m just going with mayors’.)

Friendly stranger snapped a photo of our Mayors' Bike Ride group--me, grandson, daughter and sister.
In the past, I’ve ridden my bike to and from the event, but this year I took a 7-year-old grandson and had him ride a Tag-Along seat, so I opted to drive to the event. It was going to be the longest ride yet for any child using that seat—but the test ride went very well.

In fact, with some credibility, my daughter accused me of inviting her son simply so that I could obtain a second motor. The grandson who rode the ride became convinced, in the last mile, that we had to “win the race,” and he did pour on the power. I think I could have just put my feet on the bike and enjoyed the ride.

It was a fun ride, and it made a bit more news than usual, with 2 TV stations and the local paper covering it. Interesting how each chose a different angle. I think Channel 9 wins the TV contest just because the reporter didn’t feel obliged to ride a bike into the story, but then again, TV people “taking part” in their story is a particular pet peeve of mine. The Gazette’s story put the ride in the context of ongoing street projects in CR—true, too, of the TV stories, but that was more the central angle for the paper. I checked—as far as I can tell, I’m not in any of the video or images.


Well, even if it wasn’t as seen on TV, the weekend was a pleasurable bike fest. It was a nice way to cap off the biking summer.

Friday, September 2, 2016

In Which The Club Rides Again

Clarence, parked at Lundy, awaiting MMU Bike Club ride. The U's bikes are in the background.

I found Mark in the backroom behind the Lundy Fitness Center, attempting to fix a wobbly back wheel. We looked at it together and decided it was a job for the bike shop.

Then, we attempted to change a flat tire—only to find that the bike wheel in question didn’t have the inner rubber guard that protects the tube from the spoke heads.

So MMU is down two bikes, but Mark had already aired up the tyres on the others, so we did a q    uick chain lube on all of the university’s bicycles, and then Mark helped two other students check bikes out.

Bike club tradition, pre-ride selfie. Mark and I wore our bike club shirts.

The MMU bike club was ready to ride. It was a perfect, sunny and warm early fall afternoon. Three MMU students, a recent graduate and I headed out.

We circled Cedar Lake twice and came back to campus—one student had to be back by 5:30. As MMU bike club rides go, it was fairly short—but the start of yet another Bike Club season. MMU students—hope to see many more of you on the trail with us soon!

On the ride, circling Cedar Lake, above. Stopped at light on J Avenue, below.