Wednesday, December 20, 2017

In Which We Winter Ride Some New Routes

Riding on the Sinclair Trail late in the afternoon today.
It is turning cold here in Iowa, with freezing rain and snow in the forecast for tomorrow, followed by bone-chilling days as some Canadian air moves in.

So, although it was a bit cloudy, breezy and raw today, my oldest son and I went  on a bit of a bike ride. He lives in San Francisco, and is over for a few days, with his wife, for Christmas.

What with one thing and another (sleeping in, going to the gym, eating a late breakfast) we didn’t agree on bike riding plans until late morning. By the time I got two bikes out, aired up the tires, filled two water bottles, it was early afternoon.

I offered to let his wife come with us, but she decided she would rather stay home with my wife (and stay warm). So it was just the one son and I who took off on a cloudy, cool afternoon.

My son demonstrated bicycle safety on the Sinclair Trail (above). Passing by Cedar Lake on the way home (below).

I was riding my road bike, while he was riding my mountain, winter-beater bike. It was fitting, because the mountain bike came into the family when he was an intern at Microsoft in Seattle about 10 years ago.

We rode over to the Cedar River Trail and headed south towards downtown. Our goal was to ride on the new Sinclair Trail, which I had been on once before with my youngest son.

It was breezy and cool as we headed south, but not too cold. We had the trail pretty much to ourselves. After about an hour, we arrived in the area of the new trail, but my son got a call from his wife that she and my wife were headed to The Flying Weenie, were we planned to meet for lunch.

So instead of riding the new trail, we headed across the Bridge of Lions. The Flying Weenie was a new experience for the San Franciscans. My son and I both had Chicago dogs, while my wife and daughter-in-law had gyros. As usual, both my dog and my fries were excellent—if you haven’t tried a biker’s lunch at the Flying Weenie, you really ought to.

Anyway, following a pleasant lunch, we returned to the trail. It had turned sunny, but also cooler. After a quick ride on the new trail, we returned to the Cedar River Trail for the ride home.

We rode through Noelridge Park, and then took F and E avenues south in order to check out another new bike route. The city recently repaved a stretch of C Avenue, adding sidewalks and a bike lane, and creating a new pedestrian cross light on Collins Road.

New bike lane on C Avenue Northeast.

Corner of C Avenue and Collins Road. Crossing north means bikes to your right will be turning right, so be careful! My son (below) waits with me at the corner, riding his old Microsoft bike.

It was around 4, afternoon traffic getting a bit heavy, as we headed north on C Avenue. Still, the ride was fine. We had to switch to the new sidewalk because the bike lane ends about a block south of Collins Road, but that was OK. The crossing light is now active, and we didn’t have any trouble—although my son noted that the crossing light is very short. A pedestrian would probably only make it to the mid-street island and have to wait for the next traffic cycle to cross all the way, but with bikes we zipped across Collins in one light.

All told, we rode a bit more than 23 miles. It was a cool, but nice ride. The one glitch is that my son attempted to raise the seat on the mountain bike, but it settled back down in a few minutes.

Still, with rain and snow on the way, it was nice to get some riding in over Christmas break. And now I’ve scouted out the new route to cross Collins Road, which, I’m sure, will be useful in the future!

Earlier this week I rode the winter bike to Mount Mercy for a fun day of grading. There may be some sarcasm in this caption....

Monday, December 11, 2017

In Which We See Many Facets of Iowa Weather

2:30 p.m. Dec. 11. Snow falls on campus.
One week ago, it was sunny and in the 50s. That weekend, I put the toddler seat on my hybrid bike and enjoyed a leisurely peddle to check the pond at Rockwell Collins on C Avenue.

Saturday of the weekend before last--a nice, warm family bike ride. Grandson, 2, looks at Rockwell Collins pond on C Avenue.
This weekend, it was rather cold. I rode to campus both Saturday—for a Santa gig—and Sunday, to work on exams. I took the fast road bike Saturday since I was in a rush, and Sunday rode the winter beater mountain bike just because I had not ridden it in a while and just wanted to.

Dec. 10--birds on ice on Cedar Lake.

Today, the weather forecast said rain or snow was possible (20 percent chance) this afternoon, so I rode the winter bike again. It was a good move.

A week ago, I was enjoying a sunny, warm ride. This weekend, I was watching birds clustered on the ice on Cedar Lake near the small patches of open water.

Today? I have an afternoon meeting, so I can’t leave early, but at least I did ride the bike most intended for winter riding. Snow!

This week has certainly shown some of the range we can get in Iowa weather. At least we didn’t get the heavy snows that hit the South recently!

Friday, December 1, 2017

In Which We Enter the Dark Times

Pretty morning sky Monday, Nov. 27. It's maybe 8 or so, and I've just pedaled up the hill to the Rohde Family Plaza. I have not had to use the winter beater bike much this week, as it's been nice enough for Clarence.
Dec. 1—for this time of year, today was a warm, pleasant one. It was frosty during my morning ride, but not windy, with a pretty soft blue winter sky.

It got warm in the afternoon, but by the time I was riding home from work—I got home close to 5—had cooled again to jacket weather, although I did ride home without hood or gloves.

Two 5 p.m. looks at almost full moon reflected in pond on C Avenue, Dec. 1.
We’ve arrived at the dark times, when I often have to use my lights for both the morning and afternoon bicycle commutes. So far, however, this particular Iowa winter has been nice. We’ve had a dry fortnight, although fortunately it’s at this time of year when no plants are trying to extract water, and warmer than usual weather.

That’s supposed to change. I may need to dig out my headband, mittens, thermal underwear and boots next week, when a Canadian air mass is supposed to give us a reminder of what winter in Iowa means.

Well, for me it means wearing a few more layers and biking on! I hope you can get out some even during these dark times.

Almost home, Dec. 1. Dry Creek valley--you may not see them well, but there are two deer about to cross the creek bed. 

Saturday, November 25, 2017

In Which the New Trail Quest Ends in Success

I'm riding Argent, that's Ben in front of me on Clarence as we head south on Cedar River Trail. We're on the west side, encountering some bike traffic.
Black Friday, 2017—with the temperature rising to the 60s in the afternoon, it was a rare, nice warm fall day in Iowa. I spent the late morning and early afternoon playing at a park in Robins with two grandsons and other family members.

I wish I had biked there, but I had not. Still, the fun play date was followed by lunch at a Mexican place I like, and there was no shopping at all, so it was a win for Black Friday.

By mid-afternoon, we were back at home. The under-2 grandson was fading fast—so tired he was willing to nap with his mom (sometimes he insists on your biking correspondent as his nap buddy). So I asked my son Ben if he was interested in a bike ride. He was.

It was past 2:30 p.m. by the time we started. I had a vague notion of finding a new trail. I thought I had seen a photo of it in The Gazette, but maybe it was on Twitter or Facebook, because I could not find it on the newspaper’s web site. Still, I recalled that it was on a levee, and that said “Cedar River” to me, so we supposed we would encounter it going south on the Cedar River Trail.

There were a number of bikers out on this warm afternoon, more down by the river than north in our neighborhood. It was a pleasant ride to the Bridge of Lions despite the little zigs and zags downtown where they are redoing rail crossings. We crossed to the west side of the Cedar River and continued on the trail. We got past Mount Trashmore (which has a new shelter built on the top of it although there is no access yet), but the light was fading and we had not seen the new trail.

However, we did notice a new levee on the east side of the river before we crossed the Bridge of Lions. I suggested to Ben that we check out the neighborhood near the levee on our way back. But by the time we got to the river again, it was getting late, and I suggested we instead just head home.

“Sure,” he said. “But maybe it’s just on the other side of the levee.” He said it in a joking way, not serious or thinking he was right. But we rode a few feet past the flood wall at the street, and there it was! The Sinclair Levee has a short trail on top of it, only about a half mile or so, a little stub of trail that leads to the ruined railroad bridge.

The new bike trail on the Sinclair Levee. This is the far end--you can see the approach to the ruined rail bridge of the left.

They hope, via the Connect CR project, to build a swanky “Sleeping Giant” bridge using the supports for that broken bridge. And there is now a trail that leads there. I was a little surprised that the trail interface was on the north side of the levee—if it were on the south side, you would see it from the Cedar River Trail. At the least, I hope they plan some signs to along the Cedar River Trail to signal that the new trail is there.

It was getting very late, the sun very low, as we rode the new trail there and back. It was very breezy on top of it, but it provided a nice view of the river. I hope some trees can be planted there—wouldn’t some strengthen the levee?

Low sun on Cedar River and son who photo bombed me as I was shooting the sun. This is on the Cedar River Trail, not the new trail.

This photo and one below are at Cedar Lake on the way home. Starting to get a bit chilly, but still it was a very nice warm ride for this time of year.

Anyway, it was a fine afternoon for a ride. On the way home, we paused at Cedar Lake to take a photo of the sunset, and to also take an ussie, because Ben thought I needed photo proof I had been on the ride.

It was about 5 when we returned home. The whole ride was about 23 miles. With my morning ride to the gym, I did not quite get 30 miles in today, but I came close—not bad for November!

Thursday, November 16, 2017

In Which Pelicans Appear to Praise Fall Rides

Morning commute Nov. 13, 2017. Frosty, foggy Monday, and I'm just about to put the Fancy Beast (damp day bike) into granny gear for the grind up the hill. The image below is from October's fall break, when my wife and I met our son late on Friday for a quick ride at the west end of the High Trestle Trail and then went out to supper in Ames.

Sunday, Nov. 12, 2017—I’m on my way to work at Mount Mercy University. Twice a month, when the student newspaper is being produced, I have to spend Sunday afternoons touching base with students and checking photos, stories and pages. This was one of those Sundays.

In the odd time shifting spirit of this blog post--saw this buck in the Dry Creek valley from the C Avenue bridge as I headed to campus Sunday afternoon. The next few images are from the morning of Nov. 8, just some pretty frosty views seen on my morning ride to campus.

But I could not bring myself to just head directly to campus. Instead, after I crossed Collins Road on F Avenue, I veered west to Noelridge Park and passed through it on my way to the Cedar River Trail. And before I arrived at campus, I did a quick loop around Cedar Lake.

Pelicans! Among the white gulls that usually are there, some bigger, awkward looking, majestic birds.

These views of Cedar Lake are all from the Nov. 12 Sunday ride to campus. Above--yes, I miss the green, but there is a stark beauty to fall, too. Below--big birds hanging with the gulls.

Fall biking is turning cool. Mornings are usually below freezing, we’ve moved from pretty early fall, to wetter, colder, darker pre-winter fall. But biking still has its charms and beaty.

I present a few views of my bike rides over the past fortnight. I will be ready for the green and flowers and sunshine and butterflies when the planet works its way to the appropriate juxtaposition with the nearest star, but in the meantime, even in this cool and sometimes dreary weather, biking still has its rewards!

Friday Nov. 10--late in the afternoon, ready to head home. Before I unlock Clarence (not all rides this fortnight have been on the winter beater bike), made this image just to show I'm not the only autumn biker at MMU.

Wednesday, October 18, 2017

In Which Fall Skies Bring Some Peace

Monday, Oct. 16--Hybrid Bike Clarence in the leafy bike rack behind Warde Hall.

I have the mid semester blues—just feeling a bit busy, sleep deprived and under the weather.

But biking sure helps. And biking lately has been gorgeous—cool weather has followed some recent rains that took the dry edge off of the outside here in Iowa. We’re still weirdly warm, but weirdly warm in the second half of October is still a bit cool.

No killer frost yet, and frankly, it will be welcome when it comes. I’ll miss the greenery but not the insects.

Tuesday, Oct. 17. I had to guest lecture in an 8 a.m. class, so this is the Rockwell-Collins pond around 7 a.m. Great morning for a an early ride!

Anyway, on the first day of fall break today, I intended to ride to the gym. Well, I did ride to the gym, but I managed to make the 1-mile journey a 12-mile trek by swinging over to the Lowe Park Trail in Marion, first.

As you can see below, it was very pretty. I was riding my road bike today. Monday and Tuesday I rode my hybrid bike, and it was nice to be back in that saddle again.

I hope all you Iowa bikers have found some time to enjoy this delicious fall weather!

Oct. 18--first three images are pond on Irish Drive, the street that leads from Tower Terrace Road to the trail. A multitude of geese had gathered, and one white bird, seen in flight above. Below that are pictures from Lowe Park or the trail near that park.

Sunday, October 15, 2017

In Which I Ride the New Wheel

Grandson ready for first ride using new rear wheel on my hybrid bike.

Yesterday, I went to the bike shop in Marion to retrieve Clarence, there because I had broken my second spoke in a few weeks. At no cost to me, the shop replaced the original rear wheel with a more heavy-duty wheel with truly impressive spokes. The front and back wheels now are superficially the same, although you may notice the back wheel has silver spokes while the front has black.

On closer look, the thickness of the silver spokes in back is very impressive.

Note sure the image does them justice. Very strong looking spokes on new heavy-duty rear wheel.

Anyway, it was raining yesterday, so we took the grandkids down to the Children’s Museum in Coralville. Today was the first chance I had to test the new wheel. After awakening from an afternoon nap, I asked a grandson if he wanted a bike ride (I don’t think he napped, but I felt like rewarding him because I had—he read quietly while I snoozed).

He did want a ride.

So I got Clarence out and hooked up the Tag-A-Long seat. It was cool, breezy and cloudy—temperature about 50, probably felt like mid 40s with wind chill. We headed out and after a block returned home. I had forgotten my cell phone, and we mutually agreed that if we were going to do this ride, we were going to wear gloves.

Still, cool as it was, the ride was pleasant. We headed up to Boyson Road and headed east to the Boyson Trail in Marion. After a quick loop via the Lindale Trail back to C Avenue, I came home. And other grandchildren were waiting, wanting rides, too.

With one granddaughter, I went up to the Rockwell-Collins pond, crossed C Avenue and rode around the company’s HQ, and then stopped at Walgreen’s to buy hot cocoa mix. By the time we got to the store, the sun was starting to show through holes in the cloud covers, and we both put on sunglasses.

As the afternoon ages, the clouds break up and move out. A grey 50 is a chilling experience, but a sunny 50 feels much nicer. Rockwell-Collins pond as sun is just about to clear clouds.

Four grandchildren were staying with me this weekend, but, unfortunately, one has a cold, and we didn’t think it was a good idea for her to ride in the windy cool. There was, however, the oldest granddaughter to give a ride to.

I again headed up C Avenue, circled the pond, then went down the Lindale Trail. We rode to Thomas Park, and then came back again via the Lindale Trail.

Seen on Boyson Trail on final of three bike rides, as day finally turns sunny at the end.

All in all, I biked a bit more than 10 miles with three kids. The bike felt good, and I didn’t mind the windy, chilly day. I make a lot of heat while biking.

And there was hot cocoa when I got home.
Final bike ride of the day--oldest granddaughter reacts as sun comes out.

Saturday, October 14, 2017

In Which a Tough New Wheel Arrives

Oct. 8--Sunday image of MMU campus seen from bike trail by Plaster Athletic Complex. Not many sunny days this week!

Fall rides on the Fancy Beast: For the past week or so, partly due to damp conditions for which I would normally use the bike anyway, but mostly due to a broken spoke, I’ve been riding the Raleigh mountain bike I named “Fancy Beast.”

It’s been a fine bike to ride, although on the most recent newspaper Sunday, I actually rode Argent, my road bike, and took the trail near MMU by Regis to see how far south it goes. It was a fine, sunny day, although damp from the previous day’s rain, but blue skies on the kind of warm fall day we’ve had many of this year.

It was pleasant to roll through the new MMU Plaster Complex, but then come to the sudden end of the trail. I’m looking forward to when this stub of a trail actually goes somewhere—I think the eventual plan is for it to end at the Cedar River Trail on the south, while on the east and north end, it should tie into the Boyson Trail complex in Marion.

That will be years away, and I’ll be lucky to still be commuting to MMU when that happens.

Although we still have plenty of bugs—no hard freeze, yet—fall is definitely in the air. Our mini-drought is finally being replaced with welcome rain, and my rides this week were a bit grey. Still, as you can see, even gray fall days have their beauty. I do wish I could send some of this rain west to California! May the winds and fires there die down soon.

Cloudy afternoon, two views of Cedar Lake (above and below). I'm riding the Fancy Beast and heading home, but taking the trail route. Despite the clouds, the lake has some fall beauty.

Closer to home, and later, after sunset. Rockwell-Collins pond on C Avenue.

Anyway, Clarence is back from the shop! Cranky in Marion got a heavy duty rear wheel for me from Fuji. That thing looks serious—thick, heavy gauge spokes that should bear even my weight for the long haul. And he didn’t charge me for the wheel, either, since the bike is only about a year old.

I can’t beat that deal! I have grandkids this weekend—with Francis back, maybe we can get some use out of the Tag-A-Long. It was wet today when I picked up the bike--but tomorrow should be a sunny, although cool, day.

We’ll see!