Friday, January 27, 2017

In Which There May Have Been Eagles

Some snow and ice on sidewalk along Council Street. Not too hard to avoid, and the pavement was actually in good shape for a bike ride this afternoon.
I thought about it, but decided not to.

This afternoon, the air temperature was in the mid-20s Fahrenheit, with a brisk west wind making it feel in the lower teens. The day, as most have been lately, was grey and cold, with morning flurries.

But, as I finished grading a final exam around noon, what to my wondering eyes should appear but a nearby star shining brightly in the sky—my old pal Sol. It’s be a while, sunny.

So I decided this afternoon, in lieu of my first choice (a nap) or my second choice (tackle the mountain of school work) to take my first longish training ride of 2017.

Because it rained and snowed this week and flurried this morning, I decided the hybrid bike Clarence was a more appropriate choice than the road bike Argent. In fact, if one had been ride-able, I probably would have chosen a mountain bike.

Anyway, about 1:30 or so in the afternoon, I started out. I dressed in full winter regalia, including long underwear, clumpy boots and mittens, and it was a good thing. The wind was indeed brisk.

I headed up Devonshire, intending to take the north route along 74th Street to Council Street, and then head by sidewalk to the street that would take me to the Cedar River Trail in Hiawatha.

As it turned out, despite the snow and ice everywhere, the streets were in reasonably good shape. I could have ridden Argent after all. But when I got to Council Street, the sidewalk was a little icy in spots, so maybe having my trusty hybrid was not a terrible deal.

Cedar Lake this afternoon. Some open water at the north end attracts many birds, while a bit to the south, a goose (below) walks on the ice.

 The trail, when I go there, was in fine shape. A lady was on the bridge at the north end of Cedar Lake taking pictures there, and I paused to snap a few, too. Then I headed downtown, aiming for the Bridge of Lions.

I was not sure if I would go farther than that—but when I got there, I was still in a riding mood. The trial is closed by Sokol Park by a big, raw earthen dike, so I rode through Czech Village to C Street and turned towards Kirkwood.

I wondered how far I would have to go, but did not see any trail access until I got to Tait Cummins Memorial Park.

There I turned back onto the trail, and headed west again, thinking I would probably have to double back when I got near the dike, but also figuring I wanted to ride along the river, just in case there were eagles.

Well, although not entirely deserted—I saw one old man jogger and another old man biker (is it only mad dogs, Englishmen and old man bikers who will go out on the midday sun when what was their water bottles are slowly becoming slush bottles?). Mostly, however, I had the trial to myself, and despite the chill wind, it was kind of pretty.

View of Cedar River from bridge over creek that flows into the river between Mt. Trashmore and Tait Cummins Park. If you look carefully, you'll see CR Biker's shadow. The trail, below, felt quit and isolated, which is pretty nice, to be honest.

 And when I got past Mt. Trashmore and headed around the bend to where I could, in the distance, again see the Bridge of Lions, the dike lay in my path. But, at the far east end of the dike, there were muddy bike prints leading to the street. I took those, and it turned out I need not have gone so far down C Street—there is about a two-block detour that leads back to Czech Village.

As I cycle west on Cedar River Trail, I meet the east end of the new dike built for Czech Village. But, as you can se by the "Road Closed" sign, there are bike tyre track to the street. As I get on the street, some old guy (below) passes me. What is it about cold winter days that draws crazy old men bikers?

I took it, and again biked across the Bridge of Lions. As I got to the north end of the bridge, movement in the sky to my right caught my eye.

There were a pair of birds, wheeling about well above the water. They were not terribly far away, maybe halfway between me and Mt. Trashmore, but they were wheeling away from me.

I quickly reversed course and rode on the sidewalk of the bridge, hoping to get to a place where I could try a shot with my point-and-shoot camera.

Looking east from Bridge of Lions at the sky where, seconds before, two large birds were circling. They could have been turkey vultures or hawks, but I thought I saw a white head and tail on one--and that would mean eagle. Could not be sure due to distance. Oh well, I move on, but pause again to look back at bridge (below).

 No dice. In just a few seconds, they were gone. At the distance I was, I wasn’t 100 percent sure—but they sure looked like eagles to me. One in particular, I think, had the characteristic white head and tail. The other was all dark, which would make it a younger bird.

Well, I didn’t get their picture, but it sure didn’t spoil my nice bike ride. I turned back to the trail.

I thought about heading out to the Prairie Park Fishery, but it was getting a bit late, so I just headed back along the Cedar River Trail. That is what I thought about and decided not to.

Minor bit of biking drama by Federal Courthouse. I did not notice right boot was becoming untied, and lace snagged in chain. The potentially dramatic story has a happy ending mostly because the person riding the bike is a very slow biker, and so had plenty of time to react before said lace got too enmeshed. I just had to stop, pull the lace and tie by boot. My fingers did get greasy, though.

Two scenes from afternoon ride--The east side of Cedar Lake looking west at sky growing cloudy (above) and a view of a factory across the Cedar River from the north shore on my ride back.

On the way home, I stopped at Mount Mercy to check my email and pick up some of my spring text books.

It was just past 5 by the time I left campus, and the sky was looking very pretty. More clouds were coming in, but at least there was a pretty sunset, which has been rare, lately.

I don’t know exactly how far I biked today because I was riding the bike that does not have a computer. I was away from home for 4 hours, but at least one of those hours was in my office. Still, I’m thinking I probably did more than 20 miles, which isn’t bad for a first long ride of the year on a raw January Friday.

Clarence, above, had bike rack at Warde Hall all to himself. Pretty sunset (below) as I leave campus.

Saturday, January 21, 2017

In Which Maybe The Urban Ride Is Next Year?

RAGBRAI's logo this year, from
North! I was thinking RAGBRAI would go through the center of the state, but they are going way north.

So maybe next year they can use my other idea and include Iowa’s 5 largest cities in the same route. RAGBRAI, how about it?

RAGBRAI 2017, whose overnight towns were announced Jan. 21,  apparently will be a pretty easy route this year, third least hilly and third leas in miles. That’s OK with me. I’ll try to maximize my miles somehow, but Team Joe will require some driving shifts.

Nalena—your first RAGBRAI won’t be too bad. Jon—no Pizza Ranch in Carroll, but also no World’s Least Prepared Mexican Restaurant in Grinnell. Susan, does the route go close to your home?

And, anyway, the route does through the far north of Iowa that I’m not very familiar with. I have not seen the Surf Ballroom yet. Been to Spencer many a time, but otherwise many of the towns will be new to me.

Lansing? That’s a place in Iowa? It’s not isolated like Guttenberg, I hope …

Anyway, it wasn’t the greatest biking week. I think Friday was the only day I commuted, and it was a pretty damp commute. Too much rain and ice this week. Here’s hoping for a bit more riding next week!

Photo I took of Busse Library on Monday Jan. 16. I was waiting for a pizza to be delivered for newspaper staff. We had an ice storm that day and classes were cancelled. So was bicycling.

Friday, January 6, 2017

In Which I announce RAGBRAI 2017—Middle Earth

OK, I mean my route guess for RAGBRAI 2017. Don’t y’all submit the same cities to the RAGBRAI contest, because that would not be kosher.

I toyed with the idea of the “urban tour,” and trying to fit Iowa’s largest cities into one route, which would be something You might be able to include Iowa’s 5 largest cities on one RAGBRAI. You could start in Sioux City (bigger than Council Bluffs) and hit Des Moines, Waterloo, Cedar Rapids, Iowa City and Davenport all in the same week. You need stops between Sioux City and Des Moines, and between Des Moines and Waterloo, so I’m not sure it works.

I just think it’s a cool idea. Not the 2017 theme, however, which instead I’m calling “middle route,” because I think it’s going to be a middle route so we can cross Middle Earth and toss the ring of power in into the Mississippi were it was forged, and “why not stop in Des Moines and Cedar Rapids?” just because I can.

Here is my unlikely-to-win guess:
  • Sunday: Missouri Valley to Harlan
  • Monday: Harlan to Carroll
  • Tuesday: Carroll to Des Moines
  • Wednesday: Des Moines to Marshalltown
  • Thursday: Marshalltown to Cedar Rapids
  • Friday: Cedar Rapids to Tipton
  • Saturday: Tipton to Clinton
That’s my route. Maybe they can plan the “Urban Iowa Tour” in 2018. Anyway, we shall see soon where RAGBRAI 2017 will actually go! Iowa, I’m thinking.

In Which I Ride Some Cold Rides

Sunset Jan. 4 on my ride home. Cold, but pretty.
There was a dusting of snow Thursday morning—not much, but I wasn’t sure about the streets. I’ll ride when it’s cold—even subzero wind chills—but snow is a game changer. And although the streets were fine in the afternoon, in the morning, the pavement was not really clear.

So Thursday I drove.

Today is a “work” from day home—I have done, and will do, some work, although I don’t think writing this post exactly counts—so no bike riding today.

Despite the two-day respite, I did get some riding in this week. Wednesday, for example, was very, very cold, but I bundled up and rode and don’t regret it.

You can dress for cold. And I did see some other bikers out, so I’m not the only one riding the streets of Cedar Rapids this winter!

Sunday, January 1, 2017

In Which I Photograph a Murder in 2016

To some, that’s the kind of year 2016 has been—the election of an inexperienced narcissist president, the loss of many beloved celebrities—a year of ups and downs with more than its share of downs.

I can understand that. The year ended with me photographing a murder while I was on a bike ride. Of course, many of you have already anticipated the joke—it was a group of crows down by the Cedar River.

Dec. 28--Murder on the Cedar River Trail!

The year in which I photographed a murder was, in biking terms, a pretty good year. RAGBRAI went through a part of southern Iowa I hadn’t seen much and ended in Muscatine. Of course, a team member was also injured, which was decidedly not fun, but it was still an interesting RAGBRAI.

I went with the MMU bike club on the High Trestle Trail, our first “remote” ride, and it was a blast.

Francis, my trusty hybrid commuting bike, gave up the ghost—but I really like riding Clarence, the new commuting bike.

New bike trails, like the short one at Daniel’s Park that I rode Dec. 29, have opened in Cedar Rapids. Of course, old ones seem to be closed for a while—on my murder ride Dec. 28, I was a bit surprised to find the Cedar River Trail for now ends abruptly at the Cedar River. Well, I’m sure that’s a temporary situation which appears to be related to flood control work, and I certainly don’t mind flood control work.

New trail at Daniels Park.

Note: This is how you should put in bike racks--on paving, and set back from the trail.

Took H Avenue bike lane after leaving Daniels Park--ended up blocked by parked train. There was a long line of cars waiting, too. Fortunately, I was able to backtrack on sidewalk to side street and shoot up to J, which was not blocked.
Anyway, the pretty-good-year that was 2016 ended with a pretty good week. Sadly, I was too busy Friday to take advantage of what seemed like the final decent biking day of the year, but I did get in some decent rides Wednesday and Thursday.

Wednesday’s ride was almost 30 miles. I was testing a new camera, and also riding my road bike, so I went pretty far.

New back light on Clarence installed Dec. 28--although on the long ride, I took the road bike, Argent. Some photos below form that right, many more on Facebook link in paragraph above.

Thursday was just a ride to campus and back, but I did inspect a new trail at Daniels Park I had not ridden before, and rode back home via the Cedar River Trail.

Well, 2016, you’re history now. What will 2017 bring? On a macro, political level, I shudder to think. But I hope it continues to be a good biking year. I’m looking forward to a year when the Cedar Valley Nature Trail is paved all the way to Center Point, for example.

Happy biking to you all in 2017!

Two of the Wednesday ride images in black-and-white because I just like the way that they look.