Monday, May 29, 2017

In Which First Summer Weekend Equals Almost 100

My sister Cate leads the way as we head north on the Cedar River Trail beside the Cedar River in the afternoon on Memorial Day, 2017.

I rode the first “long ride” of the summer this Memorial Day. I did think patriotic thankful thoughts when I passed many U.S. flag displays, and flew my own flag today—so I didn’t forget the fallen or the reason for the day.

Anyway, my sister Cate and I met before 9 a.m. today, and I helped her change the tube in her back wheel—the first of two bike repairs on this busy day. In payment, she took me to breakfast at Gumption, a new “farm to fork” restaurant near the corner of Boyson Road and C Avenue. They were busy, but the wait was not long and the food was good.

Breakfast was at Gumption in Cedar Rapids.

By about 10, we headed out, riding over to the Cedar River Trail in Hiawatha and heading south—going over part of the upcoming “Bookworms on Bikes” ride, which is slated for the upcoming first Saturday in June. We forgot to salute the Hiawatha Library, but did honor the libraries in Cedar Rapids, Ely and Solon, all of which we passed.

Anyway, early in the ride, we encountered a woman stopped just south of the rail overpass. She had been shifting gears to head up the hill on the trail there, and her chain had gotten off track and then stuck. Unsticking it turned, like changing Cate’s tube, into a two-person operation in which I think I was lead surgeon, but Cate was an important team member.

Luckily, Cate had a multi-tool with her, and I was able to use a small blade of it to help pry the stuck link loose, although I bloodied my pinkie on my left hand in the process. A very tiny honor wound on Memorial Day.

Anyway, after that unexpected stop we then proceeded. The day was fine, a little cool and windy, but pretty good biking weather. While we headed south and east, the wind was our friend, although we were well aware it wouldn’t always remain that way.

A pretty day to be on the trail. Headed south, almost out of Cedar Rapids, but not to Hoover Trail just yet. The wind is behind us and we are flying along.
There was plenty of traffic on the trail this fine first holiday of summer 2017. The Corridor Business Journal did a story this week about how bike trails in the area have led to new businesses. It’s a well done story, but I would like to note that many existing businesses that aren’t right on the trail also get part of the bike trail economic boost—businesses like Gumption, where we had breakfast, or Big Grove Brewery in Solon, where we enjoyed lunch.

I probably will be back to both establishments—I enjoyed both meals. But I had particular fondness for Big Grove Brewery. I had a chicken sandwich that was well prepared and spicy with “Korean” barbecue sauce on it. Cate ordered (and shared) a deviled egg appetizer, and then had a salad which she pronounced good. I had an IPA beer, she had a stout—and both were very smooth and tasty. Jon, I think you would have approved and listed them both on your beer app.

Inside Big Grove Brewery in Solon, waitress passes a saying that seems made for RAGBRAI.
So the brewery won the food prize of the day, although it had the advantage that we had been on our bikes for more than 30 miles when we got there (riding builds the appetite), and they also served nicely done craft beers. I don’t think it was exactly an even playing field for the restaurants.

My beer, a nice, tasty India Pale Ale. Cate enjoys a stout. Both were very good.

Deviled egg appetizers are half gone--how did that happen?

Although I did not notice it, Cate said the breakfast restaurant had cow pictures too. Cows were thus a theme of the day.

Unsolicited product placement. No hidden connection on this blog--I get no reward for saying this. But my advice is, open the door, go in and order stuff. You probably won't regret it.
Anyway, following lunch was the ride back. Into the wind—we had to work on our way home.

Our route to Ely was trail all the way, but we were on county roads from Ely to Solon. That part was a bit hairy, and because we had both been spooked by traffic, we decided the return journey from Solon to Ely would be partly on gravel roads instead. As luck would have it, we missed the turnoff onto the road we were seeking, and so ended up returning to Solon again on the busy county road.

I’m not sure what that foreshadows for the Bookworm ride this Saturday—I’m not 100 percent on what the route will be for that ride. Still, most of that ride is on trails.

Busy county road between Solon and Ely. A bit dicey for a bike ride! We were pretty happy to get to the end of the trail, below, in Ely.

After we headed north on the trail in Cedar Rapids, we cut over to go through Noelridge Park, eliminating the rail overpass hill. As we had more than 50 miles in our bike seats, we were feeling entitled to make the end of the ride a bit easier.

After we crossed Collins Road on F Avenue, we parted ways. As I headed north on C Avenue, my odometer topped 58 miles. Somehow, that would not do, so I circled the Rockwell Collins pond twice and then also did a little detour down the Lindale Trail—riding just the paved part to get a little more distance.

And I easily topped 60 miles for the day. I am not sure if Cate did—I had 3 more miles then here to begin with because of my morning ride to her house, and I don’t know if she did any extra loops, but I bet she rode over 55 miles today.

Looking west across Rockwell Collins pond. I circled it twice on the the way home since I had about 58 miles and decided I wanted 60. Corner of C Avenue and Blair's Ferry, below. Even a busy city street looked nice on this this opening day of summer in Cedar Rapids.

My computer's measure of my trip. Almost 61 miles today.

I now have a hot pad on my left knee, which is sending my brain nasty messages to remind it that there is supposed to be arthritis there. I’m very tired—I will probably go to bed early tonight without watching an episode of Buffy the Vampire Slayer (in case you wonder, the only season I’ve not seen before is season 5, and I just watched the episode where Buffy finds out Dawn is not really her sister). Other than that, I feel I survived the first “long ride” of RAGBRAI training fairly well.

It rained Friday, but I rode 25 miles on Saturday, so that gives me 85 miles for the weekend. With additional rides Sunday (all of the three Sunday rides were on Argent with grandchildren riding the Tag-A-Long, so miles are a guess) the weekend gets close to a century. Probably not quite that—I doubt the three Sunday rides totaled more than 10 miles in all—but still, it was a great biking weekend.

Beyond the Memorial Day epic trek to Solon, the weekend featured many visits to the Rockwell Collins pond on C Avenue, where grandchildren and I enjoy watching the duck family. I also rode the Lindale and Boyson Road trails with the youngsters.

And the reason Saturday added up to 25 miles is that 22 miles were my first ride north to Lafayette and back. Along the way, I did the new loop in Robins that leads to the city park there. It’s a pleasant loop—not much distance, but it is a well paved, woodsy loop.

So I found some new eateries and some new bike paths. I think this was a well-used biking weekend!

The young ducks at pond on C Avenue. This image was from Saturday ride with a grandson, as is the next one, too.

New side trail loop in Robins off of Cedar Valley Nature Trail leads to loop through city park. It's not a long loop, but pleasant and paved.

Peony in Robins City Park.

On the short loop back to the Cedar Valley Nature Trail.

Thursday, May 25, 2017

In Which I Ride a Sunset Ride

Morning sky on Monday, May 22. Interesting clouds.
My sister uses an app called “Map my Ride,” so I know on one day recently, she biked for more than 30 miles.

For me, the spring semester finally ended Tuesday, and Wednesday I was on campus to meet a prospective student—so today is the “first” day of summer bike riding for me. Nonetheless, I did manage to get in about 20 miles Wednesday.

I rode to campus in the morning damp, but luckily it was light sprinkles. I was riding post rain. I left campus around 1:15 p.m. for a dentist appointment, and then headed directly home. I did go down the Lindale Trail to get behind Bowman Woods hill, and cycled up it twice on the way home.

I don’t have a computer on Francis, and I don’t have mobile data on my cell phone, so I’m guessing the rides totaled about 10 miles.

They grey, cool, damp day slowly started to change. After supper, my daughter and grandson retired about 7:30 p.m., and I looked outside to note a tiny sliver of sky in the west. So I decided to head out on a sunset ride, with a goal of getting 10 more miles in for 20 miles total on the day.

I picked the trail in Marion as a convenient target, and got Argent out of the garage. The early evening light was pretty as the sun started to peak out of the tiny sliver of bare sky. I turned on my lights and, for the third time Wednesday, climbed that Bowman Woods hill.

As you can see, by the time I got out to Tower Terrace Road, the sun was in full mode, giving us a few minutes of sunshine on that damp, cloudy day. Just because it was an option on the point-and-shoot camera I had with me, I took a panorama view of the intersection.

Headed up 3 Street to Tower Terrace Road in Marion, panorama.

A "normal" view of the same spot. Pretty sunset after cloudy day.
So far this week, the riding has been spring cool rather than summer warm. I wore a jacket Tuesday morning due to the damp, which feels a bit odd late in May. Today, the forecast is for a high of 70, which will feel nice after the days in the 50s we’ve had lately.

But, I’ve been on my bike, and I actually rode over 11 miles in the evening ride. I noted that they have added a new trail at Lowe Park, which I didn’t ride, simply because I don’t ride unfamiliar routes in low light.

I’ll have to check it out soon. Now that summer riding season is here.

Final note: Don’t forget June 3! Bookworms on Bikes ride is coming up soon--that will get me more than 30 miles in one day!

Riding loop around art gallery building at Lowe Park--sky just after sunset framed by the outdoor stage there.

Thursday, May 18, 2017

In Which We Greet Buggy Bike to Work Week

Cedar Lake, Tuesday night. Took longer trail route home after giving exam. This is about 7:30 p.m. or so.
 Well, the universe rewarded me a bit this week for being a bike commuter.

As I rode to work Tuesday morning, I was greeted as I was about to exit the Rockwell-Collins parking light at the F Avenue light. A nice man, who I later identified as Paul Fiegen, asked my shirt size, and handed me a “Bike to Work” shirt. He also offered granola and water, but I declined, as I was in a bit of a hurry to get to the office.
Tuesday, I got a free shirt! Front and back.
“We’ll be back on Thursday,” he called as I cycled on.

Wednesday was a very stormy day, and I didn’t ride. While it had been very muggy and warm Tuesday, the storm signaled a shift, and it was a nice crisp morning when I started out Thursday.

And, sure enough, the Bike to Work party was in full swing at the same spot. I stopped and chatted for a bit with Paul Fiegen, who is past president of the Linn County Trails Association; and Derek Stepanek, owner of Northtowne Cycling and Fitness.

There was a traffic guy form the city there, too, although I didn’t catch his name—we had an interesting exchange about the video-controlled traffic lights the city is installing, and how they may be made more effective for bikers. Paul signed me up for a prize raffle, although I’m not sure I’ll be able to make the Friday party where I could be a winner. It all depends on when a graduation event at MMU gets over. And Derek gave me a few gifts—a lip balm and a glue-less patch kit that I now have in my bike bag.

Well, thank you, Cedar Rapids, for including me in a minor way in Bike to Work Week hoopla. And Phillip Platz, Paul says “hello.”

Chatting with Paul Fiegen of trail association Thursday morning.
It’s been a decent biking week, but man it is buggy. The 80-degree days made all insect eggs in North America suddenly hatch, and gnats and mosquitos are making their presence known and felt. (Pause to scratch one of my wrists).

The school year is almost over, and I’m taking too long of a break from a pile to grading to write this post—but there you have it. It’s time for sunscreen and Bug Soother! The first library ride—Bookworms on Bikes—is coming up soon, and serious RAGBRAI training starts next week.

Peony in bloom at Quality Inn along Cedar River Trail. Took the trail route home Thursday.

Saturday, May 13, 2017

In Which Suddenly Summer Arrives

Thursday morning--seen from C Avenue bridge over Dry Creek. Hawk. Crows are keeping a watch on it.

Hope to see you all at the Bike Safety Rodeo at MMU today.

Sure, I’ll take some images and write a blog post.

I will be biking in shorts today—for the first time this year. It’s officially starting to feel like summer. I’ll have to find the Bug Soother soon, and upgrade to sunscreen made this year.

Biking this week was good. There was one day of thunderstorms, but I gambled and won. As I noted before, I rode about 22 miles on my road bike Sunday, and now have 5 days of about 8 miles each, so that adds up to one easy day of RAGBRAI.

Yes, I have to step up the miles and training. Ride to work week is coming next week, and yes, I will ride.

Graduation for MMU is next weekend. Then, I hope, I will start getting some serious miles in.

Actually I rode a few more miles than reported. This photo, for example, is form a Friday morning ride on the Krumboltz Trial in Marion. Pretty summer time look to dandelion meadow beside the trail!

Tuesday, May 9, 2017

In Which the Lake Race Caused Cramps

May 7 around 7:30 p.m., I'm heading home from MMU, but taking the longer route on the Cedar River Trail. Cedar Lake glows.

My goal Sunday was, despite being busy (I mowed, trimmed some bushes, wrote a quiz, graded some presentations, worked in the campus newspaper office for several hours), to get to 20 miles on my bicycle.

Luckily, I was riding the weekend bike Argent, so I actually had a measure of the distance using the bike's computer. I went about 21 miles total in several rides.

The longest was when I was headed home late in the day from the Mount Mercy campus. I swung by Cedar Lake and started going north. A young couple on hybrid bikes went by me as I photographed the lake, and on my road bike I overtook them as we headed north.

And then they overtook me. And then I overtook them. And then they overtook me.

I finally decided it was not worth it, but I was still close enough to them to witness their close encounter with a deer on the other side of the railroad overpass between Collins Road and Blair’s Ferry.

And that night I paid a price. I was up late prepping for Monday, and when I finally got to bed, I was up again. Leg cramps in the big upper muscles of both legs.

Well, shoot. I’ll have to ride more 21-mile days—the Bookworms on Bikes ride is coming up the first Saturday in June—but I’ll have to remember never to race young people on bikes. Or middle aged people. Or old people.

Just don’t do it.

Monday morning May 8. Rockwell-Colllins pond looks quite nice.
Anyway, pretty days this week so far—some rain in the wee hours Tuesday, but otherwise it has been cool in the morning and pretty in the afternoon, just as an Iowa spring should be.

I’ve been enjoying and photographing the pond at Rockwell-Collins on C Avenue, as well as Cedar Lake. I want to enjoy the views and the exercise, but skip the leg cramps, please.

It's that time of year. Cedar Lake, May 9. Geese are in a hissing mood, kids make them cranky. thank goodness ducks just swim quietly around.

Sunday, May 7, 2017

In Which That Light Won’t Change

I got a little tired of this view Friday morning--red light where F Avenue crosses Collins Road, Headed south, I was stuck as the light's camera apparently could not "see" a giant old guy on a bicycle.
It was a good biking week. It ended with some adventures on Saturday. We had the Sebers grandchildren today, four active children. Our youngest daughter, who is finish law school, need to go study, so my wife and I also took care of our youngest grandson.

And I biked. I attached the Tag-A-Long to Clarence and also put on the toddler seat. The youngest grandson rode in the seat while the oldest granddaughter rode the Tag-A-Long. Our oldest grandson rode his own bike and Audrey drove the rest of the kids as we went to park.

After a picnic lunch at the first park, we moved to an elementary school playground, then to an ice cream shop. The grandson gamely kept riding his bike, while a shifting cast of his sisters rode the Tag-A-Long.

The grandson was a little tired of riding his own bike by the time we got home, and wanted his  turn on the Tag-A-Long. What with one thing and another, we didn’t get that done until shortly before supper, but we managed it.

I am pretty sure I rode more than 10 miles today, possibly more, and it seemed like more, towing kids on the Tag-A-Long all day long.

Anyway, Saturday was not the only beautiful Iowa spring day this week. It was a largely dry, sunny week.
Young trees along C Avenue. Not sure what the one above is--some sort of flowering nut tree? Below, a Ginkgo Tree.

 On Friday, I snapped some images of young trees along C Avenue, planted last fall by the city when it redid a block of that busy street. It’s nice to see those trees come to life.

I crossed, as I do most work days, at the crosswalk leading to Rockwell-Collins HQ. I appreciate this crossing because it’s so “normal.” You press a button, C Avenue traffic gets a red light, and you have a walk light.

Contrast that with the First Avenue Cedar River Trail crossing in Cedar Rapids, or the place when the Lindale Trail crosses Lindale Avenue in Marion. Makes me appreciate a good old fashioned traffic light.

Crossing light on C Avenue at Rockwell Collins Headquarters. A crossing light as it ought to be.

But, as fate would have it, the light at Collins and F Avenue was far less cooperative. It’s an intersection controlled by camera, but the camera sometimes can’t “see” a biker, and this was one of those frustrating mornings of waiting through multiple light cycles, before saying heck with it, and “stealing” the light from traffic coming the other way.

City of Cedar Rapids—you’re getting more of these camera controlled crossings. How is a bike to be “seen” at these? Are they bike tested by city staff? Are the cameras designed to see not just cars, but people on two wheels, whether bikes, mopeds or motorcycles? Is there a rule of thumb for bikers about where to position ourselves to maximize our chances of catching a green light?

Wednesday, May 3, 2017

In Which The Weather Turns

Damp CR Biker at end of Monday evening ride.
Monday: I was gambling. It was cool and cloudy in the morning, with rain being imminent in the forecast. But I hopped on my bike and arrived dry at the MMU campus. That night, I rode home in a cold Iowa May 1 drizzle.

Fortunately, while I did get cold and damp, the drizzle didn’t convert over to full-on rain. I was only a little damp, not soaked, when I got home.

Tuesday was different—the morning clouds were pretty reflected in the Rockwell-Collins pond, already breaking up. Later, it would be sunny.

Tuesday morning. The world is still cool, but it is getting pretty.
Wednesday featured a few more clouds, but was still a dry day. I shot some flower images as I rode to campus, mostly because I took my good camera since I wanted to use it on campus.

The ride home was a bit later than usual because I was a guest lecturer in an evening class. The sun was setting, but I got some pretty pictures of the colorful early evening sky at the Rockwell-Collins pond again.

It was past 8 and growing dim, but I decided to take the Lindale Trail so I could climb the Brentwood Drive hill. I encountered several groups of deer in the dim evening light, but they didn’t seem too disturbed by me.
Wednesday morning--ducks in Rockwell-Colllins pond.

Peony is damp from the evening chill, Tuesday morning.

Rockwell Collins pond on Tuesday evening.

Deer seen near Lindale Trail.

Another look at pond Tuesday night.

Tuesday morning-flowers near the bike rack at MMU.