Sunday, July 9, 2017

In Which One of Two Epic Rides Is a Century

View of downtown Cedar Rapids from west of river on trail that leads the the Ellis Park area.

As I write this, I’m feeling a bit faded, a pale imitation of CR Biker.

Two scoops of strawberry ice cream, two beers (that’s a sequence, understand, not a recipe) and 100 miles on a bike can do that to me.

Yup—100 hundred miles. And it was only one of two epic rides this week—the other was only 35 miles or so, but it was, in its own way, epic, too.

Back to today. I met my sister around 8, but she had some prep to do on her bike, so it was probably 8:30 when we launched the ride. Our goal was to get many miles in—it was going to get hot today, so we decided it was better to ride easy, flat trail miles and not aim for climbs.

In the back of both of our minds was the same question: We both wondered whether “many miles” meant 100.

Anyway, we headed north on the Cedar Valley Nature Trail. We circled the little loop in Robins both coming and going, and rode all the way to Center Point. The morning was fine and fair, sunny and not windy.

But by the time we got back to CR, the heat was hot. The muggy day was warming up.

Lunch was New Bo, and I have it on my “list” to take Audrey there. If time allows, we may take Jon and Nalena there, too—the New Bo City Market has lots of great eateries. Last time, I had Asian dumplings. This time, I went to a Mediterranean cuisine booth, and had a gyro and falafel.

Lunch was a much needed break around noon. When we went out to continue our ride, that afternoon had become very warm and humid.

Luckily, it never got really super hot, but it was definitely a “warm weather” RAGBRAI practice day.

Next, we did a loop around Prairie Park Fishery, and then went back to the Cedar River Trail, headed south. We stopped at the city park at the edge of town, just to rest for 10 minutes or so in shade before the last leg to Ely. It was warm enough we were being careful not to overdo it.

At Ely, we found the legendary creamery, which neither of us had been to before, was open. I’ve been by the building several times and never seen it in use before. We stopped in, and I heartily recommend it. Great ice cream, nice funky atmosphere. I had Butter Pecan and Strawberry, one generous scoop of each, and it was just what Joe needed to take the edge off of a hot bike ride.

Ely ice cream stop, totally a good idea. My bowl, above, and interior and exterior views of the creamery, below.

Ely ice cream people—put signs on the trail side of your building. From Main Street, the creamery stands out, but a lot of your business will come from Cedar Rapids bikers, who may not even know you’re there as they cycle by.

Anyway, it was still warm when we left Ely to head back north, but the worst of the heat was over. Later in the afternoon, it was turning a bit more pleasant. My sister and I were in Cedar Rapids again when a passing biker called out, “hey, you guys.”

But the encounter was so fast, we both speculated that the person who hailed us had simply mistaken us for someone else.

Luckily, the young lady in question turned around and followed us, calling “Joe, Cate!” It was one of my daughters, out for a ride on the trail with a friend. They had ridden seven miles, and were suitably impressed that Cate and I had already ridden 60 miles.

Hmm. Maybe this 100 thing isn’t too crazy …

Onward. We were getting sore and tired, but the day was getting nicer, and we both discussed whether to go for a century. We decided we would go ahead and do the side trip to Ellis Park, which would put make a century possible, and then assess how we felt about going on.

Saw this odd looking grey goose among black-and-white Canada geese on  west side of Cedar River on the way to Ellis Park. Another species? A hybrid? A goose bitten by a radioactive snowman who has yet to discover his super powers?
I didn’t see any sign of the eagle pair who in the past nested on the east side of the Cedar River, and whose nest could be seen from the trail on the west. CR peeps, are the eagle couple still around?

Anyway, the ride to Ellis and back was fine, and we were in pretty good spirits as we neared Cedar Lake again. We chanced upon the second colleague from work that I met today, and we mentioned to him that we had ridden over 70 miles and were thinking of aiming for 100. It was late in the afternoon, but he put the case pretty clearly: “Well, why wouldn’t you?”

So we circled Cedar Lake, rode to the New Pioneer Coop so Cate could add air to her sagging rear tire, and then circled the lake twice more. That way, when we got to BurgerFiend for supper, we already had around 90 miles done.

The day was getting old and we were running with lights on. We rode behind Walgreens on the Lindale Trail, and did several loops in the Boyson Trail complex and in related neighborhoods in Marion. My sister at one point missed a turn, and we ended up riding on 11th Street to the Menards Area, but that was OK. By now, easy miles were our goal anyway.

At about 95 miles, I stopped to steal a leaf from a Milkweed plant. My wife and I adopted a caterpillar Saturday at the Indian Creek Nature Center, so I needed to do some grocery shopping for the baby.

Luckily, I turned over the first leaf before pocketing it—there was a tiny caterpillar on the underside. I gently laid that leaf back on the plant and picked another leaf, which seemed free to stowaways.

Then we rode to my house. And then we passed my house and rode a bit more and came back (I was a quarter mile short of the century, which would not do).

Bike computer at end of Sunday ride.
My bike computer showed a bit more than 101 miles, but the GPS in my phone recorded it as a century. 100 miles, done! That called for two beers.

The other epic ride? I picked up Clarence from the Marion bike shop Wednesday, and on Friday decided to celebrate its return with a longish ride on that bike.

I rode to the Prairie Park Fishery and then to the Sac and Fox Trail. It has been a long time since I rode the S and F, and it’s in decent shape. I still would like to get a mountain bike in riding shape just for this trail, which is a bit sandy in some spots, and more like a gravel road than a bike trial in others.

Still, I’ve been on this trail when it’s much worse than it was Friday. And I noted that they have replanted many of the young trees that died after a big city sewer project in that area. It was another hot summer day, and even if I did not ride 100 miles that day, the more than 30 miles I did ride included a hot trip up the Cottage Grove hill, and that counts for something.

RAGBRAI! You’re coming up too soon, but after these two epic rides, I do feel like I’m as ready as I can be.

74th Street. I don't like it when people park in bike lanes, and don't like it when those doing road work forget that lane has a purpose.
New brake shoes on Clarence.

CR Biker as mirror star. I have installed new mirrors like the one I already had on Clarence.

This and reaming images--views of the Sac and Fox Trail.

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