Saturday, September 29, 2018

Coffee Rides

The Coffee Emporium & Cafe, Cedar Rapids, Iowa

Late season.  All major tides are over.  Trying to keep motivated to ride.  Maintain fitness and shape.  Motivation....  We do the one thing that gets are legs and blood pumping.  Ride for coffee!  So I'm wrong, there is one major riding event left, The 2018 Coffeeneuring Challenge (more about that later).

Short Rides

Outside of DSM Brew

Weekend mornings.  We wake up early.  Everyday.  Our internal clocks are wired that way.  Saturday and Sunday morning we usually make the 2 mile round trip to DSM Brew.  We once rode to Horizon Line Coffee in Western Gateway neighborhood but they messed up my order and there was no where to sit.  I miss the Village Bean in the East Village.

Mary has been getting vanilla iced lattes since it has been a hot humid summer.  I used to order an Americano but lately I order 3 hots over a FULL 16oz cup of ice and fill the remainder with half and half.  I don't know what this is called.  It's like an Americano without the water.  I've tried ordering it as an iced breve but it gets screwed up where I have ordered this way.  A barista in Cleveland said it was similar to what Starbucks calls a White Lightning.  Yesterday someone said order it as an Ole whatever that is.  I usually explain.  "In a 16oz plastic cup, fill completely up with half and half and add 3 shots.  Fill the rest with half and half."  Simple.  No added sugar.  No stirring.  Yet sometimes I get a regular breve (hot latte with half and half instead of regular milk, no flavor or sugar).  Or they use a very small amount of ice and serve it in a small paper cup.  I'm a picky pretentious bastard.

Outside Horizon Line Coffee

Longer Rides

The problem with biking in the last quarter of the year is that we are no longer training.  We also have been everywhere in every direction on or bicycles so riding gets to be a bit dull after 4000 miles in our neck of the woods.  So we search for coffee shops within 20 to 30 miles away from our home.

Smokey Row, Pleasantville, Iowa

This one was a pre-Ragrbai training ride.  Specifically, HILLS.  I think it was something like 28 miles to Smokey Row so we turned it into a 60 mile ride.  The hills of Vandalia Rd.  Try them sometime, it's good for you.  We got to town early and before the pub opened.  But we discovered the coffee shop and were delighted.  It was not our intention to have coffee today on this ride.  We merely wanted to abuse ourselves on fast road bikes on steep long hills.  We got that.  Add in the Dream Team and their roster of children 20 to 30 years, most like more than the latter, as motivation to ride faster, it was a great training ride.  Cannot be passed, cannot let someone pass me....So finding a coffee shop was fabulous.  Recently I was told that this is the original Smokey Row.  I am only aware of the one in Des Moines on MLK.  Nice place.  Good coffee.  Will make this a destination next year when we want to abuse ourselves on hills or when we ride to Lake Red Rock.

Crimson Anchor Coffee, Indianola, Iowa

Needed a 40 to 50 miler.  Fired up The Google Maps and discovered this place about 24 miles from home.  Perfecto!  Ride to Carlisle, Iowa, a mere 11 miles or so from our doorstep, via a trail and county highways to catch the Summerset Trail and take that 11 miles into Indianola and work our way to The Square.  Every Iowa town of significance has a square with a courthouse and businesses.  Crimson Anchor used to be on the square but now it is just off it on the southwest corner.  We had options to stop at Summerset Winery, half way between Carlisle and Indianola and an option to eat at La Villa, a Mexican restaurant, in Carlisle.  This day coffee was sufficient.

CA is in a new location.  They share the space with a frame shop and an antique store.  CA roasts their own beans lightly to medium, never burnt like Starbucks.  We ordered our usual drinks and sat outside at a table.  Good Lord, that was the best coffee I ever had!  Smooth, not bitter, made in accordance to my specifications without any lip from the barista (I've had a barista gig lately so I know that attitude is hard to control sometimes).  We will be back.  On a sad note, the other coffee shop was closed.


Take advantage of what the locals offer when on tour.  WE did a 7 or 8 day touring through our state instead of doing The Ragbrai route.  This avoids crowds and lines.  Our first night was spent in Marshalltown, Iowa, the night before the tornado.  Breakfast was at The Tremont Grille in the old downtown area near the courthouse and at ground zero for the tornado that ripped through a few hours later.  I had my usual as photoed.  The third morning we were in Cedar Rapids.  It was a Saturday so we parked our bicycles and walked around their Farmers Market.  I found a coffee shop, The Coffee Emporiums & Cafe, and indulged.  The rest of the week was drip coffee since espresso machines are expensive.   Funny story, we were at a diner in Cedar Falls, Iowa, and I asked the server if they had espresso and she replied that they had no specials!

Marshalltown.  Nice glass!

No Joy Altoona

I find the lack of a non-Starbucks coffee shop in Altoona quite disturbing!  Photo taken at the dog park in Altoona just right off the trail.

On Sunday we headed east to Altoona, Iowa.  Galaxy Coffee.  This is located in a laundromat.  Strange, unique but Google reviews said it was a good place and I saw the espresso machine in photos.  Capital City Coffee was almost a choice.  I had to contact her via Face Book and got a timely reply. "I don't have specific hours. I roast to order. I don't sell actual cups of coffee just whole beans and ground. Is there something you are looking for that I could get ready?"  Our ride/adventure really was not the target of her business.  Maybe some other time. Other choices were the ever present and on every corner Starbucks, Mc Donalds, Casey's and Dunkin' Donuts.

Took a mix of streets, sidepaths and the Gay Lea Wilson Trail and another sidepath/sidewalk to get to coffee shop.  Greeted by a woman smoking a cigarette and puffing bad news.  "No coffee here.  Taking the sign down next week.  There's a Starbucks across the street."  The 6 words I do not like to hear.  Bummer.  Out of options.

Perk Up Porter from Brightside Aleworks

Or so we thought...there is a brewery between the Hy Vee and the Library not far from the trail!  New opportunity!  Brightside Aleworks.  And sure enough they offer Perk Up a porter brewed with coffee grounds from Capital City Coffee!


Coffeeneuring is an activity created by Mary Gersemalina who can be found at her blog   Chasing Mailboxes.  This is a fun 7 week activity and for small fees one can purchase swag such as Coffeeneuring themed patches and handkerchiefs.  This what we have been doing lately and look forward to the challenge.  I you would like to participate click Coffeeneuring Challenge 2018 The Best Intentions

I image that as winter arrives I'll switch to hot coffee.  I also image that we will not be riding 50 miles for coffee either.  There are a few locations near us that we have not visited.  Until then enjoy the ride and take time to drink the coffee!

Monday, September 3, 2018

Why I Prefer Dockless Bikeshare

St Paul, Minnesota
late August, 2018

The space between The Palace Theatre and Great Waters Brewing used to be 7th Street if I have my facts correct.  It has been closed off to traffic.  This makes the que to the venue safer and provides a place to relax although it lacks benches.  The Hamm's Bear statue is here.  But more importantly for me and this blog several Lime Bikes were parked here.  Walk up to one, follow the instructions on the bike to download the app and then point your phone's camera at the sticker on the bike's rear fender and it unlocks and off you go once you set the seat height where you need it.  The lock is the "meter." Unlocked you are being charged, $1 for the first half hour, locked and the meter stops.  The lock looks like a cross between a U-Lock and a rollercam brake from the 80s.  It is on the  seatstays and a red lever is used to send a metal "U" through the rear wheel to lock the bike and prevent it from being ridden.  This stops the fees.  Brilliant.

Basic green yellow bike with a 3 speed Nexus hub with generator hub lights and a basket.  On the left Handlebar where a GripShift would be is a gripshift bell.  Geared well for climbing and flat areas.  The ride was a bit rough on my bum as it felt like I was sitting directly over the rear wheel or a really stiff tire but we were not doing a century.  It did the job well and we enjoyed ourselves.  I will look for these again.  They gave us freedom of travel.

We headed to the river to ride on the trail system there.  And somewhere in a nice neighborhood we heard two cars collide at an intersection we had crossed moments before.  Then the need for a restroom hit and I remember seeing a brewery on Google Maps right off a bike lane.  We headed there, 12 Eyes Brewing Co.  At first I thought it was 12 Elves Brewing Co, a name I will trademark for myself  IF I ever start a brewpub.  Nice taproom in the bottom of a the historic Pioneer Endicott Building that once was the home to a pre-Prohibition saloon.  The taproom is a lounge not a warehouse which helps the acoustics quite a bit.  I had a Hefeweizen, the Heidi Klum, and a brown ale.  Then since our bikes were not rented by anyone else we returned them to The Palace area and sought food for our final meal in St Paul.

I've heard it all before and I understand that the biggest problem with this method of bike share is that users leave bikes everywhere and it becomes a mess.  Other issues is that companies flood cities with these bikes and no human presence exists there to fix broken bikes or deal with issues that arise.  Require people to live in and work in these locations.  Docked bike shares, however, have specific bike racks to leave the bike when one is done with them and have a visible human presence to take care of the bikes.  BUT those docks are few and not where people really want to be and until the bike is returned to the dock fees accumulate.  So if you want to ride to 12 Eyes Brewing and have an hour pint session if on a bicycle you have a choice to park a bike at the taproom that will charge you for non-ride time or a bike that does not.  I prefer not to pay while not riding.  Essentially, there needs to be more bicycle parking/racks.  Require dockless bike share companies to donate racks or perhaps the city and businesses need to do this.  "Hey, there appears to be a lot of bicycles spending money at my business perhaps I should help my customers."

The point of this that we were able to go where we wanted to go without being, pardon the pun, docked to the dock.  When I ride bicycles that I own I do not have certain places to park them and walk another mile to where I want to be.  It is a bicycle not a car.

Planes Trains Bicycles and Cars--Another Viking Travel to Other Cities

Gotta catch the midnight train
First to Paris then to Spain
Travel with a document 
All across the continent

City life is flying by
The wheels are turning all the while
Get on board we can't be late
Our destination cannot wait

--Waiting For The Sirens Call, New Order

Last year I took a bus to Chicago and a plane to LA just to see the band New Order.  While there I noted the bicycling environment in both cities.  This year we drove to the Twin Cities and caught a plane to Cleveland to see the same band. Super fans of New Order who travel far to see them live are known as Vikings.  The name comes from the entrance music that they used to play just before they walked on stage.  Funeral For a Viking from the Kirk Douglas movie of long ago.  Heavy music to start of set of guitar infused electronic disco and dance music.  As usual, New Order is only playing 7 dates for their American 2018 tour but Mary and I managed to get to the first two and have tickets for their next date in Long Beach, California.  Not only did we observe bicycling in these cities but were able to ride bicycles in one of them.

I often call myself The Lost Viking because I have had to eat more tickets to New Order gigs than I care to mention.  There was the Chicago gig that was a bit too close to my son's birth.  Another Chicago gig that both of our cars decided to take $1000 shits the day before we were to leave.  Another time the plane tickets were purchased for the wrong date and when we discovered this it would have been too expensive for both of us to go.  We stayed home instead.  Crap like that.  My tattoo will be of a burning sinking Viking ship.  This year was a bit close as well.

The day before we were to drive to Minneapolis to catch a plane for Cleveland, my wallet exploded at the store.  All the contents fell out at the checkout on top of the candy racks.  When the dust settled and I picked up my stuff my drivers license was missing.  Normally I would have not cared.  I had to renew it by the end of next month.  Since I rarely drive my chances of being pulled over and having  an officer of the law asking to see it were nil.  But I was to board an airplane.  And in order to get to my assigned seat that I paid for I had to pass through TSA.  TSA would say, "eirie papier, bitte, your papers please."  A state issued ID is needed to get past them.

Sure, just go to the DOT and get a new one.  I have all the other documents necessary for this, SS (Social Security) card, birth certificate, voters registration proof of residence ect.  No problem obtaining a new DL.  BUT, and it is a miserable BUT, the Great State of Iowa issues temporary paper drivers licenses at the DOT and mails, snail mail, the hard plastic and digitized license to your home in a couple of weeks.  The TSA does not like this.  But what choice did I have?  Goddamn paper ID.

The car trip was not fun.  New Order's first gig of this tour was at The Palace Theatre in St Paul, MN.  This is a wonderful venue.  A derelict theater that sat empty for quite a long time had a few cool millions of $ USD pumped into it and a new music venue was created.  It holds 2500 people.  Unfortunately, the New Order gig sold out in minutes and yours truly was ticketless.   Now I forgot about this until a few days prior and then I started checking online for how much it was going to hurt to pay a scalper.  Looked like $180 per ticket.  Ouch!  Then a very nice act of kindness and the wheel of chance turned my way.  I asked Funkaderickah,  a set up expert for New Order, on Twitter if he could help a brother out.  The next morning, the day we were to leave for the airport, I received a private message on Twitter.  "You +1 are on the guest list."  WOW!!!!  Never hurts to beg does it???  Of course I could not wait to leave work.  And of course Mary could not get off work early.

I planned to pick her up at work, Dora and joey, her BF, would take his car and take Mary's bike home.  Every second counted.  This was a big fail, however.   First, I left the wristbands for the Cleveland gig, InCuya Fest, at home on my dresser.  AND we grabbed the wrong shoes for Mary.  Had to go home.  More wasted time!!!!

Eventually we got on the road and I set the cruise for 79 mph and kept it there all the way to St Paul except in construction zones.  The Palace Theatre was easy to get to and parking easy to find.  I think I prefer to go to St Paul now.  35E to Kellogg.  Simple.  Go to the guest line and get our wristbands.  Show paper ID.  I was referred because of it to the head doorman who looked at it and said Minnesota should do this.  He smiled and let me get the Surly wristband necessary for booze.  We got there as Wagner's Das Rheingold - Vorspeil was starting.  Check out merch, buy shirts and then acquire a round of drinks.  Time to relax and watch our favorite band.  We made it alive!!  Got in for free!!  Two hours+ gig of 20 tracks and we got to meet the guitarist, Phil, and bass player, Tom, plus the DJ Whitney Fierce who opened and fellow Vikings have told me about.

Mary, Phil and I at The Palace Theatre

After the gig Mary drove.  The last gin and tonic put me over the edge.  Find a White Castle as it was late and then find the airport.  Parked the car in the Purple section at Terminal 2 and then found the train to take us to Terminal 1 and the United gate.  Early so find seats near a plug in and charge our phones.  Funny how mobile phones have us searching for electricity.  Little sleep.

As expected, TSA was not happy about the paper ID.  In their defense they were just doing their job, keeping planes safe.  Gave the girl the paper ID and explained.  Gave her my SS card and offered other forms of ID but she said the SS card was enough.  A moment later, "step to side, sir."  Pulled out of line.  "I'm going to rub you this way (vertically) and then this way (horizontally)."  Someone else went through my bag, a large laptop bag that held 3 days worth of clothes, my meds and the cellphone charger and batteries.  On a black wand there was a white patch that periodically they stuck into a machine for what I assume was used to detect bomb making materials.  They were polite and it took longer to get my crap repacked and settled than the pat down.  But I got through!!!!  I doubt a real terroristo would be as half assed as I was at an airport.

One layover at O'Hare and a $60 bar tab.  Stay near the gate.  Do not walk out of the secured area.  Then an hour later we landed in Cleveland.

The Redline is the train that takes people to and fro Hopkins Intl Airport to Cleveland proper.  PRO TIP:  get off the train at Tower Center.  We missed that stop and got off at the next one, E 55th.  E 55th is in the less fortunate part of Cleveland.  Even the sidewalk surface was poor.  No one hassled us.  Saw a few bicycles even an orange fatbike.  No restrooms on this road which was an issue.  Mary had to go!  After walking 2 or 3 miles ISO the mythical Wendy's we were told by a convenience store/sandwich shop clerk that there were not any restrooms that we could use until we reached "Mac Donalds or Burger King."  So we continued north until I decided that west looked better as it was on the way to downtown.  And it was.  Euclid was a cleaner street with bicycle lanes and clearly marked mass transit.  We found a Subway and ate their after relieving our bladders.  Fire up Google Maps only to discover that our hotel, The University Hotel & Suites, was less than a block way on Euclid!  Check in, get to room 601, shower and nap.

Let's backtrack a little bit.  The Curse of the Lost Viking struck again!!  Somewhere in the friendly skies between Minneapolis and Chicago I realized that I left the damn InCuya Fest wristbands in the car at the airport.  After we parked the car, and it was a hassle because the damn dome light would not shut off so Mary had to drive it a bit to get the damn thing to shut off.  Once it shut off I seemed more concern about stashing the CDs in the glove box than anything else.  After all, nothing more valuable than a $20 box of 5 discs from The Fall and NOMC15 by New Order.  (PRO TIP:  when traveling to see a band do not listen to a CD or mps of their current setlist.  This will cause confusion at the gig.  Hey, I thought they played that one already? ect)   I waited until we landed and had our first drink consumed before asking Mary if she happened to pack them.

"Well honey, how would you feel if we just explored Cleveland and missed New Order."


"Did you pack the wristbands?"

"No.  You were to do that."

"I did not.  So I will email InCuya Fest and explain.  I bet this happens all the time I wager.  They'll issue us new ones.  Cheers!"

By the time we landed I had the reply.  Box office opens at 9 am on Saturday.  Call this number.  So after our nap we headed to downtown and the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame, which we could have explored IF WE HAD THE DAMN WRISTBAND, and I dialed the number.  They would replace them.  Just show up with ticket number, on my phone's email, and ID.  Here we go again with the paper Iowa ID!!

Soldiers and Sailors Monument, Cleveland. Photo lifted from Phil Cunningham, guitarist New Order Soldiers and Sailors Monument

USS Cod WWII submarine. USS Cod

Bicycle rack at the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame Museum

Gargoyle on empty church on Euclid, Cleveland

The Chandelier over Euclid in the theater district downtown Cleveland

Downtown Cleveland is very nice and a fun place.  Lots of things to do.  A theater district highlighted by a giant lit chandelier above the road, restaurants, bars, brewpubs, coffee shops, Cleveland State University and bike lanes and buses.  The architecture was fabulous.  A mix of old and new.  It was hard not to look like a tourist and keep my head down while there.  First stop was at Cafe Ah Roma for my usual 3 shots of espresso over ice in a 16oz plastic cup fill the rest with half and half.   We found the R&R HoF and went inside.  No exhibits but the restrooms and gift shops and then purchased a beer and sat out on the patio and watched a young band play.   Bicycle commuters were ever present as well as people just hanging out on bikes.  Mostly older road bikes or hybrids without racks and bags, backpacks were common.  A few fully kitted riders on newer roadies.  All using the lanes.

We were tempted to use Cleveland's UH bike share bicycles.  We spotted several of there docked bicycles in motion and saw a few of their docking stations.  Mary and I thought about renting two but we really did not have time and walking seemed to the way to go.  On our way back from the R&E HoF we encountered two of these rentals being ridden on a sidewalk.  The rider of the second bike shouted "THESE ARE *&*$^#& DANGEROUS" as she rode past us. and BAM she crashed on the curb of the intersection we just crossed.  A woman in front of us turned her head when she heard this and said to her friend in a sort of East Coast accent, "she needs f'in training wheels!"  We all laughed.

Mass Transit Cleveland Style  

Wristbands acquired!  The white New Order is from the guest list at St Paul. Later we'd receive a pink one for the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame

Sustenance: Mary's vanilla latte and my 3 shots over ice with half and half. Phoenix Coffee Co.  Great friendly service!
The basement of Butcher and the Brewer.  Top or main floor is a normal bar with a view to the butcher shop.  No blue lights up there.

Downstairs at the Butcher and Brewer
Phil Cunningham, guitars and keys for New Order.  This photo was taken after he left the Butcher and Brew.

Saturday we walked everywhere.  Got the wristbands and drank at a bar and a few brewpubs.   We had lunch at the Winking Lizard, a great bar and good food and if you like Meat Loaf, the singer, well the juke box likes to play tracks off of Bat Outta Hell to the bartender's annoyance. Masthead Brewing Co was next.  Located in a warehouse it is huge and has food and was very busy selling flats of tallyboys of their new release to customers.  I had two beers.

Ze Festbier from Butcher & Brewer pub

We checked out the fest for a bit and it started to sprinkle so it was decided to visit another brewpub, Butcher and Brewer, near Public Square.  Once seated and first round placed I asked the barkeep if if InCuya Fest was helping business.  Said we came to see New Order.  I could feel the man seated next to me turn his head.  Wow!  Phil from NO who was there having a pint and curry.  Took a lot of strength not to take a photo or talk music. We follow each other on Twitter and share some common interests.  He did ask how the festival was set up. When he finished he said he had to return back to the Ritz to pick up a new guitar. "We have a great deal with Fender."

Eventually we settled into the festival and had a great time.  Up front for New Order.  Noticed that the people near us were a couple we saw in Minneapolis when we saw Peter Hook & The Light at 1st Ave.  Vikings travel.  Also I got spotted by a young woman who said she saw me at Riot Fest last year.  Damn, I thought I would blend in!  Also front and center for New Order, she took my photo without my permission to share on social media.  "See this handsome dude and his beautiful wife?  I'm so jel jel!!"  We also met Jennifer, a Twitter friends and her family who flew in from Texas to see New Order.  After the gig we walked back to the hotel and stopped by a pizza joint for dinner.

One thing I failed to account for was sleep.  Our plane was to leave at 639 am.  So we would need to be there as early as possible and even more so given my ID problem.  Mary did the homework and loaded the transit schedule on her tablet.  We can use the kiosk in the bus platform to purchase a day pass that works for both buses and trains.  Bus to train station.  Buses run 7 days a week.  They stop running for 2 hours between 1 am and 3 am.  The first bus we could take would be outside our hotel at 320 am.  Perfect if 2 hours of sleep is sufficient.  Shower and sleep 2 hours.  Mary could not sleep.

We checked out at 3 am and waited on the bus platform staring at the red digits of the clock.  320 am no bus.  325 no bus.  330 am no bus!  Decision time. Walk to Town Center Station and if the bus comes by flag it down.  Sure enough, two blocks later the bus goes by and we wave our arms in the darkness and RUN to the stop.  We were saved by a man in a wheelchair.  His affliction held the bus long enough for us to climb aboard.  Then the driver stepped on it and drove rather fast to the station.  Of course we could not find the Redline or train since it was inside the Ritz Hotel but after wandering around a bit with two phones on Google Maps directions and asking we found it.  Take a series of escalators.

I knew we were on the right path when 3 or 4 RTA works sprinted past us and ran down the escalators.  They ran so fast that they grabbed the side of the escalator with their right hands and swung themselves around to the next one.  "Is this the way to the Redline?" I queried.  "Yes!"  Good.  The ticket man saw our ticket and let us through and then stood up and yelled at the the other RTA crew.  "Get this train to the airport without stopping!  The next train will make regular stops!"

The train was dark, no lights.  A RTA woman asked who was going to the airport.  Some of us raised our hands,  "Get on this train once I open it up.  No stops until the airport.  no stops until the airport.  This train is going straight to the airport without stopping!" she said several times.  Works for us!!!

Whew!  We were seated on the train!  Relax.  Straight shot to the airport.  We will get there on time.  Five minutes into the ride an older man, perhaps 60, says, "She missed my stop!"  Someone told him that the train was going to the airport without stopping.

"That's bullshit!  I'm gonna talk to that fucking bitch!"

Someone chuckled.  I had to bite my tongue to prevent myself from laughing.  Two hours of sleep and this scene on the train could have been straight outta Barbershop.  Mary I laugh every time we think about it and I do a great impression of him.

"Hey, you missed my stop!" he shouted through the little window behind the conductor's seat.

"I told you several times that this train ain't stoppin' before it gets to the airport!  Now sit down!!"

He shuffled back to his seat grumbling and mumbling something about bullshit and no stops.  A few minutes later a woman exclaimed that her stop, too, had been passed.  Are friendly man who talked to the conductor gave the only reply, "yeah, she ain't stoppin' till she gets to the airport."  No anger in his voice but almost a laugh, ha ha I was not the only one.

New guy at the TSA.  His supervisor was with him when he searched me.  It tickled but I got to watch the girl run through my bag.  Yes, meds and dirty clothes, ha ha.

St Paul: Lime Bikes and Stone Sour

We got to MSP way too early but this gave us time to explore.  Since I booked this early flight I checked around to see if anyone we would to see was gigging in the Twin Cities Sunday night.  Sure enough Stone Sour was at The Palace!  Doors open at 7 pm or so so we had like 10 hours to kill.  First things first: food.

Simple way back from the airport, 35E to Kellogg head east.  Look out the window for a place to eat.  We found the Day By Day Cafe nestled in a residential area.  Looked like an old store front and although it appeared a bit cozy inside it was a bit larger and the courtyard with koi pond was immense.  I recommend this place.  A few doors down is the Claddagh Coffee Cafe where we got out our espresso fix.  As usual, three shots over ice and fill the rest with half and half and a iced vanilla latte for the Mrs.  Noticed that there were bicycle racks available, some in use.  Bicyclists in the streets, too.  And a green Lime bike across the street.  After parking this boat anchor (car) we should rent a pair and explore St Paul.  Trails everywhere according to Google Maps.  This is what we did.

The problem with cars is that they are great for getting one from point A to point B but when one needs to see what is out there a bit closer the car ain't in.  First issue is that they suck gas.  Traffic is bad often.   Finding a place to park over and over again is not fun.  And the ever present risk that someone is going to crash into you is another reason that cars are just boat anchors, an albatross around our necks. Lucky for us it was Sunday and it was free parking on the streets.  We found a spot in front of the Church of Scientology within walking distance of The Palace Theatre.   They were having an open house but being the good Catholics we are we declined.  No one bothered us but I did see the same man on subsequent trips back to the car to drop off and pick up stuff.

Hamm's! Between the Palace and Great Waters Brewing Co
Nice mural.  We tried to eat at Mickey's but it was 100* F inside.

Stone Sour

We walked to the venue and saw fans of Stone Sour sitting outside hours and hours before the doors were to open.  I suppose that we would have seen the same thing on Thursday if we would have left Des Moines early.  Tickets have been on sale since May but did not see out.  New Order, on the other hand, sold out in minutes.  We walked around the corner and saw the tour buses and Stubbs, official photographer for Slipknot and Stone Sour, and local Des Moines man.  He also took my son's senior photos.  I was hoping he could hook us up with backstage scene but people paid $150 for the meet and greet.  I really wanted to see Roy Mayorga the drummer.  No luck.  They were busy.  So we crossed the mall to go to Great Waters Brewing Co .  I had their No Surprises English IPA which is a cask ale and served warm/room temperature.  Delicious and smooth!  Do yourself a favor and stop here.  I regret that I only had one beer here.

Finally On A Bicycle

The space between the Palace and Great Waters used to be 7th Street if I have my facts correct.  It has been closed off to traffic.  This makes the que to the venue safer and provides a place to relax although it lacks benches.  The Hamm's Bear statue is here.  But more importantly for me and this blog several Lime Bikes were parked here.  Walk up to one, follow the instructions on the bike to download the app and then point your phone's camera at the sticker on the bike's rear fender and it unlocks and off you go assuming you set the seat height where you need it.  the lock is the "meter" unlocked you are being charged, $1 for the first half hour, locked and the meter stops.  The lock looks like a cross between a U-Lock and a rollercam brake from the 80s.  It is on the  seatstays and a red lever is used to send a metal "U" through the rear wheel to lock the bike and prevent it from being ridden.  This stops the fees.  Brilliant.

I've heard it all before and I understand that the biggest problem with this method of bike share is that users leave bikes everywhere and it becomes a mess.  Other issues is that companies flood cities with these bikes and no human presence exists there to fix broken bikes or deal with issues that arise.  Require people to live in and work in these locations.  Docked bike shares, however, have specific bike racks to leave the bike when one is done with them and have a visible human presence to take care of the bikes.  BUT those docks are few and not where people really want to be and until the bike is returned to the dock fees accumulate.  So if you want to ride to 12 Eyes Brewing and have an hour pint session if on a bicycle you have a choice to park a bike at the taproom that will charge you for non-ride time or a bike that does not.  I prefer not to pay while not riding.  Essentially, there needs to be more bicycle parking/racks.  Require dockless bike share companies to donate racks or perhaps the city and businesses need to do this.  "Hey, there appears to be a lot of bicycles spending money at my business perhaps I should help my customers."

Basic green yellow bike with a 3 speed Nexus hub with generator hub lights and a basket.  On the left Handlebar where a GripShift would be is a gripshift bell.  Geared well for climbing and flat areas.  The ride was a bit rough on my bum as it felt like I was sitting directly over the rear wheel or a really stiff tire but we were not doing a century.  It did the job well and we enjoyed ourselves.  I will look for these again.  They gave us freedom of travel.

We headed to the river to ride on the trail system there.  And somewhere in a nice neighborhood we heard two cars collide at an intersection we had crossed moments before.  Then the need for a restroom hit and I remember seeing a brewery on Google Maps right off a bike lane.  We headed there, 12 Eyes Brewing Co.  At first I thought it was 12 Elves Brewing Co, a name I will trademark for myself  IF I ever start a brewpub.  Nice taproom in the bottom of a the historic Pioneer Endicott Building that once was the home to a pre-Prohibition saloon.  The taproom is a lounge not a warehouse which helps the acoustics quite a bit.  I had a Hefeweizen, the Heidi Klum, and a brown ale.  Then since our bikes were not rented by anyone else we returned them to The Palace area and sought food for our final meal in St Paul.

Stone Sour was great. We waited outside and watched about 2500 fans enter the theatre. Great to see that many support a Des Moines band.  Most had Stone Sour shirts.  We looked a bit out of place.  Unfortunately, our grueling schedule caught up with us.  Mary was physically fighting with herself to stay awake and I knew it was time to bid St Paul farewell.  Back to the Taurus and I-35.  It was 1045 pm no espresso shop would be open.  This is gonna hurt.

We headed south on I-35 and stopped at a Starbuck's location.  Closed but the Holiday gas station was open for another 10 minutes.  I grabbed a 16 oz plastic cup and filled it with ice and went to the coffee.  All the coffee was dumped out and the airpots cleaned.  The clerk said I could have the powdered cappuccino stuff.  No thank you.  Two bottles of Starbucks coffee and filled my cup with one, added half and half and the other bottle would be emergency reserve.  It was a long drive back but we got to see a thunderstorm somewhere near Ft Dodge.  With 57 miles left to go I pulled off and let Mary finish the drive.  I was spent.  Weekend was over.  In an hour we'd be in our own bed with visions New Order light show and the sound of their subwoofers dancing in our heads and green and yellow bikes going from brewpub to brewpub.  Success!

Until next month in Long Beach, California, I shall endeavor to travel via bicycle only.

Sunday, July 29, 2018

Alternative Ragbrai 2018: The Search for Brew Pubs

I set out for a quest

From the Great God Keiron
Who sits à la Bowie 
In South London, in Hammersmith
--Mark E Smith, The Fall, Get a Summer Song Goin'

Iowa Brewing Company.  Not open at 10 am on a Saturday during the Farmer's Market in Cedar Rapids.
A single bead of sweat is making its way across my face.  Started above my right eye and now is on my left cheek.  Had I not done away with bike gloves a decade or 2 ago I would have wiped it off.  But my hands are firmly planted around the brakehoods.  A set of 1990s pre-STI Shimano Ultegra brake levers before they got bulky.  I can feel my heart beat.  Another bead of sweat begins its journey but I merely note it.  Almost to the top of the hill and my legs are spinning a high cadence.  Need to keep leg speed up as I reach the summit.  When the hill flattens for a brief moment  I reach for the shifter on the right and move the chain one cog further right on the cassette and then glance down on the shift lever itself to see how many gears I have left.  Still in big ring.  With my current momentum these hills only demand shifting on the right.  Soon the descent begins and I quickly spin out.  Rest.  Lower and flatten my back.  Scoot a bit further back on the saddle and lower my head closer to the stem.  Sure the panniers are a huge aerodynamic drag but I needed to squeeze every ounce of speed from my body, the only thing I can control.  Scan the road ahead.  There's nothing there but the sun.  Funny how the day always starts out cloudy and looking like rain but during the late afternoon when we are tired and about 20 miles out the sun beats on us like we need more punishment.  My arms are red.  Get lower and shift more weight to the front.  Glance behind me to see Mary and Donnie.  Not close but only minutes behind.  Look at the computer for speed and distance.  30s and probably 20 miles left until I can put the kick stands down for the last time.  Look up again and see hill after hill.  The climb is beginning but I have to wait until the speed drops below 20 mph before I can resume pedaling due to a mechanical issue.  19 mph start the engine.  Extremely high cadence so back off until resistance is felt.  This takes a bit of time, a few seconds but it feels like an eternity.  Now!  Keep it up both speed and rpms.  Get to the top.  Shift down one and keep leg speed up.  Crest this bastard and upshift one and spin it out.  How long have I've been doing this?  I never counted.  I've been on this road before, it hurts.  Stared at the map many times.  Nothing here.  Corn to the right, corn to the left,  shade desert.  Need to cross any intersection to feel any sort of accomplishment.  Intersections are on the map, corn is not.  But for the love of all that is good do not lose speed!  Speed is life out here.  Starting over from 0 mph would hurt badly unless it was at the top.  The sweat falls off my face and we continue westward.  Next town food and then a downhill trail to our overnight resting spot.  At the top of the next hill we'll stop.  A few minutes off the bike will feel good.  Perhaps we will reduce weight by drinking a beer.  And then fight these hills again.  I wonder how it would feel on a fast bike but I doubt I'll ever bring one out here.

For this year's bicycling tour of Iowa we wanted something different.  That's a problem when you get older.  You've done it all.  Been everywhere we thought.  But since we have been "bagging" or riding loaded touring bikes instead of doing the official Ragbrai our adventures east of Des Moines have been lacking.  It was time to remedy that.  Head east.  But where?  Breweries.  There are breweries east of Des Moines.  Places we have never been.  Let's find them.

The best thing about living in Des Moines is how spoiled we are in terms of bicycle trails.  North, South, East and West we have them.  Pick a direction and go.  We have friends that spent 4 or 5 days on these trails doing their Ragbrai thing.  But rather than the destination we use trails to springboard ourselves to further destinations.  If we can use them to find other trails all the better.

The Plan: A Brewery Too Early

But what destinations?  What overnights?  Then I had a brainstorm.  Why not overnight in towns with brew pubs and breweries???  Combine bicycling with beer.  If a town has a brewery then it probably also has a decent place to sleep.  Showers.  I like to take a shower at the end of a long ride.  Getting the grit, sweat, sunblock, DEET and other assorted crap off my skin is important.  It's amazing how much more comfortable you are when you start a day clean.  And if there is a bicycle trail to use we would be in heaven.

Looking at maps and brewery locations I came up with a great route.  Marshalltown would be the first overnight.  Two trail systems to get there.  The Chichaqua Valley Trail would take us safely for 20 miles.  Pretty easy to get to from my house or Mullets.  Take the MLK sidepath to Scott Ave for 5 miles and connect up with the Gay Lea Wilson Trail for another 10 miles to the Chichaqua trailhead, minimum amount of street riding.  Add 11 miles of empty county road S62 from Baxter to Melbourne and then the Iowa 330 Trail to take us into Marshalltown for the Iowa River Brewing Co and sleeping accommodations.  There is a great campground on the north side of town.  Showers, too.

Cedar Falls would be the second overnight.  60 odd miles of sparsely traveled county roads.  Ride through UNI campus and work our way to SingleSpeed Brewery.  Stay at my son Quin's home.

Day Three find and follow the Cedar Valley Nature Trail all the way into Cedar Rapids Iowa and practically trip over all the breweries: Lion Bridge, Iowa Brewing Co, Clock Tower ect ect.  This night worried me the most.  Get a hotel.  We could get very drunk and the locals probably frown upon guerrilla camping.

Day Four ride through Iowa City.  Once again, more breweries here than one can shake a stick at.  Perhaps call the U of Iowa Hospital System and have them ready liver transplants.  This is also where my plan was questionable.  Would we be there too early to visit a brew pub?  Should we make a short day and spend the night?  Should we be ambitious and push on through Kalona and overnight in Washington and take the Kewash Trail the next day?  And how are the hills out in Hawkeye Land?

Day Five start working our way to Grinnell.  Peace Tree has a tap room there.  Grinnell is also withing reach of the Chichaqua Trail and our escape route home.  

Since we start earlier and earlier each year we would have time to bust a move up to the High Trestle trail and join the Off Route Sinners that would undoubtedly be in that area working their way eastward.  We had the time.  Perhaps we could penetrate The Ragbrai ourselves.

When I presented this to my friends some balked.  Some wanted to do the usual ride to Breda, Iowa, the often used Western Plan.  But he had to be back early to visit his mother for her birthday.  Others wanted to just hang out or near the metro trails for a few days and average a case of beer every 10 miles. Another wanted to go north to stay at a friend's cabin on an extended weekend ride.  But Joe busted two ribs in June and was out or so we thought.  Donnie and Nick were in.  They liked the idea.  Serious riding but no super long days.  Every overnight had a shower.  More tenting than the previous year.  Options for motels if desired.  Better yet, no crowds, no lines, no overcrowded ditch to ditch bicycles, elbows bumping Route to ride.  Seems our experiences on The Route get worse and worse every year.

Left to right: Donnie, Joe and Nick.  Notice how big the sky is?

The Ride Commences....

The day we took off was sunny.  It was Wednesday July 18, 2018.  Rain was predicted for that night.  But we had plenty of time and the campground had shelter.  Plenty of places to pull over for bike beers.  Trails.  3 major trails to ride on plus the Marshalltown trail system which lead to our campground if we wished.  Our stops were minimal.  Mingo for a bike beer and reload of water bottles.  Baxter for lunch at the grocery store.  Donnie and I had sandwiches.  Joe and Nick and the rib special.  The 11 miles of county road S62 were good.  About three decent hills.  Stop at Clark's Bar in Melbourne for several beers.   Then the Iowa 330 trail.  One beer break on the shade and a conversation with a local rider.  Wednesday night is the night that cyclists from Marshalltown ride to Clark's Bar.  We encountered a few, mostly shirtless men.  It is July.

The 330 trail gives way to the Marshalltown trail system but once downtown we got off and crossed the bridge, sidewalk, to the courthouse area.  This is where we found the Iowa River Brewing Co.  Heaven!  Funny how the person that knows the most about craft beer is the last one to order, so it was I.  Big leather chairs to sit in after getting a pint.  Then the angel behind the bar came out periodically and offered to get us more.  I had their Columbus Ale, a session IPA, and the Churchill Porter among others.  Joe and Donnie left for dinner and Nick and I finished our beers.  Nick was drinking some bottled German beer.  Both of us did not pay heed to the local that warned us that all the restaurants close at 9 pm.  Sure enough, when we left the brew pub and walked down Main St shutters were slamming fast as if the 9 pm Monster was about to invade!  We did find that Chef King on West Main had an "open" sign and they let us in.  I piled my plate high.  Nick went twice.  Then we were asked if we would go back through the line again.  No, our appetites were sated.  Eight people descended upon the two buffet lines and packed it away for the night with such efficiency and speed that my head spun.

Objective reached.  Iowa River Brewing Co

Donnie on the Throne in the Iowa river Brewing Co

Our campsite was at Riverside Park.  Donnie paid $20 for all of us.  We did not set up tents.  There was a shelter with 4 aluminum picnic tables under the roof.  Electrical plug ins for our phones.  Perfect.  Shower house nearby.  Time to clean up and sleep.  The tables are uncomfortbale despite our Thermarests.  Wood tables are better for sleeping.  Approximately at 250 am the Floodgates in the sky opened up.  We all woke up, and milled around a bit.  Packed the bikes somewhat but we were not about to leave.  Black sheets of rain.  Then gentle and then hard. We were dry and just nervous.  Make sure nothing was on the ground.  Check radar and go back to sleep.  Give this system a few hours and hope it goes away.  It was still raining at 7 am.  Pack and head to town.  It was almost over.  Or so we thought.

3 shot iced breve at The Tremont Grill

We rode back to the courthouse district.  Breakfast at the  Tremont Grille on Main.  I was very happy to be able to get an iced breve with 3 shots (triple espresso over ice fill the rest of the cup with half and half).  Nick and I ate their Mexican omelet special.  It was very good.  And then we rolled on to the Casey's and iced our beer and obtained other previsions. Little did we know what would happen a few hours later.  I nearly cried.

Green Mountain was the first town, and that is a loosely used term, but the ROAD CLOSED CULVERT REPLACEMENT sign was something we did not want to see.  No desire to back track to Highway 14 and seek alternative route.  Roll the dice and see if we can get around the obstacle.  And we did by about 18".  Literally.  The backhoe had dug up a line in the road leaving less than 2 feet undisturbed.  Something happened.  There was a guy in truck.  Apparently they were waiting for a locator.  Good for us.  Take it slow, show them that we are not aggressive and irresponsible.  No smiles or waves but we got through without exchanging words.  On to Beaman, Iowa.

T29 should be labeled Agricultural Industrial Highway.  Mary and I had no issues on this road in 2014.  Maybe it was the culvert detour.  This road is brown on the bicycle map, 700 to 1500 AADT, the second lowest.  But not at our moment.  We got passed by four semis in a row at one point and then everyone turned off.  Amen.  We lived, made a note.  Perhaps a different road next time.

Group photo for the owner of the Landmark.

Tenderloin.  Iowa cuisine at its finest!  This one was superb.

Lunch in Grundy Center at the Landmark-bistro.  Great place.  Great food.  The owner, I assume, came in holding a baby in one arm and talked to us.  She then asked us what size shirts we wear and disappeared returning with four t-shirts from their Bike For Bites event and gave them to us!  We did the obligatory photo op for her and promised to put them on social media.  It was a nice gift and came in handy throughout the week being able to grab a clean shirt packed on top.

View of the South

Nick preparing to roll.

Looking East....

Clear in the North!

Now the ride to Dike, Iowa.  I should mention that the sky was grey and rain was a promise that we expected at any moment.  The ride had been one of putting rain gear on, taking rain gear off, putting rain covers on the panniers and deciding to take them off.  But as the day rolled on so did the dark clouds.  Someone had a phone alert about the possibility of tornadoes but that seemed to be so remote given the cool temperatures.  Not sunny and not warm.  The wind was either a favorable cross or headwind.  No in between.  But the sky behind us was black.  Keep riding.  Dike then Cedar Falls and SingleSpeed Brewing Co.  Call my son to SAG us in since I was not sure how to get to his place from downtown CF.
Ruined sidewall

Nick hard at work!

Joe and Donnie got a jump and busted ass and Nick and I were alone for a bit.  I was maybe 10 feet behind him on a slight climb when his rear tire blew out.  BANG!!!!  A puff of air and Nick immediately got off his bike.  Time to stop.  Seems like I did this a while back with Mary.  Told him to walk it to the driveway and we'll commence the operation.  Ugly.  Sidewall blew just below the seam.  Ruined tire.  Nick already flatted once on this ride in Des Moines on the gravel path from Orlando's to SW 30th.  He had one tube left and it was a schrader not a presta.  I on the other hand, had a bunch of tubes and a spare tire.  I learned that lesson last year.  I was more than happy to removed it from my pannier and let him use it.  I also gave him a tube and he gave me the schrader since technically my rear tire should have been using one.  Took a bit of time but we got him back on the road.  The dark clouds were getting closer.  One was green underneath.  Time to bring it on in.  Text the others to tell them what was up.  We pulled into Dike 1 minute too late.  After crossing Highway 20 I looked for the bar and then it rained very hard for about a minute.  I found the other riders at Lynch's Pub.  They let us bring the bikes inside.  We had several beers.

Then reality struck...

Hell on Earth.  As safe as we who live in the US are from wars some of us are powerless against weather.  This is our reality, one in which not many of us have to face but when we do seek shelter ASAP.  The four of us could have been in this storm instead of safely in front of it.

We watched the news.  It was bad.  Marshalltown was hit by a twister.  Ground zero was the courthouse.  The copula of the clock tower was blown off.  The buildings along Main St were heavily damaged.  The same place we had dinner and breakfast at a mere hours earlier was destroyed.  The Casey's we stopped at blew up from a gas line eruption.  Our hearts sank.  Video footage showed the destruction.  A town we fell in love with was hurting very, very badly.  Quin called and asked if we were ok.  We were safe.  "Want a SAG?"  Everyone said no.  We would ride it in.  When we left the bar the sky was clear blue.  In the distance to the east giant thunder clouds looked like Imperial cruisers from a Star Wars movie ready to unleash hell on the innocent below. 

Cut through the campus of the University of Northern Iowa, my alma mater.  I may have been on this campus once or twice since 1991.  Everything the same yet different.  Ride down College Hill.  Right turn on the bottom.  Left on Walnut.  Climb to 18th and downhill to 2nd.  Straight ahead to SingleSpeed Brewing Co.  More beer we cried.  Quin met us there.  He was able to get all four bikes with bags on in the bed of his Ranger.  He locked them up and covered them up at his apartment and then returned with Kayla's car to pick the humans up.  We ate at Tony's for dinner.

SingleSpeed Brewing Co, Cedar Falls, Iowa.

Joe helping load bikes in back of my son Quin's truck.  Apparently the photographer must have been as drunk judging by the quality of this photo.
Four loaded touring bicycles in back of a Ford Ranger.
My son Quin.

Marilyn & Me

Gravy's Diner.

Time table adjustments.  Normally we would wake up around dawn and pack up and roll.  But we needed a bicycle shop.  Quin's apartment was in eyesight of Europa Cycles but they open at 9 am.  Showers, laundry and breakfast at Gravy's Diner on University.  Take your basic 1950s theme diner and fill it with Elvis and Marilyn Monroe movie stuff and there you go.  Just like the 5 and Diner or Arnold's from Happy Day's.  I asked if they had espresso and the answer was no specials.  Then Donnie asked if there were any specials and they answered that there were no specials.  Promptly at 9 am we entered the bike shop.  Nick bought tubes and a foldable spare tire.  One never knows.  Last year I needed a new tire to complete the mission.  Who would be next?  Insurance.  Europa also gave us the opportunity to quiz locals on just how to get to the Cedar Valley Nature Trail.  The Cedarloo trail system is quite large and to those unfamiliar with it a bit confusing.  Mary and I struggled at night to reach Evansdale, mainly due to road and trail construction.  Joe grabbed a paper map as well.

Penn & Teller
Pretty simple finding the trail off Rainbow Ave.  Follow signs that say "Waterloo Downtown."  It was at the John Deere plant that I passed a sign and then doubled back to read the sign.  The others waited.  Out of the corner of my eye I spotted a long haired man in a suit running toward me.  My first reaction was that somebody needed directions.  Ha ha!  I'm not from here.  This happens all the time.  Drivers believe that I know the directions to everywhere.  But then he called my name.  He left his car on the road, no traffic.  But it was Aaron Hawbaker, a college roommate and teammate from the UNI Debate team back in the 1980s.  "I thought that was you.  I recognized your face!" he said.  We hugged and then took photos showing our height difference.  Aaron is 8 feet tall BTW.  He now is a public defender in Waterloo.  Big murder case coming up and he took the moment to stop his car and say hello.  We had not seen each other since Jeff Logan's funeral two years ago.  

On Face Book Aaron had this to say.  "Over 30 years ago, Chris (Che) Guevera and I were roommates at UNI. We had a room on the 4th floor of Noehren Hall. The room was decorated with dead technology mobiles and an old tv that played only white noise. I once woke one morning to Che cranking Death Valley 69 by Sonic Youth. (you need to listen to it to get my meaning). I was 18, I’m 50 now. Che has been living in Des Moines for forever and is an avid biker along with his wife Mary. Driving to work today I see a group of bikers decked out with panniers and the like and I see who I believe to be Che. Sure enough it was. He was en route to Cedar Rapids. What a serendipitous meeting.'

Five seconds difference and we would never have met that day.

Somewhere on the Cedar Valley Nature trail.  I think this is near La Porte City where we rode past the "ROAD CLOSED" sign.  The trail was closed for maintenance, trimming of trees and weeds and later bridge work.  We took the road when we saw the bridge out sign.
I love the Cedar Valley Nature Trail.  It is beautiful.  Mary and my first bicycle camping adventure was on this trail back in 1990 or so.  We often come up for the Fool's Ride in April and ride from La Porte City to Brandon and back.  In 2014 we got as far as Urbana before heading west to Vinton and the Old Creamery Trail to Dysart and then to Union Grove State Park.  Yet somehow I have never completed it.  This was about to change.  We rode all the way into Hiawatha and then Cedar Rapids proper that day.
The gazebo in La Porte City.  Good place to camp.  Roof, electricity and water.  The town itself has a convenience store and a grocery store and a pub.

The Cedar River

Ruins of a gravel pit.

Trail surface at the gravel pit ruins.  There is a shelter at the end of the photo.  This is a nice stop for the Fools Ride in April and the Sloof Ride in September.
The O-Zone in Urbana, Iowa.  The town also has a Casey's General Store (popular Iowa based convenience store).

Rubies in Centerpoint.  Failed to take a photo of the fenced off yard where the owner allows bicyclist to camp.

Now people have criticized this trail for not being paved.  But the crushed gravel is the charm.  Sure, wider tires may have helped, after all our bikes were possibly 100 lbs,  but we never slowed down or encountered anything that made us question our decision to ride this trail.  Pave it, sure, traffic will increase but it is nice to escape from it all on a gravel path.   No stick bikes but I'd love to scream through this on a cyclocross or gravel bike or MTB or a hybrid for that matter.  The towns were great.  La Porte City had all the services we needed.  Brandon has a great bar and a store.  Urbana has a great bar, the O-Zone that served an all you can eat fish and shrimp special.  We stopped at Rubies in Centerpoint and the owner of the bar bought us a round.  And then the trail was paved and downhill the rest of the way.  The locals did not lie.

Enter A New Rider and Exit A Rider

I may have been a bit stressed this day.  Today was the day that my lovely wife Mary was to join us in Cedar Rapids and Joe was to go home.  My son Joe was driving Mary down and taking Joe back.  Coordinating the pick up and drop off was top of mind.  It was clear that we would not make Lion Bridge Brewing Co as originally planned.  But we picked Hiawatha.  Mary found a motel and we all got rooms and ate at the Mexican joint next door.  Mary and I were apart for almost 72 hours!  We have not been apart like that since last year.

Mary was missing....actually that is her bicycle, phone, glasses (1 of 3 pairs), purse and helmet and yes, her arm.

Joe makes his exit.  He had to return to work.  He had been off for about a month with busted ribs.  My son, also named Joe, played the transporter for both Mary and Joe.
Mr Burns stayed with us at the Days Inn & Suites by Wyndham in Cedar Rapids.

Saturday was outstanding.  Maybe this is what Ragbrai tried to be before it got fat.  Woke up and rode into downtown Cedar Rapids.  Farmers' Market.  Park the bikes and walk in the square area of that.  I found espresso.  We found Lion Bridge's tent and free samples.  The tap room would not open this early.  Shame.  But we got nice plastic sample cups to take home.  Then back on the trail to Ely.

A Horse Theory.  Jam band and a good one.

Found the Coffee Emporium during Farmers' Market.  3 shot iced breve (espresso and half and half over ice).

Lion Bridge had a tent out.  Free samples.  Brewery was not open yet,

Some bastard stripped my bike!!!

The last thing I need, a fertility deity on a bicycle...

Mary and Donnie

My bike and Donnie's bike at Iowa Brewing Co.  Too early!!!  Not open!!!

We were a year too early for the trail between Ely and Solon.  We tried but it ended.  Highway 1 action and then a left.  I came across two women on horses and I asked them if this road leads to Solon.  They laughed and smiled and said take a right at the stop sign.  They were right.  A festive scene was here.  Beef Days.  More importantly, Big Grove Brewpub.  Beer and food.  And it was open.  Three beers at least.  Big Grove Brewery
Ely, Iowa

I never knew Bridgestone as involved with Kabuki.

On hot days of biking nothing beats a few minutes in the beer cooler.  Busch Light is the most popular beer in Iowa.  Light and watery but one can drink a gallon and be alright.

HOT FUDGE STAT!!  Nick has a brain freeze from ice cream.

My $4.99 gamble.  From Plank Road (Miller).  6 pack of tallboys for less than $5.  Not bad.  Tasty.

The end of the new trail south of Ely.  Next year, next year...

Big Grove Brew pub in Solon, Iowa.  Great beer.  Great food.  Great stop.

Boomtown Golden Ale.  IIRC the menu said 'I've been working hard, I deserve Premium."

Pepperoni with goat cheese.

McHaffey Bridge.  Nick's bike has red bags

Sugar Bottom Bikes.  I forget why we stopped.  They were busy and no one talked to us so we just rolled on.

Parking in the patio at Reunion Brewery.  Another 3 or 4 beer stop.  They gave us koozies!

Big Grove to Reunion Brewing Co was a different matter.  Once again, a year too soon.  The trail will be nice even if the hills remain.  Hills?  Yes, we went through Sugar Bottom and McHaffey  Bridge Rd into North Liberty and Coralville.  And another 3 or 4 beers of the strong craft variety.

Great gravel.  Better than some paved roads. South of Iowa City.

Three Trek 520s at 520th St.

Nick was tired.

Some farm between Iowa City and Kalona we pulled over for a break.

Water and beer at Kalona Brewing Co.  Sheer Madness was my first selection...seemed fitting for this adventure!~

1968 Pontiac Firebird 350 HO out in front of the brewery in Kalona.

I placed Google maps on voice directions to get out of Iowa City and onto Kalona.  It was 4 pm before we left Reunion.  A planned stop in Riverside, Iowa, future birthplace of Captain James T Kirk, was nixed.  Washington, Iowa, as an overnight was out.  But Kalona had a swimming pool hence showers IF we could get there on time.  We did not.  Once out of that college town we found a gravel road and fled south.  Good gravel.  We all enjoyed it.  If all gravel was like this I would be a gravel rider, too.  Then soft asphalt roads.  First there was the fossil.  Some poor hapless animal got ran over by a truck on the soft tar and then overtime embedded into the asphalt.  It looked like a 65 million year old fossil that turned into stone.  Some of us commented that they would have taken a photo but it was on a hill.  My thoughts as well.  Then it felt like I had a flat tire.  Donnie commented on it after I did.  The road was too hot for the soft asphalt and our tires sank into the surface.  Mary tried passing me on a hill and she hit a soft spot, lost a lot of speed and was unable to complete her pass.  Ha ha!  We missed the gravel.

The pool in Kalona closed at 7 pm.  We were late.  But Kalona Brewing Co was open until 10 pm and happy hour was still going on.  I had three or four beers and a burger.  Donnie drank ciders and had a turkey melt.  I think the others had ciders as well Jefferson County Orchard was on tap.  Always good.  We found a room at the Dutch Country Inn near by.  Shower and sleep and a continental breakfast in the morning.  I purchased a 6 pack of Rolling Rock at the BP next door for Sunday's ride.

Kid Rock Encounter....there was an individual of very loud opinions at the continental breakfast area of the motel making his presence known.  If you ever listened to Kinky Friedmann's They Ain't Makin' Jews Like Jesus Anymore you would understand.  But he was not a redneck in a bowling shirt guzzling Lone Star Beer.  He looked like Kid Rock and was dressed in a white "wife beater" that had a US flag on it and the word "FREEDOM."  Everyone could hear him.  "They are all over here...history repeats itself...ect ect."  He had a wife or girlfriend who was probably 40 going on 65 due to the need for the fourth cigarette during breakfast but she only opened her mouth to either put a limited amount of food in it or a drag off her smoke.  He smoked at least three.  I thought it was ironic that he bitched about freedom and wore a shirt expressing his love for freedom yet surrendered his freedom to Big Tobacco.  The mouthy smart ass in me wanted so badly to point that out but I had the wrong jersey on.  I was wearing my Che Guevara jersey featuring dark skinned people hauling cigars and tobacco.  Perfect for yesterday when I rode through Johnson County but not right now.

Phone booth in Frytown, Iowa.  Che Guevara jersey.  I get 10 cents for every Che shirt sold!!.

Sunday Morning in Amishland and Hills

This is Amish country.  Sunday morning in Amish country.  They go to church.  I lost count of how many horse drawn buggies we saw on Highway 1.  Maybe 30 horse drawn carriages of all shapes and sizes, all black.  BTW, this highway has a shoulder wider than many bicycle trails.  We waved at them.  They waved back and stared at Mary who was not wearing a ankle length dress.  Incredible.  Even the horses stared at us!  One kid holding they reins looked like the kid from Home Alone.  We saw a family with barefoot children walking on gravel to their church.  Peaceful.  These people will be our overlords when civilization and society collapses and we find ourselves in the pre-industrial world.

Next stop was Frytown.  It is dead.  Just a few homes an some sort of garage.  The first of three phone booths was here.  It had a regular home phone in it and there was a dial tone.  No more horse and buggies.  Lexus SUVs, biplanes and short steep curvy hills.  Time to work.  Climb hills.  Watch the biplane and hope it got close enough for a photo.  The roads had great names.  Orval Yoder Tpk SW, Black Diamond Rd, Black Hawk Rd, Old Man Creek.  No sign to photograph for that natural body of water.   Eventually we got to the top and rode into Williamsburg.  Stop for food at the Sundown Bar and Grill.  Joe just pulled up in his truck to take Nick home.  I had a Reuben and a West-O Coco Stout.  It was time for Nick to leave.  His wife was scheduled for medical tests, possible cancer. [good news, no cancer!!!] This time no replacement.  Then there were three.  Donnie, Mary and I.
Target Acquired!

Nothing like a snap shirt from Ladyg Hoegarden to make one look fat.  But it is dry and I am fat.  Bucket of wine!

Sunset Peach wine.

Fireside Winery  was the next stop.  Unfortunately, we had to fight traffic between the Sundown and  I-80 and the outlet mall.  But it was worth it.  Nobody honked or yelled or ran us off the road.  I first encountered them at the downtown Hy Vee in Des Moines.  They are located in a blank spot on my map, an area without breweries although we could have gone about another 10 miles out of the way to Millstream.  The other choice was Wooden Wheel Vineyards & Winery just off the Kewash Trail near Keota but that option was no longer available since we overnighted in Kalona.  We did the obligatory samples, purchased a bottle and they placed in in a bucket of ice and we moved to the patio in back to watch the band.  Unfortunately, the band ran out of guitar strings and hence, no more live music.  Water and restroom were available and Donnie and I probably destroyed the men's room.  Sorry.  Bicycle touring plays havoc on one's digestive system.

Strange note on the trip from the outlet mall to Fireside.  An older red Ford pick up truck was stopped and men were outside of it on our side of the road.  Then they got in and drove a short distance and got out as if they were checking on something.  But it was creepy.  Are they trying to kidnap Mary?  This was a day before we were aware of the disappearance of Mollie Tibbets in nearby Brooklyn, Iowa.  Speaking of which, children and adults are disappearing from Iowa at an alarming rate.  They are missing....

Carried this beer since Ely.  Finished the 6 pack in Marengo.

Sunset in Marengo, Iowa.

Back on the road traffic was better.  We were aiming for Old Highway 6.  The closer we could get to Grinnell the better.  But we stopped in the first town, Marengo, Iowa.  One of those M-towns like Menlo, Minburn, Mingo, Martensdale and Milo that we encounter on trails and popular bicycling routes and we always confuse the names.  Donnie had this issue today.  The hills flattened and the sound of our cowbells brought a herd of cattle running to the fence.  I shouted "Hello boys err... I mean girls" then the one bull in the group put his legs around a female and mounted her properly!  Took all my strength to keep the bike upright I was laughing so hard.  Good Lord, where is this town, I need to call it a day!

Old Highway 6
 Highway 6 had a shoulder.  I could have rode it all evening and night.  Flat and tailwind.  It was hard to stop.  But a stop was needed.  Donnie was familiar with the motel/campground.  The Sudbury Motel and RV Park charges $15 for a tent site, showers and laundry available.  Borrow an empty site for electrical hook up i.e. charge the phones.  The BP station on the corner had food and beverages and ice.  We had to stay.  BTW on the way into town we passed Woody's Discount Food that was advertising a 10 lb bag of ice for $1.25.  Did not need it but it was tempting.  Most of the RV campers here were construction workers.  It was a quiet night.  Finally got to use the tents that we packed and carried along.

Breakfast at the BP and a wonderful ride on Old Highway 6 or Hwy 6 Trail or Historic Hwy 6.  East of Redfield it is the White Pole Road.  Before I-80 this was how one crossed the state.  Smooth and flat and with a shoulder.  Big trucks taking different roads.  Bicycling paradise!  A few towns.  Ladora home of a convenience store and the Ladora Bank Bistro which I wanted to visit but time was an issue.  We also encountered the Mollie Tibbets missing signs here since she is from nearby Brooklyn.  Soon we found ourselves turning onto a county road later named Old 6 Rd and rolled into Victor, the next town and it had a Casey's and a red phone booth that had a dial tone.   Brooklyn was next and we took more time off the bicycles.  On the way into town a man stopped a large truck for a tire business, ran across the highway and gave us each a can of Arizona tea and chatted a bit.  The usual "Ragbrai ain't here, man" joke came up.  But it was a great experience to be greeted by people for doing what we loved.  Mary and I drank our tea on church steps by the flags.  After John Wayne's boyhood home we rolled on to Grinnell.

At the Ladora Stora.  Not functioning.

This is where we saw the first Mollie Tibbets missing sign.

Ladora Bank Bistro, Ladora, Iowa.

Victor, Iowa.

Mary enjoying the Arizona Tea on the steps of St Patricks

Across the street from St Patrick's Rectory and next to the library in Brooklyn.  State and corporate flags.

John Wayne lived here.

Etched not photoshop.

The view from the middle of the hill.  Donnie down below.

Climbing out of Brooklyn.  Mary of course is featured here.
Des Moines IPA at Lonnsi's Grinnell, Iowa.

Another brew pub fail.  Peace Tree was closed when we rolled into Grinnell.

Get you helmet on, standing in front of a closed brew pub ain't gonna do you no good no how.

F17 Blues: Punish your Machine

Grinnell would be the last town before Baxter.  The road between these cities is hilly and offers no shade, no quarter.  We needed lunch and our tires needed air.  6 days on the bike took its toll on air pressure.  Although Bikes To You was closed they do have an air hose and there is a bike fix station there as well.  Bring a presta adapter for the air hose.  We ate at Lonkski's and hit the road north to get to F17.  
Inside the cornfield on F17.  Place the chairs in the corn itself because that is where the shade is.  2 beer stop.

We left our bikes outside the field.
The pineapple sister beer of the lime beer I purchased in Ely.  This 6 pack of tallboys was purchased at a Casey's in Victor.  Price was not indicted.  $9.99!  Bastards!!  The Casey's in Ely charged only $4.99 for a 6 of tallboys.  It was good, not overly sweet and went down quickly.  I consumed two in this cornfield. 

I've been on this road a few times and knew what to expect.  Hill after hill after hill.  We were headed into the sun.  About 20 miles of this hell.  On a light weight road bike this would not be a problem.  On loaded touring bikes, well a different story.  We would have to take breaks but Mary and Donnie seem to think we can only stop in shady areas.  There are none.  Mary lead at the beginning.  She did not stop.  We finally caught her and said we need to take a break.  Then I lead.  I would not stop.  I would not let them pass me.  I figured out the bike and the hills.  Leave it in big ring and get as much speed as possible and wait until the bike slowed down enough to resume pedaling and resume.  Not an easy feat given that my 7-speed cassette was messed up by a loose and stripped lock ring limiting the upper end of my gears.  Worse, delayed the resumption of pedaling.  But I played the aerodynamic and center of gravity game and was able to do the biggest belly whoppers of them all to keep a lead and get to the top of the hill without losing all my steam.  I eventually stopped and we placed chairs in the corn and drank beer before tackling the rest.  Bastards, we need to stop on occasion and I can keep going and going today.  A Game on!

It was all going well until on top of a hill I saw the ROAD CLOSED sign at the Highway 14 intersection.  This was the last major intersection to cross before we entered Baxter and the Chichaqua Trail.  I coasted down the hill.  Gravel road to the right.  Paved road to the left that the detour followed.  Bridge work over the North Skunk River.  Could we simply walk our bikes over the hole?  At least we were almost there but could we get there with ease?  Construction people were still working.  Not a good sign.  Donnie went in to talk while Mary and I waited.  Pull out the map and phone and fire up Google Maps.  Our reliance on this technology had greatly increased this year.  Turning left on the paved road leads to Newton.  No paved roads to turn west on to get around this obstacle.  We don't want to go to Newton. After a few minutes Donnie came back.  "Absolutely not," he said.  CRAP!!!  I looked at the gravel road to our right.  Then a farmer pulled up in a white truck.

"You looking for an easy way to get to Baxter?"


"Head left and take the first right.  It is gravel.  Take the first right and then it will take you back to the road about a mile west of here.  Easy.  There may be others who will take this so give em some room."

That was great advice.  The road we turned on was not visible from out stop at the sign.  Decent gravel.  No traffic.  Nobody in a hurry to drive to Baxter right now.  A man on a 4 wheeler appeared.  We talked.  Said that our timing was bad.  "Last night a group of bikes crossed after 830 pm.  You can do that when nobody is working."  Soon we were back on F17 and rolling into Baxter.

We stopped at the Kountry Korner aka Baxter Oil Company.  When Anders and I did the same route a few years back we ordered a pizza.  Mary and I love stopping here and will not go to the Casey's in Baxter just to eat here.  Today I had a burrito.  Donnie had ice cream and then like Mary a taco.  For dessert we had root beer floats.  Get ice for the beer, Gatorade and snacks.  No food in Mingo unless the Greencastle Tavern was open but that was not a gamble I wanted to take.  Once again we were rolling.  The last 10 miles.

Now Donnie wanted to call it a day here in Baxter.  The city park had toilets, electricity, a shelter house and wooden picnic tables.  We stopped.  He had his shirt off and was damn near unpacking his bike.  Mary was concerned that this would not be a good spot since the school was across the street.  It would be a career limiting move to be hassled by the cops for an open container or being with people that were consuming alcoholic beverages in a school zone.  He ignored Mary's concern but changed his mind when it was discovered that there was no water here.  No go.  Resume the plan to ride to Mingo.  Shirt back on and we were off.  Downhill on trail.  An easy ride at the end of a long day.  76 miles.

Mingo was quiet.  Motel Mingo was our final stop.  The city park.  Roof, picnic tables, electricity, water and a restroom albeit a kybo.  Tomorrow Donnie would ride home.  Breakfast in Bondurant a mere 13 miles away.  Kickstands deployed.  Plug phones in.  Shower via the water pump.  That purple bucket hanging off the back of my bicycle came in handy for that.  Should have taken the shower after dark so I could do it in the nude.  Fix drinks.  Whiskey and ginger ale and beer.  Our adventure was nearing completion.  It looked like the Greencastle Tavern was open but we did not venture that way.   Seems like it is never open when we ride through but then again we ride early.  In the morning we did check the sign and it did say it was to be open until 10 pm on Mondays.  That night we spotted a fox and in the morning we saw the trash pile he raided.  Bin dog indeed.

In the morning an older gentleman with a trike recumbent pulled up to the shelter and unloaded.  He was waiting for his son.  Was not sure what direction he was going to ride.  His son had the plan.  We headed west toward the end of the trail.  One stop on the bridge over the South Skunk River.  I noted how much the lower the water was when Mary and I rode through the last weekend of July.  The sandbar was visible and a huge mess of trees were stuck under the bridge.  We took our final group photo.  A bittersweet moment as we parted ways.  Donnie was going home and we were heading to the off route party area of the Ragbrai on the High Trestle Trail.

Donnie in red but more importantly the water level is down quite a bit and there are many trees up rooted by the rains and stuck under the bridge.

Big mess of trees under the bridge.

The sandbar.  Was not visible last month.

Mary and I on the bridge over the South Skunk River, Chichaqua Trail.

Last group photo.

Earlier in the ride I suggested that we ride to the high Trestle.  What a wonderful way to cap off our Ragbrai. I even posted this on Face Book when my teammates from Mystery Machine said they were out on the Brai.  We could meet up I suggested.  Tuesday on the Trestle.  Surely, people would be riding there instead of taking the route.  This would afford us the best opportunity to meet with Ragbrai, something we try to do every year.  But Joe needed to be home by the weekend to spend time with his wife before re-entering the workforce.  Nick's wife had an important medical appointment.  Donnie wanted to be home by then because he was to re-enter the workplace on Thursday.  Just Mary and I.  I thought I could do it.

Our route to the HTT had us go through the "new" section of the trail through Berwick and the Ankeny connection.  Normally, I am not fond of this.  Sure, Bondurant to Berwick is a nice trail but  taking it is a bit out of the way for Mary and I.  The right turn to Ankeny is a curvy trail that seems to go out of its way to take the most indirect path to Ankeny.  And then the sidepath on Oralabor Rd is not ideal or pretty.  Urban Hell is what I call it.  Too many intersections and cars.  Almost as bad as the RRVT in Waukee except I've never heard of anyone getting hit in Ankeny along this stretch.  As usual we rode to Irvindale Drive and then cut north to the HTT.  And the storm sewer work project was still in full force so a detour to Greenwood Rd was taken.  Eventually we got there and the then the 5 mile ride into the wind to get to the Oasis.

Fenders Brewery.  Not open when we arrived.  Such a bummer.  I like this place.

Now my attitude was getting the better of me.  What was this, day 6 or 7.  Mary thanked me for not riding home but I had no desire to go on.  Now a headwind.  How much money did we have left?  Where would we stay?  Showers?  What if I was wrong and no Off Route Sinners were taking the HTT to get to Ames or party on the trail.  I only wanted to see the Trestle at night and it would be another 8 or 10 hours or so til sunset.  Was it worth it?  The stench at the Oasis set my mind.  There is a serious need to clean that crapper out.  Years of defecation and urination have taken its toll.  The place stinks!  Mary could read my face.  She was on day 4.  We gave up.  But it was time to eat.  Mary suggested Fenders Brewery in Polk City.  Ah, that's a great idea.  So off to Polk City we went.  Fenders would not open until 4 pm.  It was around noon.  We rode to the relocated Subway and ate.  From here we'd take the Neal Smith Trail home.  But the trail was closed due to high water.  Still!  Turn around and head back to the Oasis.  But instead of heading there via R38/Sheldahl Rd we took NW 126th for the first time.  Nice road and it saved us a bit of time.  We considered taking 118th but there was a sign for the I-35, some cars and a cop.  Avoid traffic.  Back on the trail with a tailwind.  At the Git n Go on Oralabor we took a right and got to R56 or NW 6th Dr and took that all the way to Saylorville and continued south to NW 60th which crosses Highway 415/ 2nd St and then a right at the cemetery on NE 3rd/Cornell St which took us all the way to the NST in Des Moines or 3 miles from home.  This is our route to the Trestle.  Saves a lot of time over the Neal Smith Trail and does not flood. (instead of taking a left at Birdland Marina go straight to the road and cross at the stop sign.  That is Cornell.  Keep going north and remember to turn left at the cemetery.  There is a Casey's in Savorville.  Two hills max).

More nice to take a shower at home, sit in a/c, start laundry immediately, see my daughter and dog and smelly cat.  Home sweet home.  Perhaps take our road bikes out the next two days and do different rides.  And just when I thought I was out and done the phone made a noise.  Amy O text.

"In Woodward."  8 pm.

"I gave up at The Oasis."

"Bummer.  We ride to DSM tomorrow then go home."

"Do we have to go to Slater to get to DSM?"


Ragbrai Supplemental: How the Other Half Lives

Amy and Mark

Tammy and Joe

Idea!  Meet them in the morning.  Take road bikes.  Mystery Machine/Diehards, Amy, Mark, Joe and Tammy have been on the road err trails for about 4 or 5 days IIRC.  Amy and Mark live in KC and wanted to get home.  They had a hotel room near Jordan Creek.  Joe and Tammy live in Des Moines near Drake University.  Back in the 1990s and early 2000s we all took the team bus and rode the official Ragbrai route.  But life, and children, changed this and then the bus died and we decided that self contained bicycle touring was easier and had less drama.  We all did this.

 I'm not sure how the Neal Smith Trail was except it was flooded at the marina and other places.  When we rode to the Triangle Tap a few weeks back water was still really really high.  The lake was at or near record levels and parts of the trail were still very much under water.  Damage from the flooding had not been assessed yet.  The trail sits low along the river and river is still high.  That is why we opted for the road.  Our friends would be in for a major surprise.  Amy said they were finally going to bed about 2 am in Madrid.

The Oasis Party.  Most people had rolled on to Elkhart,  Tammy's bike is in the foreground, 90s vintage Trek 1220.  Joe's  Surly LHT has the orange bags.  Mary's road bike, Trek 1600 is next to his and my LeMond is next noted by the cork bar wrap.

Tammy, Mary, Joe, Amy with her back to the camera.

In the morning more questions conveyed via texting.  They were almost to Slater.   I said get beer in Slater and we'll meet at the Oasis.   So they were 5 miles away from the Oasis an we were 20 miles away.  But we had light weight road bikes and a good night's sleep, breakfast and espresso.  We were 2 miles way from the rendezvous when she text that they were there!  Damn, we were quick!  At one intersection we saw a group of bicycles pulled over and the sound of beers opening.  But they were not the baggers we were looking for.  But our friends were at the Oasis.  And the beer flowed and large group of others arrived.  What a gathering!  Many people we knew.  Some we saw off route last year on the Three Rivers Trail north of Ft Dodge.  I was quizzed since I would be considered a local.

"How do we get to Elkhart?"

"Take the next left and ride east for 9 miles.  Simple."

"How is that road?"

"Flat and since it is purple on the map light traffic."

"Anyone use Google maps? I asked"

No one.  So I whipped mine out.

We drank a lot of beer and I did the math.  Our four friends must have been averaging a case of beer every 10 miles.  They spent a night in Minburn on the Raccoon River Valley Trail at the  city park.  During the night their bikes were burgled.  Missing light, open bags, some small stuff missing.  They may have had 1 shower during their week and that was in Jefferson.  TrailBrai.  Eventually it was time to move on.  Repeat the ride home we took yesterday but several stops including a stop in the cemetery for a beer break.  Firetrucker Brewery was considered but voted against.  Mark and Amy needed to get to their hotel.  Mark had a headache.  Final stop was at Captain Roy's  Mark's headache was worse.  He wanted to get to his van at Tammy's house and go to the hotel.  I don't blame him.  That was me yesterday.  We got them to E Grand Ave and pointed west.  You go that way.  Good luck.  It was finally over.

The Agony in the Garden.  Fitting, asking for this cup to be passed.  Our road bikes hiding behind The Lord.

Last PowerBar and last beer.  Captain Roy's

One free day left until I re-entered the working world.  We had coffee at DSM Brew and breakfast at the Drake Diner.  Grilled steaks for dinner.  Glad I returned to work on Friday since it is a slow day.  Monday will be hell.  Life is good.

479 miles.  8 days.

My Bicycle

For this year's adventure I chose my trusty 1991 Trek 520.  American made and American steel, True Temper.  I bought it used at Barr Bicycle back in 1996 and have placed every scratch on it.  I used this bike as my main bike for quite a number of years until I put the front low-rider on it and reserve it for touring only.  Occasionally I will use it as a grocery-getter since its loading capacity is quite large.

Originally equipped with Shimano Deore groupo.  I've replaced the rear derailleur a couple of times over the years.  Currently I am using a Shimano Acera rear derailleur and amazed by the the speed of shifting.  Speaking of shifting, the original owner replaced the bar end shifters with downtube shifters.  This is fine with me since its new shifters make it easier to wrap the bars and replace cables with the added bonus of not hitting the shifters with my knees.

I use Vaude panniers (German).  Four rear panniers because they hold more but when I get Mary a proper touring bicycle I will order two sets of front panniers and place my current "front" bags on her rear rack and the new bags will go on front of both bikes.

I am using Schwalbe's Marathon Supreme foldable tires, 700x35.  These roll so well and I love them.  They remind me of Specialized Fatboys that I used to use on my mountain bikes back in the day.  They are fast tires.  Last year Sam Auen became aware of my desire to ditch the heavy slow rolling Continental Touring Plus 700x37 tires and gave me a set of the Schwalbes.  New, never used.  Price tag said they were $80 a piece.  I immediately fell in love with them.  But 161 miles into our adventure in July as I cut through the lawn of a park to seek refuge from the rain under a shelter I received a sidewall gash and before I could finish my beer the front tire blew up.  The hole indicated that the tire was dead.  Fortunately, Craig had a spare tire with him and I was able to complete the adventure, 4 more days.  When home I searched online to replace the Supreme but they were $61.  So I placed the old Connie back on for 11 months.  A few weeks ago I checked online again and the Schwalbe was now $34.  I bought one.  Should have bought 2, the second as a spare.  As insurance since the speed of the tire comes at the lack of sidewall strength, I carried the Connie as a spare.  That was the tire I gave to Nick that dark day on our way to Cedar Falls.  The Supremes did well on all surfaces, crushed limestone, gravel and paved.  I recommend them to anyone with the warning that the sidewalls are vulnerable.