Sunday, December 3, 2017

December 2nd Outstanding Day To Bicycle Des Moines!

The candy cane.  I was not present when Joe gave this to Mary and when we rode back to our house after the bridge I thought that something was falling out of pannier!

It was a beautiful day in Des Moines, Iowa, to ride a bicycle.  Not that we did a lot of miles but we spent it with friends and enjoyed the outdoors without coats or snow for the first Saturday of December.  Two major events: Lady Hoegaarden's Birthday Bash on the Water Works Bridge and the 3rd Annual Beaverdale Bikes Holiday Bike Ride in the Beaverdale neighborhood that evening.  Mary and rode over 28 miles on our commuters, mine a single speed.

Water Works Bridge.  That's me up front in red standing behind Bill L in the Kyle's Bikes kit.  Plenty of room to ride through.

Spoon was the best dressed on the bridge.  Failed to see him in Beaverdale.  Perhaps he had too much fun!

Homer said that he would be at Water Works Bridge at 1 pm for Lady Hoegaarden's birthday celebration.  This is a popular stop for cyclists in the DSM Metro area.  I admit that the bridge gets a bit congested but the only people that complain about it are uptight cyclists with sand up their bums.  Funny, most of these people complain that the surface of the bridge is too rough for their bicycles.  The people taking wedding photos, a large group, just smiled as they filed by our rampage of baggers.  We were just celebrating life and enjoying the warmth and sun and each other.  Soon enough we will be hibernating indoors at home when Winter arrives.

After an hour or so Mary and took off for home to prepare for the Beaverdale Christmas lights bike ride.  Basically, we need to let the dog out and grab lights and extra clothing for the temperature drop after sunset.  We planned to meet our Ragbrai crew (funny thing is that we ride the week of Ragbrai but rarely see Ragbrai proper) at the Triangle Tap.  They were not there so we headed to Beaverdale instead.  They were not there but were at Captain Roy's.  we must have just missed them since only two bicycles were there when we rolled by.  Mary and decided to make Reed's Hollow our HQ until the other arrived.

Holiday Cheer!
Never been here before probably because Beaverdale is not really in our travel path.  Nice place.  Mary had a cider and I had Shiner's Holiday Cheer draft.  First one of the season.  Donnie then text and asked where everybody was and I went outside to Beaverdale Bikes to fetch him.  Then the others arrived: Joe, Nick, Kevin and Mike.  They had some moonshine made with Everclear that tasted like applesauce.  Dangerous.  I stayed with beer.

From the FaceBook event announcement.

Amy and Don, Team Mystery Machine, our old teammates.

Don and a good look at the lights.

Action shot during the ride.

Time to ride.  The sidewalk was packed with bicycles!  Must have been 200 people.  Just saddle up and get in the flow.  Many cyclists have decorated their bicycles and themselves.  As for us, Mary had a candy cane that Joe placed on her panniers and I wore a Santa hat.  The neighborhood outdid itself with lights!  I failed to take any photos as not wanting to stop and lose my friends or cause a crash.  I was amazed how many houses were ready for Christmas and had the Spirit.  Home owners stood outside or in their doorways and waved at us.

Afterwards we regrouped at Saints for a post ride brew and food.Then the chilly ride home.  I definitely plan to do this ride next year.  Maybe we'll add lights to our bicycles.

How many warm weekends will we enjoy before Winter arrives?  Few and fewer.  We will adjust.  Just hope for an early Spring.

Special thank you to the people I stole these images from.  You are the best!

Saturday, December 2, 2017

"Where You Heading So Early?"

445 am.  Last morning ride of the week.  30 something degrees Fahrenheit.  Trying not to over exert myself as I seemed to have picked up a virus and am really tired of coughing seizures.  Riding on the Meredith Trail along the Raccoon River when I spot a bicyclist underneath the 7th St bridge.  He had his bike leaning against the bridge supports a few yards away from the trail.  Never seen this one before.  One thing one does when commuting the same circuit at the same time day after day is recognize the other trail users.  At any moment I was expecting to see Joe Ayers on some refitted classic roadie and the bright headlamp as his only illumination but I saw this guy first.

He was messing around with the bike of his back pack.  A black bike with no discernible branding decals on it.  A few reflective strips of tape and no lights.  Probably a homeless person or a newly "forced to bike" person, dead car or OWI.  Poverty victim.  Perhaps a fisherman but it's a little cold for that activity.  I see them occasionally here.  I see them all.  And bridges are popular overnights for the homeless.  Perhaps he hit Thirsty Thursday a little too hard and had to take a nap.

I pass and look on.  Up ahead there are two headlights next to the trail at the old depot now home of a disaster service and TopBun food truck.  Police?  No.  Perhaps they are here to pick up the cyclist I just saw.  Roll on, coffee awaits.

A minute later I hear a voice.  Sounded like someone in his 20s, jubilant and happy before the an extra 20 years cripples him with the weight of the world and cynicism.  For a moment I thought it was one of Jay Pontier's twins, Alex or Nathan.  Drama and theater kids now well into adulthood.  No, someone else.

"What brings you out so early in the morning?"

My reply was short, "Gotta go to work."

"Oh the old grind.  Have a nice day." And he pulls ahead.  I should have said more but then again I was ill.

Wonderful attitude he had.  I wish all cyclist were this friendly.  I see people with thousands of dollars worth of bikes and gear who won't say hello or dim their bright lights when encountered.  Lost in their own world.  But this guy's bike was a real piece of work.  Basic late 80s or early 90s hybrid without lights or markings.  The rear derailleur was gone so the chain was shortened to make a single speed wrapped around the 12T or 13T of a rusty freewheel or cassette.  But damn, he made it work!  When he got in front of me and my bright lights I saw how he survived in the dark.  His backpack was completely covered with reflective tape.  A 12" by 12" square of silver/white reflectivity.  Brilliant!  Literally.  My lights still lit that backpack up 1/2 mile away.  Just proves my opinion that it is better to be seen from behind than to be seen from the front.  You can avoid what is ahead of you but not what is behind.

I was hoping to see Joe and wonder if this guy asked him why he was riding this early.  Joe would say "I ride 20 miles every day at this time.  I'm retired."  Maybe another day....

Sunday, November 26, 2017

Easter Lake Trail Update

On the west end of the bridge looking east.  Trail is between the lake and the road.  NOTE the lake has been drained for dredging.

Mary and rode to Carlisle on this lovely November day.  Temperature right now is 59F which is amazing for Iowa this time of year.  As stated many times in my posts, we like to get to Carlisle by riding to Easter Lake.  Back in late August was our last visit to this place See Easter Lake in August.  Today we saw a lot of progress.

Looking west from the bridge, trail is on the north shore of Easter Lake.

The bridge on Evergreen Ave is not quite done and there is about 200 yards of trail that need to be completed and paved before one can bicycle or walk on the finished trail.  As it was a Sunday there was not work being done so we felt legit riding through the construction site. 

Looking south of Evergreen Ave and the bridge at the trail segment that leads to the park entrance on the southeast corner of the lake.

On the other side of the bridge the trail is complete to park entrance on Easter Lake Dr.  Also a new trail south of Easter Lake Dr looks complete and it leads to SE 34th St.

At the south east entrance to the park/lake.  Not shown in photo is the trail leading south of here to SE 34th St.  There is a trail entrance

The pink line is the new trail.  Green is the existing trail,

What does this all mean?  It means that there may eventually be a trail or trail system that connects Des Moines to Carlisle.  Yes, I am aware that is the plan.  But I have not always supported it.  There are other trail connections that I'd like to see done first.  Others that I deem more important like connecting downtown Des Moines trails to the Gay Lea Wilson Trail.  Today, However, I changed my mind.  We took our normal route which brought us to the north side of Easter Lake then we hang a left and take SE Brooks trough a nice curvy road with a few rollers that empties into a wonderful downhill by the Ape Cognition and Conservation Initiative then hang a right at the stop sign and climb the hill and down again to Highway 5 or Old Army Post Rd.  Left toward Avon Lake and various entrance and exit ramps for the bypass.  That last part may sound a bit scary but really is not.  But today 11:15 am on a Sunday it was the busiest I have ever seen it.  Church just let out?  Holiday travelers?  Mad dash to and fro to the store in Des Moines before lunch?  Then it downed on me.  traffic increases every year and in a few years I may not be able to use this route.  Shame too because it is scenic, fun and a great workout.  So now I wholeheartedly support the new trail connection.

I think I'll go back next weekend to do some more exploring here.  We did not take the trail south of Easter Lake.

Saturday, November 25, 2017

Post Thanksgiving Ride South of Cumming Iowa

My black stainless steel growler.  Mooncat Porter from Court Avenue Brew Pub.  A toasted coconut porter.  thick, heavy, delicious for a cool autumn day.   The glass is from Twisted Vine Brewery.  Holds a tallboy.

Had to take advantage of the weather.  Sunny and in the 50s.  Not too many of these days left in 2017.  Took the last growler of beer, left over from Thanksgiving, and my Trek 520 packed with extra clothing because I was sure it was going to get very cold on the way home.

First stop was at the picnic table we call the Lean To.  Since the  Land Rapers and Greed Heads decided to pave new roads through the Great Western Trail the Lean To has never been the same.  They removed it and people placed a picnic table there instead.  New roads are located too close to the trail.  Then they reconstructed the trail to avoid this spot anyway.  The trail to the Lean To has been closed off but one can get around the orange fencing.  Time to move the table.  I suggest that the table be placed at the intersection of the new section of trail and the section that has been blocked off to fade away.  This is near the original Lean To.

Nothing lasts forever.  Soon this will be paved over.  Fitting that Cortez the Killer is playing on my stereo right now.  The Hildreth farmstead is across the field and highway from here.  The patriarch bought it after WWII and raised a family there.  Soon it will be gone and paved over.  Thoughts like this have me laughing at the fact the sun will turn into a red giant and fry us all assuming the human race survives 3 billion years.  Too bad it cannot harm those that harm the earth right now.

That farm way off in the distance, that belongs to the Hildreth family.

Speaking about the Hildreths, I text my friend Donnie Hildreth to join me but he invited me to his place south of Cumming.  Hang out in his barn and drink beer.  So I finished my beer and rode on.  Donnie collects junk to sell at auctions and flea markets and his barn is full.  He gave me two small chairs with backs that will be perfect for touring when the Spring and Summer return.  I asked if he had any vinyl records and i was directed to a ladder that lead to a tall shelf where a covered peach crate was.  I snagged two Led Zeppelin Lps and Neil Young and Crazy Horse, Live Rust.  I could have had revolver by The Beatles but I felt that he should get money for it.  Oh well, good vinyl scores!

I left after dark.  Saw one bike ahead of me before I hit the trail and one on the way back to Des Moines.  The Tap looked bicycle-less.  Two other bikes were in Water Works Park.  Weird riding in late November.  Few ride after dark.  6 pm feels like 9 pm.  No issues.

Friday, November 24, 2017

Bike Friday > Black Friday

We took advantage of the 65F day and added 35 miles to our road bikes.  Two objectives:  look at the progress on the pedestrian bridge Urbandale has been building to connect with the Raccoon River Valley Trail.  It was supposed to be done at the end of September.  In October they were not finished.  The other objective was to share a pizza at The Other Place in Clive.  We have only been to the OP in Cedar Falls when I was attending college in the 1980s.  Being that it was our 27th wedding anniversary the OP seemed appropriate.

First stop was to drop off two pairs of pants at to get them properly hemmed.  Winter is coming and I'll need to stop wearing shorts.  Tailoring By Lechi on Grand in West Des Moines was that stop.  I'll return to pick them up on Friday.

From there we decided to hit the Jordan Creek Trail.  But what should happen??  A brewery jumped out in front of us!  Fox Brewery on 11th St.  We have never been here before but have consumed their products elsewhere.  Plenty of parking for bicycles which is a plus.  But the sign said they do not open until 4 pm and it was noon!!!  What is it about breweries opening their tap rooms so late??  Wineries open at 10 or 11 am.  But the people inside waved us in.  I have the Arctic Breakfast, a vanilla/almond porter.  Mary had a hard cider.  One and done.  I like this place and will return.  Friendly staff.

11th St leads straight to the Jordan Creek Trail.  The wind was strong from the south west and slowed us down a bit.  We stayed on the JTC until we reached 60th and then headed north to Clive and turned east on University to go to the OP.

The OP was packed but they found us a table.  It also was a bit warm but that may have been us from riding bicycles.  And the people in front of us talking to the hostess had bad BO.  Please bath and use deodorant.  Despite the warmth and smell our food was great.  We had the Maui, their new Hawaiian pizza.  I recommend it.  I decided to drink water just because I have had a lot of beer lately and need to properly hydrate.

When we left he headed to 123rd to make the north turn toward the Greenbelt.  Guess what?  The wind changed direction!  Now a NW wind.  Oh well, it will be a tailwind on the way home.  From the Greenbelt we were able to connect to the RRVT and investigate the new bridge.

The "TRAIL CLOSED" signs were gone.  The work on the bridge and trail is done!  The bridge starts at the RRVT and crosses Walnut Creek and  turns into a sidewalk with a few switchbacks that lead to the sidewalk on Hickman Rd.  Why is this a big deal?  It is dangerous to cross Hickman at 128th.  Now one can take this sidewalk and cross Walnut Creek.  Great for people that live north of Hickman.

Since we were in the recon mode we took the Greenbelt all the way back.  Yes, we did not take the detour.  We got to see the progress on the trail.  It is rideable but some sections are dirt.  There are still trees here.  Clive is moving part of the trail away from Walnut Creek and making the new section less curvy.  It appears that they are also working on water drainage as well.  Big rains have flooded this trail in the past.  Completion of work is scheduled for the Spring of 2018.

Blog Supplemental: Urbandale's Bridge to the RRVT Open Now

I have been trying to get out to visit the new pedestrian bridge Urbandale installed on the north side of Hickman Rd to the Raccoon River Valley Trail.  They were to have it completed by the end of September but did not.  I took a few looks after work in October to see that they were still not finished.  And with the Greenbelt closure I have been taking a different way to and from work and did not have an opportunity to look at it until today.

It is complete.  It is a pedestrian connection from 128th to the RRVT.  Crossing Hickman at 128th has always been risky.  Now one can take this sidewalk to the trail and ride underneath Hickman Rd on the trail. 

I'm a bit miffed that it is not wide.  Also disappointed that no one has made a paved trail section/sidepath at the corner of Hickman and 128th to connect with the existing sidepath on 128th.  It would not be a long section.

Saturday, November 18, 2017

Coffeeneuring 2017

Once again I combine two of my favorite activities, bicycling and drinking coffee, into one for the opportunity to earn the esteemed Coffeeneuring patch.  And why not?

Des Moines Brew Coffee Co
October 13, 2017 FRIDAY THE 13TH!!!
Large Americano with room for half and half
4 mile round trip as we went to the store afterwards

We had been planning to go here for quite some time but never had the opportunity.  It is located in a renovated building that now houses several restaurants, a fitness place and a bar.  DSM Brew is also located on a MLK bicycle trail.  Just a mile from our home it is a safe and easy ride.  Just crossing 3rd St is the only bump but there is a button to trigger the stop light.  It was the Friday before our daughter's wedding and I had the day off.  Mary and rode to the taco place next door, Fuzzy Tacos, and had lunch.  After lunch we moved our bikes over for the photo shoot.  I had my standard, large Americano with room for half and half.  Mary had a cup of tea.  They used a tea kettle to heat the water for her tea and this took some time.  Basic "dry look" (unfinished ceiling) with art on the walls.  Friendly staff.  I don't recall much more about this place because our minds were focused on our daughter's wedding.  We plan to return.

Scenic Route Bakery
October 21, 2017
Small Americano
4.5 mile round trip

Dora's cappuccino.  Also a  better photo of the "bike rack."

Original plan was to get here early, 6 am, because the weather folks promised that it would be raining.  We overslept and then checked radar and the rain was a long, long way off.  Took our daughter Dora with us and hit the famous Des Moines Downtown Farmer's market on the way home as well as stopping at Graziano Brother's Market (Italian food) on the way home.  First thing we noticed that there was not a bicycle rack in front of the establishment. There was one across the street and another down the block. So we locked up to the iron decorative fencing that protects the planted flowers from would be blind pedestrians.  This is a common practice for those that visit the East Village via bicycle.  Mary was in the mood for breakfast food but we did not see anything but pastries which were good.  We had fruit danishes.  Mary had a hot chocolate, Dora a cappuccino and I a small Americano.  Dora is used to the fake sugar infused hot water style of cappuccinos and thus did not finish hers.

Mars Cafe
October 29, 2017
Large Americano
3 mile round trip

The Red Phoenix.
Always be coffeeneuring!

Chilly Sunday morning but it was starting to warm up.  Spent the day before inside working on bicycles.  The red bike is the Red Phoenix, my winter commuter which has been sitting underneath a tarp since March waiting for the day, usually in November, when I kick off the rust and restore it to functioning order.  This is Red's first spin since March.  A test ride for coffee.  This coffee shop is located in Des Moines East Village.  Mary rode with me and had a hot chocolate.  I found this to have been among the best Americano I have ever had.  $2.75 for any size I wanted.  I chose the the large and added about an inch and a half of half and half to cut the bitterness and cool it down.

St Kilda Cafe & Bakery
November 4, 2017
4 miles round trip

St Kilda is a new place located on one of our major travel paths just across the river on our way downtown.  Always wanted to stop there but they always seemed busy especially with the Downtown Farmer's Market going on.  Well, the Farmer's Market ended for the year and we got our downtown back.  Special ride for us today.  Last week a stick went through the drive train of my Campy bike and destroying a wonderful original Campagnola derailleur.  The bike never missed a beat but riding it with a saggy chain is not the best thing to do.  So as a fond farewell to the noble gear switcher of the past 23 years I though Coffeeneuring would be apprope.  The place as a bit busy but we were greeted immediately by the hostess and once we told them that we were here for coffee we were able to grab a window seat.  As usual, I had an Americano and Mary had a hot chocolate.  For once our bevies were not in disposable cups.  Mary's received the arty foam touch.  My request for cream was granted in a tiny cream pitcher.  Nice!  I wish we would have had more time to study the menu.  service was fast!  When it came time to pay we were stuck behind a family of slow ordering people but the owner saw our dilemma and tendered our payment on a different register.  Thank you!  we shall return.

Theme Within A Theme (The Accidental Coffeeneurer)
November 8, 2017
Large Medium Roast from Java Joe's
15 miles

Coffee sitting on the Salsa Anything cage.  Thank you DMPD.

So I stopped at the store to pick up dinner.  While loading the bike at the rack next to a gentleman with a fatbike and putting gloves, headband, lights back on a police officer walks up and asks if I'd like a coffee.  "You bikers must be cold.  They gave me two coffees and I can't drink both.."  I responded immediately, yes, I'd like a coffee.  I was not cold but it is hard to explain to muggles that 47F is not cold for a year round cyclist.  She gave me a large coffee and I thanked her.  PIPING HOT and black.  So I went back inside and purchased a small container of half and half, the one with the screw top, to cool the coffee and mellow out the bitterness.  She said it was from Java Joes's, a local coffee shop across the street.  I drank it while finishing my journey home.

Inspired Grounds Cafe
November 11, 2017
16 miles

I should have removed the lid.  The back of my bicycle can be seen with a large bag of dog food on back.

If it would have been warmer we would have enjoyed our coffee outside.  It was a cloudy day with the temps in the 40s and the possibility of rain constant.

Mary inside in yellow.

Somewhere to coffeeneur where we had not coffeeneured before.  This time in Historic Valley Junction.  I like this place and will most likely be back.  Not only do they sell java but books and art as well.  Good place to do some Christmas shopping.  My coffee was good but much better when half gone.  They had real half and half here which is a plus.

Madhouse Brewery
November 18, 2017
Sumatra Coffee Stout
2 mile Round Trip

Thought I'd finish this with an Americano, didn't you??  Nope!  We tooke the streets and rode bike lanes mpart of the way.  not much traffic.  This coffee stout is one of the finest local stouts in my city.  Sadly, they are no longer producing it so they can make room for new beers.  No longer available on tap either which explains why I purchased the bottle.  When I heard the news that this brew was to be no more I knew I had to get it from the source.  Brewed with cold brewed Sumatra grounds from Zannibar Coffee. From Madhouse's website, "We then partnered with Des Moines based Zanzibar’s Coffee Adventure for house roasted Sumatra coffee beans. The coffee is cold pressed and added just prior to carbonation of add depth and flavor to the beer."  Delish!

Also in contention for coffee beer was Reclaimed Rails' UnRailed Porter which is a normal looking beer with coffee flavor.  Mind bending since it looks like beer but tastes like coffee.