Sunday, February 2, 2020

The Great January 2020 Snow Storm

The Des Moines and Raccoon Rivers have become winter migration destinations for Bald Eagles although a few have built nests in the area.  During my Sunday ride up the Neal Smith Trail I lost count of how many of these large raptors I saw.  Over 40!

Winter was going so well.  Warm and dry.  No snow or ice.  Back in December I stopped dwelling in "lack of riding" depression and started pedaling for miles again.  Since I transferred downtown my 30 mile round trip commute dropped to 5 miles per day.  No more 10,000 mile years.  The last week or so of 2019 I rode two bikes enough to get both of them over 1000 miles for the year.  The more I did this the better I felt.  For 2020 I am planning to ride more per month than I did in 2019.  It started off well.  Then Winter arrived.

The Red Phoenix resting near two logs along the Neal Smith Trail on Sunday January 12, 2020.

The first of several 'Bridge Beers" that I would consume on my winter recon rides.  West-O's CoCo Stout.  11*F with a 30 mph WNW wind.  The Rainbow Bridge.

Mary and I rode to DSM Brew for coffee on Sunday January 12, 2020.  Featured is the Red Fleet, our two functioning bicycles with studded tires and Mary's Vanilla Iced Latte need for Bicycle Ride & Seek FaceBook Challenge.  I had a mere three shots over ice and fill the rest with half and half.
The banks of the Des Moines River near the Botanical Gardens.  A world in white.  This ride was to determine the extent of plowing the City did along the trails.  The trail was clear all the way to within 2 miles of I-80.  Pretty good considering that it snowed on a Friday evening and it is now a Sunday.

January 10th it started shortly before I left work at 130 pm.  Freezing rain.  I had the foresight to ride The Red Phoenix, my winter bike with studded tires.  By the time I got home my clothing and the bicycle were covered with a thick layer of ice.  Then the snow began as I was at my local barber, Gomez barber Shop.  Big giant flakes of snow not dandruff but a pile of grey hair grew on the floor below me.

But I like to ride in the snow so I went on short rides to explore and see how well the city cleared trails.  Saturday I did what I call the Rainbow Bridge Loop, a sometimes 10 mile ride through Gray's Lake and Water Works Park and downtown.  The trails were clear.  However, the bridge itself could have used some ice melt/salt and sand.  The high wind plus snow left a a very slick glaze on the surface especially near the railings of the bridge.  My bike was fine but off of it a lost footing a few times but never fell.  Sunday I managed to get in 18 miles.  This was in response to a question I had about the condition of the Neal Smith Trail.  Saturday night I decided that I needed a few things from Modern Bike before Wednesday.  If I could ride my bicycle there on Monday to pick them up, all the better.  The car would remain put.  But nobody knew the condition of the trail so I had to see for myself.  Since my daughter had to be at work at 530 am on Sunday I decided to drive to the suspicious part of the trail myself, Birdland Dr behind North high School.  Birdland was not clear and when I got to the top of the hill near North i turned the CR-V west to illuminate the trail.  Untouched.  A few hours later I rode my bike to get a better view.  Typical.  The City has always neglected this trail during winter and this was no surprise.  What I found were boot prints and bicycle tracks now harden into ice to make the trail bumpy.  Cratered is the term I use to describe this but there was enough room on the sides to get through smoothly.  I rode all the way to modern Bike to make sure I could get through.  One thing to note was that the sidepath along the Douglas Ave bridge over the river was cleared and salted.  this is the the bridge named after Civil War General Marcellus Crocker.  Modern Bike did not have the stuff in on Monday so the real ride was delayed until Tuesday and I made it a 21 mile day as I added a visit to the rainbow Bridge on the return.  The City did a great job clearing snow from the trails.  But all of that was about to end.
I suppose a fatbike could float through but my bike struggled.  245 pm Friday January 17, 2020, downtown Des Moines, Iowa.

SingleSpeed's Cold Roses sour beer.  Appropriate title.  I recommend this.

Friday was Dooms Day as the weather people predicted a major storm, high winds and a deep freeze to hit Des Moines.  And they were right.  Once again my red bike was the bike of choice although a fatbike may have fared better.  The problem was that the snow began about 930 am and did not let up for several hours and when it did freezing rain replaced it.  Cycling home was very difficult.  Plows could not keep up.  Streets were a mess.  I rode sidewalks mainly since they were clear.  Yes, I am grateful for corporations and their corporation buildings.  These people clear their sidewalks pronto.  Speaking of which, Mary and I cleared our driveway and sidewalk that night when it was 32*F instead of waiting until Saturday when it would be 10*F with 30 mph winds.

I stopped at Hy Vee on the way home Friday for a few items necessary for dinner and a can of beer.  As I was unlocking the bike I heard someone ask me if I wanted to race for $100.  Looking over I saw a man with a 70s vintage Raleigh 10 speed locking his bike up.  We laughed knowing how bad the roads were.  I probably had the advantage of better traction and lower gearing for acceleration but lacked a C Note for the entrance fee.  We wished each other luck.  5th street was fairly well plowed all the way to the Hump and I was able to ride up and over the temporary bridge without having to put a foot down.  Once on the Green Bridge I stopped to drink that can of beer.  SingleSpeed Brewing Cold Rose sour beer.  Very good but a gust of wind knocked it over and much of the contents spilled out.

Saturday.  The shoveling was done the night before so I decided to ride the bike.  Actually, the lack of pancake syrup forced the decision.  I could have drove but did not want to despite the fact that our street had been plowed by 330 am.  I made a 3 mile round trip to the downtown grocery store, Hy Vee, to fetch a bottle of fake maple syrup and a can of beer.  On the return trip I stopped on the Green Bridge, put my back against the wind and drank said beer.  Notice a pattern.  Kalona Brewing Co Start-Up Stout.  7.6% which is fairly strong for a breakfast beer.  It was cold as hell.  the wind was howling at 30 mph from the WNW.  Although the trail by Mullets to Gray's Lake was plowed the night before some parts had drifted snow before the freezing rain added a protective layer over the snow.  It was crunchy.  the exposed parts were a different story.  The wind polished them.  Early on the rear wheel would spin out.  I had to use less pressure on the pedals to prevent this.  On the other side of the river I stepped on one of the clear sections and discovered that was indeed extremely slick.  The only bicycle tracks were my own.  that was it for Saturday riding.  To the store and back.  Time to become one with the couch.  we did take the vehicle out to give my son and his a friend a ride home from work about 330 pm and to get gas.  Winter played a joke on us.  the gas tank flap was frozen shut and required chiseling and prying before it opened.  Lots of Bigfoot wannabe pick up trucks were on the streets.  Our little SUV, despite being tall enough to clear the snow, looked miniature in comparison.

Sunday had me out on the bike twice.  First to Church at -3*F since I was scheduled to be the Lector.  Afterwards I stopped at home, added another layer, a shovel and a beer.  My daughter and her husband Jesse had their Toyota Camry blocked in by their apartment's snow clearing service.  So I decided to give them our spare shovel.  I carried it with my right hand as I pedaled over.  The rear brakes on that bike stick so I don't use them anyway.  After dropping the shovel off it was off to the Green Bridge for a beer.  -1*F now.  Stella's midnight Lager, a most excellent dark beer that sadly is a seasonal promotion.

The second ride of the day was with Mary.  We met Cynthia downtown and hit 3 of our favorite pubs for a chance to get out of our homes and prevent ourselves from becoming stir crazy.  Fun night.  All of us had the next day off as it was Martin Luther King Day.  I wonder if he ever experienced the temperature dropping below 0*F?

Then the warm up.  The wind calmed down and the temps hovered at freezing or barely above freezing but it felt great.  We could go outside with dressing up like astronauts.  Ice was no longer an issue.  Once again a storm hit on Friday but I was able to shovel without wearing a coat.  Somehow I feel like the worst is over, the worst, of course means temperatures far below zero.  Spring is inching its way every moment.  Ragbrai route was announced and BRR is next weekend.  Just another month or so and I can park the red bike until next season.


The relative warm weather lasted through the first weekend of February.  That weekend in the Iowa cycling community is known as BRR Weekend.  The Bicycle Ride to Rippey has been held the first Saturday of February for the past 43 years regardless of weather.  it is a 24 mile ride from Perry, Iowa, to Rippey, Iowa. The first BRR I did was in 1992 or 93.  I took a Cannondale road bike.  Since then Mary and I have taken the tandem, MTBs, touring bikes ect.  It is a great day to spend outside with friends.
Joe and I next to my Verenti Substance in Rippey, Iowa.

This year I took my "gravel" bike (heavy roadie) and Mary a hybrid.  We hooked up with our team, Mary's Heroes (Donnie, Joe and Nick) and rode the 24 miles as fast as we could.  I don't know why.  We did stop 6 miles into it for a beer and at Rippey for food and beer and to visit Colin, DJ Chop Shop, who was providing music.

Sometimes we skip Rippey and ride to Bouton, Iowa, but the gravel road promised to be a quagmire of mud in the 45*F sunny weather.  But I did not want to stop at a car wash on the way home and put two really wet bikes in back of the CR-V.

On the way back ti Perry we saw all our rowdy friends ride to Rippey.  How I felt like turning around and spending time with them.  But that would have been bad.  Darkness and drink.  Been there, done that.  As it was we got home with the last rays of sunlight bathing Des Moines and memories of a fantastic day.

January is over.  February is short.  Green grass by St Patrick's Day???

Sunday, January 12, 2020

Rainbow Bridge Loop On A Snow Day

11*F with a powerful wind blasting from the North at 20 to 30 mph and there's 4" of fresh overnight snow.  Got up at 430 am to shovel and prep the CR-V to chauffeur my daughter to her 530 am gig.  Pot of coffee consumed.  Morning pills swallowed.  Time to play!  I'm itching to ride the Winter Bike in this frozen wasteland.  Sure, driving was fun but any fool with skills and a adapt vehicle can drive in snow.  Bicycling, that's a different game.  Been a long time since I rock & rolled!  Been a warm and snowless winter until now.

I think I rolled out about 8 or 9 am.  The roads were plowed.  I recall seeing the yellow flashing lights at 230 am when I took the dog out.  The trails were clear too.  Excellent job by the City of Des Moines and their workers.

I left my home and headed to the trail at Mullets.  The City cleared the snow off this trail already.  Took the Green Bridge, it had been cleared of snow, and headed to Hy Vee.  Needed coffee beans and a beer.  A red construction truck was idling at the hump at the north end of the Green Bridge.  The driver looked at me in disbelief as I crossed the temporary bridge built over the pipe that lays there waiting for the trench to be prepped for its burial.  But studded tires  gripped that surface and propelled me past him as if it was a summer day.

Hy Vee was not busy.  I rolled up after a homeless dude parked his 90's Trek 720 pulling a trailer full of possessions including a large black mat that I assume he uses to protect himself from the snow on the ground.  God bless him.  I hope he finds his way out to a better life.

Back on the road I head to the plowed MLK Trail and encounter runners.  They don't let the snow, cold and ice slow them down.  My turn is on 11th St into what is becoming Gray's Lake Station development.  lots of construction and they are working today.  I see some workers and shout "QUE HORA ES?"  They look at me and I answer my own question, "CERVEZA!!"  The Spanish speakers smile and laugh.  But for me it is almost time for a beer.

Now the asphalt path from 11th to the concrete trail was not clear but the concrete trail was and it was clear all the way to the rainbow Bridge and Gray's Lake proper and the trail to Mullets/Water Works.  The empty spaces of this area offered no protection from the wind.  This could be an issue until all the development is complete.  On the other hand, these are the salad days on this trail network.  It has not been discovered en mass.  Once everything is in place and populated I see this being a popular trail.  It is curvy and narrow.

I noticed two bald eagles in flight soaring on the air currents looking for food.  Majestic sight!  Only one eagle was near the nest at the lake.  I bet there 40 of them along the Des Moines River from SE 6th to Cownie Soccer Complex, a privilege for trail users to behold but not promoted as the one nest at the lake.

As I approached the bridge a car pulled up and a driver got out and headed into the woods between the new development and the river by Fleur.  Food and goods for the homeless camp.  A propane cylinder sat by the bridge.  Not for grill me thinks but for heating.

The Rainbow Bridge had been plowed by the time I got there.  Salt and sand, however, were missing.  Normally on trails this is not big deal if they get the snow cleared off before trail users start smashing snow into ice.  But on the bridge with the strong wind drifting snow coated the bridge with black ice.  This is very noticeable by the railings.  Very slick. 

I parked the bike and watched my footing as I cracked open a delicious can of West-O's CoCo Stout.  Chocolate stout on a winter's day.  I wanted to get a beer named after a dog since Rainbow Bridge is a euphemism for the death of a beloved pet but I did not see one before the West-O caught my eye.  About that time the bridge began to shake.  I thought it might have been from the wind but it was just a large man crossing to the north.  Never noticed this before.  I apologized for lacking a beer to offer.  He laughed and continued north.

One and done.  Phone died quickly in the cold and from use.  At the south bridge landing there was salt.  The lake trail was clear and my ride home was easy because the wind was not in my face.  Only a few trail users out.  Did I mention it was very cold and windy?  But people need to be able to use the trails for recreation and exercise and the occasional bridge beer as an open act of defiance against the winter. 

After I got home we made and ate breakfast.  Then sat on the couch watching TV.  I image before television many many years ago since the beginning of humanity living in the Ice Age, once the chores were done and food gathered I'd be sitting on fur rugs staring a fire inside my home waiting for Spring or the need to venture outside into the cold for sustenance.  Is the TV the modern fire pit of the modern cave dwelling?  The leather couch my fur rug on the ground.  My dog at my feet the recently domesticated wolf pup?  And the homeless dude with the Trek, all the homeless Iowans living in the woods, his long door mat his fur rug?  Have things really changed?

Saturday, November 23, 2019

Coffeneuring Challenge 2019 Ride

Perhaps the most enjoyable Fall Cycling Related Activity, the Coffeeneuring Challenge has begun.  This is a bicycle ride for coffee.  I am endeavoring to ride a different bicycle 7 times to 7 different locations for coffee during the next 7 weeks.  For a less scattered brain explanation click HERE the official page for this activity.


My Verenti Substance adventure/cyclocross/gravel bike..let's call these what they really are, heavy road bikes.  I took this on my self contained unsupported July bicycle tour.

*    DSM Brew 300 West MLK Jr Pkwy Suite 140 Des Moines, Iowa
*    DSM Brew
*    October 12, 2019
*    Pumpkin Spice Breve
*    casual ride downtown
*    4 miles

Wonderful autumn afternoon.  Woke up and the outside temperature was below freezing. Around noon we went to a friend's duplex and helped her clean as she is moving out at the end of the month.  By the time we returned home it was warm enough to ride bicycles without dressing like an astronaut and my morning coffee was completely processed by my body.  Let's get the challenge on!  I decided to ride my Verenti Substance "adventure/gravel bike which I have not rode in a few weeks.  DSM Brew is our favorite coffee shop.  Conveniently located a little over a mile from our house and on the southern edge of downtown.

Mary had her usual iced vanilla latte and I branched out to the Pumpkin Spice Latte, do not judge me, and that's what I told the barista.  To mix it up I ordered it as a breve.  Normally I order 3 shots over ice fill the rest with half and half or a dark roast coffee.  I should have ordered it as a latte as the half and half came out a bit foamy.  He apologized and said he would fix it if necessary.  I had him add cold half and half.  I like my coffee a bit cooler.  Tasty.  I normally don't add sugar or syrup to my brew nor whipped cream. 


Enjoying an adult coffee after Church.

Yeah, I have my own pint glass purchased at West-O Brewery and carried for hundreds of miles inside the panniers of a touring bicycle.

*   Jackson Street Bridge
*   October 13, 2019
*   West-O Cold Press Coco
*   short ride to Church and one of Des Moines premier pedestrian bridges
*   4 miles

My city, Des Moines, Iowa, is known as "The City of Bridges."  Two major rivers meet in my fair city, The Des Moines River and The Raccoon River.  The Jackson Street Bridge was a very important bridge for the citizens of Des Moines.  It allowed people to cross the Raccoon and go to work in downtown and return home.  It is a steel bridge that originally had a steel driving surface.  The bridge was retired from vehicular traffic in the 2000s and converted into a pedestrian bridge.  New wooden surface, fresh coat of paint, some structural safety work and a huge donation of LED lights make this a favorite bridge for cyclists, pedestrians and people walking to the nearby baseball park, Principal Park.  Despite the removal of benches, cyclists who enjoy "bridge beers" frequent this one.  For more information read HERE

I enjoyed a limited offering of West-O Brewing Company's famous CoCo Stout.  It is a chocolate stout brewed with coffee and vanilla beans.  "Canned for the Venturous."  Not just coffee but COLD PRESS COFFEE.  I like this type of beer in the colder months and it was a cool morning.  I found this beverage a bit sweet but I knew that going into to this.  As for the location, very nice and full of memories.  I recall driving on this bridge.  Now we meet friends at night and watch the fireworks after the baseball games.

Third Coffee

My 1994 Trek 2200, my first Campagnola bicycle.  Not my top of line roadie anymore but a solid bike and the roadie I pick for wet streets.  One of these years I'll put fenders on it.

The coffee mural on the building.

My excellent breakfast sandwich!

*   Plain Talk Books & Coffee
*   Plain Talk Books & Coffee
*   October 19. 2019
*   Dark Roast Drip Coffee
*   Casual ride to the Historic East Village some rain drops
*   5 miles

It was a rainy Saturday morning.  Mary rode to the farmers market with our eldest child while I completed the previous entry.  Eventually it looked clear enough.  I text Mary to meet me at Plain Talk and then set to prep my 1994 Trek 2200 road bike.  I have not ridden it for months.  Since my theme within a them was to ride a different bike for each coffee the good old carbon rod was on the list as eligible steeds.

Plain Talk does a lot of good for people with special needs and disabilities so I like to support them.  Maybe this is a another theme within a theme, drinking coffee from places sponsored from Optimae LifeServices.

Normally I get espresso from here so a dark roast was something different.  Smooth.  I also had their breakfast special, a sriracha breakfast sandwich on an Asiago bagel.  Lots of avocado!  Totally delish!  They smiled when I told them it was great.  Apparently, the idea was from one of the staff.

Fourth Coffee

My friend's Trek 520.  I became the owner of this bike after his death in September.

*    Railroad Bill's Dining Car 621  Des Moines St Des Moines, Iowa
*    October 20, 2019
*    Dark Roast drip coffee
*    casual ride to the historic East Village
*    8 miles

Railroad Bill's is a sister diner of the organization the owns Plain Talk Books & Coffee.  It is located in an old building in Des Moines that also houses a antique shop and used vinyl records.  We had a "15 minute" wait before we were seated which allowed us time to shop in the store.  I found a record that I wanted so I was happy but the wait seemed forever.  Once seated they took our order and I got an omelet and coffee.  Coffee was $2 self serve with free refills.  They have their beans roasted and labeled with Railroad Bill's image on the bag and available for sale.

Fifth Coffee

My LeMond road bike aka Century Machine.  First ride in a long time perhaps a month.

*   Chocolate Stam 2814 Ingersoll Ave Des Moines, IA
*   Chocolate Stam
*   October 27, 2019
*   breve
*   urban riding on a mix of streets, trails, bike lanes and sharrows
*   8 miles

As a cyclist I prefer to support businesses that support cycling.  A token of support is providing a secure place to park one's bicycle.  We were on our way to Zanzibar Coffee Adventure but noticed there is zero bicycle parking or a place to park a bike that would be visible and secure once we were inside.  We could have locked them a half block away or on the bench on the neighboring business but that was way out of sight.  Mary was a recent victim of bicycle theft and theives in our city carry bolt cutters so we moved on down the road.

Chocolate Stam was Mary's call.  I've never been there before.  It is a part of a chain that sells fancy chocolate.  Lo and behold they have an espresso machine!  Good call Mary. rack but we were able to lock up on their large sign and had a view of the bicycles from inside.  Mary ordered her usual, an iced vanilla latte, she does not like coffee as much as I do, but the barista said she could not make an iced latte do to the espresso machine.  I found that puzzling since I am currently gigging as a barista at work but I held my tongue.  She a hot chocolate instead and I the best breve I ever had!  The barista apologized for it being a bit foamy but the foam is what made it wonderful.  Rich and sweet to contrast and smooth the coffee.  Accident or design?

Sixth Coffee

My daughter's Dawes.  She keeps leaving it at home after I fix it up.  Nice riding roadie.  Thinking about placing a rack on it and some studded tires for winter commuting.

Eclectic decor straight outta Pinterest!

*   Java Joe's 214 4th St Des Moines, Iowa
*   November 2, 2019
*   3 shots over ice and half and half
*   street to trail and over the hump (levy) for more streets
*   3 miles

On this date we were driving to Minneapolis to see Peter Hook (Joy Division/New Order) & The Light perform New Order's 1989 Technique LP and 1993 Republic LP plus some Joy Division and New Order and the world famous First Avenue.  But we had time to kill.  This would be our first opportunity to ride bicycles downtown without the chaos of Farmers Market.  We were psyched!  Well until we saw the line.  Everyone else had the same thought.

After a 10 minute wait, maybe less, Mary got her iced latte and I my usual.  Honestly, I don't remember much about it which means it was not bad.

Seventh Coffee

HL's togo cup.  My red 2008 Trek FX 7.5 aka the Winter Bike on it's first outing since March.

*   Horizon Line Coffee 1417 Walnut St Des Moines, IA
*   November 3, 2019
*   3 hots over ice and whole milk
*   basic Des Moines urban ride
*   8 miles

This was our second visit to this coffee shop, first time this year.  Last year they messed up my order.  No room inside so we opted to sit at the table on the sidewalk despite the fact it was sprinkling rain outside.  Hence the togo cups/mugs.  These jelly jars will save us 25 cents if we return with them.  Their reduction in single use paper and plastic products should be applauded.  But being the immature dinosaur that I am I had to laugh.  I'm just a 17 y/o stuck in this 50+ old man body and I wonder if I should even visit places like this again.  There's no hope, I can't relate.  I am not hip nor..I'll keep my fingers off the keyboard for a moment and suppress my feelings, it's a special need!  Just a few notes:  no half and half.  Whole milk is their heavy.  Mary's iced vanilla latte was shaken to chill it and poured into the jar without ice.  It was a bit tepid.  The jars did not break on the way home.

Saturday, November 16, 2019

Wells Fargo Bank and Bicycle Racks

The manager at this branch, 0018204 801 Walnut St Des Moines, Iowa, claims that bicycle parking attracts "unwanted people."

We live in an age where people are trying to correct the mistakes of previous generations.  An age when the high crimes and felonies committed by corporations are not longer tolerated.  A Time when taking care of our planet is increasingly becoming a priority.  People are becoming upset with the status quo and are taking action.  Yet there are some that do not care and scoff at those that do.  One such individual is the bank manager at the newly relocated branch of Wells Fargo at 801 Walnut St, Des Moines, Iowa, Branch 0018204.

My wife and I ride our bicycles to work year round.  We both live within 3 miles of our respected places of employment thus a 15 minute ride in the worst of times.  Not only does this give us a modicum of exercise, better parking, less consumption of resources and two less climate changers on the streets it is better for our vehicles.  Car trips less than a half an hour are bad for vehicles since they do not have time to properly warm up and eliminate all the moisture in the exhaust system.  But that is not the point.  Less wear and tear on the car and the planet.  There is no need for most people to drive if they live close to their job.
At least there are trees and poles to lock a bicycle to.

On Friday November 15. 2019, Mary stopped at our local Wells Fargo for some banking needs after work.  There are no bicycle racks at the 801 location.  There were at the old location.  There are at the Ingersoll Ave branch and there are at US Bank on 6th.  She either has to lock her bike up to a tree or bring it inside.
The former location had bicycle racks.

Upon seeing the bank manager, Mary innocently asked if they were planning to install bicycle parking at this branch.  The response was one the most rude, arrogant and unprofessional as someone in that position could ever give without using profanities.  It the the face of evil corporations, the type that Democratic Presidential candidates warn people about in political adverts.   He laughed and walked away.  Then he stopped and turned around and said that they would not be installing bicycle racks because they attract  "unwanted people."  I suppose these are people that they cannot issued fake accounts and other scams.  I guess we are unwanted.

So I tweeted this experience.  Guess what?  Wells Fargo has people that watch social media looking for such burning embers.  I got a response within minutes asking for details and promising to get back to me after a review.

I have no expectations.  Business as usual.  Time for a new bank or credit union.  But an apology and the installation of the Mary Guevara Bicycle Rack in front of the bank would go a long way.

Plenty of room for bicycle parking at the new location.

Sunday, October 27, 2019

Moving On-The Great Rock n Roll Return to LA

My hero!  On Sunset Blvd, LA.  He did serveral circles in the street before giving drivers the One Finger Salute and  moving on.

Well, cool title.  All the leaves were turning brown and the skies were grey.  Nope, the weather was still decent in Iowa.  Blue skies but definitely cooler.  We did not go to California for the weather.   WE WENT TO CALI FOR ROCK & ROLL!!!!  And there I checked up on the bicycle scene and commuting life in LA.  I was there two years ago and wrote THIS.  This year I expanded my activities to using the available mass transit, Metro and Amtrak, or  trains.  No buses.  We did a lot of walking.  Taking a break for the hustle and bustle and filth of the big city, we visited Laguna Beach and hung out with a friend who is a local.  Beautiful beach city that we hit during the non tourist season.  Bliss!
Official Who tour shirt.  After leaving the venue there were many opportunities to purchase bootleg shirts ranging from $5 to $15.

We caught the last gig of the tour although several have been rescheduled for 2020.

Planes, Trains and Automobiles

We, and by we, my beautiful wife Mary and our good friend Cynthia, flew out of the Des Moines International Airport and landed  at LAX.  The reason was Rock & Roll as mentioned above.  The Who were playing at the Hollywood Bowl with Liam Gallagher, Oasis front man, opening.  Mary had never been to the Golden State and neither of them have been to the that iconic venue.  The Moving On Tour of The Who featured a massive chunk of Tommy, then a set of older Who classics followed by a set from Quadrophenia and a few classics and two new yet to be released tracks sprinkled in between and after their rock opera tracks.  A 42 piece orchestra backed them up.  I was a bit leery about the orchestra but they really added to the experience and made this one of the best gigs I have ever seen.  Read the REVIEW.  Our only complaint was that Liam Gallagher's set was criminally short.  He is rock star and we were tempted to switch planes and fly to NYC to see him again.  His new lp, Why Me, Why Not, is an outstanding album in which everyone who loves rock should purchase.

But does that have to do with bicycles?  A lot.  It was the reason for our trip in LA.

I gave the girls a break and did not order the Butt Crack O Dawn flight.  But out flight landed conveniently in time for rush hour.  The 110 and the 101.  Traffic crawled.  By the time we got off the FlyAway bus it was dark.  About a two mile walk to our hotel.  FYI  FlyAway goes to many places in LA and it is a mere $8 per ride (card only, no cash).  Service begins at 5 am or so and will pick you up where they dropped you off.  Cheaper than Uber or Lyft or a cab.

So we are walking to our hotel and encountering the first bikes we have seen since leaving home.  Mostly on the sidewalk, mostly without lights.  Occasionally we saw a professional commuter.  Vest, lights, helmet.  People would bring their bikes on trains.  Infrastructure exists such as sharrows and bike boxes near some of the Metrolink (commuter train stations).  Amtrak trains had designated cars for bicycles.  Unfortunately, I failed to get a photo of that.  There were a lot more bikes on the late train headed back from Union station.  I think they were out for a good time that night.  One woman had a Townie.

We spoke to one commuter.  He had a red Cannondale racing bike in Saeco livery.  This was on the commuter train.  He said he had 3 bikes stolen from him in a 6 month period!  Now he never let's his bike out of sight unless it is totally secure.  "I carry it on my shoulder when I go into stores," he reported.  We complemented him on his nice bike.  Said he paid $500 for it in a pawnshop.  I did not have the heart to say that that it may have been stolen if it was for sale at a pawnshop.

A note about LA Mass Transit, Metro Link (not Metro Stink as Winston called it).  One needs a pre-paid Tap card.  The machines take cash or card and those awful dollar coins.  If memory serves we paid $7 for 24 hours access.  That's a bargain because the subway was fast and convenient, clean and took us from one end of LA to the other.  Refillable and monthly options are also available at reasonable price.  Get to the train and tap the turnstile and board.  Simple.

Took the subway to Union Station and made the mistake of walking to Chinatown.  Not impressed.  True we did not get into the heart of it but it looked like basic LA ghetto.  All three of of us made a "mistake."  Mine was picking the Sycamore Tavern on Sunset.  Two years ago on football Sunday it was a great place to be.  On a Wednesday during their "dojo comedy" night it was not unless you like watching sex dwarfs, trannies and other assortment of humanity walk in and out of the mysterious door near the bar.  Just saying that I could have stayed for another round or two but my traveling companions wanted to GTFO.  Grease was airing on the tellie btw.  Mary's mistake was having us take the train to Universal Studios.  The idea was to walk back to Hollywood.  Unfortunately, a mountain was in the way.  Unfortunately, the tour was $115 each.  We declined.

The Universal Studio Excursion was not a total waste of time.  These bicycle lockers are near the MetroLink stop.

The next day we were back at Union Station to catch the Amtrak to Laguna Beach.  The The Pacificsurfliner! $37 for commuter class seats.  Big and comfy.  Electric outlets for charging phones and such.  Only a few stops.  Some and fast.  Could have taken this to San Diego if we wanted to.  The only problem, ugly industrial scenery.  Not the beautiful mountain and Pacific vistas that I envisioned.  Urban sprawl, more homeless camps, dull shade of green flora and brown dusty desert scenes.  Not the rail services fault, just modern realities.  I felt like Ed Harris in Enemy At The Gates, just wanted to close the curtain until our stop arrived.  More about this later.  Great train just don't look out the window.

The Great Rock & Roll Swindle

We stand in ground zero for tourist.  Hollywood.  Our hotel was about a 10 minute walk from the Hollywood Bowl.  Perfect location.  Despite the lack of hot showers, they were cold, it was not a dump.  Walk further down the hill and it is hell.  Overflowed with tourists and homeless.  To make things more interesting, dockless E-scooters and E-bikes were all over the place.  I don't know how many locals used them but they were everywhere and after seeing this I start to understand why people do not want them in there cities.  Some people that rent them, just requites a smartphone, leave them all over the place.  People ride them on the sidewalks.  We even saw them laying on top of the homeless.

A note about the homeless.  Back in 2017 in the same area I only noticed them late at night or in the morning.  Most were sleeping in doorways and near benches and steps.  Two years later they are everywhere.  99% are asleep.  It is like a virus outbreak.  A person is just walking and falls ill, clothing turns grungy, shoes disappear and they drop where they are standing and lay asleep on the sidewalk with a blanket and a few possessions.  One man apparently walked up the steps from the subway and had one more set of stairs to go but just collapsed, one shoe off a few feet away, face down on the tile without  blanket.   Just made it to the top of the stairs and went to sleep.  Others  have shopping carts and are in a shady area of a sidewalk.  Others camp out on the sides of the freeway.  It is overwhelming.  60,000 of them at latest estimates.

Mary and I walked to a coffee shop for breakfast early one morning and encountered quite a few sleeping in the streets.  The smell of urine filled the air.  Walking back along the Walk of Fame I had to warn her several times of human feces smeared on the walk.

How does this happen?  What can be done about it?  Cynthia noted that their will to live must be stronger than ours because we agreed we would not have the strength to live like that.

Up 16% from 2018

Good photos of the problem

On the corner of Highland and Franklin we noticed a small busted couch that a homeless person was staring at contemplating that it would make a nice comfy bed.  I could not resist.  Later I found a dockless E-Bike, downloaded the app and rented the bastard.  Two wheels, seat and a throttle!  DAMN, this is fun!  Look Ma, no effort!  I would like to take this home with me but I did not plan on saving money for extra carry-ons or Grand Theft Bicycle.  Thus I became the first person not only to score a California GeoCouch but a Hollywood GeoCouch.  I ended up with two and passed up on a few more.  Hollywood is literally covered with trash.

Back to the Great Rock & Roll Swindle....Earlier in the day we stopped in a record store and made a few purchased.  Upon our return to the Hilton Garden Hotel I discover that one record had a chunk missing.  Broken record.  Of course the most expensive one.  My thought, grab the E-Bike I left at the geocouch and fly all the way to the record store.  Time was tight.  We had to pre-game before going to see The Who.  Of course the bike was gone, the second problem with dockless rentals.  So I hoofed it until I found another one.  I did notice that people were laying around them recharging their phones on them.  Guess they provide another service.  Eventually I found one and I was off to the races.  The clerk at the record store recognized me and found a suitable replacement.  BACK TO THE HILTON GARDEN!!

Easier said then done.  "Low Battery" light was on.  Gotta nurse this heap home.  Glad I picked the hilly route.  It was a struggle.  Had to push it up a steep hill.  Rocket down the backside.  Stop for geocouch 2.  But I made it back.  Took a photo of the bike as per app instructions to show them that I parked it properly, $5 fine for parking like a selfish bastard.  Most importantly, made it to the Hollywood Bowl on time!

Laguna Beach

The day after the concert we traveled south to visit a friend of mine and life long resident of beautiful Laguna Beach, California.  Our plan for this trip was to visit a beach at some point.  Always good to stand in the water at the end of the continent.  It's as far as we could get from home on our budget.  The train stopped at Irvine Station which seemed to be out in the middle of nowhere but my friend Winston was there with his car to take us to Laguna Beach proper.  Red Flags were everywhere.  He explained that there was a Red Flag Alert which means that The National Weather Service has warned that conditions are ideal for wildland combustion and rapid spread of fire.  If they see you toss a cigarette butt on the ground locals will beat your ass," he said or something to that effect.  "Good, they should do that when it rains, too," I replied.  Smoking is banned in Laguna Beach except in homes and cars.  After waking up at 3 am CST, my body's clock never adjusted to PST, I watched in horror the wildfires burning up this State.

It was lunch time so we ate a local cafe to avoid the tourist scene although it was not "Clown Town" as Winston refers to tourist season.  Same prices as we would find in Iowa.  Situated on pacific Coast Highway, I noticed a few baggers, people on loaded touring bikes, heading south.  Later we would see roadies.  Automobile traffic seems a bit thick and my friend reminds me that this is the slow time of year.  I was more concerned about the hills.  Perspective.  After lunch we walked don the hill to the beach, his car parked at his residence.  Ubers from now on if we were tired of walking.

Good bye North America!  Hello Pacific Ocean!

This is the reason people live here.  That and the perfect weather.  Quite a shock stepping off that jet to 40*F in Des Moines.

The beach was beautiful and we stood in the water for photos.  Later we returned to watch the sunset and see the haze of the fires on the horizon.  Fire is not a stranger here, while my city of Des Moines flooded in 1993 Laguna Beach fell victim to a wildfire.
That is a pint glass!  Evil Chris would have walked out with it.  Perhaps I should have asked if they were for sale.  Like I need another drinking vessel.

Yes, they have sour beers at the SeaHorse.

After the beach we were thirsty for a beer so we hit a few pubs.  I really enjoyed the SeaHorse.  Dan, Winston's friend stopped in and immediately put American Beauty on the turntable.  As he said, this is real California.  Very laid back.  "Billionaires come here but you'd never realize it."  It was hard to leave.  Last stop was at The Sandpiper Lounge, a Marine bar.  We saw the unit badge his father wore and other photos of the First To Fight.  Drinks were cheap.  Finally we ended up at his place and drank a bottle of wine before the Uber arrived to take us back to the train.

VMF-311.  The Sand Piper is frequented by USMC.  Rumor has it there is a large Marine base near here.. Winston's father flew for that fighter squadron .

The train trip was uneventful.  Irvine Station has facilities such as restrooms and vending machines.  At night it seems a bit lonely.  just a few groups of people waiting.  One side for the trip to San Diego, the other LA.  A speaker system makes announcements to break up the silence.  One is a computer voice anti-suicide message.  "You are not alone...."  How depressing.  I wonder if it has actually saved anyone or had the opposite effect.

We got back to Union Station in time to watch the the Metrolink train roll north to Hollywood.  20 minute wait.  Young people on the trip back, obviously going to and fro shows and parties.  The homeless man who was asleep on the stairway at our stop was gone.  The day before it looked as if he took 5 steps after a flight of stairs and face planted, one shoe off laying 2' away.  Sadly, one grows immune to this.  In Hollywood one could not get two blocks covered in a day if they stopped to help everyone in this situation.  It's overwhelming.  In the morning we walked around one sleeping shoeless within a few yards of our shuttle out.

My Impressions of This Trip

Homelessness has hit hard here in the past 2 years.  In 2017 I did not really notice this until I had to catch my shuttle to LAX at 530 am.  Then every doorway, every set of steps, every bench had someone sleeping.  E-Bikes and E-Scooters everywhere and I have now witnessed what people complain about although I appreciate their availability when I travel.  Loved the trains, subways and Amtrak.  Easy to use and clean.  Cars still are the dominant problem here.  We witnessed a crash not far from our hotel.  We were stuck in awful traffic/gridlock. People were friendly especially those in the service industry who were most likely afraid to lose their jobs and end up in the streets.  Even people walking on the streets were friendly, mostly, an Amy Winehouse clone pushing a stroller and playing with her phone almost started an incident with us but she looked like a tourist.  On one occasion someone reminded us not to jaywalk.  Good info as it seems really easy to get hit by a car in LA.

Saturday, October 12, 2019

Good Bye Eric Crabb

Ragbrai 2011, Lake Anita Park.  Joe Bridgeman is in the background repairing a flat tire and Eric is posed to pop Joe's inner tube with a cigarette.

I always thought he would be the first of my friends to pass away but it was an extreme shock when I received the news that he was hospitalized.  I did not expect this.  I thought heart attack would be the cause.  He had lost a lot of weight, over 100 lb in the past few years.  Eric was back to cycling weight.  He gave up junk food.  As usual, the optimism I possess led me to grief.  I've seen it before. Hospital scare.  Things improving.  Date to go home. And then the setbacks sandbag that hope.  Damn, I, we thought you would pull through.

I met Eric through the bicycle community of Des Moines, Iowa.  I believe it was through the early version of called CIBROC before Facebook killed online forums.  His handle was Pharoutman.  Probably met him in the flesh on some bicycle ride/event about that time.  Those memories which should have been preserved are lost to me.  It seems like we were friends forever.  If you think he was an obnoxious crude rude beast of a man in recent years you should seen him back then. He settled down.

Settled down indeed.  Tonia, his life partner, came with two children for Eric to practice his fathering skills on.  Not very often an easy feat to care for other's children yet he did.  Even assembled a Barbie Dream house for Ryleigh, and helped Dylan cope with his father's untimely death among other things.  And like most father daughter relationship, Ryleigh would call him Erica just to get on his nerves.

Eric was part of my 40th birthday celebration/ride.  At The High Life he bought me 40 tator tots wrapped with bacon. The server questioned thus and he repeated himself. No half measures in celebration.  I of coursed shared with everyone.  That was 14 years ago this month.

Eric was one of millions that had issues with alcohol. He spent time at The Fort for his third OWI.  That's when he started bicycling.  He never had a driver's license since. He tried once but the State could not find the record of him completely alcohol treatment/education.  He did not pursue it. He had a bicycle.  We was a hardcore bicycle commuter first from the south side of Des Moines and later Altoona. His ride of choice was the venerable Trek 520.

Eric was a strong rider.  I recall riding with him from Richard's in Altoona to Elkhart.  He smoked my ass.

We rode a lot together.  Our most epic ride was from Newton to Grinnell at night for The Fall Equinox ride.  Highway 6 had just been repaved and freshly striped.  A huge harvest moon hung in the sky.  We stopped at a house with a large bonfire and talked to people we did not know and exchanged beer for jerky.  Later in Kellogg we stopped at a tavern and upon leaving a woman from the bar pulled her shirt up and exposed her breasts at us. Eric said it best, "it was two slices of pepperoni above a slab of bacon."  Then back on the road he engaged the turbo and left us in the dust. Show off.  Loaded touring bikes we rode.  The Human Bike In was his favorite.

The Back 40, Ragbrai 2011.  Our tandem and Eric's beloved Trek 520

Usual pose
In 2011 we hooked up on Ragbrai and ride from Des Moines to Macedonia. He had a friend that had a house there.  Starting our from are respective homes wet met up in Redfield and rode to Atlantic.  Once there he called for the airstrike and Mark Knope picked us up and hauled us to Carson, Iowa, where we loaded up on beer and rode to Macedonia, Iowa.  Mark had a rental property there and we were able to sleep in that house.  But first we spent some time in the Back Forty Bar & Grill.  I would go outside with him whenever he had a smoke and the street clock always read 3:24 pm.  Plenty on time.  Then a few more beers before and another smoke.  3:24 pm again not realizing the clock was broken.   When the cowgirls walked in Mary pulled the plug and forced us to leave before we started trouble!  Crabb later on related to me that the heat from that year killed Ragbrai for him.

And so his bicycling end.  Not sure when. His job in Altoona ended and found a new job in Ames that he held until this spring. No more bicycle commuting.  Several years of getting a ride to and fro Ames.  He hated this and was contemplating finding a job closer to home.

Trek 520

Yet the real killer of his cycling was the replacement of his 520.  A braze-on rack eyelet broke in Grinnell if my memory serves.  Could have just moved the rack to the fender braze on and lived happily ever after.  Crabb never cared for fenders, much like me, "just get in the damn way."  But it bothered him.  He took the bike in and warrantied the frame because they could not fix the braze on.  He got a new frame.  He was given the root beer colored 520.  He added a generator hub and light to it, a great upgrade.  But it was never completely dialed in properly for him.  I don't think he really took the time to do this.  Crabby would confide in me that he wish he would have kept the green 520.  Now with his favorite steed gone his desire to ride lowered.

The video below is from our SAG out of Atlantic.  Eric was explaining "off route.'

Honestly, I do not recall if we ever rode together after 2011.  I kept a fairly detailed bicycle ride log stretching back to 1994.  No mention of riding with Eric after 2011.  But I tried.  My requests to ride with him are as numerous as the sand in the seas.  Turned down every time.  Year after year falling on deaf ears.  Excuse after excuse.  Shame, really, as he lived near the Gay Lea Wilson/Four Mile Creek Trails.  Then the weight gain.  He got big.  And the weight loss, he was at riding weight.  If it was not his condition or time commitment it was his bike.  Tires need air.  Need new tires, cannot find my biking stuff ect ect.  No was always the answer.  I was not alone in attempting to get him to ride again.  Steve tried.  He even brought over a truck full of bikes and said pick one and we'll hit the trail.  No dice.  Always some excuse.  He never wanted to ride.

I would ride to his place.  It was not very far away from mine.  Before he stopped riding he'd ride to mine, usually a stop from his way back from Cumming, Iowa.  I found an entry on my bike log that noted that we rode to Cumming together and sat at the Lean To on the last Saturday of Ragbrai 2010.  Bob Moural was with us.  I remember the blue sky and noted that no matter where you were when Ragbrai was on if you were riding with friends you too were on the Brai.  Another time I forget the circumstances but he could not make it home so he slept on out back deck.  "Too filthy to sleep inside" he said.  Our last great adventure was the Tool concert at Wells Fargo.  I picked him up and we started at the downtown Hy Vee Market Grill for the great Happy Hour specials and I needed food.  He never had been there.  Then The Royal Mile for Handle Bar Happy Hour.  His first appearance to cycling community in years..  The Lift was next, my haunt and much better service than the Mile.  Finally the venue.  He had never been to The Well before!  I felt like King Farouk as HST once said.

A Cry For Help, A Hint of Anesthesia

Should have seen this coming.  His face was red and veiny last year.  Signs of high drinking.  I'd like to think that the loss of his job was the final proverbial nail but it should have gone the other way.  Must have been in April of this year.  He immediately had interviews, some places were extremely close to his home, within biking range.  But no joy, nothing worked out.  I told him he had an excellent chance to start riding again, lose more weight, clean the body and mind up.  Buy that Salsa he wanted since he hated the 520 now.  When I left my job in 2007 I took the summer off and rode like no other.  Lost weight and righted myself.  But this was a lost opportunity for Crabb.  Depression hit hard and he hit the bottle hard at night electing to sit in his garage with the door open at night drinking vodka and Fireball until he passed out.  He'd go to bed when Tonia left for work.  Like a meteor crashing into the earth he went down in flames.  By the time he sought medical help it was to late.  Irreversible damage.  6 weeks in Lutheran, Mercy and Mercy Physical rehab.  The rehab center gave him a release date.  Just had to be strong enough to walk up the steps to his home.  He never regained that strength and the liver never came back online.  In the end his blood pressure dropped dangerously low and he passed away on a Sunday.

Eric's new 520 on the High Trestle. He used this photo to sell the bike.  I'm glad he got to visit that bridge.

Even though he most likely never rode past 2013 he considered himself a cyclist.  He was on the numerous Face Book cycling forums offering advice or raising hell.  At one point he posted a photo of his new 520 at the High Trestle for a sale advert.  At least he made it there and got to see it.  Tonia asked me how we could bring up his bicycling for the funeral service.  Place his bike next to the coffin just like Logan's service.  So Mark and I set about cleaning his bike for the service.  The first thing I did was air up the tires.  rear first.  Then the tube exploded.  Eric was right, his tires were shit!  Fortunately there were  tubes available although I had to call Mark for levers.  When I resumed pumping I only put enough air in them to make the bike look proper for display.  Just here to make it pretty for static display.  It was Crabb's desire that I get the bike and in the advent of his death.  When Eric's parents brought the 520 over on the rainy Friday that he was buried, the front front tire was flat!  That's Kenda Qwests for you, good for the cheap short term but not the long haul especially when sitting in a garage for almost a decade.  I put an old rugged set of Marathons retired from my single speed (10,000 miles on them no flats but one is basically bald) on it (sing this line to the tune of Ol' Rugged Cross, Old rugger Marathons"...).  That night Mary and I rode to El Fogon in West Des Moines.  Just lowered the saddle and rode off.  How long did this bike sit?

For all his faults, for his rude and boorish behavior in life and online, Eric was among the most cherished friends I had in my adult years.  Others would attest to this as well.  He call or text every Friday night to see how I was doing, just to check up on me.  He would do this with others as well.  In a world of vapid people and false friends it hurts to lose a true friend.  Fare thee well, Commander Crabb.

After Thought: The Crabb Ride

I am planning a bike ride in his memory.  The destination will be the Haverhill Social Club.  I would like it to be from Collins to Haverhill and back.  40 miler.  Visit his grave and pay our respects and then to the social Club.  Stops along the way.  Flat ride.  Maybe the Heart of Iowa trail could be used.  Haverhill Social Club has been in our discussions for years.  He wanted to make that a riding destination or part of a ride.  Even on his death bed he mentioned it.  Mary and I scouted a potential route.  It would most likely be in September.

BRR 2011. Photo credit Catt Carr