Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Cars Are Always in My F'ing Way


There are those that say that bicycles do not belong on the road.  These are the 99%.  I have been yelled at, cussed at and accused of sodomy for riding my bike.  I've had $400 worth of lights and reflective gear and a lit cigar in my mouth and still got hit.  My friends have had things thrown at them including fast food.  The 99% feel that bicycles slow down traffic and pose a health risk to their riders.  Give me convenience or give me death.  Diabetes uber alles!

But everyday I listen to the traffic reports and I learn that people crash their cars left and right in good weather and in bad weather.  Did you know that in the year of our Lord 2010 that 89.8 people per day in the US of A were needlessly killed by automobiles?  I am sure that this stat includes bicyclist murdered by cars.  But almost 90 lives per day snuffed out by cars.  If these people were killed by guns Obama would have sent in his jackboots to confiscate my firearms and yours, assuming you have any.

I always laugh when the road report is on a snowy day.  It is as if plane loads of Floridians descend upon Des Moines and drive 20 year old Pontiacs with their original Eagle GT tires.    WTF??!!!???  No one remembers how toi drive when it snows?  Are people so important that need to drive fast in dangerous conditions?  I recall a 19 year old woman/girl from Omaha that passed a car and fell off of I-235.  That was God killing her.  So damn full of pride and lacking consideration for the safety of others that the instant karma card was invoked and her earthly existence came to a violent bone smashing and bloody end at once.

So I have this sporto with a Texas U hat call me a faggot for riding a bike.  My "fuck off" was an invitation for him to turn after me and take time out of his busy day to ask me why I said that.  Cellphone in hand I started dialing 911.  I don't understand why he called me that, he was driving a Honda Vue or some sort of squarish SUV that generally is marketed to the Bette Middler crowd.  Putting a Florida State sticker does not make it less of a Queen's SUV.  I was slowing down traffic he yelled.  4 lanes and I hug the curb for 2 blocks.  Lick my ass.

I find that I am always waiting on cars to get out of my way.  At 530 am there is generally one car that I have to slow down or stop for at two of the intersections I cross every day on my way to work.  No cars until I get there.  No cars after I stop and it goes by.

Then there is the bleeding heart drivers that I have to stop for BUT they stop and wave me through.  I don't need a hand out, I need you to get the fuck out of my way.  Please do not stop.  Just roll along.  These people with good intentions are annoying.

Left turns are difficult at times.  Going down Park Ave to make the turn onto the trail I need to constantly look behind so I can seize the turn lane.  Often I am forced to go to the intersection and hit the cross light button and wait 4 or 5 minutes for the light to change.  Too many cars in the way again

So the next time you see a bike in the road remember that it is very easy to lift your foot off the gas and then steer a few degrees out of the way, correct and reapply foot pressure on the throttle.  Much easier than pedalling or stopping and resuming biking when the Tahoe with 1 person has gone by.

Monday, December 26, 2011

Boxing Day

Many explanations about this Canadian holiday.  None I believe.  Originally wanted a 12er of Molson and some sort of feats of strength day but that did not happen.  Golf and bowling on the Wii having my family humiliate me for too much body English.  Hit the dog at least twice while bowling but Quin launched the remote behind him nearly breaking glass.  Ham and reduced sugar soda pop.  I developed a hunger after a 20 mile ride.

Last nights northern adventure left me a bit weak.  What I really needed was water but I was too fogged to get some.  Slept until 9am and eventually went to Hy Vee with Mary sometime after noon.  Mr Egg Roll was out lunch destination.

The grocery store sucked the life out of me.  Felt very full and not motivated.  Grey skies with wind and a darkening front moving in did not help.  I went into Wine&Spirits and found a 6 pack of Molson but could not get it.  Nope.  Not needed.  48 degrees, a miracle on the day after Christmas, and all I wanted was a nap.
Nice ride back.  No long wait for the light to jump onto SE14 and take the left on Lacona but we did have to stop and wait for a truck and car.  Always waiting on cars.

Two blocks from home I thought of the water need.  Still debating whether to ride on or not.  Windy.  Chance of rain. Unload our purchases.  And then we discovered the pie

Mary's mother made an apple pie for Christmas dinner.  3lbs of apples were in between the crust.  Somehow it ended up on the floor.  We think the cat or dog knocked it off the table.  The dog ate it.  I was glad I had a slice for breakfast.  I think we had eaten nearly half of it before the animals tagged teamed the pie.  I was pissed.   Grab lights.  I slammed two pints of tap water and filled a bottle.  Give it a try.

First stop was at Best Trip, the Phillips station on the corner of SE1st and Jackson.  No Molson but Lite 16oz 6 packs.  Noticed that beer prices increased.  Bummer but 10lb of ice for $1.99.  Not that I needed ice today.

Mullets was busy when I hopped on the trail.  Quin was called in to work hours ago.  Joe Joe was at Best Trip saying he too was called in early.  Boxing Day.  I could get a Molson there.

The trail was fine except for the constant head wind.  Goose shit all over the levy.  A few stick bikes making their way east with a trail wind.  I was determined to get to Water Works and turn around.  However, the Droid was playing good tunes and I continued on my way. 

I caught up with T-Bone and Lisa shortly after seeing a man walking his tri bike.  Flat most likely but he had a cell phone and only a mile to walk to Orlandos.  T&L were totally unaware of me as I sat on their tails.  We rolled to the Shack of Safety another 4 miles away.

Tony called his father, George, and noted that people were leaving the Cumming Tap.  No need to roll further.  People gathered and everyone enjoyed a beer until the rain started.  Pack up, secure and roll.

Graham pushed it fairly decently from the evacuation to Park Ave.  The Clubman was fixed.  Three of us averaged about 19 to 20 most of the way.  We passed those who had rolled off before we started.  My 520, front and rear bags, gave me a nice work out.  Thank you, Graham, that was fun.

The rain ended by the time we reached the No Horses bridge.  Another round of beers and then home.  It was getting dark.  Dinner time was approaching.  Boxing Day was ending.  I left my bike on the deck.  An hour later when I let the dog out I noticed that it rain again.  Good timing.

My mood was improved.  I got to enjoy the warm weather.  Had a great lunch with Mary.  Played some games with my children.  Played bikes with my friends.

Sunday, December 25, 2011

Christmas Miracle


Quin and I on are way to Midnight Mass, Christmas Eve 2011 AD

First of all I have to thank the Good Lord for this wonderful weather we have been experiencing in Iowa this autumn and now winter.  Sure, it has officially been winter now for less than a week but at times it felt like spring.  yesterday was one of them.  It was nearly 50F!  I did not have to dress like an astronaut to ride my bicycle.

It has snowed maybe 3 times thus far.  The snow does not stick around for a day.  Iowa is in a drought.  Sure, the other day it rain all day long but 1 day out of many months.  Nice for cycling.  Crap for farmers but they will get screwed whether it rains or not.  Farming is the only business where the person gets fooked for doing a good job.

Drought, unseasonably warm weather, global warming, climate change, La Nina, El Nino, Dodge City and Omaha deflecting shit weather from Iowa or perhaps my prayers for a protective bubble around Mary as she commutes to work, something is not right but that something is paying off dividends quite well for me.

Quin, #2 son, #3 child and #5 in the family rode with me to my sister's house in Beaverdale.  It was Christmas Eve and my mother and grandmother were awaiting to be graced by my presence.  If I was to die on this day it would not be in a can.  Sure, I could have been pulverized by a car while on my bike but as Harry Dean Stanton said in Repo Man, "Better to die on your feet than live on your knees."

Since quitting the driving world I rarely ride inside automobiles.  There are few drivers I trust.  The feeling of exceeding 20 mph gives me motion sickness unless the driver is skilled.  My choices tonight were a young Asian man or my sister, both with suspect driving records i.e. crashes and fuck ups.  No thank you, I'd rather ride.  Besides it's damn near 50F!

Quin rode his West German built "Executive" English style 3-speed.  I rode the my beloved Red Phoenix, Trek FX 7.5 700C urban blitz bicycle.  Had I been thinking I would have grabbed the  Raleigh LTD, but it is in the shed for the winter and the FX has all the required lighting plus Christmas lights.  We did consider road bikes, and the weather and conditions were perfect for it, but the lights issue came up.  Too lazy to swap lights.  We really could use about 50 red flashers and 50 front lights that run on AAs.


One of these days I will get a decent photo of the BikeGlow lights and Christmas lights.  Last night was not it.

Patty lives about 7 miles north of our home in Little Italy.  East River John Pat Dorian Neal Smith Trail to the InterUrban Trail.  Cross the Des Moines River via the "trestle" and cross MLK and take the first right to ride up a steep hill below the VA hospital.  Nice ride.  Always enjoy the DSM skyline, from Principal Park, Bob Ray's Japanese building, Botanical Center, and the river. 

Quin had not been this way for quite sometime.  He was amazed that the landslide that took out part of the trail behind Lutheran Hospital was corrected.  And, as well, the trail on the new levy was done.  Been a long time in the works, too long.  Had this crap happened to I-235 people with pitch forks and torches would be at Terrace Hill.  But bikes put up with great amount of shit before action occurs.

We had a simple Christmas Eve Dinner of soup and sandwiches.  Me, I enjoyed some real Coke, not the Diet formaldehyde formula.  I drink the high fructose sugar model on holidays.  Drank diet soda for years.  It did not help.

Afterwards it was time for the Unwrapping of the Gifts.  During this time, while enjoying 1 of 2 glasses of Barefoot's Shiraz, my Christmas Miracle occurred.  I received a text from a non-contact.  Since we were not quite in shark mode in re gift unwrapping, I read it.  "Merry Christmas, long time no see" was all it said.  Recognizing the area code I reply with the same.  This person texted back, "Do you know who this is?"  I did not but had a few clues, wrong but a few.

I thought it might have been my cousin Troy Morgan who lives in the same area code.  Wrong was my reply.  I asked Quin to get on the Google and search my texter's number since his phone is smarter than mine.  I'd have to fire up Mini-Opera and then shut it down to text again.  Quin, on the other hand, merely needs to stroke the Droid a few times to get the answer.  Someone near Charles City.

Robert Prunty!  The bastard that started me down the path of biking.  The one that taught me never to take a screw driver to a derailleur unless I knew what I was doing.  The one that showed me how to ride at night in the middle of winter without lights and with a piece of paper in my mouth to keep me warm.  I learned most of my now seldom used off road skills from him.  On a tandem we destroyed a wheel that the Trek Rep gave him and I watched him bash said wheel against a tree until it was round enough to get us home.  The one who gave me a stripped unpainted frame that became my first road bike.  That Rob.  My mentor.

Now Robert disappeared from the face of the earth nearly a decade ago.  After leaving Cedar Falls we would meet occasionally and ride bikes.  We'd meet at Camp Igawnis and hit the single track along the Shell Rock River long before it became an established mtb mecca of Northern Iowa.  We also hit Brush Creek State Park when it was brand spanking new.  Of course long road rides near Chucktown.

He did 18 months in Iraq driving a large 20 or so wheeled ammo carrier.  He called me when he got back safe and said he'd never do that again because of the stress his family endured.  Then the strain of family existence and some tough times hit him.  He was able to ditch the bigfoot he married for someone that made him happy.  Soon his phone number no longer worked.  Not being computer literate at the turn of the century, he never did have an email that I knew of.  Searches online for him lacked any joy.  Another friend vanished from my life.  what a drag it is getting old.

Then that series of texting.  Best present I ever received.  Got that number now.  Said he still had his fleet of bicycles and some that I'd never seen.  Good sign!  I sent him a photo of The Bridge, you know, The High Trestle.  When this winter is over, and we do not need to wear so many layers just to maintain life out of doors, when we WILL NEED ICE for the brews, I'd like Mary and I to meet Rob and his wife under the blue lights above the DSM River.

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Guidelines for Tandems: Stokers



Just a few biased facts based on my tandem experience to put forth.

1   Tandems are not faster than single bikes.  A quality tandem with a good team is

2   Just because you spent $6K USD on a tandem does not make it faster.  See disclaimer #1

3   Tandems are easier for 2 people to ride together than the same pair on singles.  FALSE  these people need to work together, discover the qualities of the bike and develop their skills together.  Of course 2 tandem experten thrown together on a tandem will have an easier go at since they know what to expect, mostly.

4   Tandems are heavier than singles.  A 42 lb mtb tandem weighs about the same as two 21 lb single bikes.  Our 36lb road tandem weighs the same as two 18lb singles.

Tandems consist of two people.  The person in front or "captain" and the person in back, the "stoker" "rear admiral".  Any additional riders are "stokers".  I am a captain or as I refer to myself, "gear hunter".  Mary is my stoker or as I sometimes consider her, "air brake."

We currently have 2 tandems.  Our first is a mtb converted to touring bike.  I have logged a few hours and miles on single track in the woods of this bike.  However, most of my riding is on pavement and thus the flat bars were replaced with drop bars.

Fisher Gemini, Ragbrai 2011



Our other tandem is a road/racing tandem.  No racks or unnecessary shit.  Just a computer, 4 water bottle cages and provisions for lights.



Cannondale RT3000, Carlisle, Iowa
The captain's responsibility is to keep the bicycle upright and avoid collisions.  the captain must communicate with the stoker about changes in speed, cadence, immediate bumps and other assorted dangers.  The captain is also responsible for communicating with other bicyclists unless that power is delegated to the stoker or the captain is unaware of others.

The stokers main and most important responsibility is to learn and blindly accept the habits of the captain.  When these two individuals first unite on the bike the captain will issue the necessary orders; coast, resume, downshift, up shift, stand up and stop pedalling because there is a bad bump/tracks ect. 

After a significant period of time the captain should not have to communicate so much with the stoker.  the stoker should know what the captain is going to do.  After 20 years Mary knows the exact moment that I will stop pedalling for a stop sign or a 90 degree turn.  She knows the exact speed in which I will resume pedalling after dive bombing a 40 mph downhill.  This greatly reduces the my workload and lowers my stress to free my mind on more important issues.  These issues include where to stop for a pee break, what we should have for lunch, how hard we should push it to bury the competition, what brand of beer should be purchased and how much.  Paramount, where are we going and how long will it take to get there.

Others duties of the stoker include but are not limited to:

--placing map back in captain's jersey back pocket

--handling camera and/or handing camera to captain or putting camera in captain's jersey pocket

--operating communication devises, phones, texting, internet, FB, walkie talkies communicators

--monitoring tandem mechanical performance--chain rub on front derailleur, noise from rear wheel, tire pressure (does it look or feel like it's going flat?), what cog in the cassette is the chain puking in

--inform captain when other bicycles are drafting (serious issue with tandems are wheel suckers.  We have inadvertently run a few of these unwelcome guests off the road simply because we were unaware of their presence

--monitor rear rack and panniers (if equipped)

--monitor trailer (if equipped)

--operate stereo

--operating weapon systems--tandem weapons include but are not limited to the following--water balloons, squirt guns, water bottles, eggs, flare guns. bottle rockets, firecrackers, MG 151/20, MG42, MK103, Hispano 20MM, Ma Deuce, 1911, Glocks, Uzis ect

Stokers also have other responsibilities

--never sit up and create an air brake without permission
--never take personal phone calls while on the bike
--screen captain's phone calls
--never bitch about extended beer breaks
--inform the captain if need to stop pedalling
--inform the captain if the trailer (if equipped) is knocking down orange cones

What makes a good stoker?

--understand and fulfill the duties and responsibilities mentioned above
--very important is to be lighter than the captain. 
--complete trust in the captain
--MOST IMPORTANT  GET OFF THE FUCKING BIKE BIKE AND STEP AWAY FROM IT UNTIL THE CAPTAIN HAS SECURED THE TANDEM

And that is why I love Mary. Shes a strong rider that never complains and can handle a 30mm machine cannon like a pro!


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Saturday, December 17, 2011

December Nice!

BWR 2011 @Dahls with negative setting

December nice.  That's what she said.  Meagan Salouis (sp) Channel 13 weather chick.  Yes it has been nice.  Outstanding as far as Decembers go.  Not much to complain about.  Temperature has been great for this time of year.  Snow has been very, very nonexistent.  Rain has stayed away, mostly.

289 miles this month thus far. Another 200+ possible.  December's record are 462 (2010), 218 (2009), 195 (2008), 174 (2007), 120 (1999) and 160 (1994).  1994 was my first 3000+ mile year. 1999 was the second time I rode more than 3K in one year.  It took until 2008 to do that again and I have yet to do less.  So those 2 years are the bench marks that I have used for over a decade to measure myself.

December Nice!  Recently switched to boots instead of sandals although if it warm enough I will wear the sandals.  My record low with them is 18F.  Smart Wool socks with liners and a winter pair on top.

December Nice!  Light snow on the 1st.  Roads too warm for it to stick.  Needed my goggles because my right eye was getting the brunt of it.  It rain two days later.  Then it snowed again on the 10th.  I had a great ride in virgin snow on the trail.  Gone within a day.

December Nice!  Warmest Big Wheel Rally I remember.  Photo of at the bottom is from BWR 2009.  We used the snow drift in front of GTs as a bike rack.  Studded tires.  Last year it snowed and was very, very windy.  I remember the wind pushing me backwards on my tricycle.  This year it warmer and drier.  Someone even had to get ice for their cooler on the BWR.  No studded tires.  We have yet to put those tires on our commuters this winter.



BWR 2010 Roadmaster Tricycle

December Nice!  In years past I remember very cold temperatures and lots of snow.  The other night it felt like Spring.  Global warming?  A fluke?  A gift from God?  Enjoy this autumn, seasonable weather will be hell!

I had ambitions for this day.  The desire for a long ride on a fast bike.  Nothing but a water bottle, some cash and ability to remedy a flat tire.  That is all one really needs for a century ride.  Mobile phone and a few Powerbars too.  Nothing else.  Lacona, Iowa, was my target.  Round trip of 90+ miles through some of the best Iowa county roads and the Summerset Trail.  But ambition can be vapid. 

It was cold this morning.  20s and 30s.  The promise of near 40s seemed empty.  It took its sweet ass time to warm up.  Now for me it really was not that cold.  I have ridden in worse.  If winter stays like this I will not complain.  Probably set some mileage records.  But getting motivated this morning was difficult.  It seemed so unnecessary. 

I only needed 16 miles (15.6 if we are splitting atoms).  A trip to Windsor Heights would suffice.  Needed to return a RedBox dvd.  But a century ride would burn some fat.  Yep, still losing weight.  Need a serious fat burn before Christmas.  But it is cold.

Finally got my ass outside at noon.  Lacona was out.  Save that ride for Spring or 50F day.  Cumming Tap.  fast ride on the Versailles and drink a diet Mtn Dew and water at the Tap.  26 miles.  !0 more than I need.  Perfecto!  December nice!

But my heart was not in it.  I turned around in Water Works Park.  Ride to my bank and see what the ATM can give me.  No water bottle.  CycleSound taking the spot where my saddle bag with tube, lever and CO2 should be.  Breakfast a distant memory.  Lunch at home.  10 miles enough.  I will ride again to return the dvd.

Just as soon as I completed the Crazy Ivan 180 turn I felt better.  Shifted into big ring and pushed it hard.  Rip those muscle, make the lungs sweat.  This felt great.  Touring bike and hybrid do not compare to the raw power of a road bike kicking in the jets.  8 days before Christmas on a carbon fiber road bike with 23s!  December nice!  Too bad I quit early.

Lunch was homemade pizza, Mary's speciality.  Ingredients from Grazianos, Little Italy's finest.  I partook.  Bowl of Fiber One as well too push the bad carbs out.  Moderation is the key to virtue.  When one abstains their soul is in torment.  Nothing virtuous about that.  Fiber One to prevent gluttony of the pizza.

Ride #2 was a trip to Hy Vee.  Mary's desire.  520 action.  Slower and heavier but 4 cavernous bags to soak up purchases.  Mary took her Cannondale which is the black bike on the bottom of the blog.  We brought back 42 lb of groceries plus 8 liters of liquid.  Notably, the 520 carried a 20 lb bag of kitty litter AND a 8.5 lb bag of charcoal.  Had to balance the bike.  Should have brought the Burley trailer.  4 miles plus a useless trip to B&B SuperMarket (closed) gave me 5 more miles.  Just what I needed to get my 100 for the week with a day to spare.  Life is good.

Enjoy this December.  When the weather catches up with the calendar it will be hell.  I cannot complain.  It has been a fantastic autumn.  I set record mileage for October (721) and November (623).  December, too, shall witness a new record. 

Saturday, December 3, 2011

Wet Ride to the Western Ghettos



I could really careless about the suburbs.  Really no need to go beyond Valley Junction.  Jordan Creek is a colossal rape of farmland and over commercialisation.  Good Lord, 25 years from now Jordan Creek Town Center will be a piece of shit and the new mall will be in Adel.  No need to go to Merle Hay Mall except for the Viet Namese tailors and occasion good gun deals at Dunhams.  Not even a record store there anymore.  I do miss Brenda L, optometrist.

The worst thing is the traffic.  First, nobody likes to stay home when they live in the western ghetto.  they feel the need to drive everywhere all the time.  Seriously, I can ride almost anywhere in Des Moines proper (non-rush hour) on the streets without issues.  Get to Urbandale or WDM and I swear gas must be 20 cents a gallon.  Busy all the time especially on weekends.  Try crossing into WDM from 63rd and Grand.  WTF??!!  let's get everyone at this intersection all the Fookin' time!  One reason I seldom go to Rassy's.

Second, traffic lights are horrid.  Seriously, I could paint my toe nails and let them dry completely before the light turns green.  There should be a big lighted sign at the border "WELCOME TO WEST DES MOINES, ENJOY ARE TRAFFIC LIGHTS, SUCKERS!"

Finally, one must provide a DNA sample when requesting permission to live there.  If you have any genetic link to a species of herding animal, you are welcome to live there.  If not, you need to go back to Des Moines and live with the "undesirables" that the affluent suburbanites try to protect their children from (white flight).  Don't believe me?  try to get a table at a restaurant.  Hour wait.  Only a herding animal would put up with that bullshit.

Why clean up your city when you can destroy good farmland to settle your precious snowflakes in?  Taxabatements, no welfare leeches here anyway.

I generally only visit the border areas.  Windsor Heights for Hy Vee and Wal Mart since these are conveniently located on the trail.  Just do not get in Mohammed's line as he will make everyone wait while he calls someone else to scan beer (Muslim Pharisee just looking devout to impress others.  Living in the land of the Infidel is sin enough).

Sometimes I venture to Bike World now located in Urbandale.  Or to visit Mary at the school she teaches at.  Sometimes to MHM to have clothing hemmed and repaired by the family that runs the shop in the mall.  Urbandale is so generous in granting taxabatements for settlers building homes on farmland that they lack the revenue to maintain and repair their older streets.  They use pick up trucks to plow the streets. 

But today we had to venture to 22nd/86th Street near Hooters.  Mary's credit union moved there from its former location on Grand.

The weather was shit, 1 turd out of 5.  Light rain.  I do not mind getting wet but I hate getting the bicycles I am responsible for maintaining and upkeep wet.  Mary's bike already sounded like it needed the chain cleaned and lubed.  My chain is still relatively new and may have gotten wet once or twice.  guess what I get to do Sunday after Church??

She offered to go there herself but I went anyway.  I needed to ride to burn fat.  We needed to stop at Hy Vee AGAIN for Monday's dinner.  So we donned our rain gear.  That faded yellow jacket of mine, it is a rain jacket that is no longer waterproof.  I used my red Columbia rain jacket that I purchased at Dunhams for $16.  It was my rain protection and warmth layer for my 10 hike in the Sangre Cristo range of the Rookies back in 2009.  Mary adopted it ever since.  This may be the first time I wore it since 2009.  I also used rain pants that I acquired about the same time.  Unfortunately, they are too big and mary used them once and ripped them in two places.  Experiment.  Performance Gore Tex gloves, these are waterproof!

The rain was not bad at all.  The wind was light as well and to our backs.  It could have been alot worse.  I resisted saying this aloud.  Jinxing sucks.  We took the trail all the way to Wal Mart and then crossed 8th/73rd to the sidewalk on Buffalo Rd.

This all went well.  Even crossing 22nd was smooth.  Then the Walgreens incident.  Someone in a maroon Cadillac almost hit me.  Not sure if it was a battle for the right a way or bad car brakes.  It was attempting to leave Walgreens and I was on the sidewalk.  Mary rode past it as it was slowly ascending the incline to the street.  I heard the squeaky brakes but I think it felt that I should have yielded.  No way Jose.  You can wait.  I held my line and as it was apparent that this line was going to be violated I gently touched the hood need the ornament.  I should have slammed it hard.  Just a kind gesture that said "Hey fucker, wait your turn.  Hate to have the police involved."  No honking or yelling or cursing.

Finally we arrive at the credit union.  It is in a former bank that I no longer recall the name of.  No handicap provisions on the sidewalk so we had to lift the bikes up or bunny hop.  I got off and lifted.  Heavy ass touring bike with front rack and bags.

At this point we were sorta wet.  Not cold.  My red jacket does not see to work as well as it did when I got it.  Too many washes and I think it was used as Mary's outer shell for 2 winters.  Sweat was the other issue.  But sweat is good, right? 

Coffee was available in the lobby so I helped myself.  Seattle's Best, Starbucks lesser line. Mary took a sip and headed to the ATM.  Once again, our first stop in the Western Ghetto,  the herding animals created a large line.  It was 1015 am.  Free coffee, it had been almost 24 hours since I had any.  Have not even had water today nor food.

We took Buffalo Rd proper on the return.  Front and rear flashers as an added precaution.  Traffic was light and the sidewalk narrow.  Better speed.  There is a school on this street, cars need to behave.  We seized the turn lane at 8th and crossed onto the sidewalk to the trail.  Safe!

Windsor Heights Hy Vee was relatively uneventful.  Crowded as usual.  Honestly, I feel claustrophobic in this grocery store.  Always too crowded in the aisle.  Today getting a cart was an effort.  4 elderly folks milling around and a woman with a toddler who was in front of the cart she was trying to use.  Endless people walking in and Santa and Mrs. Claus waiting for photos.  The simple act of grabbing a cart was not understood by these people.  And me, in "forward progress must keep moving" mode and dripping wet barged right in a seized a cart and nearly pissed off everyone with this ability.  The fat bitch with the snot nosed brat made an ugly woman sound.  When honey, carry the kid from the door and stick him in the cart and you would not have had to deal with me.  It is not a game here, it is economic movement.  We later saw them after check out.  the kid was on the rocking horse with the biggest grin on his face, my rudeness forgotten by Mrs Diabetes.

The highlight here was bumping into Sam and Austin Gill.  Prepping for the ISU game they had a 12 of new Belgium Ranger and a bottle of something else.  I wish we could have matched and joined.  Time to return to DSM.

The ride home was marked by a headwind.  Rain was still light.  Timmy called both of us because he has an inability to open the fridge or freezer and feed himself at age 14.  Mary ignored his call.  I answered and said we would be home soon.  Back in Little Italy we stopped at Grazianos for sausage and Best Trip for 10 lbs of ice.  No waiting here!

20 miles.  Wet clothing and bikes.  Mission accomplished.  Turn the tea kettle on and hit the shower.  1 lb lighter than before the trip began.

Sunday, November 20, 2011

The Red Trek FX 7.5

Big Wheel Rally 2009

Late summer 2007 found me desiring the perfect commuter.  I was considering a $300 hybrid that could be racked out and have parts replaced when needed.  Something relatively fast and the ability to carry my stuff to work and back and bring back some groceries.

My first and only stop was at Bike World on Urbandale Avenue.  Unfortunately, all the $300 hybrids had those cheap suspension forks (unnecessary weight).  Tom Laughead pointed to a candy apple red bike displayed on the west wall.  "This one has better wheels and tires, is much lighter and is much faster."  damn right!  Seduction by beauty and performance.  9 speed.  Carbon fork.  Those 24 poke Bontrager wheels and the 15.5" frame sealed my fate.  A great looking bike just my size.

I immediately sealed its fate.  "Rack it, put fenders on it, one of those Trek wireless computers, a bottle cage and prep it for sale."  I ordered a pair of Jand Commuter bags for this bicycle.  A set of those SPD/normal pedals replaced whatever was on it.  I did not even ride it until after the transaction was completed and I was out the door.

Monday October 15, 2007, was my first ride on it.  I assume it was a ride to work.  My Bike Log merely notes that "needs knobbies for mud".  The bike came with Bontrager Race Lite 700x35 tires.  I would later come to love these tires and have a set on Mary's road bike and my road bike.  Triple flat protection, more than once I have pulled a chunk of broken glass on of them without having a flat.  I have witnessed on my own and on others the center tread ripped, exposed chords and the tire still holding air.  The $45 bad ass tire.  Since my fenders were not in yet I told Bike World to cancel them and give me a set of Kenda Pro cross tires.

The Kendas are another tire I love.  A very narrow 700x35, they are inexpensive and good on snow and ice.  I appreciate how they squeak on ice, a sound that reminds me that I need to watch my speed and avoid sudden movements.

With very few exceptions this was the bike I rode til the end of the year. 

 This was my main bike for the beginning of 2008.  Here is the photo the Des Moines Register took of me for an article on freaks that ride bikes in the winter.  I cannot believe how yellow my rain coat is in this photo.  I predict that it will be white by the end of next year.  Bike log indicates photo take or appeared in the paper on January 30th.

In February I purchased a set of studded tires for this bike.  My crashing stopped by 99.9%  1st ride with those on the 19th.  This month also marked the first of my main mechanical issue of the bike...brakes.  This bike went through brake pads like no other.  Most likely because I rode it in crappy weather on dirty streets.  In the 8000 miles that I have put on the bike I may have replaced the pads almost 8 times or more.

The other issue I have experienced is the tendency of the free hub to freeze up and freewheel in both directions.  This happens early in the morning on my way to work.  It is below freezing outside.  Pedal and nothing happens except the chain moving.  Pawls are not engaging.  I end up walking to work.  Apparently water gets into the internals then freezes inside.  I have had the free hub cleaned, lubed and replaced about once a winter.  Last winter I had this done in October before it got cold.

The final and almost bicycle fatal issue is the fact that I put too many miles on the bike in crappy winter conditions.  Chain starts to stretch.  Cassette gets worn out.  Chain rings bend and start to look like shark teeth.  Front derailleur gets dirty and eventually stops working.  Steel surfaces rust.

So it was it this condition that I rode it during the winter of 2010/2011.  Basically a single speed.  I did not feel like replacing the chain before winter.  Front shifting died long ago.  But It made it.  I did not put the studded tires on it.  Skill over technology.  Even the day it snowed nearly a foot and shut the city down, Red got me to work on time. 


February 2, 2010, PFG Call Center 6200 Park Ave 615 am

The Blizzard of Feb 1st and 2nd.  Red made it.  It got me to work.  I could not take the trail because the snow was too deep.  Going down Thomas Beck Rd was an experience of silent white death.  The road was plowed and cleared.  I was fascinated by the drifting snow on the road wafting around like floating tiny diamonds.  And then the noise of the tires.  Squeaky.  HOLY CRAP!!!  That noise means that I am on ice going downhill at a high rate of speed.  Careful application of brakes to scrub away speed. 

By the time Spring rolled around the bike had over 900 miles on it for the year.  It has gone 8000 miles since that October day in 2007.  Time for a rest.  Time to rethink winter commuting.  Time for a new bike.

On St Patrick's Day I purchased a single speed bike.  I was counting on its simplicity to resolve the mechanical issues the FX had.  No derailleurs to rust and lock up.  Less stuff to lube.  No free hub to freeze up.  Easier to clean the chain.  Just replace brake pads.  I was able to remove the 4 bolts holding the rack on the FX and place it on the new bike without much effort.  I left the bags on the bike when I did this.  Lifted the rack bags and all!  Good plan until some bastard ripped the bike off form me.  Praise Jesus that I removed the panniers before the bike was stolen.  FUCKER

So I pulled Red out of the shed and paid my membership to the Bicycle Collective and got my hands really dirty.  First step was to replace the brakes.  Total replacement.  New cantilevers and pads.  New cables and housing.  Do it right.

Step 2 was the drive train.  This was major work.  Chain, cassette, chain rings, derailleurs, cables and cable housing.  I was hoping that the rear derailleur could be saved but the cable tension adjustment was rusted in it and broke off when we tried to remove it.  Good thing it did because the new cassette had much bigger cogs than the old one. 

Speaking of cassettes, the old one was missing teeth!

Big and middle ring were replaced.  Middle was bent and very, very worn out.  Big ring was in better shape but not much better.

Too Shimano's credit, the Deore 9 speed shifters still worked.  I am amazed.  They have been abused for 8000 miles.  When they finally go I will replace them with aluminum thumb shifters--easier to use and less complicated and will last a lifetime.

Another miracle is that the headset and bottom bracket are still good.  I should really replace them but I have dumped enough cash into the bike for now and need to get a new set of studded tires ASAP.

My hands are still dirty from all this work.  The cuts are healing.  But most importantly the bike bike is working.  Without the rack or bags on it it feels very fast.  Never have had the pleasure of riding it unburdened.  But a rack will be coming shortly.  Winter is fast approaching.  I hope the parts hold up for another 8000 miles.

Reporting for duty!

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Prospects of a Long Winter


Two mornings in a row with temps in the 20s.  Winter commuter in the shop.  The bike I purchased in Spring for this winter stolen.  Only one set of studded tires with good studs.  Growing season has ended.  Bald eagles in Capital City.  Turkey buzzards long gone.  No more song birds singing sweetly in the morning air.  Crows flocking together like gang members.  Holidays demanding cash for all things non-bicycle related.  Full speed, no reserve.

I did not mind the past two mornings.  My attire was perfect.  Even wore my sandals, Smart Wool socks with liners and a thick pair for outer layer.  Never cold.  But this evening I saw the writing on the wall.  Brenton Bank Ice Skating Rink was open for business.  FUCK ;(

Already??  Come on.  Is it really that cold???

But this is Iowa and anything goes this time of year.  We have had the greatest autumn ever.  Rained maybe twice.  Snowed once and that did not stay around.  Convenient that it rained and snowed in the same 24 hour time period, thus avoiding prolonged agony.  And this happened in the middle of the week leaving the weekend perfect!  Thank you Lord.

What my brained damaged memory recalls is this.  I was married on November 24th.  It was a beautiful day in the 60s.  A few years latter and a few weeks before Thanksgiving my step grandfather died of congestive heart failure.  I drove to Ottumwa with my sister.  We could not do the speed limit because of snow.  In recent years the temps have been similar to this year's.  Perhaps more moisture.  The end of November of 08 brought 3.5" of snow that stayed until Spring.  In 2009 I rode a bicycle to Ottumwa with my son.  It was 36F.

So now we are a week away from Turkey Day.  One last feast before December.  Forecast looks good.  4 days off in a row, perhaps some good riding awaits.  Time to get snow bikes ready.  Last chance to get new winter gear.  We will need it.  I seriously doubt that Autumn will blend into Spring come March or April.  Just hoping that it is no worse than last year.

Thursday, November 10, 2011

A Ride Up North

Sunday November 6, 2011

Mary and I take the tandem up north on the Neal Smith Trail. It was her idea, a chance to see how the new connection to Ankey progressed.  I suggested that once in Ankeny we should push further north by finding the beginning of the High Trestle Trail and take that to the Polk City turn off (the Oasis).  A promising beautiful day with a great ride plan.

We took the Cannondale.  Fast and confident.  No bags or unnecessary shit to slow us down.  Racing bike for two.  Today's journey would be that bike's 3rd venture in that region.



With the levy repair completed we joined the NST near Lutheran Hospital.  Noticed a new pole at the begining of the trail at "Adultery Row" as Jason Boten once remarked.  Nothing to note about the trail that has nort been said before.  Almost everything south of Sycamore Access needs to be repaved.  Especially the section that parallels I-80.

I will not that the powers that be repaved the part of the trail that the semi truck destroyed when some selfish asshole cut him off and his truck fell off the freeway.  Someone's head needs to roll.  But then again IF mjore semi's fell off the freeway perhaps more sections of the trail would be repaved.  Food for thought.

The turn to Ankeny is shortly after SA.  Unfortunately for us, a huge John Deere tractor was pulling dual anhydrous amonia tanks and it's deadly cargo wafted out direction.  "Should not be breathing this," I remarked.  Mary, a farmer's daughter affirmed my comment.  Cancer surely awaits us.

When the air cleared we arrived at the climb up to Oralabor Rd or as I call it Oralsex Rd.  Just a gentle spin upwards.  Probably fun to scream down.  We were not destined to do this.

Travelling along the trail along side Oral Sex Rd we stopped at a GitnGo.  Mary needed to relieve herself in the store's clean facilities.  We also consulted the map created by the Collective.  Since few roads are labeled on the map we had no clue where we were let alone where to turn.  We ventured further East to State Street, Road or Ave.  Mary noticed a water park and thought that this was the one we parked at when Joe Hildreth drove us to the trail.  It was not.  We then continued north to old Ankeny.

1st St.  Somewhere on 1st was the trail head.  We found it.  19 miles from the start of our journey.  Not really much.  A photo opportunity was ruin by a bicycle parked on the bike sculpture that I wanted to lean out tandem on.  No big deal.  Target acquire.  6.9 miles to the Oasis.

This was virgin trail for us.  We have ridden parts of the trail for years but never the very begining.  Not much to see.  Residential.  Eventually we found the aquatic center we started at on Labor Day weekend with Joe and Donnie Hildreth.  Soon we were out of the suburb.

I remember crossing the Irvindale intersection and looking back south.  This was the road that we should have taken from the GitnGo.  Noted for next time.  What was now on my mind was the wind.  Yesterday it was from the South.  Today the West.  terrible speed sucking cross wind.  Our speed was slow and I worried about time.  If Mary was worried she never let me know.  It took forever to travel those 6.9 miles.



I wonder who put this here??

Once at the Oasis we rested a bit.  Noting the position of the Sun I thought we were screwed.  Daylight Savings Time ended during our sleep.  It would be dark early.  By the grace of God, as we remounted the bike and turned West toward Polk City our speed picked up considerably.  Perhaps we had a better profile.  Perhaps the landscape blocked the wind.  Perhaps the wind switched directions.  I do not know.  I merely placed the bike in big ring and hauled ass the 2.5 miles to Polk City.

Familiar turf.  We split a $5 Footlong at subway, a spicy Italina on flat bread.  Purchaed two quarts of Dew at Kum&Go.  This is generally our PC Meal.  Since I am not consuming carbs, I did not eat the bread.  this was the first thing I had to eat since 10 am.  It was now 230 pm and we were 28 miles into our trip.

We took the trail back, catching the NST after Casey's.  Fun to do the bunny hills.  Nice to be away from traffic.  At the bottom of the prarie we see the original bearded one. Scott S heading north!

This rest of the trip was unremarkable.  A fun ride in beautiful autmn weather.  We filmed our selves descending the dam.  Descending the Wall

We goit home before dark.  I think it was around 4 pm.  Only one phone call.  Our neighbor saying that she did not need one of our children to clean her house.  Mary prepped lasagna before we started so all we had to do was throw it into the oven.  I was tired and hungry.  50 miles can do that to you!

Despite riding over 50 miles we barely touched our water

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Why I'd Rather Ride When It Snows

Rain in the 40s this time of year is the WORST.  No matter how I dress for it I get wet.  My glasses get wet and my vision fails.  Gotta have some sort eye protection even if contacts are worn.  Just like fighting off 100 chihuahuas, kill 45 and there are still 55 left.  Rain and wetness seep into even the smallest microscopic hole in fabric.  It ruins bikes.  Nobody wants to be in it unless it had been 100F and 200% humidity.  40s and rain is cold and miserable.  So it was yesterday.

Snow on the other hand is a different beast.  It can be breath taking beautiful.  People actually want to be outside and play in it.  Peaceful is a word to describe it.  Most importantly, I can dress for it.

Yesterday.   November 8, The Year of Our Lord 2011.  Forecast called for rain and then snow.  Lots of each.  I had enough clothing in my lockers at work to last a few days.  We probably had enough food to get by or a quick stop at Grazianos or B&B Supermarket could be done without much effort.  I did not want to ride my 520 and get it wet and rusty.  So I had to ride a bicycle without racks and bags.

Choices were slim.  One mtb with a flat.  One mtb that I do not ride to work unless no other bikes are functioning for the conditions.  One commuter stolen.  One commuter with flat tire and awaiting new cassette and chain.  One commuter without tires awaiting rebuild.  Road bikes in similar situations.  One that does not see rain.  One awaiting chain tool.  One in need of a few parts.  Another awaiting rebuild.

Mary was taking her winter commuter.  Joe a mtb.  That left the recently acquired Raleigh-LTD3.  A good choice for a shit day.  Internal gearing and fenders.  Only $40 invested into it.  It has taking me to Cumming and back.  Tires hold air.  A rack and bags would be a nice option but yesterday that was not going to happen.


Raleigh LTD-3 day of purchase with the 520.  Handle bar position has been corrected 1/2 hour after photo was taken.
 The rain was light when I left home for work.  Misty.  Heavy mist sorta light drizzle.  Not bad.  I watched the weather reports all day at work.  There was a possibility that there would be a window of dryness for the commute home.  When I rolled out of the call center a little before 3 pm, I missed that opportunity.  Light rain again.

It was what the Navajos call a "female rain".  Light and gentle.  Nourishing for the earth and its plant life and water ways.  Never violent.  Just never ending nagging wetness.  A "male rain" is a violent gully washer.  Quick and full of thunder and lightning.  Not unlike a torrent of cussing from and angry man.  Soon the sun pops out and all is forgotten.  Nope, this bitch was a woman.

Resigning myself to the inevitable I rode home quickly.  I stopped underneath the Indianola/3rd St bridge to remove glass from a broken Budweiser bottle that some thoughtless asshole smashed.  A second stop at Grazianos for Italian sausage, marinara and roasted red bell peppers.  My last stop was at the VFW hall for the election.  I was the 25th person to vote there.  4pm.

Once home I put on dry clothing and plugged my phone in and made some tea.  Almost, almost fell asleep watching tv while the tea seeped in my mug.  The rain never ended.  It picked up a bit and the wind got worse.

It was nearly 630pm when I started dinner.  The kids were having hot dogs.  I was not.  I cooked the sausage link in the oven and then sliced it up into small pieces to mix in the marinara with the roasted peppers.  Low carb tasty goodness.  Mary would like this I hoped despite the lack of pasta and bread.

Mary was scheduled off at 6pm.  I was expecting her to be home about 7pm.  At 647pm I went back to my bedroom and saw that I had a new text on my charging phone.  It was from Mary.  "Flat tire.  Walking".  612pm  FUCK

I immediately called her.  "Where are you?'

M-"Just past the trestle." (please look back on older blog posts about my dislike of the use of the word trestle)

There are many "trestles".  I had I in mind.  The bridge on the Trestle to Trestle trail or InterUrban trail.  "Which one?"

"The rail bridge."

4.5 miles away from home on the Bill Riley Trail.  Target located.

"I can walk."

"Bullshit.  I will be right there with the pump."

It was dark thanks to the return of Standard Time and the Earth's rotation on its axis this time of year.  I grabbed the 520 and threw the pump in a rear pannier and then dressed.  I wore my water proof hiking boots that have taken me to 12,441 feet above sea level in the Rookie Mountains and through all of last winter in Iowa.  Although SPD pedals are on the 520 currently, I can manage.

It was pissing with rain and wind.  Heading north to Mullets and the trail sucked.  Glad Mary is walking south.  By the time I reached the trail, 1/2 mile, my glasses were useless and counterproductive.  I guess they kept my eyeballs free of rain but my vision was greatly impaired.

I was 3.4 miles out when I saw the flasher.  Chances are that it was her.  No one else would be out in this shit this late.  It was her. Amen.  I was impressed that she walked a mile to my prepping and 3+ miles.

Rear tire.  Shit!  If it was the front we could swap tires for tomorrow's snow ride.  I really did not want to change a tube after this. 

Locating the stem was the first task.  Then ripping off my now getting soaked gloves.  I think it was still in the 40s.  65 psi could not be reached fast enough.    "One mile to the Fleur Viaduct.  Get there as fast as you can."

Put the pump back in the bag.  Struggle getting wet gloves back on.  Noticed that her rear flasher was not on.  Get rolling.

She got over a half mile.  At least she crossed 30th.  "I don't want to ruin the rim," Mary said when I caught up with her walking.  My take off was slow.  Good attitude, caring for the wheel.  I have been know to ride 2 to 3 miles on a flat to get to work on time.  The tire dies before the wheel.  "Turn your flasher on and straddle the bike while I pump."

This time we got as far as Fleur.  The stem was sitting very low in the tire.  I just kept my gloves off.  Too much hastle.  Just wanted to get home and eat and dry off.  In reverse order, dry then eat.  "One and a half miles to next underpass (dry spot).  Go Go Go!!"

She made it but stopped about ground zero of the broken Bud bottle explosion.  Final airing of the tire.  We were .8 miles from home.  She could do this.  No where else to stop.  She made it.  Thank you Lord.

I wa soaked and tired.  But tomorrow's commute needed to be addressed.  Another commuter out of service.  The 520 was wet and was equipted with tires that would be worthless in snow.  I was too tired to change tires and tubes.  Musical bikes.

Simple solution.  Mary would ride Katie/Joe's Trek 830 mtb.  He would ride the Raleigh 2 miles to work downtown.  And I would pull my seldom used mtb out of the shed and ride it.

We woke up about 230 am.  the dog needed out.  Around 3 am she was barking a lot.  At 4 am I got up.  Wow.  We got a lot of snow.  Joe got up early too.  I re-explained the bike situation.  Made sure that everyone had a lock.

I left home at 520 am.  I rode in the tracks created by cars.  Despite the large amount of snow, 3.7" the road was very very wet with puddles.  The trail was pure wet virgin snow.

It was a beautiful ride on the trail.  So much snow that I did not need my light.  I turned it off and looked for animal tracks.  No human had been out yet.  I blazed this trail.

All good things come to an end.  Mine ended near the Ikes when I left water Works park and got on Flagg then Park ave.  Enough cars had been on the road to facilitate more melting than what had occured on the trail.  Now my ass was getting wet.  My comfortable turning lane that I ride the  half mile of Park Ave was sluch and snow covered.  I opted for the side walk just to stay away from cars.  The last stretch of Park Ave has no side walk so I rode over the snow covered grass.  I was on a mtb, I can ride anywhere.

I amde it to work on time.  As promised by the weather folks the roads were snow free by the time I got done working.  the sun was out and it felt good to ride home.  Pick up a tube and think about dinner..  And be glad the rain had ended.

Saturday, October 29, 2011

Fasting, Sacrifice and Resolve


Sometimes I get an idea or obsession in my noggin that I cannot remove.  Stay on target, use the Force, Luke.  When I first saw the bike photographed on top of this paragraph, I had to have it.  When I first saw Mary, I had to have her.  Thank God I never lost her.  Right now my obsession is in losing weight.  Carbohydrates are my enemy, my poison.

I agreed to attend Christ Renews His Parish weekend mainly to get people at my Church off my ass about not attending one so far.  Not really a bad thing for it gives me a chance to meet people and better know people at my parish.  Praises about the food have been particularly loud.  A pampered feast I was told.

My mileage goals would have been met and I probably could use a good soul searching weekend off the bike and in an environment without the temptations of those pagans I know and love dearly.  So I agreed to go.

Then I decided to lose weight.  Carbs, booze and soda were declared verboten.  Despite a few cookies during the first week and an occasional soda during a significant bike ride and the 3 beers I had in a period of several hours and 30 miles, I  have remained on this diet with the one minded determination of the terminator.  And I have seen great results.  I have lost over 11 pounds.

Then the reality of this weekend hit me.  Not only will my riding (exercise) will be nil, I will probably be fed everything I have denied myself for three weeks.  I emailed the CHRP Team

"Hate to be a ....female dog, but I was wondering if a carb free meal option would be available.  No big deal I can always have plenty of meat and no carb items prepared for myself.  I do not eat bread, pasta, potatoes, fruit and rice.  Basically I eat meat and veggies.  Been avoiding carbs, beer and pop since last Tuesday and plan to break said fast on Thanksgiving.  Then I plan to resume until Christmas.  Lost 7 lbs since last Friday.

Chris Guevara"
 
He replied
"No problem 

We can do this

Bill "
 
Cool.  No worries.  I was set.  Not only was the diet issue resolved, I managed to get 700+ miles for October, a new record, 100 miles for the week, my weekly goal that I have met every week since Christmas.  I did need a weekend off the bike because my left quad has been bothering me.  Time to rest, relax, get to know The Lord a bit better and make friends with non-pagans.  Win Win.
 
Enter the Bicycle Factor
 
I started the year commuting on my Trek FX 3.5 as seen here
 
 
But Red has carried me to and fro work during 4 Iowa winters and has been placed in the "needs repair" stable.  On St Patrick's Day I purchase the Giant Via Raw as a commuter replacement.
 
 
Yeah, the rear wheel needs to be pulled back to eliminate chain slack.



I put over 2700 miles on this single speed until it was time to rest it and think about what it will be like for winter.  Thus, the 520 re-entered service.  Sitting in the basement all year waiting for me to put new tires on it.
 
I did that for my BirthDay Ride north toward the Trestle.  And after that weekend I used the 520 for commuting.  I took the bags off the Giant. Thank God I did.
 
Today I woke up about dawn.  I wanted up early so I could hit Tacoapocalpse at Farmers Market.  But it was after 7am and I had to be at Church by 8am.  I showered, dress and grabbed the Giant.  No time for tacos. 
 
Half way through taking the long way to Church I realized that I left my lock at home.  I thought it would be safe on Holy Ground.  I parked the bike inside a court yard between the school and the old convent.  The bike was invisiible from the road and parking lot.  The place was a beehive of activity.
 
Once inside I saw that they did not understand my diet demands.  No problem.  I have plenty of stored energy to burn.  I drank about 10 cups of coffee and 6 bottles of water. 
 
About noon I stepped outside with the smokers and chatted with them.  It was time for lunch anyway.  I walked past the court yard and peeked in.  My bike was gone!  I walked around the school.  No where was my steed.  I walked into Parish Hall and told those in charge of the weekend.  I alos glanced at the lunch they had prepared.  Sandwiches.
 
Now I was double pissed.  Stolen bike and poisen food.  "Aren't you going to eat?" someone asked.  Someone who spent time preparing the meal.  Fuck no was my first thought but I kept cool and said that I could not eat that and that I needed back in the school to get my cellphone.  I obeyed the rquest to shut the bastard down and left it in my jacket pocket.  I needed it now.  I had to get someone to unlock the door.  Someone said they'd call the police.  I asked about the cameras and who had access to the computers so I could watch my bike get stolen.  They said they'd call.
 
My stupid assumption was that a homeless vagarant walked through and ripped off my bike.  I made calls and texted photos.  People finished lunch and went back inside.  I stayed outside torn between going through the homeless camps and returning to the retreat.  I called the police and was transfered to a machine where I left a message.
 
Reporting a stolen bike to the cops is almost worthless.  They will not look for it.  The only way a stolen bike is ever returned to its owner is if it is abandoned, the rightful owner finds the bike at the thief's house or buys it at a pawn shop.  I am fucked.
 
Someone eventually came out to see me.  We discussed the cameras and he was able to call Dr Cordaro, the principal of St Anthony's School.  the Good Doc came over and we viewed the video.  Got great shots of the theif walking into the building and using the side door to the court yard and riding off on my bike.
 
Sounds good.  Right.  Unless the cops recognize his face no arrest and return of my bike will be made.  At least I can post his ugly mug all over the neighborhood.
 
We drove around up and down alleys, no joy, no bike.
 
I returned to the retreat, no anger anymore.  Drank more coffee and water and hoped that dinner would be edible to me.
 
I was the first to confession.  Usually I pick a priest that does not know me so he won't recognize me afterwards.  I went straight to Msgr Chido, Pasot of St A's.  This was the first opportunity to talk to the person in charge of the Church.  Weird, "please forgive me for x y and z and by the way someone walked through the school doors and stoled my bike"  He said the Church's insurance may pay for it and wants to talk to me about it.  I told him everything.  If someone is so brazen to walk right in and steal a bike maybe this person has been here before.
 
Dinner was fajitas, rice and beans and cake.  But someone said they had a plain piece of chicken for me. it was a breast and a wing.  The celery I refused earlier was also on the plate.  Damn, I lived on coffee all day.  I poured salsa on the bird, extra flavor.
 
Lost a bike but maintained my diet, perhaps saved my soul.  The dud that called Cordaro and drove me around was interesting.  A normal guy with all the weaknesses of life, booze, drugs sex.  He said maybe an evil spirit sent the theif there to distract me or prevent me from attending the retreat.  Things happen for a reason he said.  Maybe. 
 
That or a thieving shithead looked for easy pickings and my stupidity (leaving the bike unlocked) did it.  Not an expensive bike.  $400 with another $150 invested.  I could turn to anger and hatred, the thief is of different origin than I am.  I just want my bike back.
 
Nothing is safe.  Nowhere is sacred or safe.  Criminals are everywhere.  No one is immune. 
 
Except for the few swear words here in blogland I am in a State of Grace, forgiven of my sins.  I heard some testimonies from people today that make me look like a saint and my life like a holiday.  I am not nor is my life,  just down a replaceable bike, nothing more nothing less.  I have my wife, children, job, health and the passion to avoid carbs.
 
Amen
 
 

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Mirrors


I think I had my 1st cycling mirror 15 or 20 years ago.  It stuck on to the helmet or glasses.  Whenever I took my helmet off or my glasses off I had to readjust it.  It broke.  Don't recall how well it worked.  Must have sucked because after it broke I went 15 or 20 years without one.

So I found one that fell off a bike.  Kinda nifty.  Fits onto the bars, drops, and is secured by a velcro strap.  Incredible adjustablility.  Easy to swap to different bikes.  Thought I was lucky.

First major use was my ride to Dallas Center.  I placed it on the tandem.  Major issue was that I never used it.  guess that it was so new that I forgot that it was there.  It took some time to start using it.

Next issue is the "objects apear smaller."  I am talking about "objects appear so damn small that you will not see them until they are right up your ass" smaller.  Seriously, even semi-trucks are invisible until they are right on me.  Piece of shit.

The one and only advantage---get ready---night riding.  The mirror does a good job reporting the presence of car lights behind me.  That is its only value.

So if you know anyone who lost a mirror on the kybo bridge in Water Works park, let them know I found it.

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Some Distant Memory of a Ride on Thanksgiving Day


CranksGiving 2009

“A real cowboy would ride that horse to Madrid (pronounced Mad Rid in Iowa),” an older Lacona local said to another in a Thanksgiving Day meeting at the only gas station/convenience store open in that town of 360.  “Shoot, I’d wouldn’t git there til late evening,” the horseman replied.  My son Quin and I just stumbled into this conversation while taking a break from riding our own horses, one of steel the other aluminum—Trek 520 and an older Cannondale “criterium” series touring beast.  We were 42 miles into what I estimated to be a tad bit over a century ride on our to my mother’s house on Thanksgiving Day.  All we wanted here was some food and drink and a place to sit and read the map.  Both tables were occupied so we settled for the countertop that held the microwave and condiments.

This ride was a stupid idea that passed through my head three days prior during the funk of impending holiday gloom.  I was expect and require to travel by car with my family to my mother’s house where I would spend three days surrounded by my Mortal Enemies—mother, sister, and wife (do not tell the latter as she really is my best friend and biking partner).  There would be absolutely nothing to do except hear what a failure I am and how the Great Apollo Obama was reversing the carnage of the Evil Bushinator.  The kids would covet the television and the computer and I would be forced to retreat to a book since the latest issue of Bicycle Times was read months prior to this.  I seldom get four days off in a row and I needed to do something.  So why not ride ye olde 520 from Des Moines to Ottumwa, Iowa?

Last year I set a new annual mileage record for myself.  Nearly 4700 miles.  Almost 800 more miles than the existing record set back in 1999.  2009 would not be a record breaker.  No big 90 milers on the LeMond like last year.  I cannot remember my last century without digging out the bike logs.  I spent to weeks in New Mexico backpacking in the Rookies with my oldest son Joe and our Scout Crew.  Training and the trip itself took away at least 600 potential miles.  We also moved which disrupted biking.  And for some reason my wife and I never did any significant rides on the weekend.  I think my longest ride of the year was 40 miles and that seemed to be a long, long time ago.  My new 2 mile commute could be stretched some but by autumn the rain set in and the weight I lost for Philmont was slowly creeping back.  I needed something.

The route Quin and I would take was very familiar to us.  All but 17 miles have been ridden several times or at least once in recent years.  The first 22 could be ridden before sunrise.  Just a mere 11 miles to Carlisle from our house, lonely empty back roads without hills.  A Casey’s General Store would await us for breakfast.  A conversation a coworker from that town confirmed that the convenience store would open at 530 am.  Another 10 miles to Milo where another Casey’s would have a couple of Mountain Dews to replenish our sugar supply.  And yet another 10 to Lacona where a convenience store would hopefully be open before the big 30 mile stretch to Bussey, Iowa.  We could opt to stop in Melcher-Dallas, perhaps almost half way to Bussey, but that would require riding about a mile off route.  There is a convenience store in Bussey with tables which would make a good place to rest and study the map again.  13 miles to US 63 and perhaps 2 or 3 miles on that 4 lane to Eddyville before the final push.  Desiring to stay off main roads we would take a county road into Kirkville and then swing south into Ottumwa.  This would add 6 miles or so but would be “safer” than a shoulder on a 4 lane highway.

We have made the Carlisle/Indianola ride for years.  It offers us a good 40 miler.  Last year we used this on our family bike vacation to southern Iowa.  That vacation led us to use the next section of the route, Indianola to Lacona.  Mild rolling hills but a fast one at that S23 is one of my favorite roads.  I have had the pleasure of exploring it on my racing bikes as well and would have preferred to take them if it was seasonable.  Ragbrai has used this route in the past including this year.  In the restroom of the Irish bar in Lacona you can find a wall full of photos from when Ragbrai has visited.  This town is also home to Rudy’s Rendevous, a place famous for its food and attracting bikers but constantly for sale.

In recent years we normally continue south to Chariton but this time we need to turn east to get to Bussey.  The Bussey/Lacona run had been made once, last year, from east to west.  G76 is populated by hills and rolling hills.  The two towns in between would not be much use to us.  Melcher-Dallas is two close to Lacona to justify stopping and there is nothing in Attica except Kin Folks Family Restaurant which probably would be closed.

Bussey to Eddyville would be our last bicycle familiar road.  Mary and I broke our first chain on our tandem on the last hill west of Bussey during 2000’s Ragbrai.  13 miles of hills descending and climbing from the Des Moines River valley marks G71.  Last summer my oldest son Joe appeared to be suffering a heat stroke on this road.  Not the best memories but lessons were learned and nobody dies from heat exhaustion in November in Iowa.

Eddyville to Ottumwa would be the virgin route, the last full measure.  In an automobile one would simply take US 63 all the way.  But we would be on bicycles.  Kirkville, population 214, would be the safe bet.  But the town and the road to it are an unknown gambit and a bit out of the way and we would still need to tango with 63 to get into Ottumwa.

I presented this plan to Quin first, since he of all my children would most likely agree and want to ride along with me.  Mary would be the one that would have to grant us permission.  Prospects were dim, however, as not only would she have the responsibility of herding the rest of our children and our dog there but had to put up with her mother-in-law and sister-in-law, both of which would most likely be pissed off that I elected to fook off and play on a High Holiday.   My mother has not been doing well since my father passed away a decade ago.  Health wise she is ok for an obese diabetic but she constantly falls down and injures her limbs.  In her quest for post-spousal happiness she purchases untrainable dogs that destroy her house.  Patty, my only sibling, had to visit her the previous weekend to clean the house.  Although Patty is an aspiring biker I felt her efforts in producing Thanksgiving at our childhood home would demand my complete compliance.  Yes, the potential for F-Bombs were in the air.

I brought up the subject on Tuesday.  To my surprise Mary consented.  “I will give you until 2 o clock to get there,” she left as the only responsibility on my part.  “No problem, I am estimating 7 hours of ride time.”  Mary would purchase six Powerbars and two tubes for the journey.  She is the best.  I texted Patty on Wednesday morning asking her to bring my Saris bike rack for the trip home.  She agreed probably since it is appears permanently attached to her Honda.  Permission granted from the OKW.  Time to prep bikes.

I would ride a 1991 purple Trek 520.  Since the weather turned cold and wet Mary had been using it for her 20+ mile commute.  Quin would be on a black Cannondale giving to us by Mark Greiger of Team DieHard on the condition that I would not strip it down to make a single speed/fixie and keep it rolling as a touring bike.  This would be the third Cannondale given or sold to me by friends.  Che’s Cannondale Sanctuary—I have two others, total of five, I purchased myself.  I had to provide the wheels which was not a problem.  For some reason I have a surplus of Hyperglide 7-speed bikes.  I like it when bikes are compatible.  Both bikes had new tape on the bars and new tires.  The Can o Ale sporting a cheap pair of Bontrager H2 700x35s and the 520 the narrow 700x35 Kenda Pro knobbies (these cannot be 35s) on my cross bike wheels (Mary had a flat last week and it was easier to swap wheels than fix a flat—what did I tell you about compatibility?  After all it is November and could snow.  All Quin and and I had to do was air up the tires, add lights and pack.

November in Iowa could be many things.  We were married the Saturday after Thanksgiving 19 years ago it was near 70.  I remember driving home two weeks before Turkey Day at 40 mph on snow and ice covered highways.  Last year it waited until Wednesday afternoon to drop 3 inches of sloppy slushy snow for the trip to Ottumwa.  This year was different.  Although not warm by any standard it would be dry with a strong NW wind, just the sort of favorable wind that would push us along our way.  The forecasted temperature would range from 35 to 40F with a sunny afternoon.  Despite Wednesday’s rain I felt that the wind and falling temp would dry the roads by 5 am.  I was right.

For lights I used my trustworthy Turbocat Stealth Plus Secret Weapon set up with the Macho battery.  Sure, it’s outdated tech but it is bright and has a long runtime.  Multiple Cateye AA flashers on the handlebars for extra attention grabbing device.

I wore a pair of Smart Wool Hiking socks with a pair of Sock Guy biking socks as an inner layer.  BellWeather thick tights for my legs, Pearl Izumi biking shorts underneath.  Top layer was a long sleeve Cannondale cotton blend jersey with a generic poly-pro shirt above, a Trek rain jacket for outer shell.  On me noggin I donned a Pearl Izumi balaclava and a winter stocking hat.  My favorite pair of pearl Izumi gloves to keep my hands warm and face snot free.  This worked.  Although we had some minor sweat whenever we stopped we were very cold whenever we got back on the bikes.  This brought a new appreciation for hills.  Busting ass us a hill is a great way to warm up when you are poorly dressed in near freezing temperatures.

The alarm was set at 430 am.  This would give us ample time to get out the door and to Indianola by sunrise.  We left about 515 am.  The road out of town was quiet, only a few commuters in their cars venturing out and a cop either napping or hunting speeders.  Not a dog barking or raccoon digging for trash.  We got to Carlisle easily but one of my flashers had fallen off.  It was a flasher I had found on the Trestle to Trestle Train in Johnston.  I hope another biker found it.

We encountered a pedestrian walking his dog at the beginning of the Summerset Trail.  He warned us that the bridges could be icy, something I did not take into consideration.  And sure enough we has right.  This trail has about 7 bridges so we applied caution.  A little bit pasted the halfway point we encountered another person.  The darkness concealed his true form.  At first I thought it was another dog walker.  But soon he appeared to be wearing a backpack so I thought he was a homeless person lost.  But as we approached we realized that he was a bow hunter on the way to his tree stand or ambush point.  His bow was not ready and we exchanged greetings and he complimented our lights.  Everyone celebrates this holiday in their own way.  I was thinking that some people might be upset to see such a person and just as I was about to utter that thought to Quin two big ass deer leaped out the trail before us.  Personally I am glad that someone is willing to thin the herd around the trail.  I silently wished him luck.

The sun was almost up when we reached Indianola.  Quin expressed a need to adjust his seat height and layers.  Having shed the balaclava at Carlisle I needed to add a pair of booties since my feet were not warming up.  We planned to stop at the restroom and shelter at the end of the trail and the beginning of the McVay Trail, a small trail that leads to state highway 92 our next destination.  The sign said the restrooms were closed until April 15 so I had to pee outside.  How long will it take society to answer the needs of bicyclists?  Oh well it’s not like I have not pissed outside before.

Highway 92 was basically deserted for the 3 miles we rode on it.  We did get passed by one semi that was hauling rocks and dust.  We later would see that truck dump its load at a farm.  He must have been a relative of that farmer to be willing to work at 7 am on Turkey Day.  It’s still the economy, Stupid.  S23 is a nice winding road with a few hills.  Someone out here must grow and sell strawberries as their barn is painted in such fashion.  Last year Joe broke one of the bolts holding the rack on my Trek 7.5 FX while following me off road.  I saw the intersection where I repaired it.  This time no horses to stare at us and we did not stop.  Other than memories no other events interrupted the journey into Milo, population 839.  This would be our second Casey’s stop.  We each had a Mountain Dew and a banana to the amusement of the locals.  When informed of our intentions I think they laughed.  One hill out of town then several peaceful flat miles until the hills before Lacona.

Quin saw the water tower first and asked what town it was for.  Ah, the first land mark of Lacona.  We needed to stop here not because we were tire but because we had a 30 mile stretch afterward, about three times the distance we had encountered thus far.  Lacona brought back memories.  Mary managed to stick her foot into the front wheel of the 520 and crashed in front of the store.  She was quite out of it and a local paramedic was almost to the point of calling in the ambulance.  Could have been the sun as it was a hot day.  Today we made sure that the bikes had only two contact points with the road—the tires.

I was disappointed that both tables were occupied when we entered but then again sitting down may have delayed us.  We split a Deli Express ham sandwich, out second of the day, and each had a soda and bag of chips.  No fruit here.  Just horse talk.

G76 was our new road.  Straight east with a cross/tail wind and hills for our comfort.  As usual, I texted Mary and my friends on our progress.  Mary never replied but my friends gave us encouragement.  G76 contains two towns on our route, neither of which we used.  I did find the graffiti funny when we stopped to text on a bridge outside of Melcher-Dallas.  “Melcher is full of inbred animal fuckers” or something like that.  Knowing a few people from there I could not help but laugh.

Attica was the next town.  Unfortunately we had to turn north for a few miles directly into the wind.  It is so queer how you never really notice a tail wind until you turn into it and feel its full wrath.  I stopped once or twice to let Quin catch up but in the end decided to get to the turn and wait.  It must have been eating time as we entered town as I noticed several men exiting a home seeking shelter on the south wall.  After dinner smokers, the new discriminated group.  We exchanged turkey Day greetings.

State highway 5 was our next road.  Just a few miles of this recently repaved blacktop with rumble strips totally hogging up the shoulder.  Let’s add a million cars and minivans on this narrow road to really make it fun.  I hate it when they put rumble strips on the shoulder of the road.  If falling asleep is such an issue why not have the damn strips over the entire road?  Thankfully G71 appeared quickly.  We did have one stop on 5 to consult the map and eat a Powerbar.  I carried a Sportsman Atlas.  This contains a map of every county showing every road and dirt path known to man.  Much better than state issued maps.  The powerbars were frozen despite been held in my jersey’s back pocket.  I had to put one in my gloves to thaw it out.  Yes, 36F aint Powerbar friendly.

As mentioned before G71 is full of memories.  Ragbrai used this road in 2000.  Mary and I used the restrooms at Twin Cedars High School, home of the Twin Cedars Sabers.  Twin Cedars Sabers, say that three times real fast after a few pints of Fat Tire.  We also busted a chain on a tandem on the last hill into Bussey.  What a long shameful walk.  The store in Bussey was open.  No fruit, just Gatorade and chips.  Need salt even in winter.  It seemed really cold when we got back on the bikes.  But God provided hills for us to warm up on.  I knew the first bit would be hilly and then it would settle down as we hit the river valley. 

Quin was getting a tad bit cranky about hills and my thighs were beginning to bark.  We were 70+ miles into this.  This was the longest ride we had done all year.  Although I ride every day I was lucky to get 20 miles in one day.  Fatigue setting in, time running out.  30 miles to go and there’s a thanksgiving meal waiting for us.  Just 30 more miles to go.  Just two ours on the right bike and right conditions and right fitness.  Not today, Jack, we be averaging 12 on these hills.  Focus.  Panzers east!  No quitting now.

US highway 63 I predicted would be the busiest.  It was not as bad as 5.  The extra lanes allowed cars to scoot over.  The shoulder was wide enough and they thoughtfully left us about 18 inches of shoulder without rumbles.  Perfect for those bikers accustomed to riding in traffic.  Some parts had rumbles on the highway itself before the shoulder.  Protection!  As we entered Eddyville I saw our turn to Kirkville.  Nice fresh blacktop with a steep hill.  At 85 miles I do not want hills.  I want flat direct route.  We refueled at a BP and listened to the cashier talk about her families goats escaping the farm.  Southern Iowa at its finest.  I texted everyone that we were embarking on the final stretch but the lack of cell phone service delayed that transmission.

The sign said 14 miles to Ottumwa.  It was 8 miles to Kirkville than another 3 back to 63 and a few more to the Ottumwa turn off.  It was 255 pm.  We were an hour late and I signed off the text with “bon appetite”.  We were now fighting the advent of sunset.  Turn the flashers back on.  I asked Quin for his opinion.  14 miles on 63, no guarantee on the quality of the shoulder.  Flat, maybe two hills.  Kirkville is out of the way and of an unknown quality without support.  He consented to using 63.

About 6 miles later and just past the intersection that the Kirkville route would have taken us (11 miles so we saved 5) Mary called.  My text had not arrived  told her we had maybe 9 miles left to the house.  We continued and the phone rang again.  I ignored it.  No talking on cell phones while biking on US highways. 

At last we reached Exit 42 and consulted the map.  I was vaguely familar with the road but it had been decades.  Take the northwest residential rout in to town.  The map said take 138th or 135th to Sycamore Avenue.  We opted for the later.  No one told the mapmaker that 135th had been reverted back to farmland.  We found out an hour later.   Reverse course and ride up a hill in the headwind.  We saw the “Road Closed” sigh.  Those bastards!  The rest of the way was smooth.   Just another haunting of memories.  It’s not like I could tell my 14 year old son that we used to have keggers here or smoked dope there.  Keep it in your head and pedal onward.

When we finally reached home in the last rays of the sun I heard the electric knife.  I was hoping that it was the vacuum and they ate hours ago.  It was after 4pm.  Dora, my 8 year old greeted us with a camera.  I saw Mary carving the turkey with an electric knife, my job.  But nobody was visibly upset with our adventure and tardiness.  My 87 year old grandmother said that she worried about us.  I asked her if she said a rosary for us.  She said no to which I replied that she mot have been really worried.  Later I learned that my mother thought that I might have a heart attack riding that far.  Sore ass and legs yes, heart attack on a November century ride, no.

We had time to shower and dress before the meal.  I said grace, the standard Catholic prayer with the added line “do not wait for my dumb ass if I ever attempt this again.  Mission accomplished.  Maybe if it is a little warmer and I can take a faster bike.  Then again…