Sunday, September 23, 2012

Fall Equinox 2012

Between Oakland Acres and Kellogg, Iowa.  Ritchie rode up this STEEP drive.

It has been a long and hot summer.  Who would have thought that the weather would return to normal just before the season officially changed to autumn?  Perhaps some large chunks of the poles have broke away and drifted to mid-ocean and now have cooled us off.  Monday was a shocker, 46F, leaving me scrambling through my room searching for gloves and a hat.  Need a new plastic tub labeled "winter cycling gear."  Organize.  I found what I needed and life was good once again.

But Saturday was the big day.  The OFFICIAL.  Summer ended and now it is time for fall rides.  Our friends Richard "Sammy" Berman and his lovely wife Melissa LuLu in Grinnell provided my first autumn group ride of the year, Fall Equinox.  The fall or autumnal equinox is one of two times during the year that the length of day and night are closest to equal. Though it is celebrated for a full day, the equinox itself is really only a moment in time, when the sun is directly over a point on the equator.  Grinnell is not anywhere near the equator so it was a chilly morning.

Richard S Berman

Fall Equinox the bicycle ride is the opposite axis tilt celebration of Human Bike In.  As of yesterday there have been only 3 of the autumn rides.  HBI has been around for a over a decade.  The 25 mile ride begins at a tavern in Grinnell then rolls to Kellogg, Iowa, and then to Rock Creek State Park.  From the park the ride uses a bicycle trail all the way back to Grinnell.  HBI goes the opposite direction hitting Gilman before Rock Creek. 

Mary at the final gather before rolling to Oakland Acres.

Mary and I are hit and miss on both the FE and HBI.  The demands of raising a family and other obligations prevent us in the past.  In 2000 we rolled in at Grinnell at 420 am after driving back from Chicago to see the Cure.  Once we brought those children that could ride to the HBI.  But as the kids get older and more independent our attendance improves.  In 2011 we rode from Des Moines to Grinnell and back for the HBI.  That was outstanding.  In 2008 I rode with Eric Crabb and Sean from Newton to Grinnell for the FE, totally at night.  It was epic.

Dave Hatcher

So this weekend we loaded the van up with a Trek 520 and a Cannondale SM800 and drove to the Berman's homestead.  This confused many people.  "Che and Mary are hard core, they will ride their bikes to Grinnell."  At least that is what Dave Hatcher told us.  Nope, no time to bike to and fro, had to be back EARLY Sunday morning.  Besides, we could always sleep in the van instead of pitching the tent.

We woke up around 7 am Saturday morning.  It was very cold, err, felt really cold because we were used to global warming.  I promised Dora that we'd go to Farmers Market for tacos, courtesy of tacoapocalypse.  This is my Saturday breakfast ritual: get up early for two or four tacos and about a liter of Diet Coke.  This time I brought others.  Mary usually goes but complains about my bicycle parking.  I ride my bike for my convenience, not others.

After feeding it was time to pack.  We now had an opportunity to use our new biking/camp chairs.  The first two items packed in the van.  Since this is a hippie event and we would be on hippie time lights and the big battery for good lights were loaded.  Cold as fook, 2 pairs of gloves, 2 hats, long pants, sweat shirts and extra socks.  3 sleeping bags, 1 for an additional layer over the two of us just in case it dropped below 40F.  My Lafuma bags, light weight and excellent for biking trips are rated to 40F.  2 Thermorest pads.  Cooler for beer and a bottle of red Cat red wine.  I purchased the bottle at Hy Vee in the discount booze cart.  Been wanting to taste it for about 3 weeks.

As usual, whenever I drive the van there is no gas in it.  Had to stop for ice anyway and some soda pop.  I placed the ice in the cooler at 930 am.  Shoved a cd into the unit and off we headed east!

Once in Grinnell we parked at the Casa de Beerman and hung out with Melissa for a bit.  We then headed to town to eat before the ride.  This would be a long ride with mass quantities of adult bevies consumed.  A Spinal Tap moment had us searching high and low for Lonnski's the pre-ride meeting spot.  I had to call Dave Hatcher, who was making a rare appearance on a bike ride.  Dave talked us in.

David Hatcher riding a bike!  His trusty old Trek 950 and vintage Hawkeye shirt.

We were able to get seats at the bar and watched Iowa screw itself then crawl back and then get hosed in the last 49 seconds of the game.  As Anders Olson says, "Black and Gold Forever."  It was ugly.  I really should continue not watching football.

The other Dave.  A vetern of HBI and FE, he learned a long time ago not to bring a stick bike on these rides.  Also he bagged out to Breda and back during Ragbrai this year.

Lonnski's is a nice little college pub.  Good food and an excellent selection of draft beer.  I had the Deli Burger.  Dave and I choose New Belgium's Blue Paddle for rounds 1 and 2.  Later to slow down a bit I had a Busch Light tallboy and finally a 1554, a beer I truly hated when it first hit Iowa and the fine folks at NB forced us to consume it before letting us have Fat Tire.

The plan was for everyone to meet here at 1 pm.  By 130 pm it was apparent that the turn out would be light, extremely light.  It was Mary and I, Dave Hatcher and another guy named Dave plus Melissa and Ritchie.  Ritchie had to drive a truck with supplies for the chili feed to Rock Creek.  He then rode his bike the 6 miles or so to the pub to meet us.  Since he was "behind" we let him try to catch up.  Somebody said "SHOTS!!!"  Dave asked for a Jim Beam but I convinced him to switch to Fireball.  I think Mary and I were the only ones that had ever done Fireball.  Everyone was pleased.

Dave, Dave, Melissa and Curt on the way out of Grinnell.

It was almost 3 pm when the last 2 riders showed up.  Yep, 2 hours behind schedule or right on Hippie Time.  We rolled soon.  No worries, it's only a 25 mile ride.

Highway 6.  Keep on the shoulder, don't hit the rumbles.

The terrain around Grinnell is hilly.  It was on the first climb on highway 6 that I failed.  Heavy breathing, heavy bike, needs to pee.  I was embarrassingly dropped.  Too much bar time, must make adjustments.  There was a point, the Gillman turn off that we were not supposed to take that I lost sight of everyone.  Sucking big time.  But summoning all my skill and strength I caught up with Dave H on the next climb and persuaded him to stop at a driveway with me.  I gave him a beer and then hid behind a tree to urinate.  Tree properly watered I then rehydrated with a Busch Light.  Yep, lighten the bike's load.  We then caught up with the other 8 riders at Oakland Acres.

I got the Spirit!  A wristband that says "spirit."  Cap of the Red Cat visible below light.  Flag found on Ingersoll then lost in Grinnell but returned to me by Dave.

I love Oakland Acres.  OA was on my very first Ragbrai back in 1991.  I vividly remember, despite the official OA activities,  a Chevy truck pulled off to the side of the road with a sign that read "PARTY HERE."  I had a Busch Light from that truck.  It was good.  Just a golf course in the middle of hilly Jasper County.  But a good stop.  They have a clubhouse that sells pizza and $2 Busch Lights.  How can one go wrong??  They also sell Smart Water which Ritchie had to consume a full bottle to tell us how smarter he was.  I needed that Smart Water when Crabb and Sean and I rode to the original FE.  The clubhouse was closed so we sat in golf carts.  I stupidly left my Moscow Mule copper cup, actually Sean's, in my cart.  It was there the next day.  We stayed for 1 or 2 rounds before raiding Kellogg.

LuLu's magic rope.

Somewhere east of Kellogg a mile or two is a parcel of public land.  there is a brown sign indicating it as such.  We pulled inside and took a break.  Mary and I at last used our new chairs together! A little bit later a silver Ford Crown Victoria pulled in.  No problems, just a young trooper who is on the same rubgy team as two of our riders just saying hello.

Kellogg has two bars, Sidetracks or the American Legion and R&J's Bar and Grill.  One on top of the street and one much lower.  We hit the top one first, R&J's.  Just as we rolled up, Stretch and Kathy Wilson drove up.  Stretch's back is very messed up and he is in a lot of pain.  Despite being a fixture at the HBI, the hilly route precluded him from riding.  'bent trikes are not built for hills.

Once inside, we scored more food, both Ritchie and I had BLTs, and a round of drinks before heading to Sidetracks.  The ladies, Melissa, Mary and Kathy sat at a table together.  Apparently, Kathy just got home from work when Stretch said, "Come on, Babe, we got a place to be."  She really wanted a nap since Stretch's back disrupts night time sleep at their home.

The American Legion bar, Sidetracks, is the hippie bar in Kellogg.  Excellent jukebox.  Here I changed my drink.  I ordered a shot of vanilla vodka (UV), a can of Diet Coke and a glass of ice.  $3.50.  This is what my former chef drinks every weekend.  It's quite good.  I was impressed.  Kinda that Malibu Rum vibe but smooth and tasty, dangerous.  I doubt I can find this cheaper anywhere else.  A local then bout all 8 of a a round.  I had another vanilla vodka and Diet Coke.

Dave and I were the last to leave Kellogg.  It was dark.  Too much fucking around with the bikes prepping for the night ride that lay ahead.  Had to make sure all lights were on.  had to get gloves and hats on.  everyone else rolled without us.  That is ok, we are experten.  Ritchie had to leave first to get the fire going for the chili.  Since there were only 8 of us, Stretch and Kathy electing to go elsewhere, there would be at least 3 bowls for everyone.


We caught up at the turn off to Rock Creek.  This was a one or two beer stop.  Time to mess with music systems.  Blue tooth for stereos.  technology at its finest!

The fire was visible as we descended into the park.  Ritchie was set up on the jetty.  Originally Dave was going to accompany Melissa's singing with guitar.  But that was pushed back for Grinnell when the ride ended.  If it was HBI we'd be here in daylight hours and a band would be playing on the stage across from the jetty. 

A fire ring was loaded and burning by the time we got there.  This was good since it was cold.  I opened up the Red Cat wine and passed it around.  A bit sweet for my taste but at $5 I am not bitching.  My last visit to Windsor Heights Hy Vee revealed that it was sold out.

As promised I had 3 bowls of chili and some bread.  We ate this around the campfire.  No Blazing Saddles jokes, sadly.  Soon it was time to head back.  Melissa was the first to roll but Mary and I rode with her.  This was good since I was fighting to stay awake.  Been a long week and a long day of self medication.  I needed sleep.  Way past my bedtime.

The trail to Grinnell begins at the park's enterance.  This is very convenient especially for the likes of us.  riding at night on hills is a bit strange,  it is difficult to determine how steep or deep or long or short the hill is.  I could not find my headlamp so I had no idea how far I had gone or had to go or how fast or slow I was going.  Once again I got dropped on the first hill but I was able to catch up by the third hill.

Rolling back into town one is greeted by a utility storage facility.  Then the school.  Something was going on.  First, traffic seemed quite heavy for this time of night Melissa remarked.  Then we saw it.  The band or some school dance just got out.  Proud parents were picking their children up to make sure they were not getting pollinated by each other or by us.  Most drivers smiled at our intrusion.  We must have looked very out of place. 

We also rolled through the college campus.  Lots of bikes parked all over it.  Only a few students outside.  No hassles.

At last we reached the Casa de Beerman.  Melissa grabbed some wine glasses but I declined.  Mary had a glass with her.  We were offered the attic.  Our original plan was to sleep in the van.  We did bring the tent just in case.  Since we had to be back in Des Moines around 7 am, we opted for the couches in the back room with the fire place.  Used the sleeping bags for blankets and fell fast asleep.

We snuck out before dawn not wanting to wake anyone.  Sunrise was to our backs as we cruised along I-80.  I kept the volume down on the stereo, too early.  When I unloaded the bikes at 715 am I discovered that my cooler had more ice than water in it.  Too cold to melt.  22 hours on the bike and it looked like I could get another day out of it.  Well maybe a good 30 miles.  later that afternoon it was time to move the bikes from the deck to their proper places.  I found my headlamp.  It was underneath the Busch Light 12 pack box in a front pannier.  That box only held the ice that would not fit in the cooler as well as two beers and the Red Cat.  The light still worked despite being a tad bit moist.

It was a glorious Saturday and a fun bicycle ride.  We hope to be there in June when we can greet Summer properly, on bicycles somewhere around Grinnell, Iowa.

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