Saturday, November 18, 2017

Coffeeneuring 2017

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Red Phoenix.
Always be coffeeneuring!

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

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

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

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

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

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

Inspired Grounds Cafe
November 11, 2017
16 miles

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

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

Mary inside in yellow.

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

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

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

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

Tuesday, November 14, 2017

"Will You Ever Drive?"

I was asked this tonight by a co-worker.  I just wanted to tell him about the POS car he owns and drives and what a money pit it turned into.  And the car that his nephew destroyed last week.  But I lacked the crayons to draw him a picture that he would understand.  I simply replied that I enjoy riding a bicycle to work and enjoy the freedom of a car free life.  No payments, not insurance, no big repair bills ect.  If my bicycle won't start in the morning i.e. flat tire of something wrong, I just grab another from my fleet.

Cars cost about 1/4th of people's income.  That's a sacrifice I enjoy not making.

So I wonder if he thought of me when he stepped out into the drizzle tonight.  Yeah, he probably chuckled knowing that he would be dry while I spent an hour getting wet.  But I was not unhappy.  Quite the contrary.  It was a warm ride home and warm rides home are becoming a resource we are running out as winter approaches.  I also carried home 4 unopened bottles of wine left over from tonight's special event on my bicycle.  And that made me smile.

Wet clothing.  I'll wear something different tomorrow.  Perhaps with the money I'm not spending on a car I will buy some better rain clothing.  Or bicycle parts.....or a new bike....

Will I ever own a car again.  Probably.  But I do not feel the need for one now.

Saturday, November 11, 2017

Silent Rider

There is a person that I see every so often cycling his way to or fro work.  Usually I spot him at 517 am in the Windsor Heights/Clive/West Des Moines area.  Many times I did not realize it was him.  Back a few years ago when Mary worked in Urbandale (crap generic name for a city but it was named after Mr. Urban) we would ride together and part ways at the end of the Windsor heights trail where the Clive Greenbelt begins or as it is known for its landmark, the Burger King on 73rd by the Wal Mart.  Occasionally we would see this guy riding on the street and heading up Buffalo Rd.  One time when I was riding my slow Soho with the horrid Nexus 7 speed internal hub,  I did catch up with him at the intersection of 22nd and Westown Pkwy but he did not acknowledge my presence.  Oh well, I climb that hill on Buffalo Rd like a demon and I was happy enough with that.

Through the years my commute has changed and I started taking the Greenbelt all the way to 128th.  And on those days I'd occasionally see a bicycle blinkie heading the same direction on University Ave.  Who is that?  Where's he going?   How's his commute?  Or her.

Once again my route changed due to reconstruction on the Greenbelt.  Now I take the trail to 86th St and ride on the new trail access and enter the street, University Ave, across from the Casey's and Hardee's.  One morning last week as was on the bottom of the climb I notice a blinking red light about a 1/2 mile ahead of me.  Another bicycle!  I wonder if the rider is on this road because the trail is closed??  I better catch up.  So I put more effort into pedaling since by bicycle has only one gear.  And the effort paid off as I caught up with the cyclist around Valley West Mall.

This rider had a flasher on the bike, a flasher on the helmet and a reflective pant tie/strap on each leg.  Good visibility.    He also had a backpack on instead of using the collapsible rear baskets his bike had.  Then I recognized the bicycle.  It was the same one I'd see at 517 am heading to Buffalo Rd.  Must be the same one I'd see on University Ave when I was on the Greenbelt near 515 Brewery.  I reached deep and summoned more power to overtake and pass this commuter.

As I passed him I said good morning hoping to elicit some response and have a conversation about the ride.  Get some different perspective of commuting by bicycle in the metro.  Solicit his opinion on conditions and trail work ect.  Networking.  I have met quite a few people on my ride to and fro work.  We have each other's backs.  Now some folks are silent and never say a word unless it is to warn of a fallen tree, suspicious vehicle ahead, flood ect.  Others are friendly and will say good morning.

So my new encounter on University Ave said nothing.  I pulled along side him and said good morning.  No reply I responded with a hello.  Nothing.  No movement, no word, no waves, no middle finger just silence.  Not even a movement of his head.  He just stared straight ahead like I was not even there.  He looked to be in his 50s hitting his 60s.  Dressed as a normal human, no overpriced cycling clothing, jeans and a jacket.  Maybe he socially ill, some sort of mental health flaw.  Maybe he was so lost in thought that he was not aware of my presence despite my voice and lights.  May be just a loner.  Or a dead person.  Or an undead person.  A ghost?  Figment of my imagination?  Sign of of a diagnosed brain illness?  Deaf?  Headphones?  But he looked to be a serious commuter with all the lights and reflective stuff.  And this twat, me, pulls up and asks for validation.  Even a response like Ralph Feinnes gave to the train passenger in the film  In Bruges would have been preferred to silence.  Nada.  Add more power and leave this guy alone.  Would not be the first hill I smoked him on.

So he blew me off.  That's ok.  I do not need this validation of my life.  Just wanted to network.  Gather information on riding conditions ect.  Some people do not speak or smile or acknowledge others.  I saw him again and I know where he turns off of University.

Sunday, November 5, 2017

Dago Red and Death of a Campagnolo Derailleur

DISCLAIMER:  the use of an ethnic negative word feeds into this story of  life in Little Italy, Italian culture and was explained to me by an Italian American.

Mary and I stopped at Mullets for dinner last week or so and conversated with Joe one of the managers.  Riding the high from our eldest daughter's wedding we discussed the river of Hennessy that flowed from the family of the groom.  Mary and I were raised ethically Iowan which meant that beer was the liquid of a wedding reception or any occasion.  Perhaps wine and champagne, too.  And there was always someone in back with a flask of bourbon.  But Jesse's family, from Laos, were fans of cognac, specifically Hennessy.  Since that day I discovered that it is an Asian thing, usually someone's uncle brings it to big important family events.  Prior to this I thought it only existed in rap videos and as discarded empty bottles on the side of the road.  I did about three shots of this brandy before saying that I had enough and stayed with the safety of the Pinot Noir I brought.  I found Hennessy to be very strong and had the taste of extremely strong bad wine and nightmares.

Joe agreed and said yes, it is a huge Asian thing.  But when I told him it was made from grapes he was surprised.  Specific white grapes fermented and distilled twice in copper stills and then aged in wood barrels from specific areas of France.  Then he asked me if I knew what Dago Red was.  Since I did did not despite living in Little Italy he explained.

Simple put, Dago Red is cheap homemade red wine that Italian Americans are known to produce.  There was a marketed brand of red wine called Dago Red but they later changed the name.

Joe continued.  A prominent Italian immigrant and business owner who shall not be mentioned, had just lost his wife to cancer IIRC.  His buddies came over to help him get to sleep.  They went into his basement and filled him up with Dago Red and then carried him to bed so he could sleep his first night as a widower.  Joe and his friend went into the basement to see what those men had drank.  To see what knocked the man out.  Downstairs they found the bottle.  "Hey, isn't this the wine from the grapes that we stomped 20 years ago as kids," Joe asked.  Yes indeed it was.  Both of them took a pull from the bottle.  It was awful but awfully strong.  Kinda like Hennessy Joe said but stronger.

So what does this have to do with bicycles and this damn blog?  The connection is this.  My Campy derailleur died.  Today was its last ride.  I should not have ridden the bike but it needed 1 more mile for 500 miles for the year.  And I gave the trusty gear switcher a grand send off.  A ride for espresso and Italian wine.  A fitting tribute to a component that I have used since 1994.

I purchased a brand new road bike in 1994.  It was was my first brand new roadie.  The Trek 2200 was one of the rare bikes that came adorned with a Campagnolo groupo.  Shimano had its evil claws on most bicycle manufacturer's throat.  So when I saw a carbon bike frame with Campy components I could not resist.  Sure it was not a OCLV frame or the Record groupo but it was on a proven carbon frame despite its aged technology and had Italian stuff on it.  The Veloce group was produced to compete with Shimano's 105.  A mid level racing group.  A little heavier but all the fucntions including Ergo shifters.   I had a wife and little kids to feed.  I fell in love with that bike and still love it to this day.

23 years later I find myself riding it to work and back on days when I feel the need for speed.  No longer my front line roadie I find this bike doing more commuting duties.  So it is autumn in Iowa and the trees are littering the trails with leaves and twigs.  And the nasty north west wind is playing havoc on the trees so sticks are also strewn on the the trails.  I try my best to avoid the debris.

Then I hear the sound of a stick going through the drive train.  This time it is louder and nastier than usual.  The noise ends and not an ounce of speed is lost.  I continue as if nothing has happened.  I have a jet over 4 miles left until I reach the comfort of home.  I assume that shifted the back cogs during these last 4 miles but I may just have been going to and fro the 53 and 39T.

When I lift the bike to place it in its resting spot next to the other roadies in our house, I notice that the chain is sagging a bit.  Place the bike on the stand and take a look.  Yes the rear derailleur seems a bit forward so I pull it back and look for the adjusting screws.  But it is time to make dinner and forget about the bike.

The next morning I feel like I need to ride this bike again just because it is faster and easier to ride than the single speed commuter which has time times the miles this year and I have nothing to ferry to work.  Nothing unusual about the ride to work.  After work I see that the chain is sagging again and I place it on the Fixtation that my employer provides at work.

Then I see the trouble maker.  I see the fresh exposed metal of where the stick tore off  the piece of the derailleur that connects with the drop out and keeps the chain at proper tension.  I would say that the derailleur sacrificed itself to save the drop out.  Aluminum stays and probably the dropout is made from Element 13 as well.

So what does this have to do with cheap bootleg red wine of the Italian Americans?  I'm just mourning in my own way.  Since I do not possess any Dago Red I purchased a bottle of proper Italian vino.  La Fiera  2015 Montepulciano D'Abruzzo, a full bodied red wine.

I'm not really this upset about it or dramatic.  I'm just pissed off.  Now I need to shell out at least $40 for a new part when I need to be spending that money for other projects like a better set of studded tires for the red bike, a new crankset for the Soho, new bars for the Trek 660, a new touring bike for Mary, at least 3 sets of wheels, tires for the car, a new lawn mower, replacing all the food that spoiled when the freezer was unplugged last month, the Thanksgiving Day feast, a new gaming computer, more vinyl records, concert tickets, a room in Minneapolis when we see Peter Hook and the Light perform Substance,  airline tickets when New Order make their Spring visit (I hope and pray) ect ect.  Goddamn stick!!!

Brev Campagnolo!

Saturday, October 14, 2017

...and then depression set in...

The Greenbelt ends here near the 3 Mile Marker.  Detour on the left.

That time of year again.  Day light becomes a scarce commodity.  Evil North west Wind hits hard.  Winter will be here soon with in 20 below zerex temps.  Cities release the last of their coffers to tear up streets and trails.  Yeah, that last one.

The board has rotted away on this rail crossing.

Clive is repairing, repaving and rerouting the Greenbelt Trail.  Yes it is a necessary pill to swallow.  From about 108th to 114th.  The trail surface was very busted up around a very curvy area.  Some of the curves are blind which adds another element of danger.  A funny thing about this is that the closure is not addressing the dangerous rail road crossing nor the section of trail that was washed out by Walnut Creek.  The latter is being address and will be easy to avoid.

Walnut Creek's attempt to wash the trail away.

The Greenbelt is an important route to my employment.  I ride it to and fro work everyday.  In the morning I can take streets if the trail is closed or incapacitated for some other reason--flood, too much snow and ice ect--but said streets are rather busy after work.Work was scheduled to begin on Monday October 9th.  I rode the trail to work but took a different route home.  The Jordan Creek Trail is the alternative trail home.  But it is slightly longer and feels slightly slower and appears to be somewhat out of the way.  JCT is not plowed during winter and its tunnels, heaven forbid if we allowed to go over the streets to cross an intersection, are quite susceptible to flooding and mud after rain.

The detour.  trail closed between the top two pink circles.

I met Jane on the trail Wednesday and we discussed the situation.  She told me of the long awaited detour that was to be posted and also said that the trail is slated to reopen in the Spring.  Damn, that's a long time from now.  The detour is feasible, trail users must use neighborhood access trails and streets to get around the construction.  I worry that said trail sections will not be plowed.  Sure Chris, just take your fatbike.  Nope, the trail gets cratered and icy from walkers ect and the surface becomes a slow miserable and dangerous experience for all until it is plowed or the sun melts it.

Ingersoll Ave holds a major bicycle lane in Des Moines.  I sometimes take these lanes when the Bill Riley Trail is flood which is often and happens in winter as well.  I also have taken Ingersoll when there is too much snow on the trail or there is construction such as the replacement of the rail bridge.  I drove on Ingersoll yesterday.  I do not want to drive or bicycle on that avenue again until construction is complete.  They have take two lanes out, the bike lane and the sidewalk out on the north side for several blocks.  Where will it end????

Don't get me wrong, I am grateful that the municipalities that I ride through fix their infrastructure but at times it seems a bit overwhelming.

Sunday, October 8, 2017

Haunted School Ride

It was a few weeks ago or perhaps a month ago that an article about a haunted school appeared in whatever online news feed I was using.  The lost article said that the school closed in 2002 and in 2006 new owners tried to renovate the place and just gave up because the place was haunted.  Someone told me that their friend did some electrical/mechanical/carpentry work there and saw his tools move.  Since it was in Polk County, Iowa, the county that I live in and located not far off from a wonderful bicycle trail I frequent I had no choice but to organize a ride out to said haunted school and play Scooby Doo.  Of course, due to real life commitments, traveling to Chicago and LA in the name of Rock & Roll delayed the ride.  I also failed to properly organize the trip.

Brad at the new trail.  This trail goes from Altoona to almost I-80.  Quits just north of Dayton Freight and Adventureland Drive.  But it is a fast and safe way to get to NE 54th on the way to Bondurant since it is shorter and avoids hills.

Brad was down right gung ho on this trip.  "Let's camp there!"  Tried to get others.  Shane took a bite but a day's notice was not sufficient.  Rob said NO WAY, avoid evil stuff!  Craig and Kim were out of town and Mary had to deal with our daughters.   I just wanted a quick recon, some spine tingling chills and GTFO to nearby brewery in Bondurant, Iowa.  No need to really become terrified.  Definitely carry a Rosary and some Holy Water just in case.  Perhaps go to Reconciliation before hand to get my sins forgiven so I can be clean when I roll onto this haunted turf.  After all there is a spirit here labeled "not nice."  Paranormal Activities at Farrar School

Brad and met last week when I dropped my daughter's bike off at his shop, Fred's Bikes, for a new BB.  Asked me if I still wanted to ride there.  Since we both had Sunday free we agreed to meet and ride to the school.  The plan was simple.  Meet and take the MLK Trail to E 25th, cut up to Scott Ave and ride to the trailhead of the Gay Lea Wilson Trail and roll all the way to Altoona.  Exit Altoona on its northeast corner and enjoy the wonderful county road to the trailhead of the Chichaqua Trail.  Follow the trail to 112th and turn north and ride all the way to Farrar, Iowa.

So this morning Brad and I met at 8 am and rode our road bikes to the school.  What I thought would be a 50 mile round trip turn into a 70 miler for me and perhaps a 76 miler for Brad. Yes, poach a ride on the new trail north of Altoona, turn off to early from the Chichaqua Trail and have to double back, take the long way back to Bondurant since Brad drove it the other week and it was "just off the turn", take the long way home from Bondurant (the extension of the Chichaqua Trail to Berwick, Iowa and the Four Mile Creek Trail) since Brad has never had the opportunity to ride on it.  But it was all good since we ride well together and the conversation is great.

Before reaching the school we encountered a crop duster spraying the now brown corn field south of Farrar.  Why is he spraying we wondered?  Perhaps an anti fungal agent since the corn is ready for harvest but recent rains make that impossible.  Too late in the season for insecticide.  Weird.  The pilot did fly over us rather low when we entered the school grounds.

Nothing out of the ordinary at the school.  An old brick building with two vehicles parked out front.  Brad noted that the blue SUV was in the same exact location from his previous look.  A stump with fake spider webs on it and a black cauldron.  Peaking into the window we could tell that the owners were preparing for a "haunted house" Halloween event.  Signs on the window indicated that tours and overnights were available.  A website was given.  And yes, we were being watched by cameras and internet.

We searched for unlocked doors and only found one but it was a dead end since the inner door was locked.  So we just walked around the building looking for something.  The only thing we found were tiny black gnat like or flea like insects that bit us fiercely.  Brad called them poltergeist flies.  They were awful.  They were not around when we first got there.  After a moment we left and explored the cemetery across the street.  It should be noted that the bug bites stopped when we crossed the road.  Perhaps the crop duster chased them to the school.  Perhaps they were from the cattle next to the school.

The graveyard

I'm glad we did not camp there since we would have been eaten alive by the bugs.  But a night ride would be interesting.  If you would like a serious tour without a long bicycle ride click here: Haunting at Farrar

BLOGGER'S NOTE: An explanation of the crop duster is that the plane may have been planting a cover crop on the cornfield.

Saturday, September 23, 2017

Observation of Other Cities and Cycling: Chicago and LA

Bike shop in Pilsen, Chicago.

Follow me and I'll show you where the real road warriors roll

Took time to follow my favorite band around the US last week.  As usual, a short tour, just two dates, but both were held in iconic cities.  New Order played an 11 track set at Chicago's Riot Fest and then 3 days later headlined a gig at LA's famous Hollywood Bowl.  I was unable to bicycle from Friday to Wednesday but I spent a lot of time walking, taking planes, trains and buses and consequently viewed bicycle life in these cities.  Please note that I spent my time in very specific neighborhoods and did not have the full tour of either metro.  It was if I made a random inspection by dropping in a certain area of each city.

Sweet Home Chicago

Chicago was first.  I took the Megabus there and was picked up at the stop by two friends.  $30 one way ticket and I slept the entire journey.  The next day was the real adventure.  First thing we did in the morning was walk about 2 or 3 miles to a branch of the Illinois Currency Exchange and purchased a "Venture", refillable debit card that for $20 allowed me to take as many trains and buses I needed for 3 days.  We took the train all over Chicago.  That walk exposed me to a lot of the bicycle culture of the city.

We stayed in Pilsen, a neighborhood named after the Czech city.  Now it has a much spicier flavor. Our main road was 18th St.  There is a bicycle lane and many bike racks along the road.  Also, at least 2 bicycle shops along the way to the train station.


Near Douglas Park and Riot Fest.  A pair of Schwinns.  Step through "lady's frames" were popular.
A roadie on Carpenter.  Rack no bags  U-Lock through the front wheel.
One of the nicer single speeds.  Narrow bars and U-Lock through the front wheel.

The bicycles I saw were not toys.  The riders I saw were true road warriors.  One would have to be to ride in traffic.  The bicycle lanes were not protected.  The common color of the bicycles was black.  The common gearing was single.  Single speeds and mountain bikes from the 90s with a few heavy iron Schwinns form the 70s.  Nothing fancy.  Nothing flashy.  Nothing tempting to steal.  No fatbikes, no touring bikes and no cyclocross bikes.  Inexpensive lights and flashers if they had lights at all.  No generator hubs.  Few bikes had racks or baskets.  No $200 Surly racks.  No panniers or bags.  A lot of riders wore backpacks.  Fenders?  No.  Stereos on their bicycles?  No, the streets ain't no disco.  Helmets?  A few.  Jerseys and bicycle shorts?  Nope.  Safety vests?  Negative.  That's for construction workers and street crews.  One thing 99% had in common was U-Locks.  Big ones too to make sure the front wheel was secured when the bike was unattended.  I saw a number of bikes locked up missing wheels.

Popular bike rack style in Pilsen.

At a building of art studios near the old coal burning power plant near the river.  Pinkie is a single speed MTB, the middle one is a SS and the end is a older roadie.

Now this is not to say that other cycling does not occur in Chicago.  I have friends here that ride expensive bicycles and there are places to ride them around the city or out of the city.  But for the everyday bicycle trip one does not need such bikes.  Chicago is flat.  Also the possibility of theft increases with shiny expensive rides.  Hence, the black nondescript single speed or 7-speed bicycle with flat bars, short flat bars for that matter, is the steed of choice for urban riding.  Todd, our host in Pilsen, said that he recently sold his road bike because he never rode it.  He keeps two MTBs for his wife and himself.

Bike lane that goes over a steel bridge.  According to Todd some cyclist was killed by a car.  Since there was not a need for a four lane, bike lanes on both sides were painted in.

Even the bicycle shops seemed set up for this style.  We passed at least two and their windows displayed single speeds and track wheels.  I was happy to see the track wheels because that creates a market for the 60 mm presta stemmed tube that my commuter requires for my track wheels.

Another option for cycling in Chicago is their bike-share program, Divvy.  I saw a few of these stations in Pilsen.  Makes a lot of sense.  If you live and work near one of the 580 bicycle stations you can rent one of the 5800 bikes for commuting.  No more lugging a bike in and out, up and down the apartment.  Fenders and racks and locks included.  A faster way to get around town without the hassle of ownership.

Divvy bike share station in Pilsen near the currency exchange.


For longer trips one can bring their bicycle on the train during non-rush hours.  Two bikes per train car.  I never saw this but I read the signs.  Perhaps that's how one gets their roadie to the nice trails and countryside.  We did not do this.

But we did take the train to a few good sites in Chicago.  Colin asked, "How about a beer and a Polish sausage in Wrigleyville?" Why not?  First stop was at Millennium Park for a Starbucks and people watching then back on the train to get said beer and sausage at Murphy's Bleachers outside center field.  After that, and it was fun to be in Cubs ground Zero right before they nuked the visiting St Louis Cardinals,  we hopped on the train after tapping the turnstile with the Venture Pass and got within walking distance of Douglas park for Riot Fest.  We could have ridden bikes to Riot fest since it would have been a flat ride and was not far away and the promoters provided bicycle parking.  The next day we took the bus there.

Millennium Park

Colin circled in pink in the middle.  Me circled at bottom left.  Chrome blob.

Train outta Wrigleyville.

Two great days in the Windy City.  After Queens of the Stone Age we left Riot Fest and returned to Todd's place in Pilsen.  Exhausted from the show and facing an very, very early flight I suggested that Todd take me to the train station so I could catch the Blue Line and ride it to its end point, O'Hare Airport.  No sense in catching 3 hours of sleep and then go.  Just go now and I'll sleep in the airport and everyone else can sleep in longer.  One problem, not enough seats on the non-controlled side of TSA screening and screening does not open until 330 am.  Once they opened and I was stripped of shoes, emptied my pockets, detected for metal and patted down I got to my gate, plugged my phone in and slept until boarding.


On my own.  Colin was an excellent guide but he did not accompany me across the continent.  The woman next to me told another passenger that LA lacks good mass transit and that Uber of Lyft were the best options for getting around.  She then turned to me and asked if I agreed.  Sorry, not a resident.  I was planning to Lyft however I found bus info at the terminal.  For $8 I could take Flayaway shuttle service to withing 2 miles of my destination and be able to take it again to LAX as early as 515 am for another $8.  Cheaper than taxi or ride share.  Taking the bus from the airport to Hollywood,,,there's a country song in this somewhere.

The first thing that hit me as I walked to my hostel on the Walk of Fame was how filthy the streets and sidewalks are.  Maybe the lack of rain.  Maybe the endless throngs of tourists.  Maybe the city is broke.  Maybe they don't care.  I'd like to go back with a power washer.

Yes Virginia, there are bicycle lanes and routes in Los Angeles.  This one is in Hollywood.
I like the bicycle sign above the street sign.

One of the first bikes I saw.  Nice commuter.  I wonder if fenders are really needed in LA?
A Hollywood sharrow on a filthy street.
Broken bike rack hidden in a shopping complex on Hollywood Blvd behind the 24 hour Subway.

LA is not known for its bicycling.  This is a car-centric city.  People get killed riding bikes here.  I remember a few years ago someone organized a bicycle ride to some awards show.  I have a friend here that says people cannot commute on bicycle here without seriously risking their lives.  There are bike routes and shared roads marked by sharrows, MTB trails and paths throughout the city.  Santa Monica has a wonderful 20 mile trail called The Strand.  But alas, this is for touring not commuting.  Bicycles just a entertainment piece not a transportation device.

Sidewalks are not a viable option either.  Trees that are not palm trees destroy them it appears.

Such a shame and I am calling the State of California out.  Their political and environmental sanctimonious stands mean nothing when they are forever happily embedded in car culture. But as I said, they do have bicycle routes and share roads and a bicycle sharing program although I only saw one on my way back to LAX.

Not only is the city exclusively set up for cars but the drivers are very dangerous themselves.  My friend John-Henry explains,

 "People in the area do act like they have a force field around them... 
I lived in LA for 3 years, so I can drive like they do in many ways, but people from Hollywood take more risks than anyone I know, and act like they are driving normal."
More words from Curbed LA on bicycling in LA in general and LA's bike share program Metro Bike Share

"Riding a bike in Los Angeles is often viewed as a fringe activity rather than a viable mode of transportation. But it's exactly this norm that Metro wants to change as it expands bike share across LA."

Thus until the transportation paradigm changes bicycling in LA will remain a freak show or the domain of playing with toys, the bicycle as a toy not transportation.

What I saw

I saw a few bicycles chained up to parking meters along Sunset Blvd.  One was a decent Giant roadie. I believe it was still there Tuesday morning when I walked back to the Flyaway shuttle stop on Vine.
I did see what most likely was a touring bike with panniers and a the rider wearing a backpack or Camelback riding west on Sunset.  The placed I stayed was on Orange Drive.  There were sharrows painted on the street.  It's a long and sometimes steep hill.  Sunset marks the end of LA's flatland and by Franklin the hills are really established.  I saw a few people riding up Orange Dr and a bike, albeit missing a wheel, locked to a parking meter or rack near the top of that road.  Other than that mostly nondescript bikes.  Flashy cars and rugged bikes.

These two bicycles were inside the gated yard of the hostel I stayed at, Orange Drive Hostel.  I never met the owners.  On the board inside there were flyers for bicycle rentals but I think they were in bicycle friendly areas.

There were a few brave souls heading down to Hollywood on Highland Ave which is the feeder/off ramp for the 101.  A sea of cars and these cyclists fly and weave through traffic like they were born to do this.  Insane road warriors! John-Henry explains just how bad the 101 is when I commented that even the pedestrian traffic from the Hollywood Bowl after the concert was a slow mess.

"Hollywood Bowl is also the same exit a lot of people exit the strip from, and streets were designed in the 40s with a minor upgrade of the on-ramp to the 101 in the 70s? Way before traffic ever got that bad. Traffic lights are on every corner every 200 feet, with no rhyme or reason to how they change red/green, and the 101 is a mess, has to be one of the worst freeways in the nation, it is a three lane that handles the volume of a five lane freeway, not to mention it is like driving on the roller coaster, with ups and downs and sharp turns. making traffic slow down, and then the people in the area drive are insane. They swerve in traffic two lanes at time, looks like they don't even look in their mirrors or anything. I hate the 101. 
My home is 1 1/2 hours from the start of the 101, often it will take me 45 minutes to an hour just to travel another 15 miles on the 101.You honestly can't make traffic move any faster in Hollywood... actually I thought they did a great job as it wasn't the mess I thought it would be. "

Home Sweet Home Des Moines, Iowa

The Des Moines River Trail is to the left of the river.  The plane was named Maya the Jaguar.

As my ears started to explode from changing altitude and the pilot announced the final descent I looked out the window for something familiar.  At one point we flew over the Des Moines River Trail that is a mere few tenths of a mile from my house.   A little bit later I was eating at an establishment near one of our fine sidepath/bicycle/pedestrian trails.  Two cyclists were stopped at a light, bright reflective vests on a pair of touring bikes out for an evening of fun I thought.  Yeah, Des Moines, where everyone can ride a $1500 touring bicycle with $400 worth of panniers and $500 worth of generator hub lighting system to make a 20 mile round trip with a case of beer, if they can afford it.  The two cyclists reminded me of replacement soldiers fresh from boot camp in clean uniforms in some war movie.  Ready to take on the world but yet to be exposed to the horrors to come.  I wonder how long they would last on the streets of LA or Chicago? Cyclists in Des Moines and in Iowa for that matter do not know how lucky and privileged we have it here.  My 15 mile commute to work contains 13 miles of a purposely built bike/pedestrian road (trail) although not nearly wide enough for the explosion of trail users during the past decade but a safe car free road.  Des Moines is loaded with them.  Less than a half mile from my home I can get on the trail system and ride over 100 miles without riding on the streets or highways or repeating trail sections over and over and over again. The images of a cyclist on Chicago's 18th St with cheap AA powered lights and a boat anchor U-lock attached to a generic black bicycle riding through late night traffic floats in my head still.  Not in a protected bike lane, naked on the streets, baby.  He was on his way somewhere maybe because he enjoys it or cannot afford other transportation.  What ever reason, I salute him and admire his braveness.  Check your bicycle privilege.