Thursday, July 13, 2017

Less Than A Week Before The Big Ride

One week from now I will be riding from Jefferson, Iowa, to Laurens, Iowa, on a loaded touring bicycle with my wife and 4 friends.  Those 5 other people are the 5 people who I feel safest riding with on the entire planet.  We have been through heaven and hell together on 2 wheels I cannot think of any other people I trust with my riding adventures.

This will be our version of The Ragbrai.  I think we last rode that ride in its official form 11 years ago.  Ever since then we have been riding as a self contained battle group on our own route, own overnights on empty roads.  The official route we rarely see.  Last year, for example, we joined Ragbrai in Leon, Iowa, from the other end of town and spent the night with them.  The next day we rode the route for approximately 20 miles before splitting off on our own.  This year the closest we'll be is a day ahead.  And we prefer it this way.  The "Route" is a suggestion, a suggestion of the general direction to ride.  As they say, it's the journey not the destination.  We prefer that journey without 20,000 cyclist in our immediate vicinity.

This year we are heading to Milford, Iowa.  We are visiting a friend who we met through our South Dakota bicycle journeys.  Since he is going on the Ragbrai we decided to get there early enough for us to destroy his home and leave him enough time to get to Orange City.  Hence, the reason we are leaving on Wednesday.  There was debate about leaving on Tuesday after work!  This has been a goal of ours for years.

On Saturday we will cross the proverbial street and stay at a cabin somewhere on Lake Okoboji.  I have never spent any time up there.  It will be a day of relaxation  and laundry.  Perhaps "drinking day."  From there we will head to Algona.  We will be a day ahead of the Ragbrai.

On Monday Mary and I will break off from our group and head home.  Overnight stop at Brushy Creek State Park and then a long ride home.  Since we will intercept the High Trestle Trail at Woodward our last 40 miles will be fast.  It may be a century day.  Done that before, most recently from Rockwell City to Des Moines on our touring tandem.

Damn, summer is almost over!

Tuesday, July 11, 2017

Attempt At Beating The Rain

Fritz woke me up at 3:28 AM.  That is 17 minutes before the alarm was to go off and I turn on the light and radio and lay back down until the weather is announced at 4:05.  But the dog wanted to go out and after circling the dining room table three times he walked to the door and we went outside.  I felt a drop and looked at the sky.  Yep, they were right, rain.  Once the constitutional ended and we were back inside I fired up the radar.  Red glob west of town.  "Yeah, I could probably beat that."

Probably the fastest I have ever left the house.  Took the single speed because it has panniers and likes abuse.  No rain yet and my speed was much better than usual.  Amazing how impending doom can motivate me to ride faster.

No rain yet as I rolled underneath the SW 9th viaduct.  But there was a homeless couple stirring about.  One was dragging an open sleeping bag and the other carrying a bag or two.  Finding a dry place to resume sleep I thought.  Keep moving.

Fleur Viaduct would be the next refuge.  But it was just a light sprinkle by then.  Roll the dice and move on.  The next "rain shelter" would be underneath Grand Ave 4 miles away.  Sure, the shelter in Water Works Park after the bridge would be closer but it would require a ride or walk through a literal minefield of locust thorns.  Better wet than flat tire I always say.

The sky lit up and the sprinkle turned into full blown rain as I approached the bridge at Water Works Park.  Why not, I thought to myself as I spotted the kybo.  I had to jettison a load anyway and this would provide an opportunity to view the radar again and make a decision if necessary.  Put it down as training for The Ragbrai and voting for a POTUS!!  Really did not need the magic of a smart phone and internet to tell me that the red glob was overhead.  Thunder and lightning and the intensity of the rain told me so.  So I wasted a few minutes playing on the internet before I was  declared it safe enough to resume the commute.  I did think that this would be a horrible place to die.  Killed by a falling tree while surfing the net in a porta potty trying to escape the rain.  Then again I think about the possibility of horrible death in almost everything I do.  At least my bowels and bladder were empty.

It was now 430 AM and if I had decided to wait it out at home I'd still be messing around and not ready to leave.  And there was always the possibility that the storm would be worse.  Here in the plastic shittar I was 3.5 miles ahead of schedule.  Wet trail, puddles but no limbs or trees to avoid.  No other bicyclists either.

My next encounter with a human was underneath the road leading to Burger King and Walmart.  At first I thought he was speaking on Blue Tooth but after about the 3rd mention of "coal miner" I realized that he was complementing my head lamp.  He may have asked me to wait the rain out here but the radar suggested that the main storm was over and only the green and blue globs would annoy me.  I was actually a minute faster to this location than my standard and 7 miles away from coffee. Sorry, m8, fook the rain there's records to set and coffee to drink.

The sun was peaking through the clouds to to north east.  Brilliant reds calling me to take the long way around the buildings that I work in.  From the far east parking lot I took photos of the sky with I-35/80 in the foreground.  That was my reward for leaving early and getting caught in the rain and kybo.  A few minutes later coffee and dry clothes.

I plan to leave this early again hopefully on a dry day.  perhaps get an extra few miles in.  truly peaceful on the trail at this hour.

Saturday, July 1, 2017

Nebraska Bound Drifter

Not the Nomad of this writing.  A little too urban chic but set up is accurate, inexpensive MTB and trailer.

It all started with a text.  Late June is always the time of year that I cannot focus on work.  Too many things coming up.  Mainly time off of work to spend on the bicycle(s).  So Craig wanted to gather Team Violator (Craig does not know that is what we informally call ourselves) to discuss routes for our annual July bicycle odyssey in Iowa.  For the muggles reading this, Ragbrai.  So for the rest of the work day my attention was focused on maps and measuring distances.

These thoughts and images were still occupying my mind as I rode home.  A few other thoughts did, however, appear from time to time but would quickly be co-opted into the Ragbrai ponderings like how great the weather was riding home.  If only this temperature would be around when we are on that journey.

Then a ragged man on a bicycle was stopped on the trail staring at a sign near the tree that my son once crashed into on the Clive Greenbelt.  I'm sure it said "City of Clive" and contained some other utterly useless information as I have read those little green signs before and found them worthless but his focus was one of a man in search of answers.  Having stopped his rig in the middle of the trail I slowed down and announced my intention of passing through on his left.  Attention from the sign now broken he looked up and asked me if this trail would take him to Nebraska.  Damn, I wish!

He looked like he was in his 60s but he could have been younger than me.  Bronze skin from decades of exposure to the sun, cracked and wrinkled face from what I can only image as a hard working and living life (smokes and booze my evil minded assumptions tell me).  Grungy dirty shorts and shirt covered him.  His bike was a cheap Schwinn dual suspension MTB and it pulled a trailer loaded 4' high with everything he needed including a 5" thick foam pad not unlike the ones used for sofas folded over on top.  Hardly the conveyance that I would use to cross Iowa but then again I am privileged, blessed and lucky despite being chronically broke.

Nebraska!  Now my humanity kicked in out of selfish excitement.  Damn right I can tell you how to ride a bicycle to Nebraska!  I've been staring at a map of Iowa for the past 2 hours!  I've ridden that way many times schelping my shit like a world traveler or refugee.

"Got a map?" I asked him as I was considering giving him mine.  I don't need it anymore.  I have a wasteful gluttonous amount of new and marked on maps at home and at work.  Please take it for this one act will make me feel better about myself.

'I've one but it's hard for me to read it,' implying that he had an eyesight issue.  I saw that he did indeed have a State issue map of Iowa secured to the top of the trailer above the foam pad.  Hope it does not rain and ruin the map he has trouble reading.  I bet he has dealt with rain before.  I really don't think anything could stop him.

"Does this trail go the Nebraska?  I got to stay off the side of interstates.  I've been told to stay off the interstates."

"No but it will get you to a road that will get you there.  Not a freeway.  When you get to Redfield turn south and then turn right at the top of the hill.  That's the White Pole Road (famous Ragbrai tale on this one that I'll share at a later date) and it will take you to Nebraska."  I should have said old highway 6.  He did not open his map so I could show him.

I wanted to take his photo but felt that such action would have been rude.  He then said that the last time he rode through Des Moines the trail he was on turned into rock.  Then something about 'found that out when leaving Tupelo, Mississippi."  Then South Dakota came up.  I told him you could ride on the interstate there.

Nomad.  I wish I would have had a longer conversation with him but pretty soon we'd be swarmed by other cyclists getting their exercise and training on.  Dress like TdF racers and burn off excessive testosterone and wonder why the fat biker is talking to the vagrant.  Someone call the cops.  He had to continue westward and I had to get to my home.  Got to remember things like asking for names, places and reasons.  But then again I treated him dignity and respect.  That was Jesus on that bike.

Not homeless and perhaps a drifter though I have my doubts.  Look at his shoes and bike.  Too nice for life without a permanent roof.

Wednesday, June 21, 2017

1st Day of Summer Zoo Ride

The animals were out in force today.  maybe they could sense the incoming thunderstorm rolling in that WHO Radio said would hit hours later.  Maybe it was the first day of summer albeit early at 445 am when I encountered the first.

There's a new skunk in town on the trail.  I saw him/her on Monday underneath the Fleur viaduct.  Smaller than last year's skunk and a bit of grey instead of the bright white stripes.  It could have been dirty, again.  Today the skunk was not under the viaduct to my relief.  But moments later I spotted a dark object on the trail.  At this point I only using a 50 lumen head lamp.  I save the 750 lumen light for Water Works park and beyond since this area has substantial indirect lighting from the city.
So the dark object on the trail ends up being the dirty skunk.  Tail up but facing me.  Then the strangest thing happened, the skunk turned around and started following me or my light!  Usually they run away and turn so their butt is facing me.  Not this time.  I should have slowed down to see if it was truly following.

A mile later I was making the north turn to cross the Raccoon River bridge at Water Works Park.  There was a raccoon on top of the trash barrel with a can of ginger beer in its paw.  WTF?  Making Moscow Mules at 5 am?  Ricky says to Trixie, "Sorry, you got to drink this Mule out of a red Solo cup.  Those dirty humans rarely leave copper cups around anymore."

So as that imaginary conversation between two raccoons was floating around my head I encountered a deer bobbing its head across the trail.  Half expecting to see a pair of wireless earbuds in its ears as  the source of the head bob I was disheartened to discover the reason for it.  Bum front leg.  The deer was walking on 3 legs and holding the injured leg up.  I wish it well.

Sunday, June 18, 2017

American Legion Breakfast Redfield, Iowa

Alternative title:  FakeCoon Ride

Since 1984, every Saturday morning 6 am to 9 am breakfast has been served at the American Legion hall in Redfield, Iowa.  It is an "all you can eat" event featuring sausage, bacon, pancakes, blueberry pancakes, eggs, biscuits, potatoes, coffee ect for $7.  Just get in line, hand over your cash and someone will take your order down on a ticket and hand you a number.  They will deliver it to your table.

We have known about this for years but never have taken the time to ride bicycles to Redfield for this meal.  That changed yesterday when Craig and Mary and myself met at Colby Park in Windsor Heights about 530 am and headed to the Legion.  It was Craig's idea.  So on a rare Saturday our alarm went off and we got out of bed about the same time we would have been up on a work day.  This time for breakfast!


Just two mishaps almost marred the ride.  First, no communication about what bikes we were going to ride.  Mary and I chose to ride fast bikes.  Just a 70 miler, no need to carry anything but tire repair, phones, a PowerBar or two and cash.  Craig chose his touring bike with 4 panniers and soda bottles full of sand for extra weight.  He has not been on his roadie since last year.  I thought about my 520 but I hate the heavy tires on it.  As usual, I will not ride that bike fully loaded until I leave for the Ragbrai.  Craig had to work harder and Mary and work less to stay together as a group.  But we appreciate his role as "support."  Mary and were free to chase down and punish those asking for it!

Despite someone oversleeping we met at the park almost on time.  A text alerted us to this issue and that allowed Mary and I stop at McDonald's on Grand for an emergency restroom visit (me) and a pre-ride breakfast sandwich.  The perils of no easily consumable food at home, sacrifice breakfast for sleep.  We did carry PowerBars for an emergency.  We beat Craig to the IP by 2 minutes.  This brings up a good point, always go to the agreed meeting place.  If we would have ridden to his home, this was considered, we might have missed him since he had two options for the ride to Colby Park.

Very little traffic on the Greenbelt.  The climb up Hickman was frustrating for Craig and I almost felt guilty.  We noticed a lot of cars carrying road bikes westward.  Where's the ride I wondered.  Must be awful to live so far away from the trail you want to ride on.  BaCoon Ride!  The trailhead in Waukee was busy but I managed to get into the restroom.  A runner asked Mary what was going on and when told he said "Been here every day (or weekend) and never seen this place so busy.  FORGET THIS SHIT I'M GOING THE OTHER WAY!"  I did not think it was that bad, yet.  People must have parked in Adel because we encountered them heading east.  Then again I am not into hyper crowdediness on narrow multipurpose trails.  The BaCoon Ride is for a good causes, support for the Iowa Bicycle Coalition and the Dream Team among others.

1st stop, Brickyard Park, Adel, Iowa.

Our first stop was at Brickyard Park across from the trail from Adel's Brickyard and next to the Brickyard Burger and Brew.  To help Craig lighten his load we emptied some 12oz canned fluids.  It rained briefly but we rolled on.  Rained for about a minute very lightly.

Bike rack near the American Legion, Redfield, Iowa.  The red bike belonged to woman having a pre-ride breakfast.

The American Legion is located on Thomas St or across the street from the bar and next to the library.  Easy to find, just turn right after passing the depot and left the main business section.  We got there with a 1/2 hour to spare.  Time to fuel up.  Sorry no photos of the food.  I had two giant biscuits, two eggs over easy and two sausages plus 1 blueberry pancake for dessert.  I made sausage egg sandwiches with said ingredients.  All very good.  They've done this a few times, 33 years, and have everything running smoothly.

Another lost photo op was the quilt they are raffling off.  On this quilt are t-shirts on the Raccoon River Valley Trail.  Many of these have a map of the trail and the year.  Great piece of history as one can see in 1994 that Yale was the end of the line.  I think 2001 had Jefferson on it.  And the Clive connection to Waukee on some.  We purchased some tickets.  Don't know what we would do with it. It really should be in a museum for the trail.

Post-breakfast beers.  Doing our part in lowering the weight Craig had to haul.

We delayed our departure from Redfield with a diversion to the Casey's.  Craig purchased a 18 pack of Busch Light which was carried to the depot and we helped lighten this load underneath the fabric awning over the table.  By now riders were starting to appear.  Mostly older people and triathletes.  Speaking of which, one woman on a tri-bike was at the Legion but she was dropped off and ate with her crew (husband?).  A local asked her if she was on the BaCoon Ride and she said "No, I'm trying to avoid them!"  Her bike is in one of the photos I posted.

Off to the BrickYard.  One stop on the way there to lighten the load.  It took some time and a few false stops to get there but we stopped at the "L" bridge or as I always remember it as the Team Rage bridge.  A long long time ago Team Rage tagged the trail at that bridge with spray paint.  Also a long long time ago Anders Olson and I stopped here.  The bridge spans Panther Creek.  There are benches on both sides of the bridge and it is 4 miles or so from Adel not the 1 mile that Craig told and elderly BaCoon Rider on a tri-bike.  Essentially, it is half way between Adel and Redfield.  Craig used this opportunity to dump sand out of bottles to lighten the load.  He kept the bottles for future weight.

L Bridge aka Team Rage Bridge
Panther Creek
New bench

The Brickyard was our next stop conveniently located across the trail from the brick plant and next to Brickyard Park.  20 beers on tap.  We had two or three and then a Busch Light Tallboy as dessert. The place was STAFFED for the BaCoon Ride.  They also were busy fencing off the outside for a beer garden in anticipation of the riders.  The beer was cold and the a/c excellent.  Good stop.  I highly recommend this place.  Great specials.  Some day I plan to try the food.  I hope they got busy.  A few sweaty riders came in before we left.

At the Brickyard 

The rest of the way on the RRVT was noticeably busier.  More riders.  I passed a man who complained about leg cramps.  He aimed his water bottle on his legs and doused them with water.  Damn, never seen that trick before.  I just maintain proper nutrition, training and hydration.  It was at this point that I realized I had not taking a single sip from either of my two water bottles.  57 or 54 miles into the ride and no one bike hydration.  The idiot in me said "go for, complete the ride without taking a drink from your bottles."  So I did.  I up shifted and flew past leg cramp man.  Our next "hydration" stop would be in Clive on the bridge connecting the Greenbelt to the RRVT, mostly downhill from Waukee.

Final beers

Walnut Creek

In the middle of the connection between the trails is a bridge.  Wide and spacious spanning a clear water creek below and home to fish.  we finished off the 18 pack and called ourselves good.  A quick stop at Charlie's Filling Station to wish Liz a happy birthday and then home.  A lot of people were there and plans were being made to hang out at another bridge.  It's always bridges, isn't it?  I had had my fill and needed to get home and eat.

Mary and I parted ways at Charlie's.  Her college sorority was having a reunion in Des Moines this week and this was her best opportunity to see her old friends.  I merely rode home with only one burst of energy to pass someone.  of course during the last mile the phone rings, Dora, "when will you be home?  Dinner?"  5 minutes.  We ordered Northern Lights pizza.  I was home and wanted to stay.

Shower, eat, fall asleep on the couch, wake up to a Nicholas Cage vampire move, see Mary return and go to bed.  It was a great day and a great ride.  71.5 miles.  Maybe a little excessive on the beer consumption but I never felt drunk nor acted that way. Oh yeah, I never hit the water bottles!  That experiment is over.  Guess I needed to show Craig that I too carry dead weight on the bike!

We will do this again sometime.  It would make a great Fall or Spring ride.  Completing the loop would be icing on this cake.  A great century it would make as long as there were not 3000 others on the trail at the same time.  But for those that are not crazy, just ride to Redfield and enjoy a great breakfast.

Sunday, June 11, 2017

Sign o Times: Tour de Detour

Two seasons here, winter and construction.  Here are the highlights of my week of riding in the Des Moines Metro area.  Please feel to send me your photos of this vein to  I will add them.

SW 30th and George Flagg Water Works Park bicycle entrance

Flagg and SW 30th again.  Waiting for shoulder work to finish.  Road has been paved for two weeks and already is striped.

5th Street/Jackson St/Green Bridge for the installation of LED lights.  Closure removed on Friday after a few weeks.  We actually saw people working on the lights once.  Otherwise the most absurd closing of all time.  Let's take away the bridge for 2 years and then give it back for a few months and then close it without any visible reason why.

Bill Riley Trail closed for the removal and installation of the rail bridge.  As promised, a 12 hour closing.  These people know how to get the job done!

Jordan Creek Trail just north of Raccoon River Park.  They are replacing the surface in this section.

NE 80th St and NE 54 Ave between Altoona and Bondurant, Iowa.  Easy for bikes to get around since all the work at the time was on 54th.
NW 66th at Sycamore Access.  Major construction on that road.  Been at least two years.  I left the flash on and the photo was all white so I made a negative of it and some other doctoring.  I like the looks of it!

NW 66th.  This project is taking such a long time and it cut the Neal Smith Trail in 2.  To accommodate bicyclists and runners a paved detour trail was created with a crossing light installed so people can safely get to the other side.  Thank you!

Johnston, Iowa, at NW 57th Ave.  Thank you Derrick Spoon for letting people know about this one.  Mary says this section is habitually closed.

Friday, June 9, 2017

Art Ride

Day 4 of PTO

Where to ride.  I've gone south on the Great Western Trail.  West on the Raccoon River Valley Trail. North on the Neal Smith Trail.  Saving East on the Chichaqua Trail for a ride with Mary as well as Southeast to the Summerset Trail with her, too.  She had to work and I was solo again.  Why not the Jordan Creek Trail?

This trail I usually reserve for commuting home.  I suppose I could take it if I had a desire to go to Jordan Creek Town Center but no.  As reviewed previously in this blog, the trail can be a bit confusing with its multiple tunnels going underneath many roads.  Signage is improving but sometimes the tunnel one needs is the second and unseen tunnel.  Today I made only one wrong turn.

It was difficult to get to the JCT.  Detour at Water Works for the repaving of Flagg Dr.  Bill Riley Trail close for rail road bridge replacement, too.  I had to take Ingersoll Ave to bypass the closed section of the trail.  Nice long climb on a single speed bike.  No big deal.  I think it added 4 miles because I went to WW first to check on Flagg progress.

One must cross 63rd/1st street to get on the trail.  There is a light with a button to facilitate this just south of Rail Road.  I noticed something different about the other side.  There were shiny silver poles with branches and on them were blue squirrels.  A plaque indicated that it was an art exhibit.  The marker also named the squirrels Bannertail, Nutkin, Timmy Tiptoes and Ms Suzy.  Nice!  I recall from last year people working on the foundation for this but I had no clue as what they were doing.

At the end of this industrial stretch of trail and near the entrance for the Raccoon River Park the trail turns to the right and crosses the road and rail tracks.  The second art exhibit was above the trail. Yellow hawks named Farsight, Tobias and Tiberius.

Red rabbits were the next critters on silver trees.  These are located past Grand Ave along EP True just by the tunnel that leads to Jordan Creek Park.  They are Peter and Thumper.

Not far from where the trail goes underneath I-35.  It is a purple fox named Gary and a blue beaver called Bartholomew.  The beaver is hidden in a large log instead of sitting on the silver tree like the rest.  A young couple walking a dog asked if the beaver jumped out.  No.  They told me that during their first encounter with the art exhibit their dog looked inside the log and jumped back when he/she saw the beaver!  They also said they lived near by and were unaware of other exhibits besides the previous ones I encountered.

The best way to enhance this one is to have a sensor that when triggered would move the beaver to to opening of the log.  Kids would scream!

No bird poop.  The critics must love this one!

The final exhibit is Hedwig the Owl who sits in solitude toward the end of the trail just past the mall.

They must feed him or the critics here don't hold back!

He was not the final piece of art I encountered.  On my return I stopped at Hy Vee on Grand Ave to purchase dog food.  The garden center had two colorful dinosaurs.  Last year they only had a T-Rex.  I'd love to have them but I cannot justify dropping hundreds of dollars on something that would most likely be stolen from my yard.  Last years T-Rex was larger and had a price tag of something like $400 to $700 IIRC.

I also like the I heart Iowa sign.

A most colorful ride!  I end up with 40 miles on my single speed.  If there are other exhibits I did not see them.  I stayed on the main trail.  I tried to find the City of West Des Moines link to "Art on the Trail"  but a HTTP error pops up.  Down for maintenance?  However, I Googled the artists and here are some links to them:

Actual Size Artworks

Actual Size Exhibits

Get out and ride!

One final note.  When did they change the name of the trail?  The night before Ed Wilson showed a trail during his weather report.  He called it a "greenway."  Mary and I were a bit confused.  We never heard of a greenway in the metro.  Then I saw the signs starting about at Jordan Creek Park.