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.