Saturday, August 19, 2017

Colorado Mike


Made a swoop around the shelter to the sidewalk leading to it from the south.  Still shy of the sidewall gash that ruined an $80 tire a month ago.  Someone was there but the shade hid the details.

"Do you know anything about gears? he queried as I was dismounting my bike.  "Yes," I replied thinking that I have cabled my share of derailleurs and fixed shifting on another share of bikes and the Rule #1: NEVER TAKE A SCREW DRIVER TO A DERAILLEUR UNLESS YOU ARE ABSOLUTELY SURE OF WHAT YOU ARE DOING.

Once in the shelter I could see.  He's got a Denali road bike pulling a trailer, two large duffel bags and assorted stuff spread on the tables and a Husky.  "I'm riding to Colorado and I only have two gears." Mountains come to mind.  Then the hills of Iowa which he cannot avoid from here to Winterset. Once he reaches Winterset it will be flat for most of the way to the Loess Hills and border.  Yeah, he's gonna need some gears.  Time to assess his situation further.


Basic Shimano 3x7 with GripShift.  Sure enough, someone took a screwdriver to the front derailleur and messed with the High or the Low setting screw.  I pick it up and crank it and try to shift the front.  No joy, stuck in granny.  Adjust the barrel at the shifter but no improvement.  Shift the rear and get some shifting.  "Do you have any tools?"

"Nothing but a 15 mm wrench to take the trailer on and off and a knife."

That ain't gonna work.  Need to adjust that screw and take out the slack in the cable for the front derailleur.

"I rode here from Ames last night.  Stopped at the cafe in Prole and waiting for them to open then they told me about this place so I came here and slept."

"You did into take the trail into Des Moines?

"There's a trail?  I took Highway 69.  I could not find this trail last night."

He would have rode right by us at Orlando's.  515 fest would have blocked his way unless he could have found the gravel path.  "The homeless in Des Moines really liked my trailer.  They wanted me to give them this.  No way."

"Gonna ride to Winterset and then head west.  I've ridden from Colorado to Ames on a MTB but some FaceBook friends gave me this new bike when i got there.  A lot of people follow me on FaceBook."  I tried to find him on FB, no luck.

"Well, Mary and I have no tools except stuff to fix a flat tire.  You need to go to the gas station down the hill and purchase a screwdriver and either a 10 mm wrench or a pair of pliers or something."  The derailleur's cable uses a nut and and a flat bolt instead of a hex bolt.  I would not have been carrying the required tools.  "We'll watch your dog."


Lena is his Husky.  She rides in the trailer.  Until this moment she was quietly laying down in the shade.  Mike handed Mary the leash and he was on his way.  Lena sat next to me and allowed me to pet her and never made a whimper or sound noting that her master rode away.  Then she laid down.  Mike was not gone long and returned with a Philips head screwdriver and a pair of pliers.  Time to work.

Adjust the High and Low screws up front and got some positive movement but still needed to pull the cable through.  Either cable stretch or poor assembly.  "Yeah, they tried to adjust it for me yesterday."  Soon I could get the chain to the big ring.  Front done.  The rear just required adjustment to the Low screw.  I was able to get it to the next to last cog.  Lacking a proper bike stand and expertise I felt that he was much better off than he was last night.  Seriously, I ain't the best wrench but I can get a bike moving in emergencies.  I had no issues going to the cog on the far right.  Check the front again and make a few more adjustments.  "You got more gears now.  I don't guarantee my work but you have the tools.  You should be able to climb up the hills now without killing yourself."

Mike told us a little more about himself.  Wounded by a IED over in the Sandbox he's had trouble maintaining full employment.  Seizures and memory issues.  In Colorado he will go to the VA and seek help.  He said he works 6 months out of the year excavating then the other 6 months going on adventures such as this.  He lived in Des Moines but moved to Colorado when or after he was a freshman at East HS.  He is friends with someone who works at Barr Bicycle in Clive.  Then he became another victim of the never ending war in the Middle East.


We kinda envied him for a bit, the lack of schedule and the ability to travel and explore the US on bicycle albeit not the best machine.  "I walked from Portland to Tacoma [or something like that I forgot the exact locations] but I'll never do that again.  Large cats and bears.  Scary."  Yep, I was spotted by a mountain lion once and got within 25 yards of it.  Cats think about what they are going to do, how they are going to attack prey.  Hate being on a critter's menu.

It was time for us to head north for 21 miles to the comfort of our air conditioned home and stable employment and all the creature comforts we have acquired in the safety of our normal lives. We shook hands and wished him safe travels.  I wished I had one of the dozen maps that I have at home to give him and a set of tools.  But he should be fine.  Said it took him two weeks to ride from Colorado to Ames.  He's young.  He has been through hell and back.  Some of us wait until we are old to do that adventure. Long may he ride!





Saturday, August 12, 2017

Apply the Band-Aid


Be careful when cycling on the Clive Greenbelt.  Heading west when you pass 515 brewery there is a set of railroad tracks that needs attention.  One of the ties has rotted away and it is extremely rough on skinny tires.  There may be crashes until this is fixed.  The rail crossing is private property and unless a trail derails here or a lawsuit emerges I doubt it will be fixed soon.  It has been this way all summer.



The City of Clive has placed this sign to help.

Of course I should just fill the Burley with gravel and fill the hole myself.  Be careful!  You've been warned!!

Sunday, August 6, 2017

Neal Smith Trail Along Pennsylvania Ave


As a cyclist I often find myself as the spokesperson for the bicycling community.  And this often occurs when I am the only cyclist in the room or the area.  I was reminded of this today as I was riding to Union Park to photograph the rocket slide.  I just climbed up from Lutheran Hospital and made the left on the pathetic excuse of a trail in front of Riverview Oaks Apartments when I saw a man on a hybrid cruising north on Penn Ave at speed.  I was a bit envious of him as I knew that I would have to worry about collisions with cyclists and walkers and cars coming out of driveways.  He only had to worry about the car behind him.  Sure enough, a microsecond after jealousy hit a black SUV was flying toward the street leaving the apartment complex.  I squeezed both brake levers and lost whatever speed I had in time for the climate changer to stop on the trail.  Not that close of a call but damn somebody is going to get hurt here one of these days.

Narrows after the apartments.

Thinking back a few months ago the conversation with muggle who was upset at cyclists.  It was at my local barber shop and I was known as "the biker."  The man getting his hair trimmed was an elderly gentleman, probably a veteran of WWII or Korea or both.

"How come bikers ride on Penn Ave itself instead of the trail paid by my taxes?"  "How come bikers think they can go through stop signs and red lights"  ect, ect

Now I could have hit him over the head with the truth of the matter concerning taxes.  "Guess what Pops, your car does not pay enough taxes for the roads anyway and my bicycle does not damage the roads in the first place.  Now tell me about the time in France when you faced the Kaiser's best troops and liberated Paris."

The whole climate change discussion was ignored.  But I told him that he should get a chair and sit out on a street corner and count how many car drivers break the law by not coming to complete stops.

But I did tell him that the trail there is bad and in need of work.  Today only reinforced my opinion.


First of all it is narrow like most trails.  And being an older trail it is more narrow than most. Basically it is a sidewalk.  The risk of head on collision with other trail users is high.  And this is an important and busy trail as it connects downtown to places north.  It is also in a residential neighborhood and thus more foot/bike/skateboard traffic.

Second, the trail is in rough shape.  Cracks run most of it.  Most cracks have vegetation growing in them.  Some parts have been dug up and left a mud hole for months on end.

You could grow crops in that crack!

Third, there are three major driveways along it.  Takes a lot of faith in humanity to believe that every vehicle will stop before the trail and look both ways both at the street and trail before crossing.  Takes a lot of awareness to look out for them.  Right hooks and left hooks.  Add in the fact that people tend to look at phones more than the road and we got trouble.  Safer to be in the street to begin with.

The new looking portion of the trail was a mud hole last year for several monts.

Finally, winter.  Although the trail is to be plowed and home owners on top of Penn Ave are to clear their sidewalk (trail) of snow this is not a successful endeavor.  City snowplows continually bury the cleared sidewalk/trail/sidepath with street snow.  I'd give up too.  Not everyone puts their bicycle away after Ragbrai and pull them out for the Mayor's Ride.  More and more people ride all year round.  Penn Ave becomes the only choice.

Now I am not asking for a handout to address these issues immediately.  I just want those that do not ride, muggles, to know and understand that there are legitimate reasons that cyclists take to the street.

The 8 Hours of Craig and Chris

Route sign, LOL!!!

It was an ambitious plan.  Ride from home to Perry and take the gravel to the Trestle and then the Bittersweet Rd to Stevie-C's in Grimes and then limp home.  But what looks great in the grey matter and on text often does not become a reality.  I have now regrets.  I got out of the house.  I got the Trek 520 working again.  I spent time with a great friend and saw some others.

I was planning a long ride anyway.  Planned to take the LeMond out and do some fast miles north to avoid the crowd at the 24 hours of Cumming.  Been far too long without being on a fast bike.  Since Ragbrai I've been on the single speed daily.  But I was asked if gravel was OK so I had to switch bikes.

The 520 sat lonely against the west kitchen wall behind the bike stand.  Just one wheel on it.  The front had been removed to facilitate the return of Craig's spare tire.  That tire saved my Ragbrai two weeks ago after the Schwalbe Marathon Supreme blew up from a sidewall cut in Ayershire, Iowa.  Had it not been for that Continental tire that Craig carries around I would have been doomed.  Miles and miles away from a bike shop I would have had to make phone calls in a serviceless region.  Or set my tent up for the night and wait for the official Ragbrai to roll through the next day and hope to flag down a mobile bike shop and spend money.  But Craig produced a miracle and I was able to add another 336 miles to his famed tire that has saved the likes of Jon Cox, Spaulding and Kim West among others.  On Thursday I returned the tire to him.  I had not taken the time to put a new tire on my wheel.

So I put my old heavy Continental Touring Plus back on.  Too heavy and a poor rolling tire it's saving grace is that it is almost bullet proof.  I only had one flat on it and that was from a roofing nail I picked up in Missouri.  Confidence of a flat free day.


So after hours of slacking and a flurry of prepping I took off about noon.  Dumped the remnants of 3 bags of ice into my cooler and headed to the corner store for beer.  Craig would like Jagermeister I thought as I qued up for the purchase of a 6er of Busch Light tallboys.  Why not?  I bought two.  Small glass bottles not the plastic airliners.  Bumped my total up to $16.  Fookers, I just wanted 1 shot bottles not the next size up!

Parked at the front door of the University Tap.  Dash's bike is the red one.

We hooked up at University Tap.  He asked if I wanted to meet at a bar or park.  I said Colby Park.  He had another idea.  Cyclists were at this water hole.  I found Craig sitting next to Dash and a cold beer in a coozie waiting for me.  During the consumption of this corn beer the topic of "ON YOUR LEFT" came up.  "Fuck I hate that!" Dash exclaimed.  "People should just have mirrors!  Trying to enjoy nature and the sounds of the birds and the flowers and such and somebody shouts 'ON YOUR LEFT!' and ruins the peace.  I ring a bell."  Me, I give a friendly greeting such as "good morning" or "howdy" to announce my intention.  But like I always say, things look great on paper until you start adding humans to it.  Bike trails are no exception.  One and done.  Make that 2 and done.  The bartender opened a Miller Lite by accident and gave it to us for free.  I threw myself on that landmine.

We left still intending to reach Perry.  The sky was grey and cloudy but the air was cool.  One stop at a bench along the Greenbelt.  Then I knew that we would not get far.  Craig was tired.  He apologized.  But no apology was needed.  I accomplished something and I was outside with a friend on bicycles.  Perhaps we'd make it to Kenny's in Waukee.  The light rain started and the second nail of the ride coffin was placed.  Let's move to the shelter.  But the shelter was packed with a family reunion.  Move along.  The rain had quit.  Stop at the bridge that connects the Greenbelt to the Raccoon River Valley Trail.

The bridge.  I'd like to know the history of it.

Not a one beer stop.  Junkies...

This bridge is wide.  Could use some benches.  But it was quiet and bicycle/pedestrian traffic was the lowest we had encountered all day.  We sat on the pavement and I asked Craig if he'd like a shot of Jager.  Yes.  We probably spent a good hour there before turning back.

Front Row was our next stop.  We enjoyed a beer on the  patio.  Pulling in Craig said our bikes would be safe on the patio.  A woman smoking a cigarette said they might be safer on the bike rack across the road.  It was a twisted POS.  Craig thought it was hit by a snow plow.  Something ran over one end of it.  No thanks, by "safe" we meant free from theft not free from falling over.  Rikki King and Pylar Eaton.  This was Rikki's first ride since Tom and Judy retired (several years).

Would you use this rack?

Well the rain began again a little stronger and longer than before.  but we stayed underneath the umbrellas and chatted with the smokers and ordered some Mexican food from next door.  Eventually we left.

Western Gateway IPA at 515 Brewery.

515 was the next stop.  My idea.  I wanted to see Miccah whom I see at work and feel bad that I never see her at her second job at 515.  Sure enough she was swinging beer and I ordered the Western Gateway IPA.  Craig got the Single Speed guest beer.  I needed the hops to wake me up.  Looking around I spotted Austin and Molly Gill for a 20th class reunion.  Chad Leeper was there despite being on crutches.  Jennifer H from work was there as well having a spouse that graduated with Austin and Leeper.  Small world.  Truly a one and done.  I felt I needed to get home.

We parted ways at Pal Joey's.  I had no desire for another beer.  Instead the desire for ice water was in full swing.  Stopped at the BP station for the second time and purchased 10 lbs of ice for home since my cooler ate all we had.  Wise choice.  That ice water tasted like nectar!  It was now 8 pm.  Not much for miles but it was nice to spend a day with a friend on bicycles.