Saturday, April 13, 2024

Reunion of Fools: 22nd Annual Fools Ride


At the beginning...

April 6, 2024, was the 22nd Fools Bike Ride hosted by Ben Wheeler.  I have participated in this ride 5 times.  In my humble opinion, the Fools Ride is the best social ride in Iowa.  The ride rolls on the Cedar Valley Nature Trail along the bank of the Cedar River from La Porte City to Brandon, Iowa.  A 23 mile trek bookend by establishments that provide food and free music.   Somewhere in the middle, 6 miles from LaPorte City there is an abandoned gravel pit with tables for a pit stop for socializing and libations carried in by participants.  I cannot recommend this ride enough.

Because the trail has a crushed limestone surface and because recent rain may have soften the trail, Mary and I chose to ride our 1991 Gary Fisher Gemini tandem.  Designed and sold as a mountain bike we eventually replaced the flat bars with drops and added front and rear racks to transform it into a touring bicycle.  We met Gary Fisher and had him autograph a photo of the bike in its touring glory and his eyes lit up and said he put drops on his before going into a esoteric discussion on cranks with cotter pins.  A few years back we put offroad tires back on the Gemini for gravel rides.  Those tires were perfect for the Fools Ride.  In previous years I have taken hybrids, fatbikes, a single speed gravel bike and a geared gravel bike.  This would be the tandem's debut.  Only rear panniers were used.  Two coolers, they were small, two chairs tools, flat repair and the ability to stuff in cold weather gear once it warmed up.

I has been over a year since we rode the tandem.  73 miles in 2022 and 0 miles for 2023.  I did have it out for upgrades last year but we cancelled that ride.  I did, however, replace Mary's saddle, though about replacing mine and thought about put new wrap on the bars but failed to get that done.  The day before the ride I thought about putting new wrap on during the Iowa Women's basketball game but only aired the tires.  I did get the cobwebs off and reset the computer.  

At the Getaway with a special friend

She asked for a ride.

Shakedown cruise.  A number of firsts.  Inaugural transport inside our Honda Pilot.  We were able to get our tandems in back of or CR-V by taking the wheels off.  That was not necessary with the Pilot!  Bicycles are safest when ferried inside automobiles especially when there is a sustained wind of 20+mph and a possibility of wind.  Other firsts included Mary's new Sella saddle, first time on this ride and first time the bike was ridden in over a year.  No test ride at home.  We did need to adjust the saddle once we got to the Getaway Bar form our parking spot across from the police station in La Porte City.

Our friend Dave was going to meet us at the start but he was delayed by a funeral.  We Have ridden this ride with almost every time since he lives nearby in Cedar Falls.  He always offers to let us spend the night at his place and cooks us a wonderful breakfast in the morning.  However, we started the ride without him and stopped at the gravel pit.  When he sent a text telling us he was on his way we rode back to the Getaway Bar to meet him.  Extra miles!

Dave's new bike.  This replaced his old Trek 950.  Same color but black added.

Dave's new bike again

Dave's Happy Dance!

Reunion ride.  At the gravel pit a significant contingent of Team Die Hard rolled in.  Have not seen them in a long time.  Mary was happy to see Heather and Linda.  One issue with rides is that often Mary is the only woman there.  It was great to see everyone.

Mary and Davis (Linda)

Heather, Johnny Paco and Dave

From the gravel pit looking west

The structure being used as the "ladies room

Fat's Pub and Grub was the destination in Brandon.  The Bryce Janey Band was jamming blues in the beer garden.  This year the food offering was tenderloins, fries and cole slaw for $13.  The last time they sold fried chicken.  I think Dave and had two servings of the chicken!  Beers were $3.

Looking east

Elvis was glad to see me! Phat's Pub and Grub

The Bryce Janey Band at Phat's

Elvis on stage with Bryce Janey Band


My meal

The tailwind on the return trip was much appreciated.  Not that the headwind was bad, it was sort of, but much worse when driving to the ride.  But it's always good to get that jet stream push.  I'm glad Dave sent a text that he had his lights charged otherwise I may have forgotten to bring ours.  We needed them.

Dave took this beauty on the way back.

Heather's new bike.  This is the type of e-bike I'd love to have.  It is beautiful and does not look cheap or like the run in the mill bikes that look like they spend their life hanging on back of Winnebago.

Die Hard parking at Phat's


We declined to enter the Getaway Bar after returning.  In 2019 Bob Dorr's band, The Limestoners featuring several Iowa Blues Hall of Famers, played and I had to see this.   But tonight, stay sober and get home before midnight.  It had been a great day and we did not need an incident before the 3 hour drive home.

Size difference

The tandem inside the Pilot.  Yes, I am aware that the idler chain is loose.  Tried to fix it a few years back but the spanner could not get the BB adjustment to move and since the BB is perfect I did not tempt fate.  If we rode this bike more often I would take it in.  No shops want a extra long bicycle to come in...

The Pilot was silent as we rolled west to I-35.  Tailwind.  I mean quiet.  No road noise, engine barely audible.  I was happy with the car.  Seems that every time we travel there is a badass wind beating the crap out of the Honda exposing all the weak points in the door and window frames ect.  But silence now, until we turned north and later south.  We watched the lightning create a show off in the distance and hoped that it was on the other side of the interstate.  It was.  Just a few sprinkles that did not require the use of the wipers.  Home by 1120 pm. 

Hoping to make the Sloof Ride in September.  I hope Ben makes it an event this year.  Sloof is Fools spelled backwards and starts in Brandon instead of La Porte City thus reverses the ride.  Camouflage for ride attire instead of blaze orange.

Friday, April 12, 2024

So My Son was Run Off the Road By the DMPD

The scene of the crime

Wednesday August 16, 2023, the first and only day my youngest son ever rode his bicycle to work, he was attacked and ran off the street by a Des Moines police officer.  Timothy's car was in the shop so he decided to use Earth friendly mode of transportation.  At the time he lived on Capital Street on the east side of Des Moines, Iowa.  What should have been a pleasant 3 mile trip home from his job turned into terror, a violent crash and a chipped bone.

His route was a simple mile from his home on Capitol St to the sidepath along MLK Jr Pkwy.  It was recommended by his mother, a very experienced urban bicycle commuter.  Unfortunately, this route involved the use of E 18th, notorious for a section of multiple railroad tracks.  These tracks stick up about 4" from the road surface, so high that that most people just idle their cars over them.  My daughter once drove our CR-V over those tracks at speed resulting in a broken exhaust flex pipe.  


This used to be a living hell to drive on.  We always walked our bicycles over these.

He sat here in agony while enduring a verbal assault from the abusive officer of the law.

One can see how much they raised the surface.

My bicycle in the photo.

The road was resurfaced just before that August day and the tracks were no longer above the street surface.  However, E 18th was closed as the work had recently been completed.

Tim rode his bike down the closed road on his way to work.  That evening he rode on it again on his way home.  His luck ended when one of Des Moines Not Finest spotted him. 

Like a raging bull full of hatred and bloodlust charged his police cruiser at him at speed.  Miraculously, he missed but he was so close to my unprotected riding a bicycle that Tim was knocked off the road and crashed. 


Tim just sat there in the August heat, taking the verbal abuse, contemplating his next move and assessing his injuries.  He was in pain.  His arm was hurting very badly.  As suddenly as the public servant appeared, he left only to return minutes later.


"I'm in a lot of pain.  You ran me off the road.  I thought you were trying to run me over, sir."

I always tell people to take their phones into the x-ray room with them.  There is always that moment that you are left to look at your sin, or in this case, the sin of others, and have the best chance to take a photo of the damage.  Or ask the tech.

Eventually, he got up and walked the bike a mile to his house.  A visit to the doctor reaved bone chips on his elbow.  A call to the police station was a futile gesture resulting in a rude encounter with the police.  Brotherhood of Silence.  Time to lawyer up...

There is body cam footage.  Tim's lawyer has that.  Said officer who will not be named here, was under internal investigation for a previous incident(s).  Run around and stalls.  8 months later an offer was made but Tim's lawyer rejected it and threatened to take it to the city council meeting.  A better offer was made and subsequently accepted.

Tim plans to take his daughter on a Disney cruise and invest the rest into retirement savings.  I don't think he will ever ride a bicycle again.  Thank you, DMPD.

NOTE:  not all police officers are bad.  But there are times that they really need to clean up their rooster.

Sunday, November 26, 2023

Thanksgiving Tire Replacement


We knew it was coming yet it always is a shock.  So warm last weekend and now this.

It never fails to amaze me.  Sunday night after Thanksgiving I find myself putting the studded tires on our commuters.  Despite having 4 days off in a row without much to do I wait.  Wait until the end.  Not This year however!  True, I waited until Sunday BUT I changed one set at 530am and the other in the afternoon!  Yes, I can go to bed on time with clean hands.

2023 has been strange.  The weather has been great!  Warm and dry.  But then winter arrived, first flakes falling late Saturday afternoon as I rode to Court Avenue Brewpub.  The weather folks were calling for 1 to 3" of snow.  I thought we would only get a dusting.  Damn, woke up to 2.5".  The temperature dropped, too.  Ice.

Just dump what I need here.  Two 45North studded tires with tubes in them, the levers from the Camelbak, screwdriver to disconnect the light from the gen hub and floor pump.

530am. A bit early, don't you think.  Well yes, but I never sleep in especially if I go to bed at 9 pm.  By 3am my body wants to leave the bed and the dog and cat want fed.  I gave up sleeping longer at 4am.  Also I had to be at church by 7am.  I have a reputation to uphold, riding my bicycle 1/2 mile to church.  Heaven forbid if I would drive. So start coffee at 410am, let the dog out, refill the water bowl and add a cup to his food bowl then answer Nature's call myself.  Put on some good music and get to work.  I was done with my bike in time to shower.

The ride at 640am was strange.  Been quite a long time since I rode a bike in snow and ice.  I am a seasoned veteran at this but I was nervous and cautious.  One more crash on my left side would probably spell the end to my shoulder and hip.  Maybe I should run the minimum air pressure for better traction?  I made it and then some no crashing!

In the afternoon I did Mary's bike.  Then I put a rack on my bike which involved going the Bicycle Graveyard and getting bolts.  Finally, a pannier.  Productive day!

If I was earlier, then I would have had to park this inside or wait for the snow removal guy to finish.  I just finished this spot.

8am and people were out.  Snow texture is crunchy.

Sunday, October 22, 2023

Chicago Revisited: Chinatown

After a 6 year absence I returned to Chicago once again for the punk rock festival known as Riot Fest.  In 2017 I stayed in with a friend in Pilsen.  This time I lodged further east in Chinatown.  Immediately after departing the train I felt the need to bicycle since this part of the city was awash with bicycles and bike lanes.  A soldier without his weapon.  I felt like Jude Law in Enemy at the Gates when he was not issued a rifle.  Planes, trains, buses and walking. Lots of walking.  But the slowest form of transportation allowed for better sightseeing.


We stayed at the aptly named Chinatown Hotel for a few reasons.  Namely, the price and location to the CTA lines needed to get to Douglas Park, home of Riot Fest, and the train back to O'Hare.  Located on Chicago's south side, it derived its name from the people who immigrated here starting in in the 1800s.  Our lodging is on the same street as the Chinese Cultural Center and a statue of Confucius.  The streets are lined with stores and restaurants.  We appreciated the ability to find a place to eat after 11 pm, unlike Minneapolis, our most frequent place to travel for rock & roll shows.


Back To Bikes

Bicycle infrastructure was apparent.  Lots of bike lanes in the busy streets and people using them for their intended purpose.  On Sunday, we saw a man on an e-Bike with his child on one such lane riding through the rain.

I noted in my 2017 visit, the average commuter was an older nondescript bicycle that was not flashy but utilitarian enough to make a useful city bike.  Older roadies with wire racks.  In Chinatown it was a step toward less expensive, department store bikes.  Huffy's, Next, Magna ext.  Many step thru frames.  Racks on them, too.  Ride something not tempting to most bike thieves but if stolen its loss is an inconvenience not a financial letdown.

Bikeless, we walked a lot.  An attempt was made to use Chicago's version of B-Cycles but we could not get the ap to work so we just deleted the ap and walked on.  One day we hoofed it to Soldier Field and the lake.  Things are different here.  Bicycles are more expensive the closer one gets to Lake Michigan.  Expensive road bikes, cargo bicycles with children, disc brakes ect!  There Is even a bicycle exclusive bike path!

At Riot Fest, Douglas Park, there were facilities for bicycle parking.  Mostly nondescript 80s-90s roadies and mountain bikes.  A Trek 950 stands out in my mind.  But we took the bus there, 24 stops, and the train back 12 stops.  Having flown in on Peasant Class we did not bring bicycles with us.

Sad.  Someone's ride vandalized.  U-Lock and cable lock.

70s vintage roadie converted to commuter.  Notice both a U-Lock and a cable lock for the wheels?

One of many BMX bikes used in Chinatown.  I even spotted elderly people riding them.

Strange, one sign says pedestrians verboten yet the trail sign shows other users.

Bicycles only on this path!  This far in the city I bet it is a welcome path for cyclists.

Nice old Schwinn frame.  Chain matches the front tire.

Getting closer to Soldier Field.  More expensive bikes!

U-Lock saved the frame!