Friday, January 27, 2012

Rants, I Have a Few

Dear Government Armleutchers,

There is a need for spell check to be installed on spray paint.  I have children that attend public school and can barely read and it infuriates me to no end that people who spray paint messages of long lost love on public trails cannot spell correctly.  Since no one cares to implement No Child Left Behind properly the only solution is to have spell check on paint cans.

Dear Des Moines Parks and Rec and/or Water Works,

When removing graffiti from trails could you please use mineral spirits or paint remover.  Large blotches of off white paint not only look worse that "Eddie luvs Mikey doggy style" it creates slick spots.  Now Eddies profession of love for Michael would more than likely have worn away by Spring time if left alone but now the Bill Riley Trail is covered in 6 spots by large sections of off white paint.  Please not that I agree that the wall underneath the trestle is a legitimate target for anti-graffiti efforts. 

However, maybe a stake out and surveillance could catch the bastards with the paint in and on their hands.  Have the criminals tarred and feathered and place their photo on a plaque underneath said trestle.

Dear Runners and Joggers,

Iowa is not part of the UK.  Notice that in Iowa 99% of live music is conservative and dull, television sucks but care of teeth is good?  Please "Run Right".  If you are coming toward me I will give you 5" no more.  I am not willing to serve to the left because there could be a car behind me.  Mary, Co-Commuter of the Year, nearly ran one of your kind down the other night, head on.  She had 8,000 safely ridden miles last year even without My Alibi clothing.

Also, people in Iowa do not see well at night like they do in Engerland.  Please do not dress as a stealthy ninja when jogging at night or in the pre-dawn hours.  I cannot see you until I am upon you.  I am willing to use my "bright as an UFO lights" but this is a waste of precious electricity.  And these lights will burn out your retinas.  Consider lights and reflective gear.  Pull the ear buds out.  You do not want me to deny myself sensory perception while riding, I do not want you to do the same while out for a run.

Or maybe I want to ride in the dark without lights and with ear buds in?

Dear Removers of the Holly Jolly Lights,

Can we finish up and remove Santa's Workshop and the semi-trailer in Water Works?  It has been almost a month.  Everything else is gone.  The trailer blocks the sun on the road creating unnecessary ice.  The shelter is worthless when it is boarded up with your shit.  This has been the greatest January ever concerning weather.  Get it in gear please,

Your faithful rider and blogger of rants,

Lord von Ebar

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Conversion by ICE!!

Brand spanking studded tires that will go on Mary's bike

So Billy Badass is trying to see how long he can go without having to the studded tires on.  He is a cheapskate.  Studs have a limited lifespan.  Basically, they are only good for one season.  Last year I did not even bother to put the ice tires on.  Never seemed to be an issue.  Skill versus handicap.  yeah, skill could lead to crutches and a handicap flyer to hang on the mirror.

Friday I was thinking that maybe I could repeat.  November, December and over half of January now archived, what are the chances.  Besides, I really hate changing tires.  It is the messiest, dirtiest and at times the most frustrating aspect of bicycle maintenance.  Wait for an ice storm.  Wait for a flat.  Wait for the Lord to knock me on my ass on the icy road to Damascus. 

So I gambled last night.  Despite the drizzle and the meltation the prospect of the 2am snow storm favored keeping the Kenda Pros on.  Sure it may freeze BUT a fresh layer of snow on the trail would cover any ice that dared to form.  And it did.

My ride to work was uneventful.  I could only smile smugly as I heard tale after tale of near death experiences from those that drove to the PFG call center.  Not one issue I experienced.  Never had to put a foot down.  Never felt the rear wheel cut loose.  Did not slip.  Did not fall.  Just count on good old evaporation or high enough temps that would prevent ice or the dreaded REFREEZE.

8 or so hours later I left the warm confines of 6200 Park Ave.  Had a bit of trouble going up 61st.  Find the line.  Too many vehicles had smashed the snow and pressured it into ice.  Safer in the middle of the road.  Low traffic at this time of day.

At the top of the hill is Thorten Ave.  This is a short cut from SeigWerks on 56th to 63rd.  Weitz Construction has their headquarters there.  Carpetner Uniforms is located there which explains the presence of various police departments on any given week day.  Kevlar to safety vests, they got em!.  What they did not have was salt.  Thorten was 100% ice.  What was once a crunchy safe road to ride on at 6 am was now a treacherous ice rink.  What on a good day would be a fast ride and apply brakes at 30 mph before the stop sign became a downhill of woe.  Speed as not recommended today.  Gently apply brakes, rear more than front.  Keep balance.  Easy, the rear wheel just locked up and slid a few degrees to the left.  Not fun.

I really do not need to crash anymore.  3 or 4 years ago I was struck by the hand of God and broke my ass.  Riding with some CITA people through the back loop of Water Works Park I was flung down violently and without warning to the pavement.  My head bounced and my left butt cheek took 99% of the impact.  It still hurts to sit for long periods of time after all these years.  Bruised tailbone?  Something broken?  Pinched nerve?  Something still aint right.  But I can still ride and I had no problems climbing 12,441 feet in New Mexico back in 2009.  But do I want to sit in a car for a road trip?  Fuck no.  Do I want them to slice my ass open to fix it?  No way, remedy worse than the problem.  So I live with it.  Kinda like Archie Bunker's shrapnel.

So crashing on my left is no freakin' bueno.  My right side took a bad hit when I crashed the 520 at 30mph.  Failure to pay attention to my line resulting in learning to brush my teeth with my left hand.  Try this sometime if you are right handed.  It will make you feel retarded or like a stroke victim.  Then try to wipe your ass with the other hand.  Broken collarbones are interesting and humbling.

So why then did I find myself asking for Raphael the Archangel's intercession today?  Seriously, why did I put off the tire swap?  Laziness?  Carelessness?  La la la live for today? 

I snapped out of my fear and road on the grass.  Better traction, no ice.  The only thing I had to watch out for were the tire marks left behind by cars and trucks that jumped the curb because of the ice.  There were a few.  I took the grass all the way to the sidewalk on Park.  Then I used the sidewalk.  I wanted a sign on my back that read "DON'T GET USED TO THIS CAGERS.  I WILL BE BACK ON THE ROAD SOON."

Red Phoenix along Thornton Ave.  The line in the grass is the track I made yesterday riding in the grass.  Please rotate your monitor counterclockwise for better viewing

And then I was.  Park Ave nice and clear.  My next adventure was going through Water Works.  They do not plow or salt or sand Water Works.  The crunchy road this morning was now an icy hell.  I went off road again.  Just needed about a mile to get to the trail.  The grass along the road was very bumpy.  Water Works is Old English for "place where we let cars drive on wet soggy grass".  Tire track bumps everywhere, remnants from Big Country Bash and Holly Jolly Lights.  But it was safer than the road.  Eventually I had to get on the road and it was slow going.

Finally the trail is reached.  Guess what?  They plowed the snow off of it.  They are very good about clearing the snow off of the trail between Gray's Lake and Water Works.  Unfortunately, I wanted the snow on the trail to keep the surface from becoming icy.  Too late but rideable.  Slow and steady.  Not sudden moves.  Stay clean.  Look for your tracks from 530 am.  Yep, there they are, almost fossilized in the ice.  Mary's are here too!  I did ride the grass along the levy from 7th St bridge to Mullets.  Faster and safer.

I made it home safely without incident.  A little stressed and a bit pissed at myself for not swapping tires on Sunday.  The only time I had to put a foot down was when I left home to go to B&B for dinner supplies.  residential streets are bad right now in Little Italy.  Hopefully the sun's love will clear them up.

So....24 hours have passed since the previous paragraph.  What did Billy Badass do???  Left the computer and made dinner.  Returned to the other pc and played Panzer General.  Listened to Mary's adventurous ride home.  Ate dinner, went to bed after attempting to find something to watch on tv.

I gather the studded tires.  One pair was in the basement which required moving 2 or 3 bikes out of the way.  The other set was in the shed which required a treacherous walk through the backyard in freezing conditions.  I asked Mary if she wanted me to switch hers out.  She said no.  Weather was to improve.  Until then, road action.  So I put it off once again.

Tracks of the elusive Red Phoenix.  These tracks were left 24 hours prior on Thornton Ave

The ride in the morning was interesting.  I planned to leave earlier than normal and take the streets all the way.  I did this one time before when Des Moines was covered with a foot of snow and the trail had not yet been plowed. Simple route.  Indianola Rd to Thomas Beck to Bell (the same road with 3 different names).  Then a right on SE30th to Flagg.  Plowed, ice free industrial streets.  However, I went to Mullets first, mostly on instinct but upon arrive I noticed how bad the trail looked and turned around.  A 1/2 mile error.

The rest of the trip was uneventful.  I was passed by maybe 10 cars total.  more like 6.  The ride paralleled the trail and I could see it often.  Flagg still flooded out at the same damn spot it always floods at.  Good grief!  With record high unemployment and record high Mexican working force (construction) can somebody dig a fucking draining ditch on the south side of Flagg so the water can stay off the road?  Is it that difficult?  Pay people in beer and provide shovels.  Done in a day!!

And as Mary predicted, the sun came out and melted the ice by the time I left work.  It was warmer than Jerrianne Ritter said it would be, 34F v 30F.  Thornton was very rideable.  Water Works was clear and dry.  My beloved trails were ice free although there could be some icy spots in the morning.

So I was bailed out again.  Guess what I did when I got home????  Cleaned and lubed the chain of the Red Phoenix.  What?  Think I feel like getting my hands dirty changing tires?  Not today, mate, not today.

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Finally Snow!!!

me on the 520 about 10 years ago

After a whiney rant about boredom and how I need winter to deny me bicycle enjoyment it finally snowed.  Not much.  Perhaps we got a half inch.  The snow came with the coldest temperatures of the season, 10F, and a polar blast of 40 mph winds.  Yep, winter arrived. 

We did not get a gradual cool down.  We got a shock.  Tuesday it was 60F and I rode with bare legs to Cumming for tacos.  Wednesday the temp dropped a tad and the winds began to howl.  I debated whether or not to swap tires and bikes with the incoming frozen precipitation.  I gambled to leave well enough alone but consider changing pedals to accommodate boots.  I am not willing to pay $200 for the Elton John Lake winter bicycle boots when I have 3 pairs of regular boots that keep my feet warm and dry.  That's how I roll.

After work I stopped at B&B Grocery Store to get food for the family.  Rose always has a computer and a tv going and I glanced at the radar.  Thin line of snow in the northwest corner of the state..  It aint gonna happen.  Rolled home, dropped the food off and told the family to feed themselves.  Wednesday I have stuff to do at church.

Imagine my surprise when someone a few hours later told that it was snowing.  "No fucking way," would have been my response but since I was in the house of God, "really?  The radar did not show it at 5pm."  Sure enough, silent white death was falling.  Just a dusting.  I had no troubles on the 520 with its Bontrager H2s road tires.

So when the alarm went off the next day I had to make the decision on what bike to take.  The red Phoenix has the Kenda Pro cross tires which got me through last winter.  But it was buried in the shed.  I offered to put the studded tires on Mary's bike last night but she said it was ok without them.  That really was the determining factor.  Mary was ok with hers and the snow never amounted to much.

Bontrager H2 tire on 520 at Grazianos friday the 13th, 2012

The snow was a nice dry powder and when combined with the 40 mph winds blew clear off the trail.  road tires were fine.  I rode the rest of the week on that bike.  Thursday, the morning after the snow I made it safely to work.  No issues.  I rode downtown to CABCO's Mug Club Party to celebrate.  So much for snow.

And it all melted away.  Saturday I exchanges Dora's clarinet for a drum and bell set at Up Tempo Music in Beaverdale.  I will note that the Neal Smith Trail was still snow covered from University to Lutheran Hospital.  Too much wind cover to blow the snow away.  No issues with the bike.  However, getting the instruments home was almost a challenge.  I should have taken the Burley trailer.  Without it I had to place the snare drum in one pannier and the carrier with bells in the other.  I used my bike lock as a bungee cord to secure it.  These made it safely home without falling out or getting damaged.  Note to self--carry bungee's for just that sort of situation.

520 with drum and bell combo set

Sunday was a beautiful day.  It got up to 53F.  Unfortunately, I had the writing bug and spent most of the day banging away at the key board.  I was extremely productive and my family honored my request to be left alone.  Later that evening I took a spin on the Raleigh 3 speed. 50s and all I rode was one mile.  But with the mild winter we are having I felt I could squander such opportunities.

Monday was MLK Day and Brad Overhauser (sp) rode up the Visitor Center along the NST.  Snow even more vanished than before. He took a road bike, me my trust 520.  I spotted a blue bird, a good sign of Spring although I always spot them just before a major snow storm.  I think they are as dumb as the robins that come back too early.  Maybe they want their photo on the front page of the newspaper.  A blue bird buried in snow, caption "Back Too Soon!!"  But with the warm weather maybe this one never left..  And the forecast was for 3/10" of snow overnight.  What a gorgeous sunny day.  Snow was the last thing I thought of before retiring to bed.

I did not sleep well.  The space heater in the computer room kept sounding its alarm and I turned it down two or three times.  The 3 shots of Absolute Citron had been processed and my body was no longer sedated.  I got up 10 minutes before the alarm was to go off.  Looking out the window I about let loose my bowels.  A world in white.  Several inches it seemed.  Howling winds.  Mary's commuter and mine with street warm weather tires.  Holy crap!!

I dressed slowly and heated up.  I think they said it was 15F with -5F wind chill.  Mary would have to fight a head wind.  I would battle a cross wind.  I went to the shed and pulled out two bikes.  My Trek 920 with Continental Explorers for tires.  I raced successfully on those but today they would carry Mary to work.  The red Phoenix for me.  No racks, back pack days.

The ride to work was slow.  Although the snow was not slick and the trail mostly clear it was slow going.  The wind literally push me sideways once or twice.  It took me 15 extra minutes.  I chose to take the sidewalk along Park Ave because of cars.  the first amjor snow turns the roads into amature night.  Safer of the sidewalk.  Let them kill each other, I got to get to work.

I came up with a new term.  "Psychwalk."  A psychwalk is a section of concrete that looks like a sidewalk but is not.  Rather it is lid for a storm sewer or utility hole. When the sidewalk ended I saw the psychwalk and was able to get two full pedal strokes on it.  Bastards.

I am used to this.  The grass from the end of the walk to my turn is level and easy going.  I did forget about the hole after the rail tracks and almost did a face plant.  I did not crash but the bike stopped and I had to put a foot down.

After work the sun was out.  it warmed up to 19F.  Winds were still strong from the NW at 25 mph.  I headed north anyway.  I took the trail to Windsor Heights so i could shop at Hy Vee.  The trail was clear and what remained of the snow was melting.  The refreeze was apparent on my return trip but I never slipped or crashed.  Please note that the raccoon River Bridge was not cleared or plowed.  Also, plowing on 235 dumps snow onto the trail near the dog park.  And yes, people take their dogs to the park even if the temps drop below 20F.

If a plow goes by tonight I will take the 520.  E Granger Ave has not been plowed.  For that matter, I never saw Public Works drench the roads with brine like they did Monday and Tuesday last week for the dusting on snow we received.  They apparently were not expecting it.  So my road is kind bad,  Snow smashed by cars creating a surface akin to sand.  Yep, red bike tomorrow.

The forecast is a roller coaster.  Above freezing tomorrow, below the next day.  more snow on Friday.  Above freezing for the weekend.  I saw some single digits.  Yes, Virginia, there is a winter in Iowa.

Today's clothing.  Since it was almost 20F in the morning I wore my Cannondale long sleeve jersey with my US Army cold weather undershirt as the top warmth layer.  My faded yellow Trek rain jacket for the shell.  Bike socks and two pair of winter socks.  Herman's Survivors boots.  Thermal long johns on my legs with my chef pants as an out layer. One blackavavavcavavca face mask and a hat.  Performance winter gloves, Goretext.  I was warm and dry.  I do note that my ass was getting wet on Park Ave on my way home from melting snow.

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

January Blues

The mark of 8 miles of gravel left until the HTT

I feel really sorry for the people in my house and those I work with.  I also feel sorry for those that will follow the wake of my bicycle.  I have consumed nothing but broccoli and pork today and tonight's dinner will be heavy on cabbage and pork.  Sam Auen's tacos are resting in between.  A large bottle of Stella, the Christmas 750 ml special will be the catalyst.  I've been staring at that green bottle.  It's time has come.  So no stoking or drafting.  You have been warned.

So it was 60F today in Iowa.  Last year on this date it snowed 3".  I remember this quite well.  I really enjoyed it.  I rode home from work and checked Face Book.  Bob Moural said that he was leaving the Tap.  I could possibly intercept him and be on station when Mary rides through Water Works Park.  So I threw a leg over the red bike once again.

Bob was easy to spot.  It was snowing like hell.  A classic snowfall.  I think it was about 24F.  Bob was on the road weaving a bit as it seemed that his Surly cross bike was having issues with the ever deepening snow.  I was on the trail and cut through the snow field between the road and trail.  I must have appeared like a ghost coming straight out of nowhere.  We ponied up the bikes in the middle of the road a drank a beer.  No one was driving, the park was ours.

Mary arrived not long after Bob and I parted.  To keep the spirits going we stopped at Fat Tony's for a cheap pitcher.  The snow was still coming down hard and the barkeep offered to let us bring our bicycles inside.  We thanked him for the offer but left them outside.  Those bikes have seen worse.

Today almost felt the same.  Although it was nearly 40 degrees warmer, it felt great to be alive and out on a bicycle.  The weather people called it right even though I recall someone forecasting a high of 67F.  I was able to ride in shorts after work.  I never have done that in January before.  Maybe never again in Iowa.

I was a great ride to Cumming.  many people out on bikes.  My feeble mind was entertained by a C-130 circling low on practice maneuvers.  The Safety Shack had it going on.  Me in shorts, the 10th day of the year.  Some riders were dressed for colder temps.  Not me, but I did have 30F clothing stowed away in the panniers.  Cannot leave them at work for they will be needed tomorrow morning.  No gloves either.  On the way home I was living for those warm air pockets that seem to drift aimlessly on the route.  I was not going to stop and apply more clothing.  It was still above 50F and the sun was still up past 430 pm.  Milk this day for what it is worth.  Tomorrow it will only get to 40.  Thursday 24.  We may not see the 60s again for a few months.

Strange winter.  No one is complaining.  Maybe the doom and gloom global warming/climate change messengers.  It has snowed twice this season.  The snow never lasted a day.  Sometimes it feels like Spring.  I have seen single digits once, teens 2 or 3 times.  Every day it is above freezing.  Almost everyday.  But this is to change, maybe.

This is the time of year that a biker is supposed to hate.  This time of year we are supposed to change sports or ride winter bikes.  Not this year, so far.  I have not purchased my studded tires yet.  Mary's pair is still in the basement.  But is this the winter to love?

I love Spring because everything is new again.  Life returns to Iowa.  The anticipation of long bike rides finally is released and soothed.  A a season of withering muscles is suddenly reversed.  Time to train.  Time to get in shape again.  And, unless you ride all winter, time to break that ass in again so it does not feel like you are excreting a bicycle when you first start riding.

2011 was a hell of a year for me.  I set new records.  I met all of my goals.  I rode almost every where.  So now I feel a bit lost.  What to do now?  What do I focus on in 2012?  What is there to look forward to?

I cannot think of any goals.  Maybe new downhill speed records.  My average speed could use improvement as well.  I stopped tracking the amount of groceries biked home.  But I am keeping the goal of 100+ miles every week.  Maybe I need a foot or two of snow to slow me down.  Not this year.  I took two days off, January 1 and 2, from serious biking.  Nothing to look forward for.

2012 rides are beginning to drift in.  But so far they look like pub crawls.  Been there, drank there, done that.  Damn, I wish I was selected for Trans Iowa.  Almost at peak shape right now.  Perhaps the answer lies there.  Long ass gravel road rides.  New to me.  New destinations.  Something different.  A ride to Grinnell to see the trans Iowa racers off and heckle them with beer.  That's a good one.

In about 20 days the Ragbrai overnights will be announced.  I will be able to pull out a map and dream.  Until then I will continue riding and wishing for greener trails.

Sunday, January 8, 2012

The Navigator

I cannot possibly tell you how much I lack passion for the moment when I wake up, alcohol fully processed and body wide awake with hours remaining before I and the rest of the civilized world need to be up and running.  And the remnants of a dream/nightmare bouncing around my mind like a squash ball.  So here I am with a CABCO mug of water and a keyboard.  I could run outside and grab the Raleigh and find a place to drown out these thoughts.  Or better yet, uncork that bottle of Stella, the Christmas edition, and enjoy 750ml of Belgium's finest Eurotrash skunk lager.  That one will wait.  I need water for it was a long ride today and I have things to do after the sun rise.

The alarm usually goes off after I become conscious.  I wake up and hear the heat kick in and ponder whatever dream just occurred knowing that in a few minutes the worst sound ever will require me to move and extinguish it.  My dreams are like random television shows, nothing to do with real life, mostly.  My dad sometimes will be in them doing stupid shit like driving the bus for Ragbrai or borrowing my Jag.  That is about as close to reality they ever come.  I will not discuss the nightmare I had sleeping at 10K ft.  Oxygen deprivation after intense exercise really fucks with my mind.

 Whatever the ride was in the dream I do not recall.  But things were not right.  I was driving a SUV up a snowy hill when it died.  We were going home after a bicycle ride.  Mary was noticeably absent.  Somehow the children were there and someone I used to got with many many orbits around the sun ago.

The vehicle stalled on a hill.  It was dark and snow was everywhere.  But I could not stop the car.  I could only let it roll backwards hoping for a place to pull off and get out and start Plan B whatever Plan B was going to be.  Of course another car was on the road and in my path and there was not much I could do about it.  Not much damage, if any, and their house was at the bottom of the hill.

They were a friendly older couple with a large warm house.   They let us in after their car slowed my dead beast down and out of the road.  They even let my dog inside.  It was not Heidi, just some generic perhaps border collie long fur dog named Navigator.  Wrong dog and wrong woman.

And these friendly people who somehow reversed time.  I watched everyone shrink as time went backwards.  Everyone was getting younger and my children disappeared because the time effect was going past 20 years.  And I was young again with someone talking about a Navigator and revealing what a selfish materialistic bitch she was.  Mary still was not there.  This was not the life I have nor desired.  Dead SUV, selfish bitch wanting a ride and snow outside.  Praise Jesus I woke up, Mary sleeping soundly beside me.  No SUV in the driveway, no snow on the ground.

I had ambitions and plans for this day.   But it was cold and the bed was comfy.  I rarely get to sleep in past 7 or 8 am.  Today I pushed it to 8.  We were going to ride to Martinsdale and split a Godfather's pizza.  Then ride back, hook up with Craig Lien and ride to Dallas Center.  This was my plan for getting 100 miles in a day in January.  A warm month with no snow.

It snowed last year on January 7th.  And the previous days of this date were not the best for riding.  Take advantage of it when it is there.  Seize the moment and squeeze it to the max.  There were and will be days when we have and will beg for 29F in the morning.  But today it felt cold so I brewed a pot of coffee played Panzer General and waited til the last possible moment before leaving the house.  Mary and I rolled to Urbandale to hit her credit union and then raided Target to use up the last of the gift card.  We needed charcoal for Sunday's pork loin.

Criag texted me shortly before leaving.  Via Latitude he knew that I had not stirred so he asked if Dallas Center was still on.  It was, so I thought.  I grabbed everything I needed for a night ride even though I did not use it all.  Safety vest, phone charge, head lamp and TurboCat Macho battery.  Be prepared.

Our next round of texting hit when we settled in Urbandale.  Craig and Kelly were at the Waveland for breakfast.  Strange being north of them but very easy to intercept on our way home.  60th something from the mall to Urbandale Ave and then a left on 48th.  This was the first time I rode on 48th after the repave.  Nice and smooth but whatever was reflecting the sun's light looked like broken glass.  I almost stopped.  6 days without a flat this year.  We had two by this date last year, both from glass.  They were not at the Wave.  The text said "bike issue" required them to go to Boulevard Sports.

Chris Mace was working.  Poor bastard.  A beautiful January day and he was stuck inside keeping the store just waiting for someone to bring in a wheel and admit that they lacked the ability to change a flat.  Kelly damaged the stem on her tube and Craig lacked the skill or desire, the latter really, to change it out because of the Schwabe tire.  The bead is a bitch and one needs professional tools to get the mofo off and on.  The curse of bike mechanics.  They can never ride when the sun is up.  No wonder my mentor taught me to ride at night.

Mary took the charcoal home along with the rest of the groceries and promised to meet us later.  DC was scrubbed in favor of the Cumming Tap.  She would easily catch up with us.  Children needed to be fed.  I swear, they are like little chirp birds in a nest, heads up and beaks open.  "FEED ME!"  We rolled to Water Works.

One quick stop on the Raccoon River bridge.  Many people walking and riding today.  Be outside when it is nice.  When the weather catches up with the calender there will be the devil to pay.  The devil is the polar jet stream which has not come down to bring us that wonderful Arctic air.  Weather people almost admit they have no clue why.  Probably climate change or global warming or pure luck.  All the snow is missing Iowa.  Enjoy it.  The farmers will get screwed if there is enough moisture or not.  I bet we will get hit sooner or later.

To improve Mary's chances of intercept, we moved east to the Fleur Viaduct and enjoyed another round of silver bullets.  At last she arrived, had 1 bullet and we were south bound.  Ben and his daughter were at the safety Shack when we arrived.  She was 17 and very cold.  Thanks, Dad. 

We got to Cumming about the same time as about 10 riders of the Me-Off colors.  This was the largest gathering of Me-Offs I have seen for many years.  We probably are on different orbits.  I remember fondly the last day of Ragbrai having spent the last of my cash on a 12 pack and watching this bike team play butt cheek quarters while waiting for my father to pick us up in my truck.  Had to been 14 or 15 possibly 18 years ago.  I think it was a $6 12 pack.

As if by design we got stools at the bar only to be punished with a dull NFL Wild card game.  Cincinnati v Houston.  No one really gives a rat's ass about these two teams who will go nowhere.  Maybe the people of Ohio and "Hootin".  But not us.  We were here waiting for the sun to go down.

Mary and Kelly took off first.  Craig was playing with his phone.  "We'll catch up," he said.  Craig does not understand that Mary can put a significant lead and punishment on people if given a head start.  Mary does not suffer slow riders fondly and often appears to ignore them.  The birds in the nest were chirping "feed me" again.  Taco night.  Game on.

We spotted Kelly's light's first. Generator hub.  Mary's Vista AA flasher was dimmer and further ahead.  It took two strong pushes to catch up.  After the first burn we appeared nowhere closer to Kelly than before.  Damn, Kelly is trying to keep up with Mary.  Had Mary not been on a Cannondale mtb with 1.9" low pressure tires we would have never seen her again.  There would not be a glimmer of hope unless we had road bikes but I doubt we would have been able to sustain the intervals required to endure in order to make up time, distance and speed.  Mary is very fast for someone who never raced.

Craig was breathing laboredly.  He is ill and probably should not have been out.  His cold will run a long course.  But after getting him caught up with Kelly I made my final assault.  Of the three touring bikes I had the widest tires and the lowest pressure.  I pump my tires up only when I notice that they are getting dangerously low or if I feel worried about a long ride.  Today I thought about it but they pasted the squeeze test.  Time for the pedalling test.

Circles.  Focus on circles.  Use the up stroke muscles.  Try to rip the cleats out of the pedals but do it smoothly.  Head down and hammer.  I am in great shape.  Last week I had 7700+ miles for the year.  I can do centuries if I wanted to.  My ass was broken in years ago.  3 days ago I made this same trip plus an extra half mile in less than an hour.  It can be done.  That is why I waited until sundown.  13 miles or so.

Mary passed the lean to.  I knew she would.  So did I.  I think I caught her before the tunnel.  She needed to use the restroom at Orlandos.  Motivation.  We stopped at an intersection and leaned our bikes on the wooden fence.  I would not make it that far.  No one is on the trail now.  The Me-Offs left before we did.  Craig and Kelly prolly stopped at the Shack.  Or did they.  I thought I saw a light every now and then.

We stopped at Orlandos.  Kelly needed food.  Non-animal protein cannot be consumed in ideal quantities for sustain riding and drinking.  I cracked open a silver bullet and had it about half done before I saw their lights.  They skipped the lean to as well and apparently rode hard.  I was impressed, then again, winter never hit and all four of us should be at the top of our game.  I never see Kelly drive to the bike trail.  And that is key.  If you can bike it instead of drive it you only get better and stronger.  Kelly knows that a bicycle is not a trunk ornament for the car.

1 beer later Mary and I were on the final 4 miles to home.  Ground turkey tacos tonight!  Seasoning provided by Grazianos, meat from B&B and fresh cilantro from Hy Vee.  The Stella remained in the fridge.  I foregoed the tortillas and made a salad instead.  Ranch dressing,  cheese, salsa and cilantro, low carb and tasty.  I used the entire bag of lettuce mix.  That's how I roll.

Then that dream.  It has been an hour now, sweat is gone.  Heidi has been giving an opportunity to fertilize the lawn,  Little Ewok came inside and both animals have been fed and watered.  my mug of H2O is nearly dry.  Funny how the brain works, showing me an alternate reality that for the love of God does not exist.  The person who I gave the ride to would have never hammered out those miles in the night on a heavy bagged mtb.  And who the hell names their dog so poorly or carries on about a SUV.  I am just glad it was not an Escalade, turd on wheels.  Mary had 50 miles, 43 for myself.  It was a good day.

Sunday, January 1, 2012

My Youngest Stoker

This year, err... last year, 2011, Dora reached the age of 10 and grew within proximity of being able to ride on the tandem.  My daughter has been riding bike most of her life but making the transition to tandem had been sort of a Holy Grail for her.  For her it is an opportunity to spend more time with Mary and I and explore the world beyond her normal bicycle range.

The tag-along bike trailer had been used infrequently.  It is a good trainer for future stokers.  She rode it all the way from Bonderant to baxter and back on the Chichaqua Trail once.  We fondly remember this ride for her being sound asleep on the Fisher "Free Loader" when we pulled into Baxter.  I also pulled her up the dam on the Neal Smith Trail.  So the next time you bitch about how steep that hill is remember that yours truly pulled a tag-along bike up it with  90s vintage Cannondale road bike--no triple, no compact gearing.  42 tooth ring and standard Hyperglide 7-speed cassette.

I probably should have invested in a set of kid crank adjusters for the tandem.  Perhaps I will when grandchildren visit in say 20 to 30 years from now.  But my philosophy is that if the child wants to ride with me they should be able to do it without a handicap.  As the children aged they became my stoker.

So 2011 became Dora's year.  Her first ride was to Graham Johnston's home in Drakeland.  Graham installed a front rack on our touring tandem and trued the rear wheel.  I don't remember the circumstances behind Dora riding the bike with me, I ride tandems solo often enough that a lack of a stoker is no big deal, but it probably had something to do with the fact that if I left her alone with her siblings someone would start a fight.  She asked to go.  Best always to take your child with you.  It was a 10 mile round trip.  We stopped at Joe and Tammy Bridgeman's house on the way back to pick up a wheel.  Dora likes to visit their children.

July saw her on the tandem several times.  We went to Mel's house in Valley Junction to watch the West Des Moines 4th of July parade.  Many friends brought their children.  The next day we rode to Urbandale for their parade.  Dora scored mass quantities of candy at both parades.  A few days later we rode to Joe and Tammy's again to visit with JoDee and Todd Rundall and their son Elijah who were visiting from Oregon.

In August we attached the Burley trailer, loaded our camping gear and headed out to the Scout area near Easter Lake to spend the weekend with the Girl Scouts.  Easier to through everything in the Burley since we were carrying for 3 people, Mary would join us.

September was tandem free for us but October had Dora stoking once again to a picnic at Easter Lake.  14 miles.  A week later we rode to Anders and Laura Olson's house to watch the Hawkeyes beat Northwestern.  Dora enjoys spending time with their sons especially Adam their youngest child.  Back in February we watched the Super Bowl there but Mary, Dora and I rode singles.  hate to tell Dora this but if it is icy and snowy on Super Bowl Sunday, she will ride her own bike if she wants to go with us.  Che don't ride tandem in the snow, yet.

Dora did not ride on the tandem in November.  But on December 30th she was my stoker when we rode to Anders and Laura's to watch the Insight Bowl.  The tandem did not even cross my mind as the bike of choice.  Her Trek 220 has made the journey before and the tandems are locked away for the winter.  Any winter tandeming is usually on the first Saturday of February, BRR.  So I was surprised when she asked if we could take it.  It made sense.  One less set of lights to fuss with.  Easier to keep tabs on her.  Good father daughter bonding.

The Fisher was almost ready to roll when I pulled it out of its winter lair.  Tires did not need additional air.  Rear flasher was still attached and in working order.  A quick installation of front lights and reset its computer, lower the seat and away we rolled.

I do not have high expectations for young stokers.  Here are the rules that apply only to small children and perhaps extremely short adults who are stokers.  NOTE these are not the same as mentioned in an earlier blog but many of those rules apply i.e. no bitching ect

Rule #1  Do not fall off the bike
Rule #2  Do not put your shoes on the bicycle frame
Rule #3  No screwing around

I do not expect them to contribute much to the pedalling effort.  Dora can barely keep her feet on the pedals.  I view such riding as better exercise for me, training for them.  Yep it sucks on hills, an extra 20 lbs or so of bicycle plus the weight of the stoker.  Better workout for me.

But Dora knows what is going on.  When her shoe lace got caught in the pedal she knew that she needed to stuff it in her shoe as soon as it was free.  I did not have to tell her this.  She also is an excellent look out for cars that are behind us.  I love this service.

The trip to the Olsons takes us to Mullets, then on the Meredith Trail, Bill Riley Trail and Walnut Creek Trail.  We turn north after the "new" section and climb the hill on 56th Street.  The Olsons live on 56th South of Grand.  This is a steep bastard of a hill. 

On the way back she asked at one point how much further and then said that she was going back to sleep.  I told her to stay awake.  We spotted deer in the trees along the river and that kept her awake.  The Holly Jolly Lights were now off but she did not express any disappointment.  She saw them on the beginning trip and her aunt took her through them during Christmas.  It was a nice night ride despite Iowa losing the game.

Dora will continue to grow, God willing, and probably in 3 or 4 years ask to join Mary and I on Ragbrai.  The tandem will be ready.  She knows the rules.  And she will undoubtedly have more than the 108 tandem miles that she worked for this year.

2011 Stats

7722 miles ridden/pedaled/coasted
June the highest month with 806 miles
January the lowest month with 464 miles
May, June, July and October with over 700 miles each
March, August, November and December with over 600 miles each
New record mileage for every month except July and September
Longest ride 111 miles Des Moines to Ottumwa on a road bike no support March 11th

Bicycles with over 1000 miles 2011

(includes Mary's bicycles)
Trek 1600
LeMond Versailles
Cannondale SM800
Trek FX 7.5
Trek 520
Giant Via

Tandem mileage

--Fisher Gemini 700 miles  Cannondale RT3000 344 miles
Stokers--Mary and Dora
1st tandem ride of 2011 Feb 19 Des Moines to Indianola Mary stoker, longest ride of the year to that date
Last tandem ride of 2011 Dec 30 Anders and Laura Olson's house Dora stoker


2 bikes rebuilt--Cannondale SM800 and Trek FX 7.5
30 flat tires 8 front tires, 22 rear tires, 3 different riders


4662 lbs of grocercies biked in 1093 Lts of liquid
$90 of cans and bottles redeemed
25 pizzas brought home

5 days in 2011 without riding