Sunday, December 23, 2012

Trail Conditions December 23, 2012

Bill Riley Trail december 22, 2012, 12 pm

December 23, 2012

First of all, hats off and a round of applause to the City of Des Moines and its workers for clearing off these trails from the 11.8 inches of snow that invaded our fair city on Wednesday and Thursday.  Please keep up the good work.  I remember a time when this was never done.  Want my bike off the streets?  Plow the trails!

These are the trails I rode and explored in the past 24 hours or so.

Gray's Lake and connecting trails

Clear.  MLK Trail and the bypass trail to Water Works have been plowed.  Meredith Trail cleared.  This was done on Friday the day after Draco hit.

East River/Neal Smith/Principal River Walk

Clear.  The section between University Bridge and Adulterers Row* not clear do to construction but it is a short walk to the cleared section starting underneath the bridge.

After Lutheran Hospital it's a bit icy to Penn Ave.

Penn Ave to Union Park gradually becomes worse.  The houses at the top of the hill across from the park were plowed BUT subsequent plowing of Penn Ave dumps snow and ice and ice boulders on to the trail.  Take the street to Birdland.

Neal Smith Trail just shy of InterUrban Bridge

Birdland to InterUrban Bridge is good.  A bit bumpy underneath trees from the snow and ice that fell off the trees but ok. 

The trail north of the bridge was clear but no information on how far it was plowed.

InterUrban Bridge to Beaverdale 

Good.  No issues except the entrance to the trail on Urbandale Ave.  Big thick ice.

Trestle to Trestle

Forgot to note as I rode by twice.  My bad.

Bill Riley Trail

Mary on the Bill Riley Trail at Craig Lein's Bench

Cleared from Water Works to the turn to the Art Center.  2 trees down as of Saturday.  City work with chainsaw was working on one.  This section is passable for fat bikes and regular MTBs with or without studded tires IF they ride on the fat bike tracks.  I did pull a Burley trailer through this section.  No update for Sunday.

Walnut Creek/Windsor Heights Trail

Was not plowed from BR Art Center turn on Saturday.  But at 63rd and Grand it was plowed going north to WalMart and beyond.  Did not go beyond WalMart but it looked plowed further on.

Clive Greenbelt

Did not see.  Last year this was the poorest cleared trail we rode on.

Windsor Heights to Urbandale

no information.  Mary says they do a decent job plowing this.  She commutes on this trail all year.

Great Western Trail

Polk County refuses to clear it citing cross country skis.  Failure to do so encourages snow mobiles.  Take the back roads.

Des Moines River Trail

Our newest path was clean.  Nice job!

If you know anymore conditions please reply or send me a message.

*termed this by Jason Boten who noticed more than once during pre-dawn commutes that there would be two cars and one car had very steaming windows!

End of the World Ride

Seemed like a great idea at first.  Celebrate the failure of doomsayers concerning the ending of the Mayan calender.  Ride bikes down to the Cumming Tap and back.  Carry "survival" stuff on the bike.  I was going to carry my axe.  The weather had been phenomenal all December.  Drought conditions and warm for this time of year.  One last hurrah before Christmas and the end of 2012.  The Tap invested into this ride.  Charbuff Grill created aptly named sauces for the event.  Looked like real fun.

But are overhyped media decided to name weather systems this winter and one called Draco showed up to shit on the party.  One bad ass system to flip The Switch and bury drought suffering Des Moines, Iowa, with a foot of wet heavy snow the day before the ride.

Thursday was a bitch to move around unless one had a snowmobile or Panzer.  The only people that should have ventured out of their homes were doctors delivering babies and people who run snowplows.  Everyone else STAY THE FUCK INSIDE UNTIL THE ROADS HAVE BEEN CLEARED.  But the advent of front wheel drive cars and the proliferation of 4WD SUVs makes even the shittiest driver think they are God.  And then their are cunts like me that wait all year for a day like like this to ride a bicycle to work just to show all the cagers that I can do it better.  So my commutes on Thursday and Friday were a bit tiring, battling snow and ice and cold.

Mary agreed to go.  Dora would be spending the night at Shelby's and the others are old enough to fend for themselves.  After I got home from work and the bank we prepped.  Mary wears 10X as much as I do for cold winter rides.  I merely changed my top layers, still dressed from the home bound  commute.  Changed my boots as well.  I wanted warmer boots.  She rode her old black Cannondale MTB and me my blue Trek 920 shod with studded tires.

The half mile to the trail was on good streets.  Nice and clear.  The trail was plowed but the remnant snow was best for fat bikes not bikes with 26" wheels.  Some places drug the rear wheels down a bit and created resistance.  But tomorrow would bring the Sun's love to remedy this.  There were 3 joggers on the trail and the only bike tracks were the ones I left on my ride home.

No one was at Orlando's, the official start of the ride.  That is to say no bike riders were there.  We ordered a large pizza and beer.  I was starving and it was "date night."

Craig Lein texted before we left.  Said he would be 45 behind us.  He wanted to test his new cross bike.  "He won't make it," I said, "they haven't cleared his section of the trail."

"Yes they have.  They always do," Mary retorted.  She would know since that is her commuting route.

"Nope.  Too much too soon.  The city aint dug out yet.  The Suburbs are still digging out.  Trails are not high on the priority list.  Second class citizens.  Need basic services done first before focusing on life quality enhancers."

The mobile made its noise again.  "Ended up in Valley Junction.  Robb is driving and I'm catching a ride with him.  Wanna ride?"  Craig made it 63rd and Railroad.  It would have been an easy ride from there to us even if the trail was still unuseable.  Take 63rd to Park and hand a left.  BUT 63rd is cager hell at that moment.  Hundreds of vehicles driving very fast on an icy road going home for Christmas break.  Death Ride 2012.  Any bicycle on that road at that time would truly see its last day at that moment.  Mary and I know this, we roade the shoulder once at this time of night.

"Yes, we do."

Fuck it.  We made it to the official start.  No one here.  Eating a large order of food and pumping ourselves with beer 16oz a guzzle.  Worked 8 hours and already have 20 miles ridden in shit winter conditions.  Why not?  Lock the bikes here and SAG to the Tap.  Get a ride back and then ride the 5 miles back home.  25 miles for the day.  More than 99% of riders today.  Besides, I have never ridden to Cumming off trail.  Polk County refuses to plow the trail citing "cross country skiers" but the real reason is $$.  Second Class citizens we bikers are.

Instead of getting there quickly we took the route we would have ridden.  This involved wrong turns and the use of Google Maps on mobile phones.  We did see a group of 2 or 3 bikes and later one biker solo. 

Bob Moural was leaving when we pulled up.  Something about someone not finding a key.  At least we got to see him albeit briefly.  Linda was doing a great job without him.  The Young brothers, Hammerhead and Jimi Davis who skiied were there.  Touring bikes.  I almost felt ashamed for the SAG but then again it may have killed us.  Idiots Out Wandering Around in freezing temps.

The only other AB product I will purchase other than Busch Light.  A guilty pleasure but their Belgium is great.  This was alright.  Turn your monitor upside down for proper viewing.

We purchased shirts, got the free beer coozies, drank the Shock Top, ate the wings with Mayan Death Sauce.  Yeah, level 1, I prefer to enjoy food, not suffer it. 

Robb dropped us at Orlando's.  He and Craig seemed Ingersoll bound or Charlies.  Mary and rode home stopping at Mullets for a Blue Moon and warm up.  Funny how great Blue Moon tastes after the End of the World.  Just like it did before!

This what the poster looks like Down Under!

Saturday, December 22, 2012

The Switch

Controller of The Switch

Hamm's.  The only beer in the fridge.  I needed it.  The last hour was spent making my way home in 35 mph winds from the NorthWest, riding on ice with blowing snow.  For some unknown reason I must brave these conditions for the sake of saying, "I did it.  I made it into work today.  I did it without a car.  Eat my dust, kiss my grits."   Nothing strange about that.  This is something I choose to do every day.  For 10 months out of the year it's really not a big deal.  But yesterday out of the corner of my eye I saw the hand reach for and flip The Switch.

Sometimes The Switch is a off white plastic light switch.  Other times it is a large rubber coated handle with a "high voltage" sign near by.  Yesterday it had a large wooden handle like something out of a Frankenstein movie.  Moving my head to get a better view always fails because The Switch disappears.  The Switch controls the seasons.

Yes, I understand that the laws governing the physics of weather were established billions of years ago and that humans barely have a grasp on it.  No one walks up to this lever and changes the season with an outstretched hand.  But in Iowa it feels that way.  Take Thanksgiving and Black Friday.  Beautiful week and then ZONK its very cold and windy.  This week was extreme.  Nice near 40F December days and POW!!!!....Winter has arrived.  11.8" of snow with strong Arctic winds to drop the temperature significantly.  Single digits predicted for the morning low.  Little prospect of the snow to melt.

I thought I was ready.  New cross tires on the Red Phoenix.  New studded tires on the Trek 920 (blue bike).  Knobbies on Mary's Cannondale.  Located old studded tires for the Trek 520.  Studs are worn out but the tread cleats are good for snow.  Bring it on!  Flip that switch.  I dare you.

I changed 3 tires last night.  My hands still ache from it.  Dare not use the tire lever because pinched tubes suck.  Grabs and push the bead over the rim.  Should have been just 2 tires because last weekend I did this.  But Blue's rear wheel had 3 broken spokes.  I was shocked.  1 spoke I understand.  But 3???  This bike is a storage queen.  I have ridden maybe a handful of times this year.  Mary commuted on it for maybe a week earlier in the year.  I was pissed enough about the rusty chain but then the spokes...  Numbness.  take the wheel to Bike World and have Rummey or Steve fix it.  While at it, take the tandem wheel in to replace 1 spoke.  Yeah, over 100 miles on that wheel with a broken spoke.  But 3??  I remember it needing truing but good Lord Almighty, WTF happened.

Draco.  Winter Storm Draco.  They name these things now.  The weather people were announcing doom and gloom heading our way all week long.  Tuesday was the day I fetched the wheels.  Took the Phoenix and connected the Burley trailer to it and rode 20 miles round trip to bring the wheels home along with pizza, soda and a can of Fosters.  Seemed to be a Round theme in the Burley.  The Foster can looked round from the top.  Wednesday was the day I put the final studded tire on Blue and went for a test ride.

It was snowing.  Maybe 2" by 830 pm.  Wet and heavy.  Thunder snow.  Lightning, thunder and snow all at once.  This is Iowa.  I rode to Mullets and ordered a Molson.  Schools were canceling already.  serious shit.  Draco must be for real.  Blizzard warnings being issued.  Damn, the televisions in this establishment are not friendly tonight.  Two more Molsons, please.  It was 10 pm when I left.

Blue felt sluggish.  No ice, just wet, heavy snow to push through.  The forecast said that the temperatures would remain steady and drop slowly.  I needed a tire that was more narrow.  Take the Phoenix in the morning.  Now get home and finish the sangria.  A slight hangover will increase body temperature and keep me warm for the commute tomorrow.

I woke up dreading the ride.  I love to ride in snow but this was too wet, too heavy and too deep.  Must leave early in case it is really difficult.  Should just call in sick.  Everyone else will.

This looks familiar

The driveway was hidden.  Where the yard ended and the drive began was not apparent.  It was windy but the wind was a favorable cross.  Pushing wind as long as the bike heads west.  Turn north and take the brunt of the wind.

I recall a similar ride to work last year or maybe the year before.  I did not make the mistake of riding to the trail to rediscover that snow this deep and wet cannot be traversed by the FX.  Plowed roads all the way.  This saves time and cut a half mile off the commute.  SE1st, Indianola Rd/Thomas Beck Rd/Bell Ave (1 street 3 names and we wonder why the trails are named so poorly).  Then Flagg and Park Ave.  Few vehicles out.  Nobody honked or yelled.  Yeah, try to roll a window down to yell at me and Karma will keep it down for the rest of you journey.

The only time it got dicey with cars was on Park Ave.  Normally I turn up on SW56th and cut on Thornton.  But from experience these roads are never plowed and have the deepest snow.  I keep moving forward to avoid a walk.  Park narrows to two lanes and has a slight hill to climb and hide me when I descend.  I looked behind me and the vehicles were almost a mile away.  I had a chance.  Got as close to the edge as possible to facilitate them passing me.  And as I crested the hill I got passed by a Mid American truck then a LARGE Mid-American truck and the world's loudest Pontiac.  But as soon as they were gone I saw the Principal Financial Group call center, 6200 Park Ave!  Target acquired!

Large construction equipment was clearing the parking lot.  Caterpillar.  Yep, if you have deep pockets people tend to sue for slips and falls and bumps.  Best use that $$ for clearing the lot.

It was the earliest I had arrived at work in over a month.  Damn.  48 minutes.  And when I opened the Warehouse Cafe PFG people were glad to see me.  Yes, I sell caffeine and they need me.  They also needed to hear about how I got to work.  Driveway?  Not dug out.  My street plowed?  Probably not tonight.  Get your car stuck?  It's at home where it was parked yesterday.  Then I hit them with the truth.  If I would have drove today I could have possibly had to abandoned the car, caused thousands of dollars in damages and probably killed someone.  On my bicycle I just look stupid.  Yeah, only 15 extra minutes to work.

The ride home involved more exploration.  I took Thornton to avoid Park Ave for that small stretch and saw a police SUV stranded 200 meters away from 61st.  She was ok, having a warm vehicle, radio and a gun.  I should have taken a photo as I walked by.  Yes, too crappy to ride.

Ride safe!

Water Works had that road cleared for the Holly Jolly Lighters.  Gray's Lake was closed but I limboed the gate and road cleared parking lot and trail to the parking lot on Beck.  Then back on the road. 

For the most part the change in temperature turned everything to ice.  The Kenda Kross Pros did good on this, better than the slop of the morning.  Although they are not studded tires I never slipped or crashed.  Mere put my foot down twice all day.  And that was when somebody threw their snow in the streets.

Winter is here to stay.  At least for the foreseeable future.  I hope The Switch gets flipped back soon.  Maybe there should be a dial.  Do this gradually.  Have fun!

The end of the cleared trail, Gray's Lake

Sunday, December 16, 2012

Rainy Day Reads

Crap.  Nearly 11 am on a Saturday and I have done nothing but drink coffee.  Well, there were 3 sausages that I ate.  Slept in until 9 am.  Wasting the day away.  It is wet outside.  We have enough food in the home to last us until we absolutely need to leave the warm confines.  And there are a million things I should be doing at this time.  I have two bicycles with flats that need mending.  I should visit my mother to see if she still hates me.  I need to get two wheels to a shop for new spokes.  But I hate riding in the rain or recent rain.  Read.  Yes, I should read.  Here are a few of my favorite reads.

Bicycle Times Bicycle Times link

This is the sister publication of Dirt Rag.  BT is marketed to people like me that ride bikes in the real world.  Commuters, tourers ect.  Not the $10K 15 lb carbon stick bike racer.  Cargo bikes, touring stories, reviews on lights ect and bicycle advocacy.    I think it comes out 6 times a year.  Check it out.  It is the bike magazine for the rest of us, those that rather carry beer on their bikes rather than clean urine for the post ride UA.


Aimed at mountain bikers and with a tendency to review $5K mountain bikes may not be the magazine for me.  But over the years I fell in love with the writing.  Mike Ferrentino's column, The Grimy Handshake, is a masterpiece of writing every month.  It is usually the first thing I read.  New columnist Kristin Buthcher's Buthcher Paper is also a great read. Joe Parkin is their latest editor.  When he graduated from high school he moved to Belgium and became a professional racer.  He was in Europe at the same time as LeMond and 7-11.  After Europe he raced in the States for Coors Light and Pettyjon.  Eventually he crossed over into mtb racing.  His book, A Dog in a Hat describes his European racing years complete with honesty about drug and bribery culture and the early deaths of cyclist to EPO. I need to resubscribe.  My bad.  Other great things about BIKE is the photography, mostly submitted by readers.  Epic photos.  Stories of travel are great as well as technical advice, interviews and tests.  Their face off between 26" and 29" wheels including setting them on fire and rolling them off a cliff with photos.  Classic!  You can find BIKE wherever periodicals are sold or at BIKE


I used to have a subscripting to this magazine.  But it became all about expensive bikes, how to train a whiner for a century ride and how to eat.  I will note that the nutrition articles are good and that I need to read them.  Occasionally there are a few articles that merit extra attention.  While at the airport I discovered that I had zero reading material so I visited the gift shop and picked up the November 2012 issue of said rag.  Found an excellent article written by Bill Strickland about racing.  Although I that genre of biking does not really suit my fancy, Exactly the Right Moment is a captivating use of the written word and a true pleasure to read at 35,000 feet.

For those that prefer to take an electronic reader, Kindle, iPad, Nook, tablet,smartphone, maxi-electric-pad to the john for entertainment I recommend following Ec The Cyclist on Wattpad. Ec is an exciting and captivating author and an "urban cyclist."  His entry,  The Cyclist--Effin' Zombies is one of my favorites.  Please read it.

Time to get lunch going and then to tackle a few flat tires.  I need a full time mechanic here at Festung Ebar.  Shit, that is me!


Thank you for reading!

Saturday, December 15, 2012

Eulogy to My Bicycle Commute

Where to begin...the news came yesterday.  Stella, not her real name.  I promised not to reveal my source and I will hold fast to that to the bitter end.  Betrayal is a sin.  Stella comes in about 10 am.  Her usual bright smile is missing.  It's the end of the year and things are busy in the financial world.  I understand that the House of Phones is now the House of Stress.  People calling in freaking out.  "Oh shit, the year is up."  But Stella is a proven leader and warrior.  And a cyclist.  Gotta love that.

"Going to be an interesting day," as she takes a long drag on her smoke. 

"Really, Obama and Boner dueling with pistols to stop the fiscal train wreck?"

"Worse.  The Announcement will be in a half hour.  Have you heard?"

No I have not.  I am so isolated from The Mothership that sometimes I think I am forgotten.  Deep cover.  No authoritons to interfere.  Peace and quiet.  "No, I have not."

"Everyone is being evacuated to The Mothership.  The Western Horde is taking this position.  April 1st they roll in."

Stella threw her fag on the floor and stamped it out.  "See you there.  Good luck."

I call Col. Leadbutt.  "Hear any rumors I should know about?"

"Oh yes.  You will lead the rearguard action as long as possible until the evacuation is nearly complete.  A new assignment will be ready for you.  I suspect you will be there until sometime in March.  Until such time keep casualties to a minimum.  Nothing crazy until the first of the year and then you will base yourself out of The Mothership and lead the transports to The House of Phones until we totally bug out."

Great.  Got a copy of Who Moved My Cheese?

Now in reality.  My peaceful job is changing soon.  More importantly, I am losing 8 miles per day on my commute.  12.6 miles or 14.6 if I take the long way home.  The new commute will be 2 miles each way.


I began my current commute in late October 2010.  I awake peacefully in the dark.  The only sound is that of the furnace or a/c kicking in.  Don't look at the clock.  Roll over and get comfortable and pray that it is only 11 pm.  Just as I get situated and comfy the fucking alarm goes off.  Damn!  No more sleep.

The light goes on.  The radio is turned on as well.  Wait for the weather report before heading to the shower.  Showers always wake me up.  Time to dress.  If it is winter then I dress like an astronaut.  If summer all I need is a pair of shorts and a shirt.  I have a large supply of work clothing waiting for me at 6200 park Ave, the call center.

Out the door between 5 and 530 am Monday through Friday.  Always dark.  Lights and flashers and reflective gear a must.  During the high point of Summer the sun would be out by the time I was about half way there.  But those daylight morning rides never lasted long.  The Earth is always rotating on its axis.  Always.

I grab a bike out of the laundry room or off my back deck.  Lights and bags.  Check for flat tires.  I have had to change horses before leaving.  Even this week.  Reset the computer and throw a leg over the steed.  Time to roll westward.

My street is usually empty.  There was a piece of shit Chevy Blazer that would be behind me until the first major intersection but I have not seen it for quite some time. 

Depending on how long it takes me to get my shit together there may or may not be two little white yippy dogs across the street.  They belong to the neighbor with the chopper and GoldWing.  These little bastards bark every time I ride by.  They bark at anyone walking on the sidewalk for that matter.  I wonder if I annoy their owners.  But motorcycle dude talks to me.

3 tenths of I mile I ride past Best Trip.  It is a Phillips station that sells beer and booze.  They open at 530 am.  Everyday I hope to roll by before they open.  This means that I am early.  I head straight to Mullets.  There may be up to three vehicles that pass me.  At this point I check to see if I remembered my PFG badge.  Without said badge I am hosed.  It is need to enter the building.  Without said badge I have to walk all the way around the building and make two phone calls.  One call to "Global Security" to get inside the building and the second to get into my area.  I never leave my badge at home.  Twice I left it at work.  Pain in the ass.

At Mullets I take a left and ride on the Meredith Trail.  I am done with roads for 4 miles now.  I take the trail all the way through Water Works to the Ikes.  I love this trail in the morning.  Safe, quiet and full of surprises.  If you could just see the beauty on this trail during winter after a fresh snow fall.  Virgin snow.  No tracks except for the ones my bicycle is making. 

No, wrong, there is another set of tracks left for me to follow.  Some small mammal leaves them.  i have never got within 200 yards of it.  These tracks are left by a fox.  He/she senses my presence and dashes into the tree line before I can get close.  Classic big red tail.  Elusive.  I pedal on hoping to see the fox again.

Now I turn onto what should be labeled Gray's Lake Bypass.  It is called the Bill Riley Trail Extension.  No more light poles.  Darkness.  Unfortunately, the lights from the buildings across the way destroy my night vision as I make the left and curve away from Gray's Lake.  Now there are other creatures in the darkness.  These are joggers.

Why black and dark colors are the choice for jogging and running before the dawn I do not know.  This is absurd.  But I have developed counter measures.  As I ride this section I stare at the Fleur Viaduct.  If any shadows emerge against this background they later reveal themselves as pedestrians.  I focus on the dark spot.  Wait until I am about 10 meters away and then light them up with my bright lights.  The best times are when there are two people running side by side and the one on the left moves to the right while the one on the right moves to the left and they collide.  Extra points if they correct themselves and do it again!  I say good morning and pass on the left.  One time I spotted a large group of them, all in black and only two with lights and called out "NINJAS" to announce my intention of passing.  It was like bowling complete with screams and the shitting of the pants.  If you dress like a stealthy ninja what should you expect?

Deer populate the remainder of the commute until I reach Park Ave.  I don't mind deer.  I can spot a deer before I can spot a ninja clad jogger.  Deer have reflective eyes.  One of the reasons I wear a headlamp, 50 lumen soon to be 100, is so that Bambi is found.  One time, riding to Anders Olson's home, Anders and I saw what is best described as a seen from Aliens if that film used deer instead of the acid drooling monsters.  Everywhere there were eyes reflecting back at us.  Creepy.  The entire herd.  Maybe 30 of them, maybe 50.

Finally I reach the 3 mile mark and prepare to cross SW 30th.  I sometimes see Diane and her 200 lb mastiff named Merlin.  Two things about dogs everyone needs to know.  1 never show fear in the presence of the canine.  they interpret this as guilt and will proceed accordingly.  2 show dogs that bicyclists are friendly.  During our 530 am encounters I dim my lights and stop the bike and talk to Diane.  I let the drooling beast sniff my hand.  That dog weighs twice as much as her.  Merlin has never growled or barked at me but the beast comes up to my handle bars.  During the summer it has the longest drool you'd ever see.  We chat for a minute or two before parting ways.  Those two are out even in the coldest of mornings.  I will miss them.

Pick up speed and prepare to cross George Flagg Rd.  Look left, look right and look left again.  rarely do I need to stop but sometimes I do.  I check out my high beam light.  If it illuminates the driver of the car I have it at the proper position.  Time to enter water Works Park.  More deer, oh dear.

As I approach the Raccoon River bridge I see a light.  Joe Ayers is riding to Cumming.  He uses only a headlamp.  Bright but no rear flasher.  Joe does not want to waste batteries.  Retired now, Joe rides 20 miles every day and maybe does a 40 miler twice a week.  Brad O thinks he rides 9000 miles a year.  Joe volunteers at the Des Moines Bicycle Collective and puts in many hours of work.  He is always friendly, always smiles even when recovering his bike from would be thieves.  Quiet and calm.  I wish I could be more like Joe.  But Joe is a faster rider than me and is headed my way on a road bike.  I start to stoke the 520 up to speed.  My goal is to reach the GWT trailhead before he catches me.  The chase is on.  My heavy bike and heavy body versus Joe.  We greet each other and part ways.  I need to take a right on Flagg and another on Park Ave, the busiest road of my commute.

I ride pretty slow.  Two things speed me up in the morning.  The first is Joe Ayers or any other biker that happens to be out.  The other is Park Ave.  My journey is a mere 6 tenths of a mile on this stretch but I do not enjoy it.  When I started this route I would stick on the right side of the road.  Park Ave is a 4 lane with a turning lane.  But I noticed that the right side of the road is filthy.  Sand and debris.  After a flat tire I changed my location.  Now I get into the turn lane after the day care.  No one bothers me there.  I do not bother others.  Perhaps there have been 3 incidents when an oncoming car needs me to get out of the way.  Rare.  Keep the speed up and go.

Always the same cars.  White Lincoln Town car.  Taurus with the license plate "0000000", maroon Chevy Impala.  The white pedophile van that once honked at me and a few Ruan semi-trucks.  Sometimes I can tell how late I am given the cars that I see.  If they are excessively speeding I know it is almost 6 am.  The later I am the less the traffic.  But I know that by 7 am it is extremely busy.

SW 56th is my savior.  I get to turn off the busy road.  Sometimes cars turn with me.  Never been an issue.  I shut off my super light on 56th and go with flashers only.  There is a large empty field to my right.  This is part of Mr Skunk's domain.  If we meet at a different location he freaks out.  If we meet at our usual locations he ignores me.  I have never been sprayed but I have smelled his discharge. 

On top of the hill I turn on Thornton Ave.  More deer and skunks.  Little traffic.  The last road to be plowed.  I have seen snow up to a foot here.  Find a clean line and do not stop.  Once when I reached 61st I saw 3 men pushing a Toyota.  I road through the snow.

Now the downhill to my final turn.  I really don't like pushing it over 20 for the turn into the parking lot.  Look out for cars coming up 61st.  It's rare but they sometimes get in the way.  Final left at speed watch out for ice if in season.  PFG does an outstanding job hiring services to keep the lot clear of snow and ice.  It's just the fools that left the sprinkler on last month screwed things up.  I had no issues but several people fell and people were surprised that cars did not collide..

I pull up to the warehouse door and hop off the bike.  I take a moment to shut off remaining lights and flasher.  I look at my time and distance on the computer.  Anything under 30 is good.  On the worst snow days 45 minutes.  Then I grab my fanny pack that holds my badge and wave it in front of the sensor.  BEEP and click notify me that I can open the door.  Need to push bike in quickly before the RFID equipment set off the bike's computer.  There is a long mat that I roll the bike on and then remount it.  This absorbs the snow of dirt I may have brought in before I ride to the opposite corner of the warehouse.

I rest the bike against the "cage" outside my door.  I placed several carpet samples on the floor for the bike to drip on.  Sand.  Sand is everywhere on Park Ave.  The bike is 10 feet from my business's door.  I could bring it inside but there is no need.  Only authorized people can enter the warehouse and there is a large camera viewing the door.  I have no need to lock it.  I will miss this parking spot.  When the change hits the bike will be outside under an overhang.  Locked up as well, chained to a rack.

I take the same route home.  Most of the time I opt to turn south on 56th to get to McKinley and catch the Great Western Trail in avoidance of Park Ave which is busier after work.  This adds a few hills and 2 miles.  I do not mind.  I have options to ride to Cumming.  If it is raining hard I stop at Orlandos.

Now the joggers are visible and the deer are hiding.  I see many bikers on the trail.  I recognize some of Des Moines finest.  I have seen Walter, Laura, Tom J, and Jason Boten.  Jason and I stop and talk.  He is on his way to Urbandale from downtown.  Damn, gonna miss him too.

New adventures await.  A 2 mile commute.  I can just wear my work clothes.  I can sleep in a bit and disrupt the family's morning routine.  "WTF are you doing here?  Or I can go for a nice ride in the morning before work.  I think sleep will win.

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Red Lights, Stop Signs and That Biker

Nothing like a pissing match at 545 AM.  Really gets the adrenalin flowing.  Elevates the heart rate.  Provides the extra energy needed to haul ass to work.  Such incidents also provide something to think about while moving about in the dark.  But such benefits are ill gotten and if I could do it over again the whole confrontation would never had occurred.  Where's that time machine?  Can I get a do over.

I try hard not to be "that bicyclist."  I really do.  Stop at most red lights.  I stop at most stop signs.  I do not hog a lane just because legally I am entitled.  I do not blow through intersections and lights like a meth addled maniac.  But I have my standards.

STANDARD 1  If I cannot trip it I do not wait for green.  Most traffic light signals cannot be triggered by a bicycle.  True, I could leave the road and push a button and return to the road IF such a button existed.  Many lights lack pedestrian buttons.  I'd love to see a car driver get out of the vehicle to hit a button.  Just once.

SO... when I roll up to a non-triggering light I usually stop past the white line.  This allows a vehicle to pull in behind me and trigger the light cycle.  If said vehicle does not follow I scan the area.  No cars, then I continue on my way.  Legal in Idaho.

This morning I had to stop downtown at the mothership and fill my panniers with supplies.  This adds two miles to the commute.  I had to stop at both Corp4 (the Z building) and Corp2 (Tower) as the PFG family call them.  Since the literal changing of the guard, new security service, I am more apprehensive about wheeling in, parking the bicycle outside the dock and returning with an armload of goods at 540 AM.  I expect to be questioned and hassled.  My boss says that they are a bit "by the book."  But the securitrons have yet to bother me. 

Pulling out onto 9th I notice that the construction from months ago is still ongoing with a large orange sign taking up a lane.  Across the intersection there is another large orange sign.  There are cars behind me.  I could weave through the construction but that would reduce my visibility and I'd hate to surprise a zombie driver at 541 AM.  My plan is to take a left on High St and a right on 7th.  I turn at the first intersection to avoid the lane closure.  Mistake.

Now I am in front of Tower and Square (Corp1).  My intention is to take a left on 8th and then an immediate right to cross campus to get to 7th.  Simple.  But the light was red.  Here I am in the heart of PFG land, the heart of the cameras and the heart of the securitrons.  I am officially doing company business.  So I stop and wait.

There is one car coming up 8th so I wait for it to pass.  My light is red anyway.  As the car approaches it's turn signal (indicator in the UK FYI) starts up.  Left turn.  Now it is in recognizable range.  Mid-2000 series Buick sedan, probably a LeSabre.  Something an old farmer would drive.  Nice looking, posh and comfy.  My light is still red so I wait.  The Buick stops.

I glance at the light again, red, then look at the car.  handicap license plates.  Maroon paint.  Come old buddy, get a move on, 20 feet and you can be on your way.  But he sits there indicating a left turn.

Glance at light, red as red can be.  I look at him again.  He is motioning me to move.  He wants me to run a red light.  My brain clicks into stubborn.  Nope, not gonna do it.  Red light, Mac, I aint breaking the law.  Every Buick built in the last 15 years has power steering.  They are easy cars to drive and turn.

At this point I am relating to you, dear reader, that I detest being patronized by cagers.  I am not helpless.  I do not need someone to stop and hold up traffic so I can cross the road like a family of ducks.  Just get on with it and leave my presence and life is good.  I am not so helpless at intersections that I need assistance, someone to cover my flank as I cross.  I usually motion these people on.  They do it out of the kindness of their hearts.  But I do not need this charity.

So the 'capper in the Buick is now getting angry.  I point to the light again.  Red for me, green for him.  The standoff finally ends when he turns into the wrong lane and passes between me and a parked car.  nope, cannot pull up the few feet and make a legal turn.  After passing me he gets into the proper lane and yells something at me.  Brain clicks and the "asshole" and "wrong lane" sound forth from my mouth.  Crap, is this on film?  Did anyone but him hear this?  PFG does not put up with violence and fights. 

My fucking light is still red.  Fuck it.  Time to roll.  He's probably going to Methodist Hospital.  Time to visit mother in the ICU.  Just leave and get to work.

So that's the dilemma when I ride.  Tried to do the right thing and end up in a verbal altercation.  Yes, he got the finger as well.

Saturday, December 8, 2012

The Last Few Miles

The 1897 rail bridge over the Bill Riley Trail.  Some good graffiti every now and then.  PacMan on feeling of gobbling up miles.

Friday December 7, 2012, 515 AM.  I have 18.1 miles left to achieve 7000 miles for the year.  Currently I am having the second highest mileage year of my life.  2011 ended with 7700+.  I am behind.  Unless it warms up, unless my boss says take the rest of the month off with pay or I win the lottery, unless I say fuck it all 2012 will be second to 2011.

I knew it for months that 2012's record would not be broken.  Too much riding last year.  But when looking at it and days remaining a second 7000 miler was within reach.  Just a matter of when.

Monday Mary rode to work and we agreed to meet after she clocked out.  Because I left my wallet and PFG badge at work we rode extra miles.  Upon updating my bike log I noticed that 7K was a mere 109 miles away.  Why not have a big week of miles and cross that threshold this week?  Weather looked great for December.  So I rode.  Tuesday and Wednesday 30+ each.  Thursday was Dora's band concert thus an easy day of 21 after a late evening pub ride.  18.1 for Friday.

6 of those were ridden to work.  I watched the damn clock all day.  I watched the weather, too.  Sure enough, sprinkles when I rolled the 520 out of the building.  Get behind me, Satan, I have a goal to reach!

Gray's Lake was my first destination.  Intercept Jason Boten and reverse direction and ride with him to the Bill Riley turn.  Then climb out of that hole and get to Polk Blvd.  Turn right at Roosevelt HS and stop at Boulevard Sports to purchase tires for the red FX.  It will snow soon, best get that bike ready for winter.  Its tires are so thin a grain of sand could puncture the tube!  The hit IngerDahl's for necessary dinner items and dog food.  Heidi ran out of food in the morning.  Simple plan.

Great effort, skill and artistry went into this one. 

The rain did not last.  Amen!  Thank you Jesus!  By the time I met Jason the wind had calmed down.  We meet almost every day.  One day we will have a beer at Confluence.  Are meeting was short so we got back on the bikes and rolled west only to stop at the rail trestle to take photos of the latest graffiti before the city paints over it.  Then we parted company at the turn.

Upon reaching the parking lot of the pool I notice 3 men loading or unloading fat bikes.  I was jealous.  I wish this was a pleasure cruise rather than a grocery fetching miles for the sake of miles ride.  But it was what it was and when I got home I smiled about the ride.  I headed to Grand Ave then cut up 44th to minimize exposure to traffic.

Polk Blvd was not busy.  I do not like getting passed by cars when cars park on the street.  School is out and people are getting off work and I am trying not to hog the road.  My turn cannot come fast enough.

I wanted to purchase tires for the FX and needed miles.  I probably would have headed to Bike World and then hit Harding Hills Hy Vee for the distance alone if I needed more than 20 miles.  Rassy was too close and crossing 63rd sucks ass especially at the time of day I would be there.  But someone from Boulevard Sports posted a sale on FaceBook.  Besides, Chris Mace is a good friend.

When I reached BS I had 16.4 miles.  Damn close!  Once inside I discover that I failed to read the FB post in its entirety.  Open house or customer appreciation day.  Beer, wine, snackypoos!  Celebration.  I grabbed a Boulevard Pale Ale.  Nice choice and fitting for the name of the shop.  The silly red tandem that I desire the stupid money for was still their.  I also liked the blue Schwinn with fenders for $420.  But I was here for tires.  Took great strength not to grab a second beer or second glass of wine but the discount was nice.  Brand new cross tires to wear out on the Red Phoenix.  Chris taped them up so I could stow them in the 520's panniers.  Time to brew this thing!

I took the pedestrian bridge to cross I-235.  This was the bridge that Mary and I ran a check point for Cyclo de Mayo two years ago.  traffic was not as bad that day.  I felt bad for the cagers driving below me.  They lacked my freedom and slight buzz for the ale and wine.

Ingersoll was busy.  It was dark now and I was surrounded by cars.  I did not feel comfortable in the bike lane.  It had been quite some time since I had been on this street.  Even longer since being on Ingersoll during rush hour.  Ignore the fear and focus.  Target Dahl's.

Approaching my destination I surveyed the traffic around me.  Had to seize the turn lane quickly.  And as I was doing this a man and a woman carrying a case of beer each were jaywalking across the street form Ingersoll Wine&Spirits.  Unfortunately, they seemed more interested in looking at westbound traffic rather than what was approaching them from the west.  They were safe in the eastbound lane when I rolled by them in the turn lane as I prepped for the left turn onto 35th. 

"Wrong lane!" one of them exclaimed.  Was he talking to me?  Sorry mister but I make left turns from the turn lane.  What the fuck?  Twat.  I retorted back something without swearing or name calling.  Yeah, I am going to cut across 2 lanes of traffic to stay in the precious bike lane.  Moron.  The irony of it is that they failed to cross at the light.

I used the bike rack at the drive up.  Glancing at the computer I saw 18.1.  Well I did it.  Not at the place I'd would have liked to have done this at.  Dahl's is the store of last resort for me, too expensive.  But I had a hungry family at home and a hungry dog.

I found everything I needed quickly including the latest issue of Bicycle Times.  BT is the best rag for bikers like me.  Devoted to commuters and tourers not blood doping imbeciles that race.  Dahl's has the best magazine selection of any grocery store in Des Moines.  They also have a good booze aisle, my next destination.

I was in the mood for celebration.  7000 miles in one year is an achievement that few people reach.  Originally, I wanted Dora to make a large laurel wreath with "7000" on it, have this around my neck while my sons lift me off the bike and Mary kissing my cheek and Katie taking the photo.  But I never purchased the green construction paper for Dora to cut the leaves and glue to an inflated tube.  It was dark anyway and the shot would have to be taken inside and probably the only ones home would be Mary and Dora.  This was inspired by a photo of Erich Hartmann after he landed his Gustav after his 300th kill.  Definitely for 8000 miles.

My other idea was to get a bottle of champagne, shake it up andshower everyone and my self before drinking it.  But the only bubbly in th chiller was too expensive and warm Andrea does not have the charm it did in 1985.  Next step up was Barefoot at $10.  I decided to save the money and contemplated a Cali-Belgi IPA from Stone Brewery but even that seemed unnecessary.  Still have beer at home, Fat Tire, and wine.  $ for tomorrow instead of urine for tonight.
Then things turned shitty, sort of.  My mood soured.  It was raining.  My jacket's first rain outing.  then the traffic.  I am so blessed with my commute route that traffic is never an issue.  Then again I have quite a few miles ridden on highway 34 and other roads mere mortals fear to pedal.  Bike lane will be safe, right?  But rain, darkness and rush hour.  just a mile or so, no big deal.  The bitch was crossing the street to get to the bike lane going east.  By the time MLK was crossed the traffic died.  Free at last!

The rest of the journey went smooth.  But trouble awaited when I finally reached home.  No laurel wreath, no champagne shower.  Dora's friend Shelby was spending the night and she did not need to see my stupid antics.  Shelby was not the issue.

Broken furnace.  FUCK!!!  Yeah, I get to look at this and make a phone call.  Purnelli was out in 10 minutes and solved the issue.  Loose wire in the thermostat.  Got a new air filter as well!

Because the basement door was open the 520 got to spend the night in the kitchen.  Job well done old friend.  Glad you got the honor of carrying my ass to the 7K mark.  You rolled over 3000 this year alone, a few hundred for Mary but over 2K since Ragbrai for me exclusively.  You also carried the new tires for your winter snow replacement if it ever snows.  Enjoy the kitchen, tomorrow you go back to the laundry room!

So, let's see, 3 weeks left.  Impending bad weather.  One long ride to the Trestle with Craig on the 29th.  7400 miles, maybe 7500 for 2012.  Not bad.  Let's see what 2013 brings.

Saturday, December 1, 2012

The Book of VeloRevelations: On Autumn and Winter Rides

-  Virgin snow is the best to ride in.  It is a special treat.  Fun, beautiful. Nothing like it in the world

-  The worst snow to ride in is a measurable amount that has been on the street for hours without a plow clearing it off.  Once a few dozen cars trample it the snow turns into the consistency of a thick quick sand.  Tires don't know where to bite.  One moment fine, the next the rear wheel drops 1/2" and slows down significantly.  It sucks, skinny, fat, studded, I have yet to find the tire to work on it.

-  No one with a fat bike can answer the above question for me.

-  I am not spending $2K on a fat bike just to ride .5 miles on a snow day

-  It gets dark earlier during winter.  430 pm feels like 8 pm

-  In autumn and winter bicyclist are like box elder bugs, the warmer it gets the more you see!

-  Deer are easier to see at night than joggers.  Their eyes give them away.

-  Shirt/vest/jacket idea "I would not ride on this road if the trail was plowed"

-  On snowy mornings I get to work before my boss.  He drives a 4x4 Chevy, I ride a Trek

-  If I drove on a snowy morning I could possibly cause thousands of $$ in damages and prolly kill people.  On my bicycle I just look stupid.

-  To keep the water bottle from freezing I turn it upside down.

-  Others use bourbon to keep the water bottle from freezing.

-  I only had to purchase ice on BRR once.  It was 55F

-  I like winter because it clears the herd off of Gray's Lake.  Professionals only.  Seriously, it is the only time of year that I can loop the lake on bike.

-  Why do joggers dress in stealth colors when it is dark?

-  In deep snow I can push my bike faster by myself than the 3 of you pushing that Toyota

-  When it snows it averages 50 vehicles collisions in Des Moines

-  It's easier to pull off the trail and pee when its cold and dark

-  It's warmer to ride with an empty bladder

-  Studded tires stopped my crashing by 99 %

-  Those big puffy wet snow flakes may be pretty but if the bicycle sits outside for 8 hours while you work don't expect the brakes and shifting to work

-  Nothing in the world can match a moonlit morning ride on the trail on fresh snow when the only tracks are mine and the fox that I can never catch

-  My favorite snow ride experience was bumping into Bob Moural in Water Works.  We ponied up the bikes and drank a beer.  Love it when the Cumming Tap delivers!

-  I used to mountain bike in winter without lights.  White was trail, black was tree.  I miss Cedarloo.

-  Cotton is not your friend in winter.

-  This time of year I wear 4 outfits every day.  1 the clothes I ride to work in. 2 my work clothes. 3 the clothes I wear when I ride home.  4 the clothes I chang into after I get home.  It almost makes me feel gay, I am a lesbian.

-  The key to winter riding is to dress warm enough without sweating.

-  Winter riding sweat is not as gross as summer riding sweat.

-  When I get home after riding when it is 20F I change clothes and start dinner.  If it was 90F outside I'd have to shower then drink a liter of water before dinner

-  You should always be cold when you start a winter ride.  You warm up as you ride.

-  Windproof and water proof gloves are essential

-  I purchase up to 4 pairs of those cheap brown "Jersey" gloves every autumn

-  Gloves have 3 purposes: 1 keep hands warm 2 protect hands when you crash 3 wipe snot off nose

-  A woman riding with one brown glove and one bare hand is the same woman that rides with one sock on Ragbrai.  I've never met her but sometimes you got to do what you got to do!  4th use of glove.

-  It seems that the warmer the gloves are the lack of a nice nose wiping material they possess

-  When winter arrives I swap out my SPDs for cheap platform pedals.  I like to get my feet off the pedals as quickly as I can.  Salt and sand ruin the bearing surfaces of SPDs and Egg Beaters.

-  My $50 pair of waterproof boots keep my feet warmer in winter than a $250 pair of Lakes plus I do not worry about unclipping.

-  I use 2 pairs of boots in winter.  Rotation to keep them dry.

-  14F is my record for riding with sandals

-  I like to ride when it is below 0F at least once a year just to say I did.

-  People at work are amazed when I affirm their question if I rode to work when it is 30F.  They shit their pants when I ride in single digits.

-  When it really cold it takes me a mile to warm up.

-  When it is extremely forsakenly cold it takes 2 miles to warm up.

-  To distract my mind from the miserable cold deadly temperatures I meditate on the Rosary as I ride.  No beads so I just move my fingers on the handlebars.  I can get half way to work if I do the whole thing except for the prayers I have yet to memorize.

-  I have yet to see a recumbent in the snow.

-  It truly is an accomplishment to commute to and fro work on bicycle when it is fucking cold.

-  Cheapass Shimano freehubs will freewheel both directions when it is below Zerex if you do not maintain them properly.

-  One winter morning it took me 3 bikes to get to work.  1 had a flat, the 2nd had frozen pawls in the freewheel.  The mtb worked.

-  My buddy tells me stories about riding a Peugeot 10 speed down University Ave in Waterloo during a blinding snowstorm during the 70s.  I'd like to see him do that again.  70s 10 speed, no knobbies!

-  The powers that be need to plow the Bill Riley/Walnut Creek/Windsor Heights trail on weekends.  After all the joggers hit it the surface is more cratered than the moon.

-  A cheap pair of knobbies gets the job done, too

-  My first BRR, the Official SAG Vehicle handed out Bubweisers in Rippey.

-  A few BRRs ago cops in Rippey made up dump out our beers when we left Rippey.  I wasted a Guiness and a Heineken.  Fucker

-  The 12 miles from Perry to Rippey is a barren wasteland during BRR.  Still it feels like Ragbrai except it is as cold as it is as hot and there is a headwind no matter what direction you go

In 2006 I did not make it past the first ditch in Perry.  There was a terrible headwind and I've seen it all before

-  Joan Gill saved my life on BRR.  Thank you for the SAG

-  I remember a woman getting hassled at the Ballyhoo because her peach colored jersey made it appear as if she was topless.

-  That drive home from Perry is bad

-  The best way to do BRR is to start drinking at 9am and leave when the bar starts charging cover

-  The BRR committee finally stopped mailing me registration forms.  I have not paid for BRR since the 90s

-  The Big Wheel Rally is the most dangerous ride in the world

-  Team Joker used to sponsor a gravel road mtb race in January and February.  Snowbike XO Race.  It was fun.  I came in 3rd place for my age group both races.  The second race I actually beat a rider!

-  Enjoy global warming/cooling/climate change; the return to normal will be hell

-  The Earth will not die until the Sun goes red giant.  That's a few billion years from now, you will be dead by then.