Sunday, January 27, 2013

Return to Cumming

Seems like it has been winter for a whole year. Although I visited Cumming 3 times last month I had to look it up on my bike log to get the details.  December 2, 2012, was the last weekend journey there.  Mary stoking on the fast tandem on a foggy 50F day.  Then two taco runs and a Wednesday "get some miles" ride.    Then the obligations of Christmas and the foot of snow that buried the trail.  Always the cold blast to seal our fate.  The very last visit was on December 21st, End of the World Ride.  Mary and I got as far as Orlando's when Craig acquired a SAG in Robb's truck.  The 9.5 miles from home to Orlando's was bad enough.  Adding 17 more would suck and forfeit our Saturday for a needed recovery.

So a month later it was time to return.  The snow had melted away.  Rumors of downed limbs begged us to cyclocross over them.  Although we planned to ride there earlier this month I turned it down.  Distracted drinking in other directions.  Gravel too wet. My cold restricting my riding.  Now it was dry and I am almost totally returned to health.  Last week's mere 50 miles needs to be avenged.  I can hear the Sirens' call.  Ride to Cumming.

Bike Expo day in Des Moines.  Seemed fitting to blow it off. Achilles is my mentor.  I went last year.  Grabbed some free shit.  No.  I want to ride.  Need to ride something significant.  Craig asked me to go to the Expo.  I declined.  Said I am waiting for the temperature to warm up and then riding south.  He agreed to meet me after he saw what he wanted to see at the Expo.  Good idea.  Craig get's entertained, we meet for lunch, the sun warms Iowa up and we ride to Cumming.  Bring lights just in case.

High Life for food.  Casey's on Park Ave for supplies and then the Great Western Trail.  The trail is in good shape.  There are a few ice clusters to negotiate but anyone with skill and a road bike could do it.  Lots of twigs and small tree debris.  Watch the shoulders for downed trees and limbs.  We saw 3 other bikes.

After 2 PBRs we left the Tap and headed back.  Not quite dark when we left the lean to.  Tunnel stop.  Army Post bridge stop.  Darkness for the rest of the trip.  Orlando's for a slice.  Decide to meet Mary at Shorty's for the Ragbrai Route Announcement.  But somewhere near Fleur Craig decides he needs to go home.  Fair enough.  Long day for him and Shorty's is not on his way home.

Mary has her bike parked at Shorty's AWAY from the freezer.  I order a Schlitz and pay for it and her pink.  Less than fiver!  Damn, I like this!  Two sips later a female manager type tells us that our bikes are blocking access to their freezer.  I find this dubious.  Throw day a dollar for the bar keep and leave.  My beer barely touched.  Long day anyway.  I had plenty of beer.  Unless the freezer users come from the debris pile north of the freezer I don't know how the bikes obstructed access.  Perhaps they had a large cart that rolls to where the bikes are parked....Don't know.  Don't care.  I will be creative with parking next time.  Funny thing is that we always park there.  Don't let this ruin the day.

Food at home.  Social media sparks to life as the Ragbrai overnight towns are announced.  Time for maps and markers and dreams of hot weather.

Monday, January 21, 2013

The Burley

Loaded with Girl Scout cookies.

Coming back from the store I was trying to catch up with the bicyclists in front of me.  A couple seeming to be closing on 60 years were dress for the winter Tour de France.  Nice road bikes.  A little too nice to be outed on a winter day.  I prefer to keep mine safely tucked away until the Spring rain can wash the streets and trails.  THMUMPKT, THMUMPKT, THMUMPKT....something is odd with the audio behind me.

It could be something on one of the Burley's tires.  Mud, gum or a piece of trash.  But the noise continued despite my efforts to shake it off.  Time to stop and look.  Without getting off my bike, I rotated and squeezed the tire of the trailer.  Flat.  Yes, THMUMPKT is the sound a flat tire makes when the stem is on the bottom of the rotation.  I should have realized that.  Nothing could be done about it now.  No tools, no pump, no patches, no spare 20" tube and no levers.  Maybe 2 miles to ride until home.  Another journey with a flat tire.

I purchased the Burley trailer from Europa Cycles in Waterloo, Iowa.  It must have been in February 1991, because it was for the birth of our first child.  $335.  Yellow and red,  Rain cover, bug shield, straps and seats.  Many wing nuts.  I remember assembling it when a nurse came to check on Mary and baby.  We probably waited months before we used it due to winter.  Since then it remains among the oldest and most prized possess of our biking collection.  Somewhere buried in the archives I probably have a photo of it.  I know there is a VHS tape of us using it.

Floor pump and all.  If you got space, use it!

We used it extensively for children and travel.  In 1992 Mary and I drug it behind a tandem for our first Ragbrai together.  Complete with all our gear and boom box and the ever necessary Star Wars sleeping bag.  Luke holding his blaster out at any bicycle or foe threatening us.  Since 1992 it has joined us on several more  rides across Iowa.  I recall leaving Marshalltown one year, Running With the Devil screaming from the boom box and Mary shouting over Van Halen that the Burley just hit an orange traffic cone.  I looked behind me and witnessed another cone launching from its position.  We had to laugh.  Perfect song for the perfect moment of Ragbrai.  One rainy day with a moment of glory.

Other memories are not so good.  In 2006 we took two tandems and the Burley.  In Waukee we experience the first crash.  One if its wheels got caught in rail tracks and flipped the Burley.  I shoved a cone wrench next to the hub and taped it secure.  By the time we got to Sioux City it was apparent that the axle was broke.  But on Ragbrai proper we found a bike mechanic that fixed the wheel for us.  He even gave it a quick release!  But there was another crash before Sioux City.  North of Breda on the Sauk Trail we hit a hole that was hidden by sand.  The hole flipped the trailer up on one wheel and it took all my strength to keep the tandem upright and out of the ditch.  But when the Burley landed on its side the tandem stopped as if an anchor had been dropped.  Quin, my stoker got the worst of it.  I escaped with a scraped leg.  Finally, on our homeward leg, the rain hit us pretty hard in Waukee.  We were aiming for the Mc Donalds to dry off and wait for air support to evacuate us when the lightning zeroed in on our two tandems.  One particular strike was extremely close and I tightened my turn to shave a few micro seconds to get us to safety.  Too tight.  The wheel hit a curb and once again only one wheel was on the ground.  Quin let out a loud shriek during that moment of danger and the wheel thankfully reestablished contact properly with terra firma.  2 minutes later we were inside.  That was the last time the Burley was used for Ragbrai.

After the crash I erected this stick with bags as a warning for those riding on this trail.

As the family grew the Burley was modified with it.  The seat was removed to make room for more children and stuff.  I do not recall the demise of the rain cover or the bug screen.  We learned how to bungee a child's bicycle on the back of it for when they were too tired to continue riding.  The wooden supports on the side got wet early on and in a hot garage got a bit moldy and stained the yellow sides.  The flag is a long forgotten memory.  And the hitch...  broken for a few years but a great field repair delays its replacement.  We use the stiffest and strongest fuel hose that an auto-parts store sells.  Purchase a foot of it and there is enough for 3 repairs or 3 years worth.  I was given a free foot of the tubing on my last visit.  Oh well, even if it were pristine I would not sell it.

Now its main use is grocery runs.  I store it on the deck under a tarp.  Inside the trailer we keep a large plastic tub that we fill with redeemable bottles and cans.  Once the tub is full, usually overflowing and accompanied with a few garbage bags of bottles, we hitch it up and ride to Hy Vee.  I think $9 is the current record.  As for grocery loads, it carries a heavy load.  I know I have carried nearly 100 lb of goods.  Easy to load.  Heavy stuff up front.  The lack of covers makes it even easier.  

We have also used it for bicycle recovery.  For example, Katie had a flat and walked her bike to Principal Financial Group and got a ride home leaving the bike at PFG.  I picked it up with the Burley.  Another time I decided that abandoned Raleigh Grand Prix, 3 months rotting, needed a new home and some TLC.  Yep, hitched up the Burley and brought it home.  Other times I use to ferry bikes to and fro the Bicycle Collective.

So here I am on the Des Moines River Trail on my way back from Hy Vee.  Maybe 15 lb of chicken, 4 2 lt bottles of soda, cat food, dog food, veggies ect with a flat tire.  So 22 years of rolling behind my bicycle and it suffers its first flat tire.  I really have no idea how may miles this beast has.  But I know it will have many more.  I was discussing with an employee at a local bike shop what he thought of cargo bike.  "I can all that and more with a trailer," he said.  Yes, I just save nearly $2K USD.

The Burley in its urban element.  FX as its engine underneath the SE6th bridge on the Des Moines River trail.

Saturday, January 5, 2013

The last Commute

The last gauntlet run on Park Ave.  Nothing exceptional.  Cold in the morning, 17F.  Empty and silent. 

No rabbits.  No deer.  No joggers. No other bikes.  Traffic seemed less than normal, I could blow through every stop sign without witness.

No Diane and Merlin.  Gonna miss that 200 lb dog.  No skunks although I thought I saw tracks.  No rustling of birds in the trees.

Some disappointments.  Never got the chance to ride on the trail with virgin snow.  Follow the tracks left by a fox.  And to see that bushy tailed bastard look at me from 300 meters and then disappear.  Just as well, Mary and I saw one 3 days after Draco.

I regret not taking the long way to work.  The extra 2 miles if I would have taking the GWT to McKinley.  I used to take that home to avoid Park Ave.  But Time is precious in the morning.  I like to have 15 minutes or more after arrival to change and surf the web.  Sleep will not be sacrificed for 2 extra miles.

Some relief.  Did not have to deal with 20 below Zerex this winter.  I was ready.  But as far as winter goes this one was easy.

Monday I start a 2 mile commute.  I lose 4 miles each way.  But New opportunities to ride before punching in.  A chance for breakfast and reading.  I miss reading books before work.  Shower facilities too!  I can take a shitbike if I fancy.  2 miles each way.

St Raphael and the Velogods have been good to me.  I thank them.  In 3 years only one close call, only honked at one.  Time to pack it in.

Tuesday, January 1, 2013

New Years

I remember my first ride of 2012.  Cold.  Felt like I woke up in Antarctica.  The ride before was relatively warm.  70+ miles to the High Trestle and back.  Stop for libations in the East Village and bed before midnight.  Mary joined us at the Locust Tap.  Eric Crabb and his lady were downtown too.  What a wonderful way to end the year.  Could not ask for a nicer December 31st in Iowa.  The high was 55F.  Woke up hung over and cold.  The new high was 35F but the powerful Arctic blast from the North made it feel below Zerex.  The Switch was flipped.  And I bitched about that?  We were not used to cold back then.  Mild winter to that point.

I rode the Raleigh to Mullets to start the 2012 season.  For some reason I think I had a few days off so that bike became my main horse for the New Year until I had to return to work.  Then the red FX.  I put 1800 miles on that beast til I pulled it offline until December.  The Raleigh was used for pub crawls and neighborhood jaunts until Joe took it in July when he moved out.  I traded it back for a Trek 830 in October.

Last night, December 31, 2012, I rode to and fro work.  I planned to push nit all the way to the store for the 3 bottles of champagne we needed but the wind was bad and I felt cold.  Fuck it, take the vehicle and bring more groceries home.  Perhaps go out to eat.  Dropped Dora off at Shelby's, hit Hy Vee and taco Bell for a snack (Rancho Allegre was closed damnit!).  Around 7pm I took the Red Phoenix out for the last spin of the year.  Court Avenue Brewing Co for my 2012 mug.  I controlled myself and only had the mug filled once.  Salisbury House Stout.  The woman seated next to me had the same plus a bag of mints to enhance the hint of mint in this delicious stout.
A brief scan through my Bike Log is called for.

January 1, 2002--Take the Trek 520 and ride to the Cumming Tap with Mike Lamb.  17F.  Need lights on return.

December 31, 2008--Trek FX 7.5 to work.  Comments "fucking single digits".  8F in morning, 21F on return

December 31, 2009--Cannondale SM800 to work then CABCO.  10F/15F.  Pick up mug and help Dori save seats for ISU's first Bowl Game in memory.  Need to loop Gray's Lake to get 3600 miles for the year.  Rode straight home and passed out on couch while watching the ISU game.  Missed 3600 by 1.9 miles.

January 1. 2010--Open the year by pulling the Burley with the FX to Hy Vee.  5F

December  31, 2010--19 miles to end the year on the FX.  Work and then stores.  Freezing rain while at work created chaos in Des Moines, no problems riding. 24F/34F

January 1, 2011--16F with 20 mph WNW winds.  Ride to Dalhs and stop at Yacht Club to see Craig Lein and Bob Skidmore

December 31, 2011--The epic ride to the High Trestle on the 520 with Craig Lein.  party Favors at the Saddle but Mary and leave for home early.  Barefoot champagne at home.

Today I am waiting for the little warm up we will receive.  I probably will ride to Hy Vee for supplies.  Perhaps Mullets for lunch.  Tomorrow I have to ride to work.  Looking forward to a January thaw and Spring.