Saturday, April 13, 2013

Ahh..1st NST Ride of the Year

A little ways south of Sycamore Access.  We watched these pelicans eat fish and dubbed the bench "Pelican Bench."

Coming off the depression of our failure to get to Vegas we made the best of it on a cold Spring morning.  Mary and I opted for road bikes.  Speed albeit dressed in Winter regalia is not the fastest clothing to ride in. Given the 16 to 20 mph NW or WNW wind we chose the Neal Smith Trail for the tree line coverage against the wind knowing that we would have a tailwind to assist us home.  Too much thinking to ride bikes these days.

Planning aside the next hurdle was getting dressed.  I do admit because of the crappy weather we are experiencing in Iowa, a Winter that will not end and constant precipitation especially during weekends, and my reduction in commuting to work because the doubling of my the distance ended the drought and the increased responsibilities of Mary's career requiring her to travel more throughout her work day, we have not been riding like we should or normally do.  This made dressing for the 36F ride difficult.  We could not find what we needed quick enough.

I could not find my jacket and my tights.  I was looking for my thicker--warmer--pair but only could find my thin pair.  After five minutes I realized that Mary was wearing them.  Understandable as hers need replacement.  Years of Winter riding takes its toll on equipment and clothing and the last two cold seasons put many a nail in certain coffins.  We are waiting for the sale once it warms up for good.  So thin tights it was.  Despite 1300 miles so far this year, a little time off from polar rides weakens the ability to venture out.  My torso was covered in what I would have normally used for temperatures in the 20s.  My jacket was in the van.

In mid April we needed to wear balaclavas and winter hats.

Breakfast was first on the list once we left the house.  Mr. Filet downtown 7th and Grand.  We rarely get opportunities to eat there because they are only open when we work or when we commute to work.  Second visit.  I had the Greek omelet.  The owner, as I was checking out, asked me if I had it before.  I do not recall what I had before.  He then said most people avoid it because they do not know what feta cheese is.  I said those people are ignorant fools.  I recommend the Greek omelet.

After eating we cut up to Watson Powell Pkwy and then up to the Well to use the new Center Street bridge to get to the NST.  Noticed that the improvements to the Botanical Center now involve ripping up Robert Ray Drive so for once in my life I was grad to have taken the trail.

The trail was almost completely empty on our up to the Visitor's Center.  No bikes, no walkers, no deer.  just birds.  Despite the weather the grass shoulders were turning green.  Hope.  The only humans we saw were in a huge F-Series Ford pulling a trailer on the trail.  Polk County or DNR.

Trail conditions were good.  Occasional sticks and branches as to be expected for this time of year.  I noted some glass on the side of the last wooden bridge before the climb to the top of the dam.  I made note of it to avoid the sides on my inevitable high speed dive bomb run.

Still Winter here.  At the top of the dam.
As Grumpy Cat would say, NO.

The VC was open and staffed.  We did not try to get water so I cannot report if the water was on.  restrooms were open and the building was warm.  We looked at the 3D relief of the lake and river, noting that the High Trestle needs to be added.  Also looked at the stuffed animals along the walls.  The staff said that the bobcats were ones that were killed by cars nearby.  Soon a mountain lion I thought.  Those bobcats are beautiful.  They remind me of our own cats.

An elderly couple visiting from Nebraska told us that we were brave.  If it was 10 below Zerex then I'd say that we were brave.  As it was, we were dress fairly well and were not cold.  And much to my surprise, not sweaty either.  Had we done this ride back in February with the same weather conditions I would have worn the same clothing.

Time to return.  Time to descend that climb.  BTW that climb is not bad.  Kept it in my 39.  No choice since my Trek 2200 is a double.  I think it only takes 2 minutes tops.  30 seconds to descend.  I did not push it, stayed out of big ring and only hit 29 mph.  After the bridge there was a couple walking followed by a white US Army Corps of Engineers SUV.  IIRC we saw a Park Ranger driving on the trail, too.  The Fed got over and we did not need to stop.

As we approached the bench where we saw the pelicans I noticed that the trail suddenly felt rough.  "Do I have a flat," I queried.  "Yes you do," Mary replied.  I was ready for this.  I brought a new tube, 2 levers, CO2 inflation system.  And we had a bench with a view.  Pelican bench is about a quarter mile south of  Sycamore Access.  Unfortunately, the bench is exposed to W and NW wind.  One large chunk of glass was removed from the front tire.  Guess I picked that up from the bridge.  Despite running my fingers through the inside of the tire I could not find the hole after glass extraction.  Good sign.  Put new tube in and then work to get tire reseated on the rim.  This gave me time to think about how old the tire is.  Continental Gator Skin maybe 5 to 6 years old.  Keep in mind this bike has not been ridden much since 2008.  As learned from experience, no matter how difficult it is to get that last 3" of tire back on the wheel, never ever use the levers. Yes, rip up your hands to do this.  Summon super human strength to do this.  And if you only have one cartridge you better not even look at the levers.

Time to inflate.  Secure head thing to presta stem.  Screw CO2 cartridge into head thing and wait for the PSZZZTUP sound of carbon dioxide escaping its metal prison.  This never happened.  Quicken unscrew the CO2.  Well, there's a hole in it.  I've been carrying a spent cartridge.  NOTE: this is a new system for me.  A good friend gave me it and several cartridges.  I happened to pick the used one into my fanny pack.  Been carrying it for months.  My trustworthy system is in the seat bag of the yellow tandem with spare cartridge.  I like that system better but the new one was free and I did not have to walk to the bike barn to retrieve it.  Pump you ask?  One is in my backpack that I commute with.  Time to walk.  No bikers out today.  Nobody walking with a pump.  I have ridden this trail almost countless times with nothing other than the clothes on my skin and a water bottle.  Today I get a flat and have 3/4 of the crap I need to fix a tire.  Lesson learned.

Mary suggests heading to the Casey's on NW66th.  It is almost a two mile hike from Pelican Bench.  At least a mile.  Wide shoulder, lots of cars.  Lots of cops.  We saw a trooper pull someone over.  Fortunate for us, it was behind us.  Polk County Sheriff Supervisor SUV or crossover (station wagon glorified) at the gas station.  And an Iowa State Patrol "communications" pick up truck at the intersection.  Po po crossroads.  10 seconds of air was all the tire required.  I smiled because I did not rip the tube when inserting it nor failed to remove the cause of the flat nor exploded the tube while inflating it.

Mary asked me if I knew where the north south road went.  Great idea!  Use the tailwind to intercept the trail and avoid the headwind of retracing our tracks on a busy with wide bikeable shoulders.  One quick check of Google Maps, smartphones, gotta love em!  NW29th crosses I-80 and intersects Morningstar Drive which takes one to the trail at the house that is on the 90 degree turn of the trail that parallels I-80 or what we refer to as the shittiest section of the trail because of cracks and bumps.  Awesome!  Glance at the road again and confirm that traffic is minimal.

We were passed by four vehicles on this stretch.  The last two came at the same time as we turned onto Morningstar.  As for the road, it was quiet and smooth except for the freeway overpass which is should be on the list of bridges that need repairs or replacement if it is not already.  When the iron used to form the concrete is exposed in a pothole attention is needed.  Once off the road we did need to dismount to get from the trailhead to the trail proper.

This saved us much time.  Before we knew it we were back at Mt Radon near Euclid Ave.  Only one thing to report.  A helmetless rider wearing a shiny light blue jacket and a red stocking hat tossed a Gatorade bottle at a grocery bag in front of the bench that is about 2 miles north of the InterUrban Trail bridge.  I almost screamed but regretted that I was going too fast to pull out the camera and take his photo.  Instead I said hello and he replied in a friendly manner.  Maybe he was collecting trash and piling it at the bench for pick up.  No use to get all self righteous on such a cold but nice day.

I lied.  Another thing to report that we saw a bluebird.  Another sign of Spring.

Nice ride with my lovely wife.  Great breakfast.  29 miles.  Further faster next time.

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