Sunday, March 30, 2014

Tandem on the Chichaqua Valley Trail

It is not very often that we get to visit this trail.  If memory serves, we did not ride on it at all last year, 2013, and only once in 2014.  There is no good route from where we live in Des Moines to the trailhead outside Bondurant.  So we schlepped the Fisher Gemini tandem in back of the truck and headed out.  This probably saved at least 3 hours.

3 vehicles in the trailhead parking lot.  It is rarely crowded here.  We encountered 2 or three families, an elderly couple on trike recumbents, a group of 3 and the occasional solo rider.  Everyone was supper friendly even the dog that walked behind the trailer with two kids pulled by their father.  The sight of the tandem brought out the usual  questions that people have about that style of bike.

The trail is in good shape.  We could see snow and ice in the woods and in the streams.  The section between Mingo and Ira has a few areas of gravel but the rock is not loose and did not produce dust.  The Fisher has 26x1.25 tires on it and did not slide or squirm on this surface.  I imagine a road bike could handle it just fine.  There are a few rock patches between Ira and Baxter that are safe to ride on.  I do wish they would repave but this solution is much better than the old busted surface.  See
review from November 2012.  We did not notice the old damage or repairs this time.

Changes we did notice.  Ozzy's in Mingo is now under new ownership.  Well, new owners for over a year now.  It is the Greencastle Tavern.  They now have draft been.  I had a Buffalo Slap oatmeal stout.  Mary had a ShockTop.  Exile's Ruthie and a Goose Island were also available.  $8 for two mugs.  Mary saw a sign that said $2 Busch Light Tallboys.  Nice!  A thick crust pizza is available and judging by the aroma and the smiles of people enjoying those pies it must be good.  We sat out on the patio.  There were two families with a bunch of kids.  Greencastle is also part of the Friday Night Rides on the trail starting in May.

Our plan was to have pizza at the Home Oil convenience store in Baxter but the tacos we had for lunch at home kept our appetite sated until we got home.  After the obligatory photo session at the red caboose we sought out the Goat Ranch only to discover that this gem of a small town dive bar is no longer among us.  We went to Cadillac Jack's next to the caboose and trailhead.  Busch Light and a Bud Light $5.  Lynyrd Skynyrd played at volume.  Despite the spacious patio we drank inside.  No draft beer, no trifecta of Busch Light.

This frame was built by hand in 1890.   The basic diamond frame never really has changed.

A family walked in and complimented us on the tandem.  I returned the favor by complimenting him on his bike.  A 1890 frame!  Literally the oldest bike frame that we ever seen that is rolling.  Did not get the manufacturer's name.  Kewl!

Interesting how the seatpost connects.  Heavy metal rear triangle!

Wood BB shell and halfstep gearing (he's in middle ring prolly a 4T difference between middle and big ring.

The ride back was fast.  Did not stop for beer.  Saw the recumbent couple again.  Encountered another family with a little boy extremely proud of his bike.  The scooters and peanut butter sandwiches on the trail just inside Baxter were gone (I did on accident run over the handle of one scooter, rear wheel, but it was a maze).  At the start of the 3 mile climb to the trailhead were passed 2 guys and 1 woman enjoying adult bevies before they made the climb.  They reached the trailhead as we were loading up.  The older fellow, probably the father, was on an older Cannondale MTB with slicks, said it was his first ride ever.  Then the engineerical questions about the tandem.  24 years later and that tandem still fascinates people.  They only rode to the 3 mile point before turning around and heading off in the direction of Altoona.  I was jealous in a way.  I wish we had the time to ride here from home.  Someday we will.

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

To Protect & Serve

Cruising to work on that final stretch is always interesting.  Been staring at the traffic light for nearly a mile hoping that it will magically be green when I hit that intersection.  Judging my time by the Ford Escape blasting hip hop at volume at 6 am (if I am running behind I hear it).  Light is green hammer time up the incline to the overpass of I-80.  It's a 4 lane so I take my royal share of the outside lane.  Some ass in a black Camry encroaches if I ride too far to the right.  The law cleary states that cars must change lanes to pass.

I pass the debris that may have been or may not have been a dvd case.  It has been there for weeks.  At the center of the overpass I look down at the freeway traffic and smile that it is not me.  Today I have a mere head wind.  Sometimes it is so windy up here that I feel that there exists a possibility that I could be blown off the road and plunge to my death on the freeway below.  Not today.  Time to prepare for the downhill and 180 degree turn into the parking lot of work.

Something is wrong.  There is a car in the medium at the bottom of the descent.  No lights, no flashers, no reflectors.  Just the dark outline of a vehicle stationary where it does not belong.  I ease a bit to the right.  Cars are going to see this and want to get over and out of the way.  What a hazard.  As I pass I have a sudden urge to shout, "Are you OK?"  But I resisted.  Need to represent the bicycling community properly.

As I close the distance quickly as gravity and pedaling have increased my speed the car becomes more visible.  West Des Moines Police.  Radar/speed trap.  I have seen them here before on westown Pkwy.  Sometime in Farm Bureau parking lot.  Yesterday across from Lowes searching a mini-van.  Great, I just got dosed with radiation.  Worse still, a Prius passes a little too close.  What is it with assholes in Toyotas out here??

Then I think about it.  He/she is getting cars to slow down or punishing those that speed.  This is a good thing.  But years of driving and the general abuse of power by government agencies have lowered my opinion of police in general.  Revenue generating or safety promotion?  And why did he/she miss the Prius passing me illegally?

Saturday, March 22, 2014

Mixte Action To Cumming

No party at the Lean To today.

With the weather improving and our winter commuter bikes heavy, slow and half functioning, Mary and I decided to go on a ride together after work.  We have over 1600 miles each since the beginning of the year and very few of those miles have been for pleasure.  Even less have been in "warm" weather. But winter is still with us despite the Official Season Change To Spring the day before.  Roads are filthy covered with salt, sand, debris from car wrecks.  Trails are in similar conditions with the addition of mud both dried and wet and tree debris.  We took our cheap mixte frame bicycles.

I covet our road bikes.  I refuse to ride them with such crappy conditions. Maybe because I see what happens to our winter bikes.  The sand and the salt and the filth and the destruction.  Wait until May to bust out the top o line.  We need our best road bikes to be in perfect condition for the early June ride across South Dakota.  The mixtes, on the other hand, are less expensive and cheaper to maintain.  We literally can abuse them until mid May when we need to do serious road bike rides.

The went according to early morning discussions and daytime texts.  Meet at the Raccoon River bridge in Water Works Park and ride to the Cumming Tap.  We had not been there since October of last year.  I would leave from West Des Moines where I work on the other side of the freeway.  Mary would leave from home since she had the day off..  Pack lights, hats, gloves and jackets as it may be cold and dark by the time we return.

What we did not count on was the strong 30 mph wind from the NNW.  Now I did get to enjoy it from WDM to the bridge.  Turbo, WEP (war emergency power) boost.  Smooth sailing.  And in the back of my head I feared the 13 mile ride home from the Tap since it would be into the that evil wind.  Gusts up to 41 mph.

1977 Raleigh Grand Prix and 90s vintage Bianchi Boardwalk.  Neither currently as when originally built and sold.

On a normal bike this would not be as big of a deal.  Scoot ass back, stretch out arms and flatten back.  Ride in the drops.  All skills we will need in June.  BUT we are riding bikes that put one in the most upright sitting position imaginable.  No drops, no aerobars, nada.  The Bianchi was a set of Tiki moustache bars and the Raleigh has something similar.  Great for slow speed maneuverability but extremely high profile.  Not aerodynamic.  Good for a tailwind!  To her credit, Mary did not chicken out.

So we made it to the Tap in record time.  Only got passed by 1 road bike.  Empty trail.  Two road bikes at the bar.  Stayed for one round.  And headed out.  We saw Laura and Will heading to the Tap on loaded touring bikes as well as a few other brave souls.  Really need a cheap diner and a Casey's there.  Hunger was a major factor in our short visit.

Tiki bars.  The red bike is my winter commuter.  The Tiki bars put my up higher than on the red bike which is already a high position.

NOTE ON THE TRAIL:  Massive tree cleanup/clearing outside Cumming.  Use the park turn off as the trail is extremely dirty and covered with mud, rocks, tree debris.  ALSO noticed a sign saying that the trail would be closed for two weeks in March or April.  Linda thinks they are doing drainage work.

It was not bad at all.  I use Endomondo to track mileage when I ride a bike lacking a proper computer.  Every mile was less than 5.5 minutes with the exception of 1 but that was still less than 6 minutes.  The curved nature of the trail and the protection the trees offer help mitigate the wind.  That and the general descent from Cumming to Orlandos.  Got home before dark and collected Timmy and went to Mullets for dinner.  I ended up with 45 miles for the day.  A good day.  A great day.

Yeah, take your stupidest bike and fight the wind.  Come May, I am going to kill on my road bike.

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

Normal Late Winter Morning Commute

Typical morning. Take Fritz out at 345 am for his morning constitutional. It had rained, no snow and above freezing but a tad too windy. Come back in and check the weather on the WWW, nothing on radar but the wind is from the north at 19 mph. Better than a west wind. Shit, shower, shave and brush teeth. Dress and kiss Mary good bye. Fritz has taken my spot on the bed. Step outside and retrieve FX from storage. It is snowing now. Took me 4.5 miles to realize that if... I turned off my headlamp I'd be able to see better. Illumination of snow in front of my face is blinding. Taking an extra minute or two for every mile. Wind only really bad as I cross the freeway on the Westown Pkwy overpass, the highest elevation of the ride and zero wind protection. I shake my fist at it and ask if that is the best it can do. Downhill from there and a turn into the parking lot. A few moments until coffee. I made it once again.

Monday, March 3, 2014

The Worst of It

I think we have seen the worst of it.  I believe the last of the below zerex mornings has passed.  The 10 Day forecast looks acceptable.  Every moment forward lessens the chance of a return to the extreme cold.  10 days from now it will almost be St Patrick's Day.  It should be green by then.  The snow does not bother me.  I can get through or around it.  But the -20F hurts.  From now on it could snow 12" and melt in 2 days.  The worst of it has to be over.

I think the worst of it was the morning that Mary and I rode together.  Within the first mile of trail we encountered a bird with a broken wing flopping around on the trail.  It was going to die.  If not from exposure but maybe a fox or cat of the snow plow.  It was extremely cold.  We could barely speak not having ridden long enough to warm up.  All we could do is look at the poor thing and roll on.  Not a good omen.

There are four electronic billboards along our route.  We always hope that the temperature page is displayed when we come within view of them.  Just a reminder of how bad or good it is at the moment.  On this particular day the St Jude's Children Hospital sponsored weather page come up.  Or it may have been the one from Orchard Place.  Off-white screen with a tree in the left corner and 3 windows for the forecast, now, tomorrow and the day after.  All three were blank.  What does that mean?  No temperature?  Negative Kelvin?  At 0 K all molecular movement stops.  I had a thought at at negative K all matter ceased to exist, hence no weather.  Mary, myself and our two bikes were the only things left in the universe and at any moment we would mercifully disappear with all of matter.  Not the case.  St Jude, btw, is the patron saint of lost causes.

Yes, that morning was the worst of it.  -5F with strong headwind.  Each pedal stroke laborious.  Ice inside the helmet and jackets.  Mary's hair frozen to her hat.  Toes getting painful with 3 miles to go.  Seems the colder it is the slower I ride.  Too cold for the truck to start.  Still need to get a new battery for it anyway.