Sunday, November 30, 2014

The Chase

Just a grey sky with hint of rain greeting us when we woke up and fed.  Must have been day 3 or 4.  I really am a morning person but sometimes it takes me a while to get up to par.  Today was no exception.  I tried stalling to let me friends head off without me but that did not work.  Joe decided to stick with us.  I was not really in a mood for fast bike action.  I like to warm up slowly, hitting proper operational status by mile 20.  But I was in a fast crowd and I knew I'd be dropped.

Leaving town I spotted a photographic opportunity.  The Bad River.  Never have seen nor heard of the Bad River.  Could not let this one pass.  I yelled to Mary and Joe but they rolled on.  Just as well for I'd be miserable trying to keep up until I was ready for the ram-jam biking that had been the order of the day.  Of course, I stopped on the bottom of a hill.

RASDAK is held the first full week of June.  Ride Across South Dakota was in its second year.  This was our third bicycle adventure in this state.  Unlike Ragbrai, it is often cold.  After about the third hill I had to stop and take my jacket off.  Despite keeping Mary and Joe within visual distance for some mile this break separated us for good.  Time to focus.

Drink some water and focus.  Start riding in the drops.  Shift to big ring and keep leg speed up.  By mile 10 I was up to speed.  Respectable 20s.  Feeling good.  Leg speed was good, plenty of power and no fatigue.  Found that perfect spot between pain and speed.  No issues from my back being contorted to allow me to keep my hands in the drops.  Another drink of water and keep pushing on.

Finally I saw the turn.  The rest stop was set up and many bikers were standing around.  I went through my checklist: speed good, body not in pain, no need to pee since I did that a few miles back causing me to drop further behind, still in the drops, water bottle adequate for another 10 miles and 2 Powerbars just in case. And yes, bicycle functioning perfectly.

I could make out their faces.  They were watching me.  My friends who traveled here with me every year. How long had they been there?  It was a T intersection.  Left or right or straight on the gravel parking lot that served as the rest stop.  Left was the direction we were to go.

I looked to the right, no cars or bikes.  The left was clear as well.  My speed was good and I was still in the drops and in big ring.  Keep it up.  Look for cracks and prepare to lean the LeMond into a left turn without losing speed.  HAMMER!

The town was maybe 7 or 10 miles.  What would that be, 20 minutes?  Keep it up!  They would give chase.  the road was flat and the wind was nonexistent.  Stay in the drops, spin high in big ring and do not look back.  I could beat them there.

A few hills emerged.  Mostly rollers.  The last one into town forced me to drop out of big ring for a bit but I was almost there.  Out of the grey emerged a truck stop.  Here I will stop.  Get a water and a Mountain Dew, eat a Powerbar.  Have a banana and rest a bit.  Read the map and wait for Mary, Joe, Donnie, Jeff and Riggs.  Ask they what took so long.

The truck stop was warm.  I did not realize how wet I was.  Sweat and the moisture from the cold sky.  When they finally showed up Joe said they could not gain any ground on me.  Yeah, fat bastards have their days.  This was mine.  I had to put the jacket on when we rolled away.  I probably took it off on the second hill.

Thursday, November 27, 2014

How to Get a Million Miles in a Year

Simple answer is too ride your bike, a lot.  But it is never that easy.  However, with dedication and goals one can ride mega-miles with ease.

What you need.  Tracking system.  Something simple.  Something that does not take up a lot of time.  Mine is based on a bicycle log book that came with an issue Bicycling magazine back in 1994.  Tracks daily ride stats--distance, time, average speed and where the ride took place.  In 1995 they issued another one and then I photocopied a blank page and placed them into a binder.  When computers came along i made an Excel spread sheet.  3 to be exact.

One for the month, one as a weekly mileage graph and the 3rd for yearly comparisons.  the monthly one is dived into weeks, Monday through Sunday.  Tracks distance, average speed, max speed, time, odometer, weather who I rode with and any comments about the ride.  of course, which bike I rode.  I use this one ever time I ride.

The second thing one needs is a simple goal.    Don't start out with "I'm going to ride X miles for the year."  That only sets one up for failure.  What I started with was "I will ride the bike at least once a week every week."  Guarantees 52 rides for the year.  More importantly, it is an easy way to get you on your bike in cold weather.  does not matter how long the ride is.  Eventually you will ride more and more and on more than one day during the week.  the hidden benefit of this is that your ass will remain broken in all year round.

That goal morphs into a better goal.  Ride 50 miles a week every week.  I went straight to 100 miles every week.  But even 50 adds miles quickly, 2600 miles as a base.  Factor in the fun long rides during the summer and 3000 miles for the year is very obtainable.  During the summer I try for 200 miles per week.  100 miles per week is 5200 miles per year.

A fourth suggestion is to ditch the car.  Try to do things on your bike that you normally use your car for.  Ride your bike to the trailhead as much as possible.  Ride your bike to the store.  Ride your bike to work.  Commuting to work has been my greatest source of miles.  I get between 25 to 30 miles per day from that only.  30 miles per day for 5 days...150 miles per week with Saturday and Sunday open for even more!  Truth be told, I really do not ride much on the weekends.

Other things to consider.  It helps to have more than one bike.  Especially during winter.  I ride my winter bikes to death and when spring begins I ride other bikes, leaving the winter bikes in storage until it is time for long needed maintenance for the next winter season.  Also, if a bike has a flat tire in the morning you can grab another one instead.  This happened to me this week on the day I hit 10,000 for the year.  Different bikes do different things.  A road bike is not the grocery getter that a touring bike is.  A MTB or fatbike perform much better in snow than a stick bike ect.

Finally, get a bike computer if you do not have one or use a phone app such as Endomondo.  Most apps are free and will track time and distance and give you a map of where you have ridden.

So ditch the climate changer and work out in God's gym.  Ride!  Make it a habit.  Start out slow if you are not much of a rider.  the more you ride the easier it will become.  It will become a habit.  Trust me.

Saturday, November 15, 2014

Ragbrai with the Devil

It was one of those crappy mid-week days.  Overcast.  I do not recall what the temperature was but I doubt it was hot.  The problem was that the route had a mind numbingly long north stretch.  This was our first encounter with such routes.  Through the years we have noticed that most times when the route goes north or south for an extended period of miles/time riders are treated to bad headwinds.  This day was in 1994 IIRC and the road was Highway 14.  Our overnight would be Marshalltown.

Mary and I were on the Fisher Gemini tandem going self contained with all our necessities behind us in a Burley trailer.  The anchor.  The aerodynamic drag who's only saving grace was its ability to haul our stuff including a cd player boom box.  But this day we hated

The turn to the right and off this miserable highway finally appeared and if the angels had heard our prayers and read our thoughts there was a tavern at the turn.  $1 can beers its sign read.  We were more than ready for a break.  And if things could not get any better it suddenly did when Slick rolled in.  Oh yes, rest, cheap beer and college buddy.  Trifecta in play.

After having our fill we rolled on.  Unfortunately, the Burley prevented us from keeping up with Randy.  However, we were refreshed and had a decent radio station blaring from the anchor.  A curvey four lane downhill presented itself to us.

The road was still a bit wet from the rain but we were heading south and had a tailwind.  Despite losing our friends were were now moving along quite well and enjoying ourselves.  The radio in back started playing Van Halen's Running With the Devil and that made my mood even better.  We were even going downhill.  Life was good!

That's when Mary, my stoker, shouted that we had just knocked over an orange safety cone!  Yes, I was in the left lane and piloting this zwilling bicycle.  I turned my head to check the Burley knocked another one to the left.  We barely felt the impact.  I laughed.  At least the cones were going away from the bicycle route.  Turned my head back to the front to adjust our trajectory and hit a third.  That was it, the last one.  Up shift for more speed in case anyone wanted to catch up and bitch.  Keep moving and flee the scene of this crime!  Running with the Devil indeed!

Saturday, November 8, 2014

Riding to Stevie C's Dive Bar and the Fishing Bobber

Nothing like a good destination ride to end the work week.  Since Craig and I both work out in the Outer Rim of the Metro we took an opportunity to meet up and ride to one of our favorite establishments.  Stevie C's is located in Grimes, Iowa, and offers great pizza on homemade crust.  A little bit off the beaten path for people who live in Des Moines but anyone who can bike more than 20 miles on a round trip can go there.  Or drive, but that would be cheating.

We connected up just off the Clive Greenbelt trail.  Specifically, the trail access to Lake Shore Drive that ends up at the Casey's on Hickman Road.  I needed to stop there and pick up a pair of brown gloves since the ones I wore in the morning were a bit overkill for the current temperature.

After linking up we chose to go back to the Greenbelt and cross Hickman via the underpass on the trail and thus taking the Raccoon River Valley Trail.  We wanted to avoid 128th as much as possible.  One significant climb and traffic.  We'd play with cars once passing the hill.

Heading west on the Raccoon we took the first right into a residential neighborhood just east of Deerfield Senior Community.  Look for the very small sign that says "Raccoon Trail,"  it is white.  Take the second left and head to the house at the bottom of the decline.  The trail is there.  Be courteous as the trail goes between two homes.  When the trail levels out take the first right.  This is located just north of the retirement home.  And another right at the bridge.  The trail is lovely here.  Very picturesque in Spring and Autumn.  There is a back to back bench underneath some trees.  We used this as an opportunity to sit and enjoy nature.

Once rolling again we took another right, at the "library," and headed east to the switchback climb.  Great view here but be aware that people like to take family/senior pictures/Christmas photos here.  The trail leads to the east side of Douglas Pkwy.  Right is the only direction to turn and keep going that direction as it curves around to the Des Moines Christian School and eventually 128th.  This is where we got on the road and played with cars.

We seized a lane and rode north on 128th to the Meredith intersection or Chicken Coop intersection. When we crossed we veered to the right and got on the sidepath.  This road is now known as James Street and leads into Grimes.  This is also the road that the City of Grimes illegally and unconstitutionally declared off limits for bicycling.  Bikes are to use the sidepath.  Given the traffic and the shit condition of the road, high curbs and cracks (128th has horrid cracks at the seams like MLK does downtown DSM), we did not mind riding on the path but hate to be told we have to.  The most glaring issue, however, is what happens when the path ends in Grimes proper.  Trail users are expected to cross the road and get on the sideWALK on the other side.  I tend to go forward, ride on the grass of someone's lawn (really a crappy stretch fro years of being located 2 feet from the road) and re-enter the road some 10 meters later where it widens and curves a bit. Take this for 1/4 of a block and the first right into the mobile home court and the first left that curves out to the road that the school is on.   Turn left at the school and take this to the bar.  I usually park in back in the beer garden of Stevie C's.  This requires a left and a right to to the alley behind the building.  The gate is usually looked but they will open it for us.

Stevie C's is a typical sports/college/local dive bar littered with televisions on sports channels, college paraphernalia and all sorts of bumper stickers and signs.  Craig estimated that about 100 people came through while we we there but it never felt crowded and the service was excellent.  We chose to stay inside instead of the garden, too cold this time of year.

We had a large "garbage can" pizza.  Very good, loaded with toppings and on a freshly made crust.  Craig and I ate it all and then parted ways.  He was head to Ducktails to find Robb and I to Johnston to meet Mary and ride home with her.  South and east we went on our own ways in the dark.  I took 1st St or Ave and crossed Highway 141 which becomes NW 70th and forms the southern border of Camp Dodge.  Maybe a mile of this is a 2 lane road then It becomes a 4 lane with a sidepath on the south side of the road.  I took this to Merle Hay Rd and then turned right and headed south to meet Mary near my mother's apartment on 63rd.  We then took the Trestle to Trestle Trail to the Neal Smith Trail to downtown Des Moines and eventually home.

I wish Johnston would hurry up and finish the work on their interurban trail.  We took the back way to NW Johnston Dr to get on the T2T.  The trail closure north of here is a pain in the ass.  requires sidewalk action and riding on a road that can be busy.  Can Habitat for Humanity get this done over a weekend?

The highlight of this trip was our first visit to the "fishing bobber" art piece at the end of the Principal River Walk and Iowa Women of Achievement Bridge.  Been looking at this for a few weeks and finally it was open for people to visit.

Wonderful day on the bike.  This was probably my 4th visit to Stevie C's as construction on NW 62nd prevents me from riding to Johnston on that road.  Did not mind the ride to work when it was below freezing.  The wind was kind to us and we got home before the "fan" was turned back on high.  Missed that by at least an hour!

Thursday, November 6, 2014

Great Job Clive: Greenbelt Repair

The day I saw the sign announcing the closure of Clive's Greenbelt Trail for construction I was upset yet I knew it was necessary.  The trail had a few sections that were falling apart and others that were bubbling up from tree roots, erosion ect.  The trail is old as far as metro trails go.  I recall riding on it back in 1991.  The sign said the work would continue through November.  Happy was I to see that the work was completed before the second full week of November end.

Photo taken from a section that has been eliminated.  A sharp turn to the right just past that tree was the order of the day before reconstruction.  Unfortunately, the trail was half missing at that turn.  If bikes traveling in the opposite direction me there the one going east would be forced to ride where the trail disintegrated.

What did they do?  Resurfaced and straightened.  Nice new asphalt complete with striping.  Benches are added and 2 or 3 nasty curves have been eliminated.  I always likened riding the Greenbelt to skiing.  Lots of switchbacks.  Although it could be dangerous it was fun the take those sharp turns and hope nothing or nobody was in the way.  But it is safer now for everyone.

Super job, City of Clive!  Now could you do the rest of the trail?  Yes, I'll hate it when construction starts but in the end the trail will be much better.  Thank you!!

The straw covers the old section of trail.  Another needless venture toward Walnut Creek.  Notice the deer on the left?  He's happy with this.  Happy the construction is over!

Traffic Lights Again

I have 7 controlled intersections to cross on my way to work.  All are in West Des Moines.  Not a single light can be trigger by the mere presence of my bike.  I have two choices: OBEY or IGNORE.

I do my utmost to be a good citizen.  If I choose OBEY I have to wait for a car to trip the light or go up on the sidewalk and press the cross button and get back on the road before the light turns or a car takes my spot.  I'd like to see car drivers get out of their vehicles and do this.

So the other day I am going downhill and go off the road to the sidewalk and stop at the light pole and hit the button.  I stop 6 cars.  Sometimes I wait until they are past before I press the button.  This day I did not.  Part of me wants to laugh. "Ha ha suckers, I got you!"  But the majority of me feels a bit guilty.  "Sorry.  I just need to cross this intersection.  Forgive me for making you late."

Then I thought about it.  When I drive I never ever feel bad about triggering a traffic cycle.  Nope.  It's my right.  I need the RIGHT OF WAY.  I really doubt 99.9% of drivers feel bad about disrupting someones journey.  "They was askin' fer it!"  Why should I feel bad about it on a bicycle.  I'd rather run the light.  Stop first, of course, look both ways and go for it IF SAFE.  But heaven forbid if I am spotted by the one dinosaur brained fossil fuel burning safety nazi that spots me doing that.  Yes, hit the button and make them stop.

Wednesday, November 5, 2014

Chasing 10,000

Barley 2 months left in the year.  Two more months to ride and add to my mileage.  Two months in record territory.  Sometimes I forget that it will happen.  Excitement is building slowly.  Perhaps when I am at the last 100 miles I will be thrilled.  But now being 7 miles shy of 9500 miles for the year it seems business as usual.

I passed my former annual record ages ago.  7932 miles IIRC.  Just put a smile on my face.  every tenth of a mile, every pedal stroke was a new record.  I remember being so disappointed when I failed to reach 8000.  For that matter, I recall sitting in Court Avenue Restaurant and Brewing Co watching ISU play a bowl game on New Year's Eve pondering taking the trail to Fleur and passing Gray's Lake for the final ride and thus gaining the extra miles to reach 4K.  Damn, that's been a while.  Since then I passed 6K and hit 7K at least twice.

A few years ago someone told me of a person that had 9000 for the year.  I thought that was nuts.  3 to 4K was hard enough but 9K.  Now I am that person.  Nothing in my life has been sacrificed.  I still beat everyone home despite my 15 mile ride from work.

Work.  The commute.  That made the difference.  Guaranteed 150 miles from Monday to Friday without messing around or padding miles.  There was a time that I aimed for 200 miles per week.  My weekends are the biggest opportunity to add more but I seem to let it slide.  I had less than 20 last weekend.

Sometime before the end of November I will cross the 10,000 mile mark.  If weekend weather is good that will be before Thanksgiving.   So damn close it does not seem real.  Does not seem like a big deal.  Just something that will be noted on my Bike Log.

I do plane to celebrate.  In the works there will be a laurel wreath, construction paper attached to a tire, with "10,000 Miles" written on it.  I will have it placed around my neck and be holding a freshly opened bottle of champagne.  Got to celebrate success, celebrate achievements.  Most likely I will have to duck out at CABCo or The Lift or Mullets while I wait for someone to be home to take my photo.

Sunday, November 2, 2014

Grocery Getting

Bicycling parking at Fareway.  This is only the items from Hy Vee and Dollar General as we just arrived.  I failed to take an after Fareway photo.

Another trip to the store on Saturday.  It was a chilly day, temps in the 40s and a bit windy.  The sudden shock of the temperature drop had us scrambling for our winter bicycling clothes.  We waited until lunch time before leaving the warmth of our home.  First stop was at El Rancho Alegre for authentic Mexican food.

After the south of the border deliciousness we crossed the street and went to Hy Vee.  Like most Hy Vee's, the Park Ave location provides for bicycle parking which is very convenient.  Not the easiest store to frequent on bicycle due to traffic and lack of trails yet they offer bike parking.  Thank you!

15 lb dog food
3 bottles of wine
1 jug of wine
2 packages of split chicken breasts
2 2lt bottles of soda
1 3.5 lb bag of cat food
6 pack of toilet paper
bag of jasmine rice
4 red bell peppers (2 for $1!)
bottle of laundry detergent
2 giant sweet potatoes
1 red onion
tub of REAL butter

As I loaded the Burley Mary ran next door to the Dollar Store and purchased a coffee maker since ours died last Sunday

Once the load was secured we journeyed to Fareway.  Unfortunately there is no bicycling parking at the SE 22nd so I backed the Burley against a curb and leaned the bicycles together in a car parking spot.  Fook 'em!  This amazes me since this store is located in a residential neighborhood and a major bicycle trail is nearby.

Purchases included
9 lb pork loin
1 lb breakfast sausage
1 lb steak
bag of La Rue breakfast blend coffee
16 lb bag of charcoal

All of these purchases from 3 stores fit nicely in the Burley.  Nothing fell out.  The return trip saw us go north on SE 22nd and then take the Des Moines River Trail to our neighborhood.  7.3 mile trip