Wednesday, December 23, 2015

Still Hating the Rain

Spent most of the day staring out the window at work.  "When's this shit gonna end?"  Des Moines received .82" of rain on the 23rd of December.  Sure, that would be a lot of snow.  But I can handle the snow.  Snow does not penetrate and seep through my clothing.  Snow does not flood trails for over a week.  I've got a bike for snow.  Several.

Light rain on the way to work.  Second time this week.  The carbon Rod is completely covered with sand and mud from the previous rain.  I really need to give that bike a proper and thorough cleaning.  Today I took the Soho for its ability to haul stuff dry and its fenders.  The rain was not bad.  Merely persistent.  Lots of earth worms out.  Warm December.  That was fine with me because for the past two days dozens of robins have been hanging outside at work.  Guess they will get a chance to eat.

But every time I looked outside the rain was worse and worse and the sky darker and darker.  This is suicide weather.  Almost.  The sky will clear up.  It's not like it will rain every day for a season.  Or will it?  It either needs to freeze or dry up.

Most people were like "Thank God it is not snow."  Muggle. They lack the magic and the understanding.  They will grab an umbrella and go to their cars then drive home, eat and watch TV.  They lack the magic.  Sure, people are traveling for the Christmas holiday.  Sure snow would make roads slick.  But snowy roads and better than flooded roads.  Iowa is supersaturated with rain.  Streets are still closed from last week's rain.  Rivers are high.  Rain is the last thing Iowa needs now.

Talked to head of IT.  He expressed my sentiments.  Rain sucks.  This time of year snow is better.  "I've a garage full of devices for winter.  Skis, snowshoes, toboggans.  There are no outdoor activities for rain.  No sports.  Nothing."  Truer words have never been spoken.  He understood.

I screwed around long enough at work to leave when the rain turned to snow.  Prayers answered.  Harsh reward but better than rain.  A 23 mph NW wind would have to be fought for almost 2 miles before I turned my back to the wind and headed east on Clive's Greenbelt Trail.  The snow hurt but it was better than rain.

The trail was spotted with many large puddles from the earlier rain.  Nothing unexpected.  The tributaries into Walnut Creek were running full speed and the creek itself looked high.  Maybe the mud I collected from exploring last week's flood will wash off.  Maybe not.  I wanted to stop and take photos but decided that it would be better to make forward progress and get home.  By now everyone knows what flooded traisl look like.  The creek is turning into a river again.  Everyone will see sooner than you think.

By the time I got to Ingersoll the flakes were huge.  Some survived on my gloves and on the bike.  It was beautiful but I lacked the luxury of enjoying the splendor of this experience.  Ingersoll is a narrow climb from 59th to Polk Blvd.  Pay attention to the road, hug the curb.  Despite the signs indication that this was a "bike route" and that people were to "share the road" it is dangerous.  Had the trail not been flooded I would not be here.  Pull off and turn all the lights and flashers on.  Despite adequate daylight I will take no chances.

From Polk Blvd to 42nd the grade is reduced and I can rest.  Then I must  run the gauntlet.  Sure there is a bike lake but parked cars and cars pulling onto the road from my right and heavy traffic on my left puts me on high alert.  One car door, one drunk pulling out of Zimm's or Wellmans or some business could be the death of me or worse.  I did not get to enjoy the downhill.

I do not feel comfortable or smile until I reach 17th where I hang a right and then a left on Locust or Walnut, I forget which but another right at 16th takes me to MLK and the trail/sidepath where I can relax a bit. 2 miles to go.  Still snowing but not as hard.  New danger, look to left for turning cars, look ahead for people walking with umbrellas obscuring their view.  The closest I come to a crash is when a homeless guy on a woman's Raleigh fails to stop at the light on 11th.  Had his QT cup with him.  Needs caffeine I guess.

Just a day's commute.  Another day choosing not to drive.

Saturday, December 19, 2015

Killed Two bikes in One Week

On a brighter day...

People always ask me when I am going to purchase a "gravel bike."  My usual reply is that I find it easy enough to destroy bicycles and bike parts without intentionally riding them for hours and hours on bike eating roads.  Love to have a cyclocross bike just as a fast commuter that could be fitted with studded tires but I doubt I'd ever truly use it for gravel.  Besides, limestone dust probably is not the best for my lungs.

So the two bikes we use that have the most miles on them took huge proverbial dumps this week.  The type of ride ending, season ending break downs that a holiday like Christmas can cause.  The last think we need to do right before the holiday is dump more cashola into bicycles.

Tuesday the Heavy Commuter, the 2011 Trek Soho, was the first to die.  Purchased brand new in February, it languished in the Warehouse for 4 years, I put 4550 miles on the beast.  Overbuilt and geared poorly but weatherproof with its internal gearing and drum brakes it has nearly half of the miles I have amassed for 2015.  On this day the crank was ruined.  My bad most likely.  I did 2 pedal swaps about 100 miles ago.  Today as I was pulling off the sidewalk to hit the "walk" button on the traffic control pole the rear wheel bogged down in the wet grass.  remember, it rained 4" over the weekend.  Add more power to the pedal stroke.  THUNK!!  Foot goes to the ground and bike stops.  A quickly glance down shows the pedal on the grass and a shiny hole where it should be.  Stripped threads.  Of course the right side crank not the cheap left side crank.  It never felt loose and the last pedal change was way over 1000 miles ago.  8 miles from home.  I elect to push the bastard across the street and coast underneath the overpass, 73rd/Buffalo Rd by Wal Mart and assess the situation.

Definitely stripped.  Unpedalable with my huge boots.  The pedal will go back in but there is quite a bit of resistance.  8 mile walk or phone call or finish ruining the crank.  I chose the latter.  The crank is ruined anyway.  I tried to line the pedal up the straightest way possible but it went in crooked.  get it tight because the climb up Ingersoll will be a bitch and torque will be required.

Made it home without further incidence.  Explored the flooded Walnut Creek Trail.  It was BAD.  Retrieved a growler and had it filled at Court Avenue Brew Pub.  Standard house brand crank ruined.  Was thinking about something with a smaller ring anyway.  Guess that will happen.  Might as well have them look at the BB since I have forded a few flooded trails this year. Honestly, I had been considering adding a front rack on this bike and making it the dedicated cargo bike especially once Hy Vee opens up downtown.  I need something faster.  Tomorrow I will ride a different bike.

Dried mud from Tuesday.  I took it for a spin to the barbershop and butcher this morning despite the crooked pedal.

Mary's commuter is an experiment in frugality and single-speed technology.  The worst thing about winter is the destruction snow and ice and salt and sand do to bicycles.  Chains, cables, derailleurs and brakes take a huge beating during this season.  So if she rode a single-speed it goes to reason that there would be less stuff to be destroyed.  Last winter I merely replaced the chain with a rustproof chain and 2 spokes in May after the first 5000 miles were ridden.  Cheap and easy.  Her bike easily has 5000 more miles on it for a total of 10K since early September 2014.

Friday was the Windsor's day to die.  Mary beat me out of the house and on to the road.  I would catch up.  Today she must have felt better because it took over 9 miles to catch her instead of the 3 from the day before.  The headwind finally calmed down, too, it had been a brutal week in the mornings.  But when I finally did reach her she was texting me.  "Horrible grinding sound and the bike barely moves."  It happened after she hit the tracks near 515 Brewery.

I shook the crank to see if it was the BB.  Solid, no movement.  The rear wheel spun but when ridden it sounded horrid.  Time to face the facts.  "You need to call someone to pick you up and take you to work.  Walk the bike back to 515 and chain it up.  Give me the good lights and battery in  case of theft.  I'll snag the car after work and pick you and the bike up."  Really not more we could do.  It was cold, the coldest day of the season and we had been outside for nearly an hour.

Mary and the bike got home.  I plan just to purchase a new wheel for the bike and perhaps have someone repack the old wheel.  10,000 miles of rain and snow and flooded trails.  We have had Shimano freehubs freeze up on us before, freewheeling in both directions.  A single-speed coaster brake hub with 10K probably needs grease, too.  Already had the replacement bike in my mind before she called for the airstrike.  The Bianchi will be used until the wheel is replaced/repaired.  Commuting all year is tough on riders and bicycles.

Monday, December 14, 2015

Rainy Days and Mondays....

The last of the snow in the Des Moines Metro

3.82" of rain since Saturday in Des Moines.  That puts a damper on things such as my quest for 10,000 miles this year and trails to ride on.  Almost every major trail system in the Des Moines metro area has been closed due to flooding.  Water Works Park flooded so much that the annual Jolly Holiday Lights tour had to be closed and electronics  evacuated.  The Raccoon River is angry, Walnut Creek is now a river.  But we rode to work anyway.

This morning's rain was light and not bad.  It's just that all the detours we had to take added time and exposure to the rain.  I had the foresight to pack clothes to ride home in.  But I left the good lights at home in case they got to wet and ruined.  We took Ingersoll to Grand at 63rd.  Then Grand to 8th and down hill to Buffalo Rd.  Mary took Swanson.  She discovered that the tunnels under I-80/35 were flooded.

On the Way home I took Westown Pkwy/Buffalo Rd to Wal Mart then inspected the trail toward 63rd.  the Walnut was still a river so I took the old detour then Ingersoll.  To my displeasure, the batteries for my front light were dead, their last juice used for the ride to work.  This necessitated a stop at Dollar General after a brief trip down Ingersoll sans front light.  Yes, I was THAT bike.

It was cooler and windy.  A NW wind at 20 mph.  So once home I secured the car and picked up Mary.  I was willing to bet that her clothing was still wet and it would take her 2 hours to get home.  Oh well, stereo and heat and the ability to pick up pizza on the trip back.  She appreciated the gesture.

On our way to pick up the pies we checked out Swanson Blvd.  We saw the Rookie, Anders' place of business, sports memorabilia.  Then a red flasher.  It was Anders riding home from work.  His trail decimated by the flooding.  Mary confessed that she was cheating and I felt bad there was not room for him in the Taurus.  I admire his dedication to commuting.  A lesser person would have gotten a ride.

But I was not done riding.  I had to fill a growler.  Java the Hutt debuted at Court Avenue Brewing Co. today.  I missed the party but was still able to get the beer.  Also needed soda for the family.  Mary needed caffeine.

They said we would have received 40" of snow if it was colder.  I think I would have preferred that to the rain.  Snow I can brush off myself.  Rain penetrates to the bone.  Snow does not flood trails.  Rain does.  2015, the Year of Trail Floods.

Saturday, December 5, 2015

Last Flats of the Year..These Aren't the Double F's That I was Looking For

The Fixtation at work.  This I like!

The more you ride the greater the chances that a tire will go flat.  This week we had two bikes that went flat on the same day.  I'm thinking the odds for another flat tire in 2015 are now very, very slim but we still have about another 1000 miles left between us for the year.

Tuesday was Two Flats For Tuesday Day.  Paranoid about snow and ice we took the "winter" commuters.  Mine, the trusty Red Phoenix, the battered 2008 Trek FX 7.5 that only gets ridden in the worst of it and rebuilt, shoddily every October/November.  Its studded tires never come off and they are still good for Winter III.  Mary rode the Bianchi Boardwalk with the impractical Tiki bars and a worn out set of cheap Chinese studded tire.  Sure, the studs are gone on it but the tread is excellent for snow and mud and perhaps ice.  Maybe not taking a wooden bridge at speed on an icy morning as her crash indicated but those tires proved to be decent when the bike was just a hack for going to the store pulling a Burley.

Nothing unusual about the 15 mile ride to work except the giant F150 in our neighborhood had a window smashed out.  8 hours later I found Red laying on its side at the bike rack.  Totally forgot to use the kickstand and backed it in.  The strong west wind got it.  Picked it up and noticed that the front tire seemed a bit low.  I did have a spare tube, levers and pump on the bike.  I could fix this.  Instead I used the nice bike fixtation that my employer, Farm Bureau, provided for the 6 to 9 people that bike to work.  Today only one other rode to work.  Nice pump but no gauge.  I pumped it until it felt HARD and rolled off.  7 miles later at Hy Vee the tire still felt good.  Loaded groceries into the bags and continued home for 8 more miles without issue.

Once home I showered and dressed in clean clothes and then prepared a Szechuan chicken stir fry dinner.  The phone rang when it was almost ready.  mary.  Normally she would text so this was important.  Yep.  She was 5 miles away from home with a flat tire.  I laughed.  She said she would walk it since all her flat fixing gear was in her other bike.  I said I'd meet her.

The Bianchi.  originally bought it for tooling around town but I added the rack in November to make it a winter bike.  I will probably exchange the handle bars for flat bars for better performance.  Too upright for 30 to 50 mile days.

By the time I reapplied cold weather biking gear and strapped the floor pump to the back of Red and met her she had walked two miles.  I met her at Water Works Park and George Flagg Rd.  We had a great view of the Holly Jolly Lights but that was not our concern.  I pumped her rear tire and hoped it would last.  Then put more air in my front tire for good measure.

We got a half mile.  Damn.  This time I had her stay on the bike while I pumped and then told her to ride as fast as she could go until it was too low to ride.  She got a mile but we only had 2 more to roll.  I rode one handed as the pump was in the other hand.  I'd be damned if I was going to take the time to fix this flat on a cold night when dinner was ready.  Tomorrow she can ride her regular commuter as I was planning to ride mine.

Needless to say we stopped twice more, the last time we were 1/2 mile from home and the air would last.

Santa ordering new tires for the Bianchi.

I put both bikes away.  The next day I ordered a new set of studded tires from Modern Bike.  $132 including the $6.99 for delivery which saves me the hassle of finding the time to pick them up and carrying them home.  Also it guarantees that these tires will not be needed for the remainder of this winter season.  Small price to pay for a warm winter.  We should get 5 seasons out of these tires.

Saturday, November 21, 2015

First Snow Ride of 2015/16

Just east of 63rd St.

After what seemed like a never ending autumn the cold and warm air collided with each other west of Iowa and an ugly line of snow and rain created a wall somewhere in the middle of Nebraska before pushing into my state.  It rained for days, a light gentle rain that slowly penetrates everything eventually.  Then one day of clear skies.  The stars and the moon shone at night, the sun was out during the day.  But the front was coming.  The Weather People warned us for days.  Originally the first snow was predicted for November 18th.  It came 2 days later, about the time of the evening commute.

I was prepared for it.  Plenty of warmth layers, waterproof and insulated boots and a baseball cap.  The hat would be worn to keep the snow or rain out of my eyes.  It was needed since after days of strong west winds it be be a minor gale force from the east or a headwind for that trip home.

Maybe I was not totally prepared for it.  My bike had a new set of Vittoria Randonneur Pro II tires, an unknown quality in the snow.  But I have ridden slicks in snow without issue.  The Red Phoenix was and still is on the bike stand in the kitchen waiting for me to finish the brake, cables and chain replacement.  Its studded tires should not be needed as the temperature would not be that cold.

All day I watched the radar.  A wonderful triangle of clear formed around the metro pushing the snow and rain north and south of us.  The rain is what I feared.  I do not like rain rides.  No matter what I wear for it it seems to get in.  Snow can be brushed off.  Rain was supposed to be first and then the snow.  I had two rain jackets just in case.  I used one.  At some point in this journey I thought it was raining and snowing at the same time.

People at work were like "be safe out there" ect.  They do not understand.  They do not possess the magic.  I have a 2 mile ride through a residential neighborhood to the trail.  Then 13 miles of trail to my residential neighborhood and then a half mile to my home.  My boss's car was rear ended on I-235 last week in good weather.  I cannot imagine how many vehicle collisions would occur when the snow really starts falling.  As I tell them, "I could cause thousands of dollars in damages and possibly kill people if I drove or be hurt or killed myself and lose my car if I drove on day like this.  On a bicycle I just look stupid."  According to the Des Moines Register, Iowa's most important newspaper,  11/21/15, 5" of snow by 930 pm, the DOT issued a no-travel advisory at 9 pm,  and between 3-830 pm the Polk County Sheriff's office had responded to 19 wrecks and 20 cars in ditches.  I wished everyone a safe drive home.  Only one other person rode to my work that day.  He rides a surly Krampus, he'd be ok.

The sword!

The flurries started in earnest as I left.  I made it to the Clive Greenbelt at 128th safely.  Streets were merely wet.  The landscape was a mix of green and white.  The snow was in my face.  I stopped under the overpass at NW 114th to put on the hooded rain jacket.  Another layer of protection and rolled on.  Near Miss Kitty's I spotted something strange.  I turned around to investigate and found a sword sticking in the ground like Excalibur.  I had to take this plastic toy.  Too weird to leave.  A souvenir of today's adventure.  

Only the bridges were covered with snow until I reached the Bill Riley Trail.  this had me a bit nervous.  Mary commented that her bike felt loose on wet wooden bridges.  She has the same tires, same age and miles on them, too.  Will Hildreth lost his bike from underneath him when he crossed one of these wooden bridges on the rainy day he headed to the Ragbrai.  But I did not feel a hint of slickness.  then the trail went from wet to white.  The bike handled fine.  700x32, 75 psi when I put the tires on a week or 2 ago.

The flood begins.  If it was warmer I go check it out today on my fatbike.
I found a good place to carry the sword right next to the electric flare.  the zipper was missing from the safety vest so I ditched it.

I stopped on the Bill Riley Trail underneath the rail trestle.  Walnut Creek was rising and spilling over the trail!  November floods!  We have had a lot of rainy days lately but this is getting old.  The creek appeared to be flowing backwards and it smelled.  On my way to work when I rode along the Raccoon River I thought the water seemed a bit high and was going to mention this to Mary but by the time I caught up up with her I forgot about it.  Perhaps when Joe Ayers passed us on his Schwinn roadie he erased that thought.  I wonder if he'll ride on Monday.

The display sponsored by Kyle's Bikes.

After the rail trestle I spotted a bright flashing bike light heading my way.  Some guy on a fatbike enjoying a chance to prove its worth.  He would have no problems.  The snow was sticking to the trail now.  It looked gorgeous!

Water Works Park was a sight to be seen!  The displays for the Holly Jolly lights were lit up.  No one was around.  I took the opportunity to see them all.  Although the official bike ride would be tomorrow I knew that it would be a cold miserable ride and possibly icy.  Seize the chance now.  I had the entire place to myself.  I noticed that the Raccoon River was high on the west end of the light show.  I pray it does not flood here.

When I got back to the WW bridge I saw another bike but it was traveling much faster that I and the gap was never closed.  About this time I had a strong hankering for a Madhouse Imperial Red Ale.  Only two places I knew where to obtain one, The Mad Meatball and the Madhouse Tap Room, both within easy reach of my route and within a mile of my house.  By now the snow was at least an inch or more on the trail.  Snow was sticking to my jacket and I was feeling a bit wet.  I saw Mullets and then looked at the street.  I did not want to take the road just yet.  Perhaps my thirst for this exquisite brew could be quenched here at Mullets.  No, but they had others and Joe was barkeeping and Zach was in and Ashley stopped in as well.  In the past on snow days I stop here and rest.  My favorite memory was the horrible storm that snarled traffic for hours and I was on the 520 with slicks and had no issues getting home.  When I walked in that day they played a track from my favorite band.  It was a sign from above.  No Imperial red, no New Order but good company, delicious beer, warmth and chance to check on my family's status.  My phone was beeping from text and Twitters and emails.  Pulling it out from the safety of the Zip-Loc baggie and having to take a glove off to work it was getting lame.  I'd have to go home and prepared the evening meal, baked fish, rice and veggies.

At Mullets

The road was shit.  Nothing worse than an unplowed street with a few inches of snow.  I found the cleanest snow possible to ride through but I made it.  As for the tires, on clean snow they did fine, no slipping, never lost grip.  Mary's comment was that the snow packed underneath her fenders and slowed her down.  The snow was deeper for her than me since she left for home a few hours after I started.  A 17 mile odyssey and motivation the finish the winter bikes.  32 mile day.  And a souvenir.

Home sweet home!

Wednesday, November 11, 2015

The Gamble Failed: Rain Ride

Weathered the storm and ca,e out the other side.  The sun is to my back but this sky in front of me is dark.

The touted it as a bad ass storm.  And they were right.  Optimistic to a fault at times I left work early to beat it.  FAIL.

301 pm all sorts of sirens start wailing.  I am in Clive on the Greenbelt.

86th St I put on the rain gear.  Heavy sprinkles.

63rd I hear thunder.  Rain picking up.

Crossing N Valley Dr and the rain really picks up.

Bill Riley Trail along the Raccoon River the rain is coming down in sheets.  But it is blasting from my back.  In the peripheral I can tell the sun is coming out but it's raining very hard.  It will end soon.  Standing puddles of water must be crossed.

Water Works Bridge it is over,  Sun is out and a woman in a polka dot dress is walking on the bridge with a photographer.  People never give up taking photos here.  It is about the time that I would be leaving work if I put a full day in.  I look to the west and the sky is clear.  Damn, I lost.  To my east the sky is a very, very dark blue.

Nearing Mullets I see a recumbent.  It's Joe Hildreth.  He said a cop stopped him and said he best go straight home.  A school was damaged.  He had to go.  He had about 10 miles to ride until he reached the safety of his home in Norwalk

B&B Supermarket is dark.  I need hamburger buns.  Rose unlocks the door and lets me in.  The power has been off for an hour.  Joe Brooks writes my name on a piece of paper and pins it to the board.  Pay them later.  No power, no register.  Rose told me that a tornado was spotted near the airport.  All sorts of trees and powerlines down near Fleur.  I did not think it was that bad.

I get home and there is no power her either.  Shower in the dark then read.  Funny how we feel the need to shower after getting stuck in the rain.  About 530 pm the house jumps to life and power is back on.  Damn, I gotta prepare the meal!

Almost done and Mary walks in.  Her ride was dry.

But I think about it for a moment.  Veterans Day.  November 11, 2015.  I rode my bicycle 16 miles from work to the store and home.  I was wearing shorts and sandals.  No gloves, no hat other than a baseball cap to keep the rain out of my eyes.  The battle of warm and cold air all around me.  I came out unscathed.

Tuesday, November 10, 2015

Bike Lights Once Again

In the morning, say 430 AM when Mary and I are riding to work I prefer to have the brightest possible lights to spot deer and objects on the trail.  Survival.  We both arm ourselves with a headlamp of at least 90 lumens, a cheap AA flasher on the handlebars, and NiteRider's Newt or Mini-Newt on the low setting.  We are bright as UFOs.  The headlamps run on 3 AAA's and are used to check out the forest around us for the betraying eyes of deer.  Having a friend spend 9 days in a hospital makes this even more important.  Whenever I see another bike or pedestrian I cover up the NiteRider so I do not blind them.  If they are running superlights and do not reciprocate I put my hand back on the handlebars  I'm shitty that way.

On the way home I try to go as long as possibly without turning any lights on.  The headlamp is usually stowed away in my panniers.  Most of the time I am wearing my sunglasses.  Sometimes I actually need them.

I think bikers like to play with their toys.  There really is no reason to turn on lights when on a well lit trail until it is almost dark especially when heading west into the sunset.  Now those heading east should probably turn theirs on a bit early because westbound riders have reduced vision due to the sun being low on the horizon and blinding people.  But it's always the westbound riders that have their lights on.

It's like this.  I can see the bike coming at me 2 miles away.  Bright flasher or solid beam.  I have to look away even though it is daylight in order to save my retinas.  Never get to see their faces.  Another impersonal experience.

Tonight I was really digging the November warmth and sky.  But then these bright lights kept coming at me.  I'd turn mine on for a second or two to let them know I was there even though it was daylight and I had high viz clothing on.  If their lights were uber bright I fire up the NiteRider.  Mega flash would have me hold the button down until mine flashed, too.

Now I understand that some, well a lot of people have that dynohub generator light system.  These run all the time the bike is in motion.  A good thing.  Unless they are too bright.  Unless they are mounted where the rider cannot be polite and cover the light when they encounter a human coming toward them on the trail.  We got to be polite.

Below is an article about this problem.  Well, the bright flasher problem but I want you to apply it to all bright lights.


Wednesday, November 4, 2015

Does a Skunk Shit in the Woods?

Been some time since I have encountered a skunk while biking.  Normally, if I spot them in time from a safe distance I am pleased.  After all, they are a cute woodland forest animal.  I'd like to have one as a pet sans stink gland.

I am convinced that they are slow moving critters.  Their poor eyesight is well documented.  Their dead carcasses on the streets is another testament to their bad vision.  Also, their reaction times to my presence is pathetic, thankfully.  They never seem to notice me until I am right on them and by the time I am out of spray range they move.  I have never been sprayed.

So today we crossed George Flagg Pkwy and hung a quick left onto the trail going through Water Works Park.  Straighten out and applied best possible speed.  But what did Mary and I see by one of the Holly Jolly Lights display?  Tail in the air and back arched and the  familiar back mammal with white stripes!

"WHOA!!!!!!!!!!!"  Keep going! 

A second later I was not sure if it was taking a dump or getting ready to spray or just excited to mark itself against the Santa on a snowmobile light display.  But we were no longer in range (10 feet).  I prefer to see them face first.

Tuesday, November 3, 2015

Real Service to the Bicycling Community

Tonight on my way home on the Clive Greenbelt I came across Jane, a roadie with 3000 miles this year, off her bike and picking up broken glass off a bridge.  She gave me a warning and told me to check my tires.  I stopped and did that and then joined her in the glass removal.  Most people rode by.  I almost did.  Then I thought about it for a second.  Mary will be riding through this and both Mary and I will ride across this trail section tomorrow morning about 530 am.  Having just put new tires on her bike and on the one I was riding at the time and two more to put on my regular commuter at home tonight I had little desire for more tire changes/fixing.  I should help.

This is not the first time I have stopped and gotten off the bike to pick up glass with my bare hands.  Usually I can sweep it off the trail with my shoes.  Not this stuff.  Small and unidentifiable.  Jane said she did not know what it was from.  "Not a pop bottle."  What it was did not matter.  Getting it off the trail was all that counted.

The glass was on the bridge just east of 86th St.  A trail user had to have done this.  Too far away from the street for someone in a car to casually toss it out the window.  Intentional or not I cannot pronounce.  Removal I can do.

I really wish more people would take the time to stop and clean such objects off the trail.  That would be a real service.  Give back to the community.  I salute Jane for doing this.  A selfless act.  Then again I see her everyday on a road bike and I know the pain of fixing a flat.

Saturday, October 31, 2015

Donnie Will Be Back

The man can walk!  Posed nexted to out tandem, a very filthy tandem, outside at his house.

Two  weeks ago one of my favorite people to ride with fell off a ladder 15' and broke his back and wrist.  Just a moment that could have killed him or left him paralyzed.  If you can say anything about this you can say he was lucky.  He did not die and will make a strong recovery.  Donnie will not be able to schelp tools and equipment around like he has done for 35 years as a boiler maker but he will be back on a bicycle next Spring.

The news of his fall came as a shock.  This is the third Hildreth that I ride with to suffer a major life altering crash.  Immediate thoughts were whether he would be able to walk again.    We visited him a couple of times during his stay at Methodist Hospital.  He seemed in good spirits as his wife Renae was too.  This was reassuring.  However, he did require surgery on his back and wrist.  A few vertebrae were shattered and his wrist was trashed as well.  I think L2,3 and 4 had pins placed in them.  His wrist needed a plate that was described as looking similar to the cleaning tool of the George Foreman grill.  Funny considering his nickname is Toolman.  His surgeon has a similar plate.  65 stitches.

Terrible photo but I did not feel like running a fullass photoshoot in the hospital.  Because Donnie needed to stay still on his back they fitted him with these special glasses that allowed him to see ahead without sitting up or lifting his head.

His stay at the hospital was about two weeks.  "this ain't a place for healing.  I was motivated to walk out and finish recovery at home," he told us.  So today we rode to his home south of Cumming and paid him a visit.

I needed 23 miles for my goal of 1000 miles for the month.  More importantly, we needed to show him that he was not forgotten.  Mary and I took the fast tandem.  A headwind slowed us down but it was a beautiful day despite the overcast.  One stop at the Cumming Tap for a soda and to send the warning text that we'd be over soon.

Donnie was watching football, Iowa v Maryland.  We latter went to his giant garage for a refreshment and he gave us the tour.  Mary had never been there before.  Toolman is quite appropriate given his vast collection of tools.  I got the honor of changing his calendar given that the month was over.  So long Miss October, hello Miss November.  Later he was heading to a Halloween party.  He considered dressing as a Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle but said he did not know how to do it.  I suggested he go as a Star Wars storm trooper.

A great visit.  Donnie is walking with the assistance of a cane.  He's also looking forward to biking again.  After getting the news of his fall I feared he'd never ride again.  The sun came out as we left and a tailwind jetted us home.  Good times around the corner.  Donnie is back.  Just needs a long winters rest.

Sunday, October 25, 2015

Coffeeneuring 2015

Another fun bicycle activity from Chasing Mailboxes.  I recommend that you follow her on Twitter.

So here is what this is all about!  Coffeeneuring Challenge 2015 411

Round One

Large Americano
Woke up early to get my haircut.  Had to get there before he opened because he cannot cut hair and talk at the same time.  Took the Dolomite because it the short range weekend bike.  Left the Gomez barber and rode the fattie downtown to Scooters which is across the street from the courthouse.  Safe neighborhood streets, some bike trails and bike lanes.  Safe and friendly.  Bike rack located on south side of establishment.  Unfortunately tons of bird droppings on the tables near the rack.  The only issue is that is a Saturday morning and there are people from the farmers market and Run for the Cure invading downtown.  No real issues with them.
4 miles total

Round Two

The Village Bean
Medium Americano
Took some time to get out of the house this morning.  First breakfast then coffee.  Original motivation was for breakfast tacos at Mullets but the 25 minute wait was more than I was willing to accept.  We gambled that the Village Bean would be open on a Sunday morning..  It opens at 9 am.  Lucked out that breakfast sandwiches are available.  The barista/sammie maker/cashier/only dude working rides his bike everywhere.  Sold his car 6 years ago!  The ride was all streets and bike lanes.  Quiet Sunday morning with the exception of large trucks removing ruble and debris from the demolition of the YMCA earlier that morning.  Despite the trucks there were no issues.  Two bike racks on the corner but I moved our steeds directly in front of the window for the photo.  Mary had a hot chocolate (with lid).
3 miles total

Round Three

Grounds For Celebration
Medium Americano
Chilly morning ride at 49F with sunshine and promise of 70s or 80F later this weekend.  Took our "fast" bikes since this adventure would be a bit further than last weekend.  Because Farmers Market was still raging we opted to ride through the East Village to get to our destination.  Mary likes to avoid the FM crowd.  Despite the presence of and use of bike lanes traffic was a bit busy for a Saturday morning.  Probably people avoiding the farmers market or going there.  We caught the trail at the Botanical Center.  Noticed that work was in full swing on the Neal Smith Trail from the Women of Achievement Bridge to the Botanical Center.  This is good because that section of trail needed to be resurfaced for the last 20 years.  Once on the trail we were able to stay off the streets for the rest of the trip except for crossing intersections and the bike lane for the last mile.  Bicycle friendly it is although mary has been hit twice on the bike lane up Urbandale Ave, people backing out.  GFC is located in "Beaverdale."  We sat outside since our ride and mile + climb, gentle grade, warmed us up a bit.  I also wanted my coffee to cool down a bit to "drinkable" temperature.  Mary had a hot chocolate and we both had microwaved breakfast sandwiches.  On the patio we looked around and decided that there were places to visit to pick up a few items.  A hardware store (door knob) and Back Country Outfitters (headlamp and underwear) were within walking range so we left our steeds locked up to the patio.  We also stopped at Beaverdale Bikes for tubes, $6 per which is an outstanding price these days!  So not only bicycle friendly but useful area/ride.
15.5 miles total

Round Four

Java Joe's
Small Iced Coffee
Planned to get up and be there when they opened at 630 am because it was my turn to Lector at Church at 830 am.  Bed to warm and comfy even with Fritz in between us with the hiccups.  We hit JJ after Church.  Ride was bicycle friendly, 90% streets with one trail.  Even during weekdays it is not a bad ride.  Sunday means empty streets!  No Farmers Market.  Once we opened the door we got hit with a blast of WARM air and had to wait in line.  Lots of kids, too, they even have a kids playroom.  Because it was hot in there I ordered an iced coffee.  Took a big hit on it and filled the remainder with half and half.  Mary had some French vanilla iced coffee.  We consumed them outside because it was too hot inside.  After leaving we rode to Price Choppers to get charcoal.
10 miles total

Round Five

Caribou Coffee, Waukee, Iowa
Medium Iced Coffee
Big day!  Finally was able to put some serious miles in!  In a drought so to say.  The day focused on riding to Waukee, Iowa, to watch our daughter, Dora, compete in the State Marching Band Competition and later the Waukee Invitational.   The route was about as bicycle friendly as it can get.  1/2 mile from our house to the trail and then 16 more all on trail to the coffee shop.  The only bad part of the trail is what essentially is a sidepath that runs along Hickman Rd through Waukee.  Busy, busy 4 lane road with many intersections.  One must constantly check their 7 and 5 o'clocks when crossing the intersection to avoid being murdered by an expensive SUV.  But it is the safest and "friendliest" way to get to the Raccoon River Valley Trail.  The price of riding the bicycle to the trail.  Weaker folk simply drive to the trailhead.
61 miles total

Round Six

Smokey Row
Small Iced Coffee
Due to the Des Moines Marathon and several construction projects in town this was not a bicycle friendly ride but much better on bicycle than in a car.  Detours and construction sites and as such traffic was forced into places that would and should have been empty on a Sunday morning.  However, we did find a safer and fast route home with minimal traffic and detours and it was mostly downhill.
7 miles total

Round Seven

Coffee Shop Without Walls
Hot Chocolate
I was very intrigued with this one.  One problem.  I do not own a portable or camping stove.  A MSR Whisper Lite has been on my list for a while but other issues have taken that coin.  So I built my own.  I used a Sterno cannister, enchilada sauce can, 4 Barefoot Wine corks and an old Mr Coffee pot.  To expedite time I boiled water at home and ferried it over to the C w/o W.  I chose Swiss Miss since we had that home already.  The location is on the north shore of the Green Bridge (Jackson St Bridge) which is closed right now awaiting repairs.  This is a historic bridge that has been a popular pedestrian bridge for several years until it was deemed a "danger."  Very bicycle friendly route to this place.  A mere 1/2 mile of residential streets where people are expecting to see bicycles since a popular trail intersects it.  Then the other 1/2 mile is trail.
2 miles total

The stove in operation

Century Complete

The key to a century is a deadline.  Mine was 230 pm.  Not that I had to have 100 miles by then.  I needed to have at least 82 by that time when Mary would be finished with her conference and we would ride the 18 miles together back home.

Another key to a century is adequate sleep the night before.  We went to bed after midnight.  The alarm went off at 345 am.  Mary had to be there by 730 am and we would want breakfast.  There was a moment that we almost just screw the breakfast in favor for more sleep but we got rolling anyway.  Asses on bike seats about 10 minutes later than our Monday through Friday gig.

Also it is important to prep the bike before going to bed the night before.  I did not.  Failed to put the NiteRiders on.  Failed to air up the tires.  All that waited until the morning cutting into sleep and breakfast time.  Worse yet, in my haste to mount the lights I ripped the rubber band that holds it to the handlebar.  No uberlights today, just the wonderful AAs and headlamps which are generally good enough anyway. Time to send money off to NiteRider for a new set of bands.  Fortunately, we still have the ones that work on our commuters.

Good weather is essential for a quality century.  The rain stopped but the wind picked up.  The wind was very strong from the northwest or the direction that we were heading.  I just put my hands in the drops and kept my my head down.  That's all about anyone can do except for switching to a recumbent.  But once we got into the wood areas of the trail we had respite from the wind.  The stretches from Mullets to Water Works Park, 3.5 miles and from Hickman Rd to Warrior Lane.  And then a headwind all the way to my turn around point north of Panora.

As for the temperature, it was on the low side of perfect.  That meant that all the warmth clothing could easily be shed and stowed away.  Said warmth layers were gloves, headband and jacket.  The first 2 items in my jersey pocket and the jacket in my Camelback sans water bladder.  Also in the Camelback were a pump, tube, levers cash, meds and bike lock.  I kepted a PowerBar in my jersey pocket.

Despite the wind we made it to Waukee Hy Vee with over an hour to spare.  The Market Grille was ope so we enjoyed a meal before going to the middle school for her conference.  Mary laughed as I stood at our table pulling all my stuff out of my pockets and stripping a layer or two but I felt an urge to organize and assess.  Our waitress was friendly and efficient and obliviously had more sleep than we had.  Mary had some sort of egg mess skillet thing with giant toast and I had a bagel with cheese and sausage.  We shared her toast and I placed gravy on mine.  Coffee and several glasses of water.  Gravy instead of jelly.  Not bad.  Not sure what Mary ordered that required gravy but she did not use it.

Afterwards we did the quick jaunt to the middle school and parted ways.  The luxury of a bicycle rack was present and there was one bike on it when we pulled up.  From the school I took the local trail that hooks up with the Raccoon River Valley Trail at the intersection of Hickman Rd and Shottenkirk Chevy dealership.  The RRVT would be my home for the next 60+ miles.

The decision on direction had to be made now.  North or South Loop?  Originally I planned to ride to Adel then go home.  Then Redfield.  But after looking at my bike log I saw that I could get 1000 miles for the month if I put a little effort into it.  Thus a 70 mile day or a century.  So then do I do the Loop?  The North Loop was dismissed almost immediately.  my desire to see Adel and Redfield prevailed plus the lack of wind protection form Waukee to Perry was the final strike.  In 3.5 miles I'd be in the trees east of Adel and loving it.  Time to grab the drops and put my head down.  Surely the trail will be empty on such a cold and windy morning.

The trail was not.  One group of 6 or 3 road bikes greeted me as I passed the trailhead.  Early risers who must love to ride in the dark, the uberlit bikes in front and the guy without lights on the back.  Then I kept seeing a red flasher in front of me way off in the distance.  I caught up with the red flasher at Ortonville.  Two guys who were to have started at 530 am from Water Works were stopped adjusting their bikes.  Small world.  Surly's with rear bags.  We rode together and chatted.  They were doing the loop hoping to get 100 miles in.  I assured them that they would.  But after we entered the canopy of fall foliage I had to stop and take a photo.  It was so beautiful that I wished Mary was with me to see it and I knew that I picked the right direction.

Adel was Adel.  Although an oasis on the trail I had no need for its services.  As usual, I got stuck at the highway intersection by the slow parade of vehicles each perfectly timed to prevent me from crossing.  The intersections for the most part were as bumpy as ever with large drop offs from the road to the trail.  On a brighter note, Patrick's was open and gave me an idea for some future  breakfast trip.  Once out of that town the 8.5 miles to Redfield were completely enjoyable despite a few gravel intersections.

Patriot Rock in Adel.  For the veteran's post and painted by art students

In Redfield the bikes that I was following split to the south to hit the Casey's.  I stopped at the old depot and used the restroom.  There is a now a charging station for phones and other electronics.  Cords provided.  I did not need them.

Heading north I was protected from the wind by the trees.  The trail was completely covered with leaves.  Beautiful sight despite the occasional stick or walnut.  Found that my speed was better climbing than it was on the flat heading to Redfield until I hit open spots.

After Linden, the high point of the trail, I noticed that the surface is a bit rough.  True, the concrete trail was not cracked or broken but it had settled and a thump thump between squares was noticeable by my 700x23s.  Asphalt is smoother but falls apart much quicker.  Sure, ride fatter tires.

Panora was reached at the 48.6 point in my ride.  I truly had no desire to ride the loop.  11 miles to Herdon would be a slow painful ride in the wind.  I decided to ride further north for a mile or two and turn back.  It occurred to me that I should have 100 miles before reaching Confluence Brewery on the way home.  It was their 3rd anniversary and I wanted a real reason to celebrate.

Panora is home to the Owl's Nest tavern.  This is one of the few places where one can do the Busch Light Trifecta--enjoy that brew in all 3 forms, bottle, can and draft.  There is a sidepath from the trailhead on highway 44 to downtown Panora on the same  side of the road as that bar.  Unfortunately for me the bar was closed at 10 am.  I went to Subway instead and got food.

Now with the tail wind I thought I'd be able to rocket my way back.  but the sun was out and in my face and the debris on the trail hid the sticks and other dangers.  Still it was easier than heading north or west.  Stopped at the depot in Redfield and found it open.  Purchased a Gatorade from the woman and two daughters working concessions.  They said I was their second customer.  The wind, I thought, kept people home.

My speed picked up on the way home raising the dead average speed that was murdered by the headwind..  When I back to Waukee I had time to head northwest toward Dallas Center to ensure I had padded my miles sufficiently.  I stopped at the memorial for the recumbent rider and then turned around and employed the jets.  Damn, this was a fast stretch!  20+ without effort!

By 2:06 I was at the park near the school awaiting a text from Mary.  Beat the deadline!  This provided time to delete photos for more memory space or so I thought.  Mary was out early and I met her at the school.  Time to go home.  86 miles already.

She was hungry because her lunch was poor.  Last week when we came up for the marching band competition we ate at Taco Johns who gave us a $2 off coupon as an apology for slow service.  I suggested we use it now.  Last week we asked for 2 medium drinks but got an upgrade to large since they were out of cups.  exactly a week later they were still out of medium cups!  Someone screwed up.

Something happened to her bike and the front tire was coming off and hitting the brake or fork.  I let some air out to get the tire to seat properly.  Later I used the pump to prevent a pinch flat.  Glad I carried it with us.  We had no desire to backtrack 2 miles to the fixtation at the Waukee trailhead.

The trip homeward was fast.  We scared the crap out of two tri-bents with mirrors and they almost collided with each other when I announced our presence and desire to pass.  It's not like zoomed and boomed them as we did adequately and politely slowed down for them.  they were just too deep in their side by side conversation to check their 4 mirrors.

I hit the century mark shortly before the Art Center turn on the Bill Riley/Walnut Creek trail(s).  Two city trucks were still there monitoring the sewer main break.  103 miles when we rolled into Confluence.

The 2 Hour One and Done

That's what I said, just a one and done and get home.  The children were beginning to squawk.  Dora had a party to attend and Timmy had a new phone to set up.  His old one is on the bottom of the river.  And he had a dinner date.  Mary and I are experts at switching phones, the children are not.  As stated, it was a one and done at Confluence.  Mary had the Bridge Builder and I the Beaverdale Brick.  We talked to Tom Jefferies while enjoying our bevies.  Then we left.  just one beer each.

When we hit the curve on the southeast corner of the lake we saw a girl on her back on the trail.  3 people seemed to be attending her.  It was Cat Carr and Greg from Team De Kalb.  "Stop for a cocktail!"  And so we did at Timmy's expense.  Honestly, I needed the Jager and Red Bull.  It was a magic can of Red Bull because despite how many times it went around it got heavier.  Cat told Greg that there was another can thus no need to continue dumping Jager in this one but Greg refused.  Eventually the flask went around.  And then everyone got a tall boy.  Amy was ok, just a a few abrasions on her knee.  But her rescue squad was questionable.  Greg tripped over his own bike, tumbled and landed on his back WITHOUT spilling his beer.  Amazing feat!  A perfectly timed phone call from Timmy pulled us out as I finished my beer.  "Sorry but reality calls."

Mary gave me the evil glare of wedded anger.  "One and done lasted two hours!"

Timmy messed up the new phone.  Took a half an hour to resolve the issue and get it going.  He went out to eat while Mary fixed it.  As for me, I opened a bottle of Yellow Tail Riesling and immediately regretted it.  Terrible finish to a wonder day.  Century complete and I still felt good and strong.  We took the slow bikes to Mullets for dinner and then rode home.  By 9 pm I was ready for bed.  Energy totally gone.  Big chunk of miles needed for the 1K October bit with fury.  I slept well.

Monday, October 19, 2015

Flight to Waukee on the Fast Tandem


Been quite sometime since we put on significant miles on a weekend.  Even longer since we rode our fast tandem.  The only obligation was to attend the State Marching Band Competition and later the Waukee Marching Band Invitational both of which our daughter, Dora, was participating.  Fortunately, both were held at the same location, Waukee HS football field.

We considered taking the touring tandem because it was going to be seasonably colder and that bike has panniers.  But after staring at the forecast it was decided that we would not really need to carry extra clothing.  Besides, I never did get faster tires for this beast and its slowness during Ragbrai still haunts me.  So I pulled the Cannondale RT3000 out of its slumber, cobwebs and all, aired the tires, placed some basic lights on it and called it good.  The plan was that we could return home and add extra lights and warmer clothes if needed.

If there ever was a time to set a speed record through the Clive Greenbelt Saturday would have been it.  The bike carved the turns and curves up like a hot knife through butter!  Such a change of pace from the pre-dawn hours that we ride through here Monday through Friday.  Despite a wonder average speed we were a bit late.

Problem #2 was that forgot to hit the bank.  Of course, my bank and its ATMs have no locations in Waukee, Adel, Dallas Center or anywhere along the Raccoon River Valley Trail.   Being the cheap person I am we rode 6 miles back to West Des Moines and hit my bank.  Then 6 miles back to Waukee and the trail.

$7900 for the VW $3400 for the Chevy

Other business was attended to.  I needed a photo of "something for sale" for the Bicycle Ride and Seek page on FaceBook.  A VW bug with eyelashes and a smile and a "for sale" sign presented itself for that photo.  Needed to visit a coffee shop for the Coffeeneuring Challenge so we stopped at Caribou Coffee right off the trail.  Then a bit of trail riding.

Lincoln HS Marching Rails

With over an hour left until Dora's next performance we stopped at Hy Vee's Market Grille for a beer and a chance to watch some college football.  $3 pints of local craft beer during College GameDay.  Dangerous.  We did witness live the last 10 seconds of the Michigan-Michigan State game and the dropped ball ran in for the game winning touchdown.  And I will say this, ISU was holding their own against TCU while we were watching.

Finally arriving at the band competition we were blessed with a number of very good high school marching bands.  Dora's band, Des Moines Lincoln HS,  played 4 selections from Elton john--Funeral for a Friend, Love Lies Bleeding, Your Song and Saturday Night's Alright for Fighting.  She plays a large bass drum and had a triangle solo during your Song.

Riding home proved to be a challenge.  First of all, I only had my prescription sunglasses.  Secondly, only had a crappy AA front light.  The greenbelt would be a dark twisty nightmare.  Needless to say, we took it slow, killed our average speed and perhaps rolled off the trail 3 times.  We never crashed or had to stop but I was glad to reach the lights of the trail near Gray's Lake.  Lesson learned.  Always put on the good lights and always take my regular glasses.

61 miles.  Felt great to ride that bike again.  The last time we had it out was in June.

Thursday, October 15, 2015

It Finally Happened

Flat tire on my most complicated bicycle.  not a simple quick release on wheel and brakes and get it back on in 2 to 5 minutes.  Nope.  Had to happen on the rear wheel of a bike with a Nexus 7 speed internal hub and roller (drum brakes).  Tools required.  Specifically, a 15 and a 10mm wrench.  And the dreaded releasing and reconnecting of the shifter cable.  That's the main problem.  The little damn cable that needs to be placed into the slot just perfectly.  But first the slot needs to be pushed forward.  I had to use a wrench to push it.

Just above the axle bolt on the out side of the sprocket the end of the shifter cable is showing.

3 things going for me today.
1. I had all the stuff--wrenches, tub, levers and pump
2. This happened at work.  Bike fixtation with pump next to bike rack
3. Spent time with the bike shop mechanic going over this shit

The latter is probably the most important.  If you can watch them do their magic you may just pick up the knowledge you need for such situations.  With my high tech wunderbike I had to ask how to remove the wheel, how to properly place the lock ring if it got loose.  But the best trick I learned was to lower the tension on the shifter cable before attempting to reattach the cable to the hub.  Sure, I spent the ride home fine tuning the shifting but I got the bastard back together.

Now time to purchase new tires.  I have 2000 miles on the rear tire, 3600 on the front.  The rear is looking a bit worn.  Apparently it was not thick enough to stop a tiny bit of wire from puncturing the tube.

Wednesday, October 14, 2015

Schneider Theory

Schneider's Law: when approaching a slower moving vehicle at optimal cruising speed an other slower vehicle will appear in the opposite lane and prevent you from passing until your speed has been significantly reduced and your time wasted

One of my best friends from high school is Joe Schneider.  He had one of those GM pre-front wheel drive sporty econo boxes.  Pontiac Sunfire or Chevy Monza.  I forget which one.  Sort of their attempt to steal Mustang II buyers.  Anyway, whenever he drove out on the highway, usually a 2 lane, we would notice that the only time we'd encounter a vehicle that needed to be passed was in a a no passing zone or when vehicles were in the opposite lane.  Hence, Schneider's Law of Passing.

For some reason this stuck in my melon.  I don't drive very often but I ride bikes everywhere and I noticed that his law of passing applies to bike paths and trails.  Especially after work.  Especially from May through October on the Bill Riley Trail.  I do not ride the trail around Gray's Lake until winter because of it.  I'm not bitching, just making an observation.  It's good to see people on the trails.  Better than in car on the streets.

Saturday, October 3, 2015

Ticker Update

Just to let you know that I am still alive and bicycling.  Through the miracle of chemicals i was able to get my blood pressure to normal and safe levels.  My doctor said that I was cured which is bullshit because I am still on 3 pills per day.  But he said not to come back for a year.

I am feeling a lot better.  Never knew I was not feeling well until I got better.  I am down 10 lbs since this ordeal began.  Mary says my snoring has decreased.  I cancelled the CPAC test because I do not want to sleep while connected to a machine.  Fook that crap, homey.

Most importantly, I started to feel sore muscles in my legs.  That means that I am actually pushing myself and building strength and muscles.  Weird that I never noticed that before.  My commute times have improved.  Average speed is up.  I even added 3 extra miles to the morning ride.

My climbing ability has improved.  I no longer feel like I am breathing sand.  Still prefer a road bike over the Soho commuter but I don't always have a choice.

I was never able to take the stress test.  They told me not to take my beta blocker that morning.  After riding the carbon 19 miles to Iowa heart in Ankeny they said my BP was too high to take the test because the treadmill would "raise my blood pressure."  Next time I'll take the bastard.  I did, however, have the echocardiogram done on my heart.  Yes, I got to see my heart in action and hear it at times, too.  But she would not let me video it.  But at least I got to see my aorta valve in action.

Still have heart palpitations.  Still learning how to control them.  Arguments seem to be an issue.   Control thy anger.  I may not possess enough mental capacity to do that but have no desire to get a grip on it through drugs.

Next goal is to spend 2 weeks backpacking through the Sangre Cristo range of the Rookies in New Mexico with my friends.  First I got to drop another 20 lbs and pass the training regime.  At least I am not the only fat fooker in this group.  Great motivation.  I hope my heart can handle 13 stories of stairs in 6 round increments for that is our training.

Tuesday, September 1, 2015

Horrido! Passing Another Biker

I am slow.  Mid range endurance.  All day riding ability.  Fast, no.  Except downhill thanks to gravity and my weight and confidence in my bicycles.  On my commuter I am slower.  Especially on climbs.  That bike was not built for hills.  Despite an aluminum frame it is a heavy bike.  Adding a rear rack and panniers did not help either weight nor aerodynamics.  The Nexus rear hub with internal 7 speed gears is so heavy that it has a gravitational pull.  So I had the rear cog swapped out from a 19T to a 21T.  Sacrifice top end for climb and cruise speed.  It took all summer to get that wheel back, long story, but this week I finally got to use it.  But I purchased that bike because it is weatherproof.  But as I said a long time ago, there is always someone faster and someone slower than you.  Today I was the fastest.

Normal commute to work.  I had the pleasure of riding with my wife Mary.  As usual we stop after 8 miles where our journeys part ways and kiss before heading to our places of employment.  I jumped off the bike and deployed the kickstand.  Had to disconnect her phone from my charger since someone forgot to plug their phone in over night.  Went from 70% to 95% in 8 miles.  I also used the opportunity to relieve my bladder before the hilly section of my commute was to begin.  It was at that time, mid-stream, that I saw another bike on the street.  Rarely do we see other bikes at 520 am.  This bike turned right and headed up Buffalo Rd.  I'll never see that person again I thought as I was in a compromised position away from my bike at a long way away from Buffalo Rd.
Finished what I was doing, put the battery charger away and kissed Mary good bye.  Time to climb.

Of course I had a red light but was able to trigger the light when I pressed the button.  It's flat at first until the tracks are crossed and then the hill begins.  Today I was climbing quite well.  New cog doing what it was supposed to do.  And when I reached Dowling I saw the red flasher.  It was 3/4 of the way up the hill.  Do I have a chance?  Go for it.

Competition.  Climb that hill.  Motivation.  I was gaining on the bike.  Glancing at my computer underneath a street light indicated that my speed was in double digits.  Good.  Keep it up.  The ascent levels a bit, more speed.  Then it steepens.  Still fine.  He now has reached the peak.  Keep going.  Wonder what gear i am in and make the mistake of downshifting one.  CRAP!  Put it back.  Damn, usually I have no gears left at this point.  reach the peak and twist the shifter all the way back.  Time to dive, curve and hit top speed.  make the final cure and get on the sidewalk.  Will need to press the light button..  I catch him!

He turns his head.  Buddy Holly glasses.  Melonhead commuter helmet and earphones.  personally, I hate those helmets.  No airflow.  Brain cookers.  Yellow and blue Trek MTB with front suspension.  Rack on back but no panniers.  A backpack instead.  Jesus, dude, why the extra work?  Nothing worse than wearing a backpack while biking uphill in 70% humidity,

So yeah, I found someone I can beat up a hill without him knowing that I was there.  Made me feel better about myself.  Think about it.  I gave him a head start when I was taking a piss.  Took more time sorting my bike out and saying goodbye to my wife.  If he only knew how slow I really am especially on the bike I was riding that day.

I paid for it on the nest hill.  I could feel my heart.  it said, "Happy now?"  Took a couple minutes to calm down.  I was all smiles.

Monday, August 17, 2015

Ride & Wine Trilogy

Mary had Monday off so I asked for it off as well.  What to do, what to do?  It is mid August and summer is heating up yet winding down.  Where have we not ridden?  What have we not done on bicycles this year?  Then it hit me like a thunderbolt!  Why not hit a few wineries?

Iowa may not be Napa Valley or the Veneto region of Italy or Bordeaux but it has a thriving wine environment.  Her rich soil, plentiful rainfall and economic environment is well suited for vineyards and the production of wine.  Many of these are located near bicycle trails.

Doing a quick innerwebby search for locations and business hours we picked three.  Saturday would find us at Snus Hill Winery near Madrid, a mile off the High Trestle Trail.  Sunday took us to Summerset Winery a mile mile or so off the Summerset Trail between Carlisle and Indianola.  Our choice for Monday was  Madison County Winery of St Charles.

We took our road bikes since they are the fastest.  I threw a laptop bag over my shoulder to carry purchases home and to carry flat tire repair kit (tube, levers and pump).  It is hot with the highs in the low 90s.

Hit the North

Despite some off route riding to an ATM we took our usual route to the HHT.  Neal Smith Trail north to the Ankeny turn off and then climbed to Oralabor Rd.  Continued on trail with a side trip to kyle's Bikes.  My chain was dry and noisey.  Needed Tri-Flow STAT.  Should have done this after last week's ride to baxter but I forgot.  Since we were there and done with our climbing we stopped next door at the Kum & Go for a slice of pizza and a beverage.  Fuel for the journey.  Lubed and fueled we back tracked to the Git n Go on Oralabor Rd then headed north on Irvindale Rd until it intersected the HTT west of Ankeny.  This trail would take us all the way to the Snus Hill Winery turn.

Said turn is well marked and says that the winery is 1.1 miles from the trail.  Do not let the gravel road deter you.  It's good gravel with only a few washboard ruts to worry about.  We both were riding on 700x23 racing tires and had no issues.  Before the next well marked turn to the winery appears the vineyard appears.  Some of the vines were covered with mesh netting to save the grapes from birds, namely robins, and deer.  We were told that there is a 10 day window to get this accomplished or the crop will be obliterated.  They experienced this first hand and there will be no more mistakes.  When the grapes approach maturation the animals know it is time.

Snus Hill is named after a cat who was named after a Swedish tobacco product called Snus.  Hence, the cat theme.  At the final turn we notice a sign with a pair of cats (not real) on it.  The winery appears to be a large farm house with several farm buildings.  We parked our bikes under a deck and walked up a handicap accessible ramp to the business door.  Chris was on duty today.  A chalkboards are affixed to the wall behind the counter with the wines listed by color.  We could sample four but because we rode bicycles we were given a choice between a glass of wine or a beer.  Nice incentive to ride off the beaten path!  Of course we chose a glass of wine.  But first things first, Chris refilled by water bottle something like three times!  I had to rehydrate before sampling wares.

We sampled both reds and sweet whites before making the decision on what to fill my glass with and which bottle to purchase.  For the reds I enjoyed the Snus Hill Red and the Ditchweed Red.  Whites our favorites were the Edelweiss, Catnip and Whisker White.  I chose the Ditchweed Red for my glass, Mary the Cat Nip, from a varietal related to Riesling.  Our bottle would be the former.   We sat outside on the deck in large rocking chairs and enjoyed the wine and the view.  Our glasses were stemless and etched with the Snus cat and we ended up purchasing a pair to take home.

Before leaving we talked once again with Chris.  He lives in Madrid and now commutes to work on a Brompton folding bike.  He showed us how it works and we discussed bicycles for a bit.  Not only does it fold up compactly it also has rear suspension and a Sturmey Archer 3 speed internal hub.  He purchased it from All Ability Bicycles in Jefferson.

Our trip home saw us break away from the High trestle Trail and ride the 2.5 miles of county road to Polk City.  Lunch at Subway and then the Neal Smith Trail home.  70 miles.

South For Summerset

Our Sunday ride took us out of Des Moines on a mixture of trail and county roads through Carlisle and onto the Summerset Trail for 6 miles to another county road to the Summerset Winery.  We have made this trip two other times.  Last year we did this on our fast tandem.  Like the previous day, we took our roadies.

Summerset is located about two miles from the trail.  To get there one must climb a long steep hill.  Not a game ender but I was thankful that my bike was equipped with a 30T granny gear.  Save the knees, save the heart.  I paid for it and this was the first time I needed it this year.  About half way up is a Baptist church with a sign that reads "sinners welcome."  On some HD I have a photo of it.  I failed to take one this time.  The way to the winery is well marked and there is a large sign that's hard to miss at the driveway.

Once again some of the vines were covered up but this time with a green mesh.  Deer and birds!  And we thought they just ate corn.  To keep humans out signs listing the pesticides were visible.  The same was true for Snus.  I wonder if the same techniques are needed in Europe, Argentina and Napa.

It is Sunday and they were prepping for the band that was to play later that day.  We were early and were not planning to stay.  Every Sunday a band plays outside and people sit in shade and enjoy wine and music.  Inclimate weather they play inside.  Instead we headed to the tasting room.

The tasting room was abuzz with many tables full of people eating and drinking.  There was a side table with a number of wines for sampling.  The kind host/cashier gave us each a sheet a paper with the offerings and we partook.  Pencils were available for notes.  She commented on the fact that we rode our bikes there and noted that many people complain about "the hill."  I let  Mary pick the bottle and she chose the Vintage Red, a chillable, since she picked the white the day before.

On the way out of the tasting room and the nice "store" the owner, Brian talked to us about his family and the business and invited us to stay for the band.  He reminded me of Hemmingway and envied his life.  What a way to live!  Grow your own grapes, make and bottle your own wine and sell it for profit.  I really wished we were not in such a hurry or it was not so hot.  On a cooler day we plan to return, purchase a bottle and sit outside and drink it band or not.

brian also gave us a iowa Wine & Beer Guide.  It lists all the known wineries and breweries in the state.  Divided by region and also has maps.  Websites, phone numbers and other information as well.  This will come in handy.  I often considered doing a 5 to 7 day bicycle tour of such places instead of Ragbrai.

I hit 39.5 mph on the downhill without trying.  Mary 36.

Monday morning it was raining.  The radar was full of green and yellow blobs heading our way.  We could have chanced it but decided to stay within a quick dash to home.  Mary had a few errands to run with the children and later on bicycle.  We postponed the trip to Madison County Winery.  We we pick a weekend that we can also hit Two Saints Winery which is on the east side of St Charles.

Plan your escape!  Iowa Wine & Beer dot com