Thursday, April 30, 2015

April Joins the 1000 Mile Club

This was not my intention.  Joe Hildreth put the bug in my ear when he asked if I was going to ride 1000 miles this month.  I think I laughed.  My old record was 829 miles set last year.  just needed 171 more to get the grand.  I've been beating all previous monthly records for over a year now.  Why not only beat this one but get the fourth digit?  But all one needs for a 1000 mile month is time and good weather.  Somehow I managed to find both.

My basic commute to work is 27 miles.  I can add an extra mile in the morning with getting up earlier.  I can add extra miles after work as long as there are no obligations.  When I feel the need to pile on miles I usually aim for 30 miles days instead of the 27 or 150 miles commuting instead of the 135 base.  currently I commute on a trek Soho with a Nexus 7 speed internal hub.  Heavy but suits my needs and is weatherproof.

The best time for those like me that work Monday through Friday is the weekend.  But April had some bad weekends for riding.  The first weekend was Easter and because we hosted the meal major rides did not happen.  Had to clean, cook and eat.  Saturday I managed to get 27 miles, 17 of which was pulling the bike trailer to Hy Vee for a massive grocery run.  Just 6 on Sunday.  Ate too much but rode to gray's Lake with Mary and Craig and met Lisa there too.

The RRVT Loop 111 miles.  The LeMond and Mary's Trek 1600

The following weekend was the big one.  111 miles doing the Raccoon River Valley Trail loop.  31 on Sunday on tandem, its 2015 debut, in the heavy wind with Craig and Lisa to the Lean To.  If April is to be remembered it should be for the wind.  It has been a miserably windy month.

The next weekend was a minor washout.  Rain.  No big ride on Saturday except for the Fun Haters Ride.  I clocked in with 8 miles.  Sunday was not much better but squeaked in 18 miles on the Trek 2200 with Burley on another Hy Vee run to Windsor Heights with Mary.  We saw Steve Fuller on the Bill Riley Trail and beat the rain home by 1/2 hour.

Bondurant Adventure on map

The final weekend looked bleak with rain.  We waited until 1 pm before departing for Bondurant on the tandem.  We rode to the southern terminus of the Gay Lea Wilson Trail north to the 4 Mile Creek Trail and caught the new connection from Berwick to Bondurant.  On the way home we took the Ankeny connection and the Neal Smith home.  Seemed like a a lot but 48 miles.  The next day I busted out 46 to martensdale and back by myself on the LeMond.  That was it for weekends.

When I saw Jesus and realized that I was screwed.

Monday I thought I was sitting pretty.  I had a mere 5 days of 27 miles each to the end of the month.  27 miles is the basic commute to and fro work.  Easy.  But then I looked at my calendar.  There was not a "31" in the box for Friday.  Instead there was a picture of Jesus.  I lost a day.  Quickly firing up Google Drive and looking at a saved copy of April's Bike Log revealed the truth so soon.  When I created the April 2015 log from the Excel template I mistakenly placed April 5 twice.

I had 3 days to make up the 27 miles.  No, 2.5 days to do that.  So that day I rode 62 miles instead of the 27 I thought I had to ride.  I messed around after work and did some Greenbelt and RRVT loops and finally just headed home stopping at Fareway for the extra 6 miles.  I was now at 40 miles.  Needed 14 more to complete the missing 27.  Once again I grabbed the LeMond and rode 7 miles out on the trail and 7 back.  And just as I was placing chicken in the oven I got the text from Mary to meet her on the Neal Smith Trail.  and extra 8 miles for insurance.  Yeah, I slept well that night.

The rest of the week could now be the basic 27 miles each without padding or pressure. I was about at the 2 mile marker on the Greenbelt when I hit that magic number.  Now April is up there with May, June, July and August as months that have seen me ride 1000 miles.

Saturday, April 25, 2015

Riding to Bondurant on New Trails to the Chichaqua Valley Trail

Park the tandem next to the burro and the cowboy will keep an eye on it.

The rain put a damper on what should have been an outstanding celebration Central Iowa Trails.  The grand opening of a trail segment running 5 miles from Berwick, Iowa, to Bondurant, Iowa, was almost a wash out.  Mary and I planned to ride up to Berwick and then to the Chichaqua Trail and complete the entire trail.  But constant light rain, 16 mph NorthEast wind and general chilliness changed our plans.  We waited until 1 pm, assured that the rain was over, and headed north to the new trail.

Taken at Sargent Park in Des Moines.  Notice the need for a connection from Gay Lea Wilson Trail to the main and most popular trails in central Des Moines?  Jamie noticed the lack of trails in the center of the map.

Seems to me that all new trail connections of are for the benefit of those living north of Des Moines.  There are no direct connections from downtown to the Chichaqua Valley Trail.  So we did what we have done for years and took the 5 mile route on Scott Ave and rode through a rough paved industrial section of town.  Traffic was light as usual when we make this journey.  The road is rough and there are a few railroad crossings to bounce over.  The Gay Lea Wilson Trail was our relief and is approximately 5 miles from Mullets.

At Sargent Park.  I want to come back and explore this place.  It is nice and interesting.  Gem of the northside!

Normally we take this trail into Altoona, Iowa, and then take about 4 or 5 miles of county road to the Chichaqua trailhead east of Bondurant.  But to get to the new section we turned west at Copper Creek and caught the 4 Mile Creek Trail that rolls into Berwick.  It may have been 15 years since I last rode this trail.  It is out of the way and until the opening of the Berwick-Bondurant trail, leads to nowhere we have ever needed to go.  However, it is a scenic trail and there really is nothing to dislike about it.

The author and his spouse Mary.

I've never been to Berwick and really do not know what is there other than the trail, a mobile home park and a church.  The trail wraps around the town but does not go into it.  Five miles into the strong wind and we found ourselves at Founders Irish Pub in Bondurant.  The trail is concrete not asphalt and often sits high above the land it dissects.  There are a number of bridges and to answer the question that people asked repeatedly, bridge #1 would be the best stop.  There is a campground with a "country" golf course on it.  Mostly for campers not tents.  You will know it by the statues of horse along the driveway.  All the intersections are nice and paved.  I do not recall crossing a gravel road.  We came across 4 walkers, 3 people on a bench and two bikes from Berwick to Bondurant.  Remember it was only about 48F and windy and the memory of the rain was lingering in many people.  When we got to Founders we had ridden 19.4 miles.  So about 20 from Mullets or about 5 more miles than if we rode through Altoona.

At Founders.  Strip off the jackets and hats and gloves and backpack.  Leave the bike inside the beer patio.

We arrived at the pub in time to see the last of the band leave.  There was a box of swag, water bottles for the trail opening and some stickers.  After visiting for 2 beers and chatting with Jamie Heldstedt and John Dowd we rolled home.  We took the trail to its beginning near the interstate highway by accident and then backtracked to the turn, maybe 1/2 mile error.  Instead of heading back from whence we came we headed north to Ankeny.  This trail section is new, too.

Jamie Heldstedt

The Ankeny connection is probably greatly appreciated by those that live there.  It leads to the High Trestle Trail.  To me it seemed like a unnecessary polyp, not a straight shot.  It seemed to take an eternity to reach Oralabor Rd where the trail, now the HTT, turns into a suburban side path with many intersections to cross.  If you needed food, medical care or farming supplies, here it is.  We stopped at the Git N Go for Gatorade and Cliff Bars.  This is our pit stop for the HTT.  The intersection of Oralabor rd and Irvingdale Ave.  Familiar turf.  A little over 10 miles to home via the Neal Smith Trail.

Mary did a fine job leaning the tandem on Bridge #1 in Berwick.

Yes, I'd take this route to Bondurant again.  It is nice.  I doubt I'd take the Ankeny connection again since it is out of the way and added 6 extra miles for little gain or benefit except 6 more miles.  We ended up with 48.7 miles for the trip.

Outside the camp grounds.  On an aluminum horse we rode!

Thursday, April 23, 2015

20 lb of Bird, 19 Vessels of Booze and a Can of Beans

Probably a stupid time to purchase chicken but hind quarters were 50 cents a pound and skinless+boneless breasts were $1.97.  New Belgium Ranger was $11.99 a 12er and the Sample Lady gave me two shots of Palm Breeze malt liquor, the Ruby Red tasting like Fresca.  4.5 but smooth and tasty.  Dangerously tasty.

So I loaded these fine fowl and alcohol products on to my bike.  Chicken in the panniers along with daily stuff I carry.  Had to strap the booze on top of the panniers along with a bag of miscellaneous--work clothes, glass and layers not needed.  61F and sunny.

Crossed University to visit my friend Anders at his store, The Rookie.  We rode home together until his turn  Unfortunately, as I leaned the bike against his business, as i threw a leg over to dismount, the bike fell over toward me and I fell backwards landing on my back.  My helmet may or may not have saved me but my back stung for a minute or two.

Gorgeous Spring evening to ride home.  The light was weaving through the tree in Water Works perfectly.  I should have stopped to photograph it.  Another time I pray.  Also saw Sam Auen riding a tandem.  Glad he could get out and have some fun.

Made it home safely.  Noting fell off the bike nor did I have to stop to adjust the load.  Nice having a friend be able to drop back and verify.  Take it easy.

PS  The 19th vessel of booze was a Merlot, Gallo.  Going to give it a shot.  I'd like to score another case while the price is right,

Sunday, April 12, 2015

1st Century of the Year: Back to the Raccoon

Mile 45 IIRC.  Fat finger issue.  The depot trailhead in Dawson, Iowa.  My maternal greatgrandfather was named Dawson.  My uncle was upset to learn that the Dawson's of Ireland originated from England.  My grandfather would be pissed, too.  Up the Republic!  (Just put that in there to see if Pat reads this)

Been chomping at the bit lately.  Weather finally turned into Spring and I've been ill and busy.  Watching Steve Abraham and Kurt Searvogel gobble up 200+ miles a day does not help.  Although I said I was not planning to set a new yearly record for myself, I find myself beating the monthly records.  April is calling for 830 miles to surpass and keep this trend going.  Then Joe Hildreth asked if I was going for 1000 miles this month.  Bastard.  Do not put those thoughts in my head.

The easiest century one can do in starting from Des Moines is the new loop on the Raccoon River Valley Trail (RRVT).  Paved, lightly used this time of year and full of towns with provisions--food, bike parts and water.  Mostly a rail grade it is relatively flat.  This was our destination.

Only two issues today.  First it is still April.  Water fountains are not turned on until May.  Restrooms are not unlocked until May.  April in Iowa means that there could be a foot of snow at any moment.  The second problem was the 14 to 20 mph wind from the south.  Although we would use this to our advantage on the way out the trip back could be difficult.

Mary and I grabbed our road bikes and headed out when the temperature was warm enough that we could get away with minimal layers.  Another April issue, it's cold in the morning.  Although the forecasted high was reached, 74F, it was 47F when we finally rolled.  A mile into it she asked if I remembered to bring the PowerBars and gels.  Nope.  Turned around to get them.  They would be needed and if I left them on the bed fritz the dog would eat them.  2 extra miles.  Jackets came off right before we rode under Hickman Rd to the start of the RRVT.

Our Route:  1/2 mile to Mullets, swing left on the Meredith Trail and took it all the way.  That trail blends into the Bill Riley Trail, Walnut Creek Trail, Clive Greenbelt and RRVT.  One could ride from Mullets to Jefferson, Iowa, without having to ride on the roads.  I love Des Moines and Iowa.  Once on the RRVT we took at right in Waukee and headed on the new 33 mile loop that runs through Dallas Center, Minburn and Perry then continued west through Dawson, Jamaica and Herdon.

Found this sticker on back of a sign in Minburn, Iowa.  Great team!

Of note.  Cheap breakfast at the Hy Vee gas station in Waukee.  Just off the trail.  $5.99 filled both of us!  And restrooms are available.  Did not stop in Dallas Center.  The depot is not finished in Minburn.  Stopped in Perry for the Kum&Go, potty break and water, and also at the bike shop, Raccoon River Valley Bike Co., for lights.  A problem Mary and I have is that the number of bicycles we own exceeds the number of lights and red flashers.  In my head if all went to plan and we rode to Jefferson it would be dark before we got home.  Mary had a red flasher on hers and I had a mount for a light.  So we helped a LBS by purchasing two lights and one red flasher.  The proprietor even installed the flasher since I lacked a screw driver.  Hex wrenches yes, screwdriver no.

The trailhead train depot in Dawson was locked but we stopped anyway and ate PowerBars.  The Pepsi machine across the street was empty but was willing to convert 2 $1 bills into 8 quarters.  We stopped at Tojo's in Jamaica for restroom and Mnt Dew. Our final warmth layers were removed and placed into the thick ISU book bag/backpack I was carrying with tools (no screwdriver), pump, tubes, battery charge for mobile phones and PowerBars.  It was getting heavy at this point.  Of note, the solar shower is still hanging in the mens room at Tojo's and the urinal still does not flush!  On to Herdon.

When we reached the end of the new loop we had to make a decision.  On to Jefferson or turn south and head home.  12 miles to Jefferson or 24 mile roundtrip.  The first 12 would be very easy since the strong south wind would push us.  The returning 12 would probably be hell.  We had not tested the south wind but had felt it as a cross wind from Perry to Herdon.  Doing my maths, it would add 2 hours to our journey.  We saved it for another time and immediately were glad with the decision.  The headwind was miserable.

Place the hands on the drops and stare at the front wheel.  Occasionally look up to see if an intersection was near.  I'd see one and place my hands back on the hoods or top of the bars and it'd take 1/2 hour to reach it instead of the 30 seconds that it would have if we were gong the other way.  Averaging anywhere from 9 mph to 12 mph in the wind.  I was thinking about getting aerobars or a recumbent.

Speaking about 'bents, Joe Hildreth was supposed to be with us.  We made plans about this the night before during our Ragbrai discussion at Gray's Lake aka look at maps and drink beer.  He said he would call us in the morning before he left.  No phone call and it was cold and I was a bit hung over so we rolled late figuring that Joe was in the same boat.  Near Pal Joey's I got a text from him that I thought read "have not left".  Joe lives in Norwalk.  My reply was "Pal Joey's."  "See you on the trail" was the next message.  We never saw him.  During the sufferfest heading south on the RRVT he texted again. "Back in Waukee heading home."  We were in Yale.  Later we received another one.  "109 miles 8 left."  WTF??!!??  He was 40 miles ahead of us.  It was not like we were doddling around.  We really did not spend much time off bike.  When did he pass us?  In Redfield I reread the the original text.  "Are you on the RRVT yet" implying that he left before us.  We were chasing him.  And after we got home we texted and talked on the phone.  He left at 8 am and did the loop but cut across on the county road at Linden instead of taking the trail to redfield, Adel and Waukee to save time and get out of the head wind.  His Barrchetta is much better on windy days than our safety bikes.  Joe had 120 miles!

The water fountain in Yale was not on.  5 minute break and then 6 more miles to Panora where we ate at Subway.  As the treeline improved along the trail the bite from the wind diminished and we were able to increase our speed.  I did have the thought that we should have done the loop clockwise i.e. head to Adel instead of Dallas Center on the way out in order to have less issues with the wind on the return from Perry to Waukee.  But then again that area has zero tree cover and I need to measure the distance.  ISO volunteers to test this theory the next time there is a 20 mph wind from the south.  Please contact.

The depot was closed in Redfield. A few bikes coming up from the Casey's  We just rested and then caught up with them.  One was walking her bike due to an old shoulder injury.  The only people that passed us were on time trial bikes.

Adel announced it's presence by the horrid bump at the intersection of the brickplant west of town and the rest of the intersections through town.  We stopped at Casey's for restroom and gatorade.  Noticed that there is a bike fixtation at the little park just off the trail as you stop for the highway crossing.

Waukee is hell.  Not that it is difficult to ride through or navigate, stay on trail be careful at intersections.  Hickman Rd/Highway 6 is extremely busy all the time.  And very loud.  Even at 7 pm it is is busy and loud.  Too many people live here with only two roads, Hickman and University.  90% of the vehicles are SUVs with 1 person inside them.  When we reached the GreenBelt it felt like paradise.  Quiet, we could hear the birds sind, and peaceful since there were not a billion SUVs going 70 mph on our side.

That is quite a statement, "the Clive Greenbelt felt like paradise." This trail is very curvy with blind spots, very rough in the section that did not get resurfaced and very busy, full of joggers, dog walkers retired couples, bicycles ect it can be a bit dangerous.  But it flet like home and I ride every afternoon when I commute from home.  Ask any bicyclist if they want to ride it and they will say no.  But it is the link from the DSM Metro to the RRVT.  And it is pretty as it follows Walnut Creek.  And it is a welcome break from the hell that surrounds the trail that follows Hickman Rd to Waukee.

The rest of the ride was ok.  Still bikes at 515 from the Fat Tire Fun Ride, mostly stick bikes and 1 bagger.  Saw a few friends on the walnut Creek and Bill Riley Trail.  Brad McIntire, someone else that knew our names but we did not recall theirs (prolly because we were tired) and Sam Gill.

Earned this!  Campfire Black Lager from Confluence Brewery.  Right off the trail.  Picked this up Friday night.  Got the growler at Hy Vee.  Glad I did because Confluence itself was out of Milk Man  Stout Friday night.  Stein curosity from my children at Christmas.

I rode the final 3 miles in the drops.  Felt good.  I still had power.  My bronchial tubes were not bothering me.  Glad I dropped $64 on lights since it was dark and I still was wearing sun glasses.  Fritz was glad to see us.  We were glad to see the shower.  Immediately our legs gave out.  Getting up and down from chairs and the couch was a bit painful.  Repair mode.  Shower eat and stare at the tv and go to bed.  111.11 miles.  Cannot wait to do it again.

Perfect!  Pulled the computer off the bike in my driveway.

Wednesday, April 1, 2015

March Mileage Record

What started as a stellar month quickly turned bad.  The weather finally improved and miles were pouring in but circumstance in my life planted IEDs and roadblocks.  It is not that I am trying to set a new highest mileage year for myself but I am exploiting opportunities to beat previous monthly records.  Every month last year was improved and this year January and February saw new records.  March would be no different.

The record to beat was 729 miles set in 2014.  That is a damn good month by my previous standards.  Years ago that is what I would have ridden in July, Ragbrai month.  This year I was set to shatter it.

Week 1 I rode 214 miles which included the trip Mary and I took to Polk City for pizza.  The next week had 213 miles including the 50 miler to Dallas Center with Mary.  Things then took a turn for the worse.

Week 3 was limited to 71 miles, the lowest mileage I have had for a weekly total in years.  I took three days off work for my mother's funeral.  81 miles lost.  Not that I am upset for losing those miles, I'd rather have my mother alive.  Then illness hit.  We attempted to ride to the Trestle, 80 mile round trip, but 2 miles into it I could tell that I was not going to make it.  Turn araound and go home.  Saturday was a mere 10 miles, trip to the bank and the store.  Sunday 1 mile to church and back and the rest of the day in bed in and out of fever.

Week 4 saw a resurgence.  Although I took a day off, 27 miles lost, to clean out Mom's apartment, I did make a 44 mile round trip to Martensdale on Saturday.  Easy ride not to abuse my healing lungs.  20 on Sunday.  193 for the week.  Back in the game!

Squeaked by with 757 miles for the month.  I think it could have been 1000.  Always next year or the years after that.