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

Wednesday, August 12, 2015

When Biking Alone Does not Work: Tinkering with the Ticker

"As they pull you out of the oxygen tent you ask for the latest party..."--Bowie, Diamond Dogs

As I lay there I was reading an article in the latest issue of Bicycle Times.  "From Couch Potater to 50 Stater" or something like that.  Some American decided to get off his overweight ass and ride a bicycle to save his life.  Lost a ton of weight, bought a better bike and has ridden in every State of these here United States of America.  Reminded of a book entitled Hurt City by Bob Voiland, another fat guy who purchased a bike and saved his life.  The BT article had a sidebar listing the accomplishments of Murray Fishnell, former couch potater.  In that list was surviving a heart attack because bicycling had him physically fit.  I stopped reading and laughed.  Thought to myself, "damn, for all intents and purposes I can now say the same thing."  I was in the ER hooked up to an automated blood pressure machine and an IV.  My heart attack never came.

Back in March and April I was strong.  In March I narrowly missed having a 1000 mile month by 250 miles.  Two good weekends and I could have added the 4th digit.  Joe Hildreth egged me on, "You gonna ride 1000 in April?"  Challenge excepted and met.  Record mileage year in the making but something was going wrong.

Allergy season was hitting early.  Timmy came down with bronchitis and pneumonia.  And then I got ill.  Felt like I was breathing sand,  Climbing hills or any sudden demand for extra air hurt.  All the possibilities were going through my head.  Exercise induced asthma or bronchitis were among the top.  My mileage began to dip.  Due to vacation request mix up at work our South Dakota tour was nixed.  Just as well.  By early June I was hacking up phlegm.  Time to visit the doctor.

Sure enough, I had bronchitis.  X-ray revealed that my lungs were good.  No pneumonia.  But to my great surprise my blood pressure was high, very high.  Every time they came back to the room it was higher.  This is why I need an anti-anxiety drug before every visit to the doctor.  For a while I thought they would not let me leave but eventually they did with prescriptions for antibiotics, steroids for my breathing tubes and a beta blocker for the blood pressure.

"These medications reduce the workload on your heart and open your blood vessels, causing your heart to beat slower and with less force."--Mayo Clinic Staff

People complain that they make them tired.  "Go visit your regular doctor" he told me.

Easier said than done.  My regular doctor was booked until after Ragbrai.  Another doctor that I used to see retired.  I waited and waited and made an appointment with another doctor in the same building.  I wanted to get the residual issues of the bronchitis cleared up before the big ride and I was running out of the beta blocker.

Of course I rode my bicycle there.  My Trek 2200 carbon roadie.  Needed a fast bike and one that could climb hills since I was still feeling weak.  I took the "quiet street' of SW 14th but missed the first turn and had to climb up Park Ave in effort to find the quiet street again.  The sign informing riders of the left turn was blue and obstructed by trees.  Green was the color of sign I was searching for.  This was apparent on my return.

When the nurse took my BP he was amazed.  "This is higher than the BP of a man who was having a heart attack when I checked him.  I laughed.  It was something like 204 over 130.  "I am taking medication for this," I retorted once my laughter subsided.  Further checks were lower but not by much.  Honestly, performance anxiety.  The doctor brought in a EKG machine for a look at the heart's output.

"Do you have a headache?"  No
"Do you or have you felt dizzy or confused?"  No
"Do you have chest pains?" No
"ect, ect, ect" No No NO

"I ride 30 miles everyday Monday through Friday and haul home the lion share of groceries.  I feel fine.  The only reason I am here is because my bronchial tubes feel like sand is being forced into them whenever I climb a hill.  I need to determine if I still have bronchitis and get that treated an now obviously get a better blood pressure pill."

"Well you do have sinus drainage going down your throat right now but who does not in Iowa?  Your lungs sound good.  You do not need further treatment in that area."

She seemed very concerned when looking at the EKG results and showed me.

"Do you have someone that can take you to the ER?"

'No.  I will ride my bike there.  it is all downhill from here and I need to stop at home and tak care of something since I am free from work at the moment."

Another concerned look.


"No I feel fine."

She then left the room.  Mercy South has notoriously thin walls.  On previous visits I have heard kids scream and cry.  This time I heard the doctor talking to someone else.  Getting a consult.  Something about "he is insisting"  and "it will not be your fault."  Finally she returned and told me that Mercy ER will be expecting me.  In retrospect this is what really pissed me off.

They did three things in the ER that could have been done by her and saved me and my medical insurance company money (not Barrycare).  First an x-ray of my heart.  Second, an IV with a few test tubes of blood drawn first then the "calm the F down" drug that lowers blood pressure quickly.  Third, a call to Iowa heart to set me up with an appointment there.

So I ride home and take care of what I needed to do there and then rode uphill to Mercy proper and check myself in.  Shirt off gown on, lay on bed and wait forever while connected to an automatic electric BP checker.  Finally a nurse comes in and sticks the IV needle and tubage in my right arm.  I think that is when she took blood for analysis.  Wait and wait.  

Two people walk in with a portable x-ray machine and take a photo of my heart.  Because I had the green "isolation" wrist band on, do to a staph infection I had in 2010, they ran out of the room and put their biohazard gear on.  I guess x-rays cause the penicillin resistant germ to escape me and attack them 5 years almost to the day it was removed in surgery.   The doctor said that I can still donate blood, however.

One Dr. Poole comes in and he is the first doctor I've seen lately that is calm about this matter.  "I'm going to lower your BP."  Another lengthy period of time passes before the nurse returns with the drugs.  "Not all at once, don't want to stop your heart."  Two doses and further checking before they let me go.  They did allow me to get up and use the restroom without assistance.  But they never allowed me to get a glass of water.  This may have been before the drug was loaded into my IV.

Finally they are satisfied that my BP is good and they let me go.  Dr Poole doubled the dosage of the beta blocker and told me that I should be getting a call within 72 hours from Iowa Heart Center.  He also said that the blood work revealed no damage or kidney problems.  A hearty handshake and I wander around the ER trying to figure my way out.  Nobody seemed concerned.

I drove to Iowa Heart because I had to go to work afterwards.  Met with the good doctor who prescribed another drug, an ACE inhibitor.  This drug acts against the hormone that increases BP.

"Angiotensin-converting enzyme (ACE) inhibitors help relax blood vessels. ACE inhibitors prevent an enzyme in your body from producing angiotensin II, a substance in your body that affects your cardiovascular system by narrowing your blood vessels and releasing hormones that can raise your blood pressure. This narrowing can cause high blood pressure and force your heart to work harder."--Mayo Clinic Staff

I was also told to start the Dash Diet--low sodium. low fat, more potassium and calcium.  More fiber.  Please burn my taste buds off now.  I told him that I have eaten more veggies and fiber in the past two years than in my entire life.  I also told him I bike 30 miles a day.  Did not mention that I was leaving for Ragbrai in 3 days.  "Good, you must have great tolerance."  Then the bad news.  I have an enlarged heart.  First thing to do is get the BP down.  Gave me a return visit date and I was gone.

Ragbrai was hot as hell.  Of course I turned down an offer to ride with the Road Pirates on their bus.  I could have taken a light road bike.  Of course I turned down Rocky's offer to take turns driving a Ford Excursion and riding a road bike.  Instead I loaded our touring tandem up and went self contained.  Of course I saved money and instead of a set of Connies that could hold 100 psi I settled for a set of Kenda Kwest tires that max air was a mere 65 psi.  Comfy, yes, fast, no.  Focus on staying hydrated and take breaks as needed.  Our bike tipped the scales at 480 lb with both of us on it.  I lived.  No heart attack.  Most likely did not do myself any favors except for losing a shitload of sodium through sweating.  I'm glad we cut it short and returned on the fifth day.  Sleeping on a Thermorest gets to wear one down.  A few days in a/c without sweating was paradise.

Time to get serious.  I hit every Hy Vee on the way home from work to use their BP checker.  Carefully record it for the nurse practitioner who is scheduled to meet with me.  When I do she sees that the BP is still a jet too high.  Tells me to continue laying off the sodium and sends me to the lab for more blood work.  Funny thing is that I ate a ham sandwich with two thick slices of ham that morning before the blood work.  Did not occur to me that ham is among the highest sodium laced meats.  Suddenly I am reading labels like a paranoid person.  Not that I did not do this before.  I made an effort to avoid the Big S.  Stopped eating bacon and sausage and other salt laden items.

They called two days later.  Kidneys good.  Thyroid good.  Potassium good.  Sodium low.  "Cut back on beverages so you do not suffer the consequences of low sodium."  Why not add bacon?  No mention of fats and cholesterol ever since the beginning of this other than low fat foods only.  "Take a second dose of the ACE inhibitor.  We're not going to increase the beta blocker because you are tired enough."

I laughed after the phone call.  Then I got mad.  They have no fucking clue what is wrong with me.   They need to understand that exercise during summer significantly lowers sodium levels.  It's called sweat.  I told them that I rarely drive and how much I ride.  I told them I rode 10,000 miles last year.

"Now that I realize how it's all gone wrong, gotta find some therapy, this treatment takes too long."--Joy Division, 24 Hours

I did that immediately, take the second hit of the ACE inhibitor.  I felt stoned after work Friday but my BP was 3 points within normal.  AMEN.  At the end of the month I have another round of testing.  Echocardiogram to look at the heart.  A stress test and a sleep study.  Yeah, I may have sleep apnea and they may recommend me sleeping with one of those Darth Vader machines.  I will refuse.  My family has said that my snoring has dropped dramatically since I have been taking pills.  The people I did Ragbrai with said that my snoring was much better and that Mary was louder than me!

So here I am.  Still riding the bike to work.  Today on my day off I rode 77 miles.  My legs are a bit sore which is a good feeling.  Was I the fastest?  No.  Was I a dog on hills?  No.  Did I have a heart attack? No but I took it easy when I felt tired.  Kinda funny but I felt the worst during the downhill from Baxter to Ira.  Felt great on the climb out of the Skunk River Valley to the trailhead (Chichaqua Trail).  Then again I was on a light weight roadie.  My weight will start dropping.  I've lost a few pounds already.  If I have reduced horsepower then a lighter body I need.  Terrible motivation.

"Crawling down the alley on your hands and knees.  I'm sure you're not protected as it's plain to see.  The Diamond Dogs are poachers and hide behind trees.  Kill you to the ground they will.  Manniquins with kill appeal"--Bowie, Diamond Dogs

Sunday, August 9, 2015

A Better Way to the Chichaqua Trail

Griffs Valley View RV Park

Alternative Title:  Eating Our Way Eastward and Back

Last Sunday Joe Hildreth and I met on the Bill Riley Trail and then rode to orlando's for a beer.  It was a hot 93F that day.  "Let's go for a long ride next Saturday," Joe suggested.  It is August and I am bored with most route options but there is one that I have been desiring to do but have not had the chance.  "Yes.  Let's ride to the Chichaqua Trail and turn around in Baxter."  It was agreed.

Everyone seemed so excited for the new trail connections to this trail but for those living south of downtown Des Moines or in Norwalk like Joe does or Cumming like his brother Donnie, it is still a pain in the rear to get there.  For decades i have either drove to the trailhead in Bondurant or took Scott Avenue, the industrial heartland of the South East Bottoms to the Gay Lea Wilson Trailhead in Pleasant Hill.  Sure it's only 5 miles on lightly traveled roads but the road surface is rough and some day I always fear I will get stuck in the middle of rush hour.

With the opening of the connection from the Four Mile Creek Trail to the Chichaqua little progress was made for us.  It is longer and out of the way than our traditional route that takes up the Gay Lea to Altoona and then a county road or two to Bondurant.  If we take the Neal Smith Trail to Ankeny to catch the connection there it is further out of our way.  Then Joe and Donnie discovered Cornell St.

Cornell heads straight up to NE 54th which intersects the new trail connection near Berwick.  Cornell is accessible from the NST at Birdland Marina.  Just get on the road at Birdland and head north.  Eventually a 4 way stop appears and Cornell starts.  Hit the north!  Remember that Cornell changes names somewhere north of there and is NE #rd at NE54th  Important when returning home.

The road was empty on Saturday morning.  The only issue is getting past Court Avenue--Farmer's Market in the morning and Ben Carson speech on our return.  Even on our homebound trip the street was empty.  NE 54th was not busy either.  However, I have a feeling that rush hour on these roads would be a dangerous place to ride.

Finding the trail was not difficult.  A yellow bike crossing sign is visible marking the way on to the trail.  Also, before the sign but at the last stop sign/light (I forgot which it is) the trail appears on the right.  This is at SE Four Mile Dr (NE 29th).

The trail is nice.  Wide and concrete.  Be sure to turn on the proper trail segment.  The blue pole trail sign will be on the one you need to take otherwise you end up on the Four Mile Creek trail heading back to Des Moines.

16 miles or so to Bondurant from Mullets.  Since I overslept we did not stop at Founder's Irish Pub until our homebound trip.  Our friends were waiting for us at the original trailhead.  Just opened this year is a paved trail from Bondurant, in back of Founder's, to the trailhead.  Nice!  Here we joined Joe and Donnie, Tom Riggs and our friend Alan.  Two recumbents and 4 road bikes.  10 miles to Mingo and the Greencastle Tavern.

Above the Skunk River.  Here we made contact with Alan on the return trip.  Donnie, Riggs and Joe in the photo.

The bartender remembered some of us that were part of Mel Allison's campout last year.  We had the special, italian sausage sandwich with Busch Light for $6.50.  Ask for a fork.  Delicious!  Keep in mind that the Greencastle is not open on Sundays.

Soon we hit the trail and the notorious "rough stretch" between mingo and Ira, 5 miles.  The pavement was badly cracked and the powers that be fixed it by adding gravel and sealing it in.  A lot of people, especially the locals are rightfully upset about this.  The trail needed to be repaved instead.  All came down to funding.  This section is blamed for low rider counts on the trail.  but honestly, I have never seen very many people at one time on this trail.  that's why I love it.  Hidden gem!  As for the surface, I have ridden skinny tire road bikes over it many times.  I also have ridden tandems with wider tires on it.  No worse than the streets of Des Moines!  Don't let it stop you.  However, the trail from mingo to Baxter needs to be resurfaced.

Caddilac Jack's in Baxter.

In Baxter we stopped at Cadillac Jacks for a beer before heading to Kountry Korner for a slice of pizza.  Do yourself a flavor and order a small pizza and share it with your friends.  It is very good.

 An apparent lack of communication happened here.  Riggs and Alan failed to turn up for pizza.  Phone calls revealed that Alan was on the trail.  Riggs stopped at the corner to wait for him or us.  we hauled booty to the trail and to Mingo.  No sign of Alan.  He beat us to the trailhead.  "First one to Founder's buys for all!"  He waited for us and we rolled to Founder's together and made pigs of ourselves.  Two orders of nachos and beer.  It started to rain, just a quick hitter, but we stayed inside and continued the feast.

the nachos at Founder's, Bondurant.  Topping so thick I almost thought they forgot the chips!

Time to part ways.  Donnie sagged home with Riggs who strategically placed his van in front of Founder's.  72 miles for him on an uncomfortable saddle was good enough.  He lives south of Cumming.  Alan and Joe took off together.  Mary and I soon headed home the way we came.  The only difference was that we got on the trail at Birdland.  The outbound trip, we took 6th all the way to Penn.

77 miles.  No hits, no flats few errors!  Great ride with great people.  Good food and beer, too!  Now, if we can man up and take this to Melbourne????

Longest ride since The Ragbrai