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.