Sunday, December 18, 2016

Winter Came So Soon Like Summer Never Happened

Near the end of the Des Moines River Trail at the Cownie Baseball Complex.  Yes, Katie can ride and play with her phone on ice and snow.

And it feels just like yesterday I could ride in shorts and sandals on a road bike.  But yesterday it was something awful like 5F with a 20 mph NW wind.  I recall trying to unlock the bike and load the panniers and having to stop what I was doing to put my glove back on because my fingers were in extreme pain.  Yet somehow, dressed not unlike an astronaut, I was able to ride over 10 miles.  And today I made two trips outside when the temperature was below zero and thrive.  Not that I like this but it's something I have to do.

Yeah, I've been lucky.  Warmer than normal November but the hammer had to fall and the devil had to be paid.  Now I hope that the next 3 months fly be quickly.  I'm sure that Spring will take its time to warm us up.  It will get stuck in the 30s and forget to finish for a long time.

Until then I am ready.  I rebuilt the Winter Bike early.  Fresh cables and housing, fresh chain and studded tires aired up.  I even put a new saddle on.  And I have tested it in the worst of it.

Yesterday's rides were totally unnecessary but the ride unneeded are usually the best.  My daughter Katie stopped by after riding from her home to the Des Moines Area Community College.  She lives a tad bit over 3 miles away from us.  She rides a department store Schwinn built as a classic English 3 speed but with lower end Shimano 7 speed instead.  Regular road tires of the 700x32 variety.

"How was the trail?" I queried.  Friday the hammer began falling.  Freezing drizzle giving way to a light dusting of snow.  I managed to beat the snow home and had no issues except for my glasses icing up twice.  I expected the trail to be in bad shape.

"Not bad," she replied, "I had to walk it a few times.  Never went down."

Katie took this before coming over.  Apparently, at the bus stop downtown and bad language.

Then I got drafted into riding home with her.  "Give me 10 minutes to dress."  It takes forever.  Base layer of socks followed by two pairs of winter socks.  Cold feet are the worst.  Some high tech long John thermals next and probably a pair of cotton thermals.  Black pair of khakis and finally a pair of sweat pants over that.  Excessive but warm and it works.  I doubt I'd sweat since the wind chill is supposed to be below zero.  Torso, Body Armor long sleeve and two fleece shirts plus windbreaker as outer shell.  Thick balaclava and thick head band to keep face and ears warm.  A stupid looking hat with fake fur lining for further head protection.  Herman Survivor boots that are insulated and waterproof and one size too large so I can get the triple layer of socks in without being too tight.  Finally a pair of Performance Gore Tex gloves to keep hands and fingers safe.  Cheap and effective.  I'm not racing, just trying to stay alive.

taken on the Des Moines River Trail the previous week.  Same run to Fareway.  I needed coffee which I enjoyed this weekend.  In the back ground an eagle nest is shown across the Des Moines River from my location.  This bike will enjoy a much deserved break from commuter activities.

We took the Des Moines River Trail.  I think we had about an inch of snow at that point and more was falling.  Occasional clear spots were scattered exposing the ice on top of the trail.  The Red Phoenix, my winter bike had no issues.  Katie walked it one or twice on inclines.  We stopped at Fareway on SE 22nd.  I was in the mood for Moscow Mules and eggnog.  Katie needed something for dinner.  I also needed ice melt for the sidewalk.  So Eggnog, ice melt, vodka, limes and lime juice were my purchases plus her meal.  We parted ways here since she merely needed to go a block to her apartment.  Someone said that I was a brave soul.  I smiled thinking that she was the brave one.  219 car crashes occurred between 6 am Friday and 9 am Sunday.  I just look stupid or homeless.

My fat self grabbing lime juice.  I was unaware that I had a photographer with me.  Damn paparazzi! 

On the way back I photographed the vodka on a trail bridge.  As I opened the pannier the limes fell out and off the bridge.  Stupid me.  After retrieving them and rolling home I counted 30 bald eagles in the trees that lined the Des Moines River.  They winter here.

Very pure vodka.  Product of Iowa!

This shot was made possible because the limes I purchased fell out of the bike bag and off the bridge.  No limes, no Mules.

Once home I asked Mary if she wanted to go out to Court Avenue Brew Pub.  She agreed and I swapped her road wheels for a set with studded tires from the now non-functioning Bianchi.  It's great to have bikes with compatible wheels.  I loaded two growlers and we rolled away.  The streets had not been plowed but we had no issues.  However, when we reached the pedestrian bridge that connects Mullets to downtown Des Moines we were greeted with the 20 mph headwind.  Keep head down to protect face and smile knowing that the tailwind home will be a reward for this misery.  In less than a mile we will turn out of it.  But it was hell.

Outside of Court Avenue restaurant and Brewing Company.  Two stainless growlers with screw tops.  Perfect for fetching beer in sub zero weather.  Note, the Red Phoenix was not used for the annual Growler Fill for this year's Thanksgiving feast.  First miss in years.

So we drank a couple of mugs, filled the growlers, one with ginger beer for the Mules and the other with Honest lawyer IP since College Boy was home and we did not have any good beer in the fridge.  That's when I realized how bad it was.  Struggling to unlock the bike.  The cable was stiff and non-compliant in the negative temperature.  Struggling to unzip the bags to place the growlers in them.  Should have stayed home. No, conquer your environment!  Amazing how much better the gloves made my fingers feel.  When they say that frostbite hits in minutes best believe them.  We stopped at Blaze Pizza on the way home so we would not have to make dinner.  I unlocked the bikes faster this time.

The Meat Pizza from Blaze.  We ordered two pizzas.  If I crashed and or got stuck in the snow storm i wanted to have a full belly.  The left overs were consumed by College Boy when we got home.

I ended up with 10 miles for the day.  Mary 3.  Katie had to have over 10.  I am proud of her.  I have the experience and the equipment.  She is learning but did well.

It's a week before Christmas.  Usually the weather gets really cold on New Year's Day.  It's gonna be a long winter I fear.  Some good news is that a warm up will occur this week.  40s possible Thursday and Friday.  I'd relish in it.  I'm just glad that this cold snap happened on the weekend when I did not need to ride 27 to 30 miles to work and back.  Tomorrow morning may be bad but the high is slated for 27F.

"Winter came so soon like summer never happened.  We're players on a stage with roles already scripted.  Living for the day, working for a wage on a giant piece of dirt spinning in the universe."--Singularity

Sometimes Bernard Sumner can write lyrics.

Wednesday, December 7, 2016

Act of Kindness

Spotted on the trail under SW 9th viaduct.  At least 4 of these.

Dear City of Des Moines: Perpetual Ice

There is a spot on the Bill Riley Trail where the ice never ends.  Just north of the railroad trestle a source of water covers the trail.  When the temperature drops below freezing it turns to ice.  This ice grows all winter long.  It is dangerous.

It has not been around all summer or autumn.  But a week ago as the weather turned chilly it returned.  Now it is a large sheet of ice.  I have no doubt in my mind that it will be here all winter long.

It is like that at this time of year a pipe breaks.  Just be careful when using the trail.

This is what it was last weekend before the freeze

And this is the smaller section closer to the rail bridge.

Sunday, November 13, 2016

The Spirit of Coffeeneuring 2016

Once again I have accepted Chasing Mailboxes challenge to ride my bicycle to 7 different places to drink coffee.  This blog post contains my tale of this endeavor.  To see a more detailed explanation of this please grab a cup of coffee and click this link

1.  Coffee Shop w/o Walls

       Scooters at Valleyfest, Valley Stadium, West Des Moines
       Saturday October 8th
       Medium Roast with a lot of half n half
       25 mile round trip

Mary and rode to Valleyfest to watch our daughter participate in a HS marching band competition. Being the first weekend of the Coffeeneuring Challenge we planned to leave early enough to stop at a coffee shop for a cup o joe and breakfast but being ungodly slow we left too late for that.  The route was simple, ride 1/2 mile to the trail and take that all the way to N Valley Dr and take a left instead of  going straight like we do every Monday through Friday for our work commute.  Now it was day time and a weekend and the first obstacle was the 10 million people on the trail for the ALS walk which forced us to cut back and find a different access to the trail.  When we got to the turn we went straight half way through the intersection before we realized that we were making a mistake.  Guess we were lost in thought and conversation on how different the trail looks in daylight going this direction.  We corrected our course and got on the Levy Trail which led us to the Jordan Creek Trail that leads to Valley Stadium.  Thus a safe bicycle friendly route to this location even is not direct.  The only danger were from cars trying to get on the street from the parking lots.  They tended to pull all the way up and block the sidepath/trail.  Next time I may take the road for the last bit.

Once there we could not find a bicycle rack so we locked up against a tree.  After paying for our wristbands, $10 each, we walked through the gate and Scooter's Coffee had a table there selling coffee.  BINGO!!!  Choice between hazelnut and a medium roast so I chose the later.  They had half n half in quart containers which was a real bonus!  I was happy!!

2. The Village Bean, East Village, Des Moines, Iowa

I spilt me Americano on Mary's rack and panniers.  Should have used the lid.

Sunday October 10th
Medium Americano with room for a lot of half n half
The Village Bean
8 mile round trip

Took empty streets and bike lanes to get here on a sleepy Sunday morning after church.  One thing I like about this place is that they serve sandwiches built and heated on a pannini press right before your very eyes.  Also they have art work for sale on the walls although not today.  Bonus: Grateful Dead on the sound system.  Breakfast and a coffee!

3.  West End Architectural Salvage Co
This front end of a car will be re-purposed into something, perhaps a love seat or a plant holder.
1st photo taken via self timer

Saturday October 22, 2016
Medium Americano with room for half n half
West End Architectural Salvage Company
18 mile round trip

Made a grocery run to Windsor Heights and stopped in downtown Des Moines for coffee.  This place is actually about a mile and a half from my home.  Pretty easy and safe to get to via streets, trails and sidepaths.  The charm of WEASCo is that it sells antiques and such and refurbishes much of it for resale.  I am sitting in a ceremonial chair used by the Odd Fellows and for a mere $450 it could be mine.  Why they offer coffee and beer & wine I don't know but I like it.

4.  Coffeeneuring After Dark

Tuesday October 25, 2016
Small dark roast
Zanzibar's Coffee Adventure
6.7 mile round trip

Met my wife on Ingersoll Ave to carry home pizza.  7 pm and now it is dark.  I got there early and had time to ride a few blocks further to Zanzibar's Coffee Adventure for an in house roasted coffee. My first visit there. The small was $1.95 which was great because I only had two pieces of cabbage on me.  Airpot, not the hottest but I did add my usual amount of cream to cut the bitterness and lower the temperature to a drinkable level.  I drank this outside in the now dark but wonderful autumn air. It was 58F outside according to a billboard.

The route?  Mix of trail and big city bike lane.  Ingersoll Ave is pretty busy but these is a bike lane and we we able to get back on the street after a bit of sidewalk action and crosswalk lights.  The last two miles are on sidepath/trail with a half mile of residential.  Personally, I find Ingersoll Ave a necessary evil that I can avoid for most of my life but occasionally I visit businesses here.

5.  Giving in to the PSL: Scooters

Sunday October 30, 2016
Medium Pumpkin Spice Latte
3 mile round trip

Wanted to go to The Hub which is on the Principal Riverwalk just a jet over a mile from home.  The route was a mix of residential and pedestrian bridge and streets.  1045ish on a Sunday morning, zero traffic downtown.  Despite checking their business hours online and reading the posted hours on their window, The Hub was not open.  This ruined a wonderful photo op of bicycles and coffee.  Also delayed my first ever purchase from said business.  Scooters was next on my list since it was a few blocks away and across from my bank.  Sunday mornings I need to check my account after abusive Thursday-Friday-Saturday spending sprees.  Originally went set out for hot chocolate since I had already drank a pot of coffee at home.  But I gave into the fanfare of the PSL since it actually felt seasonable outside and hot chocolate will always be around.  I declined the extra shot of espresso but Mary took a shot and turned her HC into a mocha.  Yeas, whipped cream, please.  Yes, cinnamon on top.  Do it right, do it up!

6. Spiked Coffee

1 24oz mug of Joe Schmo
My single speed on its first ride since July.  Note two growlers of shandy on the forks.

Friday November 4, 2016
Joe Schmo
Court Avenue Restaurant and Brewing Company
3 mile round trip

Friday after work.  Needed to get some beer for the weekend.  CABCo had a special, buy one get one, on their Fly the W Shandy despite the Cubs winning the World Series the day before.  So I took two 64oz growlers over for the fill.  Looked up at the board and saw Joe Schmo.  "What is it?"  An English Mild Ale brewed with coffee grounds from Java Joe's CoffeeHouse on 4th St.  Well, that sounds mighty good.  And it was smooth with a strong coffee taste.  Not bitter yet dark enough that I knew my wife would not like.  The ride there was the usual mix of quiet residential, pedestrian trail and streets.  Despite being around 5ish in the evening traffic was not bad and I felt very safe even when leaving with my loaded bike.

7.  Spirit and Science of Coffeeneuring

illy!  It was underwhelming.
Gotta love the bike rack!

Sunday November 13, 2016
Illy Cappuccino
Science Center of Iowa
5 mile round trip

Just a causal ride in downtown Des Moines Iowa.  We had to leave the house because it was cold inside but pleasant outside.  We wanted to hit the Java Joe's in at the bus station but it was closed.  Then I had an idea.  Why not go to the Science Center?  They have to sell coffee at the Food Chain Cafe.  I was in the mood for a Starbuck's Frappiccino but  they had none.  Could have gotten a drip coffee but settled for a cold cappuccino by Illy.  Mary had the vanilla flavored.  We got to us the new stegosaurus bicycle rack as a bonus.

8.  Coffeeneuring for Luis Garcia

Sunday November 13, 2016
West-O CoCo Stout
5 mile round trip

After completing my 7th and final trip I decided that I should take advantage of this wonderful weather and pleasant company and do one for Luis Garcia who is unable to complete his challenge due to a busted clavicle, scapula and 3 ribs received from a pothole related bicycle crash.

I was hoping that Surly's Bender was still on tap but it was not.  However, West-O's CoCo Stout was and it was $2 because of the NFL game special.  Cannot beat that for a craft beer.  West-O describes the brew best when they stated "Cream stout with lactose sugar…”thats why it’s a cream stout.” Cocoa nibs and bourbon vanilla beans make this beer creamy and chocolaty. Hints of coffee from 2 types of roasted malts. Candi sugar for a bit of marshmallow."

It was like a cold hot chocoale.  Very delicious!

Luis, heal quickly.  There are two types of bicyclists, those that have broken their collar bone and those that will.  I broke mine in 2010 going 30 mph.  I was luckier that you since that was the only bone I broke.

Saturday, November 5, 2016

Road Warrior

The scruffy looking dude was sitting at the end of the bar talking to the waitrix.  He had a mug which meant that he dropped 50 bucks down here last December or November or lied about it.  I was just trying to mind my M & G's (mug and growlers) and calculating if I had enough time for another mug before intercepting Wifey on the trail.  Time is always tight.  Then I overheard the conversation.

"Yeah, lots of layers in the morning then sweaty on the way home."

That was the give away.  Not a cager.  Possibly a motor biker.  So I asked him, "beesickle or motorbike?"


I moved a few stools closer to him so we could compare notes.  30 mile round trip commute just like mine.  Southsider just like me.  Busted clavicle now healed just like me.  Bagger bike until it was stolen.  Now road bike for commuter just like me 95% of the time.  Apt to take roads as convenience just like me.  More willing to skip trails out of expedience and fear of catastrophic failure sorta like me.  Looks for the best beer deal just like me.  A lot in common.

He heads north to John Deere in Ankeny.  Instead of playing it safe and taking the Neal Smith Trail he takes the roads.  "Yeah, you got this much room.  All sorts of gravel and debris."  I've been on those roads on weekends.  Shit but direct.  Yes the trail is a bit longer and safer but he says nobody is north bound when he rides.  Different when going home.

"The other day there was a big truck behind me.  I could hear it.  But a strap was loose on the trailer and after it passed me all sorts of roofing materials started falling off.  I had to take the ditch.  Plywood, shingles and other crap everywhere.  Then the car behind me almost hit me.  It did not see me.  They never do."  No doubt, blind as bats selfish cagers.

I queried, "why not the trail?"

"What if something happens to bike on the trail?  Bad flat tire, mechanical issue?  Catastrophic failure?  I'm hosed.  Difficult to get rescued."

True but pump, tube, tools, mobile phone and proper maintenance on the bike....  Then again why surrender to the Metal Overlords?  Open act of defiance on the pavement aimed directly at them.  I totally understand but pick my battles.  Maybe it is safer than I think.  Maybe his tolerance of those threats is greater than mine.

He's been doing this since March.  No real winter yet.  "Thinking about a fatbike for the winter." That would be great for the trails but a hybrid with studded tires would be faster and less expensive IMHO. Ice is the worst unless you ride on studs.

My mug had one large swallow left.  Mary should have made it Water Works Park by now, time to leave.  We clinked mugs one last time and I drained my dry.  Time to hit the streets and hope that the bastards will not run me over.  They are bad enough on each other and bicycles are often not on their radar until late.  Til we meet again, two wheels down.

Sunday, October 16, 2016

Dawson Cabin Campout

The journey begins.  Leaving work.

So we had one more fall ride in us.  One more time to load the baggers and ride to distant locales and enjoy ourselves.  Joe Hildreth invited me.  The plan had been in the works for months.  I believe he had been desiring this for a few years.  Simple plan.  Load up our bikes, cut out of work early and ride the Raccoon River Valley Trail to Sportsmans Park near Dawson and rent a cabin or two with a group of friends.  But as plans go somethings don't quite work out.  Nobody except for me could ride out there.  And that was ok because my loaded touring bicycle is slower than answered prayers.  The important thing is that this ride secured my goal of 1000 miles for October.  More importantly, such a ride would place me in Waukee on Saturday where my daughter, Dora, was competing in the Waukee Invitational marching Band Competition and later that evening the State competition.

I packed the bike the night before.  Tent, sleeping bag, blanket, all sorts of clothing since it was cold and I did not trust the forecast of warmer weather, chair, cooler and empty growler.  Joe was not quite sure about the sleeping arrangements.  Be prepared.

I was able to leave work about a half hour early.  First stop was in Waukee at the Hy Vee.  I needed provisions aka beer.  After sampling their wares I had a growler filled with Dead Irish Poets by Finnegans Inc from Minneapolis.  The barkeep said that they are a non-profit brewery and a certain percentage of their Iowa sales goes to the Food Bank of Iowa.  Extra justification for the purchase of this smokey dry Irish stout.  I noted that this was the first time I had a growler filled with a stout and the barkeep did not complain or warn me about such beer in a growler.  To complete the beer run I picked up a 6 of Beerito, labeled as a Mexican beer but actually a Vienna lager, by Oskar Blues and a 6 pack of Squatters Hop Rising Imperial IPA.  The lager was for mixing with the stout for a "arf n arf" and the double IPA was for something strong and hoppy.  Both were in cans whick are safer on bicycle rides.  Sure, that was a lot of beer but when I sleep in a place that is not my own away from the One I Love and the protection of my dog plus the possible uncomfort of sleeping in a tent, I need to be properly sedated.  That and I could always share or take home.  Nothing worse than running out of beer when camping.
Good place for a doughnut!

I took the short cut to Dawson by turning up the "new" connection from  Waukee to Perry.  Because of time I did not stop in Dallas Center or Minburn.  The funny thing about Minburn was that for the life of me I could not remember its name.  I remembered the name of the bar but not the town.  There are many "M-towns" on the trails and roads that I ride.  Milo, Mingo, Menlo ect.  Both Mudders and the establishment at the depot looked as if they were doing well on a Friday evening but I had to press on.  I did, however stop at the recumbent sculpture that serves as a memorial for a rider about was about my age when he passed away.  I had a food break, a doughnut that a co-worker gave me before I left work.  She gave me three.  Food for the journey.
Harvest time in Iowa.

As for the ride on this stretch, I enjoyed a tailwind, a full moon over my shoulder and nature.  Many deer running through the fields and along side the trail.  Also saw a skunk, startled it and saw the tail go up fortunately not in my direction.  It was also harvest time and farmers were a plenty collecting their crops.

In Perry I stopped for more food at the Kum & Go.  I also needed batteries for my headlamp and more ice.  I like my beer cold and it was dark.  5 more miles to go.  Text Mary to let her know I was safe and almost there.

Sportsman Park is about 5 miles from Perry or 1/2 mile east of Dawson.  There is a sign on the trail and access from the trail to the gravel road that leads to the park.  Another sign says that it is 1200 feet from the trail.  At night it looked like good gravel but it was a bit rough.  Having ridden my share of gravel this year on bikes of various tire sizes, 700x23, 700x25 (tandem) and this bike with 700x35 on Ragbrai I thought my new 700x37s would plow right through like a Tiger tank.  Wrongo boyo!  I had to find the line that everyone else's tracks indicated.  My camping partners rode to Tojo's in Jamaica for dinner while I was still on the trail.  Once I spotted the entrance I gently made a course correction and cut across the road.

WHAM!!!  I was laying on my left side!  Left hand a tad bit bitten by gravel.  My head actually hit the rocks as well and for once I was glad I had a helmet on because I'd be pulling rocks and dust out of my noggin.  There is an abrasion on my left arm despite having a tough and thick long sleeve shirt on.  My left thigh seemed to take the lion's share of the impact noted by a visible bruise and soreness even at this moment 36 hours later.  The bike was OK.  Nothing fell off.  Nothing broke.  the rear pannier got a bit messy from the cooler's condensation (actually a non-insulated beer chiller).  All the lights still on.  Brushed myself off and picked it up and walked the remaining 6' to the driveway before re-saddling and continue toward the campsite.  Deploy kickstand and grabbed a Squatter for the healing powers of hops.  Oh yes, sent a text to Mary to let her know I was safe at the destination.  45 miles from my start at home, 33 miles from my place of employment.  A good day of riding.

There were about 8 of us.  Joe and Nick were there and the only ones I really knew.  At 51 years of age I was the kid.  We sat around a fire pit and drank until it was time for bed.  Music and laughs.  I finished the other two doughnuts and the other half of the sandwich I purchased in Perry.  Nick brought two bottles of Captain Morgan's Cannon Blast and a 12 pack of Sprite, a drink I introduced to him during Ragbrai, but I abstained from that.  As for all the beer I brought, I think I drank half of the growler and 3 of the canned beer.  Yeah, too much beer hauled.
As close to a group shot I got.  Joe in red.  Nick in chair facing the camera.

We had both cabins.  They were nice!  2 or 3 bunk beds each, shower, sink, fridge and what I needed, many electrical sockets.  First order of business was to charge my light and then the phone.  Although I brought my battery charger I like to save that power for situations where I am off grid.  Saturday night I may need my lights.  I was able to get a bottom bunk which was really a couch with a sheet covering the mattress.  I used my sleeping bag as a pillow and needed only my blanket to keep me warm.  For more information on Sportsman Park click HERE

The strong south wind kept us warm and dry, no dew.  In the morning I merely packed the bike, finished my mug of stout and brushed my teeth.  Decided that a fresh coat of deodorant would suffice and did not change my clothing.  Seemed like a hassle to change threads.  We departed in separate ways.  Everyone but me headed east to Perry for breakfast.  I wanted to complete the loop and headed west.  I also had to be in Waukee by 1 pm to watch my daughter perform in the marching band competition.  My breakfast would be much later in Panora if all went well.

The trail.

At Dawson, one mile from the campsite, I stopped and dropped the long sleeve shirt I wore over my jersey.  Not necessary.  I also purchased a trail permit and the trailhead.  Next year I will obtain the annual permit.  despite the overcast it was a beautiful day.  I noted the now amber waves of grain to my right and the cleared field to the left.  I also thought about how the glaciers made this part of Iowa so flat and that one spots towns by the grain elevators that stand out the distance like castles.  Water towers and grain bins.  In the northeast part of the state it is hilly and has a lot more trees and church steeples betray the location of the villages.  There were two time trail bikes heading east and two women on road bikes that passed me heading toward Jefferson.  Really, an empty trail.

Amber waves of grain.  Corn before harvest.
Corn after harvest.

I turned south at Herndon instead of going north to Jefferson.  That's when I felt the full force of the wind.  My average speed dropped 5 mph and I knew I would not make it to Waukee in time.   Nevertheless I pushed on at best possible speed.  Yale and then Panora I kept rolling  looking for grain elevators.

Just before Linden I saw the white Dallas County truck on the trail running the leaf blower from its bed.  I wet of to the side in the intersection to let him through.  Sure enough, the park ranger stopped and rolled down the window and offered me a map and started talking.  "Yes sir I have a permit.  Got it at #9 in Dawson."  "Thank you for supporting the trail," he replied.  We talked for about 5 minutes about the trail and its amenities and improvements.  He also queried about my ride.  Of note is that he related his experience with a certain rider that has done the loop 41 times this year.  Damn, that's a lot!!

As for the trail, I have been riding on this trail since 1991.  I have seen it expand, first from Yale to Jefferson, the connection from the Clive Greenbelt which connects to to the Des Moines metro trail system that comes within a half mile of my home,  and more recently form Waukee to Perry and then Perry to Herndon.  Several of the gravel intersections have been paved by the generous donations of others.  Several sections of this trail have been repaired and resurfaced throughout the years.  It has always held a special place in my heart and often I consider it my favorite trail.

I finally stopped in Redfield.  I had to get something to eat I had gone 30 miles sustained on a beer and a coffee.  Casey's is where I finally used the chair I packed, sitting outside and consuming two slices of pizza a a 32oz Coke.  Folks here wanted to talk about the trail and bicycles.  I also purchased a bag of ice for the 9 remaining beers.  I may need them.  Mary and I exchanged text.  I would not make it in time.  Please ride west on the trail to join me afterwards and we'll ride back together.  The morning's micro mist was picking up.  It was time to ride east.  The crosswind was relief for the headwind.  My speed improved.  Mary and I met between Ortonville and Waukee.  I should have left an hour earlier.  The late performance would be the one that I would watch.

While taking a break at the trailhead in Waukee we decided to ride home and grab the car instead of loitering in Waukee for 5 hours.  I needed a shower and the mist was threatening to become a drizzle, not the shower I wanted.  Mary discovered that the work on Walnut Creek was rideable which eliminated the need for a dangerous and time consuming detour.  When I got home I checked the Cateye, 66 miles for the day.  111 for both days.  A great weekend of riding especially on a heavy bike.

When we returned hours later we found out that a serious downpour hit Waukee and soaked the people participating and watching the marching bands.  We arrived in time to see my high school perform and many performances of various schools including Dora's Lincoln HS.  The rain never returned but our butts we wet from the bleachers.  Yes, we need stadium seats.

Friday, October 14, 2016

What the Hell Happened on Ashworth Rd Last Night?

Brake part laying next to my ATM on Westown Pkwy.  A remindered that the streets are littered with parts.  I think it was smiling and laughing at me!

I'm beginning to think that THEY do not want me to ride a bicycle to work anymore.  First an irreplaceable and unsafe-to-detour section of trail is closed for a week or so forcing me to find alternative routes.  Now I find one of my alternatives a literal battleground for cars.  Ashworth Rd from 8th St to well past 16th.

I took this road to avoid the Dowling 5 am gang and the hill.  Ashworth to 28th is what I rode.  Done it many times at 5 am when traffic is nill.  But as soon as I made that left turn onto it I knew something had happened.  For 10+ blocks my lane was litter with bits and pieces of cars.  Plastic bumper parts, headlight assembly, chunks of tire with wire beads sticking out, glass ect.  Even where a lane was closed off for construction this dross was strewn all over the road.  There was a continue stain of some automotive fluid in the lane and upon closer inspection fresh grooves cut into the asphalt surface from something dragged or pushed.

I was glad I rode my touring bike with its beefy flat resistant tires.  Any lessor tire probably would be missing air.

I was glad to turn right onto 28th and make my way across I-235 to Westown Pkwy.  Away from the rolling battle.  But near my final stretch on Westown I discovered that road construction took out several lanes.  Damn, I should have taken the trail!

Sunday, October 9, 2016

Mississippi Gold: Riding The Great River Trail

Some pieces of gold are hidden in plain sight.  I am blessed as a cyclist to live in Des Moines, Iowa.  I am a half a mile from a major trail system that leads in all four directions to destinations far away.  I am also within driving distance to many trails some in other states.  Here we hear of the Katy Trail in Missouri, the Root River Trail just north of Iowa and many others in Iowa itself.  But until this year I never heard of the Great River Trail which spans the 60 miles between the Quad Cities to Savanna, Illinois, along the Mississippi River.

The carlisle Group.  Front row left to right Dennis, Steve, Steve, John. Back row left to right Donnie, Nick, joe, Chris, Mary Mary, Lori

The idea to have an autumn ride emerged from Team Kum & Go.  Do something special, create a memory that will last forever.  Have everyone meet at Victor and Jody's home in Milan. IL.  It was a 15 minute drive to Sunset Park, the trailhead.  Most of us met at Steve and Lori's home in Carlisle, Iowa, where the bus was loaded.  Others drove in from the Chicago area to meet the bus in Milan.

The trail is essentially 60 miles long.  Detours and exploring towns adds a few more miles.  It is paved and flat 99% of the time.  Most of it is trail, sometimes in woodlands and praries and other times along a highway and a wee bit of streets.  The southern end starts out in Sunset Park and quickly turns into an urban riverfront trail.  On a nice Saturday or Sunday it could be very crowded in some sections that are along the river.  Then it turns into an industrial/post industrial trail as factories and water treatment and transportation warehouses ect.  Eventually it leaves the city and winds through several small and old river towns.  This is where the charm and magic of the trail lies.  Interactive map showing everything one needs

Towns are spaced out nicely.  Sometimes it is only 3 to 5 miles in between communities.  Other times it is closer to 8.  There are two 10 mile stretches including the final.  Between the towns are scenic vistas, parks, wildlife refuges, beautiful houses along the Mississippi, fishing shacks, campgrounds and woods.

Donnie and his and my bike on the bank of the Mississippi in the Quad City.


It was a glorified drizzle when we woke up Saturday morning in Milan (pronounced My Lawn). Most of our bicycles were attached to the roof of the bus,  I was glad that I took the time to lube the chains of my bike and the bicycle belonging to my wife.  Victor gladly gave me some shop towels to give to people for the purpose of drying our saddles.  Swamp Butt is now way to start two 60 mile days of bicycling.  By the time we unloaded and mounted up in Sunset Park it appeared that the precipitation was over.  Schwiebert Riverfront Park in Rock Island was our first stop.  Photo op.

The Ladies!

Milltown Coffee Shop was our second stop and I enjoyed a nice Americano.  The rain resumed once we started rolling again but I was warm and caffeinated!  Our next stop would be in Rapids City, not to be confused with Rapid City, SD, where we had breakfast at 1245 pm. Brothers family Restaurant was the place.  They held the private room for us, our number 17 including bus driver.  Most people opted for breakfast food.  Nick and I had the Rapids City Burger (a big cheeseburger with mushrooms and mayo).  It was here that I decided that I should always order the item named after the town.  They put their name on it, has to be good, right?  It was.  the bus was here so those that need to could swap stuff out or get what they needed ect.  This meal would last us until dinner in Savanna almost 8 hours later.  We did have snacks on the bus that we had an opportunity to enjoy in Albany and there were opportunities to stop at gas stations and other dining establishments if needed.  I did not need to refuel.  For that matter, I did not even finish my water bottle as it was a cool day of riding in the overcast.

Albany was the last place where we would see the bus before we reached our destination.  This town has a resturant with pie and also is located near Native American burial/ceremonial mounds.  Unfortunately, we left that unexplored as we rode past.  We met at the park for a rest.  Being too lazy to go inside the bus for anything other than a refreshment I decided to leave the group early to escape the mosquitoes.  I should have grabbed my DEET and waited for the others.  There's a special hybrid of those blood suckers here and they were vicious.  My second mistake.  The first was not to bring rain gear but Dennis loaned me his spare which I decided to leave behind in the bus at Sunset Park.  I'm in serious need for new rain gear anyway.  It's on my list.

The third mistake was not sticking with the people who call this trail their training ground.  Victor and Jody use this trail for their long distance training.  Living in Milan, it is their only trail of length.  But we soon discovered that their knowledge of the path was essential.  The biggest issue we had was how poorly marked it is.  True, we were given a map.  True, if one kept the river on their left they would make it to Savanna.  but the map was rather general and lacked the precision required to truly feel comfortable in unfamiliar territory.  There were signs and arrows but there were also detours and long stretches of trail or road between those signs.  Sometimes the signs were only available for people riding the other direction.  Because we relied on the expertise of those that ridden the trail before we were not accustomed to looking for the signs in the first place.

Mosquito Gazebo Albany, IL

Four of us broke away from the group.  No make that 7.  Steve, John and Dennis took off first then Mary, Donnie, Nick and myself left Albany.  Something about a hill then a short stretch of gravel sounding more menacing than it really was.  Then the Mississippi swallowed the trail but the detour pointed to the right.  We found the trail again but soon a decision had to be made.  Continue forward or turn right and cross the highway and ride the trail as marked.  But the sign said DO NOT ENTER.  it was going east and we wanted to go north.  Maybe it was oxygen deficit but we obeyed the DNE sign and continued north into Fulton.  Fulton was on the map.  The river was still on our left and we were heading north.  It felt right.

Fulton, IL

Once in town we stopped at the windmill.  Built out of African wood for its resistance to insects and rain it originally stood in the Netherlands until it was dismantled, every board numbered and reassembled in America.  We could have taken the guided tour.  Back on the bikes we discovered the mistake.  the north route was a tourist trap.  Had we been intelligent enough to realize that the DNE sign was for cars and trucks we would have cut off our two mile tour of the the city and saved a lot of time.  Everyone passed us.  We were the sweepers.  Later on we were told that the other trio of splitters made the same mistake.  But we got to see this huge wind mill.

The sky ahead of us was getting dark and we knew rain would fall on us soon.  One of us had a warning on their Fitbit that their heart rate was too high so we rested near the Thomson Sand Prairie for a bit.  I looked at the map and then fired up Google Maps on my mobile to get a better grasp on our ride.  Thomson would leave us with the final 10 miles.  The trail would give way to county roads.  we would roll by a federal prison and a potato farm and then a road lined with homes and views of the ever encroaching Mississippi.  It was ironic to see irrigation equipment while the river was flooding and that it was raining.  Eventually at forest park emerges and shortly we found ourselves in Savanna.  We called Joe to guide us in since we had no clue where the Savanna Inn was located.  true to almost every multi-day ride I've ridden, my shower and bed was at the other side of town on top of a hill!

At Poopy's Sunday morning.  Steve Murga photo credit.  Steve D, Joe, Dennis, Lori, Mary, Nick, Chris, Killian, Jody, Victor, Donnie, Joe, Mary Laura and Bob

After a shower and a change of clothes we took the shuttle to a biker (Harley Davidson and chopper bikers) establishment called Poopy's.  many of the guests at the Inn were on motorcycles.  Savanna is covered with "START SEEING MOTORCYCLES" signs.  Poopy's has a sign declaring itself "Illinois #1 biker destination."  When the shuttle pulled up and a woman fell out of the front and got up exclaiming that she was alright I thought we were in for a very memorable night.  The strong odor of booze lingering in the vehicle after the previous patrons exited it only reinforced my anticipation.  But it was a mellow off season Saturday night with a prime rib special.  Others had pizza, brgers and even chicken fingers.  Joe and I had the special.  It was good.  The place was decorated with custom choppers too uncomfortable for any serious riding and the usual orange and black uniform of the subculture.  Classic rock played overhead and beer was only available in cans.  Mary and I had PBR's.  For those so inclined, camping is available with showers and beers then would only be $1.  After dinner everyone headed straight to their rooms and collasped.  Mary and I rode 66 miles that day.  We were all tuckered out.

Earlier that evening I missed a step on the stairs and my left foot landed full force on the wrong step sending the blunt of the impact to my heel.  I forgotten about this until 430 am when it screamed at me and cancelled further sleep.  Mary went with me out the Inn and down the hill, there's always a hill isn't there, to the convenience store for Vitamin I--ibuprofen and something to swallow them with.  We grabbed some awful breakfast sandwiches at the Mc Donalds and ate them while watching Seinfeld while my heel rested on a bag of ice.  I had three hours to heal my heel or ride the bus in shame.


At the Savanna Inn before leaving Sunday morning. On bench left John, bench right Dennis, Bac row left to right Donnie, Nick, Chris, Mary, Joe, Mary, Killian, Lori, Steve, Jody, Victor, Laura, Bob and Ben (bus driver).  One of the Steve's is missing.

She even showed me her odometer.  6400 miles on that bike!!  What's that, 40 miles a day?

It was painful to clip in and each pedal stroke was a reminder that I failed to walk down stairs properly but eventually the pain subsided and pedaling was not an event and my limping stopped. Still hated clipping in and out but I had little choice.  I think we first stopped in a forest park and met a woman on a city bike with a basket in front.  No dog in the basket but she seemed glad to talk to someone and tell a few jokes.  Eventually she said she had over 6400 miles for the year, had a huge number of miles the year before and put up big numbers the year before that.  While everyone could barely comprehend what 6K+ of miles by October truly meant I handed my phone to Mary for a photo.  I regret that I did not give it to someone else for if I had then there would exist of photo of three people who have ridden over 6400 miles in the 9 months of 2016.  Tomorrow, good Lord willing, I will pass the 7000th mile mark.  Instead I thought only of myself and and Mary was excluded.  Enough regret.

Das Cake

In Albany we stopped at the park again.  This would be our last opportunity to see the bus.  We finally got to enjoy the cake decorated for this occasion since we were too tired Friday night and Saturday evening.  The last I checked there was only one piece left.

Fulton was our next stop.  We took the route proper and cooled off at a gas station.  I drank a Smirnoff Ice, Electric Blue, that in its plastic bottle looked not unlike a sports drink.  Resuming our southern journey we were serenaded by a small orchestra on the trail, probably taking a photo but they played while the 16 of us rolled right through them!

Donnie fixin' a flat!
All of us watching Donnie fixin' a flat!

The rest of us watching Donnie fixin' a flat!  I should have done one panoramic shot here.

The only mechanical issue of the weekend occurred next.  Donnie had a flat tire.  Piece of glass in his tire.  He had a new tube and pump and we all had an opportunity to rest while he fixed the flat.  This was on the Riverview Rd, a residential area with ZERO traffic.

Riley's in Cordova, IL

Unlike the previous day we stopped at an establishment in Cordova, IL, for rest and relaxation and a chance to look at NFL on tv.  Once rested we rolled to Port Byron for lunch at Harrington's.  We were given a private room with a view of the street and river.  Only craft beer was available on tap and the food was delicious and in huge portions.

Port Byron
The final 15 miles back to the bus were uneventful.  The trail was pretty empty on this sleepy overcast Sunday.  The closer we got to Sunset Park the more water we saw in the streets and trail.  Some cars were driving where they should not have been given the flooding from the rain not the Mississippi.  But we made it to the bus, loaded up and drove to an ice cream shop for a much deserved reward.


I cannot wait to return to this trail.  We barely scratched the surface.  There is so much to do on it.  there are boats that will take you and your bike across the river to Iowa.  Breweries are nearby as well  I'd really like to take a touring bike and spend 4 days on the river.