Sunday, February 28, 2016

One of the Few

No matter how anonymous I attempt to be I am forever seen, labeled and refereed to as a bicyclist.  Not that it is bad to be as such.  Maybe if bicycling continues to increase as an activity and a transportation option bicyclists will not appear to be so odd.  Maybe it is people desiring to have interpersonal contact.  We are a social species, albeit some are sociopaths.  However, there are times I'd rather keep to myself and not interact with others.  I'm not anti-social its that it is often more comfortable to be invisible and to ones own thoughts.

Usually it is at work.

"Hey, ain't you the dude that rides the bike?"  Actually there are 3 or four of us in cold weather, 8 in good weather.

"Hey I saw you riding to/from work today/yesterday"  If in the morning I ask them how visible I was.  Important to be seen when riding on the street.

"Gonna do some riding this weekend?"  I rarely drive, of course, depending on the weather.

"You do the Ragbrai?"  Hard to explain to them that Ragbrai official sucks.

Today it was a man at church who saw me pulling in on my Soho commuter.

"I saw you yesterday by Easter Lake.  You was moving FAST!"  yes, tailwind.

"Oh yes, I was riding to the winery.  Should have seen how slow I was on the return trip.  Strong wind."

I think he would have been more impressed with my destination which was just shy of 20 miles from the lake.  But that did not register with him.  At least people see me and do not run me over.  Grateful for that.

Saturday, February 27, 2016

41 Miles for Two Bottles of Wine

Our February Thaw brought us another warm Saturday and I seized the opportunity to put in quality miles on a fast bike.  Given recent flooding on the the trail(s) west of my home and the north trails an unknown quality I decided to head south east of here and enjoy some county road action.

BIKE:  LeMond Versailles, its maiden 2016 voyage

I put it out on FaceBook.  Despite a few bites no one joined me.  Even Mary bowed out of tis one due to illness.  Just me.  I hope to get others to join us sometime for this ride since it is pleasurable and rewarding.

First things first, breakfast.  Mary did join me for breakfast at the Village Bean.  I had a ham, egg and provolone sandwich on multigrain bread panini style and a large coffee.  Mary's sandwich was on an English muffin.  Nutrigrain bars came with them so I pocketed them in case I needed a bite while on the road.  Fueled and caffeinated I was ready to go.

I took my usual route:  Des Moines River Trail to SE 23rd, Evergreen to SE 34th and the lovel county road to SE 45th, highway 5 to Avon Lake and the back road to Carlisle.  Once in that town I took the Summerset Trail to Summerset Rd and climbed a steep hill on the 1.6 mile remainder to the winery.  21.6 miles one way.

The Des Moines River Trail was flood free.  There was evidence of flooding but the trail was dry.  Above the river and in the trees there were many bald eagles.  Two nests can be seen from this trail.  On my return the trail was busy with families riding bikes or eagle watching.  If you build it they will use it!

Evergreen Rd was fast on the way out.  Big ring action.  Unfortunately the road needs to be repaved.  Traffic was minimal.  On the return trip I fought a headwind and the bumps seemed much worse.

Finally I hit SE 34th and the twisting beautiful county road that winds down to river bottom at SE 45th.  Mostly residential and smooth.  I really wish they stretch was longer, 20 miles long, because it is so enjoyable.

A long climb and descent to highway 5.  Here where people may get nervous.  There's a half mile stretch of the highway to take until  the safety of Avon Lake is reached.

Carlisle is a mere 4 miles away.  The road leads to a Casey's if one needs provisions.  The trail also begins here.

I found the Summerset Trail in good shape after its winter slumber.  It was also being used by many users.  It is a connection from Carlisle to Indianola.  Banner State Park in midway between the two cities.

Summerset Rd is near the center of the trail.  There is a steep but short climb immediately after turning left off the trail.  If you get tired stop at the church for a photo op.  Sinners are welcome!

It was sunny but windy.  Heading south or west had me fighting the wind.  Yet it got to 68 F which was the warmest it has been all year.  I shed my jacket and gloves.

The winery is 1.6 miles from the trail.  After the church the road levels off.  Victory Rose Winery is on the right but does not appear to have a taste room.  Summerset does.  It also has a spacious backroom for events and a patio.  On Sundays they have live music outside.

I was able to find what I wanted right away.  Marshall Foch.  These grapes handle Iowa's short growing season and cold harsh winters.  I think this wine compares quite well with Napa Valley.  Because I cannot find this at my favorite grocery store I have to purchase it from the source.  Hence, this bike ride.  I purchased two bottles and a Blue Moon and sat outside.

Ron Mark, the owner, drove up and stopped by to chat.  He was concerned that the plants may bud early and then fall victim to a frost.  As I saddled up for the return trip Ron said, "it's all down hill from here."  Yes indeed.

But first was a headwind of about 20 mph to deal with.  And the downhill only got me to 33 mph.  This is a 40 mph hill if ever there was.

I was able to rocket on the trail and all northbound sections of my trip.  Western turns were slow because of the wind.

My route home varies.  After Avon Lake and the 1/2 mile stretch of highway 5 and the north turn on SE 45th I take the first left on Hart Rd.  This road takes me to the south east corner of Easter Lake where I turn north again and catch Evergreen Rd.  Hart Rd was littered with beer and soda bottles.  Occasionally pornography can be found in the ditches that mark this road.  Its proximity to the adult bookstore is the likely culprit.

41.75 miles.  Two bottles of vino carried home in a laptop bag.  Good ride and a good day.

Monday, February 22, 2016

Return of the Road Bike

Saturday I busted out the Carbon Rod, my 1994 Trek 2200.  For months I've been riding a hybrid with studded tires.  Time for speed.  Monday I took it to work.  My legs are killing me.

Something about a fast bike that makes me push myself harder.  Greater reward for the effort.  Some great reward.  Moments of pleasure giving way to stiff sore legs.  What hurts today becomes tomorrow's faster muscles.

Looking forward to tomorrow.

Sunday, February 21, 2016

February Thaw

The ice patch.  The sign was true!

As promised by the Weather People, Iowa hi the 60F+ mark and for once we had a decent weekend.  The past 3 or 4 weekends have been crap so this one with its super warm February weather was extra special.  Saturday was only in the 50s but that was good enough.  Everyone was out on bikes.

Mary and I started at home and headed downtown for lunch.  Our original plan was to have breakfast somewhere but by the time we got rolling it was lunch time.  We ate at Fuzzy Tacos.  There were already 6 or 7 bikes there.  The wet outline of the melted snow bank on the curb of SE 3rd was visible.  Gone daddy gone.

Mary's new bike.  90s vintage hybrid custom

Destination Cumming Tap.  We took the MLK Trail to Gray's Lake and opted to weave through the pedestrian traffic of the lake's trail instead of crossing Fleur.  The mud bank along the trail that is between Fleur and the river is about a foot and a half tall.  This really needs to be removed.  To our amazement the trail was not flooded from the recent melt.

This was our first venture on the Great Western Trail this year.  December 6, 2015 was my last venture down south.  If the trail was plowed in the winter I would have been there more often.  But then again weekends have been plagued with cold, windy and icy weather.  Winter miles for me are mostly commuting back and forth to work.  I'm lucky to get 10 miles on a weekend.

The trail was almost perfect which was a most welcome since I opted to ride a road bike sporting 700x23 tires.  Only one area of corner, the original tunnel or now the middle tunnel at the entrance of the golf course.  Thick ice patch about 15 feet long and wet.  I walked over it.  The rest of the trail was fine except for muddy intersections but I was able to ride through them without issue.

I wonder how many photos of Mary and her bike I have taken here

No one was at the Lean To because we were ahead of everyone as usual.  We did get passed by the racing crowd on occasion.  I was not pushing myself very hard on the way down.  I was happy to be on a fast bike that was light years faster than my commuters and fatbike.  No need to beat myself up.  Hate to move the stent.

Smokin' bird and pig at the Tap!!

There were a few bikers at the Tap when we arrived.  Linda had the smoker loaded with wings and pork loin.  I immediately called Donnie Hildreth to ask for him to join us.  If he was unable to drive that far I was going to suggest that he then load his truck with chairs and beer and we'd meet him at the trail a quarter mile from his house.  He drove to the Tap.  Donnie is still on the mend from breaking his back and shoulder and wrist.  He may be back on his bike by June.

Steve and Kathy Fuller also showed up.  They were riding their tandem and checking out the gravel.  Always good to see them.  The conversation soon came down to our recent medical issues.  3 broke dick bikers exchanging war stories.  I was the only one who did not have the pleasure of doctor ordered stool softeners!

Look out Momma there's land rapers in the distance!

On the way back I put the carbon rod into big ring.  Time for speed.  Let Mary push herself on hers.  First stop the Lean To since it was crowded.  Laura Hildreth was out on her new bike.  But soon people continued south to the Tap.  Construction equipment on the edge of the field was a harbinger of "progress" that we did not like.  Maybe our days here are numbered as West Des Moines rapes more land.

When you lack kickstands....

Rolling north again we passed 3 people at the first bridge on the trail.  Mary asked me if I recognized them but I was not paying detailed attention.  After getting his name wrong I determined that she was trying yo say Humesey.  SLAM ON BRAKES AND TURN AROUND.  If crazy people were out then I wanted to see them.  Dave is in a league of his own.  We chatted with Humes, Sally and Nick for about 20 minutes.

Craig lost in thought

We thought the last stop would be at the Water Works bridge.  The bridge was packed with many friends.  Catt was there and left when we gave him the Humesey Report.  He was to ride with them.  But alas everyone split, some heading to Cumming, others elsewhere.  Mary was starving so it was home for us.

Mary's new bike and The Carbon Rod

About this time we saw something to remind us that not everyone was enjoying the day.  Did not know whether to laugh or call her out but a woman on a fatbike pulling a kid in a Wee-Hoo trailer rode through water and mud completely blasting the kid Nickelodeon style. "She refused to take her sunglasses." Kid needed a biohazard suit.  She did not look happy and could not open her mouth without getting mud in it.  Yep, 4+ inch offroad tires kick up a lot of muck.  Old fashion slapstick comedy or child abuse? Different bike with fenders, Sugar, your kid will thank you for it if you can bribe her again for another ride..  

One last stop.  SW 30th.  Joe Hildreth on his new bike returning from the Polar Ride.  As usual good to see him.  We discussed the up coming bicycle season and our plans.  He was running out of daylight so we let him go.  We were running out of daylight as well and our bikes had the sum total of one rear flasher.

Joe H riding home.

Mary and milked the most out of the Sun's love.  A February like this had not been around since 1995.  Walnut Creek was flooding the Bill Riley Trail,  George Flagg was closed because of water and the Raccoon River was bank full at places.  And always it is still February and winter could return with a vengence.  One weekend to really enjoy it.  Make the most of it, the return of winter and flooding will be hell.

Saturday, February 13, 2016

Return of the Commuter

Return to the Rack with Fiber One on top!

It was difficult but it had to be done.  Did not want to go an entire week without riding to work,  I ridden maybe 8 miles since the stent was placed inside me but those were flat miles without the pressure of time restraints.  So easy to lay in bed an extra hour or so before leaving for work.  And the climate changer has heat and a stereo and comfy seats.  Plus we were experiencing the last blast of arctic air this winter, hopefully.

Half hour before the alarm was to go off our dog squeezed between us and body slammed me 3 times to gain a few more inches on the bed.  Then when the klaxon sounded I partially dressed and let Fritz out.  20F and does not seem that bad.  Time to dress and find all the survival clothing I had not worn in 10 days.

Time to leave. The NiteRider battery charged overnight.  The bike was partially packed the night before.  The only thing extra I packed was a box of Fiber One.  The rest was loaded before launch.  The 930 am daily dose of meds, work keys, wallet and sunglasses.  Turn on the lights and leave the warmth of the house.

Still felt decent outside, perhaps I will make it.  Walked the bike from the deck to the gate at the driveway.  The path from the deck to the gate is super rutted from biking on it and now snow covered.  No sense in crashing here.  Open the gate.  Then it hit me.  That jealous north wind.  Cold and strong.  "Hello human, time to suffer."  2 blocks west, 3 blocks north then trail exposed to the river.  1.5 miles until the tree line blocks the wind.

Mullets smelled good.  One of the pleasures of the commute is wafting of smoking meat.  The trail had about an inch of fresh snow.  Partially buried fatbike tracks and a fresh skinny tire tracks from Joe Ayers hybrid.  Good to know Joe was out.  For some reason Donna Summer's Love To Love You Baby became the ear worm.  Strange because I have not listened to that track since lord knows when nor own a copy of it.  Oh well, better than anything from Grease which Dora watched last night.  Let it flow and assess.

Should have added a headband.  2 miles into this, still could turn around and have Timmy drive me.  No, keep going.  My speed was the same as it would have been on the Soho on a dry trail.  Good.  Do not push it.  No sense in shoving the throttle into the firewall to see if my heart was truly repaired.  Any physical breakdown would be certain death.  I don't care about the Rule of 3.  3 hours without heat may be long enough but a heart event at these temps would be fatal.  Keep heart rate as low as possible.  Shakedown cruise.

Reached the 5.5 mile point, the bench by the access road that leads to Angel's old house.  I was thinking that this was taking forever but in 3 miles I'd be on Buffalo Rd and then Westown Pkwy and making better time after the hills.  The hills would be a good test.

Fox tracks appeared on the trail.  Beautiful.  Could not tell if it was one or two or more but they were all over in several sets.  These went on until we reached Pal Joey's.  Then we approached Windsor Heights and saw Jason and Cassandra walking their Fox Terriers.  They walk their dogs every morning in all but the very worst of  the weather.  They also ride bikes and Jason runs to work at least once a week weather and floods permitting.  Stopped to chat since it has been about two weeks.  Their dogs were lurching at Mary in a friendly was probably detecting the subtle scent of Fritz.

At last Wal Mart and Burger King.  Time to part ways from Mary and leave the security of the trail for the streets and its sloppiness and cars.  Did the time check, 537 am.  Prefer to be on the other side of 530 am but it is what it is.  Time to climb.

The streets were wet.  Stay in the center of the lane to avoid the worst gunk.  salt and sand and black snow mush otherwise.  But on the flats I was going faster.  With one mile to go a woman driving a newer Volvo rolled down her window and uttered something like "be careful."  Muggle.  Silly woman, dollar for dollar given the size my tires are much more expensive and professional grade.  My say "Klondike" on them and have studs for ice.  I bet hers say "all-season".  Jack of all trades master of none.  Westown Pkwy was not slick for me.  Soon I inside work with Starbuck's in hand.  Text Mary "Safe."

The sunglasses were needed after work.  The wind picked up and the temperature was a few degrees colder than the morning's.  Head north into the wind toward the Clive Greenbelt.  This adds 3 miles to the commuter but is much safer than westown Pkwy and Buffalo Rd at this time of day.  the trail had not been groomed.  From what I have been told Clive has not shown their usual vigilance in clearing the snow off the trail during the past two weeks that I have not ridden  on it.  Now it is riddled with foot prints that turn to ice  in the sun.  Hidden ice underneath the latest snow caused Mary to crash twice during curves this morning.  Anders admitted that he now needs studded tires.  Despite this I rolled eastward fine.  Stooped to visit Anders at The Rookie, his shop, at 100th and waited for Mary there.  His goal was not to crash.  At That point I had not crashed.  I cannot recall my last bike crash.

This was to change not long after Mary and resumed our home bound journey.  We passed a man walking a dog westward and then had to make a curve.  I took the outside where the snow was not rutted with footprints, Mary was in the lead taking the inside.  WHAM!!  My bike slid out from underneath me. So much for studded tires.  Speed and curves and ice hidden underneath fluffy snow.   Landed on my right side, elbow and right arm and right hip sharing the impact.  My head did not hit the ground.  Helmet was not of use here.  This reminds me that i should check for bruising.  Brilinta, my new medicine to prevent my stent from clogging up, makes me more susceptible for bruising. From the medication guide "You may bruise  and bleed more easily."  How comforting.  One year of 180 mg per day of this.

The impact must have been loud.  Both the dog walker and Mary stopped and asked it I was ok.  I was fine but a bit worried that my phone may have been damaged.  Mary said that there were 6 deer in the vicinity but I was more concerned with damage assessment.  Nothing but a sore elbow.  Did not even check the bike.  "I'm fine!"  Got up and rolled a bit.  Stopped to text Craig. "When you get to a bar text me.  Will join you for a beer.  REPEAT WILL JOIN YOU FOR BEER."  Resume east with the wind at out backs.  Craig was at Pal Joey's.  Good place to stop since we got the 911 call from Timmy asking for money for a doctor's visit.  One beer would allow Mary to talk to him to see what was up.  breathing issues due to bronchitis.  When did he get that?  Give us an hour.

With Craig we continued east toward our house so we could hook up with Timmy and give him $$.  Sounds like we are bad parents but he will be 19 years old tomorrow.  He had his GF Sam with him and his sister Dora.  Extra cash to feed her.

I don't think I drank half of this.  Should have had water not PBR.

He took off like there was a fire but Mary and I kept our usual pace.  Eventually he wore out or slowed down and we rode together.  We were side by side near Gray's lake when I spoke.  "This is where years of experience pays off.  It is night and extremely cold.  Any newbie would surely perish or not attempt this right now.  Too fucking cold.  Yet we are thriving in it."  He agreed.  To the north of us we could see the colored lights on the bridge over the lake through the dormant trees.  Above that the skyline of downtown Des Moines.  Truly beautiful sight, a picture so serene.  A photo worthy moment but to stop and take that picture would not be wise.  Deadly cold, maybe 10F now with a howling northwest wind.  Almost to our destination.

Craig's original text was "who has the cheapest beer east of Fleur?"  I said Extra Innings which is less than a half mile from home and worked well with both the Timmy Issue and Mary'a need for food.  the barkeep and patrons were amazed with our fortitude to ride on a night like this.  Windy and 9F now.  They were more amazed when I told them that Mary and started 15 miles west of here.  We only stayed for a few(four each and 2 for Mary) beers before Craig needed to head west and Mary needed food.  I probably could had rolled home and gone to bed but Mary does not get to eat lunch like I do.  Redress and a shot of Jager.  Fuzzy Tacos was our choice.  Cheap eats and $2 schooners of PBR.  6 tacos and 2 PBRs plus chips and salsa--$17 and change.  This was the closet place other than Mullets and just over a half mile away.  But we had to get there first.

The wind was as strong as ever and we headed straight into its teeth.  I kept thinking that this had to be it.  The last blast of the jealous north wind and air.  Mid February, winter has to end soon.  Next week's forecast is much better.  A few weeks from now it will be March and the snow will be in full retreat and the grass will be turning green and trees will be budding and flowers will appear and birds will return and fill the sky with song.  So here I am out in the worst of it the first day after I got the all clear from Iowa Heart to resume bicycle commuting.  Of course they probably would not recommend an evening of beer and tacos but that is more of a cholesterol and triglyceride issue.  I had to do it.  One act of defiance to show the Arctic that it cannot stop me.  I hated every pedal stroke into it but was unwilling to submit.  No looking back, we're pushing through.  Gonna beat them all tonight.  Turn the heater on!  Never surrender!  Soon this will be over and I'll be on a road bike and sweating from the heat but not fearing for my life.

Oh yes, my heart was fine.  Never felt it bitching at me, asking me to knock it off.  Wait until road bike weather to hit WEP and find out how strong I am.  I missed over 200 miles since February 2nd, my legs should have barked.

Thursday, February 4, 2016

Tinkering With the Ticker PtIII Please Be The Last Time


Seems like this has been going on for a year or over a year.  We got my blood pressure to "normal" with the aid of three pills per day.  I recovered a lot of my former strength but noticed that when I pushed myself hard on the bike I could feel my heart.  Not painful.  Not frightening.  Just an awareness that I never had before.  The worst was the day after Christmas when I rode home on a trashed Clive Greenbelt.  Fresh snow ruined by millions of footprints.  It was not unlike riding through sand and gave me a hell of a workout.  This went on for an hour and seemed to take me 2 days to recover.  Of course I have been telling Iowa Heart about this sensation ever since I discovered it.

I continued to see the nurse practitioner at Iowa Heart who orders more tests than the heart doctor proper.  Then I was placed on Crestor because I finally asked if my cholesterol level had been checked.  Despite filling many test tubes since this odyssey began that had never been checked.  Imagine that, it was high and so were my triglycerides. Beer raises triglycerides as well as soda and sugar and carbs.  She told me to cut out pop, which I rarely drink, but barley pop needs to be cut too. As a final stroke of genius I was asked to pay $99 out of pocket for a "calcium scoring."  Basically, a MRI that looks at the heart's blood vessels to determine plaque build up.  Results not promising.  They recommend that I exercise 5 to 7 days a week and start an aspirin regiment.  Jolene, my nurse practitioner had other ideas.

Stress test

I was scheduled for another stress test.  This time I was able to complete it.  Basically they wanted my heart to get to 150 beats per minute so they can get a EKG reading of it and see how long it takes me to calm down and return to baseline.  Honestly, my bike ride to Iowa Heart was more taxing on me.  During the test I never felt my heart.  But the EKG does not lie.  And the calcium score plus this test suggested that I was clogged.  Angiogram was scheduled for the following week.

My last bike ride was Tuesday the day before.  The weather folks screaming that an end of the world snow storm/blizzard was upon us.  I got to work with a tail wind and not a single sighting of a snowflake.  After I got there it snowed and the wind picked up.  I decide to call in the airstrike to take me home.  The last thing I needed was to have a heart attack fighting this wind and the wet heavy snow.  Besides, I had to round up my buddy's van before the big day.

An angiogram is a procedure that involves pumping a subject up with dye and threading an instrument into the blood vessel to the heart to look for blockages.  With the aid of radiation such issues become visible.  If a significant blockage is found a stent is inserted to widen the passage.  When Iowa Heart began this in the 1980s they may have done 1 or 2 per day.  If they did 3 per day a pizza party was ordered for the doctors and nurses.  Now up to 20 per day are performed.  My doctor was the founder of this at Mercy.

Two things I did not like about this.  1, I was not to be unconscious.  Had to be awake for the whole thing.  I was giving meds to keep me calm and pain free but I was aware and that bothered me. 2, Doc likes to go through the groin and not the arm.  Bigger vein and he can see more of my innards.

6 or 7 people were in there.  KGGO was the radio station.  I remember Free Bird and some AC/DC.  The ceiling was stained.  Many computer monitors were above me.  Perhaps they let me look at them.  Supposedly an amnesia drug was given to me but I did have a Xanax like drug before I was wheeled in.  I do remember the Novocaine shot which hurt like any shot does but that was it for pain except one other.

When they were almost done I could feel something on my heart.  They said they placed a stent in.  70% blockage.  They said that it was not placed in the "widow maker," not a comforting notion.  Then the real pain.  They had to plug the hole in my groin, the hole in the blood vessel they used to travel up me.  Great pressure.  I don't know what they used but it felt like they shoved something under my skin and applied super pressure to make sure it stayed.

I was then wheeled out to recovery and a few hours later was asked to get out of bed and walk around, use the restroom if necessary but do not force a #2 because the wound might come undone and I'D BLEED OUT.

They let me go after that.  Told to pick up another medicine that would prevent the stent from be covered up by my body's defenses.  One year. of this.  Expect bruising and longer than normal bleeding.

Took some Tylenol last night.  Anything else would mess with the kidneys.  Getting up and down is a bit slow.  And coughing, good grief it hurts to cough.  So damn lucky a cold caught me a few days ago.

Because of the dye I need to flush my system very thoroughly.  This means drink a lot of water.  So once again I am getting out of ed every two hours.  2 nights in a row of this.  Tuesday they had me drink 6 glasses of water in preparation of the procedure.  Getting old but I need to save my kidneys.

I owe my life to bicycling.  Honestly, it has kept me in good shape.  Kept my heart strong enough to survive this stress.  Without biking I little doubt that I would have had a heart attack and possibly died.