Sunday, May 29, 2016

1000 Mile May

Taken from McKinley Rd 

Despite all the rain, cold weather, crappy weekends and my poor health I managed to clock in over 1000 miles for the month of May, 2016.  This is my first 1K month since October 2015.  Big debt of gratitude goes to having the first week of the month off and the 240 miles ridden Monday through Friday that week.  Another key to this was riding the extra 3 miles every morning to work despite the rain.  It adds up.  And my lovely wife Mary who stoked the tandem with me or rode along for various adventures.  I cannot forget Donnie and Joe Hildreth for a great 62 miler to St Mary's last week.  But it comes down to the final ride, the last full measure, crossing that line.  Today we made an adventure out of it.

Mary and I on the Trestle first week of  May.

Late start.  I needed a mere 24 miles.  Just waking up and hopping on a bike would have made it easy.  But I was scheduled to distribute Holy Communion at Church at 830 am and it being the feast day of The Most Holy Body & Blood of Christ it would look bad if I no showed.  Afterwards we sat around home and ate pancakes and played on computers.  Motivation was wilting away as the temperature increased to the 80s.  The 1000 mile point would be crossed on Tuesday going to and fro work if all else fails.  Around noon we decided to roll and changed into biking clothes.  I remembered to apply sun block for once.

The Hildreth brothers and me on our ride to St Mary's.  I really hate my jersey now.

Outside the door the decision was made on the destination.  By this time of year we have ridden in every direction and just a mileage goal was not helping.  Bondurant was considered but it seems like we were just there.  Were we up for a 40 so "late" in the day?  Maybe north to Johnston and the ice cream shop?  Rode that way Friday night.  Cumming, a 23 mile round trip which would suffice since we rode 1 mile to Church and back.  Mary said no since she thought the trail would be too crowded.  But she could not make a decision either.  In the end we picked Cumming.  Mary counted all the bikes we encountered from Mullets to Orlando's.  79 going the opposite direction.

But when we were crossing Park Ave about 30 bikers got on the trail.  Damn, she was right.  Fortunately I had to stop and deal with a phone issue.  Let them go.  New plan:  turn around and ride to Pleasant Hill and have margaritas at that Mexican joint in Copper Creek.  Maybe have Crabb meet us there.  But we pushed on to McKinley.

New Plan 2  take McKinley up to the the first paved road north and ride home.  It's been neaqrly 4 years that I've ridden that road.  Used to take it all the time home from work when i worked at the PFG call center.  Sadly, the road has really rotted.  I don't know why they bother mowing the shoulders.  but we we topped it Mary suggested he continue west toward Walnut Woods.  It has been even longer since we rode there.

Some hills but that was good.  We rode through the park itself and exited and continued on.  Take the back roads to Orilla or Cumming.  County roads are solace when trails are crowded.  better to be passed by an occasional car than deal with 300 bikes.  Besides this close to the Ragbrai and we really need to be on roads instead of trails for better training.

My phone went off near Army Post Rd so we stopped.  It was Quin our second son wanting to borrow a tent.  We pulled over to the closed road and talked.  About that time the large group of bikes that we saw earlier were coming from the south to this intersection.  Ends up they were the Dream Team or something akin training.  I asked if they were heading south, no.  We headed south up the hill to Moffit Lake Rd and took a left at the first paved road.

That road had like 4 names and soon turned to gravel but lead us to the road that bisects Cumming.  Good gravel which was a miracle because we both were riding 700x23s.  I had to laugh because within a minute of entering the gravel a car passed me.  The west wind prevented me and more importantly from being covered by dust and grit.  Mary and I are hard enough on bicycles without intentionally destroying them by riding on filthy surfaces such as this.  guess we were hip, riding on gravel.  We got what we wanted, a road to ourselves like we had yesterday albeit crappy surface.

Once in Cumming we did not even stop.  Had to get home, child in need of a tent for camping that night.  And a sleeping bag.  The pancakes were long gone anyway, need to eat.  Now we had a tailwind to keep our speed up.  Enjoyable.  Weave through the bikes.  The closer we got to Des Moines the thicker the bikes.  Should have taken county roads back.  Then there right near the end was Nikki and Aaron with their two kids pulled off the trail dealing with an issue surely related to riding with young children on hot days (well the hottest day this season).  I almost texted Aaron to say it will get better about 10 years from now when they will only phone you when you ride asking for a tent or when's dinner.

The rest of the way was fast and crowded.  I should have slowed down but the energy was with me and I wanted to get home.  Had my miles.  And suddenly our oldest child appears and we stopped and regrouped.  head home and determine when tent pick up would be then off to Court Avenue Brew Pub for post ride/pre-dinner beer and wings.  Life is good!  Celebrate the success!

Lessons:  Early starts.  Stay off trails during peak hours.  Explore old roads and new ways.  Empty county highways.  It's almost June and hill training is in order.

Monday, May 23, 2016

The Morning Sun

There is an older gentleman that rides a recumbent around town.  I see him all the time.  One day we met on the Des Moines River Trail.  It was after work.  He said that he was returning to the exact spot where the sun's final rays turned the woods into a bright orange glow.  I tried finding it there the next day.  Never did see it.  Just had to be there at that one magical moment when all conditions are perfect.  The earth's position and atmospheric conditions and being at the precise location.  Not easy.

This morning I found my spot.  Sunrise.  The darkness of winter so far away and now it's getting close to full daylight on the commute to work.  I feel it is so late when I get to work and have not needed bike lights to see.  But today I knew I was not late.  My health was the best it had been in months and the bike was moving fast.  Actually left home early for a change.

Somewhere on Clive's Greenbelt Trail it happened.  About 11 miles into the commute.  Just passed the 3 mile marker and headed into the curves.  Tight little switchbacks not unlike skiing.  Carved the bike to the left and prepared to turn it back to the right and I saw it.

Everything was bathed in a red glowing light.  My first thought was that there was someone behind me with a large red light.  I glanced over my right shoulder and saw the deepest and brightest red sunrise ever between the trees,  Instead of stopping and taking a photo right then and there I pushed on hoping for a clearing.  No clearing until NW 114th was reached.  Missed the best of the reds but I am happy with the photos I took.

Saturday, May 7, 2016

Big Week 2016

Perry, Iowa
It's not been a great year for cycling for me.  Health issues aside, and I've overcome them, 2016 has been  loaded with rainy, windy and cold weekends.  Seems that Tuesday has generally been the best day of the week.  My miles have been mostly Monday through Friday commuting to and fro work.

Looking to the future has been bleak as well.  The skeleton crew at work beats me to the punch in getting vacation approved months before I ask.  My June requests fell on deaf ears since everyone asked for those weeks off.  I got Ragbrai approved, thankfully.  But I did not use all my PTO last year and rolled it over for this year.  I do not recall taking significant time since Ragbrai last year except for a few days here in there for medical reasons.  I needed a break.  I needed to do some riding.  Then I saw the first full week of May was available.  Mary was not able to get the entire week off but had Wednesday through Friday off.  So a few days of solo and a few days with Wifey.  Do it.

The Map
The plan was loosely simple.  Ride as many miles as possible, pray for good weather, pray for health.  Close call on both.  The first weekend was cold and rainy and flooded out major trails.  And two weeks prior I came down with bronchitis and a torqued ankle.  But by May 1st the antibiotics were doing their job and I could walk without a limp.

Originally I wanted to take off on Saturday and ride to the High Trestle Trail, camp out at The Bridge on a picnic table and then ride to Slater and ride the entire Heart of Iowa Trail and camp in Melbourne.  The third day would be to ride home via the Chichaqua Valley Nature Trail.  Colin Lamb was going to be my partner in crime for this.  My Gravity Vanquish single speed would be the steed.  It's wide tires would be needed on the unpaved HoIT.  But the rain and cold and my desire to have a few more days of healing told me otherwise.  My other idea would have me get up with Mary and ride her to work and then break off for a century on the Raccoon River Valley Trail.  While people would be working I'd be at the office of my LeMond Versailles cranking out miles.  Back to back centuries.

That moment, on the Clive Greenbelt

Monday came and I was an hour late leaving.  Not organized but I did manage to roll out by 530 am.  Breakfast consisted of two egg & cheese tacos which started the food theme of tacos everyday.  Had to take Ingersoll Ave instead of the Bill Riley Trail because of a correct suspicion that the trail would be flooded.  I was right.  I did a clockwise loop of the RRVT.  Felt great to be on the old friend.

Redfield, Iowa
I was blessed with gifts from nature.  Somewhere in the canopy north of Redfield I witnessed two Blue Jays chase a large owl.  The owl got about a foot off the trail using the ground effects for speed but every time he/she climbed for the safety of the canopy the jays attacked.  Eventually the jays gave up their pursuit and the owl landed on the the right shoulder.  As I passed we stared at each other.  The owl stood almost to my knees and gave me the look of a very pissed off cat.

Other sights included a fox running across the trail west of Jamaica and two pheasants at an intersection near Dawson.

Not a lake but a corn field.  What water was not standing was flowing south toward Des Moines.
One thing I did see that I did not like was all the water standing in fields and low places.  They got a lot of rain north of the metro and what was not standing was flowing south into the tributaries that feed the rivers and streams that flow through Des Moines.  Prospects for long time closed trails.  The water below the bridge between Dawson and Perry was extremely high and 5 times beyond its banks,

The one mistake I made was not recovering properly once home.  I had time to shower and consume a drink and take my daughter to her band concert.  No feeding, no real replacement of fluids.  This probably would not have been an issue except that the only food I consumed for the 111 miles was two egg and cheese tacos before leaving, two PowerBars and 1 bag of PowerBar gels.  No road food.  Lesson learned--EAT!

Tuesday was a recovery day.  I knew that I failed to recover properly.  Take it easy.  14 miles on the Trek Soho to view flood damage and then ride the Vanquish to Cumming for Taco Night with Colin.  I stayed in my pajamas all day for all 44 miles.  I recovered.  Steak and Ramen for lunch.

Steak and Ramen

Causal Tuesday.  I rode 44 miles dressed like this

The Soho was the hack bike of the week.  Grocery runs through flooded trails ect.  It got over 25 miles this week.

Colin and Randy at the Cumming Tap.

Sam at the Lean To.  He helped me drink the bottle of Sangria since Colin was too chickenshit.

Tacopocalypse on Tuesday at Cumming.  Day Two of the Taco Theme.
Wednesday Mary was able to ride all day.  To our displeasure it was windy.  Since the LeMond was still filthy from Monday's century and her roadie nearly as dirty we opted for the Cannondale RT3000 tandem.  La Machine.  Light and fast.  No racks, no bags, not even one of those frame bags, built for untamed speed.  Breakfast was at Fuzzy Tacos in tradition of the Taco Theme.

We rode to Bondurant, Iowa.  Our route was the new trail extension from Berwick.  but to get there we took MLK all the way to E 30th and one block north to Scott Ave and then a right to the Gay Lea Wilson trailhead in Pleasant Hill.  Wunderbar!!  Ja!!  MLK is not completed BUT it has a side path all the way except for the last 50 yards.  This eliminates the industrial zones we used to take and most of the railroad crossings and traffic.  Now the jaunt on E 30th may involve some trucks but it only lasts about 2 minutes.  Once on the trail we turned toward Copper Creek to catch the 4 Mile Creek Trail to catch the Chichaqua Nature Valley Trail near Berwick.  NOTE  none of these trails were flooded.

Reclaimed Rails Brewery.  Opens at 4 pm.  It is 11 am in this photo.

Bondurant was as far as we went.  Mingo would have been nice, Baxter an ultimate goal but we were not in the mood to fight the wind anymore.  We both were disappointed that the new brewery, Reclaimed Rails, does not open its taproom until 4 pm.  It was 11 when we got there.

We took the old way home.  First we rode to the trailhead of the Chichaqua Trail and then county roads all the way to Altoona where we caught the eastern start of the GLW Trail.  Scott Ave to E 30th then MLK.  We were flying on the way back.  Sustained 30+ mph on the flat until that damn stop sign north of the graveyard.  Felt great to work well together and get the C-dale up to speed.

Best water station I have ever seen.  Bondurant, Iowa.
Once home, a quick nap and then I took the Soho through the flooded Des Moines River Trail to get to Fareway to get the fixin's needed for dinner.  55 mile day.  Yes, my feet got wet but I rode at a No Wake Speed.

Thursday's preride meal was at Margarita's Mexican Restaurant.  I had the Two Tacos lunch.

Thursday was more ambitious.  Ride to the High Trestle and stop at Snus Winery.  Because of the delayed Neal Smith Trail closure for repavement of a certain section that is most likely flooded, we essentially took 6th Ave all the way to Ankeny.  Normally we turn at the Italian restaurant in Saylorville, fly down the hill and intercept the connection of the NST to Oralabor Rd.  This time we continued north and ended up exactly where we wanted to be: The Git n Go on the corner of Oralabor Rd and Irvindale Ave.  It was a pleasant road with a nice fast hill and residential. This cut off maybe 2 miles.  Once on Irvindale Ave head north to the High Trestle Trail.  Straight shot, no bullshit or hills and sidepath available.  5 miles from the Oasis and Julie Hugos bench.

A quick respite at the Oasis and then straight to The Bridge.  The tandem was once again traveling fast.  There was one quick stop at the git n Go in Madrid for Gatorade.  Said sports drink was needed to was out the airplane bottle of tequilla we each did on the Bridge.  It was Cinco de Mayo and we needed to rehydrate.

Snus Winery was a wonderful stop.  I wish we had time to split a bottle but we did not.  However, since we were on bicycles we were given a free glass.  Mary chose Kitten which is their sangria and I picked the Marechal Foch, the only variety that grows in Iowa that truly competes with Napa Valley in terms of a dry red.  We sat on on the big white rocking chairs and relaxed until it was time to go home.  I want to return and perhaps witht eh other tandem or a bagger bike.  Spinna, their moscato take wa delish and I also like Blushing Clair, their rose.  Another ride.  As it was we were able to take 2 bottles, Marechal Foch and the Kitten home plus two glasses to add to our collection.

Relaxing at Snus Winery.

One of these rides I plan to split a bottle while resting on Snus' rocking chairs.

We scored two bottles and two glasses.

Bad timing. It was rush hour and there's a reason all the crossroads on the HTT are paved, people live out here and drive to and fro their places of employment.  originally we were going to head to Polk City once we reached the Oasis and eat at Papa's Pizzeria, a highly recommended destination, and then take the NST home.  But we worried about the trail whether it was flooded or not and I really rather not have a big meal for some odd reason.  We headed back to the Git n Go at Oralabor Rd and then took the NST connection.

Unfortunately, we forgot about the construction on NW 66th at Sycamore Access.  There were signs, we ignored them, too busy of a sign to read.  There was a detour but we got on it late having to walk the bike across 66th.  The rest of the way was good.  Despite the flooding the river only came within a few yards of the trail and we had no issues.

Two days on tandem, 44 and 75 miles, gave way to our singles which were cleaned and lubed and aired up and ready to roll.  It was Friday and time to roll south.  Head to Carlisle and take the Summerset Trail to Indianola.  The McVay Trail would take us to highway 92 and then about a mile to Annelise Winery.  On the way back we hit Summerset Winery.  Honestly, I think the glass of  Summerset's Marshal Foch wine was the best glass of wine I had in my entire life.  True, I purchased two bottles back in February  but something about today's glass was outstanding.  The only downer was that I only had room to carry back one bottle today.

In Carlisle stop at Fiss's for their giant tacos.  I had two.  12" tortilla.

Annelise Winery.  The owner is putting a lot of money into this place. in expanding parking and festivity rooms.

Summerset Winery.

Back on the trail we rode hard to get back to Des Moines to join the cycling community at Confluence Brewery for the Bike Month Kickoff.  Delayed by a train in Avon Lake and then gambling that Hartford Rd would not be busy since the Des Moines River Trail, our normal route, was flooded, we managed to get to the brewery by 7 pm and enjoy a beer with our bicycle friends.  We stayed until dark.  I was glad I put a light on my bike but thought it was dim until I remembered I was still wearing my prescription sunglasses.  Made it home alive a little more baked from the sun but just as good as I was when I left.  60 miles.

Essentially this was a Ragbrai tune up.  I put in 340 miles from Monday through Friday.  Discovered that I really should eat on the road but eat light.  Despite all the opportunities I kept my alcohol consumption light as well.  Zero mechanical issues.  greater appreciation for the tandem and the road bike and most of all my loving wife Mary.