Friday, August 26, 2016

Stolen Ideas Gone Weird

The past two years saw Mary and I riding to Johnston, Iowa, to visit my mother.  She lived alone in an apartment and we needed to make sure she took her meds, had something to eat, give her company and in general see that she was OK.  It was kinda like having a toddler 11 miles away in its own apartment.  I think she liked to mess with us.  I called this the Great Johnston Bike Lift.  Mary would be there almost twice a day.  My sister, Patty, was there everyday as well.  So Mary and I had a lot of time on the Trestle to Trestle Trail.

One night as we rode back to our home in  Little Italy I had a bad thought.  We were on a particularly dark section of trail surrounded by trees when this thought occurred.  What if there were clowns out there hiding behind the trees.  What if we dressed as scary clowns, hid behind trees and jumped out at cyclists at the last moment at night?  People would literally defecate their pants.  I found this humorous and spoke this to Mary and my family.  Our oldest child, Katie, thought that was a bad idea.  'Dad, that's why people have concealed weapons permits."  True.  I would be laughing so hard I'd be paralyzed as the "victim" would regain composure and beat the life out of me, laughing as the blows hit and I lay bleeding to death.  So I gave up on the idea. 

Distant memory until last night.  We left Sully's and were heading to Mullets after 9 pm and taking the Bill Riley Trail.  As we approached the bridge spanning the Raccoon River at Water Works Park I noted that there were bicycles on the bridge.  I was hoping for friendlies.  It was dark as summer is almost over.  

Sure, there were two bicycles on the bridge but the riders, now dismounted were wearing scary clown masks and laughing.  We laughed back and rode on.  Once on the road Mary suggested that we need to go back and have her photo taken with them.  One of her co-workers is deathly afraid of clowns.  Good idea!.  We turned around for the photo.

They were more than happy to oblige the photo request and even offered me a beer.  Sam Adams Octoberfest.  Damn, that time of year again but a good beer.  We stayed long enough to watch them in action but the effect was probably ruined by our presence.  Still a good time.

You just never know what you will find on the trail!

Saturday, August 13, 2016

What a Difference 12 Hours Makes

Friday's are so supposed to be smooth, painless and fast.  Right?  Not Friday August 12, 2016.  The commute to work was rough, potentially painful and slow.  Work was alright and then WHAM, difficult.  All part of life but it is Friday and I wanted to be free to meet my beloved wife and have dinner and drinks and take a photo.

Thursday was a stormy night.  It was a rare occasion that I actually shut down my computer due to a thunderstorm.  I saw a flash, the lights flicked and a deafening cascade of thunder struck.  Time to cut my losses and shut this machine down just in case.  I lost one earlier to a slow miserable death due to lightning.  The rain was coming down in sheets from the east on my street.  And it was still raining when I woke up albeit a light rain.  Forget the jacket since I'll be just as wet because of sweat.  The temperature has not cooled down over night.

So we rode to the suburbs.  15 miles west of here in an on and off light rain.  I probably should have ridden my 2011 Trek Soho with its fenders and bags and wide puncture resistant tires with reflective sidewalls and internal gearing and drum brakes, an ideal all weather commuter.  But it is slow and I need to index it and the tarp blew off of it during the storm and now the seat and bags are wet.  I was not carrying anything to work anyway except my meds, wallet, keys and sunglasses.  My work clothing is already there and I do not have any laundry to ferry to work.  Did I mention it is a slow bike?  I opted for the 1994 Trek 2200, the Carbon Rod.  Old faithful.  As fast as I want it to be.  Fresh from a 2 month rest from a tire issue (see Tire Issue) it would be hitting 1000 miles for the year today.  It is Friday, the bike is dirty from the previous day's commute and cleaning and lubing are in order for the weekend.  I was more worried about mud than anything else.

Mary decided to ride with me this morning.  She is switching her location of employment and now is returning to the farthest edge of the metro for the school year.  We will now ride together 12 miles, mostly trail before splitting in different directions.  She opted for her single speed Windsor since her Specialized needs brake work.  She has fenders and bags which are used to carry a laptop and a change of clothes.  Unfortunately, after we hit the point of no return she announces that she lacks a rear flasher.  Yeah, we could have turned around at that point and grabbed one but we pressed on planning to take the trail which was now less than a half mile away.  It is 430 am.

The rain was light and sometimes stopped for a bit and sometimes picked up.  On the government weather radar site it was blue which is lighter than green.  I used my phone to check this since I shut down my computer last night.  We really were not getting wet, too wet.  Our neighborhood was fine.  there was no discussion to take Ingersoll Ave, "The Avenue!", instead of the trail which is something we do when the trails are flooded or otherwise incapacitated due to weather.  Took that left turn at Mullets and rolled along the south bank of the Raccoon with the smell of skunk wafting through the air and suicidal rabbits darting out in front of us every 20 seconds.  The deer would be out in force now that the thunder has stopped.  Sure enough, a doe and three little bastards in view wondering what to do as we approached.  Raccoons next.  It's a zoo.  Other than dodging critters the trail was fine for the first 4 miles.

Once to the horse barns we increased our alertness.  Expect large puddles because rain collects on low points and does not drain quickly because of slit and mud build up.  The possibility that the river has flooded the trail is very real since it has rained two days in  a row.  Remember the flood of 2008 started in August.  Cautiously take the curve underneath the rail trestle since Walnut Creek notoriously floods this section.  If not flooded it could be muddy.  Crashing is not desired.  No floods just 3 significant puddles that thankfully could be forded and the water was not up to our bottom brackets.

Now the real issue begins to appear.  Tree debris all over the paved trail.  Leaves, twigs and branches.  Nothing huge, nothing insurmountable just everywhere creating a bumpy ride.  The possibility of crashing greatly increased because some of the branches are large.  Time to thread the needle.  The beloved canopy took a hit.  Watch out for fallen trees.

Now the rain picked up.  My glasses are almost useless and I need to clean them every so often.  I did not think about getting on the road when we reached Grand Avenue.  Stubborn determination.  We encounter Jason and Cassandra walking their Airedales on the trail and exchange pleasantries.  He asked how the trail was.  I often see him riding his bike home after work.  Or running.  He likes to run to work once a week.  This encounter informs me that we are running a bit behind.  My Cateye is a model that does not cycle a clock so I do not know what the time is but since we are near the home of the dog walkers time is not a big issue.  Go around the curve to the place where a privacy fence hides the homes and we stop.

A huge tree is down.  instead of falling perpendicular to the trail it is virtually lengthwise, top facing us.  The best way around it is to walk the bikes between the tree and the fence.  this is where I coined the term "Indiana Jonesing It."  I went first breaking branches with my hands and pushing debris out of the way.  Mary expressed a desire for a machete.  Took a bit but we made it.  We passed the broken part of the fence with nails sticking out.  Fun times!  Back in the saddle again.  Pass the dog park and roll through Colby Park and not that the sprinklers are not on.

At Wal Mart/Burger King she asked which route I was going to take.  The trail.  Should have taken Buffalo Rd/Westown Pkwy but I was stubborn and did not want to ride on the streets after a rain because streets are too gritty and filthy after rain.  So now we began Clive's Greenbelt Trail.  It was loaded with tree debris and some large branches to avoid.  The underpass of 86th St was still closed from Wednesday nights rain. so we schelped it over the road and resumed on the trail.  Although Walnut Creek receded from the trail here yesterday it had a 2 inch coating of mud.  Today I did not bother checking.  Trust the closed gates.  100th St was still open and fine.  114th was still closed so did the walk around on very soggy grass.

Somewhere along here we encountered another bicycle commuter in the rain.  Two lights on his bike.  I asked him about the trail.  he said it was clear.  Good news.  Lots of debris after seeing him but "clear" apparently means passable.

The 14 blocks between 114th and 128 were another story.  Tree down.  Get back on the bike and make 10 pedal strokes and dismount for another tree.  Get back on and another fallen tree.  Total of four between the road and the big bridge.  Clear trail my ass!  Guess the cyclocrosser in all of us changes our definition of clear.  we are a hardy few and rarely obey "closed trail" signs and such.  Indiana Jones, no treasure except for the prize of getting to the destination.

We split at 128th, Mary north, south for me.  Two miles for both of us.  I get to work about 15 to 25 minutes behind my usual time.  Filthy but smiling then a frown hit.  I am fasting for a blood test at 930 am.  no coffee for me.  My one lucky prize for commuting to work.  I really could have used it.  by the time I left for the test I had a headache and was hungry.

Daylight when I left for the mile+ ride to Mercy West Clinic.  Surveying the landscape I see tree debris everywhere.  The outside workers have been busy for over 3 hours cleaning up the property and still had a lot of work to do.  But at least it was stopped raining.  Everyone at work had some tale of the storm.  One person did not show because a tree crashed on his and his wife's car and hit the house and the basement flooded when the sump pump stopped working when the power went out.

With about two hours to go my boss informs me that their is a billing discrepancy that I need to look at after lunch.  This takes an extra hour and we really did not resolve it.  Three people adding the same numbers and one of us getting a different answer.  Mind numbing and energy draining.  It's Friday, dammit!!

I did not even put my sunglasses on.  Just changed clothes and brushed the sand off my saddle.  Told Mary I'd meet her at home. since she got off before me and I had no idea how long number crunching would take.  Should have put the RayBans on but since my back would be to the sun I did not feel the need.  Just roll.  GTFO and away quickly.  It was dry and the sun was coming out.  A strong wind from the north was bringing in cooler air.  I was happy and grateful.  The trail was clean, even more happy and grateful.  What difference 12 hours makes!

I met her outside of Mullets.  Damn, I wanted a beer!  We rode to Cactus Bob's in Johnston.  I needed a photo of my bike with a cactus for FaceBook's bicycle ride & Seek Challenge.  A cactus near beer and food seemed like a wonderful idea.  This would be my second trip to Johnston since my mother passed away.  I'm glad both trips were for booze and food.  Ian and Staci Holmgren suggested the place and said beer was cheep.  Ribs were inexpensive, too.

I thought Cactus Bob's would be more of a bar.  It was a BBQ joint, no frills but great food.  The wall behind the cashier was covered with the offerings.  Almost intimidating.  Making a decision was difficult.  I never gave food a thought during the ride up.  Merely wanted to sit down, pound a few beers and then get something light.  Instead I had to stand in line, first of course after the people ahead of us bowed out to make a better informed decision, stare at the menu and speak to the cashier.  I had their delicious tenderloin with an iced tea and a Tallgrass Pub Ale.  Tenderloins are my go to order when in a hurry.  One should always try a tenderloin where ever fresh ones are offered. Frozen loins are crap.  According to the receipt I had two beverages, one for $1.99 and the other for $2.  Mary had the Gobbler, a turkey sandwich, no beer.

There is a bicycle rack outside at the end of the building, the joint located right off the trail, but we forgot locks so we leaned them against the windows near the exit where we dined and kept an eye on them.  I plan to go back.  I was weak and starving.  Long day at work ruined by a fast that my late breakfast and lunch never quite sated.  Afterwards we rode home and watched the Olympics.  I was tired and needed a shower.  53 mile day.

One note on the route.  We took the Neal Smith Trail to the Trestle to Trestle Trail.  Clive did a great job cleaning up the Greenbelt while we were at work.  Tree debris and mud gone!  Gates open.  The Bill Riley was cleaned up as well except for the puddles which were a bit smaller.  The Neal Smith was open where the resurfacing project just ended the day before.  Shoulder work incomplete and However, the trail was filthy from the storm and there was one significant puddle that we forded. One person on a hybrid turned around.  Mary exchanged her commuter for a roadie and rode through the water without hesitation.  I wished they would have added some fill dirt to raise that section but I did not plan or fund the project.  I am glad it is done.  We have not ridden that way since early May. Likewise the T2T needed a bit of clean up.  And the very end of Johnston's trail was closed.  Mary said a Fareway was being built.  I look forward to shopping there.

Saturday, August 6, 2016

The Great Freezer Filling Challenge

Strap em on!  Turkeys in the front bags.  And the half and half.  I am disgruntled without it in my coffee.

Two of my favorite proteins went on sale this week.  Pork loin and turkey.  Hy Vee had frozen turkey breasts on sale for 69 cents per pound..  These are basically 9 lb turkeys without the garbage on them--legs and wings.  Thaw them out and they are perfect for the smoker, Weber grill and oven.  I suppose one could carve them up for other things but I am lazy when it comes to cooking.  The pork loins are lean and require very little fat trimming.  They can be use for so many meals--stir-fry, oven roasting, cut and grilled like chops, pound into tenderloins, or slow cook a section on the Weber grill for an hour and a half to perfection.  Once again they average 9 lbs.

Thursday was the day I designated for the store raid.  Unfortunately, when I grabbed the 520 the rear tire was flat.  I took the Soho instead with its smaller panniers figuring I could place two turkeys in each bag.   Wrongo!  Only one each.  Fortunately, Mary met me at the Windsor Heights location and she carried two for me.  Other groceries were carried as well such as the fixings for tacos as it was Taco Night at home.  The best part of this load was that anything that needed to be kept cold or frozen could be placed next to the turkeys.  It was 93 F outside.

That evening I put the front panniers back on and fixed the flat on the 520.  No screwing around tomorrow.  Serious shopping!   Once again after work I found myself in Windsor Heights and I purchased two more turkey breasts, a bag of Jasmine rice and a quart of half and half.  The half and half was probably the most important item since tomorrow would be Saturday and I would need it for quality coffee.  Like a fookin' idiot I left my wallet on my bike I hate carrying things in my pocket while riding.  "Excuse me Miss, I need to run to the bicycle rack and grab my currency.  Just take a sec!"   I felt stupid.  At least the weather was better at 81 F.  It did not hurt to step outside.

Fareway on Grand Ave was the next stop.  I did not even grab a cart while making my beeline to the meat counter.  Step outta my way!!  I left the damn coupon on the bike but I have never been asked to present one.  Two 9 lbers for $14 a piece.  I'll cut them into 3 each and put 5 bags into the freezer.

So tonight, grilled loin with fresh sauteed zucchini and squash from the garden served with Jasmine rice.

The new birds.  Not shown are the other two and all the other food in this freezer, 90% protein.