Friday, September 23, 2016

Waiting for the New Store

One of the issues about using a bicycle for 99% of my transportation needs is purchasing of groceries.  I have the ability to haul a significant amount of goods on the bike with or without using a trailer.  Hauling groceries is not the issue.  Finding a convenient store is.  I use the neighborhood stores as much as possible.  B&B Supermarket is great for meat and a few other items as well as sandwiches.  Graziano's has everything I need Italian especially sausage (much cheaper at the source people).  But both lack fresh vegetables, expensive dog food and wine.

B&B meat run.


Of the major supermarkets in the Des Moines metro I find them difficult to frequent.  The closest Hy Vee is a mere 2 miles away but getting there is difficult.  There is a long slow hill and traffic.  And a stretch of false flat, looks flat but it is actually uphill or gravitational pull is stronger here than elsewhere.  Cars are parked on the street so the possibility of getting doored or hit from behind is greater.  Crossing SE 14th (highway 69) is a dangerous affair in cars let alone on a bicycle.

Empty parking lot at SW 22nd Fareway  445 pm

Fareway on SW 22nd is a 6 mile round trip from my home.  Most of this is on a nice trail.  The only buzzkill about riding here is that is the baseball and soccer field which increase traffic.  But my major beef with this store is their refusal to install a bicycle rack.  Easy to ride to, difficult to park the bike.  I've spoken to the manager about this.  He said that there is not enough room in the parking lot.  So today I did a quick count of cars at 445 pm, Friday.  Less than 30 cars in the lot.  Any other store would be packed at this time.

Another Fareway is located in west Des Moines on Grand Ave.  New and modern and puts the SW 22nd store to shame.  It has bicycle parking.  It is also on my way home from work.  But to get there I must cross 63rd St (highway 28).  I don't care if it has signals, it is a dangerous intersection and I feel uncomfortable crossing it every time.

The store i frequent the most is the Hy Vee in Windsor Heights.  Essentially right off the trail and a mere 8.5 miles from home.  I like this store.  but once again I need to cross a busy street to get there, University Ave.  Despite Windsor Height's campaign to make their village more bicycle friendly, University is a 25 mph freeway and crossing that road is dangerous.  But for now it my main supplier of groceries.  I recommend their Market Grill.

6 bottles of wine from Windsor Heights.  They do have the best cheap wine specials.  Why do I cross the busy road?  To get to the cheap vino!

This is why I am anxious for Hy Vee to open their new location on Court Avenue.  I will be a flat and bicycle friendly mile and half from my home.  I plan to ride home, switch to a grocery getter bike and make that 3 mile round trip.  It is also located near my bank, another perk.

Wednesday, September 21, 2016

Last Day/Commute of Summer

430 am I open the door and I felt it right away.  Not unlike opening an oven and having a meat loaf slap my face but then again not that bad.  76F with 80% humidity it was almost suffocating.  Going to sweat on this ride.

Crossing the bridge at water Works park we first noticed the fog.  And the deer.  And the walnuts.  All three at once.  Deer everywhere betrayed by the reflection of our lights against their eyes.  Some running across the trail, others hiding in the trees.  Keep eyes moving from the deer to the trail to find a clean line through the black walnuts scattered on the trail.  Nature's IED.

The wind is from the south so we feel zero movement of air and hence the fog off the river.  The river is very high from recent rains and I fear the next rain will send it over the banks and onto the trail.  The last day of summer, late September and I really should be mowing the lawn twice a week.

The worst fog was along Walnut Creek as we rode along the dog park and entered Colby Park.  Fortunately, we stayed on the trail and did not hit anything or anyone.  The trail has been rather empty of humans today.  Just a few people fishing at the beginning near Mullets.  No other bikers or runners.  The usual dog walkers are absent as well.  We may have started early today.

The Greenbelt was actually a relief.  Despite its curvy nature it is more open for airflow and we cool off a bit.  But we are ever alert for other trail users, noticeably absent today.  yesterday a man walking a golden retriever dutifully stepped off the trail and heeled his dog to let us by.  I guess he saw our bright lights from a distance.  They were not there today.  Just rabbits, cats and deer.  The fog was gone as well.

We parted ways at 128th.  Mary headed north, me south into the wind.  But it felt good as it evaporated the sweat and cooled me down.  In a few months it will be much cooler and then miserably cold.  I look forward to bitching about that but will appreciate not overheating.

Fare the well, Summer, we will miss you when you really decide to leave us.

Monday, September 5, 2016

Labor Day Stomped for Vino

Hands in the drops.  Head down.  How far ahead can I see?  10 feet.  Look up every now and then.  Stay next to the white line.  It's a flat straight road.  Smooth, too, which helps more than you think it would.  I'm not worried about cars behind me.  Mary will give the warning.  They can see us.  Ride in a predictable manner and glance up.  The road has been empty.  Estimated mileage from winery to turn is 7 and half.  After 3 and half the Elkhart turn.  We will not be turning.  Hope nobody is on 94th because once again I forgot to to lower the tension on my right SPD and clipping in is a bitch.  Look at the computer.  11.9 mph.  Good.  In the distance is the Principal Tower jutting out into the sky like a far off mountain peak.  Damn, we got to ride south of that.  Nurse that water bottle slow.  It's a long way to Sargent Park in Des Moines, the first place I know of where we can fill the bottles.  Should have taken two.  Keep in mind that you have ridden in worse for longer distances and you are going much faster than those miserable days.  Keep on pushing on.  There is no other way.

After many weekends of slacking bicycle-wise we decided to join the Cellar Ride & Stomp.  The Cellar Winery at White Oak has planned a Labor Day festival of picking grapes and stomping them.  Riders got to choose to begin at Fire Trucker Brewery in Ankeny or Reclaimed Rails in Bondurant.  The distance to winery is 13 miles from either location.  Sounds like fun.  I like beer, bikes and wine.  This would be a great opportunity to take the tandem out and visit a winery we have never been to before and purchase a bottle to bring home.

Mary and picked Reclaimed Rails since it is easier for us to get to from Des Moines (avoids the endless Ankeny traffic).  An easy 5 miles to the Gay Lea Wilson Trail along the newly finished MLK sidepath and bike lanes from our home.  Instead of veering left to the Four Mile Creek Trail we stayed on the GLW and headed to Altoona and took the county roads into Bondurant.  This saved us 2 miles and probably some more time since county roads are faster than trails.  Big thank you to John Dowd to show us how to navigate the residential neighborhoods to get to Reclaimed Rails.

We got to the starting point at 1145 am.  Nobody was there.  Founder's Pub across the street had many bicycles.  but these folks were mainly from Ankeny.  A few gawked at us when we said we roade up from Des Moines.  i don't know if it was that they knew that the wind would kill us on the way home or that we were brave and did not take the trail to Bondurant.  Refilled our bottles and stopped at the the trailhead to study Google Maps and hit the restroom.  When we shoved off Mary said she saw bikes at the brewery.  We really did not have time to participate in the fun and games.  I really just wanted to get a bottle of wine and be home in time to prepared a turkey dinner for our children.

Unknown territory.  The best thing about riding bicycles in the northern regions is that it is basically flat, paved and organized by a grid.  Head in the direction you want to go and adjust course as needed.  I have no idea how the official riders got to White Oak.  We headed west out of town and then turned north when I got annoyed by traffic.  I've ridden once to Elkhart, the town I used as a waypoint to the winery.  That was with Eric Crabb.  Years ago from Altoona.  He kicked my ass on the way back on that dark drunken night.  I wish he'd start riding again. #fatslobbagger where art thou?  We were looking for 46th but turned up 56th or something.  Then the left on the newly repaved 94th.  This rode lacks shoulders but traffic was life.  Finally the sign for Elkhart, 4 miles to the north.  From there I correctly estimated our destination would be another 4 miles away.  We rolled north to 150 and took a left.  Then we were there.  It was 13 miles from Bondurant since we were now at 30 for the day.

More on the road.  Heading west had us getting hammered by a strong cross wind.  It felt good, however, as Mary remarked it would have been a miserably hot day without it.  On the north runs of 4 then another 4 miles it was a tailwind.  One of those vacuum winds.  You can see the corn and trees move in the wind but there is no breeze on your face unless you stoke it up to at least 30 mph which we did.  Put it in big ring and get into the drops and couple taps on the rear shifter until the perfect balance of speed and cadence is found.  North of Elkhart hills emerge but they proved to be rollers.  Just the roar of the tires.  We did not speak, just pushed the tandem like a well oiled machine.

The Cellar at White Oak

White Oak.  I never knew this was a town.  The address is fro Cambridge, however, residual history exists and created an identity for the people here.  The winery is on the corner.  No signs!  Of course we came in from the road that turns to gravel but still, no fookin' sign.  Well, there was a small chalk board on the side walk behind the wooded fence next to the building.  but Mary said it looked like a winery, large nice looking house, reception area.  Slowing down I asked a local who happened to be next door and he said it was indeed the winery.  U-turn into a gravel driveway parking lot.  Now we could read the chalk board. "<---- Taste Room."  It was in the back part of the building.  Land and park the tandem along the wooden fence.

The friendly folks of the Cellar at White Oak Winery were a bit surprised by our arrival.  They were still setting up for the event.  I think it was barb who told us that the riders left at 12:15 or about a 1/2 hour after we departed Bondurant.  I stated our business clearly, "we are here to sample your products and purchase a bottle."  And we were let in.  we were able to talk to the owners.  John Barber had just harvested 7000 lbs of grapes.  Speaking of which, their grapes are grown locally and focus on those varieties that fare Iowa winters well.  That is the issue in Iowa, short growing season and long harsh winters.  And great soil....

Water was the first thing we needed.  Absentmindedly, we forgot to bring in our bottles for the filling.  we sat at the bar and studied the menu.  I our usual MO, Mary sampled the whites and I the reds.  They Had a Fire Trucker and a Reclaimed Rails brew on tap, Bud Light cans for those who need a high school beer.  Brianna was the runner up, a semi sweet white.  The winner was the SweetHeart which we told them just to give us a warm bottle since it would be warm by the time we got home.

We asked about the road back, 38th, and was told it would take us to 78th or Oralabor Rd.  It was a beautiful ride home with many nice homes.  This took some of the sting of the headwind off us.  But soon we were in the middle of nowhere fighting a 23 to 30 mph wind.  We stopped once under the shade of a large tree and split a Powerbar and a bag of PowerShots, left overs from Ragbrai.  The road led to where they said it would and we took a left on Berwick and intercepted the trail a few miles later.  we ended up on the new section of the Chichaqua trail and then the Four Mile Creek Trail for making the ride a loop.  We ended up with a bit over 57 miles so it was 27 miles from the winery to home.

The tandem was so tired from the wind it literally fell over and took a nap while we rehydrated at Sargent Park in Des Moines along the Four Mile Creek trail.  10 miles from home.

I'd like to do this ride properly sometime.  We did not as tomorrow is a work day and I planned a meal for the kids.  Time, always a question and matter of time.  We do plan to visit the Cellar at White Oak again.  Mary said it would be a great day to hit this one and Snus on the same day.  Just don't make plans for home afterwards!