Wednesday, January 25, 2017

Beautiful Ride Home

This moment.  "If you could just see the beauty.  These things I can never describe.  Pleasures and wayward distractions.  this is my lucky prize"*

As they left the building they told me to be careful, safe ect.  I was prepping the bike for the ride home.  They were walking to their cars and trucks and SUVs.  Muggles never know.  I should have been telling them to be careful.  To illuminate the situation, it was snowing.  Our winter has been a drought and snow was something rarely seen in these parts.  All of that changed today.  The temperature was dropping below freezing and the snow was still falling.  But that did not bother me at all.  I was glad.  I chose the proper vehicle to get myself to and from work, The Red Phoenix in her studded tire glory.  Just needed to air up the front tire and away I go!  Yes, slow leaking front tire but that's another story.

The wind was out of the northwest at 18 mph with gusts up to 30 mph.  Winter rears its ugly head once again.  It did not exactly hurt but it was not a good feeling.  The snow had an icy bite and the wind slowed me to a crawl.  I was cold because I just begun and had not had a chance to reach operating temperature.  the funny thing about it was that the temp really was not much different than it was this morning or what it had been for what seems like a week.  30s just above freezing.  but now it was dropping and that evil jealous bitch of a northwest wind was raging for vengeance on us.  I need to ride 2 miles into said wind to reach the safety of the trail.  Once on the trail I will have  12 and half miles of car free riding with the exception of crossing Grand Ave.  Sewer work has the trail closed at Grand.  This is what the muggles do not know or understand.  Once I cross University Ave I am in a residential neighborhood until I reach the trail.  Low traffic.  I have a greater risk of being hit by a deer or squirrel or goose than by a car.  I am safe.  Those driving are not safe.  they are surrounded by other cars/drivers who must remember how to drive in the snow.  Not my problem.

Rare photo of the Red Phoenix without panniers.  It shares bags with the single speed.  I was too lazy to put them on last night after fixing the rear tire AGAIN!

It was a short moment on the trail, Clive's Greenbelt, when I had to stop and take a photo.  Caught up in the beauty of it all.  Our brown and grey world was transformed into a gorgeous winter wonderland.  The trees were painted with snow.  A world in white.  Pristine snow.  I did this last year as well.  Almost the same location.  just that one moment makes it all worth it.  Good Lord, I probably blogged it as well last year.  There is a difference this year.  Only an inch so far on the trail and someone plowed it.  I remember last year suffering from angina on this stretch, however, my heart is fixed and did not know what angina was when I suffered from it.

The trail was basically empty.  A few fatbike tracks.  A person or two walking a dog.  I think I saw two bikers.  Lots of deer in Windsor heights along Walnut Creek.  A the geese on Water Works park.

The geese in Water Works Park.

There was one person I wanted to see but because I stopped to take photos I missed her by minutes.  I did, however follow her tracks home.  That was Mary, my wife.  Wanted to share a drink with her at the local pub.  At a later date.

After getting home and settling in I turned on the radio and heard the news.  Many car wrecks across the metro.  Traffic backing up.  Even the bridge I take every morning was "too slick for cars."  I had to laugh.  Me be careful?  Get better tires you fools!  Mine are studded.  There are tires for cars meant for winter.  Be responsible and get them.

* Isolation, Joy Division

Tuesday, January 24, 2017

Surviving the Ice Storm

Wednesday on the Water Works bridge over the Raccoon River.

So the hype was almost true but Monday the roads were bad, mostly.  The trails, worse because they never get cleared of ice.  Well, the MLK sidepath does but that is rarely part of my commute.  But with the doom and gloom forecast of freezing rain and up to a quarter inch of ice I made plans.  I would take my "Trail Is Destroyed Route" to work.

I grabbed the trust Red Phoenix for its studded tires and left the house.  The temperature was at freezing and there were a few drops of rain every now and then.  Our deck was iced over and so was the yard as noted by the crunch it made underneath my waterproof and insulated boots.  The street was total ice but it was white from cars crushing it as they traversed the road.  Two blocks later I reached the main road and it was wet.  I sped up.

Tuesday morning Walnut Creek dumped some ice on the trail underneath the rail trestle on the Bill Riley Trail.

Approximately a half mile from my home found me at the confluence of the Raccoon and Des Moines rivers, or Mullets, and I had to make a decision: trail or streets.  The trail looked like it had a solid layer of ice and since they never salt it it would be a slow nerve wrecking ride even with studded tires.  The roads won out but first the pedestrian bridge must be used to cross the rivers.  It, too, had that layer of ice.  No issues were encountered as I rode over the ice to reach MLK Blvd and the comfort of the salting of the roads.  Sure, salt and sand will beat up the bike but I can always clean it up later.  Normally I would have taken the sidepath because they do apply salt to it along MLK but it looked slick.  The road itself was wet.

I road on the street until I reached 15th and turn up that at Exile and then a left on Ingersoll.  Wet, not icy.  I was making progress.  Half way up Ingersoll there was a truck parked with its window down.  A familiar voice called my name and asked if I wanted a ride.  It was Kevin Allan, another Commuter of the Year.  He said he was 2 hours early and works in the same vicinity of my place of employment.  Why not?  Get there early and drink coffee.  The rain was picking up anyway.  His truck had a cover yet it was able to close eve with my bike in back.  Me and the Red Phoenix dry!

The Red Phoenix safe and dry at work!

He drove the route I would have taken.  Ingersoll all the way to 59th then Grand to 8th and a left on Ashworth.  He turned on 60th where I would have turned on 28th and cut to Westown Pkwy but basically the same.  60th was the worst needing more attention form the road crew.  So in cheater mode I made it to work.  Time warp as some would say.  My instincts were correct as the roads were good.  Coffee time!

The rain never really let up through the day but the temperature remained more or less near freezing.  About 2 pm I received a text from Craig.  "Would you like a ride home?"  With the the exception of hurricanes, tornadoes and cyclones, rain is my least favorite weather event.  Rain when it is near freezing is even worse.  I love to ride when it is snowing.  Rain, I hate.  I took him up on the offer.

The day after.  Tuesday 445 am.  I am on the trail.  The rain did some good.  The ice melted, mostly.  It was safe to ride a bike with studded tires.  To my relief there were not fallen trees or limbs.  In fact, the metro had very few power outages.  The ride was uneventful and I would have set a record to work if I had not ridden cautiously.  To ruin my bliss, the rear tire took a dump and I had to change the tube after dinner after I got home.

Ice on the trail from Walnut Creek.

Wednesday was a heat wave with the high reaching 49F.  The bike trail was of users especially roadies who appear like box elder bugs when it warms up.  Walnut Creek is high and water is almost to the trail itself underneath the rail bridge on the Bill Riley Trail.  I became concerned about flooding.

Thursday was a good day.  Stopped at the store and carried home a 15 lb bag of dog food on back of the bike.  The trails are improving so much that Friday I was back on the single speed roadie.  No ice to worry about.
Looking east from Water Works Bridge.

Saturday, January 21, 2017

Initial Thoughts: The Ragbrai 45 2017 Edition

The Official Route occupies the top fold of the map.  Our "official" route will begin toward the bottom of the second fold.

As a cyclist who lives in Iowa one of the bright spots of the dreary winter season is the day The Des Moines Register, A Gannet company, announces the overnight towns for their annual bicycle ride across Iowa.  When I got interested in this the announcement date was the Sunday after BRR (Bicycle Ride to Ripey) or the first weekend of February.  But it has moved up to coincide with the Bike Expo held in Des Moines.  Make a day of it for bicycles!

The unseasonable warm day or January Thaw provided Mary and I to ride out to our new adopted team's party in West Des Moines.  Team Kum & Go understand that we ride on our own off route but like to dip our toes on the route every now and then.  We feel honored that they accept us.  So we placed our bets on a dry erase board and wondered where the route would be.  Most of us believed the route would be north after last year's southern excursion.  At the appropriate we fired up the live stream and found out.  I had two correct town but on the wrong date.

The starting point is Orange City
Sunday Spencer.
Monday  Algona
Tuesday Clear Lake
Wednesday Charles City
Thursday Cresco
Friday Waukon
Saturday Lansing

This is the top fold of the map.

My usual crew of 5 or 6 will leave Wednesday before Ragbrai begins and work our way to Milford to visit Tim Fairchild, one of our friends we met on Tour de Kota/RASDak.  This would take two or three days,  Possible overnights in Breda, Storm Lake or Sac City.  Then we will part ways and set an intercept course for the route.  Well that was our plan we made many months ago.  Very do able but our interception of The Ragbrai will be very short unless we ride to Orange City.  Milford is a stone throw a way from Spencer.  We will need to discuss.

Also up for discussion is when we will make the south turn and head home.  Or do we?  Do we hook up with the bus and complete the route or do we stick it out for a few days and then head home?  Leaving Algona on Tuesday morning would put us home by Wednesday or Thursday.  Overnights could be Fort Dodge or Brushy State Park.  Mary and I and our sons Quinten and Timothy have ridden from that park to home in two days the nest night in Slater.  Sure, it's a bit hilly but would give us a nice opportunity to ride over the High Trestle.  Long day?  Once you get on a familiar trail that leads home it is easy to cover those extra miles.  And damn, I like to have a few days to sit inside my air conditioned home and rest before returning to work.  Another plus is that we are unsure how much time if any Mary will get for vacation since she started a new job.

If Mary and I have the time we could stick it out for another day and continue on to Clear Lake and leave for home on Wednesday morning and take two or three days to reach home.  Iowa Falls was the first town to pop up as a place to sleep Wednesday night  This would provide us with an opportunity to ride the Rolling Prairie Trail from Hampton to Coulter.  The next night could be in a town along the High Trestle Trail.

What we are looking for is an adventure.  It's going to be tough to come up with something as cool as last year's Pyramids of Avery but I'll try to find it.  6 days off route and two or three on route.  North, amen, easy to gobble up miles!  Long mileage days are a piece of cake heading to and from the north. Madrid to Breda on 2 hours sleep, 96 miles, done that!  Rockwell City to Des Moines, 113 miles, done that!  But all of that is up for discussion.  Unfortunately at 1 am I cannot have that discussion so I typed out my thoughts so I will remember them.

Good night and God bless!

Sunday, January 15, 2017

First Road Bike of the Year

Iowa's Capital Building

The ice subsided from Tuesday's mess and the temperature was almost above freezing.  I got an invite to a friend's house whose bike route involved hills.  Hills, yuck.  The Single Speed was ruled out and I did not need the Ice Bike.  31F, I could get away with wearing my SPD sandals and take a fast bike. The Carbon Rod, 1994 Trek 2200, Campy groupo was selected.

Eric Crabb is the lost son of the Des Moines bicycling scene.  Got himself a GF and reason to stay home.  He used to be quite a strong commuter and 520 driver but he basically said F it and stopped riding for a few years.  Itry as I might, I cannot get him out on his bike.  But I(can visit him on mine.

Two fat bastards

He's an eastsider now.  I had to take the MLK Trail to 30th, a left on E 30th to Scott Ave and then a mile to the Gay Lea Wilson Trailhead and off to and through Copper Creek with a final turn on Williams and cross University Ave (US 163) at the light.  He lives just down the hill.  In the past I have gotten off the GLW at Sleepy Hollow and climbed that steep hill on Dean Ave.  Not fun and only a 2 CM shoulder with a wall of trees to impale bikers that get forced off the trail.  I contemplated videoing the descent on the way home but decided that a 40 mph dive bomb after the inevitable beers would not be a wise thing to do.  No Dean Hill up or down.  Eric's description that the hill on Williams would be one fifth of dean was correct.  The extra mile or 2 or 3 was worth it both ways.

Although I put over 2000 miles on the Carbon Rod I had not ridden it since November.  I've been riding on tires of the 32, 35 and 37 size, not the 23s.  I could feel the harshness at first especially since I pumped the Connies to 100 psi.  The brakes were the next thing I felt or did not feel.  The Single Speed has a front disc brake which is powerful.  The drum brakes on the Soho still feel brand new after 3 years and over 5000 miles.  The Ice Bike has brand new brakes.  the Carbon Rod needs new brake pads.  Effort to stop it is required.  No Flintstoning but a need to make a purchase and get it done before Spring has it on commuter duty.

Getting to the MLK Trail/sidepath revealed the bullshit cyclists encounter.  Every chunk of gravel, grain of sand and refuse was swept into the bike lane along SE 6th.  I was happy to get to the sidepath on MLK.  However, at John's Tree Service some vehicle crashed the nice fence and the path was littered with broken car glass.  I should go back with a broom.    On a positive note, two women on road bikes were on the trail heading to downtown.

The GLW was virtually ice free.  I only took it to Copper Creek so I cannot guarantee that for the rest of it.  But compared to the Clive Greenbelt, Walnut Creek Trail and Bill Riley Trail it was perfect. But, alas, that all is about to end in a few hours as the ice storm 2017 overtakes Iowa.  But for Saturday I was happy.

After crossing University at the light and with the light I encountered a few kids with a basketball  one of whom said he liked my "Lamborghini bike."  Damn, this screw and glue carbon frame was already outdated before they assebled in in Wisconsin.  What would they call a 2017 carbon roadie? A F-35 (price comparison)?  They have no clue about the price of bikes.  I'll let them discover that horror when they get jobs.

Sober driving!

Crabby was waiting for me when i pulled up.  "Are you sober?" he asked.

"Yes, please remedy that immediately," I replied.

"Got to go to Hy Vee and pick up beer.  You drive."  Eric has a license, guess he was not sober.  Just wise.

So for the first time in ages I drove a climate changer.  Nice ford SUV/crossover or something.  I enjoyed it and we took the back roads back after securing a case of Coors and a bottle of  Fireball.

Got back to his place in time for the Falcons/SeaHawk game which we tried to watch while enjoying a few libations.  When it got dark I decided it was time to leave.  I was prepared with lights.  A warmer pair of gloves would have helped.  Had to pull my fingers into the main part of the gloves until my body temperature increased enough to keep the fingers warm while wearing the gloves properly.  Yes, my fingers hurt for the first couple of miles.

Along the MLK Trail/sidepath

The ride home was nice.  Downtown Des Moines looks glorious at night and it is a rare treat for me to be able feast my eyes on the city from this side of town.  Some day I need to return at night with a proper camera.

16 and a half miles.  Felt great to clip in and visit an old friend.  I hope he starts riding again this year.  Far to long with him gracing our trails.
Another view from the MLK Trail/sidepath

Saturday, January 14, 2017

Upside Down Week

The Red Phoenix at the infamous flood spot.  I was pondering a future flood soon.

It's been an interesting week in Ioway.  January Blues?  Mid-Winter Suckfest?  Fake Weather Forecasts?  The old saying here is "don't like the weather, wait five minutes," rang so true this week of January 9, 2017.  But it was like living in an upside down world.  Warm, by winter standards in Iowa, while we slept and cold when it should have been warm.  And that fookin' wind!  Often in my face on the way to work!  WTF is going on?

The week began nicely for January with a promise of decent winter weather.  Perhaps we will survive.  The Weather people said that it would warm up, and it did.  And I was happy.  Whatever improvement in conditions makes life easier for everyone.

Monday had to have been the best.  I was able to ride the single speed with normal tires.  A cool start at 17F with 31F for the ride home.  Nothing noted in my Bike Log except that I stopped at Wal Mart in search of a cheap wind breaker/rain jacket because my current one looks like crap.  It is getting grungy looking from years of abuse.  I also picked up some BluRays.

Monday's score on the single speed.  Frame for a poster appearing like a giant mobile phone on back of the Vanquish.  Location: Jackson Street Bridge.

Tuesday was the first day of the Fake Weather Forecast.  I remember vividly watching the news Monday evening to study the weather forecast.  It called for rain but the rain would fall in the morning and while I was at work.  The temperature after work would be above freezing and this would allow me to make a grocery run.  I also checked this out on  Based on this intelligence I chose to ride the Vanquish (single speed) once again.  No need for the studded tires of the Red Phoenix.  Besides that bike has an issue with its front tire holding air even after I replaced the tubes.  The FX 7.5 aka The Ice Bike and The Red Phoenix is on its 10th winter and is ready for combat despite the need to check the front tire.  I'll get around to fixing it AGAIN.

It was above freezing when I left for work.  I left a few layers at home and wore lighter gloves.  I beat the rain in the morning.  Everyone asked if I got wet.  No.  An hour later the flood gates opened up and the rain began.  it rained for hours.  Then the wind picked up and the rain ended.  then the temperature dropped.  And then the water turned to ice.  This all occurred while I was working.  I dressed for forecasted high of 43F.  When I left it was 27F but I had a tail wind.  This was the first of several days that the temperature in the middle of the night and morning was warmer than it was in the afternoon.

Vandalism on the Jackson Street Bridge--wet paint Monday night.  These paint bombs have been seen in several places on the trail system.

Needless to say the ride home was not my best.  Wrong bike and wrong clothing.  At least I had a 20+ mph tail wind.  But that wind was useless because the trail, Clive Greenbelt, was a sheet of ice, mostly.  I took to riding on the grass shoulder until I got to 100th St and then the roads.  the roads may have been treated for ice.  Better to make time on the streets and battle with cars than crawl on an icy trail.  Eventually I made it.

On a side note, someone broke their ankle in the parking lot that day while walking to their car.  The only ice issue I had other than avoiding it was one time the rear tire spun on the ice on the trail along the corporate lake as I was leaving work.

Wednesday I grabbed the Ice Bike and almost set a record for the week getting to work early.  Had I not been cautious I may have beaten the time I did on the Vanquish Monday and Tuesday.  I saw Joe Ayers who said that the trail had quite a few ice patches.  judging by the place we met, at Water Works Bridge, I could tell he was riding slow.  Usually we meet near Gray's Lake or Mullets depending on when i leave the house.  The front tire held air but I added more when I left work.  No issues going home.  BTW, 29F in the morning, 20F for the ride home.

The Ice Bike was used for the rest of the week.  Thursday was uneventful, just cold.  I stopped in Windsor Heights to shop at Hy Vee.  Needed dog food,  organic cherry juice, half and half and chicken and beer.  Had a few beers with Cynthia and then carried the load home.  Yes, a 15 lb bag of food for Fritz.

Another bicycle commuting issue has been the "detour" around the underpass at 63rd and Grand.  Unannounced utility work closed the trail.  they rerouted trail users to 56th St which is very hilly and has a lot of traffic and is dangerous in winter conditions.  I cross the ditch and then cross grand.  Flat and safer.

Friday I probably could have gotten away with the single speed but the FX was running well or so I thought.  Some of the ice had disappeared.  Friday morning the wind was from the north to hinder my progress and the bike was slow.  about four miles into it at the horse stables I stopped and checked the tires.  the front was fine but the rear was low.  The valve was not closed.  Odd, because I had not aired that tire for a week.  Sabotage or incompetence did not matter at 5 am in the 12F air.  I had a great pump with me that did not want to set up on the stem properly without a minutes long fight but eventually I got the tire back up to where it needed to be and I closed the valve. So the wind and slow 4 miles and mechanical issue cost me a lot of time but once again I made it to work only to be asked if I was cold.  sweaty, yes, pissed off, yes.  I aired both tires at 11 am and then again at 3 pm when I left.  No issues with the rear but but the time i got home the front lost a little bit.  Yeah, dirty hands sometime this weekend.  I will need the bike on Monday.

Another winter week gone by.  Five days of commuting by bicycle recorded in the bike log.  138.5 miles.  Next week if the forecast is not fake or wrong I am to experience an ice storm for Monday's commute and then Spring like temps for the remainder of the week, 50F by Friday.  A quarter inch of ice predicted.  So I am planning to take the Red Phoenix for its fourth commute in a row.  Studded tires are worth their weight in gold.  I'll see how many cagers make it in.  I know i will, leaking tires or not!

Someone is smiling!  Lost ball in Windsor Heights.