Monday, May 29, 2017

Late Night at the High Trestle

That white speck in the upper right corner is the moon.

Not that late, really, but our first visit to it at night this year.  Rode our tandem there from our home in Des Moines.  Met some friends at FireTrucker Brewery in Ankeny and got to The Bridge just after darkness fell.  Got home late!  It was Rob's idea, his Memorial Day Weekend Ride.  This year he had his largest turnout, 6 people.  No rain!

Mary and I took our fast tandem because I feared that our lights would die on us on the way back if we rode our fast singles.  So we carried an extra light that we did not need.  It was our second tandem ride of the year and the bike is now 2 for 2 in stopping at breweries for 2017!

In the past it has been 40 miles from our home to the center of the High Trestle.  This time 37+ to the glorious blue lights.  We rode through downtown (ATM raid) and East Village, rolled past Captain Roy's and instead of turning on the trail we went forward on Cornell St which tuns into NE 3rd St all the way to NE 60th in which we had a crisis of confidence.  Original plan was to take 6th Ave north and we lost our bearings and had to look at Google Maps while enjoying the shade at Hamilton's Funeral Home.  Take a left not the right, cross 2nd and turn right on NW 6th Dr and roll through Saylor Township and into Ankeny and ending up on the sidepath at the Git n Go on the corner of Irvinedale Ave and Oralabor Rd.  Normally we would have gone north here and intercept the trail on the west side of Ankeny but we headed east to rendezvous at the brewery.

Crazy Man #1  At our turn on the sidepath across form Hy Vee we encountered a man with a bright orange cardboard sign.  My first impression was that he was advertising $5 pizzas for Little Caesar's. Nope.  REPENT!!  The light could not change quickly enough.  I told him the real sinners were those in their the shiny metal climate changers destroying God's Creation by driving on such a beautiful day.  He had no answer except REPENT!  His Shakespearean accented voice, though subtle, gave him away as a fraud.  Kicked out of the drama club, eh Jordan?

Hydrant pale Ale in the glass.  Rob got a 4 pack of Burnout Brown.  He almost got the Brigade until he saw that it was a golden lager and subsequently exchange it.  Barkeep not impressed!

We got to FireTrucker about the same time, Rob, Bill, Carl and Jeff arrived.  There would be 6 of us riding.  The place was busy and the barkeeps were overwhelmed and Rob asked dumb questions that confused everyone.  Eventually, we all were served and we purchased 2 4 packs to go.  Bridge beers as we called them.  4 Burnout Browns and 4 Uptown IPAs.  Ready, set go!

The wind!  It was a strong bastard from the west.  We would be blasted by the cross wind while riding to Slater and did not look forward to the head wind when we would turn west at that town.  But we carried on and did not complain.

Mary, Bill, Jeff and Rob.  Once again Carl is missing.

Crazy Man #2  We regrouped at the Oasis.  Jeff was not the fastest on his hybrid.  Rob rode a Trek carbon roadie, Bill a Gunnar touring bike with flat bars (neck issues), Carl a Torker with drops and disc brakes and Mary and I the Cannondale tandem with 700x25 Gatorskins.  We were complimented by our pace.  but at the Oasis a man with one of those yellow brim sun blockers added to his helmet and a Trek Discovery OCLV approached us and said that one cannot be a Christian and work for the Federal government.  Christ, what is up with people today?  4 of us went to Church this morning and did not hear anything so crazy!  Walk away.  Fill bottles, urinate and roll on.

Our intention was not to have a beer at the Night Hawk but we did and it was the best decision we made on the ride.  One and done and the wind disappeared during that time!  No evil head wind to battle on the way to the High Trestle.  Hallelujah thank you Jesus!  We thought it would die when we turned around to go home but this was a gift.  One more stop at the Flat Tire, which was void of bicycles, to empty our bladders and then the bridge itself.  NOTE, no water available at the restroom building across from the Flat Tire.  It was not on.

Using the selfie camera I took this while rolling at 19 mph.  The trick is to get in front of everyone in case playing with the phone while riding leads to operator error i.e. crash.

One of us was a virgin to the High Trestle at night so it was special.  As usual, the trail was crowded with all sorts of people walking and biking with and without lights.  We managed to find an empty alcove near the lights to enjoy our refreshments.  While we were standing there several of us witnessed meteor and its green streak in the eastern sky for a few seconds.  Until last night I have never seen a shooting star from the High Trestle.  So special, so fantastic!  I wonder if it survived to become a meteorite.  I'd like to have it if it is so.

Cheers!  Breaking the law, breaking the law!!

Then off to the overlook.  The new trick is too stick your camera into the binoculars to get a photo. This takes a lot of time and I never mastered it.  Carl did.  Time for the jackets we packed.  I gave my gloves to Mary.

Lack of food.  Stopped at the Flat Tire on the way back.  Tried calling Casey's for a pizza.  Phone busy.  Tried calling Casey's in Slater.  no answer.  Called the Night Hawk and queried about food.  No food after 10 or 11 pm.  We were SOL.  I did pack two protein bars and a caffeinated chocolate bar for just this sort of occasion.  I ate both of the Cliff protein bars in separate settings.

Appreciated!  Thank you Night Hawk!

No beer for us at the Night Hawk, just water.  Now the long 5 mile stretch to the Oasis.  I announced that we would depart the group at Irvinedale Rd and head home.  A little while later at a regrouping stop Rob said that Carl had a truck and could give us a ride home since we lived in the same vicinity.  Yes, we'd take that ride.  It was 2 am when we got home.  Fritz was glad to see us.

60 miles

Saturday, May 27, 2017

What's Up With the Green Bridge??

I'm reminded of that line from a Pink Floyd track that goes, "taught how to feel good but told to feel bad." Something like that.  So once again the green bridge aka as Jackson Street Bridge is MIA.  Mysterious construction work by Baker Electric.  Orange snow fence placed at both ends and signs stating that construction will be done on June 16th.  Once again the bridge is closed during the height of bicycling/pedestrian season.  The only thing anyone has noticed is that there is a large tool box with Baker Electric stamped on it.  No eye witnesses of actually construction.

My source, who will remain anonymous but think of a famous German ship and flying boat builder, the tells me that someone "gifted" the bridge LED lights.  Baker Electric is installing them. For liability reasons i.e. insurance i.e. $$ reasons the bridge has been closed to the public while the lights are being installed.

Why not do this in November?  Nobody cares about switching lights.  There is nothing wrong with the current lights.  People want to use the bridge.  People have broken through the barriers on both ends.  Unfortunately, my photo does not show this.

What really is frustrating is that The Powers that Be inspect the bridge and declare it good but then raise the standards and declare it unsafe, close it and restore it with our fundraising efforts and other avenues of $$ and open it right as the cycling season ends and now close it again because someone thinks it needs LED lights.  Yes, LEDs are better lights but nobody gives a fuck.  It better make the High Trestle pale in comparison.  I'll have a great laugh is some moron tries to steal these lights.

Rank over.  Thank you.

Friday, May 26, 2017

Yesterday's Near Miss: The Benny Hill Incident

Distractions come in many forms.  Mobile phones, bees in the car, eating while driving ect. Yesterday it was in the form of a long legged woman walking a dog.

I was riding downhill on NW 123rd about where it curves to the left and turns into Woodland Ave or Dr or Rd at the entrance of Campbell Rec Park on the right.  On the sidewalk was our dog walker in a black skirt and white top.  Leaving Campbell Rec was a burgundy Jeep Grand Cherokee driven by an elderly man.  Me, I was preparing for the curve and the climb to 128th St.

I took a glance at her and then resumed business at hand.  No time to undress her in my mind, I'm working at 25 mph on a collection of carbon tubes contacting the pavement with thin Mavic wheels and thin German tires with a climb waiting for me in a matter of seconds.  One error and I'm eating concrete and wondering about skin grafts and bone repair and the dreaded hip replacement.

I also spotted the Jeep. 

 "Don't do it you dirty dog.  Don't pull out in front of me you bastard,"
I said to myself.  Of course, when things got critical he let go of the brake and stepped on the gas.


 I was a bit upset.  I did not think he could hear that since I felt my voice was a bit weak.

What to do now?  Option 1:  apply both brakes and hope to come to a controlled stop.  Option 2: pass his ass and yell at him.  I chose the latter since I had ample speed and he was barely moving as to get a better sniff at the dog walker.

Windows started rolling down.  Perhaps he heard me.  Now he sees me.  Eye contact established. He was aged.  Probably has not had an erection for a few decades.


That's all I said.  Resume zooming up the hill.  Take the lane.  F him.  I'll soon be on the sidepath leading to the Greenbelt.

The trap may have been sprung but I was aware and got through it unscathed.  What will the future bring?

Wednesday, May 24, 2017

Why Bother With The Uniform

Yeah, a motorcyclist in France but I like the photo.

You know it.  Hi-Viz yellow/green/orange.  reflective strips.  That yellow vest with reflective areas.  People think you are a lot attendant or road worker or a member of the DOT.  Does it really work?

Today I witnessed two high profile vehicles, SUV's, both white in color, smash into each other on Ingersoll Ave.  Of course they stopped in the middle of the road and created headaches for westbound  traffic.  I'm sure cagers will grumble about the bike lane taking up a lane.  In fact, I think one of the crashers was in the bike lane.

My only thought was this, If they cannot even see each other how in the hell are they going to see me or any other person on a bicycle?  Have of them are staring at their phones anyway.

Now I am not saying that one should dress in asphalt black or concrete grey when cycling in the streets.  Just that don't have your hopes up in dressing like a road worker.  They get hit and killed as well.

Another thing, if we truly want more butts on bikes then maybe we should present ourselves as normal human beings and not some sort of sporto on the way to the Tour de France.  Bicycling should be presented as a regular activity that does not require full kit or extreme safety equipment to enjoy, unless of course, that is your fetish.  Image issue?

What you should carry:  ID, insurance card, ICE number, name and number of next of kin or spouse, hospital preference and religion if applicable.  Lucky rabbit's foot, rosary beads and a four leaf clover would not hurt either.

I stopped wearing vests some time ago.  They just turn dirty and gross after all the miles I ride.  I do like the pocket for the phone but don't really need one.  The same with yellow rain jackets.  Despite this I want the vest that says


Sunday, May 14, 2017


The world we live in...

Just a beautiful day in our privileged world to use our bicycles as play things under the guise of helping others.  My main concern was that there would be shade where I would spend the next several hours running a check point for Cyclo de Mayo, Des Moines premier and original bicycle poker run.  At my side was my beautiful wife, Mary.  Although I'd much rather have spent the day riding 100 miles or something like that we enjoy participating in this event that raises money for the Joan S Gill Memorial fund.   I also look forward to seeing my bicycle friends.

We stopped at B&B Grocery store to get a couple of sandwiches and water to fuel us up for the big event and then headed off to our station.  About this time my phone started receiving text.  I was expecting it to be from Graham Johnston, the BIC and creator of Cyclo de Mayo.  It was not.  Instead it was from Craig asking if he could join us at the checkpoint and bring a case of beer.  Damn, here we go again!  Of course, we could use the help and the beer.

The water fountain at Sam Cohen Park.

After reaching Sam Cohen Park and claiming the picnic table we ate and waited for Craig and Kim.  There is an old functioning horse water fountain here that Graham repeated told me that the water was potable.  "My parents even chill their wine in the fountain when they are on bicycle rides," he said.  We brought our own but it was nice to know that water was available just in case I was within 2 miles of my home and suffering from terrible thirst or forgot to fill my bottles before leaving on a long trip.

Craig helping the bicyclists of Cyclo de Mayo find our spot and protect them from traffic.

The poker run went fast, unlike last year when half the field dropped out.  It was probably the busiest one I have done of the 6 I have worked.  Afterwards we relaxed and drank some beer before rolling off to the Triangle Tap for the awards ceremony.

Two vehicles pulled up and parked in front of the fountain.  my first thought was that they were POed that we were having a bicycle even on their road and slowing down their driving.  Or that we were drinking beer in a park.  But  a bunch of people popped out of the back of the truck with empty plastic jugs and we knew what was up.  Water was disconnected at their home and they were on a water run.  Worse yet, as conversation revealed, they were living out of the truck.

There was a small boy, perhaps 4 or 5 years old, his parents and an older guy.  The older guy was big, not in an obese way, but as in tall and strong.  Long grey hair tied back in a pony tale and one of those horseshoe mustaches that I used to sport along with Hulk Hogan.  In fact, he was nearly the Hulkster's size.  He did most of the talking.  Craig got the conversation rolling.  Was staying at his mother's house but had to put her in a care facility.  Long history of violence and prison stretches. Adventurous careers including dumping bales of marijuana from airplanes and smuggling Mexicans across the border.  A few dead bodies from these excursions.  Self defense, kill be killed.  Violent reactions to pedophiles up to and including throwing one out a second story window only because the FBI asked him to leave the paedo alone.  He is of some native American tribe but said the Meskawski tribe want nothing to do with him.  No help from the courts or social services for finding a place to live or job.  His daughter inlaw has a job.  Not sure about his son.  Kim with her social services background ran a myriad of suggestions but he seemed to have tried them all.

All the time while they filled their water vessels he washed his hands over and over again as he told his life story.  Never once did he ask for anything.  Just needed the water.  Craig offered him some cash which he refused but then accepted.  Craig also gave him a bag of beers.

Mary and looked at each other when it was over.  We don't have much but we felt wealthy.  A stare into the abyss.  Needless to say this was on my mind as we rode toward the Triangle Tap.  And three minutes a group of drunken women on bicycles were giggling and telling us we missed our turn to Peace Tree I was not amused.  Nor was I when a some fat jerk on a road bike in full kit screamed "BIKE" at me instead the always polite "on your left."  I barked back and a rolling shouting match erupted on the NST below McHenry Park.  Just trying to enjoy the beauty of the world and determining if it was a bald eagle or a turkey vulture over the river when he yelled.  He probably called out "passing on the left" and I did not hear.  But to me he was another over privileged asshole. I haven't time to sympathize with all this nonsense.

There are things we can do.  Urban Bicycle Food Ministry is one of them.  This group if I am not mistaken meets every Thursday to give food to those in need.  A "humbling" experience I've been told.  Look them up on face Book.  Food banks are a good place to make donations.  Bidwell Riverside Center is located near the intersection of Hartford Ave and SE 14th.  DMARC is another place to make a donation.  Even just talking to such a person and treating them with dignity and respect goes a long way.  We all struggle to get through life, some more than others.

Saturday, May 6, 2017

Riding Along a Different Creek

Yes.  Words to remember.

Been looking forward to this day for weeks.  Warm, no rain and manageable wind.  Just a quick 40 mile round trip to Bondurant and its Reclaimed Rails Brewery.  This has been a goal for a year now. Timing has been an issue.  We usually get there hours before the brewery opens.  Or its too damn windy and we call it quits 10 miles into it or 7 miles into it.  But today all systems were go even if I celebrated Cinco de Mayo a little too much the night before.

Almost all systems go.  There was a launch delay after airing up our tires.  Mary's front tire on her road bike had a sidewall bulge.  No fookin' bueno!  No worries, I've 4 road tires shipping in and they should arrive by next weekend.  So road bikes were stricken off our list and the fast tandem was pulled out of its slumber, aired up and ridden for the first time this year.  Excellent choice!  Launch resumed, all systems go.

We decided to make a loop out of the trip.  We took the traditional way to Bondurant via the Gay Lea Wilson Train all the way into Altoona and then take the new Chichaqua Trail extension back to the Four Mile Creek Trail and rejoin the GLW at Copper Creek.  One thing we noted on both loops is that trail usage has significantly increased over the years.  That's a good thing.  In fact, we saw quite a few bikes on the MLK sidepath on our way to E 30th.

Near the beginning of the Gay Lea Wilson Trail, two gas tanks from automobiles on top of a door.  Photo taken from the bridge on Scott Ave, Pleasant Hill.

I think I may reserve the Altoona route for non-peak outdoorsy seasons.  It was photo day for pee wee baseball and families and small children were all over the trail at the Lions Park.  Secondly, and maybe it was our timing, lots of traffic interfering with our street crossings.  Another change will be to get off the MLK sidepath at 25th and take that to Scott Ave instead of riding north on 30th for a few blocks.  We did this on the return.  E 30th is too narrow and busy plus the road is filthy with rocks, sand, cracks, car parts ect.

But once out of Altoona we enjoyed ourselves.  Today's Special: Goats.  One farm had many goats of all shapes and sizes.  Another house had a goat tied to a tree.  This was on 78th Street near our turn onto 88th Street to get to the Chichaqua Trail.  We merely stopped at the trailhead and took a break before taking the new trail section into Bondurant and Reclaimed Rails.

Well, there was a crosswind...worked nicely!
High Trestle Hefe or as I thought of it Hair of the Dog.
From The Source badge from Untapped.

It was a one and done at the brewery.  Could have been a 4 and some but I knew better.  Mission accomplished, finally made it to this brewery.  For icing on the cake, I was awarded a badge from the Untapped beer ap for this visit.  I had the High Trestle Hefe.  Mary had a Sutliff Cider which I gave her a hard time for doing since it was a "guest" brew not a house brew.  But it is a good cider.

Although we would have enjoyed the tailwind from Bondurant to Altoona, we hated the headwind BTW, we continued west and were rewarded with a favorable crosswind.  Another first was a stop at Mally's Weh-Weh-Neh-Kee Park  in the metropolis of Berwick.  Weird name, eh.  Amenities are a restroom, covered picnic shelter, water fountain and bicycle fixstation.  We need the restroom.  I noticed several cyclists using this as their starting point.  We decided that one could get a group of riders and drink their fill at the brewery or Founders Pub and then ride the 5 miles to this park and sleep on the tabled under the shelter roof.  The park is .7 miles from the western terminus of the Chichaqua Trail and the beginning of the Four Mile Creek Trail.  One could turn north at this point and ride into Ankeny and then deal with the sidepath on Oralabor Rd and either turn north to the High Trestle Trail or south to the Neil Smith Trail.

Bicycle parking and a fixstation!

I found it nice to be riding next to a creek with another name other than Walnut, the stream that I follow to and fro work.  We noticed that there has been a lot of work in stabilizing the bank  We also noticed that someone illegally dumped a couch off at the parking lot just north of Copper Creek Lake. Scored my 43rd GeoCouch!

In the end it was great to get out and ride some miles, 40, with my lovely wife as stoker.  Both of us sunburned but smiling.  I guess our skin has been covered up for 7 or 8 months and is not quite ready for the Sun's deadly rays.  Lesson learned.