Saturday, December 29, 2018

So This Is Winter?

Magnum of Heineken or as my son in-law calls it "Lao Beer." The Verenti.

December 28, 2018
Des Moines, Iowa USA

It finally hit.  Sure, we have had a few cold days a few dustings of snow.  North of us they have a lot of snow.  After Thanksgiving south of us got hit with over a foot.  But in DSM, nada.  The previous post I mentioned the snow pile remnants in Indianola, IA.  Traveling south for Christmas we see the occasional snow pile but that day was warm.  I recall thinking my brother in-law was a wimp for donning hat and gloves to run dog food to the dog they have fenced in away from the house (he chases buses).  Discussions of climate change ect.  Enjoy this while it lasts, the hammer will fall.  Usually the weather is great until Black Friday since I now have that day as a play day after 20 years of babysitting away from home.  And then it is good until New Years Eve when it goes from good bicycling weather to 20 below Zerex.  I love riding in snow but when it dips to single digits with that 25 mph NW wind, only bike when necessary.

Photo credit: Rose Brooks
So it was.  Thursday it was almost 60*F and serious rain.  The weathercons showed the line between rain and snow on the map.  A nice warm mass kept it away for hours.  It did not feel like it would end.  Double rainbow to enjoy on my ride home.  Then a black sky and heavy rain.  Tornado weather.  Imagine my surprise when I let the dog out at 3 am Friday to see a dusting of snow on the ground.  Damn, party's over, well for a few days as 40*F+ forecasted later next week.

I took the "adventure" bike.  I left the winter bike at home for Mary.  We gave one of our sons her set of wheels with studded tires since he has committed to commuting via bicycle recently.  My old set of studded tires refuse to mount on her other set of wheels.  But we have not needed studs.  I was almost to the point of placing The Red Phoenix (my winter bike) back into storage.  I think I have commuted on it to work once this season.

The Verenti (adventure/cross/gravel) was fine.  Small snow drifts that I had to go out of my way to hit were the only issue.  Its wide WTB Riddler tires slightly under inflated worked well.  No slips or spills.  Mary took her pink mixte single speed.  Neither of us had any issues.

I learned how to drive in RWD American cars with V-8s.  FWD hit the masses later.  AWD was only for rally cars.  Now RWD is RARE but I see as many cars in the ditch these days as I did before FWD and AWD and SUVs took over the world.

Other people did.  Shortly after the sun was up my boss came out of his office and said that a car slid off the road and hit a tree.  Naturally, we went to the window to gawk at the misfortune.  A newer Ford SUV lost control and popped the curb and landed on a small tree.  The tree dampened the momentum thus preventing the driver from hitting the pole.  7th St is slightly downhill at this point.  Most drivers get a lot of speed when they travel on it.  Just enough snow to make it slick.  Americans drive like auto insurance is free and no one is ever held responsible unless they are drunk.

The ride home was fine.  I decided to pick Mary up from work since it was now colder and this would save time.  We had a few things to do and 17*F slow's down ones metabolism.  I had no issues driving except the doors on the Taurus were frozen and then refused to latch.  The Honda is what I drove anyway because it would except her bike inside without hassle.  I never felt the AWD kick in.

Today it may get above freezing.  40s tomorrow.  Then a freeze to single digit lows.  Then the 40s by the end of the week.  Much better than last year when it was -15*F January 2nd and the car would not start and my NiteRider gave out.  That's a real winter day.

Sunday, December 16, 2018

Christmas Shopping Bicycle Ride on the Summerset Trail

The intersection near the GeoCouch Score.

Although it has been a very mild December for us in Des Moines, Iowa, our riding has been limited mainly to commuting back and forth to work.  It seems to be cold and wet on the weekends.  Finally we had a forecasted near 50*F and clear blue skies with a gentle to non-existent wind.  Everyone was talking about riding.  So we made plans.  Christmas shopping was necessary and we would be able to do this during our ride.  Mary and I also used this ride to test our new vehicle and since time was limited and sunlight as well we decided to drive to the trail.  This would save 2 hours and allow us to wait until it warmed up.  If I remember correctly, it was 23*F when we woke up.  Needed to give the Sun a few hours to warm Iowa up.

We took one touring bike with only its rear panniers and one road bike.  Now to get them into the vehicle.  My ideal requirement for a car is the ability to get two road bikes inside without having to disassemble them and close the doors and hatch.  The safest place for a bicycle during vehicular transport is inside the vehicle.  In the past we did this with a Saab and a Toyota Land Cruiser.  We could get two bikes in back of the Taurus but front wheels had to come off.  As luck would have it, an opportunity for me to spend all my Christmas money in December appeared in the form of a Honda CR-V which I bought at the beginning of the month.  Now it was time to test it.

The 520

Two bikes inside.

Seats fold down quite nicely providing 58" of horizontal room in back.  Lift open the rear window and then open the tailgate which sings to the right.  Put bicycles inside and close tailgate.  Window closes last which helps with adjustments of bikes and loading gear.  I placed the Trek 520 in first as it was longer and had racks and bags.  An old sleeping bag was used to keep the bikes separated.  Nothing irks me off more than stupid scratches especially during transport.  The Honda has a trailer hitch for an external bike rack and room for a roof rack but as stated earlier the safest place for bicycles during transport is inside the vehicle.  IF I wanted to I could make an internal rack to hold the bikes upright but that would require removal of the front wheels and thus putting unnecessary stress on the headset plus added steps.  Bikes safe we drove to the Summerset Trail in Carlisle.

Our 11 mile ride to Indianola on this trail was nice.  The people we met, every one of them, said that it was "a lovely day for a bike ride!"  Nice to encounter people not jaded by armleutching cyclists. As we rolled near Banner State Park and its shooting range we could hear gunfire.  That was on our left.  BOOM!!!  That one was on our right.  Mary saw the orange hat.  Deer season!  I hope that they were not shooting in the direction of the trail.  I had a Safety Yellow jacket on so I should have stood out in the brown December background.

Another thing we noticed.  The fields had a lot of water err ice.  Indianola had piles of snow here and there.  This seemed strange to us because we have only had a dusting or two of snow and relatively warm weather, but south of Des Moines was hit hard.  Indianola may have had 4" two weeks prior when we got nothing.  No snow on the trail.

Outside Crimson Anchor Coffee.  Had I been paying attention I would have noticed the flat tire.   Very apparent in this photo.

All our loot inside.  Merry Christmas!!

Once in our destination town we rode to the square.  We made our second visit to Crimson Anchor Coffee.  The previous trip was in September, coffee review, and our initial thought was that we should return here to purchase Christmas gifts someday.  The coffee shop shares the same roof with two other shops.  First things first, order coffee and thenlook around for presents.  We made sever purchases.  Bad news hit.  The owner of the building is ending their leases at the end of the year.  Crimson Anchor and the gift shops must relocate.  "No fear, this is his passion," she said.  Damn, finally have a destination in Indianola instead of the trailhead and turn around.  Good news.  A brew pub is to move in.  Bittersweet.  Not like there are not enough brew pubs near us but there is not one in Indianola.  I'll miss the coffee but enjoy the beer.  I know that CA will relocate.  Bittersweet indeed.

Still kicking myself for not making a purchase of beans back in September.  Not making the same mistake twice!

We left our bicycles outside the coffee shop and loaded our booty in them and then walked the square to see what else was available.  There is a business that does pottery, woodwork and powder coating so we stopped in and purchased a few items.  $75 to paint a bike frame.....  Another store gave me a free sample of CBD oil to put on my shoulder that has been bothering me.  Nice!  People saw us on bikes and smiled and said what a great day it was for biking.  After completing the square we loaded up and set off for home.

Universal sign of bike issues.

Something was wrong.  Flat tire.  SoB!!  Completely flat.  Rear of course.  Schwalbe Marathon Supreme.  Survivor of two week long tours.  1288 miles on that tire.  Mary decided to go back and revisit another shop while I dealt with the flat.  Fortunately I packed my tire repair kit, levers tubes and pump.  I grabbed a tube that I removed from another wide road tire that I was going to use for Mary's winter tires.  I also had a 700x25 tube for Mary's roadie.  Disconnect the brake and flip the bike over and remove the wheel.  Sit on the bench and get to work.  Appeared to be a puncture as a bit of something had embedded itself into the center of the tire.  Nothing sharp on the inside of the tire.  I pumped up the tube but could not find the leak.  Put the replacement tube in.  Something is wrong.  CRAP!!  I grabbed a 26" tube!  Wrong tube!  Fortunately, there is an outdoors shop here, canoes, kayaks and bikes.  I sent Mary there to purchase a proper tube.  Soon we were back on the road.  Daylight was limited.  Time to fly.  Glad we drove to the trailhead instead of riding from home.  It would have been dark by the time we got home.  For that matter I think it was dark by the time we did get home.

The trail was the same.  Downhill for the first 5 miles.  All the bicycles we encountered were heading to Indianola.  The gun range was still open.  More importantly for me, the restroom at the gun range was open.  I made my own explosion in the nick of time.  Steel cut oatmeal, Burger King and coffee was a near lethal mixture!!

Illegally dumped couch.

Ready for a long winters nap!

Then a GeoCouch Miracle occurred!  I spotted two couches discard on the side of a gravel road just off the trail.  One was a hide-a-bed partly in the ditch and frozen on the ice.  Obligatory photos were a must.  This may have been my 67th score.  After we left and when I went to take a photo of the street sign two truckloads of orange clad hunters rolled by.  Should have told them that the deer ran the other way a few minutes before.  4 of them, full speed over the trail.  For more information on Bicycle GeoCouching use the following link  Bicycle GeoCouching

At last we reached the trailhead.  The new tube did not spring a leak and it held the air I pumped in. No other mechanical issues.  Unload the purchases and then load the bikes.  Success.  Maybe take 4 panniers next time.

All the presents unloaded.  The snowman bowl is for Mary's collection.  Uncensored photo to be released after Christmas.  There is a possibility that the recipients may read this blog.

Sunday, December 9, 2018

Return to Gilligan's Island

The beach is iced out!  At least there are no trucks stuck out there.

Busy day yesterday was.  I had one opportunity to get out for a quick ride.  For whatever reason I had the desire to take the Verenti out to the off road trails on the north bank of the Des Moines River.  Been there at least once and that was on a fatbike.  This time a disc braked roadie with a set of 38s.  The terrain is flat and the trails were created by decades of motorcycles and 4WD trucks.  Original 2014 Ride

The place I rode is the triangle wooded area to left of the pond and the highway 69 (SE 14th).  The strip of land in the middle of the pond holds a rail bridge.
Access to the trails is found just off SE 14th, highway 69 on the river's edge and the old recycling plant.  I took the easy route by taking the Des Moines River Trail to go under SE 14th and access the sidewalk to cross the river.  Lots of broken glass beer bottles to dodge and little room for the dodging but it is a mercifully short jaunt.  Once across the river I rode along the levee until the paved river access appeared.  This I assume is for boat access.  Often from the other side of the the river I see people fishing here.  The powers that be even provide a kybo for nature's call. 

I don't think they were fishing today.  There was the proverbial "van down by the river" parked there and two other trucks.  I was greeted by two barking dogs that charged me but their owner told them to stop barking and they did.  No chase was offered.

The ground was a bit muddy.  I thought it would be hard because it was a cold morning and not above freezing yet.  Must have been the sun warming up the high river bank.  One bad move and into the river I would have gone.  Into the trees and away from the bank the trail was dry.  A bit sandy in places from the summer's flooding and covered with leaves.  The track was wide from truck use..  Nothing technical, just watch out for logs and large sticks and logs and sandy dips. 

Abandoned tent.  I wish I would have photographed the metal shelters but there were people around them.
Things have changed since that Easter Sunday a few years ago.  A lot more homeless people have moved here.  Far from the eyesight of the City and its inhabitants they can live here without the being told to move out.  None of those white and red signs posted telling the homeless that they are in violation of code and their meager belongings will be taken away and their shelters be torn down.  There are several abandoned tents and the accompanying debris of urban frontier living.  But I also saw larger structures built using metal sheets and tarps.  These look to be a better place to call home than a tent.  I said nothing and resisted the urge to take photos.  I was glad that I left my helmet at home and wore a dark jacket.  No need to stand out in full kit like some privileged bastard in these parts.  Blend in.  I was hoping that these people may have heard of the Urban Food Ministry and cut me some slack because I was riding a bicycle.  I also hope that the UFM reads this. 

The shell of a Mustang.  All combustible material burned.  Lots of tire tracks in this area.

Motor is there for the taking.  If this was an extremely rare car and someone had a lot of stupid money I suppose it could be restored like an airplane recovered 70 years after a crash.
My reason for choosing this area was to see if any new GeoCouches and SUV were abandoned here.  As noted in my first write up on this area, this is the place where SUVs come to die, usually bashed and burned.  Nothing new except a SN95 New Edge Mustang (1994 to 2004) in ruins.  Another immolation to Moloch. 

The Blazer or Jimmy.  Last time there were children's toys in back of it.  I did not look today.
The Blazer was still resting near the eagle nest.  If it was possible, which it was, it looked worse.  This vehicle is visible from the DSM River Trail across the river.  I recall that it was a red SUV but now all the paint is gone, just a rusty shell with it's motor underneath where the hood was.

Eagles nest.
The view of the eagles nest and Blazer from the Des Moines River Trail.
Zoom shot.
Eagle in flight.  This is a great trail to see eagles.  The colder it is the more eagles there are.  A juvenile was in this area as well.

Sitting above the Des Moines River Trail.  I need a real camera.
The eagle nest it still there and active.  This looks so huge from the trail but smaller when underneath it.  While on that trail I stop and look at it.  Its occupants often being sentinels on nearby branches and one protecting the eggs.  On this ride an eagle was flying in the area. 

I bet it taste like Budweiser. 
I reached the beach so to say, the place where the lagoon begins.  Last time I walked on it and saw a man waiting for his buddy to arrive to pull his 4WD full size truck out.  This is where the pile of bicycles were burned.  Here's the link to what I saw here in four years prior Fire of Children Bicycles 2014 Ride  The water and ice were high so I stayed up and could hear the ice crack.  Two cans of Guatemalan beer were littered here.  Where does one in Iowa get Guatemalan cerveza?  Cool label, almost thought it was University of Iowa.  I heard someone moving around in a tent so i decided to leave.  On my way out one of the dogs greeted me again.  Barked a few times and stared away to the east.  Brown and white he looked to be of retriever origin and old.  Probably a nice dog.  Glad his companion was not around as it looked to be more of a guardian dog pedigree, pit bull.  He was the more vicious barked when I entered this area.  The dog did not follow me and I took a different route out to avoid the dog and people at the boat ramp.

Sunday, December 2, 2018

Deadly Roads in Iowa Before Winter Hit

This is merely what was printed in the Des Moines Register, the newspaper Iowa depends on, from Thanksgiving through the weekend.  Thursday, Friday, Saturday and Sunday editions November 22nd through the 25th, 2018.  Not included is what happened the following week such as a car driven at high speed crashing into a taco place or a car crashing into a pond.  This is just a peak into how bad drivers really are.  The snow storm hit on Sunday after the paper was printed and delivered.

Not safe to leave Iowa either!

Henry J's Tacos Closed After Driver Crashes Car Into Building

Medical Issue Causes Driver to Sink Car in Pond