Sunday, January 13, 2019

And then The Giant Snowball Hit Us

Look Ma!  No kickstands needed!

On December 29, 2018, I posted about winter or the lack of winter in Des Moines, IA.  It never arrived.  Some mornings were cold, 20s and 30s and the coldest morning commute was at 10*F.  My lawn and yard have turned into a swamp.  Perhaps the top 3cm  thawed and below it is frozen.  Rain has no where to go.  Living with a large dog is difficult, gotta clean paws every time he comes in and he likes to go out 2 times at night and once or twice before we go to work.  I keep my commuter bike in back of the house and now the path to the driveway is tore up from the bike sinking down into the mire.  I almost broke an ankle stepping on one of those frozen tracks, the few times it actually froze.  There may have been a day or two that I used the front door instead.

The worst thing about a weekend snowfall is that the trails won't get cleared until Monday.  Yet sometimes that is a good thing.  The snow was so deep that we did not deploy the kickstands.  A wonderful view of the Des Moines skyline.
As for riding, hell, it has been fantastic.  I think I may have had to add an extra leg layer once or twice this season for the ride to work.  Have not need to dress like an astronaut just to ride a bicycle to work.  Granted that work is only 2 and half miles away from home and I used to ride 12 to 15 miles to work last season.  Still, this I like.  After I cross the river the second time I have seen on several occasions this winter a full dressed motorcycle parked in front of the police station at least twice a week, often covered with frost.  A Gold Wing I believe.

As noted on my previous post, we took our best road bikes out for a 40 miler on January 5th.  That was 8 days ago.  The high was 56*F IIRC.  So everyday I look at The Red Phoenix, my winter bicycle with studded tires, the bike that has taken me on many epic winter commutes for the last decade, the bike that by March is ready for the scrapyard yet every November I rebuild it after a long Spring and Summer's nap, and it is uselessly in the damn way.  A sentinel waiting for that moment that it is actually needed.  It was time to place it back into its warm weather storage and wait for a real winter.

Then the Forecast was proclaimed.  Snow for late Friday night and most of Saturday.  Yeah right.  Des Moines was on the northern edge of the projection.  We might get a dusting to an inch.  The bike stays in the laundry room and a decision will be made on Saturday.  Been through this before, lots of hype about snow, City trucks pouring salt brine on the streets because their budget is fine since they have not had to plow.  Then nothing.  Snow misses us and dumps a metric shit tonne elsewhere.  Just to be safe we raid the grocery store Friday.  I wash the knives and pizza cutter and the ice cream scoop.  Coffee, half and half, pork loin, chicken, frozen pizzas, ice cream, dog food, cat food, kitty litter ect, all the essentials.  Swap parking spots of the Taurus and CR-V, the latter being having AWD and the former being quite crap in snow.  By 9 pm Friday night we are ready and the first flakes fall.

I recall that there was about 2 mm of snow on the deck when I left Fritz out at 230 am.  3 hours later we have several inches of snow and it is still falling.  Damn, they were right!  OK what's the plan?  Brew coffee, play on the internet, update Bike Log from yesterday's commute and watch a movie.  I picked the Battle of The Bulge since it is either hated for historical inaccuracies or loved as a star studded cast war yarn.  I only watched it as a child and the other day a co-worker lent it to me.  Watch the movie and hope that the snow ends sometime so I can shovel.  I pride myself on a well groomed winter sidewalk and driveway and path from the deck to the driveway and around the cars.

Somehow there is little to no snow in this movie based on the famous WWII battle.  I can forgive the lack of authentic German armor since there is only one or two King Tigers that roll under their own power but for the love of all that is good please try to accurately depict the battle.
Sometime into this film I decided that it was time to finish prepping Mary's winter bicycle.  Normally this would have been done by Thanksgiving.  That bike, a Specialized hybrid, has a spare set of wheels with a set of studded tires mounted already.  All I would have to do is swap the wheels, clean and lube the chain and adjust the brakes.  BUT I loaned those wheels to my son who wanted to commute by bicycle.  So I had to put on my old studded tires, Kenda Klondikes, on her remaining wheels.

Easier said then done.  I gave up during Thanksgiving break.  The scenario repeats.  On Saturday, November 24th, our anniversary, we take our best road bikes out for a 30 miler in the 50+ degree weather and the next day snow and ice.  Bike Log indicates not much snow but I rode my winter bike that day and the next day to work.  Mary had Monday off and when she returned to work on Tuesday she did not need studded tires.

And the lack of that need was a good thing.  I failed to mount those tires.  It was the worst time ever for me installing tires.  Just could not get the bead over the rim.  Tried dish soap and water but that did not work.  Used a lever on one and as expected the tube was ruined.  My hands abused, tore up and feeling arthritic.  So the wheels sat and her bike was left on the stand.  But the deeper we got into winter the likelihood that we needed to use our winter bicycles seemed remote.  Maybe once our twice I told her that she could ride mine and I'll take my adventure/gravel/roadie with wide tires instead.  Never happened.  Thought about buying new tires of a different brand maybe that would be easier.  Wheels and bike sat.

Then the giant snowball landed on Des Moines.  Time to get it done.  Secret weapon/tool...WD-40.  And it worked!  Both tires on and inflated!  Let them sit while I shoveled.  They held air!!  After shoveling it was time to clean the drivetrain and fix the brakes.  Her next winter bike will have disc brakes.  Disc brakes are easier to maintain.  I also adjusted my brakes.  By 430 pm it was time to ride.

My mug.  Had their Session Black IPA

Root Down!
 Just a short ride across the river and to the store and stop at the brew pub for some black IPA.  Photo op at the Jackson Street Bridge.  Where are all the bridge beer drinking bicyclists?  In warmer locations.  The Kansas City Chiefs were in the playoffs and that game was on.  We did find Walter, Jana and Kramer at Court Avenue Brewpub.  Time for one mug to celebrate successful bicycle work.  Walter bought a round of Root Downs for us (Jagermeister and root beer).  Thank you!  Walter and Jana biked home.  Kramer walked since he lives nearby.  Time for us to roll home as well.  One and done!  Chiefs win!  I needed to put a pork loin on the Weber grill for dinner.

The trail was plowed to Gray's Lake as far as I knew.  The Green Bridge was not.  One pass with the plow over the pedestrian bridge from Mullets to Principal Park.  The river walk was not plowed.  We took all three of these.  When we got home Mary's purse was not in her panniers.  We had to ride back  Fortunately, CABCo's staff secured it in the office and they tracked it by her mug number.  Whew!

What a day!  Probably my most productive Saturday in a long time.  One bicycle resurrected, another adjusted.  Shoveled.  Watched a movie and a few football games, Chelsea v Newcastle, KC v Indianapolis, Rams v Cowboys next.  Cooked a pork loin to perfection with indirect heat.  Rode my bicycle in the snow for the fun of it.  And watched a movie.  Really nice winter day.

January is the coldest month and we are half way through it.  In 7 or 8 weeks it will be March and Spring will be here soon.  The Red Phoenix will go back into storage to be neglected until around Thanksgiving break.  I'll have to pull those tires off Mary's bike and clean it up again.  And our roadies will start to accumulate miles.  The Cycle of Bike Life.

Sunday, January 6, 2019

Cheater-mode: Waukee to Perry

Dallas Center, Iowa.
As usual, I spent the week staring at the forecast for the weekend.  As promised by the weathercons Saturday was in the 50s and dry.  Told Mary to make no plans because we are going to ride bicycles!  Took a few days to find out where said ride was to take place.

The problem of this winter is that it never happened.  Sure, we had had a dusting or two of snow.  But we have had a lot of rain and the ground is partially frozen and the rain and ice melt have no where to go.  In my yard for instance, about 2 centimeters is thawed and the below that all frozen had.  Mud.  Many trails are like that as well.  The surface is clear except where water stands and refreezes every night.  So we needed to find a trail that has a lot of exposure to the sun, away from water sources and flat to prevent puddles/ice.

Reports about the Clive Greenbelt were bad.  Between 515 Brewery and 128th St there was ice.  Having commuted on that trail for years I can attest how the trail is often submerged.  Avoid.  We thought about going south on the Great western Trail but we have done that in recent memory and there really is no destination except drink beer on a bridge.  There will plenty of time for social rides in 2019.  We wanted to ride our roadies and get get the cobwebs cleared out.  I also had a strong desire to remain sober, drank my share on NYE on Monday.

The Raccoon River Valley Trail was our choice.  Waukee to Perry.  Flat and sunny.  There's a coffee shop in Perry as well so a destination.  How we fail to do this?  The only problem was that the connecting trail, Clive's Greenbelt was bad.  Why not cash in some carbon credits and drive to the trailhead?  Surely we deserve to do that once in a while.  The Honda CR-V is perfect and the seats were never returned to upright position after giving Mary a ride home from work the previous Friday.  Cheating, I know but we have not driven that vehicle for a week and time was precious and we wanted to remain dry.

Time and temperature.  Dora had to be at work at 8 am so one of us would use the Taurus to drop her off and park it in the street so the Honda can get out.  Then we can slowly get dressed and packed leave in time for the ride to begin at a temperature appropriate for minimal warmth layers.  Ideally, light gloves, tights long sleeve jersey, light jacket and headband to keep ears warm.  Under Armor base layer on torso for good measure.  Wool socks.  Gotta keep feet warm.

We got to Waukee around 10ish and stopped at Taco Johns.  Something to throw down our gullets since we failed to eat breakfast.  I did drink a pot of coffee at home but no solid food.  Cheap and fast and a clean restroom.  BTW, the restrooms at the trailhead are closed and there is a large sheet of ice in front of the doors.  I considered leaving the truck there at TJ's but we decided to go to the trailhead.

Both trailhead parking lots were filling up.  People were biking in all directions.  Some heading to and from Adel to the west, others heading north toward Dallas Center and back.  A great day to ride and everyone wanted to be out.  There were other SUVs there with road bikes on racks.  I resisted the urge to ask why they could not haul their bicycles inside.  We have 58 inches from the front seats to the tailgate and are able to get both bikes inside without removing wheels.  We use a sleeping bag to prevent the vehicle from getting dirty and the bikes from getting scratched.  Bicycles are safest inside a vehicle during transport.  Saris bike racks scratch both bikes and cars.  Trailer hitch mounts expose bicycles to road dirt, salt and sand and the risk of the bikes falling off is present,  Scratches as well.  And some idiot may rear end said vehicle.

41*F and rising!  Ah, felt great to be on our finest road bikes.  Then it hit me, damn, these tires are a lot skinnier than the 38's I have been riding on my daily commutes.  I'll adjust.  Enjoy the speed.  Push it hard.  Get the heart rate up and blood flowing.  See if I can get the legs to hurt.  Keep up with Mary.   Then the dark thoughts.  I should replace the rear brake cable on Mary's bike.  Her wireless computer needs to go.  Once again I forgot to re-wrap my bars.  Neglected to fix the front derailleur issue on my bike.  Man, our bikes are filthy!

We rode the diagonal trail from Waukee to Perry.  This is the new section of the RRVT.  It was made from the former rail bed. Since trees do not make money for Iowa corn and bean farmers there are very few of them along the trail and what do exist are small.  This has been an issue for me.  I would like a canopy for hot windy days.  Exposure on all sides is not the best thing to ride in.  BUT today I appreciated exposure since it dried off the trail.

Not long after we started we encountered the first shady areas.  Sure enough it looked wet.  Even better there was ice.  Find the least icy line which was on our right or the eastern side of the trail.  Easy to spot these sections were.  No big deal.  We also encountered a patch of snow with the consistency of snow cone ice.  This was the first ever snow that The Century Machine ever rolled through.  No issues and I do admit that I went out of my way to ride through it.  Now it may seem that I was freaking out about the ice ect but I knew as soon as the sun went down it would get dangerous.  The night before I had a conversation with a friend about riding to Minburn for steak night and if we left right after the discussion it would be dark and cold and icy.

I needed this photo for FB's Bicycle Ride & Seek page.

We passed a group of five or six cyclists on our way up.  I asked if they we riding back north.  Curiosity of trail conditions.  Nope, they we heading north for the first time today.  We did not stop in Dallas Center.  A quick stop in Minburn to take a photo.  Nobody was at The Nineteen14 trail side bar.  Then our group of friends caught up and rolled ahead so we had to interfere with their nice formation and pass them again.  We had to get to the Perry Perk coffee shop before they closed at 1 pm.  Seems early but Perry, Iowa, is a small town and it was a Saturday.  Google Maps had the Perry Perk located in a building that is experiencing renovations.  Even on Saturday they were working on this so we rode through a bit of glass and headed to the Hotel Pattee.  Mary inquired at the desk about a coffee shop and the woman told us to go back to where we were and look to the left.  Damn you Google!!  So we rode back and found it.

The red X marks the location of the Perry Perk.  Lesson: always look around!

Really could use a bicycle rack here or across the street.  TBH we did not look around the corner.

Coffee!  I kept wanting to call this place the Perky Perk.  Perhaps I will open up a Perky Perk in the future.

Lack of imagination and desire to keep it simple since they were to close in 40 minutes, we ordered our usual.  Iced vanilla latte for Mary and 3 shots over ice for me.  Nice beans roasted in Valley Junction.  Beans available for purchase but in Mason jars.  Perhaps that was decor only.  Cannot fathom the pain of going down on ice and landing on a Mason jar in my jersey pocket, glass and coffee beans injected into my body.

The people we passed twice on the trail were at the Mandarin restaurant which was a good thing because it is an example of cyclists helping the economy of  trail towns.  Another group of bicycles were parked in front of La pasadita (yes uncapped) restaurant.  We strolled by on foot to explore the Ben Franklin.  Shopping oddity for us big city folk.  Blast from Mary's past.

Grandma or Grandpa, read us a story please.

On the way back we noticed that The Nineteen14's outdoor patio was packed with cyclists.  In fact, many more bikes were on the trail going both directions.  Mostly road bikes and an older woman on a fatbike.  We stopped at the Big red Chair in Dallas Center for a photo.  I placed our bicycles on it for a "grandpa tell us a story" photo.  People on the nearby bench offered to photo us on the chair.  Nice!  Time for the last 6 miles.

We were shy of 40 miles as Waukee approached.  I did the calculations and Mary and I turned right as if heading to Adel to make up the difference before tuning back.  By the time we reached our auto we had the 40 miles.  Mission accomplished!  we would be home in time to pick Dora up from work.  She never called.  Her boyfriend picked her up.  I showered and changed into shorts and rode the Verenti to Graziano's for link sausage and buns.  Easy filling meal.  Still warm enough to wear shorts.  Hard to believe it is January.

Wednesday, January 2, 2019

2018 the Last Commute

The bicycles Mary and I used for The Last Commute and Dogfight.  Photo taken on the rooftop patio of the Biciflats where the NYE party was held.

Much better than last year.  Despite the light rain and occasional flurries it was above freezing.  last year it was -3*F in the morning then it dropped to -14*F for the trip home.  27 miles and snow.  This year it was a 4 mile round trip.  Dry in the morning and I forget the temperature but suffice to say that I did not wear anything extra for the cold so it probably mid to upper 20s.  But the rain....

Craig and I discussed a lunch ride.  Very doable.  I suggested The Chicken,  He never had been there.  10 miles from Orlando's on the Great Western Trail.  But I could not get out of work early and as the day went on the rain and snow hit.  Although the temperature was to remain above freezing until the evening the possibility of ice was a risk we did not want to face.  Besides, rain when the temps are in the low 30s is the worst.  At 1 pm we changed the destination to Fuzzy"s Tacos.  Cheap food and beer, wifi and an electrical hook up.  I was off at 216 and told Mary to meet us there.  She had the day off.

Funny thing about my text to Mary, I typed Mullets not Fuzzy's by mistake.  Mullets was in consideration for a destination.  While we waited and waited for her the error was discovered and corrected.

Nice last lunch together with Craig.  Too bad Kim had to work.  Discourse on bike rides for 2019 ect.  Eventually it was time to go.  Mary had to help our daughter Katie set up for her New Years Eve party.  The rain was over.

Nothing to note on the way home until we approached our home.  The people who live catty cornered across the street have two small dogs that often are running loose on the streets.  They also have small children who are often running into the streets chasing said dogs.  One day, I fear, a car is going to kill one of those kids.  One of the dogs was attacked by people down the road, presumably sick of loose dogs, and nearly killed.  It was since calmed down somewhat but the scar on its neck bears witness to the lesson.  Its owner "maybe I'll have to keep him tied up."  Yes please do.

So as we got there the white dog gave Mary chase as she turned into our driveway.  I switched into am acceleration gear and gave pursuit.  Not that the dog would bite but it is annoying and does not belong in the street or our on our property.  The children were yelling at it to come back.  I was going to scare it!  And them!  School is in session!!

Popular in Asian countries these bikes are highly maneuverable and easier to store than traditional road bikes.  They are not, however, foldable bikes.  Someone downtown has a blue Schwinn, old iron Schwinn, with BMX wheels on it.  you can see it at Hy Vee or on Court Ave occasionally.

So I got it off Mary's 6 and back into the street and had its complete attention.  But there was a problem.  A wise person once said "never get into a turning battle with a Zero".  True.  I could charge at the dog but he could step back and avoid contact and turn on me.  Had to zoom and boom his ass!  My bike's 700C wheels just lacked the maneuverability need for this situation.  Feint away from the house to get room and speed and the dog headed back to his house and the waiting screaming children.  NOW!!  Full speed!!  Hop the curb!!  Avoid the tricycle that has been laying there for weeks!  Riding into that front lawn right on his ass!  Nobody knew what to say.  The oldest boy grabbed the mutt and I left hoping that my tires sunk in and left tracks.  Also hoping that there was not an ice patch hidden that would knock me down.  All clear and I rode it on in to my property avoiding the ice and mud pact near my fence.  Commute over.  Commuting over for 2018.

One ride left.  To Katie's NYE party!  Uneventful ride and much better than the -15*F from last year but that's another story.

Have a fine 2019!!!