Sunday, February 24, 2019

Groundhog's Day Has Been Every Sunday

At Church

Weird winter.  Nothing happened from Thanksgiving through Christmas and New Year's and then on the 11th of January it finally snowed significantly.  And almost every Sunday since.  Seems that I have many photos of my bicycle at Church this year.  I live a half mile away so I ride the bike instead of driving a car.
Bridge Beer!

Sometimes I have virgin snow to ride on, sometimes not.  Last week it was a difficult ride.  I put the bike into granny gear and slowly made my way there.  I saw some friends of mine walking to Church that day.  Afterwards I made a morning of it, exploring and imbibing on a cherished "bridge beer."  It was wonderful.
Iowa beer bus looks buried!

Last Sunday we almost had an entire wine bottle of snow!

In  an hour I will be faced with a decision, ride to Church or drive.  Once again it snowed overnight but the snow is not the issue.  The sustained 35 mph wind and the gust up to 50 mph are weighing on my mind.  I may drive.
My new bike rack at work.  Nope, they did not shovel.  One day they shoveled around our bikes and a path to where it is clear.

As for bicycling to work, it's been a hit or miss winter.  Just a mere 2+ miles from home to the bike rack at work.  I have ridden on all the snow days but the really cold days I admit that I have driven too much.  Any excuse works.  Dora needs to go to the doctor.  Mary coughed all night and I am the only one that can park at work ect.  But despite all of this I have abused the Red Phoenix.  Another 3 weeks and It will go into the shed until Thanksgiving.  But I also admit that I like to ride the bike to work on really bad snowy days just to prove to the weak that I can make it to work on bad days.  Like last Wednesday, big snow expected and really not much fell but a lot of people just stayed home.  Me, I biked.  Someone has to fight Climate Change!
I found the place NOT to park the bike!

I work in a different building now but there is a bicycle rack close to the door.  Except for being exposed to the elements it it the most convenient rack on campus.  Two other people seem to use this rack in the winter.  One rides a Surly Karate Monkey with a drivetrain as rusty as mine.  Winter is hard on bicycle.  I don't feel as bad for neglecting my chain now.  As you can tell from the photos, there is an ice drip issue at certain locations on this rack.  I learnt the hard way.
Just marking its spot!!

Bike rack mate marking its territory!

I drove to Church.  Bad decision.  Should have driven.  Wasted so much time before I left had no choice but to drive.  Had to be there since I was scheduled to do the readings.  So after my shower I threw a pair of pants on and started the CR-V.  Guess what?  Doors were frozen.  I had to open the glass tailgate and crawl in from the back.  Could not get the front door unlocked.  Exited through the  the passenger side door.  Now I have the vehicle parked with driver side door facing the Sun and idling with heat on full blast.  Hopefully the bastard with thaw out!

Saturday, February 23, 2019

Punished By The Velo Gods

It's not often that I drive an automobile but recent circumstances have required the use of an internal combustion engine for transport.  For instance when I need to take a child to a doctor's appointment or to pick something large and bulky up in a city covered in snow and ice.  Sometimes the both of us need to be somewhere within 15 minutes of when she needs off.  Mary has had a cold for something like two weeks and since our places of employment are within a quarter mile of each other why not drive when the temperatures are in the single digits?  She needs the rest.

The first time I drove to work this year my badge did not work at the parking ramp and I had to park on the street and go inside and buy a roll of quarters from Dale and then move the Honda to where my fellow economic slaves park and give Karen $4 in quarters since she feeds the meters slightly before 9 am.  They have a good system and awesome street parking BTW  Almost as close as bicycle parking but $4 a day.  Later when they said it was fixed I found myself at the wrong entrance which was probably the reason I could not get in.  Dumb me for not reading signs. 

Sounds good?  The Velo Gods strike!  In getting prepped to leave the house I looked at my key chain with the key to my bike lock on it and toss it in the drawer.  "Don't need you."  Wrongo Boyo!!  On that key chain was the key to my locker.  Can't put away my coat and gloves and hat or grab some stuff I need.  Had to run outside and through everything in the vehicle.  It was like -5 F.  And I was late.  Did not leave on time since I thought driving would save time.  And the fact that I could not get into the parking garage.  It took a few times to get a proper driving routine set.  And an email to my boss to get access to the ramp.

So it was a week ago Thursday.  Parked in the ramp again.  Little did I know that it would take 40 minutes to exit said ramp because of increased traffic provided by the State Wrestling Tournament.   Seriously, 40 minutes of idling the vehicle to get to the street. 

First things first, turn on the radio.  After about 5 minutes of local AM talk radio (politics = poli meaning many and tics meaning blood suckers) I tuned into FM rock and roll.  War Pigs by Black Sabbath.  Turn this up!  Then a crap song so I fired up YouTube on my mobile phone and started with a fitting Valentine's Day love song, Lonesome Tonight by New Order.  I rolled the window down a bit so others could enjoy.  The rest of the playlist was a big dose of New Order: Thieves Like Us, Bizarre Love Triangle (extended Dance Mix), Ceremony (why are the first singles of a band often their best?) and as I was almost out to the street the Stone Roses I Am The Resurrection which lasted all the way to Mary's place of work.  The Stone Roses' track was outstanding, the guitar at the end sublime!  And what a song to have blasting as one is finally freed!

Soon I thought why not park where Mary works?  Free and a shorter walk to my building than the ramp is.  Well, she needs to register the vehicle with her security department.  Unfortunately, she lacks the time to do this over lunch.  Bike, Chris, bike!  Monday, her day off, she will get the sticker.

Move the timeline a week or so later.  Need to buy an ice breaker/scraper to bust up the inevitable refreeze that will doom us if not removed.  Need a lot of groceries and need to stay dry since it is raining.  We drove and when all the list was complete it was time to eat.  Burgers I thought, been a long time since I had one.  But where?  Quinton's came to mind.  We have not been there in ages and they do have great drink specials.  But when I made the turn on Grand I realize that I lack coins.  75 cents per hour, at least that is what I have paid recently at a meter near work.  Mary has 40 cents. 

Forget it.  Damn city turned into a baby and decided to force people to feed meters on Saturdays since the local option sales tax was rejected by voters.  Find a place that has free parking.  Truman's.

We drove by it earlier and saw only two cars parked there.  Coolio, free parking and no crowd.  Walk in were greeted by friendlies faces and smiles.  "Whatcha drinkin?" 

Not really in a drinking mood since I needed to stay productive and Mary was planning to get her hair done afterwards.  "Just here for burgers but I could do one beer, The Big Grove."

"I'm sorry, it's breakfast until noon.  But you could get a pizza."

BARNACLES!!!!  "Man, I've had breakfast all week and we had pizza last night."  Which is true since at work I get breakfast food for free.  Not really in a mood for it on Saturday.

I do the maths.  IF we finish our beers AND go home and grab quarters for the bloody parking meter THEN we lose up to an hour of our lives just for food.  Typical American bitching about food when most of the world is starving to death.  Spoiled child I am.  If we would have ditched the CR-V for bikes.  BUT then Mary's hair would have been messed up and she has been waiting for weeks to get her hair cut.

"OK, I'll get the breakfast burrito and an ice tea."  Mary got an egg bake thing.

The food was good but I was disappointed.  The Velo Gods struck again.  Just go home.

Sunday, February 10, 2019

Lovely Sunday Snow Rides

This bicycle soldiers on in winter.

The weathercons were right.  The snow began about 7 am and was over by noon.  I think Des Moines received 3" of snow.  With the temperature hovering a few degrees below freezing it was a nice day to spend outside.  I rode the bicycle twice.

My first ride was to Church.  Had to be there by 8 am as I thought I was to fill in for a person who was scheduled for Holy Communion.  I was wrong, that is next week.  Oh well, here now better stay.  The snow had been falling for an hour and the streets may have had over an inch.  No one had driven over it so I had streets of virgin snow.  This is the best snow to ride in.  After Mass it was apparent that a lot of people woke up and drove.  They made the roads a bit crappy to ride in.  Had to pay attention to my line and prepare for the wheels breaking through the snow to the street surface.  This is like a reverse anti-lock brakes, smooth then a jolty rough patch then smooth again.  Find virgin snow toward the curbs.
They did a nice job clearing the snow off the walk and bike racks.

After Church, Mary and I decided that we should do our weekend taco and coffee ride.  We ride downtown about a mile and have breakfast tacos at Fuzzy's then go to DSM Brew for coffee.  Neighborhood residential streets to Mullets then we crossed the pedestrian bridge which the city had already made one pass with the plow.  The MLK sidepath was clear of snow which was getting near the 3" depth.  I decided to indulge in a beer, Iowa Eagle from Iowa Brewing Co, a Czech lager.  While enjoying said beer and chorizo tacos we noticed that someone was riding their bicycle in the street instead of the sidepath.  A bike with drop bars.  Heading east,  Probably in the street to avoid an inattentive driver from killing him with a right hook at the intersection of 3rd and MLK.  Good move but that street was wet.
I was shocked!  No espresso from here today!  After dropping Dora off at work i noticed that they opened.

DSM Brew was not open.  Maybe the snow delayed the openers.  But it was nearly 11 am.  We went to Java Joe's instead.  Their espresso is a bit darker roasted than DSM Brew but quite good.  I was a bit shocked at the price but Mary's medium iced vanilla latte was about the size of a large anywhere else.  I relaxed with that revelation.
At Java Joe's.  Not shown is the silver Chevy Impala blocking the entrance/exit of a parking garage and the Toyota Tundra & driver that wanted out.

The snow was over when we left but the struggle was on.  A Chevy Impala was parked illegally in front of the garage next to Java Joe's.  Two people wanted to exit the garage.  I almost chuckled as I unlocked our bicycles from the rack.  We'd be moving soon, they would not.

One stop at Hy Vee for cat food, two cod filets, pork and a bottle of wine.  Best get shopping done while I am out.  The rest of the ride home was alright.  Another pass was made on the bridge.  Got home and shoveled.  Both of us.  Worked up a sweat and stripped off my warmth layers and got the snow removed in time for tomorrow's winter event.

Sunday, February 3, 2019

BRR 2019 New Perspective

Parked my bike at Ground Zero.

I have been participating in the annual BRR (Bike Ride to Rippey) for ages.  I think 1992 was my first BRR.  For me it was like one day of Ragbrai except on its date, the first Saturday of February, there can be something like a 120*F temperature difference.  BRR can be cold. This year it was warm with the temperatures well above freezing in the mid 40s.

The first year I did BRR I rode Mary's blue Cannondale and rode alone, no friends or family.  I recall that an official BRR SAG wagon handed out cans of Budweiser in Rippey, the turn around point 12 miles from the start in Perry.  It was a fun ride.  Once outside Perry the countryside turns into a barren wasteland of Iowa tundra.  Halfway through there was a farm that served hot chocolate with schnapps.  The next year Mary and I rode this on tandem and eventually our bicycle Team, Mystery Machine rode with us in force.

But like a lot of good things the good times ended.  There was never much to do in Rippey except try to get a drink in the only bar in town with was packed or drink beer at the gas station.  We would carry are own supply.  The scenery never changed.  The hot chocolate stop ended and often we drank out beer on a gravel road intersection out in the tundra.  Then the cops made their presence felt.  I was told to dump my Guinness at the stop sign on the city limit in Rippey.  We all had to dump our beers.  As Eric Crabb told me, "It became a pain in the ass for me and we were harassed by 5 0 a couple of years so I said no more."   We started riding to Bouton instead and drank at Carmen's.  Friends also started riding to Perry from Des Moines.  I never did but like to sometime.   Mary and I stayed home instead.  If it was nice like it was in 2009 Mary and I would just go for a ride from home and avoid the circus.  And then Mary and began 5 years of  30 mile per day bicycle commute to work and back.  We did BRR every Monday through Friday everyday of winter.

This year I gave it consideration again.  Perhaps ride to BRR with Craig as an offer was considered.  Maybe drive to Madrid and ride across the Trestle to get to Perry.  But the trail was most likely buried in snow.  Then I got a message from Colin.  Paraphrased, "Haul me and my DJ equipment to Rippey."  Interesting.   Rippey needs a DJ?  They must be doing something.  Rippey has never done anything outstanding for BRR in my memory.  Others may disagree but I have never seen it.  Maybe they have finally discovered the gold mine they have been sitting on for decades.  What the hell, Colin, I'll take you there and my bike.

About half the taps.  I had the Parkside Heffe

We had to be there by 9 am.  There was a large tent set up.  We had the southwest corner to set up  Perfect.  Back the CR-V up and unload.  Pull straight ahead into the bank's parking lot and store the vehicle.  At the other end of the tent the bar was set up.  The Thirsty Pigs mobile event crew set up 15 taps of beer plus sold mixed drinks, hot chocolate, coffee and Busch Lattes for those not into craft beer.  Two propane heaters set up in the middle.  Across the street at the library people were selling food.  A tiger themed short bus was selling some sort of mini egg rolls named tiger rolls.

Colin is the DJ he is what he plays.  80's MTV style.

People packed from the bar to the DJ's speakers!

Build it and they will come.  Some time around 11 or so maybe earlier the first bikes arrived.  Racers and roadies.  The serious crowd.  The tent filled.  Colin had the people dancing and some stayed for hours it seemed.  After a few hours people I knew arrived.  They had the ISU basketball game on a bicycle stereo and we listened to the Cyclones beat Texas.  Meanwhile the beer tent was full.

Snow makes fun bicycle parking!
Mud.  Looks like a music festival in the UK.

One incident to report.  A man wearing a Thin Blue Line jersey left the beer tent and threw his cup on the street instead of depositing into a trash receptacle.   A man with a dog and a pair of cool sun glasses called him out on it.  Moments later fists were flying as a fight erupted between the two.  Two others pulled them apart and Thin Blue Line Man walked off to his bike.  I've seen a lot of crazy stuff on BRR but never a fist fight.

The fog rolled in as the snow melted and turned the ground into mud.

As 4 pm drew near the crowd dispersed and the beer tent emptied.  The Thirsty Pigs quickly untapped the beer and Colin let the last track finish.  Time to pack and go.  Amazingly, the stuff we packed at his house packed nicely in my SUV.  We filled the Honda.  As we pulled out we noticed the fog.  Great.
Loaded CR-V

The tailgate shut!

Like idiots we drove the route.  We failed to bring maps or fire up Google Maps.  The fog was bad.  As a cyclist now driving an automobile I could see just how vulnerable I am every I drive.  The bicyclists were nearly invisible, many without red flashers.  Even those that had flashers were not all that visible.  It was a long trip to Perry.  I feared for their lives and that everyone driving was aware of the bicycle ride.  Takes one fast motor vehicle operator making a curve to plow over a gaggle of bicyclists.  Then again it was good to witness this to understand how truly vulnerable I am.

This event restored my love of BRR.  I hope to ride it next year.