Tag Archives: Cedar Rapids

Well, This Sucks

I am starting to wonder if the gods may be conspiring against me to have a carefree summer riding the Cedar Valley Nature Trail.  This week some yahoo in a truck decided to take out a bridge on the section of trail about six miles from my house:

My hope is that the good folks at Linn County Conservation will figure out a detour down the embankment and across the road.  Otherwise, I am looking at another summer of closures.  Ugh.

Progress is a Bummer

I knew the day was coming and each ride felt like a stolen moment.  It may not be a big deal to anyone else, but the section of the Cedar Valley Nature Trail that I ride nearly every day closed last week:

It’s all part of a project to pave the trail from Center Point to Urbana.  Honestly, the trail needs some improvements and the section just south of Center Point was getting chewed up in anticipation of this particular project.

Since the beginning of the coronavirus pandemic there have been a lot of people out on the trail.  This is an unqualified good thing and more pavement will mean more users.

However, personally I am a little bummed.  I really enjoyed the unpaved sections of trail because the crowds dropped off even on the busiest weekend afternoon.  A rider was left with just the sounds of his tires on crushed rock and whatever nature provided given no clowns rolled by with a Bluetooth speaker.

It may take a little longer to get to the gravel, but I will appreciate the 18 or so miles of paved trail near my house when spring rains make everything a little soupy.  Progress, I guess.

Drinking Local in the Third Quarter of 2020

You will notice something right away when you look at my beer consumption for the third quarter of 2020:

Consumption just dropped off the face of the map.

There was nothing conscious in my decision making.  It just sort of happened.  Normally, summer is when I go for bike rides with the kids and stop for a post-ride treat at Lion Bridge Brewing in Czech Village.  With coronavirus doing its thing this year there were none of those rides.

There is something disconcerting about making a judgement call every time you want to go out for a beer or dinner with regard to the risk profile.  It takes the fun out of things to wonder “Is it worth going out for dinner?”

Beyond that I have almost stopped drinking beers at home.  Again, nothing conscious about the decision.  It just sort of happened.  I know a lot of people have taken to drinking more during coronavirus, but I have taken the opposite tack for some reason.

We shall see what the colder temperatures bring.  Stay safe out there.

This is What My Recovery Looks Like

The derecho, for lack of better words, kicked our ass here in eastern Iowa.

Oh sure, we will recover just like we did after the flood in 2008.  The clean up will take a while, but the yard debris will be removed and houses will be repaired.  Buildings will be torn down and businesses will reopen.   It is a process that we are intimately familiar with having experienced a “once-in-a-lifetime” weather event just twelve years ago.

Recovery is a collective process.  If I clean up my property, but no one around me does anything then it just means that I have the cleanest patch of land in the middle of a junkyard.  This is true for a street, neighborhood, or an entire city.  If any part is left to rot then it is the whole that suffers.

In that vein, I got started on what I could control relative to the recovery now that my house is cleaned up, my yard is cleared, and I am just waiting to hear back on timelines for repairs that I cannot do myself.

This is what my recovery looks like:

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That is right…trees!  What you are looking at is a long-planned addition to a sycamore tree that I have planted in a fairly obscure spot in my yard.  The three Himalayan birch trees form the foundation for a landscaped bed that is forthcoming.  My plan is to scrape the grass, add some low height elements like shrubs, and deeply mulch.  Given the low lying nature of this spot my hope is that the combination of a sycamore and three birch trees will stabilize the soil and slow down erosion.

At the opposite side of the yard I finally completed the planting of trees “in the point”:

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Red maples were not my first choice to complete the planting of this yard section, but limited nursery stock over the past couple of years and a killer price on two maple trees made me a convert.  Yes, red maples are probably overplanted in my neighborhood.  Then again, after the derecho caused so many people to lose front yard trees that may no longer be the case.

Regardless, the plan for this section is to also scrape the grass, add some low height elements like shrubs, and deeply mulch.  The soil in this section of the yard is clay on top of sand.  Replacing the turf with landscaping should be an improvement in terms of both soil and water management.

In the Cedar Rapids area it is estimated that the derecho destroyed 50 to 75 percent of the tree cover.  I was lucky in that I only lost the top of one tree:

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And I was forced to severely prune two other trees because of storm damage.  Hopefully, the large size of these two trees at maturity means that the early pruning will leave them with clear trunks near ground level and no visible scars of 2020.

So, my effort to help in the recovery is replacing some of that tree cover that the community lost in the storm.  It just so happens to also dovetail nicely with my goal of reducing turf grass coverage in my yard.  Win, win.

Post-Derecho Ride Report on the Cedar Valley Nature Trail

It’s been about a week and a half since the derecho whacked us here in Linn County, Iowa.  The recovery and clean up is well underway.  Most people have power back to their homes as of Friday morning although I am certain that there are still some people waiting for above ground individual service lines to be restored.  Trust me, I used to live in a house with just such a service line and it seemed like I was last on the list for a repair when a major storm rolled through.

With all of our clean up done around the house I decided it was time to take a little ride.  It has been thirteen days since I was last in the saddle and my legs were itching to stretch out.

Today’s ride consisted on heading north on the Cedar Valley Nature Trail from mile marker 0 at Boyson Road in Cedar Rapids to just past mile marker 15 which is north of Center Point.

I can report that the trail was clear the entire way.  A big shout out to the people working for Linn County Conservation who have done a hell of a job getting trees off of the trail.  Chipping will probably commence in the coming weeks so please be aware of people working on the trail if you head out for a ride.

There was negligible damage to the trail surface with a few spots where it looks like tree limbs impacted the paved surface.  The gravel north of Center Point felt completely unaffected.  After a week or so of continuous bad news I am going to take some good news wherever I can get it.  Is 2020 over yet?

The interesting thing was to see just how the damage lessened the further north that I rode.  North of Lafayette Road the damage really started to drop off and by the time I got to center point about six miles further north it seemed like there had not been a derecho at all.  Damn.

Note, there are linesman north of County Home Road working on the high-power lines so there may be temporary closures or blockages.  Give these people all the room they need to complete their work.

Next week I am going to head south of town to see how the Hoover Trail fared into Ely and perhaps all the way to Solon.

Stay safe out there.

Second Quarter Local, Direct, and Packaging Neutral Beer

The year started with the highest of hopes to consume beer that was brewed locally, purchased directly from the brewery, and packaged in such a way that no waste was created.  Coronavirus pretty much killed that goal in its sleep.  A lot of breweries closed entirely, although some stayed open to provide direct sales of packaged beer.  Growlers and other reusable containers were prohibited as potential virus vectors.

Plus, when a person is staying at home all day and night there seems to be little reward to kicking back with a cold beer at the end of the day.  Days and nights, weekdays and weekends, workdays and holidays just seem to kind of meld into one long slog of Zoom meetings, squirrelly children, and longing for something that approximates normal.

Here is what my beer purchasing looked like in the second quarter:

Second Quarter Beer

No real surprises.  The Sierra Nevada Brewing purchases are a little random.  Along with Summit Brewing, Sierra Nevada is a nostalgic brewery for me as it is one of the first IPAs that I can remember drinking back in the…1990s.  You know, that same period of time when Republicans were up in arms about a President having lied about an affair.  Oh, the good old days…

I did get a chance to visit my favorite brewery on the planet—Outer Range Brewing Company in Frisco, Colorado—during a trip to complete some trim carpentry on a friend’s vacation property.  Yes, the same trip where my truck decided to become a gigantic paperweight on the side of the interstate following a catastrophic water pump failure.  Can you tell that I am still a little bitter about that repair bill?

Some beer made it home with me and will have to be an occasional treat until I can hopefully make it back for the Christmas holiday and some skiing.  I have the sinking suspicion that the current spike in coronavirus is going to put a damper on any skiing this year.

In Praise of Fall Rides

Despite the emergence of pumpkin spice lattes and the forthcoming Halloween festivities fall is an amazing time in eastern Iowa for those of us who ride bicycles.

Why?

With RAGBRAI long past and college football in full swing a ride on the weekend is usually an affair where you might see a half dozen people out on the trail.  In the summer it is like spending Black Friday at the Mall of America.  Yes, it gets that bad.

Despite the increase in wind speeds the drop in temperature is manageable through some strategic layering and thoughtful ride timing.  A friend of mine says that if you wear black in the sun it feels ten degrees warmer than whatever the weatherman is telling you.  I do not know if that is true, but fifty degrees is pretty darn nice when you are twenty miles into a thirty some mile ride and starting to really heat up.

The cool temps and lingering humidity keep the dust down on the gravel.  Save for the patches of trail covered in green hulled walnuts, which will drop you on your ass if you are not careful, the surface conditions are just about perfect.  Dry and firm with enough give for traction.  This is a trail you would have killed for in the middle of sun baked summer when the conditions vacillated between rock hard and sloppy mess.  Sometimes in the same ride.

For some reason the animals are crazy this time of year.  Kamikaze squirrels will dart across the path with alarming frequency.  Raccoons crawl out from under bridges like they are coming off three day dumpster benders.  Bald eagles circle lazily looking for the plump, easy meal of a rodent making its way across a freshly harvested soybean field.

The changing colors and dying grasses add an otherworldly quality to the landscape that has grown so familiar over a lot of summer miles.  Where there used to be impenetrable walls of tall grass is now a mottled screen of drooping stalks and golden leaves.

Perhaps best of all is that your legs feel like they are carved from springy wood.  Hardened from thousands of miles, yet fresh from a taper in riding time equals some refreshingly fast and fun rides in mid-October.

Plus, you can wear a flannel shirt on your ride and no one looks at you funny.  Try doing that in July.

Friday Linkage 9/6/2019

If you have a Sharpie and you are the President of the United States then anything is possible:

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It is an old trope to ask someone what the right wing would have said or done in the wake of President Obama doing the same thing, but can you imagine the cerebral hemorrhage that Sean Hannity would have had in this case?

We live in strange times.

On to the links…

15 Things a President can Actually do to Tackle the Climate Crisis—It’s not like number fifteen on this list is ever going to happen.

Cedar Rapids Electric Bill Could be Slashed in Half from New LED Lighting in Downtown—It’s a small change, but why hasn’t every city in America switched to LED streetlights?

Trump Rolls Back Regulations on Energy-Saving Lightbulbs—Does Donald Trump just sit in his private residence during “executive time” and mumble things like, “LEDs…bad…horrible…old, hot lights…good.”  In a little more than one year and four months someone with half a brain can take the executive pen and reassert some sanity.

Economics of Electric Vehicles Mean Oil’s Days As A Transport Fuel Are Numbered—Anyone who drives an electric vehicle will agree with this hypothesis.  In my case, I spend approximately 2 cents per mile to drive my Nissan Leaf versus approximately 15 cents per mile to drive my Ford F150.  Even if I doubled the mileage of my truck it could not compete.

China’s Very Ambitious Transportation Revolution—China was supposed to be the “swing” consumer for fossil fuels as developed Western economies transitioned to cleaner energy.  Looks like China is going to try and just bypass the whole dependency on fossil fuels stage of economic development.

While ‘Zombie’ Mines Idle, Cleanup and Workers Suffer in Limbo—Coal companies do not care about workers or the communities that they leave behind when they close up shop.  Coal executives fly away on private jets after paying themselves while leaving workers high and dry.

The Feds Tried to Make an Example of a small Washington Coal Mine. It Didn’t Work.—Twenty years later and the job is still not done.  Maybe it would be best if we just left the coal in the ground and found another way to make electricity.

Ireland Will Plant 440 Million Trees By 2040 To Combat Climate Change—If Ireland can plant 440 million trees in a little more than twenty years what could the United States achieve?  Okay, probably nothing in the short term with Republicans and Donald Trump hanging around.

The Disturbing Hypothesis for the Sudden Uptick in Chronic Kidney Disease—Climate change will come for our chocolate and coffee.  Climate change is also coming for our kidneys.

Holy Cross Energy Eyes Complete Decarbonization after Striking New Wind Energy Deal—Big utilities, small utilities, rural electric cooperatives…the list goes on and on but the trend is the same.  The tools to free our electricity production from the tyranny of fossil fuels are available and cost competitive.

The Best Place for Harvesting Solar Energy Is Not Where I Expected It to Be—I remember reading about a French pilot project that combined solar canopies over high value crops like grapes.  That project showed the viability of the idea.

One Very Bad Habit Is Fueling the Global Recycling Meltdown—I see this all the time in my neighborhood where people put all kinds of random crap in the curbside recycling bins.  Styrofoam packaging?  Yep.  Resin chairs?  Yep.  Christmas light strings?  Yep.

Banning Mini Shampoos from Hotels Won’t Really Reduce Plastic or Save the Environment—We are just nibbling around the edges of our problems with promises like these.

Tyson Foods Invests in Plant-Based Shrimp Company—I do not know if plant based shrimp is any good, but I know that plant based foods are a real trend when the people at Tyson Foods are putting their money behind the trend.

Stuff I Like: Rock “N” Roll The Absolute Dry

I will admit that I do not clean and lubricate the drivetrain of my bicycle nearly enough for the amount of riding that I do.  Compounding this fact is that a lot of the riding that I do is north of the paved section of the Cedar Valley Nature Trail.  This is the section of trail where a weird amalgam of crushed limestone, loose dirt, sand, and whatever else has been spread over the years comprises the surface.

In the 1990s and for probably a decade or more afterward I was a firm believer in the lubrication powers of White Lightning.  Not the white lightning of rural American fame, but the chain lube that used to promise a quiet and clean running chain.  Somewhere along the line the formula changed or my expectations changed.  No longer was it the preferred choice.

After a series of products recommended by the Internet, friends, not so friends, and whatever I call those dudes who ride recumbents in jean shorts I was at my wits end.  Why?  All of the lubes I tried seemed to become a mass of trail dust, grease, and other gunk within a few rides which necessitated scrubbing my drivetrain clean with a stiff bristle brush.  Is there anything more tedious than spending a weekend morning scrubbing your cassette?  I thought not.

On the recommendation of the good folks at Goldfinch Cyclery—best bike shop in eastern Iowa—I bought a bottle of Rock “N” Roll The Absolute Dry:

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Like Popeye’s Chicken in the oft derided Adam Sandler classic film Little Nicky, this stuff is the shiznit:

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All right, early aughts nostalgia aside The Absolute Dry is the answer to my lube prayers.  That sounds all wrong when I say it out loud.

Here’s the deal: I put this stuff on when my drivetrain starts making some noise and I generally forget about it for a week or more.  What more can I ask out of a bottle of chain lube?  Oh wait, it also does not create the mini mountains of trail crud that seem to result in using more moist lubes that promise to endure miles of abuse.

If you ride a lot of dust strewn miles get a bottle of this stuff and save your weekends for riding.

Note: I bought two bottles of The Absolute Dry with my own money and of my own volition.  I receive no compensation or reward for suggesting that this is an awesome product.  There is no influencer pimping going on here.

Drinking Local in the Second Quarter of 2019

Here is what my beer purchasing looked like in the second quarter of the year:

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I want to apologize to the brewers at Barn Town Brewing for forgetting exactly which of their beers I drank following a spring bike ride in April.  It was an IPA and it was hazy.  After that my  memory has completely failed me.

A couple of things stand out.  First, I went a little overboard with the cans I brought home from Summit County.  There is no way to get Outer Range Brewing or Broken Compass Brewing beers except in the high country.  Plus, I wanted to share the experience with some people back home so I loaded up the cooler and acted like an old school bootlegger.  Twenty four cans of beer does not exactly make me a bootlegger, but let me have my moment.

Second, I bought a lot of so-called “middle craft” beers from brewers like New Belgium Brewery, Sierra Nevada, Firestone Walker, and Lagunitas among others.  Normally I would have little reason to choose a national craft brewer over something more local but a combination of grocery store sale pricing and rebates via the iBotta app changed my behavior.  The combination of the two often meant that I was buying a twelve pack of Sierra Nevada Hazy Little thing for less than $14.  That would compare with a local beer selling for $18-20 for the equivalent number of cans.

Once the summer rebates and pricing go away so does my interest.  Plus, Big Grove Brewery is carpet bombing the retail beer landscape here in eastern Iowa with twelve packs now.