Tag Archives: Cedar Rapids

The Missing Link in Local Trails

The Cedar Valley Nature Trail is an amazing recreational trail here in eastern Iowa.  Travelling from just north of Cedar Rapids in Hiawatha over 50 miles north to Waterloo it is justifiably a gem for those of us addicted to two wheeled recreation.

Notice I said travelling north.  To the south things are decidedly less amazing.  Paved trails exist throughout Cedar Rapids and extend as far south as the small town of Ely.  In Ely things peter out as you approach the Linn County-Johnson County line.  I say peter out when what I really mean to say is end abruptly.  As in the trail literally comes to an end at dirt with nothing more.

Plans have been in the discussion and preparation stages for what seems like a decade.  Now, this spring—despite the horrible weather—construction has finally begun!

It will take two years or more to complete.  Bet on the “or more” as delays are almost inevitable with projects like this and Johnson County is notorious for meddlesome parties to become involved in delaying projects for spurious reasons.  Nonetheless, the future is bright as this section of trail south of Ely into Solon will connect the trail systems of Cedar Rapids and Iowa City for the first time in forever.

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You can take a look at the trail map of the Iowa City-Coralville-North Liberty area and imagine a purple line extending from the intersection of Highway 382 and Ely Road NE into the town of Ely.  Now merge that with the trail map of the Cedar Rapids-Hiawatha-Marion area to get an idea of what a combined system will look like.

It is my hope that this combination becomes a catalyst to complete the connections to orphaned sections of trails throughout the area.

Now, if spring would actually get here we could really get to riding.  How bad is it?  It’s April 19th and there was measurable snow on the ground this morning.  Seriously, what is this?  Minnesota?

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Rod Blum is a No Talent Clown

No he is not Michael Bolton.  Not Michael Bolton the computer programmer.  You know, the other Michael Bolton.  I digress.

Rod Blum is apparently a think skinned, no talent clown who happens to represent the 1st district of Iowa.  During an interview, which he requested, KCRG’s Josh Scheinblum wasted no time and had zero chill for Blum’s bullshit.  Check out the full exchange here.

With a group of school children watching Rod Blum got to question two before going all “boom, outta here.”  The question that got him was about his willingness to accept donations from out of his district while claiming to not represent anyone outside of his district.  These are some real tough questions Rod.  The problem, as many Iowans in the district see it now, is that Rod Blum represents moneyed interests with names like Adelson and Koch.  We will never know because the groups that give Rod Blum his campaign cash do not have to disclose their donors.

Things did not get any better for Rod during his scheduled town hall in Dubuque when he was asked to defend his slavish adherence to the Trump-Ryan agenda.

How do people think things are going to go in Cedar Rapids tonight?  The suspense is terrible, I hope it will last!

Rod Blum is Scared of His Constituents

Rod Blum will not meet face-to-face with his constituents in a public forum in the largest city in his district.  Why?  I am guessing because he is scared of what his constituents will say to him in a face-to-face meeting.

Instead of actually speaking to the people he is supposed to represent in Congress, Blum will speak to an event sponsored by the Iowa Conservative Union on April 12th.  The event is to take place at a Godfather’s Pizza—Herman Cain tie in perhaps—located in the Town and Country Shopping Center in Cedar Rapids.  You can see where it is located here.  If you would like to attend here is a link to the event’s Facebook page.

Apparently, these events held by the Iowa Conservative Union have been open to the public but this event is going to be held under an extreme vetting process.  Extreme vetting has turned into the right wing’s new catchphrase for “making sure we keep put people who might not like our extreme views.”  Or it can mean “keeping out the brown people.”  Depends on the circumstance.

As usual Rod Blum’s website shows no public events because he is a coward and does not want to face his constituents save for friendly audiences screened for his approval.  It is ironic that the right wing makes such a big deal about so-called safe spaces and trigger warnings considering how incapable their elected representatives are to hearing anything but carefully selected viewpoints that magically agree with their world view.

Rod Blum is a disgraceful representative of the first district because he does not actually represent the people of the first district.  He represents Rod Blum and a small coterie of like-minded individuals.  2018 cannot come soon enough.

Is it Time for “No Show” Town Halls?

Given that members of Congress, usually Republicans who do not want to answer questions about a far right agenda that does not mesh well with actual human beings back home, are reticent to schedule town halls for fear that they will look like schmucks maybe it is time for constituents to schedule their own town halls.

A group of progressives in Fort Collins has scheduled a town hall to talk about Senator Cory Gardner.  The organizers invited Gardner and members of his staff to attend, but they do not expect any official attendance.

We should do the same thing in Iowa.  Here in Iowa’s first district Representative Rod Blum has only scheduled some office hours in small towns and avoiding the larger, albeit more liberal, large cities of Cedar Rapids or Waterloo.

Senator Chuck Grassley is little better.  After spending a career making a big deal of visiting all 99 Iowa counties in the so-called “full Grassley” he seems to be going out of his way to avoid constituents in his most recent town halls.  Look at the list of towns: Hampton, Iowa Falls, Garner, Charles City, and Parkersburg.  Really going out of your way to meet the people, eh Chuck?

Are members of Congress so embarrassed by their own legislative agenda and the behavior of the Trump administration that they are unwilling to meet with constituents?  Looks like that is the case.

Winners and Losers in the Search for Lactose Free Living, So Far

It’s been an interesting month or so since my wife and I discovered that our daughter was lactose intolerant. The most unfortunate side effect of finding out this fact is that a seven year old has developed some attachments to certain foodstuffs that she can no longer eat. Parmesan cheese anyone?

Many trips to the New Pioneer Food Coop have turned into treasure hunts for dairy-free or, at the very least, lactose free versions of foods you normally associate with the dairy aisle. Naturally, there have been some winners and losers sitting on the shelf.

Winners:

Vegan American Cheese—We do not really eat American cheese on anything other than grilled burgers and grilled cheese. It’s kind of a one-off menu item, but those grilled cheeses are damn important when it is six o’clock on a weekday and you do not have anything in the refrigerator for dinner. Granted, American cheese of the dairy variety seems to defy logic as a dairy product given its highly processed nature.

Soy Ice Cream—There was nothing quite like the look on my daughter’s face when she realized that she was not going to be relegated to fruit pops and those bizarre ice pouches. I think that we probably spent more than $20 picking up a sampler pack of different soy based frozen treats. It’s the little things that can really make a difference.

Vegan Carrot Cake—This is a New Pioneer Food Coop bakery item, so your availability may be limited. My daughter went nuts for this slice of carrot heaven. She is requesting this as her birthday cake in December.

Need Pizzeria’s Vegan Cheese Option—I do not know if it is soy or rice or nut based, but my daughter devoured a personal size pizza the other day at this new establishment. Located in downtown Cedar Rapids, Need Pizzeria will be getting my business due to the cheese option and a great selection of local beers.

Losers:

Vegan Cream Cheese—My daughter loves cream cheese and bagels. Instead of a sandwich in her school lunch she would like a bagel with cream cheese. The vegan substitute was just not working.

Still Looking:

Parmesan Cheese Alternative—Please, tell me there is something that I can use to replace the Parmesan cheese in my daughter’s diet. She may actually choose to endure the upset stomach in order to enjoy her yummy cheese.

What is this Stuff: Cobra Verde

The downside to spending a lot of time wandering the grocery store with your daughter looking for lactose free items is that you end up with things in your cart you may have never thought about buying before. Case in point:

Cobra Verde

In the refrigerated section at New Pioneer Coop in Cedar Rapids I came across this little bottle of Cobra Verde. What is Cobra Verde you ask?

It’s an all-natural energy drink with a pretty simple ingredient profile: water, green coffee extract, citrus, ginger, and cane sugar. It happens to be made in Iowa City just a short drive from my home in Cedar Rapids so that makes it local as well.

As a die-hard coffee loyalist and someone who has never been a fan of energy drinks—I don’t want wings, honestly—I was hesitant to crack open the lid and take a drink. Silly me. This stuff is awesome. It does, however, pack a heavy caffeine kick so if you are drinking this at some other time than early in the morning be advised that your sleeping rituals might be disturbed. I drank a bottle after a late afternoon bike ride to Urbana and spent the early evening running around like a meth head.

Do you want to know how to make Cobra Verde even better? Mix equal parts Cobra Verde and carbonated water from a Sodastream for a bubbly delight. It cuts down on the caffeine jolt and mutes some of the flavors, but there is just something fun about bubbles. I am a sucker for bubbles.

If you happen to be in eastern Iowa or Chicago Cobra Verde Retailers.

Backpocket Brewing NewBo Pils

Backpocket Brewing is getting to be known as the brewery of choice for collaboration beers. Recently, they have released a Swabian Hall Smoked Brown and Raygun IPA with the store of the same name in Des Moines. Today’s offering is NewBo Pils:

NewBo Neighborhood Brew

A while back the NewBo City Market, which rose out of the 2008 flood to become a hub of activity in the revitalized NewBo Arts district in downtown Cedar Rapids, collaborated with Millstream Brewery out of the Amana Colonies to make a pale ale. I wrote about the beer here.

This offering is a different beast. Instead of an ale, NewBo Pils is a pilsner. Pilsners fall under the lager family of beers which forms the other side of the beer world along with ales. Now, this beer is interesting in that pilsners are a traditionally Czech style of beer and the NewBo City Market is across the Cedar River from Czech Village. See the connection?

Pilsners, particularly summer pils, are supposed to be a crisp beer that you can drink as the temperature stays elevated into the evening. Served cold these are the ultimate lawnmower beers.

NewBo Pils pretty much nails that description.  For me, pilsners have an aftertaste that I somewhat disagree with and that I cannot place accurately.  It’s not the smokey or piney aftertaste of an IPA or the lingering mouthfeel of a high gravity porter.  It’s just something off.  It could be NewBo Pils or Natty Light.  The off aftertaste is present.

Here is the thing, pilsners are the style of beer that was bastardized by the mega-brewers to produce things like Miller Lite and Budweiser and Pabst Blue Ribbon. If you spent any time in a basement in college drinking beer from a keg you know the fundamental taste profile of a pilsner. Please do not say pilsner lager either. It’s just like saying tuna fish. A pilsner by definition is a lager.

Until someone comes up with something really daring or different a well done pilsner is going to taste like a well done Budweiser. This is not damning or faint praise, but it is the reality of the style. Now that lagers are the new frontier of craft brewing according to some and brewers are getting their feet underneath them from a technical perspective given the intricacies of brewing lagers there may be some exciting new beers to try that really push the envelope.

However, until that time comes to pass craft lagers are going to taste like well-done examples of America’s favorite style of beer:

Two Mug Purchase