Tag Archives: Iowa

Stuff I Like: Revelate Designs

2019 has been a year of really dialing my bike for “big day” rides of 50 to a 100 miles.  It’s sort of a no man’s land between regular rides and the long rides that a lot of bikepackers undertake.  It’s also the sort of riding that is super prevalent here in eastern Iowa.

The requirements for being on a bike for several hours and tens of miles from home are the ability to deal with any mechanical gremlins that arise, have enough food on hand in case you begin to bonk, and be prepared for dramatic changes in weather.  The last requirement is key.  You may end up packing a compressible down jacket for a ride that may end in short sleeves.  That is spring in eastern Iowa.

On my bike right now I have a Terrapin System 8L and a Mag-Tank:

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The Terrapin System 8L replace a much more traditional seat bag that had just enough room for my phone, spare tube, mini pump, and a multi-tool if I spent a few minutes arranging everything just so.  Do not ask what happened if I had to actually get anything out of said seat bag.  It was reverse Jenga in all the wrong ways.

The benefit of a seat bag like the Terrapin System 8L?  Variable size.  If you do not need to carry a jacket or a burrito as big as your head just roll down the bag insert, close the one way purge valve, and clip it into place.  Want to carry a puffy, rain jacket, gloves, and a five dollar foot long?  Just unroll the insert, stuff it full, and get to pedaling.  About the only downside to bag like this is that the inside is one big compartment.  It’s liberating in that there are no internal obstructions to limit your packing imagination, but at the same time it can get a little bit jumbled.  I am considering sewing my own tool roll to contain some of the chaos.  More projects!

Before the Mag-Tank I had gone through a few top tube or stem tops bags, but ended up binning them after a few rides because nothing ever seemed to work.  The Mag-Tank is about the perfect size to hold my smartphone, driver’s license, keys, cash, and some trail snacks in an easy to grab location.  In the past I have stored these same items in a seat bag.  The problem?  To really access a seat bag you have to get off the bike and root through the bottomless pit.  Ugh.

Now if I want to take a picture of something on the trail I just pop open the Mag-Tank, which has a snazzy magnetic enclosure as opposed to Velcro or a zipper, and grab my phone.  All from the saddle.  If you need or want more space there is a larger Mag-Tank 2000, but that seemed like overkill if I was also going to be rocking the Terrapin System 8L.

My only real gripe with the Mag-Tank is that the strap for fastening to the top tube was obviously intended for more voluminous carbon or allow frames.  It was pushing things to the limit when I tightened down the strap on my steel Breezer Radar.  Granted, the tubes on my bike are of the very skinny old school steel variety.  I was left with a lot of extra strap.  A little scissor surgery remedied the offending flap.  Sure, this bag is limited to this particular bike but when am I going to change rides?

After approximately 1,500 miles so far this season of mixed surface riding in eastern Iowa I can safely say that these two bags have solved all of my cargo carrying concerns.  At least one thing has been figured out this summer.

You will notice that my bike now has a flat bar.  Updates to follow.

Note: I received nothing from Revelate Designs or anyone else for this post.  I bought both products with my own money and intend to keep using them until the end of time.  Okay, that might be a little extreme.  Regardless, there is no paid product pimping here.  I did use my REI dividend and bi-annual member coupon to reduce the sting a little.  These products are great, but they are expensive.

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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.

June 2019 Solar was Back on Track and EV Miles were Extra Efficient

June was a better month for solar production:

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Over the course of the entire month my household ended up ~150 kWh (consumption minus production), including all of my EV charging for that same period as I did not use any public chargers.  With at least eight more panels being installed on my roof this summer I am going to be seeing a lot more months with excess production.  Every kilowatt hour that I produce from my solar array is like a nail in the coffin for coal.

The excess production in June was a little artificial because we were on the road for more than a week.  With no air conditioning running it is to be expected that we would run a surplus.  June was also fairly cool with a corresponding lack of need to deploy air conditioning.  The last few days of the month were a reminder that summer in Iowa is a hot and sticky affair.  I am talking temperatures exceeding 90 degrees and humidity levels exceeding 90%.  If there was ever a time where I did not want to come home from the mountains this was that time.

For June I drove my Nissan Leaf a total of ~555 miles at an average efficiency of 5.9 miles per kWh.  This is my best number by far, in terms of efficiency, and makes me wonder if I can nurse my way to a figure over 6 miles per kWh in July.  For the period I saved ~646 pounds of C02 being emitted assuming that my charging came via the grid at an average carbon intensity.

You may ask how I can be ahead in terms of energy production yet still account for some level of carbon intensity for my electric vehicle.  Unfortunately, my photovoltaic array’s production occurs when I am not charging my EV which usually happens at night.  Therefore, to run my Nissan Leaf I am utilizing grid electricity.  It’s a little like keeping two sets of books for the same business.

The Death of “Middle Craft” Beer

American craft brewing legend Dogfish Head Brewery, the mad geniuses from Delaware, sold to Boston Beer, the parent company that brews Sam Adams Boston Lager among many other beers.  Neither brewery should be considered a micro-brewery, but neither is a macro-brewery.  They both exist in some kind of middle ground.  Being in that middle ground may mean death or consolidation going forward.

Apparently, the top 50 craft brewers are having trouble with many posting severe year-over-year declines.  These are the craft brewers that I would define as “middle craft.”  The challenge for these breweries is giving you the beer drinker a reason to try them over, say, a handful of hyper local breweries that may only sell products from their own taproom or a few commercial accounts.

In the past—okay, the 1990s—middle craft was the place to be as beer drinkers sought out different beers and the quality control at a lot of craft breweries was just bad.  I cannot tell you how many small breweries were making beer that would make most semi-skilled home brewers spit out their stout.  You sought out a New Belgium Fat Tire or Boulevard Wheat because those were well made beers from breweries you trusted.  You knew you were not going to waste $8 on a six pack.  Heck, you might even pick up something a little unusual from the same brewery when you were in the mood for a change.

That dynamic is long gone.  Award winning breweries are scattered across this nation.  Between Cedar Rapids and Iowa City I can patronize a half dozen breweries putting out good and sometimes great beer.  Those same breweries have won medals at prestigious beer festivals and have reputations well beyond the borders of the state.  Expanding my field of view to the entire state opens up a whole host of small, innovative, and well regarded breweries making all sorts of different beers.  If you do not believe me just spend a minute perusing the tap list at the Iowa Taproom in Des Moines.

All things being equal, why would I buy a New Belgium Citradelic over a Lion Bridge Brewing Tag?  Or, why would I buy a Dale’s Pale Ale over a Big Grover Brewery Arms Race?  I like all four of the aforementioned beers.  I choose to buy the local products almost every time.

This is the reality for the beer business in 2019.

May Showers Dominate Solar Production and Electric Vehicle Efficiency is Stable

May was a rainy month in eastern Iowa.  How rainy?  It rained for twice the number of hours in May and three times the usual rainfall hit the ground.  Things were really wet.  Like the “ground is a sopping wet sponge” wet.  It had an impact on May’s solar production:

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Now, just over 542 kWh of clean, green solar electricity is not bad.  It is down about 80 kWh from the same month the prior year.

All in all, my household ended up about 10 kWh ahead of consumption for the month of May including home charging of the Nissan Leaf.  When you can drive all month and live in house with modern amenities all powered by the sun that is considered a win.  Sometimes I just feel like I am living in the future.

For the month I drove 937.4 miles in my Nissan Leaf at an average efficiency of 5.5 miles per kilowatt hour.  This beats my efficiency the prior month by 0.1 miles per kilowatt hour.  This saved ~1,080 pounds of carbon dioxide emissions versus my prior vehicle assuming that I charged using grid electricity, which in Iowa averages about 1 pound of CO2 per kWh.  As noted above, I actually ended the month ahead of my consumption so the emission savings were probably higher.

It does not seem like a big win in terms of efficiency.  However, there are two round trips to Iowa City that totaled almost 140 miles of driving at highway speeds.  For anyone who has driven a Nissan Leaf there is a moment of dread the first time that you get the little car up to 60 miles per hour or more and watch your efficiency drop like a stone in freefall.

The trick is to minimize interstate highway type driving in favor of more sedate state or county highway driving.  That is to say, drive 55 miles per hour as opposed to the 70 miles per hour or more on the interstate.  It takes a little longer, sure, but there is something really peaceful cruising along with the windows down and the silence of an electric vehicle drivetrain.

It also helps to have access to public charging at the midpoint of your trip.  In Iowa City there are ChargePoint facilities available in several public parking ramps.  You pay for parking (first hour is free and a $1 per hour for any additional time) and the charging is free as long as you have a ChargePoint account.  My Leaf is equipped with a standard Level 2 charging port so it can accept, at most, 3.3 kWh of electricity per hour of charge.  It is not a lot for the ninety minutes or so that my errands in Iowa City take, but it provides a margin of safety for the trip home that eases any potential range anxiety.

These trips have gotten me thinking about electric vehicles and range.  Maybe the issue is not absolute range, as in 235 miles of range when fully charged, but rather the ability to gain a lot of range in a short period of time, as in 80% battery charge in 30 minutes.  If I was able to regain more than three quarters of my vehicle’s charge in less time than it takes to make a quick trip into Costco that would change my route calculations considerably.  Also, if more public charging facilities were available at destinations that might also change behavior.

Do I spend a little more time in downtown Iowa City because I am charging my Nissan Leaf?  Probably.  Think about that from an economic development standpoint.

Friday Linkage 5/24/2019

You may not believe climate change is here and you may not believe that the strange weather we have seen this spring is the future, but I have seen what our flagrant disregard for science has wrought and it is not pretty.

Rain events that were once rare are now common.  Floods in Iowa are an annual or more regular occurrence.  My prediction is that after a wet and cold spring we will have a hot and dry summer.  Nothing like a little baking heat and drought to bookend the seasons.

On to the links…

How the Baby Boomers Wrecked the Economy for Millennials—Let’s start a new trend where we replace “Millennials are killing…” with “Baby Boomers wrecked…”  Never has a generation produced so little when given so much and left such a mess for future generations to clean up.  As a member of the tail end of Generation X—whatever the hell that means anymore—I feel like we will spend the next twenty years sweeping up the rubble of Baby Boomers’ excess.

If 2020 Democrats Are Going to Be Serious About Climate, They Need to Cut Out Congress—The U.S. Senate is a retrograde institution run by a power hungry vestige of the post-Civil War southern power structure who cares for nothing other than his own political power.  The 2020 Democratic nominees need a plan that can be acted on from Day One in office.

Scientists Have Pinpointed the Mystery Source of an Ozone-Destroying Chemical—Trump may be wrong on almost everything, but his desire to realign our relationship with China may not be that awful.  His methods are crap, but there is something fundamentally rotten about the way that China does business.  Agreements are meaningless, business is paramount, everything else be damned…kind of sounds like the modern Republican Party.

Xcel’s Plan to 2030: Close Two Coal Plants, Extend Nuclear Plant, Add More Solar—Coal is dead.  It is just going to take some time for the dinosaur to roll over and actually know its dead.

Puerto Rico Got Rid of Its Coal Ash Pits. Now the Company Responsible Is Moving Them to Florida.—At what point can we just write off the entire state of Florida?  If there is a bad idea that has failed everywhere else, it will get a new lease on life in Florida.  If there is a grifter who has been run out of every town in America, that person will eventually end up somewhere in Florida.

Critics Question Ethics Behind Impossible Burger’s Rapid Fast-Food Expansion—The purity police are out to get Impossible Foods now that they are working with fast food chains.  This is ridiculous.  Every animal based burger replaced with a plant based burger is a win.

Impossible Foods’ Rising Empire of Almost-Meat—The buzz is there.  Now it is time for Impossible Foods to see if they can execute in an efficient enough manner to actually scale their business.

It’s Not Just Salt, Sugar, Fat: Study Finds Ultra-Processed Foods Drive Weight Gain—Maybe the new guideline should be “If you cannot figure out how to make the food at home you should not eat that food.”  Can’t figure out how to make a homemade PopTart?  Do not eat a PopTart.

It is Solved by Walking—Just putting one foot in front of the other is a powerful choice in a world defined by our mechanized transport.

Americans Need More Bike Transit – And these Nonprofits are Bringing It—Bicycles are a humble solution to the problem of transportation emissions.

There Is No Excuse for You to Casually Drink Bottled Water—Outside of people dealing with the aftermath of natural disasters, why are we even having this discussion about bottled water?

It’s Time to Embrace American Hemp Production—Did you have that guy in your dorm who always liked to tell you about the magic nature of hemp?  I remember that guy.  Maybe he was not so crazy after all.

Friday Linkage 5/10/2019

Steve King, the vile racist from northwest Iowa who inexplicably gets elected every two years to the House of Representatives despite achieving nothing for his time in Congress, is the fucking worst.  As Davenport, a city in Iowa that sits along the Mississippi River as part of the Quad Cities, was dealing with flooding downtown following epic early season rain and a failure of a temporary barrier Steve King had the audacity to speak:

… That means it will rain more and more places. It might rain harder in some places, it might snow in some of those places. But it’s surely gotta shrink the deserts and expand the green growth, there’s surely got to be some good in that. So I just look at the other, good side.

Seriously?  This is the modern Republican Party in the age of Trump.  Don’t worry about global ecological disaster because it might get better in a few places.

On to the links…

How Taxpayers Covered a $1,000 Liquor Bill for Trump Staffers (and More) at Trump’s Club—Nothing like a little self-serving corruption to line the pockets.  My favorite part?  Lining out the taxes on the bill.  Only the little people pay taxes.

The Tax Bill for Many Big Polluters Last Year: $0—The Trump Administration is an orgy of bad behavior and giveaways to industry.  Everyone is fat, drunk, and happy right now because they get to keep on drilling and dumping like there is no tomorrow.  The hangover in 2021 is going to be brutal for these people.

Environmentalists Fight Mining Plan By Ivanka Trump’s Billionaire Landlord—The key thing in Trump world is to make sure that you ladle benefits upon Trump and his children.  If you can manage to butter the family circle up the world is your oyster.  Or open pit mine.

The Trump Organization’s Problem with Possible Money Laundering—Just in case you needed a little reminder as to the myriad ways that the Trump Organization is profiting from the public trust.

Mike Pompeo Admitted the Arctic Is Melting. He Just Didn’t Mention Why.—This is the new Republican message on climate change.  Yes, I recognize that the planet is going haywire.  I am not a scientist, so I cannot speculate as to why.  Would you like to drill for oil on public lands?

Can New York Make Buildings Super-Efficient, Fast?—Imagine this kind of effort on a regional or nationwide scale?  This is the type of near term “victory” that we can achieve vis a vis energy usage to reduce our carbon emissions without radically altering our way of life.

We’ll Soon Know the Exact Air Pollution from Every Power Plant in the World. That’s Huge.—Or is it yuge?

1 in 5 Americans Now Live in Places Committed to 100% Clean Power—Twenty percent is a lot, but more is better.  I am sure there was a time when it looked like we would ever get rid of leaded gas and catalytic converters seemed like techno-mumbo jumbo.

Why the Bicycle’s Future Looks Bright—The bicycle’s future has always been bright because there is no simpler device that can return such ample benefit.

Dark Money Group Spent $1.25 Million on TV Ads Supporting Bill Imposing New Fee on Solar Panels—I do not watch much television, so I did not see these ads, but apparently these ads were on all the time.  Nothing says transparency like a dark money campaign to get people to pay more.

Iowans Use a Lot of Energy. Here’s How Much.—Damn, we use a lot of energy per capita in this state.

The Problem With Lab-Grown Meat—This is the same problem with organic when “big food” got into the game.  It replicated the ills of the industrial agriculture system with a veneer of planetary benefit.

The Complicated Gender Politics of Going Zero Waste—This kind of reminds me of the joke about newspapers announcing the end of the world.  The Washington Post’s headline was going to be “World Ends: Women and Children Impacted Most.”

Do Married Millennials Cheat on Each Other?—Every time I see an article about Millennials having a marked improvement in a certain behavior I believe that the headline is missing the point.  Millennials, in many wars, are reverting to norms of behavior that predate the worst generation in American history: baby boomers.  Baby boomers are the worst.  Fight me.
Oh, No, Not Knotweed!—I have yet to run across this nasty invasive yet, but based on this article I never hope to see a single sprout.