Tag Archives: biking

What Kind of Day Was It?

It’s the second week in November, and as I listened to my favorite NPR program at 10 a.m. Saturday (Wait, Wait Don’t Tell Me) I was raking my yard and sweating.

There were a few hardy bugs around, a lady bug fruitlessly hunting on a spent brown dried flower, a few mayflies flitting about, some grasshoppers. And, of course, box elder bugs.

A fat squirrel was not waiting until she needed the crab apples—she likes them, darn it, and is eating them now. She spent some time perilously hanging on the edge of a small crab apple, then crossed the lawn to a much larger and sturdier pear tree, where she continued her lunch with those hard green fruit.

Before raking, I took some pretty fall photos. The trees are mostly bare, but there is plenty of quiet beauty in the gardens on this unusual summer day in fall. I briefly went behind the fence and startled two does who were lazily munching on the still-green weeds back there.

Later, in the afternoon, I took a bike ride on the Cedar Valley Nature Trail. By the time the afternoon turned started to turn dim, the winds had picked up and some sprinkles feel.

Rain, then snow, are due tomorrow. That’s more like November. But it was nice to spend some outdoor time today. I never really mind raking leaves much, especially on a day like this—who wouldn’t rather be outside anyway?


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What I Did This Weekend

Ant on a poeny

Ant on a just-blooming peony. These are the frilly, early ones, the "regular" peonies are still weeks away. It does feel odd to have peonies before May, though.

I mowed and put in new solar lights on Saturday. Plus, I planted some grass seed.

That doesn’t sound like much, but Saturday was mostly gone by the time I was done—barely time to quickly snap some flower photos before the day was spent. But, I had to snap those photos, because, ta-da! Peony day—the early peonies are opening.

Saturday night was church with grandkids and then track breakfast at MMU and then a nap to recover from the grandkids—then a bike ride which I shouldn’t have taken. I texted my sisters to ask if she wanted to come along an she said “can’t, buried in grading.”

Sister, I know the feeling.

So then, after a two-hour bike ride, I graded. And how I’m posting flower photos. Tomorrow looks like another long, dreary, grading Monday.

Oh well, at least the peonies are starting to bloom!  Early tulips and daffodils are finishing, but I have such a variety that they are still going strong.  And the new lights are so strong they actually stayed lit all night, which is a bit bizarre for solar lights.  Photo gallery of what I saw Saturday after I was done with my day of gardening.


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The Vexation of Bike Taxation

I read a story in the Gazette via the KCRG web site about Tower Terrace Road, and commented on it because it mentioned bike commuting. I even wrote about it on my biker blog.

Then, some guy named Mark made an anti-biker, and, to my eyes, anti-grey-haired man comment. Clearly Mark is not shy about sharing his “wisdom,” since he’s a “top commentator” on the site, which says something a bit depressing.  Click on the picture to enlarge it to read our brief exchange, unless you saw it on the KCRG site already.

Selection of comments on KCRG site. My minor tussle with Mark.

Anyway, I’ll ignore the ageist Social Security reference. I’m not there yet, rude dude. Instead, I wanted to write about his vexation on taxation.

Should bikers pay taxes for the roads they use? As I noted in my response to Mark, I, like most bikers, already do. But then again, let me concede that roads are largely maintained by gasoline tax revenue, and clearly I’ve reduced my “buy in” to local roads through my use of a bike.

Do I feel guilty? No.

Personally, I clearly benefit. I enjoy biking or I would not do it. I also enjoy driving—if I’m going to be in a car, I have a clear preference to be behind the wheel of the car and preferably a fun car. It’s a guy thing. It’s also my only excuse for owning a vehicle as impractical as a manual transmission VW Beetle.

Still, all things considered, I’d rather be on a bike. I’m up higher, I’m enjoying God’s nature, I’m doing myself some good—exercise and all that. It gives me some satisfaction to know my habits might end up in Mark being able to enjoy paying me Social Security for many more years in the future.

It’s true. I’m selfish, therefore, I bike.

But, Mark and all other anti-bike bigots out there, there’s more to the story. While I’ll admit my motivations for being a bike commuter are clearly selfish, and my habits cost society some road-use revenue, I’d argue that everyone else benefits from my biking, too.

From cleaner air. From more gas available for your SUV. From less congested roads.

Now, now, don’t e-mail me that you were on I-90 and some biker was there and he slowed everybody down, etc. etc. As a bike commuter, I’m choosey about where I ride, and based on the quiet streets and sidewalks I use, I personally don’t slow anybody much. I occupy much less road space and take up far fewer parking lot square footage due to my use of two wheels.

So I think it’s a wash, at least, and some karma in my favor, at best.

There is a logic about taxing bikes for road use.  Bikes and streets predate cars. One could argue that, in the historic sense, roads were paved for bikes before any asphalt was laid down with cars in mind. The “safety bike” craze was a 19th century fad, and our friend Ford didn’t foul the air with millions of Model Ts until the 20th century.

If I use the roads, should I not also pay for the roads?

Sort of. Except that you have to balance that logic against the amount of road damage I do on my bike (none at all) and the fact that others (pedestrians, joggers) are sometimes found on the public rights of way, too. By the logic that bikers use the roads and thus should be taxed for them, we would charge a sales tax premium on running shoes, too.

And there are other practical matters that argue against taxation for bikation. If you licensed bikes or required a spoke tax, or some such scheme, it would involve 6-year-old kids and their toys. My daughter Amanda learned to balance on two wheels while she was in kindergarten. Do we want to charge kids who can’t be licensed drivers for their bikes?

Plus, any bike license scheme creates a law enforcement hassle. When I lived in western Iowa, the city of Storm Lake required bikes to be licensed. I actually lived in Early, Iowa and commuted to Storm Lake, and rode on a bike trail there often on an illegal, unlicensed, Schwinn. Clearly, I was a criminal. Clearly the Storm Lake PD didn’t give a damn. Even in quiet Iowa villages, the cops do not have time to case after old grey-haired hippies on bikes to collect small license fees. Besides, in 10 years of flouting the Storm Lake laws, I wasn’t even aware that the law existed until I was about to move away from the area.

Bike licensing would be expensive to administer, hard to enforce, irritating to parents of young bikers and to old men who commute by bike—and in the end, would produce little revenue.  That’s why bike licensing is so rare.

And if the bikers are taxed under the premise that the streets have to be paid for by those for whom they were created, we’re back to having to tax skateboards and running shoes, too.

So, Mark, what are we to do?

Well, for one thing, look at ways to support roads beyond gas taxes. With more fuel-efficient pickup trucks, electric vehicles and hybrid cars, the gas tax alone probably shouldn’t be the only way roads are maintained. Even if I don’t drive on them or pedal on them, I live in a society whose existence and commerce depends on roads, so as a taxpayer, I say, go ahead, make my day, take my pay, use general tax revenue to put some tar in a pothole.

Not that I’m opposed to gas taxes. They not only make sense as a kind of road user fee. They also make sense for the same reason that tobacco taxes make sense. Those who purchase a known carcinogen and burn it in the environment in a way that causes all of us to suffer should pay some premium for their bad behavior.


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I Rode Up Every Hill


RAGBRAI reflected in the mirror of my bike. I rode about 445 miles across Iowa last week.

I’m back from a wonderful week, and when I get digging into fall course preps, I think maybe climbing out of a river valley near Boone on the longest, steepest hill on this year’s RAGBRAI may seem easier.

I rode up every hill. Very slowly, I was passed by old ladies and small kids, but still, not all RAGBRAI riders can make that claim.

I’ll be writing more about the week on my bike blog.

For now, I’ll just say I’m glad I did it, and glad I’m back, too. Photos on Facebook.

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Bye & The Elusive Bird That Hums

Packed for RAGBRAI

Discovered on a hot training ride this week that camel pack and cooler like to ride together in front basket and get along well--and I can still drink without massive sweat zone on my back. Awesome. See you on the other side of RAGBRAI!

I don’t often see hummingbirds—years have gone by between sightings. I think they may have been more common in California—I do recall seeing some there in my youth. Until this year in Iowa, the sightings have been few and far between.

As you know, I saw one earlier this year in my foxglove.

This week, while watering my sister’s garden, I spied another one at her house. The cool thing was it actually flew to a tree and sat—rarer than seeing a hummingbird is seeing one sitting still. Not for long—I could not even unholster my camera before she (definitely she) took off again, but to see a hummingbird sitting still, well, cool.

Anyway, I’m on vacation sans computer for a bike ride with Jon across Iowa. See you, by blog fans, on the other side! In the meantime, check out the awesome blog by my daughter. It’s awesome.

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June Is Busting Out

Cone flower

First cluster of cone flowers I've seen in bloom this year--seen while biking on Cedar Valley Nature Trail.

Cone flower

Second view of first cone flower.

Saw it today, the official symbol of summer in Iowa, a sign that spring is but a memory and Japanese beetles will soon be devouring our rose bushes and Linden trees.

A cluster of cone flowers were in bloom about 3 miles north of Hiawatha along the Cedar Valley Nature Trail. More about the ride on my bike blog.

I am not sure why I like cone flowers so much. They look a little like deformed daisies with inadequate pedals and grossly overgrown middle part of the flower, but they are tall, sturdy, and Iowan, too. A nice harbinger of the middle-summer cone flower and day lily season, about to begin.

The pretty white flowers in the grass were more numerous than the cone flowers. Don’t know what they are.

Finally, a tree photo—again from the bike ride, but nearer the Cedar River in downtown Cedar Rapids. Blog fans, what is this tree which is fairly common and in bloom right now?

White flower

A lot more of this white flower was in bloom on the hillside where I saw the cone flower.

Mystery tree

OK, blog fans, the mystery tree. What is is? Common, medium sized tree with sweet smelling blossoms, in bloom now, A row is beside a downtown parking lot next to the Cedar River trail, but I see many of these trees all around CR. Please comment and let me know what three these flowers are from..


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Driving the old Continental

Second try …

I attempted without success to blog yesterday about media changes and what those mean for journalism education, but I failed somehow to save the blog entry and all my words were for naught. I’m sure I come back to that topic, but today I’m randomly wanting to write about bikes.

I rode my Continental to work today. It was an invigorating experience. Normally, I commute on a newer Trek, but some fat old guy got the back wheel all out of “true” and it has to be fixed before it’s ride-able again, so I broke my old bike out of mothballs this morning.

The 30-year-old Schwinn gives a different riding experience. It’s the difference between driving a Taurus (the Trek) and a Miata (the Schwinn).

To elaborate:

The Continental has 10 speeds to the Trek’s 15 (although I can’t use one of the Trek’s front gears, so it’s really just a 10 speed, too). The “hill climbing” gear, or granny gear, on the Schwinn is not as “granny” as the Trek, so when I get to Mount Mercy, riding the Trek is a lot easier.

But ho man—the ride there on the Schwinn. Yowza! Steppenwolf should have been playing the soundtrack. The narrow tires made for a much bumpier ride, but the slightly bigger wheels and slightly more aggressive 10th gear made for a fast ride. Fast for an oldie like me, anyway. I ran several 4-way stops because I wasn’t used to 20 mph on a bike anymore, and you can’t stop like you’re tooling along on a slow Trek.

My legs were much more worn out, too—did not realize I was pumping so much harder.

My usual commute is around 30 minutes, but I think I finished in just a little over 20 on the Schwinn. Took the trail home, which involves extraneous travel east and west—the trail route is almost an hour-long ride on the Trek, but was a 40 minute ride on the Continental.

I bought the Schwinn in 1974 and used it to commute to my first job at a Dairy Queen in Muscatine, Iowa. Now, 35 years later, I’m commuting on it to Mount Mercy.

Well. What a bike. It’s uncomfortable, a bit rusty and ugly, and man oh man, is it still fun to ride. “Born to beeee wiiiiiiild!”

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