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Saturday, September 12, 2015

September 2015 Pedaler's Jamboree Iowa

Well, the training rides were done, the RV was packed, the Lil Egg was hitched, and the bikes were on the racks: it was time to go up to the Pedaler's Jamboree Iowa. Daughter Savannah, Nephew Racin and I headed out at midmorning and got lunch at a Casey's in some small town. We stopped at Bicycle World in West Des Moines to check in and get our registration packets. Savannah got a nice pair of bike shorts, though the padding is so thick she says it's like wearing a diaper. The GPS took us right to the Greene County Fairgrounds, and a man in a golf cart directed us to our campsite. We had to park it parallel rather than backing in to get the RV level. We played frisbee for awhile, and Savannah cooked up some spaghetti for dinner.

We got up the next morning, I brewed the coffee and Savannah cooked up some eggs. We donned our team jerseys, which I had designed well in advance.  The pocket has the Coelho family cattle brand, and the back has an image of a running rabbit with the brand on its flank.  That image I copied from Savannah's tattoo. We packed everything we would need into the Lil Egg (pet name for my Toyota Echo) and drove an hour to Waukee. The parking lot by Mickey's Irish Pub was packed with bike-laden cars. We got the bikes off the racks, took a selfie for the road, and off we went. This section of the Raccoon River Trail was smooth, flat and recently paved. We hadn't gone far when I saw a red fox run into a bean field. We had gotten a bit of a late start, so we cruised through the first stop, Dallas Center, and pedaled on to Minburn. Both Racin and Savannah had seat problems, but I had brought a set of allen wrenches for just such an occasion. We got their seats adjusted properly and there were no further complaints. We heard a bit of music at Minburn, had a beer and ate all the dried apples I had brought. The area in front of the stage was paved and they were renting out roller skates. One lady skating around was really good. Savannah noticed a guy with a little white schnauzer that resembled our Gretchen. He was named Max, and he was plenty friendly.

There were lots of tandems and a few trailers. I liked the trailer that was home-made from a radio flyer wagon. A lot of people had amplified music on their bikes. The most impressive was a big tube speaker one guy had mounted under his rear rack. It was loud, distortion free, and blasting classic rock. We didn't have any music, so we made our own.  Well, Racin and I came up with three verses of a song about the Ped Jam.  It's still a work in progress.  There were a few people in costume, including a guy in an old motorcycle helmet with horns on the front. We had lunch in Perry, where the pulled pork sandwiches were delicious. We ran into Mike Denehy, who is the creator of this bike tour. He remembered me from my work on the Big Bam. I think this tour was going a lot better. He thought they had about 1200 registered riders.

 It had been relatively cool in the morning, but it got hot in the afternoon. We skipped Dawson and went right on to Cooper after a brief rest. Molly Gene One Whoaman Band was playing. She created a lot of sound with just an electric guitar and a foot pedal drum kit. Very passionate. We watched the Decadent Nation show. They were pretty good, except their lead singer could not hit the high notes. We noticed some other groups that had made their own jerseys. One was "Team Bad Decision Pants". There was an image of a guy peeing, as seen from behind. Then at the bottom of the jersey was a butt crack. Another was "Team Chemical Dependency", with a 3D image of a molecule on the back. I thought it was ethanol at first glance, but the guy said it was lactic acid. I said, "Well, they're both anaerobic end products." Our own Team Coelho jerseys got a few favorable comments.

The last leg of the ride had some interesting bridges, where Racin insisted on doing wheelies on the lips of them. I saw a few monarchs, but not as many as I expected for this time of year.  There were lots of flowers in bloom, like morning glories, various sunflowers and black-eyed susans. There were some slight grades, but after a final northward turn, we had some lengthy downhills, in the shade with the wind at our backs. That was a nice break for our fatigued legs.

We got in to Jefferson at about 5.  I got into the RV, cranked up the air conditioning, and downed a gatorade.  We had time to check out the venue and get some dinner. I had Jamaican jerked chicken sandwich, and it was quite good. Racin had some nachos that looked really good. I took a nap while Savannah took a shower, then we walked over to the concert. I had brought some bag chairs in the RV, and a big lounger for myself. We set them on the green where we were close enough for a good view but far enough away that it was not too loud. The first band was Dirtfoot, a Louisiana band. They were basically a rock band, except they had one guy on electric banjo, another on stand-up bass, and a trombone player. Most of their songs were upbeat and really catchy, so I bought their CD.

The second artist was That1guy. He's hard to describe, but absolutely unforgettable. He has an instrument of his own creation, the Magic Pipe, which has two necks and sets of strings. He could bow it, pluck it, slap it, or hit it with a drumstick. There were also some pedals built into it. He had some other drum pedals that he could hit with his feet to create the beat. His songs were weird, but very enjoyable. The crowd was eating it up. His CDs sold out during his first song. He did some magic tricks with cards, played with sock puppets, and did an entire song on an electrified boot. His chit chat between, and sometimes during, songs was entertaining as well.  If you ever get a chance to see him, don't miss it.

The last band was Euforquestra, which was essentially a vintage soul-funk group, and they were damned good.  They had a horn section, a percussionist on timbales and congas, a regular drummer, a keyboardist, a bass and a dynamite electric guitar player.  I knew I liked them with their first tune, an upbeat instrumental.  We enjoyed their show, but by the time they were done, we were very tired.  We heard their encore as we walked back to the RV.  I took a shower and slept well.

We got up kind of late.  Racin and Savannah were sunburnt.  All of us had sore legs and aching behinds.  We decided the better part of valor was discretion, so rather than ride the second day of the tour, we would go home.  We got a hearty pancake breakfast from the veterans at the fairgrounds.  Then we packed up and headed out.  We had to put all the bikes inside the RV.  We drove the hour back to Waukee.  We saw a pheasant fly across the road, which kind of made my day.  We picked up the Lil Egg.  Savannah helped me hook it up again, and we were headed for home.  Racin slept through all of that. It's just as well we didn't ride, as we would have had about a 20-knot headwind the whole way.  We had lunch in Oskaloosa.  Apparently, farmers in the area are up in arms about the possibility of a new airport, which would take farm land by eminent domain.  There are hand-painted signs all along the highway.  We got into Canton at about 3, unloaded and parted company.

For Racin and Savannah, the 46 miles we biked was a personal best. For me, it was the fulfillment of a plan I had been cooking up since the Missouri Ped Jam back in May.  There were many contingencies to prepare for, and I think I covered them all.  Mission accomplished.  We're already looking forward to next May and the Missouri Pedaler's Jamboree.




Tuesday, September 1, 2015

August 2015

We started the month out with a quick camping trip to Wakonda State Park.  We couldn't get our favorite site, and had to settle for one that wasn't very level, and too close to the mosquito-producing swamp.  Nonetheless, we had a good time.  The dogs were constantly entertaining, and enjoyed many walks through the park.  I took one good bike ride, though the best part of the trail was closed.  I suspect the heavy rains had made the road too swampy in places.  I got 15 miles in, which was pretty much my goal. I saw lots of wildlife--butterflies and birds, in particular. I always see a cuckoo there, for some reason.  I took the skateboard out and had the sisters pull me around, as well as taking some rides by myself.

The next weekend we went for a longer trip to Keosauqua, Iowa, where we had camped last year.  I took two good bike rides, 20 and 22 miles.  A tremendous diversity of butterflies appeared on the latter ride, mostly puddling on the gravel roads: monarch, viceroy, black and giant swallowtails, cabbage white, various sulfurs, pearl crescent, many red-spotted purples and uncountable hackberry emperors.  I found a 2-mile bicycle trail in town, part of which was a rail-to-trail.  We also found that they had recently constructed a small (and exceedingly cute) band shell in a park on their riverfront, something we'd like to do in Canton.  I figured out that Isabel and Gretchen are the best pullers, and had them draft me on the skateboard.  It worked out well.  Stacey bought a blackberry pie at the Dutchmen's Store in Cantril.  Every night I drove down to Misty's to get some soft serve ice cream.  The combination gave us a heavenly dessert.

Aug 15 Kayaking the Salt
I jumped at the chance to kayak the Salt River, as it had been on my list for a long time (part of my quest to kayak all of northeast Missouri's streams).  I was asked by my fellow photographers Jim & Marcia Lewellen.  Jim grew up in the area, knew its history and lore, and I knew that would make the trip special.  We shuttled our kayaks using Jim's Jeep with a trailer and my pick-up truck.  We dropped my truck at the take-out, an obscure site known as the Cincinnati Road Access, and drove to the put-in, the Spillway Recreation Area.

This site is just below the Clarence Cannon Dam which forms Mark Twain Reservoir.  The flow on the Salt depends on how much water the Army Corps of Engineers is letting out of the dam.  This day the flow was strong, which would make for some good current.  Most of the streams in this area have slow current, at least when they're safe to float.  It was a nice change to be carried along.  Fish were jumping in the foamy water downstream from the dam, and Double-crested Cormorants were taking full advantage of them.  Fishermen in bass boats were patrolling the shores  as well.  I tried fishing myself a bit on the way down, but had no luck.

Other birds we saw included Bald eagle, Great Blue Heron, Belted Kingfisher, Pileated Woodpecker, and Ruby-throated Hummingbird.  Butterflies were abundant, especially Giant Swallowtail, Monarch, Red-spotted Purple, Eastern Comma, Common Buckeye, Pearl Crescent, Eastern Tailed Blue, and the rare American Snout.  Wildflowers were in bloom, including various sunflowers, cup plants, morning glories, swamp milkweed and the bright red cardinal flowers.  The real bonus wildlife we saw were three river otters that crossed in front of us at some distance.  I took some photographs, but as I was digging out my long lens, for greater magnification, they dove under the surface and we never saw them again.

The water level was a bit too high.  There were no exposed gravel bars, which would have provided a break for our legs and rear ends.  It would have been nice to take a swim as well, since it was a sunny, blazing hot day.  A greater disappointment was that Jim knew where some Indian pictographs were located up on the bluffs, but we had no place to safely land and hike up to look at them.  The stream is very scenic, having very few signs of human use.  Power lines cross in one spot, and there are a couple of cabins on the bank.  Otherwise, it is heavily tree-covered, green and beautiful.  We completed the 7 mile stretch in 2.5 hours, averaging 3 mph.

When we were done we went to the little dam at Bluffs Recreation Area. The Reregulation Dam is there, and the water was pouring out of it in a torrent.  There was only one guy fishing.  There was a little eddy on each side of the strong current coming out of the gates, and the silver carp were jumping there.  I tried to get some shots of them flying, but it was harder than I thought, at least to get a good one.  You could even see them swimming through the shallows at times.  We had an interesting time driving home, as Jim's kayak racks kept falling off of his trailer.

Back to work
After a summer that was filled with work and play, it was time to go back to the office.  The semester is shaping up to be a good one.  I'm teaching Marine Biology for only the second time, and it feels fresh.  I get to teach Tropical Ecology later in the semester.  My classes are relatively small, and the students are mostly familiar ones.

Savannah had bought us tickets to the Alice Cooper concert for my birthday, and we drove out to Indianapolis to cross that off our bucket list. Alice gave a killer show.  Though he's 67, he could have been 27 with the way he sounded and moved.  He had the guillotine, the giant Frankenstein monster and a few other show tricks.  Motley Crue gave a good show too.  I'm not a huge fan of Tommy Lee, but he brought his A game for this concert. We stayed at Jarrod and Becky's and enjoyed the hospitality.  The next day I picked up a Yakima bike rack from a Craigslist ad for the Lil Egg while I was in the big city.  Jarrod treated us to an excellent lunch at Squealer's, a barbecue place.

Bike ride on 8/23
I took a training ride in Lewis County via 16, F, E and 81 (locals will understand). I saw a nice little buck on the 7-hill road.  He was still in his red summer coat.  I saw an eagle much later.  The only traffic consisted of Amish buggies as they went to church.  I stopped on the bridge over the Wyaconda to photograph the river and waited for a buggy to pass.  As the horse trotted onto the bridge, it began to bounce up and down.  This was not an imaginary oscillation, it was like inches of displacement.  I got off of it before the next buggy came.  Bridges can fail due to resonant vibration. Scary!  I stopped at Savannah's house just as she arrived, and got to play with her dogs, Max and Roman. When I got back to Canton I only had about 25 miles done and I wanted 30.  Even though my legs were already burning, I rode downtown and added a few more miles.  I had to ride up the big hill on the way home and my legs were shot by the time I was done.  At least I made the 30 mile goal.

Bridge lighting
The Canton Camera Club met on 8/22 for dinner and to photograph the long-awaited lighting of the Bayview Bridge in Quincy.  The fireworks were pretty good, and even the lighting on the bridge was better than I expected.

Bike ride on 8/30
Racin and I took a training ride to Wakonda State Park.  We saw a red fox on the way.  There were many butterflies on the way, and we had a good opportunity to examine the difference between monarchs and viceroys.  The dirt track trail at the park was dry and smooth, unlike the last time I was there.  I caught a glimpse of a snake, but it got away before I could identify it.  It was a nice cool day, overcast at first, with no wind.  On the way back, Racin hit some gravel and took a header.  He emerged unscathed, but his front derailleur had turned.  By luck, I had just the right tool to fix it.  When we got back to Canton, we didn't have enough miles in.  We puttered around the riverfront for awhile, and ended up with the above-goal 32 miles total.

We've been nursing Indigo through a case of pancreatitis.  It has not been fun, as digestive products come out of both ends.  For one stretch she did not hold down food for 24 hours.  We think we have it beaten now, but it was very stressful and challenging.

Here's an animated GIF of Savannah getting some attention from Indigo.
From August 2015

Photos should appear in a slide show below.