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Adventures off the bike

March 10, 2014

Most of the adventures here on the BikeWriting blog involve my jumping on one of my bicycles and riding away. I spent last week talking about bicycles at the National Women’s Bicycling Forum and the National Bike Summit, organized annually by the League of American Bicyclists. The agenda is always jam-packed and attracts both “roll models” and politicians. The agenda is always full.

The Summit’s last day is lobbying on the hill. The Iowa delegation met with Senators Harkin and Grassley, as well as Congressmen Loebsack and King. Larry and I were only able to attend the Harkin breakfast, but spent a fair amount of time talking bicycle and pedestrian safety and the current state of the trail system in Iowa.


Back in Iowa City, it was time to think about the Silent Auction and Hand-Built Bike Show, a benefit for the Youth Off-Road Riders program of the Neighborhood Centers of Johnson County. I’d been on the committee since last fall, mainly to do media relations. I snagged a few choice donations, such as “Irish I was riding my bike” T-shirts from Bike Rags and a beachside bag of goodies from Prairie Lights and me. This was the group’s first fund-raiser and, while we’d gotten lots of good reactions and donations, we weren’t sure how it would go. It was a huge success, about 150 people bid on $7000 worth of merchandise. A total of  $11,553 was raised for the program.



The top picture with the auctioneer is from Brittany McConnell. Emily Robnett blogged and posted a number of pictures of the evening.


Freaky Las Vegas

January 18, 2014


Better writers than I have written about Las Vegas’ contradictions, the yin and the yang. I took this picture because its twinkly light Nativity scene-ness seems incongruous, but, when you think about it, Jesus was born in the desert, wasn’t he?


This is also the city where it rains on the half hour. Inside a mall.


IMG_1097We found a mall made out of containers.

IMG_1085And where a silver piggy greets us upon arrival at the Rumor Resorts Hotel.

IMG_1102And dinner may kill you.

IMG_1086But, most of all, it’s 60 deg. F when it’s so cold at home the planes aren’t flying!

Livin’ Las Vegas

January 17, 2014

In early January Larry and I sought a warmer climate for a long weekend.  Did we go to Mexico or Southern California? How about the “redneck Riviera?”  No to all that. We went to Las Vegas! Las Vegas, where neon goes to retire, where people go to spend money on slots and craps, eat endless amounts of buffet, and enjoy high-ticket, star-studded shows.

We found a few other things to do. What were they, you ask? How about…

Mountain biking in the desert: More like desert riding, we rode over hill and dale on what was described as a trail for “fit beginners.” I was sort of disappointed we didn’t see any lizards or other desert denizens, but, it was fun to get out in the “wild” and still be so close to the city.  Our guide was Brandon, courtesy of Las Vegas Cyclery’s Escape Adventures.




IMG_1072Later, we went into a neighborhood park to play disc golf. Sunset Park is a lively place where the tees are laced around baseball fields, a cricket pitch, playgrounds, and tennis courts. Disc golf isn’t exactly my sport. As a matter of fact, it brings out the whiner in me (I’ve even been known to accuse a certain teammate of enjoying my humiliation!). Still, it was fun to be outside and I managed to pull together the contortions of a throw. Eventually.

Another half-day trip to see the red rocks  poking out of the desert terrain at Valley of Fire Park.

Hoover Dam is a feat of engineering and the tour guides are among the jolliest around. “Take all the dam pictures you want,” said our guide, Ray. I also wanted to go because I’m thinking it may become a relic someday. Water levels at Lake Mead and the Colorado River are entering a 14th year of drought. Someday it could be a tourist attraction along the lines of the “great wall of Nevada.”

The Excaliber, our first hotel (more about that later), let us explore the Strip, where tremendous numbers of pedestrians get from block to block via skywalks accessible by stairs and escalators.  The walkways send pedestrians through indoor shopping malls and food courts, small exhibits, bars and restaurants. We saw a few hardy bicyclists but also police officers on bicycles.

Our stay at the Excaliber was part of an airfare-hotel package. The room was large and comfortable.  There was no wifi in the room, only an ethernet connection — useless to a Mac family! The wifi was in the lobby. Dare we think this was a plot to keep guests out of the rooms and in the casino?

Still, by Monday morning, it was good to contemplate going home, even to Arctic temperatures. We were gassing up the rental car just a few blocks from the airport, bright-eyed and bushy tailed for our 6 am flight when I checked my favorite traveling app, Flightboard, and saw our flight was cancelled.  As a matter of fact, both of our flights were scratched! Turns out the cold and wind that plagued ya’ll was too dangerous for airplanes. The tsunami of flight cancellations spread throughout the land, and we were held hostage in Vegas for Three. More. Days.

Never reluctant to stare down a challenge, we found a hotel off the strip (Rumor Resort) and decided to try to walk to it. First we has to find a (walk) way out of the McCarron Airport. We walked our roller bags through the parking ramp and lot, finding ourselves at the edge of that bit of paradise. The problem is, the exit jumped right onto a busy freeway.  We realized that we were trying to exit as the cars would. What we needed was the entrance. We would go out the way we’d gotten in. Once we got to the “front” of the airport, a sidewalk took us right out and where we wanted to go!

So, a nice walk on Paradise, a different hotel, and a couple more days of 60 degree weather. Rough, eh?


Harvest time at home

August 3, 2012

The lovely Audrey has been house, cat, and garden sitting for us. There’s nothing like August in Iowa, is there?


What in the world?

August 3, 2012

We’ve met lots of nice people on the road. We’ve crossed paths with a couple from Utah riding north to Seattle (I’ve learned this isn’t recommended because the prevailing winds run north-south. We met a dad and his two sons who are riding south to the Bay Area. Another group we’ve seen several times are a group of University of Illinois students who are on the last days of a 4000 miles ride to raise money for cancer research. You can read all about them here. Another man is walking pushing a huge canvas world ball to increase awareness of diabetes. He hands out fruit and healthy snacks people give him. Learn about him.

The World Guy was resting but Larry agreed to pose with the ball.


Cyclists get to eat a lot, as you know. Here are a gaggle of bikes (most are the Illini kids).


Oregon is definitely not flat

July 30, 2012

I will be the first to speak up to correct ignorant comments about Iowa’s supposed flatness. However, I gotta say, boyz and grrls, there have been climbs here that kicked my ass. Like the first day out of Portland on Highway 6. Taking the light rail to Hillsboro (bikes ride for free!), we began our adventure rolling through some gorgeous, mostly rural, countryside. None too heavily traveled, for the most part, your humble cyclist was thinking it’d be a piece of cake. We knew we had to climb over the coastal range through the Tillamook forest but it all seemed manageable. Unfortunately, we had to climb a 1630 foot summit to even get within range of the the first campsite. With cars and trucks churning by at highway speeds, I was moving so slowly it was hard to stay upright. I finally caught up with Larry at the 1000 foot overlook. By then, I was in serious bonkage and just wanted to go home. Some trail mix, energy food, and water revived me enough to struggle the rest of the way. Just to make things interesting, there was some serious downhill before we got to Elk Creek Campground.

There have been other challenging climbs since then; On Wednesday we rode the Otter Crest loop on the way to Newport. By then, I was better at just cranking down into granny and letting the bike do the work. That day, we met an older lady name Monica who rides it every day between her home and rental property! Monica was wearing rubber boots and riding a Magna mountain bike. I think of her now when I’m churning up a hill on my nice Lemond and wearing clipped-in Keens.

Today, we rode the aptly named Seven Devils Road from Charleston, south of North Bend. The only thing that helped was Grateful Dead piped through some speakers hooked to a solar powered charger on the back of Larry’s bike. Brilliant!

Here’s Monica!


This doesn’t look steep here but I had to ask for help from granny.


Oregon has wonderful hiker-biker camping

July 30, 2012

Then there’s this. Which is the view from our hotel terrace.



July 27, 2012

We’re at the ocean. Proof.


Checking in

July 27, 2012

Waldport, Oregon–mile marker 160 from Washington border. We’ve ridden about 170 miles from Portland. I’ve had every intention of blogging every day but here I am, Day 7, and just entering the first one. We’ve been on the road since Sunday; it is now Thursday. We’ve camped three nights and moteled along the beach one wonderful seaside evening. Right now we’re sitting on a bench in front of the Green Bike Coop. They recondition donated bikes and lease them away. And, yes, they’re green! There’s also an expresso/smoothie stand so we’re sipping fruit smoothies and sharing an apple crumble muffin. The route here along the coast is great. There are shoulders and the roadways are marked as a bikeway. We’re using the Adventure Cycling map and also one published by the state for bike touring. I’m glad there’s a shoulder because there are also big trucks and RVs pulling cars. We stayed last night at South Beach State Park just south of Newport. We rolled right in to the hiker-biker spot and set up camp. Lots easier than hauling an RV!

Yesterday held another treat for us. Bike Newport is a bike store in Newport. They sell a nice array of bikes. We saw a Sun fatbike, a handmade bamboo bike from Santa Cruz, and a bike built for one of the owners of the Amgen company. They sell cute ladies clothes (no, I didn’t buy anything). But, the most amazing thing of all is that they offer free unlimited hot water showers (with towels and soap and toiletries!)’ laundry, wifi, and a lounge. It was a religious experience.

Spent the night at a Comfort Inn in Florence. Charged up electronics, laundry, ate at a nice Italian place in Old Town, slept in a bed.

We’re pretty good camp cooks, though. Here’s a shot of a smoked fish-veggie-pasta dish.


Other places

June 19, 2012

We’re visiting Southern California for a bit of fam and a bit of biz for L and all vacay for A. Long Beach, in Orange County, is an old port city that’s gotten spiffed up. Riding borrowed Trek cruisers, we explored the town, rode along the beach, and made a major field trip to see the USS Iowa that had just come into port. It’s not open yet but we could see it.

Getting there was a trip-and-a-half: Long Beach bike lanes, bike trail along the LA river, so-called bike lanes in the industrial part of town, complete with semis hauling containers, some rough roads, funky old train tracks, etc. You get the pic; Welcome to industrial America. A motorist could get to the Iowa and the touristy stuff without seeing any of that. Just jump on the expressway and get off in San Pedro.

Thinking about San Pedro reminds me of the movie Chinatown. Doesn’t Jake have to go there in the middle of the night?

First the fam. This is Kevin, L’s oldest, and his wife, Doanh. They’re expecting their first baby at the end of June. Don’t they look good?


The about-to-be-first-time Granddad and me, the Bonus Grandma.


And now, A real bike lane!


The LA River trail.


The USS Iowa.


And a super-cute bike rack at the Long Beach Public Library.


Happy trails!