Tuesday, August 27, 2013

My Bike Ride to Iowa City

This past weekend I  decided to make a trip to Iowa City to visit my friend Travis Kraus at The Futon Shop. This time of year gets pretty busy with students on the move so I wanted to lend an extra set of hands and hang out with Travis for a bit. Always up for a challenge, I decided to make the trip on my bicycle. 

Click here for an interactive map.

I left Dubuque Saturday night at about 6:00. My friend Casey lives in Monticello and was nice enough to let me stay at his place that night so I could break up the ride. I rolled into Monticello at about 10:00pm and joined Casey at The Jitney, an amazing little wine bar on Main St. that has craft beers on tap and a great atmosphere. I then got up early Sunday morning, had breakfast at Casey's family's restaurant, Derrell's, and set out on my merry way for Iowa City. I arrived at noon tired, stinky and dehydrated. Needless to say, I was of little help at The Futon Shop that day. After getting a shower at the Iowa City Rec Center, I spent most of the day sleeping on a pile of foam in the basement of the shop. By the end of the day I was feeling good enough to knock out a dorm delivery to a customer named ANDREW PARKER!

Jenny then joined me for dinner in Iowa City with our friends the Witry's. After dinner we visited Jenny's sister Kelly briefly and then drove back to Dubuque with my bike loaded in the back of our car. Below are some pictures of my adventure along with a brief list of things I realized while cycling this 98 mile route.

Things I realized:
1.) Unlike a car that has a gauge indicating when you are getting low on fuel, a person has no such advantage when it comes to dehydration.
2.) It's way scarier to almost hit a rodent while riding a bike than while driving a car.
3.) Google maps has an awesome feature that shows the best route for driving, walking or biking.
4.) This was the furthest distance my own legs have ever carried me in a period of 10 hours. Also, I have a new perspective/respect for what cars allow us to do.
5.) I probably spent as much on food as I would have on gas... wonder what my food mileage was?!?

Leaving Dubuque on Old HW Rd. 

Pulled into Monticello at about 10pm.

Having a Russian Imperial Stout at The Jitney with Casey.

Had an awesome breakfast at Darrell's in Monticello. Thanks again Casey!

A beautiful sunrise along the Emerald Highway just south of Monticello. I fought the wind all the way into Iowa City.

HW 1

I've never been so happy to see the HyVee on Dodge in Iowa City. I had an employee take my picture and then I ate an enchilada!

Kings of futons.

The other Andrew Parker! He was pretty cool.

So that's my trip. Glad I did it, but not sure if I'll do it again anytime soon. Thanks for reading.

Wednesday, August 7, 2013

Commuting Update

It has been about two months since I began using my bicycle as my primary means of transportation. Here is a quick update on how it's been going.

I've encountered a number of exciting challenges as a commuter. Riding in the elements, random repairs, arriving to work sweaty, thieves, negotiating traffic, etc. While these challenges seemed inconvenient at first, I'm now finding that they are simply part of biking. Truth be told, it's actually becoming kind of fun to figure out how to deal with each new challenge as they occur.  

Simply put, I've been connecting with networks of bikers, learning about bicycle maintenance, and finding myself surprised and inspired by how efficient and healthy this mode of transport really is. It has been an extremely freeing feeling to not only power the machine that gets me where I need to be, but to also have an understanding of it's mechanics.

I used some zip-ties to attach a milk crate to my rear wheel rack. It works great for moving all kinds of stuff, Stanley included! It mostly gets used for hauling my lunch pail to and from work.

I got this mirror because I was starting to feel a little vulnerable when cars were passing me. At least now I know they're coming. Installing this turned out to be a pretty involved job. It mounts to my brake lever so I had to completely undo my front brakes and kind of retrofit the housing to get it to work. It was totally worth the effort and I feel pretty pleased with myself for figuring out how to take apart and reassemble my brake lines. Also, notice the little bell to warn people when I'm about to pass them... haha, like that happens very often :)

My family gave me these saddlebags for my birthday! Even more exciting, these saddlebags came all the way from Switchback Cyclery in Toronto!!! Switchback is associated with Sanctuary, a church located in downtown Toronto that is "becoming a welcoming community where people who are poor and excluded are particularly valued". I'm so glad to have these bags and so glad the money used to purchase them went to such a neat venture. I'm finding that saddlebags are really nice to have for making grocery trips. They clip onto the sides of my bike rack and can detach to load and unload!

Here is a basic repair kit I put together. Only thing left to get is a small transportable bike pump. This kit has everything I need to change a tire, perform preventative maintenance, and trouble shoot any issues that may arise. It amazes me how simple bikes really are once you start to look closely at them. In the past month I've learned how to change a tire, grease gears and the chain, adjust brakes, seat, handle bars etc. It feels very rewarding to understand the mechanics of my transportation.   
So that's the update on my commuting for now. As always, thanks for reading!