Mar 16, 2012

An Early Ride on Sakatah Singing Hills

I took advantage of the freakishly warm weather to ride the Sakatah "Singing Hills" State Trail today. This was my second time on the Sakatah - the first time I started in Mankato and made it to Waterville. This time I started in Faribault and made it to Waterville. So, I guess I've ridden the whole trail in kind of a limp fashion.

The brochures tell us that "Sakatah" means "singing hills". I am pretty sure those hills are singing thanks to the relentless southern cross winds I've experienced every time I ride this trail. The first time was the worst by far - steady 20 - 30 mph cross winds dried us out like dead bugs. The trail from Mankato east to Waterville is pretty open, so the prairie wind has a lot of fetch to get going.

Today the wind picked up steadily throughout the day. I hit the trail about 11:30 in a slight breeze; by the time I stopped for lunch in Waterville the wind was kicking up dust and blowing my gloves off the table.

These early season rides are always kind of a humbling ritual. I am not in as good of shape as I would wish. The cycle-specific fitness from last year seems to have slipped as usual. The good news is that it always bounces back pretty quickly, but that makes some kind of sloggy rides until that happens.

According to the mileage chart in the brochure, this was about a 43 mile ride. I can't personally vouch for that because my little bike computer thing died an early death less than two miles from the trail head this morning. I bet that's pretty close, though. Forty three miles is nothing to brag about, but that's about what I was hoping for on this ride.

Mar 9, 2012

Traffic Calming for Southern Connector

A bike infrastructure project that I am interested in is moving forward, it seems. The Southern Connector would provide a bike route on 17th Ave. from Minnehaha Parkway all the way to north of the Midtown Greenway. Eventually, this route would also tie in to the planned Intercity Bike Route as well, but that project is a ways down the road at this point.

I have posted several times about the Southern Connector project and provided comments during a field review of the route. I am interested in this one because we really do need a north-south route alternative to Park Ave./Portland Ave. on the east side of I-35W.

Recently, I noticed an experimental median on 42nd Street at 17th Ave. That crossing is probably the most dangerous on the Southern Connector route. We used to live blocks from this intersection, and often had trouble crossing this street because cars travel too fast on 42nd Street in general, and as the second photo shows, the sight lines from 17th Ave. are terrible due to a hill immediately east of that intersection that obstructs cyclist and pedestrian views of traffic heading west on 42nd Street.

During the route reconnaissance ride during the planning phase of the project, there was discussion of traffic calming and potentially a median at the intersection of 17th Ave. So. and 42nd Street to provide shelter for pedestrians crossing the busy 42nd Street.

With the temporary median in, I was curious to see it's effect on traffic, and if it was in fact slowing vehicles down to make this crossing safer for bikes and pedestrians. My quick reconnaissance this morning leads me to believe that this is working. I shot a short video of the intersection - you can see the cars building up speed as the leave the Cedar Ave. intersection but then brake and slow as they see the median.

Yes - the temporary median is ugly, but the final version will be much better looking. I think this will be a good improvement for the neighborhood and hope that the median becomes permanent at this location - that would make the crossing of this street a lot safer. Call 311 and let them know the median is an improvement if you agree.

Mar 8, 2012

Sabo Bridge Cable Vibration

A friend sent me a link to a short video of suspension cables on the Sabo bridge vibrating rather dramatically prior to the cable/bracket failure. I don't know the person who shot the photo, but I know the bridge and can vouch for the location. Interesting...

Mar 7, 2012

Turning the Page

Basket 'O Cat
Originally uploaded by Snak Shak
Well, it's been quite a journey lately.

It seems that almost all of my attention for the past six weeks or has been devoted to preparing for my parent's move to an assisted living facility located in the heart of The Ancestral Homeland.

If you have been through relocating parents, this is all old news; if you have not gone through this yet, a mere description could never suffice to capture the whole gestalt. The short snappy version of this is that moving parents entails business transactions with strangers, inventorying a lifetime of possessions to see what comes and what goes, getting the move planned and done, and then tucking them in to the new place and watching to see that everything is going to be okay. All this while managing a laundry list of chronic and acute health issues while trying your hand at applied behavioral psychology and anger management.

With the parent's now getting settled, I am looking forward to getting things back on track myself. As I have pointed out previously, I missed a few things that had been planned, including the 2012 Bike Summit, an information meeting on the Intercity Bike Trail, welding class, working at the food shelf, not one but two book club meetings, etc., etc.

That said, it was a rare gift indeed to have the time and energy necessary to devote to this passage. That is a luxury most people don't have when they face this phase in life. As easy as it would be to complain about the splash this made in my end of the swimming pool, that's all really embarrassingly minor compared to big things like my parent's future.

I am amazed at how all-consuming caregiving can be. Anyone who has been there knows that it fills the space you give it, and it always seems like there is more to do. I have been spared the brunt of this since I live so far away from my parent's and my siblings are much closer and did much, much more of the support work. I did get a better appreciation for the load they have shouldered, though, and that's kind of a gift, too.

There will be a few more trips to clean out the house, and probably another for the closing when it finally sells, but at this point I am resting up and making plans to get my personal trains back on the tracks.