Thursday, September 18, 2008

Yesterday's commute: The Arkansas River Path as alluvial plain, and other observations

As local folks know, on Friday and Saturday we got enough rain here (none of it from Ike--this rain was the weather gods' special gift to southern Kansas) to cause rivers and creeks to rise substantially. I didn't go to the base on Monday, so yesterday was my first ride that way since the rains.

This was another time that I wished I had any sort of digital camera. For most of the stretch I ride (from Exploration Place to the bridge at Harry), the path had been under anywhere from 1' to 4' of water (for those who haven't been there, at the path's closest approach to the river the path is a foot or so above the water). For much of the way, the path now resembles a hard-packed dirt path--the concrete in those places just isn't visible. Flotsam and jetsam litter the path and leave telltale signs up the embankment to show how deep the water got. In one place close to Exploration Place, there is a 15-foot long, foot-and-a-half diameter tree trunk on the bank between the water and the path. A couple of park benches on the path have substantial debris caught on their armrests.

So: this was obviously nothing compared to the floods that used to occur here before the Big Ditch was dug, and certainly like nothing that Texas experienced over the weekend. Nevertheless, it can become too easy to think of the Arkansas as yet another of those shallow and slow-moving, easily-controllable Great Plains rivers and forget that Nature (still) Matters.

Other stuff now:

Last week, I noted that I had found that day's ride very difficult for me physically. Peter and Coppercorn were kind enough to weigh in with suggestions for how to handle cooler weather; and so yesterday morning, the weather being comparable, I took their suggestions to heart. On last week's ride, I'd worn a sweatshirt; this time, I wore just shorts and a T-shirt (though I had warmer gear packed, just in case). Also, I made a conscious effort not to try to go fast but just take it easy. After all, as Andrew of Carbon Trace says--nay, declaims here, there's no reason at all to sweat on a bike. (I was also recalling my membership with these folks). At any rate, I took it easy, not trying to go "fast" and in a fairly easy gear. I figure my speed was around 10 mph. If it had not been for the Mrs. calling me via cell-phone while I was en route, I would have made the trip in about 50 minutes: about the same amount of time I have done it in the past when pushing harder and having to rest as a result. Even better, I had to shift to an easier gear only once, when climbing the Mt. Vernon overpass at I-135. I did sweat--sorry Andrew, but it's what I do--but nearly as much as I usually do. The trip home, meanwhile, though always easier than the morning ride, was even easier, with no shifting at all for the I-135 overpass. So: Slow-biking it is from here on.

On the way home, I almost hit a middle-schooler, also on a bicycle, at the intersection of Mt. Vernon and Estelle. He was getting ready to cross Mt. Vernon as I approached from the east and had just looked in my direction before looking west and, as he did so, began to cross. He just flat hadn't seen me. I had to shout at him twice before he turned my way, and even then I had to brake to keep from hitting him. I do find it a bit humorous, though, that that has been thus far my closest to having an accident with anyone. On the other hand, for the first time in my time cycling a motorist behind me honked at me as I waited at a stop sign. I suppose he couldn't see it, but I felt it prudent not to pull out in front of a school bus. As it turned out, though, when I did cross, I could hear his car die. His impatience, I suspect, had less to do with me than his internal-combustion-challenged Buick.

No interesting carrion sightings to report, you'll be relieved/disappointed to learn.

So: all in all yesterday's ride was a good one, my best in terms of my physical well-being.


R. Sherman said...

Via Neatorams, I saw this, which I pass on for your information.


acline said...

I do try to qualify my sweating claims :-) But, yes, this late summer / early fall weather does make special demands on clothing choices.