Bike MS 2016: Let the training begin!

Well, it’s that time of year again. Time to overload you with photos taken while riding my bike, because I’ve started my annual Bike MS training! This is my 9th year riding in Bike MS and this year I’ve chosen to ride Bike MS: The Road Divided. The ride takes place in Oklahoma on September 24 – 25, 2016 and goes from Norman to Guthrie to Stillwater. In case you don’t get the name, the ride starts at Oklahoma University and ends at Oklahoma State University… and they are Big 12 rivals.

I hope to have a great fundraising year – can you help get me started? I’ve kicked off my training and my fundraising page by making a donation. For training, my husband and I took a trip to his family’s farm in Iowa over the 4th of July and I was able to get in many miles of lovely bike riding! 170 miles over 3 days in fact. The Iowa riding was relatively flat, much cooler than Texas, and quite windy at times. Because all roads in Iowa are basically a giant grid, I was able to plan my routes to take advantage of a tailwind on the second half of each ride. My routes: day 1, day 2, day 3

The first day started off cool enough that I *almost* put on my arm warmers! The sky was a gorgeous blue. The Northwood fire department had a giant flag out for the holiday.

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Flat road evidence:

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Many windmills are found in this area:

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Quite a few cemeteries too:

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Mini waterfall:

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Quaint little towns:

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More cemeteries:

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Tractors all lined up in a row:

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Another town. St. Ansgar I think:

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Best slip’n slide ever!

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Little playground in Bolan:

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Welcome to Bolan!

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Wildflowers and windmills:

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Returning back into Northwood:

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Government building in Northwood:

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Day 2 was cloudier than day 1 so the photos aren’t as pretty. But look at those wildflowers!

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I took a swing through Grafton:

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Stopped at a park in Plymouth:

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Downtown Plymouth:

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Can you see the yard art? Hint: a giraffe and a killer whale…

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The round building in the middle caught my attention:

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A herd of horses hanging out:

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Iowa barns often have quilt patterns on them:

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Elk Creek Cemetery:

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Day 3 was sunny again and the weather a bit warmer.

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Elk Creek Churg has a little mini church next to it…

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Crossing I-35. Yes, the same I-35 that runs just a few miles from my house in Austin.

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Rode through Joice:

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Found a Norwegian immigrants memorial (unsurprising really):

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A church in Lake Mills:

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Pretty golf course:

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Rice lake looked more like a marsh than a lake:

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And that’s it! I’m very thankful to my in-laws for letting me move an old bike up to the farm so that I can experience this great riding on all of my visits 🙂 Stay tuned for more bike photos throughout this summer!

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Dabbling with HDR photography

For those of you who’ve been reading my blog for a while, you’ve probably noticed the improved photos since January. My lovely husband surprised me with a DSLR camera, something that I’ve always wanted since my film SLR stopped working years ago. The new camera spurred me to take a photography class through UT Austin’s informal classes, as well as read some photo blogs and books. I latched on to the idea of trying high dynamic range (HDR) photography after seeing HDR photos in a variety of places. I know that professional photographers have mixed feelings about HDR, but for us amateurs it can really help bring out detail in photos that we would not otherwise capture. When we traveled to my husband’s family farm in Iowa over this summer, I knew I’d have the perfect subjects for HDR photos. The farm is over 100 years old, the farm house was built in 1927 and my father-in-law has a variety of old Ford tractors and old farm implements on display. See timstractors.com for more information on how he restores the tractors.

For the photos below, I used my big tripod, 5 stops for the HDR (-2, -1, 0, 1, 2), and Photomatix essentials to process the photo series. I tried to not go crazy with special effects.

The farm house, built in 1927.

One of the many Ford tractors brought back to its former glory by my father-in-law.

An old thresher, a farm implement that separates grain from the stalk and the husk.

An old Ford truck parked on the farm.

I picked up a collage frame and had a few photos printed to give to my father-in-law. I hope he likes it!

HDR photos of the farm ready to be gifted.

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This work by Laura Feeney is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License.

Bike MS Training Update #9: Riding from Texas to Iowa

That’s right, I rode to Iowa. Ok, I rode in a car from Texas to Iowa, but I did take my bike with me. My husband and I traveled up there to his family’s farm to celebrate his parent’s 40th wedding anniversary. The farm is just outside of Northwood, Iowa, a few miles south of the Minnesota border. While not all of Iowa is flat, north central Iowa is so I was excited to pack up my bike into the trunk of our car to take along with us. The event that I’m training for is only four weeks away so being able to continue my training during our trip was great. My training is for the 2012 Bike MS: Pedal to the Point in northern Ohio. It’s a 175 mile bike ride over two days.  If you’re able, please consider supporting my participation by making a donation to the MS Society. This is my 5th year bike riding to raise money for the MS Society. I’ve seen too many friends and family affected by the disease.

Before making the trip, I planned for my rides by requesting an Iowa bike map from the department of transportation. It was super helpful and up to date. It also arrived the day before we left. I used that map to chart out my routes along the very grid-like roads. The map was also key because on Google maps I couldn’t necessarily tell which roads were gravel and which were paved. There are many gravel roads in Iowa. My route on Friday ended up being a 75 mile loop. I planned to ride east and south at the beginning because the wind was forecasted out of the south / south east. Last week was amazingly hot for Iowa, hitting 100 degrees or more so it was basically the same weather I cope with in Texas. Friday morning I set out at 7 am and headed east of Northwood.

Setting out in the morning towards the sun on a flat road.

The first half of my ride consisted of my staring in wonder at all of the windmills. I’ve seen plenty of windmills in west Texas, but never from a bike and so close to me. The wind wasn’t too strong and about half of the windmills weren’t spinning. My assumption is that the grid didn’t need or couldn’t handle the power at that time, so some of the windmills were turned off. In Texas, the windmills typically go as far as you can see in places. In Iowa, they were more contained. I assume that individual small farms have installed the windmills while in Texas, they are installed on the HUGE ranches that stretch for many miles.

Windmills on both sides of the road.

A common site: a corn field, farm buildings, and windmills.

This small Iowa river is bigger than any river I see in Texas.

Around mile 48, I stopped in the small town of St. Ansgar to refill my water bottles and to enjoy a few minutes off of the bike while eating a granola bar. I sat on a bench located along the main street and took a few pictures.

Small town hardware store

Buildings in the main part of town. The red one is from 1891!

During the ride, I missed two turns due to unmarked roads. Luckily I was able to use the Iowa biking map to correct my mistakes before too long. Because not many roads were paved it was pretty easy to figure out that if it was paved, it was my turn.

Confusing sign on the road I was supposed to turn on but was unmarked. Made me think it was a dead end!

My second stop for water and a banana was a tiny market in Grafton, IA. I knew I wanted to ride through Grafton because my Mom lives in Grafton, Ohio!

Look Ma, I’m in Grafton!

Grafton also had some old buildings. The market shared the same space as the post office.

It was lucky that Grafton had a market, which I didn’t know in advance, because I managed not to pack enough food for the ride. Grafton was around mile 55 of the route. I finished my ride at 12:15. The last hour and a half was just plain hot but I still enjoyed every minute of it.

 

On Saturday morning, I was able to get out for a short 35 mile ride. The weather had cooled considerably and brought with it a stronger wind out of the north. When I left, I had some concern that it might rain.

The first thing I did was turn north into the wind on a road that I thought would take me into Minnesota. It took me right to the border and turned to gravel.

See, I rode to Minnesota! And then turned around.

I then turned south and completed a loop back to the farm. I passed the local grass airstrip where tiny planes take off, I imagine to spread water or chemicals on fields. The clouds are rather ominous in this picture, but they had all burned away by the time I finished my ride. It was a perfect way to start the day of the party.

The grassy runway

 

Riding in Iowa was better than I had even imagined. It was mostly flat except for long, low hills, the roads were amazingly well kept, and the drivers were very courteous. Not only did they move all the way over into the left lane to pass me, but many even gave a friendly wave. The waves from Texas drivers tend to be the unfriendly kind.  I wouldn’t hesitate to ride there again.