Monday, April 25, 2016

N Street Cycle Track - The Green Mile


Lincoln's brand new-ish N Street Protected Bikeway or N Street Cycle Track, if you prefer, was officially opened on Saturday to a fairly large and enthusiastic group from the Lincoln cycling community.




I say new-ish because it might not have been officially opened until Saturday but since it's been in the works since 2005, under construction for about a year and you could actually ride it in it's entirety starting in December it's a misnomer to still call it "new" but, you know, who wants to have an opening ceremony in the dead of winter. Touted as "The Last Mile" (even though it's actually a skosh longer but again just like not having a grand opening in winter, the last mile rolls off the tongue better than the last 1.23408 miles) because it was the last mile needed to connect the Haymarket, Railyard and downtown area with the rest of the 128 mile trail system that intertwines through Lincoln. With all that green paint perhaps they should have called it The Green Mile and then vehemently defended it in court when Stephen King sued the city but I guess they thought better of it.



Flash back to Saturday and much warmer and sunnier times, a group of us rode down from Cycle Works for the opening ceremonies. The grand opening also coincided with Earth Day and you really couldn't have asked for a nicer day for either, as we rode by we could see that the setup for Earth Day was well underway.


Even early on there was already a crowd gathering and it would just continue to get larger up until the symbolic red bicycle stop light was flipped over to green and the riders hit the N Street Cycle Track en route to the Railyard.


What's a grand opening ceremony with out a band and we had some members of the Lincoln High School Band playing tunes for us while we waited.








It was great to see so many different types of cyclists out for the event, they came in all ages, rode all different kinds of bicycles and were of varying  degrees of fuzziness.


Once the pomp and circumstance was played out as it always is at such events, it was time for Mayor Beutler to flip the sign from red to green and signal the trail officially opened.



Off we went on the first official ride on the N Street Cycle Track.



Down the same green mile I'd been down at least a dozen times already in an unofficial capacity, as a "veteran" user of the cycle track the appearance of additional yellow candlestick barriers was not lost on me. I can see how the city would have preferred to have not put in these types of devices to make it easier to clear and maintain the trail, it just seemed like perhaps the cycle track was just a bit too new and unknown for vehicle drivers to fully understand what it was yet. I think it was the right call by the city officials, better a few additional barriers than having someone get injured by a motorist who misinterpreted what the cycle track was for and decided to drive down it.



It was kind of nice having the police controlling traffic at the intersections, I don't suppose we could talk them into making that a permanent service like in the days before traffic signals... maybe we could even give them the white gloves and whistles that you still see from time to time on the ole television. I'm sure the poor officer pulling the gig would think it was a crap job but I think it'd be kind of cool to see and a much more personal touch but maybe I'm just becoming a reminiscing old curmudgeon.




Once the leaves fully return to the trees, I think there will be some nice shady spots along the way which will be a nice, if only momentary, reprieve during the dog days of summer. Caught up with this group of riding buddies on the way down to the Railyard, they are an unofficially, official cycling club who calls themselves "Just Sayin". No official dues for the club as it's more just a group of people who like to ride bikes that get together to share in that joy, while wearing some sweet matching jerseys... I didn't get an invite so I guess they were just sayin I wasn't cool enough for the club. It happens...





The route lead us safely into the Railyard and down Canopy Street towards an already gathering crowd, I'm hoping that someday soon the city will figure out how to connect the N Street Cycle Track to the beginning of the Jamaican on 4th and J Street, as it is right now it just sort of continues around the outside of the Railyard mirroring Pinnacle Bank Arena Drive and ends at 8th street. Sure you can get there easy enough by using some of the surface streets but it's such a small distance to cover as far as a connector trail would be concerned that it would make a lot of sense to try to figure it out at least. Baby steps I guess, one thing at a time.





Down in the Railyard there was another band and an even bigger crowd that was continuing to grow as cyclists kept rolling in. Some of them were there to celebrate the grand opening, some to celebrate Earth Day and some I'm sure who just happened to be in the area and were curious about all the bicycles and people milling about. Whatever the reason it was a good sized crowd out on a beautiful Saturday supporting the opening of the N Street Cycle Track, even if they didn't know that's what they were doing.


With the Mayor's ride done for the day it was up to Damon to get the Mayor's borrowed steed back to Cycle Works... by hauling one bicycle and towing another with yet a third Big Dummy. Now that is how it's done, like a boss!

I know some people aren't big fans of the cycle track and some have criticized it because of the timing of the lights or the fact that vehicles have parked or driven in it but it's a learning process, it'll get there if Lincoln gives it a chance to grow and mature. It's the first of it's kind in Nebraska and in my opinion a huge step forward for cycling infrastructure, as it goes so does the hopes of more of these types of cycle tracks in the future. Don't screw it up Lincolnites, the rest of Nebraska is counting on you to embrace it and make it work... the rest of the country is watching and taking notes.

Friday, April 22, 2016

Tour de Brew LNK - Oskar Blues


We are about a month deep into Spring, the days are getting longer, the temps are getting warmer and the Tour de Brew LNK is back! The first installment of the ride for the year featured the tasty brews from Oskar Blues and the money raised went to help the Matt Talbot Kitchen.


As is always the case we had to hightail it to Moran's after work to get registered for the ride, get our wrist bands, sample some brews and pickup our first of three raffle tickets for the night.



New this year at Moran's however is the super bad ass taproom and the "beer garden" permit that they will have for the events. The beer garden is a stroke of genius, I love Moran's but space was definitely at a premium when you start packing a hundred or more sweaty cyclists in there, plus I know that their business had to take a hit during these events as the usual customers were probably scared off by the huge crowds inside. Great thinking on their part and should make for a much more spacious and enjoyable time by rider and customer both.


Also new this year were sample snacks from A Street Market, also kind of a brilliant idea since they share a parking lot. If you're going to be over run by cyclists you might as well feed them, make a friend and hopefully a future customer all at the same time. Cyclists are like dogs in reality, a cold beverage, a little food and they're likely to follow you home.





After Moran's it was on to Cycle Works for more Oskar Blues and bike watching, big crowd last night. I haven't heard official numbers but it has to be one of the biggest if not the biggest first ride of the year since the event started.



Most bicycles that you see you drool over because it's some fancy, brand new, super light, exotic bicycle or some well maintained classic but every once in awhile you happen upon a truly unique bicycle. This was that bike last night, a Franken-bike collaboration of a tandem lover and taxidermists dream creation... IT'S ALIVE!!


I wasn't the only one drooling over bicycles last night, little guy wasn't tall enough to ride any of them but he sure was checking them out.


The amazingly scrumptious Kitchen Sink Cookie Company was back again this year, if you still haven't tried them you really need to.


One of the things that makes them so good is that they aren't afraid to go outside the box and make some unusual cookies that somehow just end up working and tasting really good. This one for example is the Magic Lunchbox, it is a peanut butter cookie with dried strawberries, topped with peanut butter buttercream, chocolate ganache and crushed up Cheez-Its (yes Cheez-Its the cracker). While it sounds a bit odd and perhaps scary, it tastes uh-mazing!


After cookies, beer and bicycle ogling, it was time to mount up and head out in search of food. The usual group was assembled for the rides again this year minus Kyle who went and moved to Des Moines but he seems to have been replaced by another random rider in the wrong place at the wrong time... oops.




Since it made the most sense to head to the Haymarket to grab a bite to eat we decided to venture on the spiffy new N Street Cycle Track to get down there safely.



We decided on Hop Cat, which was perfect for me since I had yet to make it down there to try them out and it's located quite conveniently near the N Street Cycle Track.


We weren't the only ones with Hop Cat on our minds so we put our names in for a table and grabbed a beer while we waited.



Being slightly hot and sweaty from riding down, we decided to take our beers outside and wait there on this absolutely gorgeous night. Unfortunately they didn't have servers out there or we would have stayed out on the patio for the meal as well, hopefully as the weather gets nicer that will change.


2016 has been a bad year for rock legends, the latest casualty being His Royal Badness, Prince passing away just that day. In his honor I toasted him with a Founders Nitro Rubaeus a very fruity but delicious Raspberry Beer-ret.



Shortly after arriving we were seated at our table and food followed there after. Food was good, beer selection was pretty good... it seemed a little spendy to me but I guess you have to make that Railyard rent somehow. Overall I'd say Hop Cat is a good place to go for a drink and bite to eat occasionally but the cost would probably prohibit most people from making it a regular spot to haunt. Silver lining might be that there would probably be fewer "poor college students" if that's not your scene.


With belly's full of beer and food it was time to head down to Empyrean's warehouse and get ready for some raffle prizes.




What better way to wash down the previous beer than with more beer, finely tuned bar-tending duo working the taps last night. Judging from the size of the bar tenders, those taps must be hard to pull... it's not often the bar tenders out weigh the bouncers.



The schwag was also flowing last night with lots of great prizes and in abundance.


You can always tell who is in charge by the different color of shirt and the supervisor stance.


It wasn't too long after we got there that it was time once again for the raffle portion of the evening.


But before that The Lincoln Bike Kitchen took the mic to pass along some thanks and information.


Not to be out done a representative from Matt Talbot Kitchen also took to the mic to show some gratitude and to explain the concept of what constitutes as a kitchen and what doesn't... OK, I totally made that last part up but it would have been funny.



With the housekeeping out of the way it was time to draw the numbers and dispense the radness.


Despite picking up extra tickets from someone leaving early my usual luck still held firm and I went home scoring zero schwag again. If it wasn't for bad luck I'd have no luck at all.


Luckily for my counterparts bad luck is not contagious, Drew was really pretty darn ecstatic winning his beer koozie.



Not to be out done, Joe and Vince also won a koozie.


Oh, Ed won a koozie as well but I'm not entirely convinced he knew what it was or how to properly use it so I'm not sure if that counts or not.



I swear Gary hasn't gone home empty handed from one of these rides yet, he started off with a t-shirt and then stepped up to an Oskar Blues bucket full of schwag.



Vince, Brian and his wife also scored a bucket for themselves, inside the buckets was a t-shirt, a koozie and stickers. That on top of the fact that the bucket itself makes a great prize that you can fill with ice to keep your beer cold on hot days made my more than a little jealous.


Ed rounded out his winning for the evening by scoring a Cycle Works water bottle with discount coupons inside of it.


Last but certainly not least, the better half won this awesome Dale's Pale Ale 3-D sign that will make a nice addition to any wall.



Grand prize winner for the night was this guy, he won a cooler full of schwag; one of which was a $100 gift card to Moran's. So if you know this gentleman, beers on him!





Another great Tour de Brew ride in the books and another fantastic group of people who made it out for the ride, the food, beer and prizes. See you all next month.


Oh yeah... also don't forget to sign up for the National Bike Challenge and log your miles from May 1st - Sept. 30th. Lincoln took first place the first year of the challenge but we've been bested by Madison Wisconsin the last two years so we need all your miles to help propel Lincoln back into the number one spot and really irritate some cheese-heads. Also if you enter the challenge, wear this sticker on your helmet and ride your bicycle to Moran's, they are offering $1 off your first beer during the months the challenge is going on.