Sunday, April 22, 2012

Lacona Uber Alles!!

It was a female rain.  More of a constant light sprinkle.  The type that evaporates very quickly but does not soak through.  I last looked at the forecast 24 hours ago.  The rain was to remain up north of the metro.  We were heading south and by the time we would return the rain would be in the next state.

The purpose of the ride was to get a long ride in.  We have not had very many this year.  I wanted to avoid trails as much as possible and get on county roads so we could fly without having to cross an intersection every mile or so and to avoid the usual trail crowd.

The wind was from the south.  Head into it and turn around and put it into big ring and enjoy a tailwind all the way back.  New Virginia was on my mind.  Essentially, due south from Festung Ebar.  Just cut over to the Great Western Trail, a jog east after Martinsdale and right turn on the first paved road.  Easily a 70+ mile run with the possibility of setting a new speed record (50.3 mph) on The Hill.  Tailwind for the record attempt.

The other option was to ride to Lacona.  80+ miles of mostly county road S23 with the Summerset Trail on both legs of the trip.  Convenience stores or bars every 10 miles or so. 

Given the Mayor's Ride and the usual trail crowd and the endless intersection crossings on the GWT, we opted for the latter.  We have not been on the Summerset since November.  Besides, we could have breakfast in less than an hour in Carlisle.  Leave early and get back in time for some Funhating at The Saddle.  Good plan, miles and smiles and see all our drunken friends.

As plans go this one fell apart in the morning.  Too damn cold in the house!  The heat has off for quite some time.  Unfortunately, it was 52F in our house Saturday morning and that made getting out of bed difficult.  So much for leaving by 7am.  At 8am I got up and took my shower.  Mary then got up.  Sleep all day or get something done.  Quin went off to work at Mullets and katie said she would be in bed all day.  With Katie staying home we had someone to watch Dora!

What to ride and what to wear.  Fast bikes were at the top of the list.  Too much time on mules.  Time to fly!  We selected the RT3000 for its speed and since it was cold Mary could warm herself against the heat I ould be irradiating once I got a few miles in.  We rarely get to ride this tandem, it seems, and it has been out only once this year.  The ride before that was in November on the same route.

Because this is our fast tandem we were limited to what we would carry.  Water bottles and tire repair kit.  Any clothing that needed to be shed would need to be carried on person.  I thank the genius that invented the 3 back pockets on jerseys.  I wore my olive Underarmor shirt with my red long sleeve jersey over it.  I also put on my red rain jacket to provide an extra layer of warmth and for its ability to be stuffed into a jersey pocket.  Pearl Izumi bike shorts with tights.  Wool socks.  Mary had on 2 jerseys and two jackets and tights.  Not enough Northern European blood in her it seems.

I think we were rolling by 9am.  Barely made it around the block when I decided to turn around to grab the 4 remaining Powerbars left over from Ragbrai.  Not that we'd need 2 each but I left them out on the bed and if we did not take them the children would eat them.  This added a half mile to the journey.

Our route out of Des Moines and to the Summerset Trail takes us to Hartford Ave.  We take Hartford to SE23rd and then a left on Evergreen.  Roll past Easter Lake and take a left and follow the road to SE45th.  Climb and descend a hill and take a left on Highway 5 and cruise into Avon Lake.  Follow this to the old ballpark and turn left on SE Avon Rd.  This goes all the way through Carlisle to the Casey's General Store by the Summerset trailhead.

Get on the trail and take it all the way into Indianola and hop on the McVay Trail.  Take this to Highway 92.  Turn left and travel about 2.5 miles to S23, the first paved road on the right.  S23 the rest of the way through Milo and into Lacona.  Simple and sweet.

Done this several times.  Once on the way to Lake Wapello, a two day journey and two times to Ottumwa.  Many times to Indianola.

With Powerbars stowed we were off.  Hartford is where we cross SE14th.  Hartford can be busy at times since the City built soccer and baseball fields at the end of the road.  Don't be alarmed, cars will give room.  Nobody wants to miss Johnny's baseball game or Sally's soccer match because they were involved in an accident.  This stretch is just over a mile long.

Once on Evergreen we opened it up, put the bike in big ring and pushed it.  The sky was overcast which normally does not bother me.  I did not put my contacts in and thus lacked sunglasses.  Sunscreen?  Hell no!  Clouds are OK.  But it started to sprinkle.  Soft.  But it was there.  Thin clouds.  "This will blow over soon," I said.  Soon was 20 odd miles later.  But the sprinkles did not get us terribly wet, we stayed dry under our rain jackets.  This was more of an anoyance.

Easter Lake was on our right.  At the stop sign we take a left.  This winds through a residential area and then a nice descent to the river valley.  The Great Ape Trust is to our left.  This is also known as Hubbel Park.  HP is a good place to take MTBs or it was prior to the Ape farm.  I have taken my son's out here when they were young.  Brad Dagget and I biked out here once over 12 years ago.  But focus on the road.  The descent is fast but is marred by rail road tracks at the bottom.  Watch it.

SE45th used to have a bridge that crossed the Des Moines River.  But that is long gone and in the opposite direction we need to turn.  Heading south we climbed a long hill.  No traffic.  There is a junk yard hidden on the right half way up this climb.  Once a scary looking white man called out to us "You doing the Hy Vee?"  This translates into "are you going to compete in the Hy Vee Triathelon?"  We replied no and continued our way.  I don't like to be around people who wet their pants while racing.

Highway 5 was not busy.  Just a straight shot past the enterance and exit ramps and nobody will care about you biking on this road.  Becareful.  After the last of the ramps the blacktop quality diminishes greatly.  Keep one eye out for cars and the other for the cracks in the road.  After the General Mills plant the road has been resurfaced and only one set of tracks to tenderly cross.  I like to stand up when crossing tracks.  This allows your arms and legs to act as shock absorbers and thus save wheels and ass.
Mary did not like me taking her photo here in Carlisle

It was still sprinkling when we rolled into Carlisle but that did not prevent an old man from mowing the lawn of the park.  He waved.  It was time to eat.  Their are a few restaurants and taverns in this town but none were open at 10 am on Saturday.  We even stopped and asked locals and cruised up and down the business district.  No joy.  Casey's was our only option.  mary had a pork sandwich and I a chicken fritter.  We shared a bag of chips for the sodium and each guzzled a 32 oz fountain Mountain Dew, no ice.  we sat outside on the curb where I updated the tandem photo.

Breakfast completed and off to the trail which is just east of the store.  I really love this trail.  11 miles long, few intersections one long climb, rail grade, which becomes a good section for big ring on return.  There is a elevated look out platform that some hippies would call a safety shack almost half way.  Intersecting Banner State park there is also a restroom about a half mile past the look out.  But the best part of this trail is that it is not overpopulated with people training for races or people walking 2 or 4 dogs at a time.  We encountered a few people running on out outward trek.

Indianola can be identified by the intersections towrd the end of the trail.  There are about 3 of these to cross.  Just follow the trail.  Do not turn at the first trail offshoot.  This leads to a dead end park.  Just follow the trail and eventually the trailhead appears.  Sheltered tables and modern restrooms.  A vending machine that dispenses Coke products is provided. $1.25 per bottle is very reasonable.  I purchase one for the sugar and caffeine.

Now Highway 92.  One could opt for the trail on the south side of the road but it is not of significant distance and leads to the ballpark where there would be mobs of baseball parents and children and cars to deal with just to get back to the highway.  just stick to the white line and let them pass.  S23 will be here is a few minutes.  S23 begins as a nice rural residential neighborhood.  Big houses, big yards and barking dogs.  None gave chase.  Some sort of strawberry fetish here as well.

After the strawberry shed we turn east again to avoid gravel.  A nice big ring decent then a few climbs.  This is horse country as many horses will stare at you as you pedal by.  This is also political country.  First we spot this sign.

Aparently, there was a disute about property someone was murdered in cold blood
Also we noticed that about 5 people are running for sheriff of Warren County.  Signs stating this marked our route all the way into Lacona and back.  I did not photograph these.

Milo is about 10 miles from Indianola and a welcome sight.  New this year are Burma Shave signs.  The tale of the new signs was about someone named Hank who checked his gas tank with a lit match.  the last sign did not read "dumbass".  However, instead of seeing a chargrilled Hank we saw a mini-Doberman.  Hard to tell if a dog of this stature would be friendly or not, we were cautious.  Most dogs we can outrun for they give up early.  despite our speed advantage this dog followed as did its owner.  My latest trick for this situation is to turn around and lead the dog back to its rightful human.  But said pup would not not follow the plan.  It ran and ran.  It got close to us and its human but stayed a safe distance.  the man handed Mary a dog treat as a bribe for the dog but Fido did not fall for that.  Instead, he ran off into a cornfield.  Mary returned the treat and we rolled on into town.  We tried.  We did the right thing.  He needs a leash.

Once again we stopped at the Casey's.  This store is a block east of S23.  There is a bar that serves food.  We did not stop there opting for the restroom and two bottles of water and some peanut M&Ms.  Casey's provided milk crates to sit on while we refueled.  It was cold and I could not wait to get rolling again.

Milo to Lacona is another 10 mile stretch.  Most of this is flat with the exception of the hill exiting Milo and the crossing of Whitebreat Creek.  The scenery is good.  This barn is about 2 miles south of Milo.

Photo taken in 2008
Climbing out of Whitebreast several dogs, maybe 5 in all, spotted us and one took chase.  A woman came running out of the house and yelled at the dog.  We hit 40 mph on the return trip, the dogs never saw us.

The first sign of Lacona is its watertower.  A short climb up to the cemetary and then mostly downhill to town.  The sun finally came out.  Things were looking up.

"Gas station or bar?" I asked Mary.  She did not care.  I turned to the bar.  O'Neal's Bar and Grill.  A few years ago the men's room was covered with photos of Ragbrai past.  Not 2009 but before.  Now those photos were removed and one was encouraged to write their name and hometown.  I declined.  We ordered two beers, $3.75 for a mug of Sam Adams seasonal and a Bud Light.  We also ordered two hamburgers at $4 a piece.  The burgers were quarted pound size with toasted bun served in a basket with chips.  tasty!  If we needed a dry shirt there was a table with free t-shirts.  Nascar and golf on the tvs.  I want to return to this place.  Unfortunately, poor phone reception so I was unable to to check in with Latitude.

The sun was still out when we finished.  Time to return.  We had 45 miles in but subtract a mile for the Powerbar snatch and Carlisle food hunt.  The wind was still from the south.  We turned the bike north.  Time to fly.  And we did fly.

Descending into Whitebreast we hit 41 mph.  We were at 38mph when I noticed.  I lowered my head and grabbed the drops.  Just enough to change the 10s!  The brown house of dogs was a blur.  Milo was soon on the horizon.  We used it only for the restroom at Casey's and one bottle of water.  But first i took this photo.  I spotted it on the way down but did not stop.  Rock is not dead!

Long live rock!

Back on the road we soon were passed by motorcycles.  Loud Harleys.  I thought of the South Park episode where the kids had the dictionary definition of "faggot" to mean loud obnoxious attention whores such as HD riders.  How true.  Apparently they were on a charity run complete with two SUVs following them to pick up any parts that fell off.  Funny, how Mary and I were out on our own without support on a vehicle that maybe reached 40 mph down a long hill.  I looked at the computer again and thought it was broken.  it read 38 mph.  Then I realized that we were in big ring going downhill with a high cadence.  I gave us a few more gears and grabbed the drops and lowered my head.  40 again!

We lost the noisey HDs on the climb before the strawberry farm.  I noticed that we sucked with the cross wind.  But that was ok.  We still felt strong and it was a long gradual climb.  Soon we will be back on the Summerset Trail and closer to home.

92 was not as busy.  We stopped at the trailhead again.  This time we had company.  A man and woman on bikes peering into a camera.  I offered to take their photo and they agreed and reicipocated.  Damn old phone.  She told me to press "save to card" after taking the shot.  I just handed it back to her.  No need to learn the workings of an obsolete phone.  They were only riding to Banner.  Mary and I ate a Powerbar apiece and shared a bottle of Coke.  Our friends left before we did.

Needs to give up carbs again
The ride back to Carlisle along the trail was fine.  Once the final intersection leaving Indianola was crossed, we opened it up and jammed on the downhill.  It took a while to pass our photographer friends, who were standing on the side of the trail looking at his phone/camera again.  But then another "ping" noise.

I become very cognisant of the noises I hear while riding bicycles.  Early this day the sound of gun fire off in the distance bothered me.  At first I thought something fell off the bike or something broke.  Now on the speedy part of the trail another bad noise.  A quick check of pockets and query of Mary determined that we must have rolled over debris that bounced up on the frame.  Yep, there were sticks and things on the trail that could have created such noise.  Too bad we lost our speed to figure this out.

A quick note about this trail.  It did not suffer from the storm like the Des Moines trails.  No trees were down nor evidence of recent chainsaw activity.  Nor were there any washouts.

Stopped at Casey's again for the restroom.  76 miles so far.  11.5 to home.  Once out of town we noticed the sky again.  Downtown Des Moines looked like it was getting rain.  There also was a dark cloud to the southwest.  No time to mess around.  Mary thought she saw a rainbow while we were on the road.  This was when we were near Avon Cemetary.  Instead of going all the way to the Ape trust we turn on SE57th and hit the SE corner of Easter Lake.  This avoids a hill and changes the scenery.  But I did not see a rainbow, rather the rays of the sun coming down through gray clouds.

A quick stop at Fareway for salsa and sour cream for our tacos was our only delay.  Fareway is on the corner of Park Ave and SE23rd.  No Templeton today.  The soccer and baseball people were still around.  Such nice fields but inadequte parking.  Good planning! 

Back on Hartford when I felt the first rain drop.  "Please, Lord" I prayed aloud, "5 more minutes is all I ask."  we were just over a mile away.  We barely made it.  By the time I got the tandem put away and the Red Phoenix disconnected from the Burley, something I failed to do the night before, the floodgates in the sky let loose.  Funhaters were getting wet and heading inside bars.  Not me.  Mary was making tacos.  A shower was in my immediate future.  87+ miles.  I called it a great day.

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