Sunday, August 19, 2012

Another Easy Century: Further Adventures of Craig and Che

Crossroads Tavern Kelley, Iowa

With all the bad news about my friends suffering near death experience while riding and motorcycles running bikes over and cars hitting bikes and their drivers throwing the bikes upon the victims before stomping on them I'd thought I'd share some happy memories.

Someone asked if this 100 miler was a planned ride.  We had no idea how long the ride would be but we discussed doing a century on road bikes earlier in the month.  We would ride the RRVT to the High Trestle Trail and come home on the Neal Smith Trail.  The last time we rode this route it was 123 miles, a solid century.  But today we planned to cut up north early by skipping the Adel to Yale portion of the Raccoon River Valley Trail and head to Perry via Dallas Center and Minburn via the new trail segments and county roads.  The missing part of the equation was how many miles would be eliminated when we cut off the fat.

We met at The Library for breakfast, omelets and Diet Coke plus water.  Mary rode with me here.  The bartender was eager to fill our water bottles.  He even offered to fill them with ice.  Unless the bottle is insulated, ice lasts a brief moment in the heat of the summer.  Today's nice weather perhaps 20 minutes.  Having fed we followed Mary's suggestion to ride down frat row and take a left on Franklin to catch the Waveland Trail and work our way south to the Walnut Creek Trail.  She separated from Craig and I at the latter.

The worst part of the ride is busting out of Des Moines.  The Greenbelt de la Clive sucks for bicycling.  Too curvy, too crowded and too much plant life obscuring views.  Keith from Bike World once told me that he tried to average 20 mph through the trail.  16 mph is dangerous enough.  This must have been a decade ago.  Now the trail is busier.  I would prefer to take Hickman all the way to Waukee but gasoline is too cheap in the Western Ghetto.  Traffic sucks.  Frogger time with humans.  At least Dowling's track team was not practicing like they did when we left for BRAI.

One of the benefits of the the attack on farmland by greedheads and land rapers between DSM metro and Waukee is that Craig has more options for attempts to drop a deuce at Arby's

When we finally reached the turn for Dallas Center, Craig and I shifted into big ring and sprinted.  It was his desire to see how fast he could go on a flat trail.  Having been on his touring bike for a year and a half he was ready to fly.  Craig was able to get a nice jump on because once again I failed to adjust the High Limit screw on my front derailleur and had to adjust the barrel instead costing me precious seconds.  Without losing a finger from my left hand I then succeeded into getting the Versailles in the 50.  Thinking about it now I should have taken the Trek 2200 for its reliable Campagnola and the 53x11.  Craig was on his campy bike.  Mine is awaiting a computer.  Heaven forbid I ride a bike without one.

 No stopping in DC.  County road to Minburn was our destination. R16 to F31.  These are nice roads to ride on.  Flat without much traffic.  On the northbound road there is a house with a farm gate that has a chainsaw hanging from it.  It seems out of place with all the childrens' toys and swingsets and swimming pool.  How the West was won, shotguns and chainsaws.  F31, the west bound road is similar.  Merely farmhouses and little traffic.  This was the way took when we rode to BRAI on a weekday.  Weekend just as slow.  i never saw Mudder's when we hit Minburn.  I saw the trail and that was the only thing I wanted to see.

The trail to Perry is just as dull as it was in July.  Bobcat, construction vehicle not feline, tracks still there.  Looks like they graded the shoulder again.  Little shade.  Just a safe way to get to Perry without dealing with cars.  The trail to the Rocking Horse.

Mile 42 we hit the Rocking Horse around 1 pm on a Saturday.  Locals.  They place smelled like beer breath.  The breath of people who have been drinking for 18 hours now confined in a small space.  The bartender has a hole in his neck from smoking or a 2" drill bit.  I never met a pothead that had that happen yet tobacco is legal.  I did not ask.  He communicates with fingers.  Busch Light cans are $2 each.  We stay for one then hit Casa De Oro on 2nd St for cheap Mexican food.  I like how they cleaned up the old building and put something nice and useful inside.  However, where do they find the cheap art work?  I order the #7, 3 taco meal, and Craig the #14.  We are seated where we can see our bikes parked just outside the door.

Craig beat me to the punch of taking this photo. I would like to inform you that I spied this sign first.  Next door to Casa De Oro, Perry, Iowa or how or Spanish friends would say "E O Wah."

From Perry we must ride to Bouton to reach the High Trestle Trail.  This can be accomplished by risking one's life on High 141, Iowa's deadliest highway, or by gravel roads.  Disclaimer:  the further away from the Des Moines metropolitan area the safer 141 becomes.  Coon Rapids safe, Grimes deadly for cars and bicycles alike.  We took a right on Lucinda St and despite it being a one way street we followed it all the way to 18th and turned right at the high school.  We should have gone a block further north and taken Pattee St which turns into McKinley St and ends up on the gravel road we were looking for.  But no one honked or ran us over or yelled at us.

Once at the high school turn north and then take a right at the middle school.  The road turns to gravel but good gravel, this was my second road bike excursion on this rock, and take the first left until it runs out and then a right.  The last stretch is tolerable gravel.  Not the nice smooth river rock but limestone now.  This road leads to highway 169.  On the highway take the first right which is a short distance.  The should although gravel is extremely wide and I have been know to take it when I am not in the mood to play with cars.  The final stretch to Bouton is gravel and by now your hands and ass are numb from rough roads.  Mercifully, the pavement begins. 

Bouton, Iowa

We did not stop at Carmen's Bar for a beer.  Instead we turned left at the bar and then right on 130.  130 is an old concrete highway that leads to Woodward.  If bored on the road look for the numbers that were stamped into the drying concrete.  Not a long stretch only one or two minor elevation changes and cracks in the surface from long ago that have been filled with tar.  When you see a golf course you are in Woodward.  We did not continue straight to the main road, highway 210 or Main St, and Caseys this time.  Instead we took the first left and saw how people lived in Woodward.  Just like anyone else in small town Iowa.  Nice homes and quiet neighborhoods.  Eventually we reached the trailhead.

Despite all my bitching about people evicting people out of a foreclosed trailer court, 10 families deposed, to make a bar and campground, we stopped at the Whistlin' Donkey located on the northside of the trail.  There were about 10 tents in one area but the "lodge" was not open.  During our visit with the owners during Brai we were told it would be 3 weeks til open.  They were waiting for the kitchen to be finished.  What this has to do with beer sales I do not know.  Beverage coolers were in place and function in July.  So Craig and I sat on the patio and rested before riding the 2.6 miles to The Trestle.

I had a job to do.  I do it well.  I am the Official Photographer of Craig Lein's FB Profile Shot.  Most of these are done while riding bicycles.  The Majority it seems are at The High Trestle or on the way to the HT.  Craig tries to visit this bridge at least once a month.  He missed July because HE DID NOT TAKE MY ADVISE ON BRAI and use my route.  But August he did.  Here a few examples of my work.  Please feel free to contact me at if you would like me to perform this service for you.

During the Solid Century Ride.  My suggestion for the NY background on the rail bridge between Dawson and Perry
Craig has a fascination with these cows and they do for him.  The FB profile shot was taken during the Bittersweet Rd adventure
The latest FB profile shot.  He was concerned that I was getting too close before snapping the photo, that the iron works would be missing form it.
I wish he would use this one.  That hair!
Self protrait.  For some reason I did not smile.  Probably the sun.
After the photo shoot we headed the 2.5 miles to the Flat Tire Lounge in Madrid, Iowa.  We had 3 Busch Lights, two too many.  No a/c today because large groups of people floating through the doors.  Tall Dogs and some Duathalon event/benefit.  Children too.  Like a time warp, the Olympic football Gold Medal match was on tv.  My God, 10 hour games??  No a rebroadcast.  Mexico still wins!  By the time we get rolling again my legs have gone into repair mode and are stiff.  7.2 long miles to Slater.

Back to the Trestle for a moment.  When I am at the center of The Bridge I am 40 miles from my home.  Today we were at 55 miles at the center.  Thus, for a century we were 5 miles shy.  Craig whipped out his Droid and pulled up Google Maps.  He pointed to an intersection.  "There is a bar here.  It is 5 miles or so north of Slater.  That would give us the missing miles.  Trust me."  So I did.

We skipped the establishments in Slater and rode to the trailhead of the Heart of Iowa Trail on R38.  This smooth blacktop county highway heads north to Ames, Iowa, home of the Iowa State University.  There are bike lanes on both sides.  After 4.5 miles we reach the Crossroads Tavern, Kelley, Iowa.  The last time I was here it was a large gas station.  That was when Anders Olson and I rode to Ames for Ragbrai.  There is food available at the Crossroads.  We split a basket of fried green beans.  Breaded and fried and served with ranch dressing for dipping.  $3.  A man and his pre-teen son order tenderloins while they played pool together.  A band was setting up outside.  We will have to visit here again.  After the beans and a Busch Light it was time to head south.  We made up the missing miles.

Once again we did not stop in Slater except for Craig to answer Nature's call at the Night Hawk.  I answered the same call at the trailhead on the way to the Crossroads.  While he was pissing I watched a drunk couple get into a red Firebird convertible and drive away.  Small town Iowa.  I wonder if Randy Travis' Firebird was red.  Pulling out of the bar we missed the tree only because there was a reflector on it.  South bond to Sheldahl where Craig put a foot down at all three stop signs.  I remained clipped in but at extremely slow speeds.

After 5 miles we rested at The Oasis for a bit almost regretting not having bags with a beer to drink.  We then left the trail to go to Polk City and stopped at the Kum&Go for Gatorade and Mountain Dew.  I ate a Powerbar while consuming my caffeine and sugar.  Craig had a brownie.  Dottie's Landmark Tavern was open but we skipped it.  Craig does not like the service there.  The other bar is bit to locally for me.  This had to be a record for Craig and I.  No beers from the Crossroads until the Locust Tap!

The Neal Smith Trail added a new challenge.  Craig wanted to see how fast he could  while descending the dam wall.  I went first.  Got my speed up to about 14 mph and started looking around.  Lots of tree debris on the trail, all of it dry but hitting such at a bad angle could cause a crash.  Check the woods for deer.  We have seen plenty today and as evening creeps in they appear more often especially does and fawns.  Although the trail seemed abandoned by humans there is always the possibility of someone riding or walking on the trail.  No desire to tackle one of them.  The last time we hit this section of trail together there was a blue light not unlike a new cheap flasher for a bike.  it disappeared for a bit only to reappear directly in my eyes as a young child was holding it while he walked with his father.  Although we still had daylight I did not want to see those two again as I was trying to set a record.

After the first curve I was bit more comfortable and shifted into big ring and downshifted a few on the cassette.  There were two more curves and I need a high rpm push for final acceleration.  I pick up speed a bit and then braked for the final curve.  Then I attacked.  Simultaneously my right middle finger pushed the shifter lever while my legs exploded turning the cranks.  I should have stood up for this.  The bike was shaking.  I took a long visual on the trail ahead while this was going on.  No humans or critters.  No tree shit either.  It was clear to the curve near the bottom where I could not see past.  A few more clicks on the shifter and then a glance at the computer.  31.8 already.  Sweet!  Turn that crank faster and look ahead again.  Nobody!  The computer read 35.4 when I hit the curve.  I could see the wooden bridge.  Half of the surface was painted grey.  Hope it is not slick.  Time to back off.  There was a couple sitting on the bench on the other side of the bridge when it finally came into view.  Hope they stay seated for I am not breaking.  Just gonna ride this out and wait for Craig.

Craig eventually caught up.  His top speed was 31 mph.  I think I can easily hit 40 mph IF the course was closed and the deer were chased out.  Perhaps a sweeping of the top section.  but after breaking a clavicle and watching two of my best friends biff hard and suffer worse fates than me because of stupid bikers I tend to be a tad more cautious.  I still love to dive bomb a hill but I use a jet or two brain power first.

Craig said that when he hit the bridge he almost bounced off his bike.  He must have hit it hard.  I probably was out of saddle when I rolled over it.  Bridge intersections are bumpy on most trails.  He though it would have been funny if he launched off his bike and landed in the laps of the bench couple.  Oh the thoughts that run through our minds as we defy death!

The rest to the NST was uneventful.  the section that parallels I-80 really needs to be repaved.  We have known this for a decade.  No other users on the trail, just memories.

I hit my 100 miles just after passing the Ding Darling sign.  Between that and the InterUrban Trestle.  Craig got his near North HS.  I started a few miles south of him.

When we got to Birdland Marina it was dark.  Although I tested my lights earlier they were now dead.  My kids may have swapped the AAs for the Wii controllers.  Or I may have left the light on after my last adventure to the Lift.  I did turn it on as I started my descent of the Wall.  But my red flasher was working fine.  Craig had a headlamp strapped to his helmet.  It was dim.  His rear flasher was fine.  So at the marina I called Mary.  "Meet us at the Locust tap and bring AAs and my headlamp and a lock."

The lack of adequate lights almost killed us.  I feel like such a hypocrite for bitching about the lightless biker that nearly killed Joe Hildreth the week before.  But when the trail turned toward Lutheran Hospital and the Botanical Center we did not see a detour sign or a Trail closed sign.  No warning at all.  At the bottom of this stretch under University Ave bridge Craig shouted something like "SHIT  WHAT THE FUCK!"  In the darkness appeared a fence blocking the trail.  No signs, no reflectors, no flashing amber lights.  Sudden stop.  This is part of the improvements to the Botanical Center.  I knew that all the trees around the cul de sac were removed.  Jason Boten calls this area "Adulters' Row.  But I did not think that the project would impose on the trail itself.  There was a dried dirt path around the fence.  And at the end of it we saw the detour sign for northbound trail users.  The beer at the Tap would be needed now.

104.5 miles just to get a beer here!

We beat Mary to the Locust Tap by 1 minute.  She brought all the necessary supplies I requested.  We had a table by the window that we leaned our bicycles against.  No bikes at the radiator bike rack.  Craig had a Hamm's, Mary and I Busch Light.  I did not feel like a change.  We stayed for one round and rode our separate ways, Mary and I south across the river to Little Italy, Craig west to Ingersoll. 

He ended up with about a half mile more than me.  31st and Woodland is a bit further than Little Italy.  I had 105.9.  Craig clocked 106.3 miles.  A great day on bikes.  The weather was wonderful as the heatwave finally moved on.  At moments I almost needed a jacket.  But after all it is August and Autumn is still a month away.  I am sure we will bring them in September.

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