Sunday, April 27, 2014

Power Plant Rd: 1st Road Bike Action of 2014

I enjoy riding fast racing bikes.  The most efficient bicycles available.  But I see what winter does to bikes and wait until Spring is well established and the roads are clean before busting out La Machine for a ride.  Needless to say, I have been getting itchy to throw a leg over a light weight skinny tire fast bike and soak up some mileage.  This weekend I had the perfect excuse.  My truck was over 90 aways at my in-law's farm.  Left it there the previous weekend.  Why not ride a century to retrieve the F250?  Done this several times.

I glanced at the map once basically to confirm mileage.  I estimated 104 miles to the town of Chillicothe, Iowa, the end of the paved road.  Get there, crack open a celebratory beer purchased at the previous town, Eddyville, and then go into the new bar/restaurant and purchase a drink and call Mary's parents, Dick and Dorothy to pick me up.  I have no desire to ride a bicycle with 700x23 tires up and down some of the steepest gravel road hills in Iowa after riding over 100.  Wrong bike.


This is one of my favorite and challenging rides.  The distance is the killer.  There are a few sections of State and US highway that the faint of heart would say "no way."  A bit of trail added for peace and serenity.  But Mostly county roads less travels.

House to Carlisle, Iowa 12 miles two miles of which are on the Des Moines River Trail.
Carlisle to Indianola on the Summerset Trail
Indianola to Milo on 3 miles of State highway 92 then county road S23 plus 1.6 miles of the McVeigh Trail out of Indianola
S23 to Locona
G76 from Lacona to Attica
Iowa highway 5 from Attica to G71
G71 through Bussey to Iowa 163 to Eddyville
Power Plant Rd to Chillicothe

I've ridden these roads many times, once solo.  Ragbrai, trip to Lake Wapello, 2 times to Ottumwa, once to Chariton.  Did not need a map.


1 2007 LeMond Versailles
2 tubes
2 tire levers
1 presta adapter
1 patch kit
folding hex wrench set
screwdriver with both heads
electrical tape
mobile phone
mobile phone that only plays music
spare battery for music mobile phone
energy cell for charging phones and camera
5 Power Bars
3 packets of those Power Bar energy gels
2 water bottles
NiteRider light with spare battery
cateye front flasher
rear flasher
Black Diamond 55 lumen headlamp
AAA batteries
rain jacket that works as warmth layer
safety vest
handlebar bag
frame bag
Camelbak without the bladder to be used as a backpack

I tried to place the CycloSound on the bike but the there was not enough room on the rails.  After finding an alternative set of speakers which also did not fit I opted to place the music Droid in the upper left pocket of my safety vest and play it at full volume.  Not the best but better than no music and I could still hear cars behind me.

Too much stuff.  But I was a bit paranoid about a flat and after reading the Trans Iowa racers' packing list I felt compelled.  I would be all alone.  Nothing broke, no flats.  Some holes in the road had me scared but the wheels and bike held together.  NiteRider battery lasted until no longed needed.  Android stereo's battery lasted for 80 miles before I swapped.  It was at this point that I placed my mobile on the charger.  Twitter posts, texting, Google Maps and "searching for service" sucked the life out of it.


Planned take off was set at 2 am.  I could get to Milo or Lacona before sunrise and beat the traffic on 92.  Previously I would leave at 4 am.  I was 10 minutes late getting ready.  Then Timmy came home.  Not just home about 230 am but Hugo, kid across the street, was with him to carry Tanner inside.  Apparently, Tanner was picked up a party for being drunk and wasted.  Being the good friend Timmy is, he enlisted Hugo's help to carry Tanner home.  He could not walk or speak.  Timmy kept saying, 'Come on, you father is looking down on you now, get in."  His father passed away in November.  Not really a good way to talk to someone totally fucked up but why would a 17 year old know that someone as wasted as Tanner is basically incapable of anything but breathing and sleeping at that level of boozing.  I was going to suggest that they leave him on the deck to sleep it off and to make it easier to clean up the puke but they had him inside and upstairs before I could intervene.  80 lb teenagers should not consume large amount of booze especially if depressed.  I was told he was sick at the party and not at my home and called Timmy to pick him up.  I hope he learned from this.  Distraction aside it was time to ride.

I did not take a test ride.  Just prepped the bike and left.  New wrap on the bars, new computer, new bags, new light system.  Roll, baby, roll.  Nearly ran over a possum on the DMRT.  Played dead then ran right out in front of me.  Had to remove my jacket at the 3.5 mile mark.  This would become a SOP.  Heading east on Evergreen Rd I was able to shift into big ring and get it above 20 mph.  But that road is rough, probably the 2nd worst surface I encountered on the ride, and the NiteRider fell off the bars.  Stop again and fix it.  It lasted this time.  No more issues.  A heard of deer watched me fix the light.  I turned right at the end of Evergreen instead of my usual left.  This avoided a long hill and some hidden scenic and twisty byway but at nearly 3am it was the right decision.  Cut off a mile and avoided a hill.

There was a police car driving in Carlisle when I rolled in.  The officer did not follow me.  I discovered that the Casey's General Store was open, a 24 hour store, and decided to stop.  This is something I always do here on any ride.  I wasted money on a Mello Yello, drank half of it.  Thought I could use a little sugar and caffeine before seeking the sanctuary of the trail.  I did not eat breakfast nor drink before leaving home.  My water bottles were untouched at this point.

The trail was fine and empty.  A bout of object impermanence swept over me.  Every Time I looked behind me nothing would be visible.  Nada.  It was as if the world ceased to be after I rolled through. Strange sensation.  Not only did Indianola bring the light back into my world the heat of the city felt better than the cold trail.  I stopped at the end of the trail at the trail head and ate a Power Bar and drank some water.  The restrooms are open for the season now.

Artist rendering of the moonrise.  My camera would not have done this scene justice.  My drawing does not either but it's all I have.

Highway 92 was empty in my lane. An upholstered chair was at the side of the road but it was dark and a photographer was lacking.  It would have spent at least a half an hour setting up lights for the shot.  Another missed Geocouching.  I was passed by 1 car and that was at my turn off.  Staring ahead on the empty road I saw something that may have been a lighted sign on a business.  It was not.  It was the moon, now just a sliver but blood red.  A red star was to the right of it.  Classic crescent moon with star as a mark of a Islamic holiday.  Alas, county highway S23 appeared and it was time to depart the state road.

I like S23.  I have taken it from here (2 to 3 miles east of Indianola to Chariton, Iowa.  Sure, there are a few hills but there are flat parts and a lack of major traffic.  The towns of Milo and Lacona lie on this county road.  But I hit the Saturday rush hour and got passed by 4 or 5 vehicles, mostly pick up trucks.

Milo was still asleep.  Casey's was closed.  A sign said that it was junk removal day which explained the piles of trashed household goods in front of most every house.  Probably a few couches and upholstered chairs that would qualify for Geocouching but it was too dark.  I left them alone.

Somewhere between Milo and Lacona the sun started to come up.  I switched the NiteRider to flash mode since I no longer required the solid.  O'Neill's Irish bar appeared to be ope.  A truck was outside and all the neon was on.  It is now 630 am and I have ridden nearly 45 miles.  Resisting the urge I never stopped in.  The gas station in Lacona was open but they did not have any hot breakfast food.  Disappointedly I purchased a turkey and cheese sandwich and a liter of water and rode to the park at the top of the hill to consume this.  First I topped off the main water bottle.  Cold food and cold air.  Time for my jacket to come out of the Camelbak and return to cover my arms and torso until I got sweaty again.

50 mile selfie east of Lacona.

Headed east out of town on G76 for 30 miles of hills. The twin cities of Melcher Dallas would mark about 10 miles of that but to stop there would require about a mile off route.  Attica was another 10 miles but nothing is in that town but houses and farmer businesses.  I stayed long enough to update Twitter and text Mary.  Mobile phone service was lacking in Lacona.

Among the worst shoulders to ride on.  Miles and miles of this bullshit.

The Highway 5 blues.  It really is a short stretch, maybe 5 miles.  But the road is narrow and apparently too many cagers fall asleep on it so they put major rumbles on the shoulder.  the shoulder is narrow anyway and I had perhaps 6" to work with.  Given the slight hills and curves on the highway I felt safest on the shoulder.  But when I saw the turn for T17 I was never happier.  It was the wrong turn.  I should have waited another half mile.  Having made the proper turn on previous trips I should have remembered that T71 leads to the wrong direction and town.  But I was glad to be off 5.

Imagine riding downhill at speed between the gravel and the rumbles.  I don't have to, I remember doing this several times.  There is no choice but to do this or throw the map out and add miles.  highway 5 Blues.

Things were wrong.  First the wind, stronger than before.  Other than slowing me down the wind prevented me from hearing vehicles approaching from behind.  Hills next.  I only remembered one hill on this road.  When did a Christian summer camp open up here?  The familiar houses were not appearing.  Twin Cedars schools were not there either.  But I did see a Twin Cedar School District bus parked at a house on T71.  And the Bussey ambulance also drove by.  It was the stop sign at the intersection of "Old Highway 92" that got me off the bike to study Google Maps.  I missed a paper map because it would have shown me the error of my way immediately.  But Google Maps shows every dirt goat path and had me thinking I could get to Bussey from where I was.  I puzzled over this for some time and concluded that I could take old 92.  Old 92 is a very rough road.  Had to dodge cracks and holes constantly.  But the roughest part was the sign that said pavement ends in 2.5 miles.  No freaking bueno!  Time to ponder Google Maps for another 10 minutes.  Surely the gravel would be short into the town of Tracy.  And surely there would be a paved road to Bussey from there.  I got about three full pedal strokes in and I saw the Conoco station.  Why not ask a local and get a Mountain Dew?

After I stepped in I thought I entered someone's house.  There were gas pumps outside but the interior did not look like a service station.  A woman and two men inside, average age 75.  She asked me what I was looking for and all I could utter was "pop."  "In the fridge."  It was a household refrigerator with a choice of can or 24oz bottle.  The later was the choice.  Then I queried about Bussey.  I really hate talking to locals about directions.  They have different names for the roads than a real map and Google Maps has other names.  I told them I was trying to get to Bussey and they told me to turn araoung.  The road turns to gravel.  You don't want to ride on that.  How far back.  5 or 6 miles.  How far from T17 to G71 (the right road).  Took them 3 minutes to answer that.  6 miles.  Then they figured out what the question was and said 1/2 mile.  I was offered a ride.  Declined.  Now I will solidify the century.  Then the inevitable "do you do the Ragbrai" question came up.  How do I answer this one?  Smile and say yes.  they don't need to know that I am an off route sinner who carries his own shit and avoids the circus.  Tailwind time.  Shoved the Dew into the jersey pocket, swapped the music battery, put the phone on the charger, choked down a Power Bar and tried to make up for lost time.  At least the wind was with me.

Sure enough it was a half mile.  I think I lost over an hour on T17 which in my mind stands for "Timelost 1 hour and 7 minutes.  12 mile mistake.  On G71 I instantly saw the houses I remembered and the school and the long hill that Mary and I bust the tandem's chain on during Ragbrai a decade ago or so.  The wind was much stronger and I was going slower.  I've lost a lot of time.

Wilson's Corner is my stop.  Follow the maze to the restroom.  Used to be a painted line but now there ware about 40 signs leading the way to the toilets.  Pizza was not ready and the only hot food was an eggroll.  A ham sandwich this time and a bag of chips for the sodium I had lost.  And a liter of water to fill my bottle and wash down the food.  My water consumption was increasing.  A good thing, right?

13 miles from town to highway 163.  A very hilly and windy 13 miles.  When I reached the Des Moines River I knew I was a mere hill climb and a mile away from 163 and the short stint to Eddyville.  3 miles of riding on that shoulder to the turn off.  But there are signs indicating that it is a bike route.
Highway 163 3 miles north of Eddyville is one of the few four lanes where "bike" route signs are posted

Casey's in Eddyville would be my last stop.  Two slices of greasy pepperoni pizza, a liter of water, my bottle was dry again, and a Shock Top Tallboy.  No 12 cans for individual sale.  Other cans were the 25oz cans or a skinny Bud Light aluminum can which probably would have fit better in the frame bag.  I opted for taste since Shock Top is a guilty pleasure of mine.  Friendly staff.  The young woman told me the water was a buy one and get the other one free but I had no room or need.  Had the same special been for the Belgian ale I purchased, hell yeah!  Thank you!!  Asked how to get to the Power Plant Rd I was given proper directions.  I asked out of curiosity since I already knew the way.  Got to test the locals at times.  In classic biker fashion I consumer the pizza outside on the curb.

This road takes one throught the industrial heart of southern Iowa.  Heartland Lysine, Cargill, Martin Marietta, some other manufacturing and a IHCC bioengineering facility lined the route. Off course it was hilly.  The wind picked up again.  Fun and games on the last stretch.  I had my precious New Order playing, a huge power plant to watch grow bigger as I creeped closer and closer and the knowledge that this ride was almost over.  Look at the power plant, watch some turkey vultures and look for the final turn.  I was hoping to exceed 116 miles to be proud of my estimation of 104 miles to Chillicothe.  the extra 12 miles would confirm the wrong turn.

After an eternity the turn came.  I stopped at the Barnyard, formerly Cooper's Corner, and parked at the bench and crack open the Shock Top.  Drank about half of it before calling for the airstrike.  Had I known that the Barnyard would have been open I would not have brought my own.  Since it was open I went in and asked for Fireball.  She looked confused.  "Got beer?"  The place used to be a bar, now it serves food and beer.  Millstream Brewery is the top shelf beer which more than works for me.  $3.75 for Back Road Stout which seemed fitting for the ride.  Then I ordered a pale ale for the farm since Dorothy just pulled up.  Good thing too as could have drank several more before driving home.

I talked to Dick and Dorothy for about a 1/2 hour before schepping the bike in back of my truck and driving home.  Had to drive with my biking clothes on since I had no "civilian" clothing.  At this point I was down to shorts, tights and long sleeve under armour.  Black, totally black.  It was 84F according to the porch thermometer.  The drive home was difficult.  I was tired.  9 hours ride time, 12 hours over all time.  Not my best time but given the wind was up to 30 mph in my face I was glad to have made it.  Took a lot to keep myself awake--slapping my face, pinching, playing the Sex Pistols at volume.  Even considered burning myself with the cigarette lighter. But I made it home alive and without killing anyone.  Just in time to change clothes and grab a fat bike and ride to Mullets for dinner.  Life is good!

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