Sunday, August 9, 2015

A Better Way to the Chichaqua Trail

Griffs Valley View RV Park

Alternative Title:  Eating Our Way Eastward and Back

Last Sunday Joe Hildreth and I met on the Bill Riley Trail and then rode to orlando's for a beer.  It was a hot 93F that day.  "Let's go for a long ride next Saturday," Joe suggested.  It is August and I am bored with most route options but there is one that I have been desiring to do but have not had the chance.  "Yes.  Let's ride to the Chichaqua Trail and turn around in Baxter."  It was agreed.

Everyone seemed so excited for the new trail connections to this trail but for those living south of downtown Des Moines or in Norwalk like Joe does or Cumming like his brother Donnie, it is still a pain in the rear to get there.  For decades i have either drove to the trailhead in Bondurant or took Scott Avenue, the industrial heartland of the South East Bottoms to the Gay Lea Wilson Trailhead in Pleasant Hill.  Sure it's only 5 miles on lightly traveled roads but the road surface is rough and some day I always fear I will get stuck in the middle of rush hour.

With the opening of the connection from the Four Mile Creek Trail to the Chichaqua little progress was made for us.  It is longer and out of the way than our traditional route that takes up the Gay Lea to Altoona and then a county road or two to Bondurant.  If we take the Neal Smith Trail to Ankeny to catch the connection there it is further out of our way.  Then Joe and Donnie discovered Cornell St.

Cornell heads straight up to NE 54th which intersects the new trail connection near Berwick.  Cornell is accessible from the NST at Birdland Marina.  Just get on the road at Birdland and head north.  Eventually a 4 way stop appears and Cornell starts.  Hit the north!  Remember that Cornell changes names somewhere north of there and is NE #rd at NE54th  Important when returning home.

The road was empty on Saturday morning.  The only issue is getting past Court Avenue--Farmer's Market in the morning and Ben Carson speech on our return.  Even on our homebound trip the street was empty.  NE 54th was not busy either.  However, I have a feeling that rush hour on these roads would be a dangerous place to ride.

Finding the trail was not difficult.  A yellow bike crossing sign is visible marking the way on to the trail.  Also, before the sign but at the last stop sign/light (I forgot which it is) the trail appears on the right.  This is at SE Four Mile Dr (NE 29th).

The trail is nice.  Wide and concrete.  Be sure to turn on the proper trail segment.  The blue pole trail sign will be on the one you need to take otherwise you end up on the Four Mile Creek trail heading back to Des Moines.

16 miles or so to Bondurant from Mullets.  Since I overslept we did not stop at Founder's Irish Pub until our homebound trip.  Our friends were waiting for us at the original trailhead.  Just opened this year is a paved trail from Bondurant, in back of Founder's, to the trailhead.  Nice!  Here we joined Joe and Donnie, Tom Riggs and our friend Alan.  Two recumbents and 4 road bikes.  10 miles to Mingo and the Greencastle Tavern.

Above the Skunk River.  Here we made contact with Alan on the return trip.  Donnie, Riggs and Joe in the photo.

The bartender remembered some of us that were part of Mel Allison's campout last year.  We had the special, italian sausage sandwich with Busch Light for $6.50.  Ask for a fork.  Delicious!  Keep in mind that the Greencastle is not open on Sundays.

Soon we hit the trail and the notorious "rough stretch" between mingo and Ira, 5 miles.  The pavement was badly cracked and the powers that be fixed it by adding gravel and sealing it in.  A lot of people, especially the locals are rightfully upset about this.  The trail needed to be repaved instead.  All came down to funding.  This section is blamed for low rider counts on the trail.  but honestly, I have never seen very many people at one time on this trail.  that's why I love it.  Hidden gem!  As for the surface, I have ridden skinny tire road bikes over it many times.  I also have ridden tandems with wider tires on it.  No worse than the streets of Des Moines!  Don't let it stop you.  However, the trail from mingo to Baxter needs to be resurfaced.

Caddilac Jack's in Baxter.

In Baxter we stopped at Cadillac Jacks for a beer before heading to Kountry Korner for a slice of pizza.  Do yourself a flavor and order a small pizza and share it with your friends.  It is very good.

 An apparent lack of communication happened here.  Riggs and Alan failed to turn up for pizza.  Phone calls revealed that Alan was on the trail.  Riggs stopped at the corner to wait for him or us.  we hauled booty to the trail and to Mingo.  No sign of Alan.  He beat us to the trailhead.  "First one to Founder's buys for all!"  He waited for us and we rolled to Founder's together and made pigs of ourselves.  Two orders of nachos and beer.  It started to rain, just a quick hitter, but we stayed inside and continued the feast.

the nachos at Founder's, Bondurant.  Topping so thick I almost thought they forgot the chips!

Time to part ways.  Donnie sagged home with Riggs who strategically placed his van in front of Founder's.  72 miles for him on an uncomfortable saddle was good enough.  He lives south of Cumming.  Alan and Joe took off together.  Mary and I soon headed home the way we came.  The only difference was that we got on the trail at Birdland.  The outbound trip, we took 6th all the way to Penn.

77 miles.  No hits, no flats few errors!  Great ride with great people.  Good food and beer, too!  Now, if we can man up and take this to Melbourne????

Longest ride since The Ragbrai

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