Sunday, October 16, 2016

Dawson Cabin Campout

The journey begins.  Leaving work.

So we had one more fall ride in us.  One more time to load the baggers and ride to distant locales and enjoy ourselves.  Joe Hildreth invited me.  The plan had been in the works for months.  I believe he had been desiring this for a few years.  Simple plan.  Load up our bikes, cut out of work early and ride the Raccoon River Valley Trail to Sportsmans Park near Dawson and rent a cabin or two with a group of friends.  But as plans go somethings don't quite work out.  Nobody except for me could ride out there.  And that was ok because my loaded touring bicycle is slower than answered prayers.  The important thing is that this ride secured my goal of 1000 miles for October.  More importantly, such a ride would place me in Waukee on Saturday where my daughter, Dora, was competing in the Waukee Invitational marching Band Competition and later that evening the State competition.

I packed the bike the night before.  Tent, sleeping bag, blanket, all sorts of clothing since it was cold and I did not trust the forecast of warmer weather, chair, cooler and empty growler.  Joe was not quite sure about the sleeping arrangements.  Be prepared.

I was able to leave work about a half hour early.  First stop was in Waukee at the Hy Vee.  I needed provisions aka beer.  After sampling their wares I had a growler filled with Dead Irish Poets by Finnegans Inc from Minneapolis.  The barkeep said that they are a non-profit brewery and a certain percentage of their Iowa sales goes to the Food Bank of Iowa.  Extra justification for the purchase of this smokey dry Irish stout.  I noted that this was the first time I had a growler filled with a stout and the barkeep did not complain or warn me about such beer in a growler.  To complete the beer run I picked up a 6 of Beerito, labeled as a Mexican beer but actually a Vienna lager, by Oskar Blues and a 6 pack of Squatters Hop Rising Imperial IPA.  The lager was for mixing with the stout for a "arf n arf" and the double IPA was for something strong and hoppy.  Both were in cans whick are safer on bicycle rides.  Sure, that was a lot of beer but when I sleep in a place that is not my own away from the One I Love and the protection of my dog plus the possible uncomfort of sleeping in a tent, I need to be properly sedated.  That and I could always share or take home.  Nothing worse than running out of beer when camping.
Good place for a doughnut!

I took the short cut to Dawson by turning up the "new" connection from  Waukee to Perry.  Because of time I did not stop in Dallas Center or Minburn.  The funny thing about Minburn was that for the life of me I could not remember its name.  I remembered the name of the bar but not the town.  There are many "M-towns" on the trails and roads that I ride.  Milo, Mingo, Menlo ect.  Both Mudders and the establishment at the depot looked as if they were doing well on a Friday evening but I had to press on.  I did, however stop at the recumbent sculpture that serves as a memorial for a rider about was about my age when he passed away.  I had a food break, a doughnut that a co-worker gave me before I left work.  She gave me three.  Food for the journey.
Harvest time in Iowa.

As for the ride on this stretch, I enjoyed a tailwind, a full moon over my shoulder and nature.  Many deer running through the fields and along side the trail.  Also saw a skunk, startled it and saw the tail go up fortunately not in my direction.  It was also harvest time and farmers were a plenty collecting their crops.

In Perry I stopped for more food at the Kum & Go.  I also needed batteries for my headlamp and more ice.  I like my beer cold and it was dark.  5 more miles to go.  Text Mary to let her know I was safe and almost there.

Sportsman Park is about 5 miles from Perry or 1/2 mile east of Dawson.  There is a sign on the trail and access from the trail to the gravel road that leads to the park.  Another sign says that it is 1200 feet from the trail.  At night it looked like good gravel but it was a bit rough.  Having ridden my share of gravel this year on bikes of various tire sizes, 700x23, 700x25 (tandem) and this bike with 700x35 on Ragbrai I thought my new 700x37s would plow right through like a Tiger tank.  Wrongo boyo!  I had to find the line that everyone else's tracks indicated.  My camping partners rode to Tojo's in Jamaica for dinner while I was still on the trail.  Once I spotted the entrance I gently made a course correction and cut across the road.

WHAM!!!  I was laying on my left side!  Left hand a tad bit bitten by gravel.  My head actually hit the rocks as well and for once I was glad I had a helmet on because I'd be pulling rocks and dust out of my noggin.  There is an abrasion on my left arm despite having a tough and thick long sleeve shirt on.  My left thigh seemed to take the lion's share of the impact noted by a visible bruise and soreness even at this moment 36 hours later.  The bike was OK.  Nothing fell off.  Nothing broke.  the rear pannier got a bit messy from the cooler's condensation (actually a non-insulated beer chiller).  All the lights still on.  Brushed myself off and picked it up and walked the remaining 6' to the driveway before re-saddling and continue toward the campsite.  Deploy kickstand and grabbed a Squatter for the healing powers of hops.  Oh yes, sent a text to Mary to let her know I was safe at the destination.  45 miles from my start at home, 33 miles from my place of employment.  A good day of riding.

There were about 8 of us.  Joe and Nick were there and the only ones I really knew.  At 51 years of age I was the kid.  We sat around a fire pit and drank until it was time for bed.  Music and laughs.  I finished the other two doughnuts and the other half of the sandwich I purchased in Perry.  Nick brought two bottles of Captain Morgan's Cannon Blast and a 12 pack of Sprite, a drink I introduced to him during Ragbrai, but I abstained from that.  As for all the beer I brought, I think I drank half of the growler and 3 of the canned beer.  Yeah, too much beer hauled.
As close to a group shot I got.  Joe in red.  Nick in chair facing the camera.

We had both cabins.  They were nice!  2 or 3 bunk beds each, shower, sink, fridge and what I needed, many electrical sockets.  First order of business was to charge my light and then the phone.  Although I brought my battery charger I like to save that power for situations where I am off grid.  Saturday night I may need my lights.  I was able to get a bottom bunk which was really a couch with a sheet covering the mattress.  I used my sleeping bag as a pillow and needed only my blanket to keep me warm.  For more information on Sportsman Park click HERE

The strong south wind kept us warm and dry, no dew.  In the morning I merely packed the bike, finished my mug of stout and brushed my teeth.  Decided that a fresh coat of deodorant would suffice and did not change my clothing.  Seemed like a hassle to change threads.  We departed in separate ways.  Everyone but me headed east to Perry for breakfast.  I wanted to complete the loop and headed west.  I also had to be in Waukee by 1 pm to watch my daughter perform in the marching band competition.  My breakfast would be much later in Panora if all went well.

The trail.

At Dawson, one mile from the campsite, I stopped and dropped the long sleeve shirt I wore over my jersey.  Not necessary.  I also purchased a trail permit and the trailhead.  Next year I will obtain the annual permit.  despite the overcast it was a beautiful day.  I noted the now amber waves of grain to my right and the cleared field to the left.  I also thought about how the glaciers made this part of Iowa so flat and that one spots towns by the grain elevators that stand out the distance like castles.  Water towers and grain bins.  In the northeast part of the state it is hilly and has a lot more trees and church steeples betray the location of the villages.  There were two time trail bikes heading east and two women on road bikes that passed me heading toward Jefferson.  Really, an empty trail.

Amber waves of grain.  Corn before harvest.
Corn after harvest.

I turned south at Herndon instead of going north to Jefferson.  That's when I felt the full force of the wind.  My average speed dropped 5 mph and I knew I would not make it to Waukee in time.   Nevertheless I pushed on at best possible speed.  Yale and then Panora I kept rolling  looking for grain elevators.

Just before Linden I saw the white Dallas County truck on the trail running the leaf blower from its bed.  I wet of to the side in the intersection to let him through.  Sure enough, the park ranger stopped and rolled down the window and offered me a map and started talking.  "Yes sir I have a permit.  Got it at #9 in Dawson."  "Thank you for supporting the trail," he replied.  We talked for about 5 minutes about the trail and its amenities and improvements.  He also queried about my ride.  Of note is that he related his experience with a certain rider that has done the loop 41 times this year.  Damn, that's a lot!!

As for the trail, I have been riding on this trail since 1991.  I have seen it expand, first from Yale to Jefferson, the connection from the Clive Greenbelt which connects to to the Des Moines metro trail system that comes within a half mile of my home,  and more recently form Waukee to Perry and then Perry to Herndon.  Several of the gravel intersections have been paved by the generous donations of others.  Several sections of this trail have been repaired and resurfaced throughout the years.  It has always held a special place in my heart and often I consider it my favorite trail.

I finally stopped in Redfield.  I had to get something to eat I had gone 30 miles sustained on a beer and a coffee.  Casey's is where I finally used the chair I packed, sitting outside and consuming two slices of pizza a a 32oz Coke.  Folks here wanted to talk about the trail and bicycles.  I also purchased a bag of ice for the 9 remaining beers.  I may need them.  Mary and I exchanged text.  I would not make it in time.  Please ride west on the trail to join me afterwards and we'll ride back together.  The morning's micro mist was picking up.  It was time to ride east.  The crosswind was relief for the headwind.  My speed improved.  Mary and I met between Ortonville and Waukee.  I should have left an hour earlier.  The late performance would be the one that I would watch.

While taking a break at the trailhead in Waukee we decided to ride home and grab the car instead of loitering in Waukee for 5 hours.  I needed a shower and the mist was threatening to become a drizzle, not the shower I wanted.  Mary discovered that the work on Walnut Creek was rideable which eliminated the need for a dangerous and time consuming detour.  When I got home I checked the Cateye, 66 miles for the day.  111 for both days.  A great weekend of riding especially on a heavy bike.

When we returned hours later we found out that a serious downpour hit Waukee and soaked the people participating and watching the marching bands.  We arrived in time to see my high school perform and many performances of various schools including Dora's Lincoln HS.  The rain never returned but our butts we wet from the bleachers.  Yes, we need stadium seats.

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