Sunday, September 10, 2017
If you have ridden from the Clive Greenbelt to the Raccoon River Valley Trail you would have noticed the "TRAIL CLOSED" signs and a large pile of dirt at the north end of the Hickman rd underpass. The City of Urbandale is building a pedestrian bridge over Walnut Creek to link with the RRVT.
Official statement on August 23, 2017 reads: Urbandale Pedestrian Bridge
Monday, September 4, 2017
I must make amends. Only one friend asked me to join them on a bicycle ride during the Labor Day weekend. No surprise. Most are now gluing themselves to bar stools to watch American football which just started. Gotta watch em all! Others have Honey Do lists long ignored because of bicycling and others have family or other commitments. But only one of you fookers bothered to invite me for a ride. let it go, I got the ride I wanted with some dear friends.
I would like to say the best place on earth to spend Labor Day Weekend is in Madrid, Iowa. They have a 4 day celebration complete with car shows, parades and fireworks. The fireworks we saw from the Trestle last night we spectacular! honestly, 20 minutes! We always enjoy Madrid on this holiday. I cannot recommend it enough.
|Mary and I at FireTrucker. Thank you Dave for the photo!|
Simply plan. meet at Firetrucker Brewery in Ankeny and then ride to the High trestle along the scenic High Trestle Trail. And back. Karl said he was going which met that we could opt to hitch a ride to and fro Firetrucker in his truck. But Mary and decided it would be best to ride to the brewery. We did not ride on Saturday.
14.6 miles to Firetrucker. We took 6th Ave up from highland Park area after riding to Birdland Marina from home. This saves time and miles. Got there with 10 minutes to spare. Also, we were the first to arrive. Talked to Dave from team Mate while we waited. Soon Bill and Rob arrived. Unfortunately, we waited til almost 7 pm for the others. Karl was a no show and Jeremy was needed Karl to schlep him there. Others had other commitments and one had recent hand surgery. Foursome for the ride tonight.
|Bill who rides a wonderful Gunnar.|
|Rob who wished he wore a jersey because his cargo pants had too much stuff in the pockets.|
We hammered to the trestle. Wish we would have stopped to take a photo of the red sun at sunset. Canadian wildfires greatly increased the particulate matter in our air giving us gorgeous views. One stop at the trailhead in Madrid for a potty break. But the trail was PACKED! This place never loses it's appeal. Next stop the High Trestle!
Trail was packed and it was dark. I forgot my headlamp so I had the choice of burning out retinas or being invisible. I altered. While we were stopped at the trailhead I opened a Light House box but no lights were available. Somehow we weaved our way through without hitting, maiming or killing anyone. Prime time on the Trestle. Many groups and families. We stopped at an empty alcove before reaching the Blue Zone. Time for a PowerBar and a drink. After a bit and the obligatory photos in the Blue Zone we rode up to the scenic overlook.
|Bush Light Trifecta: all three forms of beer--bottle, draft and can.|
It seemed less crowded on the way back. We stopped at the Flat Tire Lounge for a beer and Rob got a pizza from Casey's. Nice of him. Mary and I ate about 2 pm and the PowerBar was not enough. While waiting to be served I noticed they had Busch Light bottles and tallboys in the cooler. Do they have it on tap????? Yes they do!!!! "One bottle, can and draft of Busch Light and a Bud Light for me wife, please." Trifecta time! This was my third Busch Light Trifecta. New rule: one one trifecta per establishment unless another of your party is doing one too.
On the trail again. Empty trail. Well, one person with a flat tire. We stopped to help him by providing light and offering a pump to inflate the tube before he used CO2. He lives in Slater and must have been a few miles out. We never saw him again. Night Hawk for the last round.
Should be mentioned that the wind was from the south west. And said wind never let up. I think it increased. Favorable cross wind on the way up. But we made it to the Oasis at 1:19 am for a final break. Mary and I would be parting ways with Bill and Rob at Irvingdale Ave, our normal route.
The avenue was empty so we elected to take the road instead of the sidepath/trail. Then we decided to take the trail, NST, home instead of 6th Ave. There could be cars and cars out this late are likely to be driven by drunks. But we really were not all that safe. Despite the lack of other cyclists or pedestrians or furry animals our tiredness was the danger. Had to work at keeping awake. We did and were back in Des Moines soon.
It should be noted that Robert Ray Rd near the Women of Achievement Bridge was very active when we rode through after 3 am. Lots of cars parked and people on the trail. Some passenger in a white car had the door open and appeared to be RESC (rapidly emptying stomach contents). we did not stay around. plenty of people to help. End of their summer, too.
It was 345 am when we entered our home. Ironic since it is the time the alarm goes off Monday through Friday. Fritz was glad to see us and so was the cat. Glad it was not time to go to work!
So ends the summer. Fare thee well and thank you. With autumn and winter the trail will thin out and perhaps we will return to the Trestle. Since the days are shorter and nights longer we can get there earlier and return home before midnight. then again, it probably will be another late ride!
75 miles from our home to the High trestle and back. We took our road bikes. For the Memorial Day ride we rode our fast tandem.
|At the Night Hawk, Slater, Iowa.|
Sunday, August 20, 2017
|Meh, muddy on the other side. But from here we did see the work being done in completing the trail. Just a matter of time.|
The direction we have not ridden in has been the south east. Carlisle, Summerset Trail, Indianola our gateway to southern Iowa. Yesterday we rode south to Martensdale so something different was in order for today. Carlisle with a possible extension to the Summerset Winery since my son and I shared a bottle of their Marshall Foch last night. I am in need of another since the Malbec that followed was not up to par. Besides that the hill or two and the fast county roads are wonderful to ride. Mary and set out on our road bikes. As for the weather, rain forecasted but it was south of Des Moines and moving east. Although dark to the south it was not a threat. Just looked bad, dark grey clouds and all. The humidity was almost off the charts. Gotta keep moving for the breeze to evaporate the sweat.
About two miles into it she announces that the bridge on Evergreen Ave is closed for construction. Crap! We'll have to see. Closed roads have rarely been a deterrent for us. I was hoping that the entire road would be closed for repavement because it is rough. And that rough stretch is a bummer because my bike likes to get up over 20 mph on that road on our way out. "Worse comes to worse we'll cut through Easter Lake Park."
|What sort of man reads Penthouse? One in a dumpster!|
Worse did come to worse because of the 445 am rain. A long stretch of road lacked pavement and the clay/dirt roadbed was littered with puddles. Not a place for delicate road bikes. Fatbikes yes but not our nice bikes. Plan B: the Trails of Easter Lake. We rode them earlier this year and could see the new sections underdevelopment. Surely we can get to the other side.
Distraction. Someone illegally dumped an upholstered chair in the dumpster. Time for a GeoCouch photo. So I gave my phone to Mary and I climbed on top for the photo shoot. Other treasures were in here too. A Penthouse from 1994, a VHS head cleaner and two Easter baskets. Unfortunately, the rain ruined the magazine and every page was either an advert or an article. I did find the centerfold by the end of the photo session but the gel lens photography was ruined by the early morning rain. So one last photo of me holding two Easter baskets with the porn in one and the VHS cleaner in the other. A local was walking on the trail and asked me how I was going to get the chair home. Time to laugh. he then told us about all the garbage they drug out of the lake when they recently drained it. Bad. Three cars! He then told us that he worked for DSM public schools and when they cleaned the parks up from fornicators they started doing it on school grounds! You can stop people from shafting in the parks but cannot stop people from shafting! Time to roll. The humidity was horrid and we were sweating.
Back on the trail we rode until Mary announced that we missed the turn. Somehow we missed the covered bridge, or so we thought, and ended up at the dog park at Ewing Park which was incredibly ironic or an instance of karma. Earlier this week one of my co-workers told the tale of her pregnant adult daughter and her grandchildren calling to say that they were lost in Ewing Park. For some reason during their hike they got off the path and horribly lost. So lost that they were on their hands and knees crawling through brush. One kid eventually made it out and dialed 911. At 1030 pm my co-worker received a phone call from the Des Moines Police Department saying that her daughter and grandchildren were found and safe. Of course the rest of us at work found this to be a funny story, how does one get lost at Ewing Park? So now Mary and I were wondering where or if we missed a turn. We doubled back and saw that there was no turn. Turn around again and roll into Ewing Park proper as we saw a trail there.
This path led us to the back side of the disc golf course or Harry Piper Pkwy. On the way there we passed the soap box derby track which I intend to take a bicycle down sometime in the future. Also the BMX track is out here as well probably explaining why we saw about 5 BMXers in full kit flying down the derby track. We climbed out and were on Indianola Ave near Firestation #10. If we followed the avenue we'd meet up with Highway 5. There we could take the wide shoulder to Avon Lake and then get to Carlisle. "Let's take Payton Ave (SE 60th). Just explore, reaching Carlisle does not matter" Mary suggested. The road was paved and we had never been on it. Why not?
It is a lovely road to ride a bicycle on. Not much traffic, smooth and a great hill. With the right wind and some effort possibly a 40 mph+ hill. In fact the hill was so good that when I saw the bike trail I did not slow down for it. I zoomed past knowing that I was going to turn around despite a strong desire to zoom up the other side and take a peak. So I used my left hand to make some sort of signal to Mary that it was time to perform the Crazy Ivan and turn back to the trail. The view from the top of the hill would have to wait. Suddenly this ride is begetting more rides out here.
|Lilly pond in the Three Lakes development.|
We've seen this trail from Highway 5 before from cars. Basically a residential trail for the new housing developments out here. Possibly part of an eventual trail link up from Des Moines to Carlisle. This would be our first exploration of the trail. It crosses Army Post Rd/Highway 5 but traffic was light. After a small pond there was a white stone fence that looked like a great stop to enjoy an adult beverage on. I wonder what friends I could drag out here for this? Then it winds in to the Three Lakes neighborhood. For some reason that does not show up on Google Maps but it leads to E Pine Ave/SE 72nd St. E Pine leads to SE 45th which gave us the option of going south to where it dead ends thanks to the 65/69 Bypass or north to Highway 5/Army Post Rd where we could either continue north to go home or turn east and head into Avon Lake and and continue to Carlisle. We have never been on this side of SE 45th but always use the other side to go to and fro Carlisle and have often stared at at the south part and wondered if it lead anywhere. But now my stomach was grumbling since one PowerBar and nothing but coffee does not last long. Rancho Alegre would be our next stop.
Now instead of riding up to Evergreen Ave as SOP we headed back into Easter Lake hoping to complete the loop we began or at least get to Indianola Ave. We followed the trail and found the covered bridge and then found where the trail ends. Nope, trail is not connected yet. Time to do some hills in the park and enjoy the speed bumps. And they were real nice speed bumps, perhaps the best ever, so smooth I don't know why they placed warning signs about them. Now the climb up Easter Lake Drive. This is a narrow road without a shoulder. Unfortunately, the city in its wisdom never widened the road to accommodate all the housing developments that have recently flooded this area. No one honked, swore or threatened up but it is not my favorite road to bike on and I cannot wait until the trail around Easter Lake is completed so I can never visit this road again.
When we reached Indianola Ave we had a bike lane all the way to the intersection across from the restaurant we were going to. Rancho Alegre has the best chips in salsa in town and the big burrito meal is great. Not a hug burrito but a 12" tortilla with steak, cilantro ect inside that you hold in your hand and spoon in mole or verde salsa in between bites. And the beans and rice are great too. Do yourself a favor and eat there sometime. Closed on Tuesdays, we've made that mistake before.
Well it was a 23 mile ride on a cloudy and very humid day. Got to check out our neglected backyard and saw many opportunities for future rides. Trails, smooth country roads and hills and parks. what was not to love?
Saturday, August 19, 2017
"Do you know anything about gears? he queried as I was dismounting my bike. "Yes," I replied thinking that I have cabled my share of derailleurs and fixed shifting on another share of bikes and the Rule #1: NEVER TAKE A SCREW DRIVER TO A DERAILLEUR UNLESS YOU ARE ABSOLUTELY SURE OF WHAT YOU ARE DOING.
Once in the shelter I could see. He's got a Denali road bike pulling a trailer, two large duffel bags and assorted stuff spread on the tables and a Husky. "I'm riding to Colorado and I only have two gears." Mountains come to mind. Then the hills of Iowa which he cannot avoid from here to Winterset. Once he reaches Winterset it will be flat for most of the way to the Loess Hills and border. Yeah, he's gonna need some gears. Time to assess his situation further.
Basic Shimano 3x7 with GripShift. Sure enough, someone took a screwdriver to the front derailleur and messed with the High or the Low setting screw. I pick it up and crank it and try to shift the front. No joy, stuck in granny. Adjust the barrel at the shifter but no improvement. Shift the rear and get some shifting. "Do you have any tools?"
"Nothing but a 15 mm wrench to take the trailer on and off and a knife."
That ain't gonna work. Need to adjust that screw and take out the slack in the cable for the front derailleur.
"I rode here from Ames last night. Stopped at the cafe in Prole and waiting for them to open then they told me about this place so I came here and slept."
"You did into take the trail into Des Moines?
"There's a trail? I took Highway 69. I could not find this trail last night."
He would have rode right by us at Orlando's. 515 fest would have blocked his way unless he could have found the gravel path. "The homeless in Des Moines really liked my trailer. They wanted me to give them this. No way."
"Gonna ride to Winterset and then head west. I've ridden from Colorado to Ames on a MTB but some FaceBook friends gave me this new bike when i got there. A lot of people follow me on FaceBook." I tried to find him on FB, no luck.
"Well, Mary and I have no tools except stuff to fix a flat tire. You need to go to the gas station down the hill and purchase a screwdriver and either a 10 mm wrench or a pair of pliers or something." The derailleur's cable uses a nut and and a flat bolt instead of a hex bolt. I would not have been carrying the required tools. "We'll watch your dog."
Lena is his Husky. She rides in the trailer. Until this moment she was quietly laying down in the shade. Mike handed Mary the leash and he was on his way. Lena sat next to me and allowed me to pet her and never made a whimper or sound noting that her master rode away. Then she laid down. Mike was not gone long and returned with a Philips head screwdriver and a pair of pliers. Time to work.
Adjust the High and Low screws up front and got some positive movement but still needed to pull the cable through. Either cable stretch or poor assembly. "Yeah, they tried to adjust it for me yesterday." Soon I could get the chain to the big ring. Front done. The rear just required adjustment to the Low screw. I was able to get it to the next to last cog. Lacking a proper bike stand and expertise I felt that he was much better off than he was last night. Seriously, I ain't the best wrench but I can get a bike moving in emergencies. I had no issues going to the cog on the far right. Check the front again and make a few more adjustments. "You got more gears now. I don't guarantee my work but you have the tools. You should be able to climb up the hills now without killing yourself."
Mike told us a little more about himself. Wounded by a IED over in the Sandbox he's had trouble maintaining full employment. Seizures and memory issues. In Colorado he will go to the VA and seek help. He said he works 6 months out of the year excavating then the other 6 months going on adventures such as this. He lived in Des Moines but moved to Colorado when or after he was a freshman at East HS. He is friends with someone who works at Barr Bicycle in Clive. Then he became another victim of the never ending war in the Middle East.
We kinda envied him for a bit, the lack of schedule and the ability to travel and explore the US on bicycle albeit not the best machine. "I walked from Portland to Tacoma [or something like that I forgot the exact locations] but I'll never do that again. Large cats and bears. Scary." Yep, I was spotted by a mountain lion once and got within 25 yards of it. Cats think about what they are going to do, how they are going to attack prey. Hate being on a critter's menu.
It was time for us to head north for 21 miles to the comfort of our air conditioned home and stable employment and all the creature comforts we have acquired in the safety of our normal lives. We shook hands and wished him safe travels. I wished I had one of the dozen maps that I have at home to give him and a set of tools. But he should be fine. Said it took him two weeks to ride from Colorado to Ames. He's young. He has been through hell and back. Some of us wait until we are old to do that adventure. Long may he ride!
Saturday, August 12, 2017
Be careful when cycling on the Clive Greenbelt. Heading west when you pass 515 brewery there is a set of railroad tracks that needs attention. One of the ties has rotted away and it is extremely rough on skinny tires. There may be crashes until this is fixed. The rail crossing is private property and unless a trail derails here or a lawsuit emerges I doubt it will be fixed soon. It has been this way all summer.
The City of Clive has placed this sign to help.
Of course I should just fill the Burley with gravel and fill the hole myself. Be careful! You've been warned!!
Sunday, August 6, 2017
As a cyclist I often find myself as the spokesperson for the bicycling community. And this often occurs when I am the only cyclist in the room or the area. I was reminded of this today as I was riding to Union Park to photograph the rocket slide. I just climbed up from Lutheran Hospital and made the left on the pathetic excuse of a trail in front of Riverview Oaks Apartments when I saw a man on a hybrid cruising north on Penn Ave at speed. I was a bit envious of him as I knew that I would have to worry about collisions with cyclists and walkers and cars coming out of driveways. He only had to worry about the car behind him. Sure enough, a microsecond after jealousy hit a black SUV was flying toward the street leaving the apartment complex. I squeezed both brake levers and lost whatever speed I had in time for the climate changer to stop on the trail. Not that close of a call but damn somebody is going to get hurt here one of these days.
|Narrows after the apartments.|
Thinking back a few months ago the conversation with muggle who was upset at cyclists. It was at my local barber shop and I was known as "the biker." The man getting his hair trimmed was an elderly gentleman, probably a veteran of WWII or Korea or both.
"How come bikers ride on Penn Ave itself instead of the trail paid by my taxes?" "How come bikers think they can go through stop signs and red lights" ect, ect
Now I could have hit him over the head with the truth of the matter concerning taxes. "Guess what Pops, your car does not pay enough taxes for the roads anyway and my bicycle does not damage the roads in the first place. Now tell me about the time in France when you faced the Kaiser's best troops and liberated Paris."
The whole climate change discussion was ignored. But I told him that he should get a chair and sit out on a street corner and count how many car drivers break the law by not coming to complete stops.
But I did tell him that the trail there is bad and in need of work. Today only reinforced my opinion.
First of all it is narrow like most trails. And being an older trail it is more narrow than most. Basically it is a sidewalk. The risk of head on collision with other trail users is high. And this is an important and busy trail as it connects downtown to places north. It is also in a residential neighborhood and thus more foot/bike/skateboard traffic.
Second, the trail is in rough shape. Cracks run most of it. Most cracks have vegetation growing in them. Some parts have been dug up and left a mud hole for months on end.
|You could grow crops in that crack!|
Third, there are three major driveways along it. Takes a lot of faith in humanity to believe that every vehicle will stop before the trail and look both ways both at the street and trail before crossing. Takes a lot of awareness to look out for them. Right hooks and left hooks. Add in the fact that people tend to look at phones more than the road and we got trouble. Safer to be in the street to begin with.
|The new looking portion of the trail was a mud hole last year for several monts.|
Finally, winter. Although the trail is to be plowed and home owners on top of Penn Ave are to clear their sidewalk (trail) of snow this is not a successful endeavor. City snowplows continually bury the cleared sidewalk/trail/sidepath with street snow. I'd give up too. Not everyone puts their bicycle away after Ragbrai and pull them out for the Mayor's Ride. More and more people ride all year round. Penn Ave becomes the only choice.
Now I am not asking for a handout to address these issues immediately. I just want those that do not ride, muggles, to know and understand that there are legitimate reasons that cyclists take to the street.
|Route sign, LOL!!!|
It was an ambitious plan. Ride from home to Perry and take the gravel to the Trestle and then the Bittersweet Rd to Stevie-C's in Grimes and then limp home. But what looks great in the grey matter and on text often does not become a reality. I have now regrets. I got out of the house. I got the Trek 520 working again. I spent time with a great friend and saw some others.
I was planning a long ride anyway. Planned to take the LeMond out and do some fast miles north to avoid the crowd at the 24 hours of Cumming. Been far too long without being on a fast bike. Since Ragbrai I've been on the single speed daily. But I was asked if gravel was OK so I had to switch bikes.
The 520 sat lonely against the west kitchen wall behind the bike stand. Just one wheel on it. The front had been removed to facilitate the return of Craig's spare tire. That tire saved my Ragbrai two weeks ago after the Schwalbe Marathon Supreme blew up from a sidewall cut in Ayershire, Iowa. Had it not been for that Continental tire that Craig carries around I would have been doomed. Miles and miles away from a bike shop I would have had to make phone calls in a serviceless region. Or set my tent up for the night and wait for the official Ragbrai to roll through the next day and hope to flag down a mobile bike shop and spend money. But Craig produced a miracle and I was able to add another 336 miles to his famed tire that has saved the likes of Jon Cox, Spaulding and Kim West among others. On Thursday I returned the tire to him. I had not taken the time to put a new tire on my wheel.
So I put my old heavy Continental Touring Plus back on. Too heavy and a poor rolling tire it's saving grace is that it is almost bullet proof. I only had one flat on it and that was from a roofing nail I picked up in Missouri. Confidence of a flat free day.
So after hours of slacking and a flurry of prepping I took off about noon. Dumped the remnants of 3 bags of ice into my cooler and headed to the corner store for beer. Craig would like Jagermeister I thought as I qued up for the purchase of a 6er of Busch Light tallboys. Why not? I bought two. Small glass bottles not the plastic airliners. Bumped my total up to $16. Fookers, I just wanted 1 shot bottles not the next size up!
|Parked at the front door of the University Tap. Dash's bike is the red one.|
We hooked up at University Tap. He asked if I wanted to meet at a bar or park. I said Colby Park. He had another idea. Cyclists were at this water hole. I found Craig sitting next to Dash and a cold beer in a coozie waiting for me. During the consumption of this corn beer the topic of "ON YOUR LEFT" came up. "Fuck I hate that!" Dash exclaimed. "People should just have mirrors! Trying to enjoy nature and the sounds of the birds and the flowers and such and somebody shouts 'ON YOUR LEFT!' and ruins the peace. I ring a bell." Me, I give a friendly greeting such as "good morning" or "howdy" to announce my intention. But like I always say, things look great on paper until you start adding humans to it. Bike trails are no exception. One and done. Make that 2 and done. The bartender opened a Miller Lite by accident and gave it to us for free. I threw myself on that landmine.
We left still intending to reach Perry. The sky was grey and cloudy but the air was cool. One stop at a bench along the Greenbelt. Then I knew that we would not get far. Craig was tired. He apologized. But no apology was needed. I accomplished something and I was outside with a friend on bicycles. Perhaps we'd make it to Kenny's in Waukee. The light rain started and the second nail of the ride coffin was placed. Let's move to the shelter. But the shelter was packed with a family reunion. Move along. The rain had quit. Stop at the bridge that connects the Greenbelt to the Raccoon River Valley Trail.
|The bridge. I'd like to know the history of it.|
|Not a one beer stop. Junkies...|
This bridge is wide. Could use some benches. But it was quiet and bicycle/pedestrian traffic was the lowest we had encountered all day. We sat on the pavement and I asked Craig if he'd like a shot of Jager. Yes. We probably spent a good hour there before turning back.
Front Row was our next stop. We enjoyed a beer on the patio. Pulling in Craig said our bikes would be safe on the patio. A woman smoking a cigarette said they might be safer on the bike rack across the road. It was a twisted POS. Craig thought it was hit by a snow plow. Something ran over one end of it. No thanks, by "safe" we meant free from theft not free from falling over. Rikki King and Pylar Eaton. This was Rikki's first ride since Tom and Judy retired (several years).
|Would you use this rack?|
Well the rain began again a little stronger and longer than before. but we stayed underneath the umbrellas and chatted with the smokers and ordered some Mexican food from next door. Eventually we left.
|Western Gateway IPA at 515 Brewery.|
515 was the next stop. My idea. I wanted to see Miccah whom I see at work and feel bad that I never see her at her second job at 515. Sure enough she was swinging beer and I ordered the Western Gateway IPA. Craig got the Single Speed guest beer. I needed the hops to wake me up. Looking around I spotted Austin and Molly Gill for a 20th class reunion. Chad Leeper was there despite being on crutches. Jennifer H from work was there as well having a spouse that graduated with Austin and Leeper. Small world. Truly a one and done. I felt I needed to get home.
We parted ways at Pal Joey's. I had no desire for another beer. Instead the desire for ice water was in full swing. Stopped at the BP station for the second time and purchased 10 lbs of ice for home since my cooler ate all we had. Wise choice. That ice water tasted like nectar! It was now 8 pm. Not much for miles but it was nice to spend a day with a friend on bicycles.
Saturday, July 29, 2017
500 miles in 7 days of riding. North this year. Although there were many towns and roads that we traveled to for the first time there were a lot of familiar areas and old ghosts on this ride. Is this where we wanted to ride? Hell yes! Northern Iowa is flat, full of towns and places to visit. This adventure would not be the hot hilly hell, Satan's Anvil, as last years trip to southern Iowa.
Essentially, we rode from home to the Okoboji lake area and back.
Day 1 Des Moines to Jefferson
Day 2 Jefferson to Laurens
Day 3 Laurens to Milford
Day 4 Explore Okoboji area
Day 5 Okoboji to Algona
Day 6 Algona to Brushy Creek State Park
Day 7 Brushy Creek State Park to home
We all are all our veterans of riding out to the Ragbrai unsupported. We all have done this together a few times as well.
|Dave Humes and Sally Spencer with Dave's flat tire.|
Tuesday was a long day at work despite leaving early. On my way home from work I came across two familiar figures pulling over on the trail. Sally Spenser and David Humes. Humes just had a flat. I tried to help him as he was struggling. No joy. He had filled his tires with Stams to prevent flats and now the tire, tube and wheel were coated with the greasy substance. Dave strapped the wheel on Sally's bike and sent her off to Rasmussen's Bike Shop for them to fix it while we drank beer. Rassy's said it was a pinch flat.
Day 1 Jefferson 66 miles Break Out
Pass through towns:
Wednesday morning we met at Colby Park at 8 am. Everyone was on time. It would be an easy ride to Jefferson. Our destination was the the Super 8 motel. Climbing the sidepath along Hickman we noticed that the sky was black so we sought shelter in Saint's beer patio. They were not open so we redistributed our loads. The rain was hard but it was a quick hitter and we soon were rolling north west toward Dallas Center. Once again we ran into Dave and Sally who were just leaving their overnight in Dallas Center. We would see them again at Cooper and in Jefferson. The funny thing is that they beat us to Jefferson because Dave ran out of beer and did not stop at the bridge like we did. Dinner was at the Mexican restaurant down the road from the Super 8.
|At Saints in Waukee watching the sky turn black.|
|Joe in yellow and Donnie in red.|
High light of the day was when Stacy Bellcock and his son spotted us at in Jamaica and bought us a round of beer. "I thought I'd catch you along the way somewhere." Stacy and his fellow Team Stray riders were skipping the Ragbrai and focusing on Des Moines metro trails instead.
|Stacy and Ryan Bellcock in white shirts. Bartender decided to get in the photo. Tojo's. We hit both bars in Jamaica, Iowa.|
|Dave Humes in Cooper, Iowa.|
|Some Road Pirates in Cooper, Iowa.|
Day 2 Laurens 86 miles Work Day
Pass through towns:
|Three Trek 520s and their pilots (me, Craig and Donnie) at 520th Street|
|Craig, Kentucky Jim and Nick at the Silver Dollar Saloon, Laurens, Iowa.|
|The Busch Light Trifecta--All three forms can, draft and bottle. Must be purchased and drank in one sitting. Silver Dollar Saloon, Laurens, Iowa.|
This was what we call a "working day." That means that it is a long day of riding with fewer beer stops. It was also a hot day. The sweating started as soon as we stepped out of the motel. An hour into riding we were soaked in sweat. A few hours later sweat would be rolling down our heads and into our mouths. Because of the heat it because the race to whatever convenience store was around in the pass through towns. Our timing was poor because we were too early for the bars to be open. One convenience store allowed us to sit inside and drink the beer that we had purchased there. I was riding particularly strong and really hit my game during the last 10 miles of the day.
Laurens was a great overnight. We stayed at the wonderful Lodge Inn located in downtown. it was on the same block as 2 pubs and a Pizza Ranch. In the morning we walked down the block to a bakery/cafe and had breakfast. The Pizza Ranch was gracious enough to allow us to eat there when they were closing. They even gave us a pizza to go! At the bars we met a group of bikers from Iowa City who were also riding to Ragbrai. Some were from out of state such as Kentucky Jim who our friends knew.
It was in Laurens that I really came to appreciate what my bicycle does. Since our room was on the second floor I had to remove the bags and make two trips. My Trek 520 felt like a road bike without the panniers. Carrying all four bags in one trip was tough. For that matter, it was the most physically demanding thing I did that week. I carry too much stuff!
|Joe and nick felt the need to wear their helmets at the lake. Safety First!!|
Highlight of the day was our lunch stop in Twin Lakes at the grocery store/grill. this was Craig's idea. He discovered this place on Google Maps. Although we were there at the gold course for the off route party in 2015 we missed the grill. I had the tenderloin. Warning, do not use the restroom after Craig and Donnie.
Day 3 Milford 57 miles Rain, Lakes and Mistakes
Pass through towns:
|The view outside our hotel window, Lodge Inn, Laurens, Iowa. Rain delay 1.|
Rain, lakes and mistakes. Our normal early start was delayed a few hours because of rain. And when we finally rolled out of town we merely caught back up with the rain in Ayrshire and thus spent another hour or two in the park shelter. My brand new Schwabe Marathon Supreme suddenly exploded during this stop. Something in the grass cut through the tire's sidewall causing the tube to expand through the hole. A ride ending catastrophe. Wasted a patch trying to fix it but the tube pushed the patch out the gash too! Fortunately, Craig had a spare tire that fit and I was able to complete my journey. My friends told me to go on Twitter and post a photo and bitch and maybe they'd replace it.
We stopped at the gas station near the park for beer and ice since our two our session lowered our cooler levels. The person running the place was at least 85 years old and was having trouble with the cash register since the lightning cut power for a bit. Then I confused him more for asking for ice. They had an ice cooler but it was completely empty. He then produced a large bowl of ice and I gave him a dollar and returned the bowl. The next day the Ragbrai would invade Ayrshire with its 20,000+ horde. This gas station would be over ran. I hoped they would lock the doors and board the windows because they were not prepared.
Once resumed on the ride we rode by Silver Lake, Mud Lake and Trumball Lake. Our group got disconnected. Craig fell behind because he dared to stop for photos, Mary's bike was having mechanical issues and I turned the wrong way on county road B17 and Joe, Donnie and Nick were in a hurry to get to the overnight as we were staying at Tim and Julie Fairchild's home in Milford. We met Tim during our South Dakota and have wanted to ride to his place ever since we met him in 2012. We should have been there by 3 pm but 5 hours of rain delay placed us there just before 8 pm. Tim and Julie were gracious hosts and grilled burgers for us. Unfortunately I failed to get a photo of them and their beautiful grandchildren.
|Our oasis in Ruthven, Iowa|
|Scored a double GeoCouch in Ruthven!|
The highlight of the day was Ruthven. Here we found Bully's Bar & Grill. though we were late for lunch they baked two large pizzas for us. Beer was cheap and the atmosphere was great. I also scored a double GeoCouch in this town.
Day 4 Okoboji 43 miles Heaven and Hell
|Last photo of Craig before we parted.|
Although I was disappointed that we did not go out on the town when we got to Milford the next day I was glad we stayed in. Despite having maps of Okoboji and access to Google Maps Okoboji is a confusing place to ride. First we went toward Arnolds Park to visit the bicycle shop. The bike route is a sidepath along highway 71 and often crosses the highway and is poorly marked. Every car we did not encounter on our journey to this area was here now. Busy road because we hit it during peak tourist season. If you are an affluent white, like the lake scene and own a car, mostly SUVs, this is the place for you. If you meet the above criteria and have excessive cash flow then you build a dacha along the many lakes the area has. If you don't have enough money for the lake house the you drive an RV or pull a camper.
Despite this, we made it to the bike shop and looked around. Craig called it a Ragbrai here and was meeting Kim somewhere where she'd pick him up for the trip back to Des Moines. I really wish he could have hung on until the next day.
After parting the 5 of us set off to ride around the West Okoboji Lake. We hit a dead end immediately and someone that looked like Cousin Eddy in a black Chevy pick up showed us the way. I stopped to put my sunglasses on and the others disappear. Mary sensed this and turned around. We regrouped at a marina area and drank a beer before setting off and loosing each other again. Mary and I somehow made it to the other side of the lake and drank another beer at Pikes Point. Mary and I discovered that the recent triathlon had kindly spray painted the roads with direction. We found this very, very useful. We still had to rely on paper maps and Google Maps. Somehow we discovered the trail to Spirit Lake, which also was the trail to Tim's house. Thus, if we set out for West-O Beer, less than a mile and half from Tim and Julie's, we would have to call him for a ride home not even making it to the brewery.
|Raisin pie part of the All American--burger, pie and Coke.|
The town of Spirit Lake was our laundry destination. When we got there we found it right away and waved at our three friends but rolled on to find a restaurant. We stopped at a bar that had a sign that said bicycle friendly but they had no food. The bartender said that we should go across the street to the Family Diner although they would close in 10 minutes. Notice a theme? Places close early or open late. We made it in time and Mary had a huge bacon cheese burger and I the All American--burger, pie and Coke. Very, very good. Pie came first, a sour cream raisin pie. Now to do laundry.
Decision time. Our lake house plan fell through. The owners stayed in DSM due to a sick child. Tim's house would be flooded with Ragbrai riders from his team. We needed to find a campground for a night in tents. I suggested we just cut our losses and head out of town toward Algona. All of us had seen enough, got the clue and were a little pissed at the traffic and lack of spelled out bike route markers/signs. Guess what? No motel rooms available in places that we could have ridden to. Also Fort Defiance Park lacked showers. Yeah, we like showering, Joe's prerequisite. We would have to find a campsite in Okoboji. There are many. Its seems a bit weird that camping is available in such an urban setting but we found one.
|So I give the barkeep four of these and got charged ZERO per pint. Then I paid for two more since we were out of these. We also purchased a pint glass and managed to bring it home safely. Three days in my bags without breaking. Skills!|
And we laughed our asses off when we found it. First we had to ride to it but I was more concerned about finding West-O Beer. But we found one. It was where we rode by and turned around earlier in the day thinking we were no longer on the bike route. Full circle in Arnolds Park. Seems like we've been here before. We claimed a spot by people who had a huge truck or two, Harley's and a huge trailer and a few dogs a C H I L D. I had to warn my friends not say "fuck" around a C H I L D lest you end up on a list. Our neighbors were fine. A young couple came up to our spot and said they were amazed that we carried so much stuff on our bikes that could not believe we hauled it all there. But we did. Normal activity. "Can you give us a ride to West-O? I've beer tokens?" I asked them. They said they would if someone would be sober enough to drive back. This fell through and Mary and rode the 6 mile round trip to West-O Beer by ourselves passing the place where we had to pull out paper maps and Google to figure where the hell we were and where we were going. Our 3 amigos decided to walk to concert in Arnolds Park with the young couple instead. Apparently, that couple was busy consummating their relationship and did not go.
|Best tree house ever. Named "shipwrecked" by the builder. He did not allow us to sleep in it due to insurance...|
|The captain's wheel is actually a stain glass window.|
|Donnie, in red, Nick and Joe made shelters out of tarps. Worked well against dew but not against mosquitoes. Of note, the Buick in the background and the tent belong to the young woman and her Manc boyfriend.|
Heaven or Hell Okoboji can give you. Suddenly it all made sense. This was party town. Just need to have a reason to be here. Riding a bicycle for the sake of riding a bicycle is not the reason unless you had the time and patience to learn the trail system. We did not. we wanted to see everything in one fell swoop. Tim gave us 4 tokens for $3 pints at the brewery and it turned out to be free beer for us. We did purchase two more and a pint glass to take home. A gentleman from Perry was at the brewery and we talked to him for quite a bit comparing the breweries of Iowa. About closing time, 10 pm, we left for our tent.
Food first. Back on the highway 71 sidepath. The concert was still going and fireworks were exploding. Ate at the Jimmy Johns located with the Boondocks gas station. JJ's closes at 3 am! A text arrived, "meet at the Pair-A-Dice tavern. Joe, Nick and Donnie were there and the place was packed with drunken karaoke people. Some of us were in prime form. The 5 of us were happy with the decision to stay in Okoboji. It felt like Ragbrai proper.
"I WOULD NOT DO THAT I AM PACKIN'!" Or armed, I don't remember but my empty threat of lead poisoning was enough to deter whatever mischief was intended.
"It's just a piece of paper!"
No one messed with us again but I slept like crap anyway.
Day 5 Algona 75 miles Favorable Winds and the Food Desert
Pass though towns:
|Bridge in Algona.|
Sunday morning traffic was light. The only people driving were on their way for golfing. Everyone else was sleeping off Saturday night's drinking. Breakfast was served at a small cafe on 71. I had the 'boji omelet in my habit of ordering items named after the city or establishment. It was huge and had everything. Little did I know every morsel of it would be needed. Final beer, water, Gatorade and ice at the Boondocks, our 3rd visit now a running joke. Consult the Google to figure out how to get out of town.
A lot of this ride was the same as the ride Mary and I did from Primghar to Ringsted back in 2005. The bus broke down in Le Mars and Mary and spent two days of riding in the same clothes on the fast tandem. Rode through rain on the way to Ringsted. Now we saw it dry, literally. I recall seeing the cemetery that we ducked out the rain in, and the signs along the trees at the park. this time no heated rain water splashing against our legs.
|The pub in Wallingford.|
|This is what Joe looked like after the evening at the Pair-A-Dice Tavern! Found this in Wallingford.|
Nothing in Wallingford but the pub that had cookies and beer, a dank small and poor lighting. Ringsted was worse. Now it was getting hot and the building that was labeled "cafe" was antique shop. Everything was closed. Our Mystery Machine teammate Mikey lives there but I forgot where exactly and did not have his phone number. Locals kept telling us to go to Armstrong but that would have been a 14 mile off route for food. Bancroft was the next chance. Nothing open there but the gas station. Well stocked gas station thankfully. In a shell, 55 miles without purchasing food or drink. Those 28 PowerBars I packed came in handy. Glad I packed two quarts of Gatorade at the BoonDocks.
While this made us a bit worried it was a nice day. Favorable winds a few lakes to look at. We stopped at High Lake and watched two men harvest the legs off bullfrogs. Disgusting but animal protein just does not hop on your plate by itself! My joke after realizing that we would not be able to purchase food up here is that people were so damn disparate for food that they resorted to eating frogs.
|Abandoned farm structure.|
|Donnie and Mary|
Highlight of the day was the wind. Out of the northwest we were pushed all the way to Algona. We managed to ride together as a group. Had a beer break in the town of Burt and then flew to Algona at 20 mph on the shoulder of highway 169. Found two other baggers who were separated, one at the bar and the other lost downtown and on the phone bitching at the one at the bar. "YOU ALWAYS TAKE OFF WITHOUT ME!!!"
Day 6 Brush Creek State Park On Our Own
Pass through towns:
|The final gathering. We said our good byes here. I felt like crying.|
|Outside of Algona on "The Route." This was the only section of the route we rode albeit backwards.|
Last night in a motel, the Super 8. Very hot shower. Said our goodbyes at the McDonald's Monday morning. Made the mistake of asking a local how to get to P30 which was really 'here hold my map while I pack the bike and ramble on about something to entertain me during my final prepare and sunscreen application.' But he did say McGregor Rd would get us there. I just was hoping to to avoid the hill to downtown.
Algona would be the overnight that night and we did see things set up and actually rode on the route albeit backwards. A support person rode up and talked to us while we headed west. He was off to meet his riders.
|Action shot on the way to Bode or Rutland. Mary's knee must have bothered her.|
|Apparently I was making decent speed while taking photos.|
|Bike warrior face!|
|A photo of something only bicyclist know. We stared at this elevator for over 10 miles.|
P30 took us to Rutland which is on the Three Rivers Trail. We found a soda machine and indulged before heading east on the trail. Barely a mile into it we came across a group of baggers on the bridge. No bridge party left behind is my motto and we stayed there for an hour. Diehards and others on their way to Whittemore. Rumors that friends of ours, Amy and Don and Davis, were ahead and on their way turned to nothing.
|Love these trail signs!|
|Baggers. A great stop!|
|The owner of this chair wished not to be mentioned on social media.|
|Some people take their Old Crow too seriously. Warm gut rot!|
This was our third trip on the Three Rivers Trail and the second time we got lost going to or fro the Hy Vee in Dakota City. The first time we got lost after the food stop, finding ourselves on a dead end and attacked by a billion mosquitoes. It was a clever trap. This time we missed the turn off the bridge and headed to the mosquito lair but we stopped in time and retraced our tracks and found the store and found our way back on the proper trail. For a similar experience without the mosquitoes ride the Jordan Creek Trail or ride a bike along the lakes at Okoboji if you have not done either before.
|Great Lean To!|
|6 people can sleep on the picnic tables here!|
|Hard to see with my crappy photo taker but the weather vane on top says "THOR" instead of north.|
Two bars in Thor and a nice shelter house with electricity and water. We did not visit the establishments choosing just to get to the overnight. It was windy and we were wearing out. Likewise, Vincent had two bars. Duncombe was our last stop. They have two bars and a store. We purchased food to take to the campsite.
Brushy Creek State Park is one of Iowa's newest parks. This is a great place for mountain biking, horse back riding, fishing and beach activities. I've gone mountain biking here before and this would be our second time camping here, 2006 with our sons Quin and Timmy. Showers and electricity and quiet people is what I like about this place. I also like hitting 40 mph on my way out. The next day would be hilly.
|Last town up. Decent convenience store.|
|Showered and all our crap on the bikes to dry at Brushy Creek State Park.|
One incident to note. Mary used the large shower stall since the shower house was empty. Half way through her shower a camper pulling 3 kids in a wagon complained that this stall was for the handicapped and those with children. Really? Not marked as such. Not on the list of rules either. I used the large shower on the mens side since like Mary I too need to spread my stuff out after a long day of riding. But a positive interaction with other campers occurred as well. An elderly couple gave us a can opener and a bag of cookies. Mary grabbed the wrong can of Spaghettio's at the store, the one without the pull tab lid, and had to ask to borrow one. While she was showering they pulled up in a truck and gave them to me. "Don't worry about returning the opener, we have 17 at home." Very nice, Mary was able to have dinner.
Day 7 Fighting the Wind All the Way Home 100 miles
Pass through towns:
|The view of the long climb from the bottom.|
|The view from the top.|
|We did follow the arrows but then we saw a steep downhill and decided that we have had enough climbs.|
I slept like crap again. No need to issue empty gun threats. Just a bad dream about someone telling me they have a brain tumor. Maybe the need for a real pillow. At Okoboji Donnie ditched his bottle of cucumber vodka but there was enough to fill my flask. I mixed it with 7 Up and then finished off the peach tea corn whiskey for round two that night. The wind was howling from the wrong direction, south and east, and that had me worried. Leaves hitting the tent like rain. Sure enough the wind was there in the morning right in our faces and stayed there until we got to Ankeny.
Hills too, they were there. Too windy to hit 40 mph but steep enough to shift to the 28T granny. What would have been wonderful rollers were time sucks. I then remember my saying, "Whenever Ragbrai goes North or South it will be a headwind." West is not the predominate wind in July. R21 south would take us all the way to Boone.
Refueled with food and drink in Boone and then took the Lincoln Way out of town. This road was so long I thought we missed out turn onto L Ave. And there it was and I was glad to see it. Not L Ave but the hill we would climb on L Ave to Moingona, Iowa. This is a steep bastard. One of the longest climbs one can find in central Iowa. And was looking forward to it. Climbed it before. It is painful but rewarding. if you can climb this hill without stopping or falling over on a touring bike loaded down with too much shit you can climb anything. And if the bike does not bust while doing it you got a good bike. Shift into granny immediately for a running start is not going to help you here. be sure to take a big hit on your bottle first. And so with stent and managed blood pressure and my obesity I climbed that fucker. Mary did it too without issue.
The town of Moingona is on the top to the east. We explored it. Named after the people who lived in the region before white people from France found them in the 1600s it is also who my fair city of Des Moines is named after. Now nothing of them is there now, just nice affluent houses. Maybe at the bottom of the next hill but we had our fill of hills and knew we'd be facing a few more although not as long as steep as the bastard we just climbed. Save it for another day on road bikes.
It was very hot and still very windy on L Ave. Also very disheartening to see not just 1 but 2 ghost bikes on this road to Woodward. Would Mary and I be # 3 and #4? They were run down on flat sections without blind spots on an empty road.
|Trailhead in Woodward. Water stop. Yellow/green sign says that the AED was stolen between May 1st and June 1st.|
But we had more pressing issues at this point. Stupid us forgot to fill our water bottles in Boone. Now we each had two empty bottles and nothing but corn whiskey in the cooler. It was perhaps 2 pm and whatever employer out here had a shift change. Not a bad rush hour but even one car is annoying AF in our condition. Woodward would not appear fast enough. Soon an elevator and two water towers appeared in the distance and, of course, according to Murphy's Law the closest water tower was not the one we needed. Eventually we got to Woodward, took the residential tour before stopping at Casey's. Mary did not understand my gibberish, "I'm getting two Gatorades for myself," which in proper mental state meant "I'm purchasing two for me grab what you need I'm paying for yours too." This explains why she spent 1/2 hour (1 minute really) messing about her bike while I enjoyed the wonders of the walk in beer cooler. I had to go outside and drag her upsetness inside and take her to the cooler so I could properly explain myself. Beer coolers solve all problems. We stowed the liquid hydration away and rode to the trailhead. Yes, I drank both of mine in one sitting and then I refilled both of my bottles and drank 1 and refilled it again.
|Selfie at the High Trestle.|
|In the heat of July it looks more menacing,|
The High Trestle trail was a savior. We were now relatively safe from cars, had an easy rail grade to ride and on familiar turf. Our last 40 miles would be easy and all trail except for the never ending detour in Des Moines (Grand Ave bridge replacement closing the Principal Riverwalk and the last half mile from Mullets to our home. One obligatory photo shoot on the High Trestle itself and bicycles eastward. The bridge was not busy but I prefer it at night under the blue lights.
Of note on the HTT were the Light House kiosks. We passed several before stopping at the Flat Tire. These light houses have cheap lights in them for people who walk or ride to the bridge at night. Always a big issue for us the invisible people at night. So now they can grab a light and return it when they are done. We never noticed these before.
As usual, we got off the trail at Irvingdale Ave and then stopped at the Git n Go for the final purchase of Gatorade and some beef jerky. Hydration and sodium. It was here Mary calculated that we needed to take the long way home (Neal Smith Trail) in order to get our 500 miles for the week. By this time I was back to top form and my only thought was that I loved her especially for saying that the short cut would not be taken. Now at this time I think we had ridden 480 miles on county roads, limestone trails and paved trails. The Neal Smith Trail was the worst surface we traveled on. Serious need of resurfacing. Also, lots of bikes without lights. though it was not night yet the trees blocked the sun's rays and thus lights were needed. I'm sure we burnt a few retinas out from our bright lights but at least they saw us.
Dora had already called expressing her need for dinner so to embellish our mileage we rode to Mary's bank and then to Dominoes and then a bit toward Gray's Lake to get enough miles in to reach the 100 miles for the day and 500 for the week. Yep, two pizzas on my rear rack while we padded our mileage.
* cooler should be on the rack instead of taking up space in a pannier
* carry a folding spare tire
* stop to take more photos
* pack more Tanka Bars instead of PowerBars as I was getting sick of the sweetness of PowerBars
* don't forget to pack a chair
People often ask why I carry a bucket on the bike. It serves many purposes.
|Holds my beer when doing something requiring two hands.|
|Holds empties for miles until proper waste unit can be found.|
|Good for mixed drinks.|