Sunday, September 30, 2012

Octoberfest Hill Slaying

The one hill that I was dreading the most turned out to be the among the better of the long slow climbs.  I have vivid memories of looking at Donnie Hildreth on top of this monster appearing as if he was standing still but in reality he was riding extremely slow from the energy draining climb.  I turned my head to the right at the sign that read "Nixon Street."  It left an indelible mark on my brain.  A gravel road on the last hill south of St, Mary, Iowa, that shares the name with the most infamous POTUS.  And that hill sucked.  But on this ride it was tamer.  What the three of us had been through today literally flattened this bitch.  And that was a good thing.  We were out of water, tired and 80 miles into a century ride.  We earned a break.

How and why we ended up on the top of the last big hill on R45 was my fault.  My decision.  Two others agreed to fancy my whim.  It was the weekend of my birthday.  Time for a big ride.  Last year we attempted to visit the Trestle but never made it.  Having visited the HTT almost every month this year including this month it was time to do something else.

During our Labor Day Trestle Ride Craig Lein and I briefly considered riding out and camping at Big Creek State Park.  But the area we favored smelled of fish waste and probably was patrolled by the DNR or some other government agency and they'd frown upon our squatting and drinking in the non-campground place we had chosen.

Craig suggested that we should ride where he had never ridden before.  I immediately thought of Warren County.  Use my favorite route to head to southern Iowa.  I do not think Mary and I had been this way for months.  Time to show Craig where the real riding is.  Forget the glacier flats of north Polk County and the overcrowded paved trails and the dusty washboard rutted gravel Bittersweet Rd and its cows.  Ditch the loaded touring bikes and take fast road bikes.  Carry only the essentials--ability to fix a flat, some Powerbars, cash, phone and camera.  It is difficult to get Craig off his Trek 520, but he needs to see that one can ride with 40 lbs of extra shit.

The map of the route.  Apple Maps had me in the UK.

Basically what we'd do is hit three of the four corners of Warren Co, ride some trails and ride many miles on paved county highways.  There would be a town almost every 10 miles, albeit one 20 mile stretch, with a corner store and a tavern.  No need to carry beer.  Make an 8 mile side trip into Madison Co to enjoy a cool refreshing crisp beer inside a covered bridge.  Why not?  Seems that most of the bicycling subculture enjoys a beer on a bridge or underneath one.  And the last 25 miles would be all trail, the Great Western and Water Works/Gray's Lake systems.  The safety of familiar turf when we need it the most.

I placed the invite on FaceBook.  This probably scared people off.  I really had no clue just how long the ride would be.  My first estimate was 120 miles.  Best not publish that.  Not very appealing to those that merely ride to Cumming and back, 17 miles from the trailhead. 

Graham Johnston was the first to respond with an affirmative.  Craig would later but decided to drop out since he had to work at 10 pm that night and did not want to be dead tired.  Mary never expressed any apprehension to the ride.

I had my doubts.  Friday morning after a sustained drinking session at Goodsons, Exile Brewery and the George Washington Carver Jr bridge, doubts risen within me.  Response was almost nonexistent.  This monster ride will take a long time.  Graham and Craig will not show up.  I texted Mary whether we should cancel this ride.  She said no.  we then decided upon the tandem.

The tradition at Mullets is to serve a penis shaped pancake to a birthday person.  Eating such is a violation of my "Bro Code" and seems wrong.  Sure, maybe the parents of the birthday person should eat the phallic shaped cake BUT the person who is having the birthday should eat a vagina shaped pancake.  After hearing my argument they brought this out for me as we were mounting the bikes for the ride.

We met at Mullets for breakfast.  Need to fuel up before take off.  Mary, Graham and I had the burrito.  None of us could finish them.  Craig joined up after we finished.  He was there to send us off.  Still refusing to ride with us under the pretence of employment and NOW a date at 10 am.  With that we were off.

As promised in the Event we rolled first to virgin trail.  The city is adding a new trail along the southbank of the Des Moines River from west of SE 14th to the Cownie Sports Complex on Hartford and SE 23rd.  This will end the need to ride on Hartford Avenue and provide a nice trail of mostly canopy along the river.  Part of this is paved but work has yet been completed underneath SE 14th/US 69.  We had to "cyclocross" the bridge since orange snow fence had been placed to keep us out.  I think we shedded layers here.  In retrospect and at the time I think I should have been a bit tougher and left the Underarmor, gloves and had off.

After crossing Hartford and exiting the trail after the baseball field we took a left on Evergreen and rode past Easter Lake.  At the stop sign we took another left and wound our way past the Great Ape trust/Hubbel Park and took a right on SE 45th and rode to Army Post Rd/highway 5.  Another left on the highway and through the lake community of Avon Lake.  Here i was very well pleased.  The road had finally been resurfaced.  Before it was among the roughest roads to ride on surfacewise.  But now a smooth black top all the way to the turn to Carlisle.

Dr. Crankenstein working on my busted spoke in Carlisle.  This is my favorite spot to photograph the tandem. 

It was on the final road into Carlisle that a mechanical issue erupted.  Graham noticed that our rear wheel was out of true and getting worse.  We continued riding to the scheduled stop at Casey's General Store before assessing the situation.  Spoke. The first broken spoke on this bike ever.  11 years to fail.  The first mechanical issue the bike has suffered.  Fortunately, a mechanic was with us.  The choice was to turn back and swap bikes or hope that Graham's skills were up to par and sufficient.  We headed forward on the Summerset trail.  The wheel stayed true for the entire journey.  Not the first time Mary and I busted a spoke on a tandem and completed a century.  For that matter, we have done 3 days of Ragbrai with a broken spoke on at least two occasions.  This wheel still had 39 spokes functioning.  I was not worried.  Lift ass off seat on big bumps.

This was Graham's first ride on the Summerset Trail.  Mary and I having been riding it since it first opened.  Today it was busy.  There were more bicycles out today than I had ever seen on it before.  A beautiful day, why not ride on this trail?  11 miles of paved autumn beauty all the way to Indianola where we'd take our second break.

Mary relaxing in I-town.

The trailhead in Indianola has a sheltered table area and a modern restroom and a Coke machine.  The Coke machine refused to take our money.  Oh well.  Time to scare locals.  A nice looking family pulled up during our discussion on whether or not Graham's mother should be considered a "milf."  It was not until those people left that we regretted exposing their two daughters to the word "milf."  We let them get a huge head start before Mary and the two mustached freaks rolled onward.  We caught up with them at the end of the McVay Trail at the ballpark.  They smiled at us.  Time for riding east on Highway 92.

posted at the Indianola trailhead.  Is golfing on the trail really an issue here?  Listed as #2.

92 can be a very busy highway but we needed to use it for about 2.5 miles until our turn on county road S23.  S23 would be our road for the next 18 miles all the way to Lacona, Iowa, the southeast corner of Warren Co.

Finally, out in the open country again we enjoyed the fall colors.  I do not know when the peak is but what we were privileged to see was beautiful.  These wonder trees giving up their green leaves for orange, reds and yellows as they go dormant for the winter put on an outstanding show.  Just looking at them as we slowly climbed up the worst hills took the edge off the pain.  What a shame I did not take the time to stop and photograph the colorful pageant.

The original roundabout.  In the middle of the road, the middle of an intersection to downtown lies a water pump with a roof.  Benches.  The moment I saw this I had a an overwhelming powerful thirst that could only be sated by a cool refreshing crisp beer on one of the benches.

Milo was our first stop on S23.  We opted for the bar instead of the Casey's.   Time for a cool refreshing beer on such a lovely autumn day that felt like summer.  The Main Street Station was the tavern we found downtown Milo, Iowa.  It is a very long bar with the pool table set up, balls racked up front.  No beer on tap so we settled for 3 PBRs and proceeded to sit at the bar to view the televised college football game.  This is when the trouble began.

20 minutes later this place would be packed with motorbikes.  Some of the riders stopped and studied out aluminum steeds.  $ per pound ratio, WE had the most expensive bikes.

The woman behind the bar asked us not to sit at the bar because she was expecting 75 motorcyclist to drop in for a poker run.  We moved to the side of the bar.  But the longer we stayed, and we only stayed for one beer, the bitchy she became.  The man behind the bar stocking bottles was friendlier and actually engaged in conversation with us.  But the more she spoke to us the closer the tip money returned to out pockets.  We finished up and left.

Motorbikes invading Milo and the main Street Station.

Exiting to the outside we heard the panzers rolling in.  Sure enough, a horde of Harleys, GoldWings, choppers and assorted motorbikes stormed in.  The three of us immediately recalled the South Park episode that gave a new defintion of the word "faggot."  What a laugh.  Someone asked if we had seen Garcia and a second later Thomas showed up.  "Yeah, Garcia is right here!"  I immediately grabbed the tandem to make a beer run to Casey's.  This would be too fun to miss.  Pushing the bike to the street I made motorcycle sounds like they did on South Park.  Only Graham and Mary got the joke.
Returning to the scene of the crime, I parked the bike against the wall of the bar and the three of us sat underneath the gazebo that shelters the water pump.  The man that lives across the street from me was there, although on his GoldWing since his chopper is "too uncomfortable to ride such a distance."  Several of these black leather clad, HD outfitted riders and their female companions were consuming adult beverages outside.  Perhaps we were not the only ones to experience crap service from Main Street Station. 

Milo turned into a 4 beer stop since 2 tallboys plus the 1 PBR nearly equals 4 beers.  But what were we to do?  I don't mind being passed by an occasional motorbike but 75 of them?  They were load and failed to completely combust their fuel given the fumes wafting through Milo.  Best wait for them to leave and have a head start so we do not have to deal with them on a steep hill somewhere.  They aint gonna draft us and I sure as hell do not want to draft them.

10 miles to Lacona.  Only 2 stops.  First stop for urination and the consumption of the last tallboy.  We stopped at the road where I took the photo of the "rock ends" sign and where Graham has made beer stops in the past.  Coincidence?

The second and last roadside repair.

The second stop was just outside Lacona.  Graham's seatpost had slipped for the last time.  Mary held his bike, Graham did the work while I photographed the event.  Time to roll into Lacona and have lunch at O'Neals Irish pub.

The 'stache and the Captain and Coke in a Mason jar.  Graham was happy.

We grabbed a table and got immediate service.  We all had the bacon cheeseburger, a 6oz patty.  Mary Bud Light, Graham a rum and Coke and a Sam Adam's Octoberfest for me.  Iowa was leading Minnesota 31 to 7, our food was delicious and we were happy.  O'Neals is a rare place in which one can enjoy Busch Light in all three forms--draft, bottle and can.  I had my second and final beer in the form of draft.  Time to do the longest stretch of the day.  20 miles to New Virgina courtesy of county road G76.  This was virgin road for us.

He said virgin road.

Like most Iowa towns the road out of town involves a hill.  This looked very bad  from O'Neals but by the time we exited city limits if was not so bad.   Just a long grind.  We took it easy.  The map showed two creek crossings which would mean hills so I expected two major climbs.  After a few miles of ridge riding we encountered the hills beginning with the dive into the Otter Creek valley.  Always a nice descent then a long grind up.  Individually they were not bad but after 10 miles of them we were wearing down.  We agreed to take a break at Highway 69.

There was a church just pasted the 60 intersection.  Unfortunately the rumble strips went to the shoulder.  We rested in the shade of the church building.  Water became an issue.  Lots of bar time but no water intake except from our bottles.  New Virgina was only 7 miles away.  We will reload there. 

Squaw Creek marked the last of the big hills.  There were a few curvy descents and climbs going into New Virgina.  Nothing terrible.  Outstanding views.  Time to reload the water, purchase a quart of Gatorade and rehydrate.  But the town was dead!

Despite having last week's Sunday Des Moines Register in the machine, the corner store was inconveniently closed permanently.  "Thank you for your patronage" the sign read.  Inside was nothing.  The bar was also closed with an auction sign out front.  SHIT!  I checked out the park.  No water.  10 miles with extreme water conservation measures.  I had about a fourth of a bottle left and an empty.  Mary brought only one bottle.  Graham was low as well.  Nixon Street lay about 9.5 miles ahead.  No easy way down or up.  30 miles of nothing.

This was our own fault.  Did we get water in Milo?  No.  Could have bought some at the Casey's along with the Busch Light.  Nope.  Did we ask old man O'Neal?  Nope.  We committed to a 20 mile stretch without looking at our bottles.  Not a smooth move.

Great bar!  It saved us!

The only thing I looked forward to during the next 10 miles was the chance to set a speed record on Pfifer Hill or Fifer Hill, of Phifer Hill or how ever it is spelled.  I have been obsessed with this hill ever since I climbed it on my very first Ragbrai in 1991 and down it on the Fisher tandem at 50+ mph in 1992 and one other time not long after that at 50+.  I have made 70 mile round trip rides to New Virginia just to get a chance to beat the 50.2 mph record.  One reason I purchased the Cannondale road tandem was to shatter that record.  But time and time again the cards were not in my favor.  Head winds usually.  And finding time to do it.  Today I felt like it would not happen.  Too tired.

This hill is a few miles north of New Virgin.  There is a series of minor hills to climb and descend before Fifer.  One needs to have their "game on" if they plan to hit 50 mph.  But dehydrated little old me was cannon fodder.  I crested the final hill at 10 mph and thus lacked the acceleration needed for a record breaking run.  Sure, we got the tandem up to speed quick enough but lacked the ability to push it to "11."  44 mph was our top speed today.  Graham hit 37.

Will somebody pass a hat and purchase this man a pack of smokes?  Maybe he does not buy so he can bum one off a woman who road her motorcycle to the Northside.

The rest of the ride to St Marys was uneventful.  A few hills to climb and dive.  When I noticed the Nixon Street sign I was amazed.  Felt good.  Not dieing on the tandem.  The hills were over.  Time to catch up with Graham and tell him of the discussion Mary and I were having.

The dollar Graham left at the Northside.

Forget the covered bridge.  Save it for another ride.  A shorter ride.  But the 8 miles there and back would hurt us.  Sure, it is flat but we need to stop at the Northside Bar in St. Marys first to rehydrate and fill bottles.  It will be dark soon and we need to be on the Great Western Trail before sunset.  Time to stop playing with cars and trucks and seek the refuge of our beloved trail.  He agreed.

We got seats at the bar and PBR tallboys and water.  I went back outside to retrieve our water bottles.  Before leaving Graham borrowed a Sharpie from the barkeep and left our calling card on a dollar bill.  "We rode our motherfucking bikes! Che, Mary and Graham."  He then placed it on the ceiling tile among others that patrons of this establishment had left in memory of their experiences.  Still daylight and 4 miles to Martensdale and the GWT.

We skipped the Roadside Inn in favor of the cornerstore gas station.  Toilet and Gatorade quart was my need.  GWT was next.

Graham's "cheater" bike.


Leaving Martensdale on the GWT I notice a slight climb or false flat.  I always feel sluggish until the first intersection.  And then game on.  Divebomb that steep bastard while Mary scans for cars.  Jam up the otherside and propel faster with the momentum.  These intersections are speed zones if you can manage energy properly.  Get the most out of the setting sun, now a red ball on the horizon.  A full moon on our right rising above the farmland.  I am glad we turned the red flashers on at St. Marys and had the headlamps ready at Martensdale.  Darkness is arriving quickly.

Despite feeling renewed myself Graham was beginning to suffer.  Too long in the saddle and now vision issues.  My light strapped to my forehead plus my blinking handlebar light was messing with his good eye.  The clear glasses he wore to protect said eye from insects and debris would soak up my lights and  create a glare.  And then the climb into Cumming, Iowa.  He was sick of attitude changes.

Then the haze of farming.  Dust from harvesting and the lack of rain enveloped us like a fog.  Fog dust or dust fog or Harvest Dust we called it.  Sometimes it was very thick.  This impeded progress.

Finally he asked us to stop at an intersection.  "I need a few minutes off the saddle," he stated.  OK.  Vision obscured and sore ass and general tiredness from 90+ miles of riding (Graham had an extra 4 miles or so on Mary and I).  "How much further to the Tap?"  "It is across the street.  See those lights?" I replied.  "You got to be joking.  We been standing here for 2 minutes and the Tap is just across the street?"  Yep.

Despite attempting to keep our "shit count" down, the use of "cheater" bikes requires us to stuff our pockets and use external packs.  Graham's lumbar pack was heavy.  Mary not only has every pocket full but has a drawstring back pack.  I, too, have a drawstring bag and stuffed jersey pockets.  All three of us wore the Cyclo de Mayo vests as a promotional campaign.

Chad Ulrick had closed Charbuff Grill but was still loading his truck.  He left us snag a few left over wings and joined us inside after he finished loading his truck.  He said that the motorbikes stopped in here as well as Craig and his "date."  Craig was in Martensdale 3 hours before we reached St Marys or so his FaceBook photo of Garcia implied.

I had a Diet Mnt Dew, a shot of UV vanilla vodka in a pint glass of ice with a can of Diet Coke.  I think Mary only had a Diet Dew.  Graham, a captain and Coke but not in a Mason jar.  Consumed and time to roll.

I had to stop at the lean to to pee but Graham asked for permission to roll on.  My lights were a bother.  I understood.  There were three people there among them a couple I see on bikes all the time.  They rode 45 miles but were impressed with our nearly completed century.  We did not stay long.  We needed to get home.  We promised Dora pizza.

We encountered and passed 3 bikers near Army Post bridge.  It was like they were going 8 mph.  Then a few minutes later I screamed "FUCK!!!!!!!!"  Mary immediately asked what was up.  Skunk.  I was about to t-bone a skunk.  He was crossing the trail perfectly perpendicular to us.  Tail down but not even noticing us.  Staring right at his midsection I gambled that he could not spray while on the move and went to the left to avoid collision.  By the time it crossed the trail and raised its tail we were long gone.  I've seen this before.  They cross the road and turn around to look at their object of dissatisfaction and raise the tail.  I could not turn my head around to check this out at our speed.  And I hope Pepe LePew did not spray the people behind us.

After that everything was normal and good.  felt quite natural riding a tandem at night through Water Works Park and Gray's Lake with my wife Mary.  How many times have we done this?  How many more times will we do this?  We hit the century mark at the sign post for the new trail section heading to SW 14th just south of the lake.  Two miles until home.

Rolling into the driveway I saw two sets of eyes underneath my son's car.  Yep, even the cats were waiting on us.  No time for a shower, just a change into civilian clothing and a date with Dora to Pizza Hut.  Yep, still open for dine in.  I consumed all the sodium I depleted during the ride. 

Hit the store for dog and cat food and then a shower.  And cream for my coffee.  I will need it in the morning.  It truly amazes me how after epic rides everything immediately returns to reality.  Oh well.  The price we pay.  Got my 5th or 6th century in for the year.  Perhaps I should paint a mark on the tandem with the date.  And a note, "drink more water."

Team Cannondale...Slayer of Hills!!!

Sunday, September 23, 2012

Fall Equinox 2012

Between Oakland Acres and Kellogg, Iowa.  Ritchie rode up this STEEP drive.

It has been a long and hot summer.  Who would have thought that the weather would return to normal just before the season officially changed to autumn?  Perhaps some large chunks of the poles have broke away and drifted to mid-ocean and now have cooled us off.  Monday was a shocker, 46F, leaving me scrambling through my room searching for gloves and a hat.  Need a new plastic tub labeled "winter cycling gear."  Organize.  I found what I needed and life was good once again.

But Saturday was the big day.  The OFFICIAL.  Summer ended and now it is time for fall rides.  Our friends Richard "Sammy" Berman and his lovely wife Melissa LuLu in Grinnell provided my first autumn group ride of the year, Fall Equinox.  The fall or autumnal equinox is one of two times during the year that the length of day and night are closest to equal. Though it is celebrated for a full day, the equinox itself is really only a moment in time, when the sun is directly over a point on the equator.  Grinnell is not anywhere near the equator so it was a chilly morning.

Richard S Berman

Fall Equinox the bicycle ride is the opposite axis tilt celebration of Human Bike In.  As of yesterday there have been only 3 of the autumn rides.  HBI has been around for a over a decade.  The 25 mile ride begins at a tavern in Grinnell then rolls to Kellogg, Iowa, and then to Rock Creek State Park.  From the park the ride uses a bicycle trail all the way back to Grinnell.  HBI goes the opposite direction hitting Gilman before Rock Creek. 

Mary at the final gather before rolling to Oakland Acres.

Mary and I are hit and miss on both the FE and HBI.  The demands of raising a family and other obligations prevent us in the past.  In 2000 we rolled in at Grinnell at 420 am after driving back from Chicago to see the Cure.  Once we brought those children that could ride to the HBI.  But as the kids get older and more independent our attendance improves.  In 2011 we rode from Des Moines to Grinnell and back for the HBI.  That was outstanding.  In 2008 I rode with Eric Crabb and Sean from Newton to Grinnell for the FE, totally at night.  It was epic.

Dave Hatcher

So this weekend we loaded the van up with a Trek 520 and a Cannondale SM800 and drove to the Berman's homestead.  This confused many people.  "Che and Mary are hard core, they will ride their bikes to Grinnell."  At least that is what Dave Hatcher told us.  Nope, no time to bike to and fro, had to be back EARLY Sunday morning.  Besides, we could always sleep in the van instead of pitching the tent.

We woke up around 7 am Saturday morning.  It was very cold, err, felt really cold because we were used to global warming.  I promised Dora that we'd go to Farmers Market for tacos, courtesy of tacoapocalypse.  This is my Saturday breakfast ritual: get up early for two or four tacos and about a liter of Diet Coke.  This time I brought others.  Mary usually goes but complains about my bicycle parking.  I ride my bike for my convenience, not others.

After feeding it was time to pack.  We now had an opportunity to use our new biking/camp chairs.  The first two items packed in the van.  Since this is a hippie event and we would be on hippie time lights and the big battery for good lights were loaded.  Cold as fook, 2 pairs of gloves, 2 hats, long pants, sweat shirts and extra socks.  3 sleeping bags, 1 for an additional layer over the two of us just in case it dropped below 40F.  My Lafuma bags, light weight and excellent for biking trips are rated to 40F.  2 Thermorest pads.  Cooler for beer and a bottle of red Cat red wine.  I purchased the bottle at Hy Vee in the discount booze cart.  Been wanting to taste it for about 3 weeks.

As usual, whenever I drive the van there is no gas in it.  Had to stop for ice anyway and some soda pop.  I placed the ice in the cooler at 930 am.  Shoved a cd into the unit and off we headed east!

Once in Grinnell we parked at the Casa de Beerman and hung out with Melissa for a bit.  We then headed to town to eat before the ride.  This would be a long ride with mass quantities of adult bevies consumed.  A Spinal Tap moment had us searching high and low for Lonnski's the pre-ride meeting spot.  I had to call Dave Hatcher, who was making a rare appearance on a bike ride.  Dave talked us in.

David Hatcher riding a bike!  His trusty old Trek 950 and vintage Hawkeye shirt.

We were able to get seats at the bar and watched Iowa screw itself then crawl back and then get hosed in the last 49 seconds of the game.  As Anders Olson says, "Black and Gold Forever."  It was ugly.  I really should continue not watching football.

The other Dave.  A vetern of HBI and FE, he learned a long time ago not to bring a stick bike on these rides.  Also he bagged out to Breda and back during Ragbrai this year.

Lonnski's is a nice little college pub.  Good food and an excellent selection of draft beer.  I had the Deli Burger.  Dave and I choose New Belgium's Blue Paddle for rounds 1 and 2.  Later to slow down a bit I had a Busch Light tallboy and finally a 1554, a beer I truly hated when it first hit Iowa and the fine folks at NB forced us to consume it before letting us have Fat Tire.

The plan was for everyone to meet here at 1 pm.  By 130 pm it was apparent that the turn out would be light, extremely light.  It was Mary and I, Dave Hatcher and another guy named Dave plus Melissa and Ritchie.  Ritchie had to drive a truck with supplies for the chili feed to Rock Creek.  He then rode his bike the 6 miles or so to the pub to meet us.  Since he was "behind" we let him try to catch up.  Somebody said "SHOTS!!!"  Dave asked for a Jim Beam but I convinced him to switch to Fireball.  I think Mary and I were the only ones that had ever done Fireball.  Everyone was pleased.

Dave, Dave, Melissa and Curt on the way out of Grinnell.

It was almost 3 pm when the last 2 riders showed up.  Yep, 2 hours behind schedule or right on Hippie Time.  We rolled soon.  No worries, it's only a 25 mile ride.

Highway 6.  Keep on the shoulder, don't hit the rumbles.

The terrain around Grinnell is hilly.  It was on the first climb on highway 6 that I failed.  Heavy breathing, heavy bike, needs to pee.  I was embarrassingly dropped.  Too much bar time, must make adjustments.  There was a point, the Gillman turn off that we were not supposed to take that I lost sight of everyone.  Sucking big time.  But summoning all my skill and strength I caught up with Dave H on the next climb and persuaded him to stop at a driveway with me.  I gave him a beer and then hid behind a tree to urinate.  Tree properly watered I then rehydrated with a Busch Light.  Yep, lighten the bike's load.  We then caught up with the other 8 riders at Oakland Acres.

I got the Spirit!  A wristband that says "spirit."  Cap of the Red Cat visible below light.  Flag found on Ingersoll then lost in Grinnell but returned to me by Dave.

I love Oakland Acres.  OA was on my very first Ragbrai back in 1991.  I vividly remember, despite the official OA activities,  a Chevy truck pulled off to the side of the road with a sign that read "PARTY HERE."  I had a Busch Light from that truck.  It was good.  Just a golf course in the middle of hilly Jasper County.  But a good stop.  They have a clubhouse that sells pizza and $2 Busch Lights.  How can one go wrong??  They also sell Smart Water which Ritchie had to consume a full bottle to tell us how smarter he was.  I needed that Smart Water when Crabb and Sean and I rode to the original FE.  The clubhouse was closed so we sat in golf carts.  I stupidly left my Moscow Mule copper cup, actually Sean's, in my cart.  It was there the next day.  We stayed for 1 or 2 rounds before raiding Kellogg.

LuLu's magic rope.

Somewhere east of Kellogg a mile or two is a parcel of public land.  there is a brown sign indicating it as such.  We pulled inside and took a break.  Mary and I at last used our new chairs together! A little bit later a silver Ford Crown Victoria pulled in.  No problems, just a young trooper who is on the same rubgy team as two of our riders just saying hello.

Kellogg has two bars, Sidetracks or the American Legion and R&J's Bar and Grill.  One on top of the street and one much lower.  We hit the top one first, R&J's.  Just as we rolled up, Stretch and Kathy Wilson drove up.  Stretch's back is very messed up and he is in a lot of pain.  Despite being a fixture at the HBI, the hilly route precluded him from riding.  'bent trikes are not built for hills.

Once inside, we scored more food, both Ritchie and I had BLTs, and a round of drinks before heading to Sidetracks.  The ladies, Melissa, Mary and Kathy sat at a table together.  Apparently, Kathy just got home from work when Stretch said, "Come on, Babe, we got a place to be."  She really wanted a nap since Stretch's back disrupts night time sleep at their home.

The American Legion bar, Sidetracks, is the hippie bar in Kellogg.  Excellent jukebox.  Here I changed my drink.  I ordered a shot of vanilla vodka (UV), a can of Diet Coke and a glass of ice.  $3.50.  This is what my former chef drinks every weekend.  It's quite good.  I was impressed.  Kinda that Malibu Rum vibe but smooth and tasty, dangerous.  I doubt I can find this cheaper anywhere else.  A local then bout all 8 of a a round.  I had another vanilla vodka and Diet Coke.

Dave and I were the last to leave Kellogg.  It was dark.  Too much fucking around with the bikes prepping for the night ride that lay ahead.  Had to make sure all lights were on.  had to get gloves and hats on.  everyone else rolled without us.  That is ok, we are experten.  Ritchie had to leave first to get the fire going for the chili.  Since there were only 8 of us, Stretch and Kathy electing to go elsewhere, there would be at least 3 bowls for everyone.


We caught up at the turn off to Rock Creek.  This was a one or two beer stop.  Time to mess with music systems.  Blue tooth for stereos.  technology at its finest!

The fire was visible as we descended into the park.  Ritchie was set up on the jetty.  Originally Dave was going to accompany Melissa's singing with guitar.  But that was pushed back for Grinnell when the ride ended.  If it was HBI we'd be here in daylight hours and a band would be playing on the stage across from the jetty. 

A fire ring was loaded and burning by the time we got there.  This was good since it was cold.  I opened up the Red Cat wine and passed it around.  A bit sweet for my taste but at $5 I am not bitching.  My last visit to Windsor Heights Hy Vee revealed that it was sold out.

As promised I had 3 bowls of chili and some bread.  We ate this around the campfire.  No Blazing Saddles jokes, sadly.  Soon it was time to head back.  Melissa was the first to roll but Mary and I rode with her.  This was good since I was fighting to stay awake.  Been a long week and a long day of self medication.  I needed sleep.  Way past my bedtime.

The trail to Grinnell begins at the park's enterance.  This is very convenient especially for the likes of us.  riding at night on hills is a bit strange,  it is difficult to determine how steep or deep or long or short the hill is.  I could not find my headlamp so I had no idea how far I had gone or had to go or how fast or slow I was going.  Once again I got dropped on the first hill but I was able to catch up by the third hill.

Rolling back into town one is greeted by a utility storage facility.  Then the school.  Something was going on.  First, traffic seemed quite heavy for this time of night Melissa remarked.  Then we saw it.  The band or some school dance just got out.  Proud parents were picking their children up to make sure they were not getting pollinated by each other or by us.  Most drivers smiled at our intrusion.  We must have looked very out of place. 

We also rolled through the college campus.  Lots of bikes parked all over it.  Only a few students outside.  No hassles.

At last we reached the Casa de Beerman.  Melissa grabbed some wine glasses but I declined.  Mary had a glass with her.  We were offered the attic.  Our original plan was to sleep in the van.  We did bring the tent just in case.  Since we had to be back in Des Moines around 7 am, we opted for the couches in the back room with the fire place.  Used the sleeping bags for blankets and fell fast asleep.

We snuck out before dawn not wanting to wake anyone.  Sunrise was to our backs as we cruised along I-80.  I kept the volume down on the stereo, too early.  When I unloaded the bikes at 715 am I discovered that my cooler had more ice than water in it.  Too cold to melt.  22 hours on the bike and it looked like I could get another day out of it.  Well maybe a good 30 miles.  later that afternoon it was time to move the bikes from the deck to their proper places.  I found my headlamp.  It was underneath the Busch Light 12 pack box in a front pannier.  That box only held the ice that would not fit in the cooler as well as two beers and the Red Cat.  The light still worked despite being a tad bit moist.

It was a glorious Saturday and a fun bicycle ride.  We hope to be there in June when we can greet Summer properly, on bicycles somewhere around Grinnell, Iowa.

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

Another Visit to Bittersweet Rd and The Trestle with Craig

On the Bittersweet Rd again!

North of Granger

In a world that throws feces at everyone in the form of political adverts from both parties owned and ran by the 1%, who is left to fight for all that is good in the human race and to get smashed for less than a Jackson?  It is I in the Further Bicycling Adventures of Che and Craig.

We were supposed to ride south to places Craig has never rolled two wheels.  But his Keen sandal messed up his foot and he wisely chose not to do a 120 miler on a road bike.  Just as well since the Hy Vee triathlon had denied the public use of Water Works and Gray's Lake trails.  We would have needed them about mile 115 when we would be exhausted and not in the mood to share the trail with skinny bike nazis that urinate in their pants to save time.  Roads in Afghanistan are smoother than Des Moines' own George Flagg Rd, the likely street the securitrons would have forced us to use.  North to the Trestle!

I could tell Craig was excited because he sent me 2 Google Maps routes for the journey.  We decided to make it a loop, add some gravel and leave Sunday afternoon.  Bittersweet Rd to the HTT.  Then gravel to Big Creek to the NST on Monday for the ride back to DSM.  I like the late start.  This reduces drinking time and allows me to do things such as attend Church with my family, eat and nap.  I would be able to be home early Monday afternoon and cook up a mess of beef ribs for my family and have Joe, my son, over for the feast.  40 miles exactly from home to our campsite on the Trestle.  41.5 miles for the return trip including a parade and gravel roads.

Sunday rolled around and I felt like shit.  I did not drink much on Saturday eve but something was wrong.  Caffeine after Mass did not help.  I made myself an Italian sandwich or two, ate them and went back to bed.  The texts rolled in.  The 2pm redevous at the carwash on Grand changed to 230 then 245.  Awesome.  More time to rest and pack.  Packing began in earnest about 130 pm.  I took a tent, my Thermorest, sleeping bag, one change of clothing plus "off bike" shirt, a long sleeve shirt or two in case it got cold, a rain jacket in case Issac visited, a chair and a cooler of New Belgium Ranger tall boys.  Yes, 6.5% hoppy beer to make us happy.  Finally the food crisper could be used for produce again.

Getting to the redevous would be difficult due to said triathlon.  And I needed to hit the ATM.  Ingersoll was the answer.  Forget the safety of the trail and choose the safety of the bike lanes!  Got to appreciate the foresight and bravery of the council people that approved the reduction in car lanes and the addition of bike lanes on Ingersoll.  Brave people that made our fair city that much better.

I beat Craig to our spot.  First time ever.  We then took the Walnut Creek/Windsor Heights Trail to Urbandale and had our first rest stop on the "bridge to nowhere."  After a crisp cool refreshing 12oz beverage we rolled through U-Dale's trails through Walker Johnson Park and up Douglas, crossed the freeway and took a right on 128th.  Probably should have took the last right before I-35/80 and gone through the soulless industrial/commercial zone instead.


Video of the last biker we saw before hitting gravel.  He asked if we needed help.  We probably do need help.

North out of Granger to where the pavement ends.  This route has been described before.  Steve Fuller's suggestion to go north here.  We past Craig's cows but many have gone to market.  We take our next break at the corner of Wendover and Bittersweet.  Busch Light and photos.  Just a comment about this gravel road.  Dusty, busier than usual, my third trip, and the washboard ruts are getting much worse.  Hopefully the county will regrade these roads.

Once again...

Just when I want to scream WHERE THE FUCK IS THE TRAIL, I CANNOT TAKE THIS RUTTED ROAD UNLESS I RIDE THE MOONLANDER OR A DUAL SUSPENSION TOURING BIKE the trail emerges and we break out the Rangers at U Ave and relax and talk to bikers headed to and fro the Trestle.  We have an hour to kill before sunset.  Some of the best Trestle photos occur when the lights first come on.  Killing time we share beer with 2 30 year old ISU grads, one on a Walmart fixie albeit wheel flipped for single speed.  A man who suffers from a spinal injury and now rides a hand cranked trike also enjoyed a Busch Light.  The trail was busy and we got some looks and lots of conversation.  Time to roll east.

So far my favorite of the night shots

Running out of ideas for Trestle photos.

The bridge was crowded.  Youth groups and families, bikers with their buddies.  We were able to find a quiet spot on the Trestle and take photos and help others with group photos.  Soon a government ATV rolls through.  Rumor had it that the DNR and other cops were called because someone complained that a bike stereo was too loud.  Then again I think that someone with that group told me.

Let the sun roll in

Labor Day is a High Holiday in Madrid.  Basically it is a 3 to 4 day drunk with their only parade of the year.  We head to Ground Zero and enjoy the fireworks along the way.  Funding for fireworks is supplemented can redemption donations at the grocery store.  We take the newly paved turn off to downtown and park our bikes at Baldy's Chill n Grill.

We order Busch Lights and the barkeep, out of the kindness of her heart,  gives us drink tickets to the beer garden across the street.  Last year I was given free drink tickets.  Love this town!  Before finishing our first drink and after we donated our empties to Baldy's fellow bikers enter the establishment.  Scott and Julie, Tasha and Walter, Jane, Lori Edwards.  Outside the Quad rolls up.  Holy Crap, the possibility of trouble!  I must restrain myself.  This is the place to be on Labor Day weekend.  I wish Mary was here.  Apparently, everyone and the Quad are riding in the parade under the flag of the Flat Tire Lounge.  Why not join them?  Meet at the Flat Tire at 930am.  Before going to find a place to sleep, everyone is at Swede Point, Craig and I ride on the Quad to the GitnGo for ice and beer.  They turned off the lights before we rolled back downtown.


Don't know what we had in mind for a campsite.  I suggest that we sleep on the Trestle proper but once there it did not seem like a good idea.  So we ride up the the shelter, which was empty, and set or pads on the picnic tables.  We have a roof and a view of the bridge.  I could not not finish the beverage I opened there and drift off to sleep.

Sunrise was beautiful.  I could not arse myself up to take photos of the reds but later got a wonderful shot of the sun winking at us between clouds.  If at the shelter DO NOT WALK INTO THE WOODS BEHIND THE SHELTER!  Yes, it is a restroom.  It is littered with junk some of it extremely gross such as a soiled pantyliner and piles of toilet paper.  A kybo would be nice here.  So would running water and electricity but all those conveniences are a mere 2.5 miles either direction on the trail.

We pack and leave as a family rolls up with a box of Casey's donuts.  Since our bikes are loaded we get the usual queries.  "How far you riding?"  "Are you going across the US?" ect.  Sorry, we rode up from Des Moines taking gravel roads.  Need room for beer and the tent I never set up.  We are riding in the parade and will take gravel roads home.  Craig snuck off quietly leaving me to play spokesperson.  Bastard!

The things we do for love.

We stop on the bridge for the last time this summer.  More photos.  Some jersey types call us Cheech and Chong.  Craig's too damn white for that comment.  Then I realize that one of the lenses of my sunglasses is missing.  I need a beverage to calm down.  Then I snapped the "heart" photo.  Had the camera been faster I would have captured the heron flying just off the surface of the river.  What a beautiful sight!

The ride back to Madrid is uneventful.  I find the missing lense in front of Baldy's.  At the Flat Tire I ate one of Radishes' breakfast burritos.  Scott and company give us Flat Tire bandannas for the parade.  Eventually our comrades arrive and we get back on the trail westward to find our spot in the parade.  The girls fill my pockets with candy and we are ready to roll through town and toss goodies at children, empty beers at adults that ask for beer.  I have a feeling I will not get home in time to slow cook the ribs.

One thing you can say about Catt is that he puts time and effort into the Quad.  Fresh powder coating along with other repairs and upgrades.  Catt, Scott, Tasha and Walter powering this machine for the parade.

Ape hangers!

Pre-parade warm up. The parade was fun.  Catt played some great parade tunes such as Funky Town and Donna Summer's Hot Stuff.  Children get lots of candy and no one lynches us.  Joe and Tammy Bridgeman and Melissa Berman on on the route with their children.  Craig and I stop for hugs and chat and lose the Quad.  We wind up at Elmo's, formerly known as Who's Lounge.
Craig and Joe Bridgeman
Joe and Tammy
Melissa LuLu demonstration her Popsicle opening skills.
The new owners have cleaned the place up and invested money into the kitchen.  They plan to have a carry out door for faster food service.  I hope they do well.  We get a tour while we wait out the rain before returning to the Flat Tire.
Bike racks at Elmo's.  Unfortunately, our mules are too heavy and fat for these.

Flat Tire was packed.  We get food again from Radish while waiting out the rain and then make our trip back to DSM.  I drink a few cups of water fearing that I have dehydrated myself again.  And then the headache began. 

First gravel road after the elevator to cut off Slater and Sheldahl.  Then a left on 158th to 100th.  Straight to Big Creek.  Turn toward the shooting range and the bike trail appears.  We also cut out Polk City.  Still debating whether this route actually saved us time, ride time, but Craig said it eliminated several drinking spots.  But the roads were rutted bad and I could feel my brain hitting my skull.  This slowed me down quite a bit until I hit pave.  But Big Creek/NST trail is bumpy too at first.  I need to drink a liter of water before bed and during the day.  Or it may have been the lack of caffeine.  Second time for this.  The 4 Aleve I swallowed took their sweet time to kick in.

We parted company at the marina.  Craig wanted a beer and some food.  20 solo miles on the NST in between rain.  At the prairie Lance (blonde hair and a soccer jersey) rolls up on an 80s Specialized Expedition touring bike sans bags.  Once again I explain that I am not riding from Alaska and we have a good conversation to the Visitor's Center.  He said that he left his bags of because of aerodynamics.  I replied that if I wanted to ride faster I would have taken my road bike.  At last we reached the VC, I wanted sugar and caffeine but the Pepsi machine was broken.  SOL again.  Water is what I really needed anyway.

The rest of the journey was safe and ordinary.  No speed records on descending the dam.  Too wet and too much tree debris.  I topped out at 31 mph.  I did see Kent C riding north.  The construction across from the Botanical Center is becoming clearer.  New trail.  They widened the portion under University bridge and I could see the new trail going south.  It is between the original trail and the river.  No issues riding through here unlike our last ride.

My phone made a notification noise as I reached my deck.  Yep, they wondered where I was.  "Turn the oven on to 350 and go to the store for milk and caffeine.  Gonna rain so I cannot grill the ribs."  Joe was home waiting for me.  He has not had one of my special meals for quite some time.  What a good way to end a long ride, family meal of beef ribs.  I wonder if it was from one of Craig's cows.