Wednesday, June 21, 2017

1st Day of Summer Zoo Ride

The animals were out in force today.  maybe they could sense the incoming thunderstorm rolling in that WHO Radio said would hit hours later.  Maybe it was the first day of summer albeit early at 445 am when I encountered the first.

There's a new skunk in town on the trail.  I saw him/her on Monday underneath the Fleur viaduct.  Smaller than last year's skunk and a bit of grey instead of the bright white stripes.  It could have been dirty, again.  Today the skunk was not under the viaduct to my relief.  But moments later I spotted a dark object on the trail.  At this point I only using a 50 lumen head lamp.  I save the 750 lumen light for Water Works park and beyond since this area has substantial indirect lighting from the city.
So the dark object on the trail ends up being the dirty skunk.  Tail up but facing me.  Then the strangest thing happened, the skunk turned around and started following me or my light!  Usually they run away and turn so their butt is facing me.  Not this time.  I should have slowed down to see if it was truly following.

A mile later I was making the north turn to cross the Raccoon River bridge at Water Works Park.  There was a raccoon on top of the trash barrel with a can of ginger beer in its paw.  WTF?  Making Moscow Mules at 5 am?  Ricky says to Trixie, "Sorry, you got to drink this Mule out of a red Solo cup.  Those dirty humans rarely leave copper cups around anymore."

So as that imaginary conversation between two raccoons was floating around my head I encountered a deer bobbing its head across the trail.  Half expecting to see a pair of wireless earbuds in its ears as  the source of the head bob I was disheartened to discover the reason for it.  Bum front leg.  The deer was walking on 3 legs and holding the injured leg up.  I wish it well.

Sunday, June 18, 2017

American Legion Breakfast Redfield, Iowa

Alternative title:  FakeCoon Ride

Since 1984, every Saturday morning 6 am to 9 am breakfast has been served at the American Legion hall in Redfield, Iowa.  It is an "all you can eat" event featuring sausage, bacon, pancakes, blueberry pancakes, eggs, biscuits, potatoes, coffee ect for $7.  Just get in line, hand over your cash and someone will take your order down on a ticket and hand you a number.  They will deliver it to your table.

We have known about this for years but never have taken the time to ride bicycles to Redfield for this meal.  That changed yesterday when Craig and Mary and myself met at Colby Park in Windsor Heights about 530 am and headed to the Legion.  It was Craig's idea.  So on a rare Saturday our alarm went off and we got out of bed about the same time we would have been up on a work day.  This time for breakfast!


Just two mishaps almost marred the ride.  First, no communication about what bikes we were going to ride.  Mary and I chose to ride fast bikes.  Just a 70 miler, no need to carry anything but tire repair, phones, a PowerBar or two and cash.  Craig chose his touring bike with 4 panniers and soda bottles full of sand for extra weight.  He has not been on his roadie since last year.  I thought about my 520 but I hate the heavy tires on it.  As usual, I will not ride that bike fully loaded until I leave for the Ragbrai.  Craig had to work harder and Mary and work less to stay together as a group.  But we appreciate his role as "support."  Mary and were free to chase down and punish those asking for it!

Despite someone oversleeping we met at the park almost on time.  A text alerted us to this issue and that allowed Mary and I stop at McDonald's on Grand for an emergency restroom visit (me) and a pre-ride breakfast sandwich.  The perils of no easily consumable food at home, sacrifice breakfast for sleep.  We did carry PowerBars for an emergency.  We beat Craig to the IP by 2 minutes.  This brings up a good point, always go to the agreed meeting place.  If we would have ridden to his home, this was considered, we might have missed him since he had two options for the ride to Colby Park.

Very little traffic on the Greenbelt.  The climb up Hickman was frustrating for Craig and I almost felt guilty.  We noticed a lot of cars carrying road bikes westward.  Where's the ride I wondered.  Must be awful to live so far away from the trail you want to ride on.  BaCoon Ride!  The trailhead in Waukee was busy but I managed to get into the restroom.  A runner asked Mary what was going on and when told he said "Been here every day (or weekend) and never seen this place so busy.  FORGET THIS SHIT I'M GOING THE OTHER WAY!"  I did not think it was that bad, yet.  People must have parked in Adel because we encountered them heading east.  Then again I am not into hyper crowdediness on narrow multipurpose trails.  The BaCoon Ride is for a good causes, support for the Iowa Bicycle Coalition and the Dream Team among others.

1st stop, Brickyard Park, Adel, Iowa.

Our first stop was at Brickyard Park across from the trail from Adel's Brickyard and next to the Brickyard Burger and Brew.  To help Craig lighten his load we emptied some 12oz canned fluids.  It rained briefly but we rolled on.  Rained for about a minute very lightly.

Bike rack near the American Legion, Redfield, Iowa.  The red bike belonged to woman having a pre-ride breakfast.

The American Legion is located on Thomas St or across the street from the bar and next to the library.  Easy to find, just turn right after passing the depot and left the main business section.  We got there with a 1/2 hour to spare.  Time to fuel up.  Sorry no photos of the food.  I had two giant biscuits, two eggs over easy and two sausages plus 1 blueberry pancake for dessert.  I made sausage egg sandwiches with said ingredients.  All very good.  They've done this a few times, 33 years, and have everything running smoothly.

Another lost photo op was the quilt they are raffling off.  On this quilt are t-shirts on the Raccoon River Valley Trail.  Many of these have a map of the trail and the year.  Great piece of history as one can see in 1994 that Yale was the end of the line.  I think 2001 had Jefferson on it.  And the Clive connection to Waukee on some.  We purchased some tickets.  Don't know what we would do with it. It really should be in a museum for the trail.

Post-breakfast beers.  Doing our part in lowering the weight Craig had to haul.

We delayed our departure from Redfield with a diversion to the Casey's.  Craig purchased a 18 pack of Busch Light which was carried to the depot and we helped lighten this load underneath the fabric awning over the table.  By now riders were starting to appear.  Mostly older people and triathletes.  Speaking of which, one woman on a tri-bike was at the Legion but she was dropped off and ate with her crew (husband?).  A local asked her if she was on the BaCoon Ride and she said "No, I'm trying to avoid them!"  Her bike is in one of the photos I posted.

Off to the BrickYard.  One stop on the way there to lighten the load.  It took some time and a few false stops to get there but we stopped at the "L" bridge or as I always remember it as the Team Rage bridge.  A long long time ago Team Rage tagged the trail at that bridge with spray paint.  Also a long long time ago Anders Olson and I stopped here.  The bridge spans Panther Creek.  There are benches on both sides of the bridge and it is 4 miles or so from Adel not the 1 mile that Craig told and elderly BaCoon Rider on a tri-bike.  Essentially, it is half way between Adel and Redfield.  Craig used this opportunity to dump sand out of bottles to lighten the load.  He kept the bottles for future weight.

L Bridge aka Team Rage Bridge
Panther Creek
New bench

The Brickyard was our next stop conveniently located across the trail from the brick plant and next to Brickyard Park.  20 beers on tap.  We had two or three and then a Busch Light Tallboy as dessert. The place was STAFFED for the BaCoon Ride.  They also were busy fencing off the outside for a beer garden in anticipation of the riders.  The beer was cold and the a/c excellent.  Good stop.  I highly recommend this place.  Great specials.  Some day I plan to try the food.  I hope they got busy.  A few sweaty riders came in before we left.

At the Brickyard 

The rest of the way on the RRVT was noticeably busier.  More riders.  I passed a man who complained about leg cramps.  He aimed his water bottle on his legs and doused them with water.  Damn, never seen that trick before.  I just maintain proper nutrition, training and hydration.  It was at this point that I realized I had not taking a single sip from either of my two water bottles.  57 or 54 miles into the ride and no one bike hydration.  The idiot in me said "go for, complete the ride without taking a drink from your bottles."  So I did.  I up shifted and flew past leg cramp man.  Our next "hydration" stop would be in Clive on the bridge connecting the Greenbelt to the RRVT, mostly downhill from Waukee.

Final beers

Walnut Creek

In the middle of the connection between the trails is a bridge.  Wide and spacious spanning a clear water creek below and home to fish.  we finished off the 18 pack and called ourselves good.  A quick stop at Charlie's Filling Station to wish Liz a happy birthday and then home.  A lot of people were there and plans were being made to hang out at another bridge.  It's always bridges, isn't it?  I had had my fill and needed to get home and eat.

Mary and I parted ways at Charlie's.  Her college sorority was having a reunion in Des Moines this week and this was her best opportunity to see her old friends.  I merely rode home with only one burst of energy to pass someone.  of course during the last mile the phone rings, Dora, "when will you be home?  Dinner?"  5 minutes.  We ordered Northern Lights pizza.  I was home and wanted to stay.

Shower, eat, fall asleep on the couch, wake up to a Nicholas Cage vampire move, see Mary return and go to bed.  It was a great day and a great ride.  71.5 miles.  Maybe a little excessive on the beer consumption but I never felt drunk nor acted that way. Oh yeah, I never hit the water bottles!  That experiment is over.  Guess I needed to show Craig that I too carry dead weight on the bike!

We will do this again sometime.  It would make a great Fall or Spring ride.  Completing the loop would be icing on this cake.  A great century it would make as long as there were not 3000 others on the trail at the same time.  But for those that are not crazy, just ride to Redfield and enjoy a great breakfast.

Sunday, June 11, 2017

Sign o Times: Tour de Detour

Two seasons here, winter and construction.  Here are the highlights of my week of riding in the Des Moines Metro area.  Please feel to send me your photos of this vein to  I will add them.

SW 30th and George Flagg Water Works Park bicycle entrance

Flagg and SW 30th again.  Waiting for shoulder work to finish.  Road has been paved for two weeks and already is striped.

5th Street/Jackson St/Green Bridge for the installation of LED lights.  Closure removed on Friday after a few weeks.  We actually saw people working on the lights once.  Otherwise the most absurd closing of all time.  Let's take away the bridge for 2 years and then give it back for a few months and then close it without any visible reason why.

Bill Riley Trail closed for the removal and installation of the rail bridge.  As promised, a 12 hour closing.  These people know how to get the job done!

Jordan Creek Trail just north of Raccoon River Park.  They are replacing the surface in this section.

NE 80th St and NE 54 Ave between Altoona and Bondurant, Iowa.  Easy for bikes to get around since all the work at the time was on 54th.
NW 66th at Sycamore Access.  Major construction on that road.  Been at least two years.  I left the flash on and the photo was all white so I made a negative of it and some other doctoring.  I like the looks of it!

NW 66th.  This project is taking such a long time and it cut the Neal Smith Trail in 2.  To accommodate bicyclists and runners a paved detour trail was created with a crossing light installed so people can safely get to the other side.  Thank you!

Johnston, Iowa, at NW 57th Ave.  Thank you Derrick Spoon for letting people know about this one.  Mary says this section is habitually closed.

Friday, June 9, 2017

Art Ride

Day 4 of PTO

Where to ride.  I've gone south on the Great Western Trail.  West on the Raccoon River Valley Trail. North on the Neal Smith Trail.  Saving East on the Chichaqua Trail for a ride with Mary as well as Southeast to the Summerset Trail with her, too.  She had to work and I was solo again.  Why not the Jordan Creek Trail?

This trail I usually reserve for commuting home.  I suppose I could take it if I had a desire to go to Jordan Creek Town Center but no.  As reviewed previously in this blog, the trail can be a bit confusing with its multiple tunnels going underneath many roads.  Signage is improving but sometimes the tunnel one needs is the second and unseen tunnel.  Today I made only one wrong turn.

It was difficult to get to the JCT.  Detour at Water Works for the repaving of Flagg Dr.  Bill Riley Trail close for rail road bridge replacement, too.  I had to take Ingersoll Ave to bypass the closed section of the trail.  Nice long climb on a single speed bike.  No big deal.  I think it added 4 miles because I went to WW first to check on Flagg progress.

One must cross 63rd/1st street to get on the trail.  There is a light with a button to facilitate this just south of Rail Road.  I noticed something different about the other side.  There were shiny silver poles with branches and on them were blue squirrels.  A plaque indicated that it was an art exhibit.  The marker also named the squirrels Bannertail, Nutkin, Timmy Tiptoes and Ms Suzy.  Nice!  I recall from last year people working on the foundation for this but I had no clue as what they were doing.

At the end of this industrial stretch of trail and near the entrance for the Raccoon River Park the trail turns to the right and crosses the road and rail tracks.  The second art exhibit was above the trail. Yellow hawks named Farsight, Tobias and Tiberius.

Red rabbits were the next critters on silver trees.  These are located past Grand Ave along EP True just by the tunnel that leads to Jordan Creek Park.  They are Peter and Thumper.

Not far from where the trail goes underneath I-35.  It is a purple fox named Gary and a blue beaver called Bartholomew.  The beaver is hidden in a large log instead of sitting on the silver tree like the rest.  A young couple walking a dog asked if the beaver jumped out.  No.  They told me that during their first encounter with the art exhibit their dog looked inside the log and jumped back when he/she saw the beaver!  They also said they lived near by and were unaware of other exhibits besides the previous ones I encountered.

The best way to enhance this one is to have a sensor that when triggered would move the beaver to to opening of the log.  Kids would scream!

No bird poop.  The critics must love this one!

The final exhibit is Hedwig the Owl who sits in solitude toward the end of the trail just past the mall.

They must feed him or the critics here don't hold back!

He was not the final piece of art I encountered.  On my return I stopped at Hy Vee on Grand Ave to purchase dog food.  The garden center had two colorful dinosaurs.  Last year they only had a T-Rex.  I'd love to have them but I cannot justify dropping hundreds of dollars on something that would most likely be stolen from my yard.  Last years T-Rex was larger and had a price tag of something like $400 to $700 IIRC.

I also like the I heart Iowa sign.

A most colorful ride!  I end up with 40 miles on my single speed.  If there are other exhibits I did not see them.  I stayed on the main trail.  I tried to find the City of West Des Moines link to "Art on the Trail"  but a HTTP error pops up.  Down for maintenance?  However, I Googled the artists and here are some links to them:

Actual Size Artworks

Actual Size Exhibits

Get out and ride!

One final note.  When did they change the name of the trail?  The night before Ed Wilson showed a trail during his weather report.  He called it a "greenway."  Mary and I were a bit confused.  We never heard of a greenway in the metro.  Then I saw the signs starting about at Jordan Creek Park.

Tuesday, June 6, 2017

Go North Young Man: Neal Smith at Both Ends

This is it.  Not the official beginning or end at Big Creek Beach but as far as one can ride.  Not shown to the right there is a picnic table and a bench.

Today I was alone.  Mary had to work.  Colin turned down my suggest of riding to Adel for $3 craft beers and 99 cent chili dogs.  I had to leave the house because I'd go nuts without water since DMWW would be working on the main again.  And after all, I took this day off to ride my bicycle.  Filled bottles, filled bottles to stick in the fridge, filled the dog and cat's bowls to the rim and suited up to ride the LeMond once again.

North.  Friday I rode south to Martensdale.  Monday we rode west to Redfield.  Thursday will be an eastern ride to Baxter along the Chichaqua Trail.  North was the only direction left.  The Neal Smith Trail.  All of it.  I may have done this once or twice in my life.  The entire trail that is.  I have been to the beginning of the trail maybe a handful of times.  Once about 1992 when we took Katie to the beach (car).  Later that year when the Midwest Tandem Rally visited it.  Then again I am not sure if that happened.  Once on my own and once with Craig when we were coming back from the High Trestle and just exploring.

There's nothing wrong with it or the trail itself, really.  It's just that the reason to ride the entire trail is the only reason to ride.  Well, maybe a picnic or party or if one really wants to swim there in Big Creek Lake.  Fishing and camping would be good there.   Other than Polk City there is not much there.  The beach is fine.  The playground looks fantastic for children.  Boating and fishing must be good given the presence of boats and people fishing.  I rode it because it was there!  I'm good for a decade.

The alpha and the omega.  This is the official start of the Neal Smith Trail.  No signs, no banners.  Nada.  No fanfare.  That being said there are kiosks nearby with all sorts of info on them.

The Neal Smith Trail is one of the metro's oldest trails.  Officially it clocks in at 28 miles because it includes the East River Trail or John Pat Dorrian trail.  Des Moines likes to confuse people by changing names of parks and trails.  The southern terminus is not far from my home in Des Moines, Pete Crivaro Park, formerly Hawthorne Park.  I very rarely ride to that park because it is not a place I use or on my travel path.  But Today I decided to ride there on my return trip so I could see both the north and south end of this trail system.

The thing the NST provides cyclists is a way to get to Ankeny without leaving a trail.  Perhaps today this is the largest reason people ride it.  We like to ride the NST to get to Polk City.  Papa's Pizzeria is a great destination.  We used to ride to that town to intercept the High Trestle Trail or ride from the HTT to get to Polk City and ride home.  But years of floods and construction have had us find roads that get us to the HTT which save time.  The NST is pretty curvy.  Speaking of construction, Sycamore Access is still blocked by road work but they paved a detour and installed a traffic light.

The trail was sparsely populated.  It was a workday so the retired demographic showed up.  The closer I got to Saylorville the more campers I saw riding bikes.  A few runners and walkers.  But one must be alert at all times.  There are many blind curves and yours truly nearly took out a fatbike.  My roadie is nimble but he seemed to struggle a bit.  My bad for cutting a poor line.  Visibility is an issue.

North of Polk City is the rare part of the trail we rarely ride.  Still curvy with 6 wood plank bridges that are very loud when you ride over it.  A few times I thought my bike was going to break I hit the bridges so hard.  On the bright side, that noise alerts you when someone is riding on the trail.  I've noticed an increase of housing developments close to the trail.  I wonder if the people that live there will complain about the noise?

The trail gets bumpier the closer it gets to the end.  Large cracks, often filled in, about every 10 feet. Not for weak wheels or wrists or butts.  Then again, there are many sections of this trail that need repaving.

The beginning or end of the trail is without fanfare.  A DNR mile marker is painted on the path and 10 feet later it ends.  No signs marking the beginning or end.  At least it is by the concession stand, restrooms and shelter.  No beer for sale but Gatorade and soda and some food.  I purchased a Gatorade and ate my PowerBar on a table in a reserved shelter.  Other than a few breakfast tacos at home I rode without eating.  Then I went back and found a path that ended at the lake near a bench and a table.  Once again, no signage.  Time to go home.

I stopped at the visitor center for Saylorville Lake for water.  This would be my only stop.  The host commented that he sees many people from out of state come here, come to Iowa to ride our paved trails.  We truly are blessed in that regard and perhaps I should not complain so much.  There was a time when the NST was almost the only game in town.  But something I just thought of.  Both ends of the trail are located where people have a good time and enjoy life.  At the north we have a beach.  At the south a popular park with a nice wading pool for the children.  I was the only cyclist at both ends.

The south end of the trail.

3 more days of riding.  I doubt I will be out on the bike much during the weekend due to the heat. Perhaps early morning fast rides.  Home by noon!

Ride to Redfield

Mary had Monday off and we took our fast bikes to Redfield, Iowa, on the Raccoon River Valley Trail.  Near perfect day, just a tad too warm as we are not used to long rides in hot weather yet.  75 miles which including some exploration of non-trail areas.  This would be our longest ride of 2017 thus far.

Essentially, the first part of the ride was our old route for our work commutes.  Since Mary switched employers we have not ridden this way daily since November.  We also parted ways at NW 128th with a kiss, Mary going north and me heading south.  Now I ride this solo since she works downtown.

The pre-ride bagel and cream cheese burned off before we hit Waukee.  Hy Vee would be the first stop.  Breakfast.  Then back to business.  No stops until Redfield accept at intersections.

Redfield saw us at the Casey's.  Gatorade.  Mary took the orange cap ring from her bottle and made a heart.  I did as well.  Romance lives!

Once back in Adel we stopped at The Brickyard.  This establishment is located right off the trail across from the brick plant.  It opened in March.  An impressive assortment of specials.  24 beers on tap.  Food is available.  I plan to visit it again.  We were one and done.

No stops until we got home except for a restroom break at the Waukee trailhead.  It is open despite the construction.   We did turn off the Greenbelt and rode up to our old parting place and shared a kiss.  A note about the Greenbelt.  The kids are back this summer.  Expect to see 10 or so teens on the long bridge jumping into Walnut Creek.  Summer ain't only about XBox and tv.  If I was their age and lived near by I'd be on that bridge as well.  Good to see people enjoying themselves.

Once home we passed 3 men and a Bobcat digging a hole 3 blocks away from our house.  Sure enough, no water on our street.  It came back on after an hour and one of the men walked the street hanging notices about tomorrow's water disruption.  Altering the water main.  Poor timing on our part.  Should have completed a century.  Thought about it but we were not with the wind.

Yes, we should have completed the loop.  Construction started on a new intersection between Redfield and Adel and the county wants trail users to avoid it for a few days.  I hope it will be passable on Friday.

Visiting the Ghosts of Great Western Trail

It amazes me that The Powers That Be have not removed this table since it is the same location deemed "unacceptable" for the old roofed table.

Been about a month or so.  Last time I rode with friends but this time alone.  Took 6 days of PTO just to gobble up some miles.  So Why not ride on an old friendly trail and see what ghosts appear?  Been riding the Great Western Trail since almost its opening, at least two decades now.

Friday.  Ugly green, yellow and red patches on the radar.  Eat left over pizza and stare at radar.  Drink water and stare at radar.  Drink coffee and more water.  Finally the rain dissipates at I-35.  Safe to ride.

I take my LeMond Versailles, my century machine.  No need to carry anything.  Just a quick ride. Maybe grab a slice of pizza in Martensdale before I turn around.  Perhaps a 8 mile detour to Valley Junction to visit Way Back Records for some vinyl.  Pack a bag with handles into the Camelback along with a pump, tube, patch kit and two levers.  All I need.

It is a Friday morning.  The only people on the trail are retired folks and the occasional runner.  My new theory is that the main trails are good Monday through Friday 4 am to 4 pm.  After 4 pm they get crowded and on the weekends they are way to populated to be considered safe.  On the weekends we head out on county roads to non-Metro trails.  Much safer and peaceful.

I'm not gonna bore you with another travelogue on the GWT.  I've done that before.  I will just mention a few things possibly lost in our collective bicycle memory.

First, the trail was not always paved.  Yes, crushed limestone path it was.  I think I like it that way better in winter.  Decades before FatBikes we rode MTBs with 26" wheels with knobby tread.  Members of the Des Moines Cycle Club would meet on Friday evenings in December and either ride to Cumming or meet in Cumming and ride to Martensdale.  Never had ice or snow issues.  I think the non-paved surface handles snow better.

In the summer, however, the lack of paving led to weeds taking over the trail.  Possible the lack of people willing to ride on rocks caused this.  But there would be sections of ragweed 10 foot tall and it was like riding single track to get to Cumming.  No TdF training back in the 90s.

Once groomed and maintained, the Lean To was in this spot prior to the bypass.

Looking toward the current Lean To.

Crappy photo but you can see the Hildreth farmstead in the right side.

I wonder if they just through the old lean to here to rot.

The Lean To was in a different location.  I'm crap with distance estimation but it was maybe 100 to 200 yards east of its current location.  There were trees near it to provide shade.  When the bypass required the relocation of the trail for the tunnel the Lean To was moved to its current location.  Standing at the old locale one can see how the trail came through instead of the curve to the south it now takes.

"Everything's gone including the smell!"

The "clearing"

South of Cumming about 4 or so miles is the location of a place once called Lida.  Lida was the site of a stockyard where the railroad would pick up livestock.  When we started riding the trail in the early 1990s there used to be a kiosk in a clearing here.  The clearing would make a wonderful stop for a shelter and perhaps primitive camping.   There was a box there that contained handkerchiefs for goodwill donation.  Chuck Spain set this up.  Now a rock with a marker honors his memory.  But decades later it is overgrown and useless for bicyclists.

Martensdale is the end of the line.  Many good times were had at the Roadside Inn both before and after it burnt down and was rebuilt.  But the community could not support it and now the building is place for 4WD parts and offroad vehicles.  Need a Jeep with a blade?  Go there.  At least the gas station is still open and offers pizza, Gatorade and alcohol.

With all the changes coming thanks to West Des Moines Land Snatch and Microsoft I wonder what the trail will be like in two decades.  I plan to see it, perhaps on a comfy 16lb dual suspension road bike!