Tuesday, May 5, 2020

The Covid Files #7 The Pioneer Trail

Saturday.  Time to leave town in order to experience a covid free bicycle ride.  Des Moines is too crowded these days.  Isolate elsewhere.  We drive within shouting distance of Waterloo.  The Pioneer trail is our destination.  Holland, Iowa, to Reinbeck, Iowa.  12 miles of isolated limestone goodness.  Mary took her touring bike.  I took the abused Substance.  We drive to Grundy Center, Iowa, to locate our lunch destination, the Landmark Bistro, before driving another 3 miles to Holland and the beginning of the trail.

The Pioneer Trail uses a former Rock Island Railroad line that connected Wellsburg, Iowa,  to Reinbeck.  It is roughly 12 miles in length each way.  There are two or 3 missing sections that are easy to connect back on the trail.

Seems like I've been here before.  We have.  Back in 2014 Mary and I took the tandem and passed through Grundy Center and took the Pioneer Trail to Holland on our way to Cedar Falls, Iowa.  If you wish you can read about that adventure HERE.  Also in 2018 we had lunch at the Landmark Bistro in Grundy Center.  For more on that great ride ride click ISO of Brew Pubs.

The trailhead is nothing fancy.  A kiosk and a sign at a parking lot.  As we unload a runner emerges from the trail and walks past us.  The surface consists a very finely crushed limestone on top of dirt.  It's a bit bumpy from footprints left from trail usage during wet conditions.  Bicycle tracks are also present.  Not a bad ride but could be a bit smoother.  Easy to find a line.  Within the first 3 miles, the distance to Grundy Center, we spot several benches and a shelter.  Canopy is good.  Two or three walkers greet us.
Wolf Family Preserve.  Hard to see this sign from the highway when riding east since the road sits up high.

The trail appears to end at the Grundy Center trailhead so we follow on the road where we can tell the direction of the old railroad.  We ride past the Richelieu dressing plant, the former Western Dressing facility and find where the trail resumes.  And after a short jaunt on the trail it disappears for a second time near the soccer fields.  Once again we follow on the road, State Highway 175, the path of the railroad from afar and find where it resumes at Wolf Family Preserve.

Giant Iowa Sky threatening rain.  We did feel the occasional sprinkle.

Typical Iowa farm field that has yet to be plowed and seeded.
From here no interruptions.  Mostly canopy of the trees that have grown since the end of the railroad we ride under with occasion openness to view the country side.  The surface never improves but every now and then a thick spot of rock grabs the tires.  For people on touring bikes it is enjoyable and a break from automobile traffic.

The sign for the park at the "end" of the trail.

Sizable shelter.
The Pioneer Trail will continue through here one of these years.
A State of immigrants.  We often forget.  There was a time when speaking German was illegal in some areas of Iowa.
The trail ends with at the edge of Reinbeck between a golf course and a small park with water and a shelter.  The town is visible from here and the more adventurous could continue on the former rail bed to where the trail resumes even closer to town.  As it is we are just a shade over a mile away with the option of riding on Highway 175 if we really wanted to visit Reinbeck.  There are restaurants and a coffee shop plus a Casey's there.  Not really sure what is open during the pandemic.  Time to turn around and fight a minor headwind and return home.


Tenderloin.  Grilled is an option.

After we loaded our vehicle we drove into Grundy Center to the Landmark Bistro and picked up our lunch.  We phoned it in from Holland and they were very prompt on spotting us and bring out our food.  Curbside only because of the covid.  I did message them on FaceBook early that morning to see if they would be open.  They got back to me quickly.  Mary had a breaded tenderloin and I had a Reuben.  We ate on the table in front of the Chamber of Commerce.  Delicious!  Highly recommended!  No t-shirts this time unlike in 2018.

As for isolation, we saw a few people walking on the trail, usually alone or in groups of two.  As experience has taught us we saw bikes on the home bound leg of the ride.  This time may be one or two during the last 3 miles.  There were bicycle tracks throughout the length of the trail.  More footprints.  Horseback riding is allowed on the side of the trail and there is evidence of that.  Perhaps a sunnier day and no threat of rain would have increased the numbers.

Ideally I'd like to ride this trail again plus take the roads down to its "sister" trail, the Comet Trail, Gladbrook, Iowa, to Conrad, Iowa, and back to Holland via county roads.  Today we lacked the time and it looked like rain.  Sometime soon...

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