Okay, I was pretty worried going into this one. No ride longer than 60 miles this year and that ride was on January 1st! Here I am embarking on a multi-hour day in the saddle with little to no endurance training what so ever. My July 4th ride was supposed to be a long distance training ride, but got cut short when I messed up my knee. So I wasn't very confident going into this ride. Oh well..............
I met dp about a half an hour too late, (sorry!) and we ate breafast at the local cafe', which was excellent grub. I got chamois-ed up and we set off westward out of Marengo sometime close to 8am. The opening miles were flat. Really flat! The thing is though, these roads were practically washed away during some recent gully washers and now have chunky, thick layers of new gravel laid down on them. Finding a line was tough. Bouncing around was the norm for the first twenty miles or so until we reached Belle Plaine.
Then that devil phone rang twice. Short phone conversations later, we were off. The roads went suddenly vertical after Belle Plaine. I mean from dead flat to a gradient that had to be something in the 12 to 15% range on loose, chunky, fresh gravel. I was spinning out on every pedal revolution! The opening climb was long and the gradient let up a little after the first 300 yards but it wasn't easy by any stretch! That was a wake up call to the heart!
Then we were in rolling country that had beautiful overlooks, wild flowers, and tons of hawks. It was pretty spectacular and helped take my mind off the riding. In fact, I was feeling just fine. A bit of a surprise to me. Then dp says, "This is where we alternate gravel/"B" road for awhile...." I smiled. "B" roads are something dp and I both like. I'll tell you this though, you've not seen "B" roads like the ones we were on! Full on mountain biking, granny gear climbing, rut jumping type of affairs. If it gets the least bit muddy, a skinny tire would be impossible on this type of "B" road. And let me tell you, walking the section would be no mean feat either! The "B" I took photos on in the previous post was not even a mile long, but it sure seemed like it!
After the "B" road flurry, we had more hills. Then we decided to cut off some of the route that dp was sure was okay in order to get back to Marengo at a decent hour. We headed up Highway 63 to Tama-Toledo and got some grub at a Dairy Queen. I decided on a Blizzard and some fries. Hey! The Great Divide Race winner said he ate pints of ice cream on that ride. Sounded like a good tip to me!
Off again and riding east out of Toledo through a road lined with beautiful wildflowers. We hit a "ridge road", in fact, that's what it's name was. Ridge Road meandered mostly eastwards through rolling terrain and really rural settings. The chunky gravel was still with us. We were often at the extreme edges of the road trying to find less resistence to our passage. Fresh gravel prevailed for most of the day.
We hit a bit of a check when a special "C" maintence road, (Yes! "C" maintenance!) was gated shut. We didn't wish to arouse the ire of anyone, so we bypassed that area. Since the normal "grid" nature of the roads was so broken up in this area, we eventually were stopped at an intersection debating which way to go to get back to Marengo. Oh! I forgot to mention: dp left his map for this part of Iowa at home. We were lost......kinda........sorta......
We sat there for a few minutes debating the options, chose one and went for it. It turned out just fine and it was only about a mile or two from a road we took out of Marengo earlier that day. We were now on roads we knew would take us back home. That was good, but by now a few things were beginning to get to me. My lower back and glutes were all used up from climbing. Don't get me wrong; I was thrilled at my performance, I just didn't have anything left in the tank. No surprise, as I was exceeding my previous long effort of the year with every pedal stroke now. My hands were getting "zinged" every once and a while. The Ergon P-1's I usually use for something like this ride were at home and I was riding the E-1's instead. I'll be switching that out for the Death Ride along with a different saddle. Probably my tried and true Wrights leather one.
Anyway, the last ten miles were the only miles without chunky, bumpy, deep gravel. Thank God! It was a smooth, yet painful cruise back into town. A mere eight and a half hours after setting out!
So, there you have it! Get ready for some gravel goodness on August 4th when we ride the whole thing!