Monday, December 21, 2015

They Get Longer From Here

The wind was stiff coming up from the South
What an incredible Winter so far here in Iowa. Okay......yes, it doesn't officially start till today, but generally we're very cold and have some snow on the ground at this time of the year. We have neither now. While we have had a few days that were cold here and there, for the most part we've held steady in the upper 30's and all the way up to 50 degrees since October ended. That's just plain weird. Really weird!

Last year we had some great days leading up to Christmas too, so it's been two years running with extremely warm, (relatively speaking), late Falls/early Winters with great road conditions in the country for riding. I've been totally taking advantage of that, and Sunday was no exception.

The plan was to swap out wheels on the Black Mountain Cycles rig and use the HED Ardennes+ wheels which were set up with the tubeless Clement MSO 36mm tires. With everything pretty much dialed in, I was ready to ride just after noon and as I was about to leave my daughter advised me that it was "really windy out", and that I should be careful. I saw that the computer showed that it was 20mph out of the South, but as I have found, you can easily add 5mph to that when you get out there and are actually dealing with the wind. It seems it is always worse away from the city.

So, I did the table top flat grind on the Sergent Road bike path South till I was well out of town and could jump on Aker Road, which is my usual route South. Since I was out of sorts a few weeks back, and feeling very weak, I assumed that I had contracted some malady or another, and since then I have been building my way back up to longer rides. The wind was amplifying the difficulty, but what was there to do? I either learn to deal with that and get stronger or I don't ride outside, which isn't an option at all for me. More power to you who can ride indoors on a trainer. That isn't for me at all!

Stopped to pay my respects and remember how blessed I am.
Heading South out in the open country, I felt okay, but it was obvious that I was working hard. Still, I felt I was putting down some steady power and my breathing was steady and not labored. That's good progress so far since a few weeks back. I figured on pushing a few extra miles since I was last out this way a week ago. I don't want to over do it, but I want to go a little longer every time I can get out.

Interestingly, there are scads of cemeteries in Iowa and they can be found all over the countryside. I often see several on my rides around here. Another commonly seen thing are markers on highways where someone has lost their life. Used to be that insurance companies would put markers out to advertise their business and honor the dead, but that stopped back in the 1970's and now individuals will make their own, home made markers. Again, this is very common on paved roadways, since that's where most accidents occur. However; there is a marker on Aker Road, which is curious, since it isn't where you might expect it to be. I have seen these homemade markers on occasion in the country on rural roads, but they are rare. Anyway, I thought to stop and take a picture of the one and only one I have noticed around here on a gravel road. Maybe I've forgotten others? I should check that out........

 So, anyway, I was feeling strong against the wind and at one point I was so optimistic that I was considering a longer ride, but my practical side prevailed. Keep it just a bit longer, build up, and before I know it, the longer rides will be happening. I'd like to get to where I can go down to Traer and use that as a stop, then come back. That will be 60-ish miles or more depending upon the exact route, so not only do I have some work to do to get there, but I need longer days to do it on! With today being the shortest day of the year, I am hoping to start seeing some longer days on the bike in the near future.

Taking a break on Quarry Road.
Of course, that all depends upon when and if Winter decides to rear its frozen head again. I am quite certain that will happen at some point. Then I will shift gears to riding the fat bikes and I will be doing a totally different kind of riding then. Pushing, going slower in snow, and busting my own trail. That will be a more time based activity and miles won't matter as much. I know sometimes I work harder fat biking than I do any other type of cycling!.

Whenever it comes, Winter will certainly put a different spin on things around here, but until then, I will be riding gravel roads as much as I possibly can. The thing is, when Winter does hit, even if I can ride gravel. it is probably going to have to be on fatter tires to deal with the ice and snow. Which isn't all bad, but you never know what the air temperatures will be and add in wind chill and, well....... Staying in the woods and within the city might be the best option then. 

Any way that you slice it, things are going to be looking up. Longer rides, as long as I stay healthy, and longer days are both on the way. It's a great Christmas present, as far as I am concerned, and I am glad that I have the capacity to ride as much as I do at the age that I am. I am pretty blessed, really. So, I'll be taking each warm day as it comes, and keeping in mind that one more warm day now is one less day of "real" Winter. One day closer to Spring.

Sorry if you are a snow lover! I like it just fine, but this is more fun, and I like warmer weather for cycling.


Unknown said...

Enjoying your articles. A friend and I are planning a week of gravel riding the first week of June 2016. We will car camp and ride about 60 mile loops each day. What parts of Iowa are good for this? Trying to stay off pavement. We're from Georgia.

Guitar Ted said...

@Unknown: Thank you! I appreciate that you are stopping by to read.

Car Camping/Gravel Trip: My suggestion would be to concentrate your trip on Northeast Iowa's Driftless area. It's where I held my last GTDRI ride at. Clayton County, Alamakee County, and Jackson County are all primo areas for gravel travel. Cities to check out would include Maquoketa, Dubuque, Bellvue, Decorah, Elkader, and Strawberry Point. There are scads of great county parks and State Parks in the area. You'll see the Mississippi River bluffs, gorgeous river valleys, and have winding, hilly, challenging roads to ride. You can take side trips to Galena, IL, Prairie DuChein, WI, or go up into Minnesota for a day.

Tons of small town restaurants to check out, like those in Decorah (Mabe's Pizza), Elkader, (Two Mit), and you gotta have a Gunder Burger (Gunder, Iowa)plus breweries (Toppling Goliath is a national treasure in Decorah) and wineries, (Dubuque area).

Have fun!

Stephen Stewart said...

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