Thursday, April 06, 2017

Country Views '17: Notes Of Spring

The dun colors of Winter's passing are being slowly replaced with notes of Spring's green.
The weather finally decided to be drier than not, which hasn't been the case of late. The Gent's Race day was good, then it went all wet for days since then. I took advantage by getting out and seeing some country. Spring has brought bright green grass and plants are poking their heads up around town. But I wanted to see what was happening out in the open spaces.

I went South, but had I actually checked the weather, I would have gone North first. The wind was out of that direction and it was getting stronger all the while I was out. Oh well. I survived. I'll get used to riding in the wind again, I am sure of that much. Iowa is considered a Great Plains state after all.

So a sure sign of Spring here in Iowa is when you start to notice road maintenance happening. It isn't hard to tell where the maintainers and dump trucks of gravel have been either. one minute you are cruising along on smooth, fast dirt with little gravel, then the next minute you are slogging it out on three inches of jagged marbles. Such is the transition from Winter road conditions to Summer road conditions. In Spring, that mix can be jarring. Literally and figuratively.

Winter conditions still exist on this stretch of road. 
Here you can see where two layers of fresh gravel have been added. 
So, I ran into a solid two mile stretch of that deep, fresh gravel and it was tough sledding. My 37mm tires were getting a workout, and it was hard to keep the bike straight, much less going forward. It is times like these when I wish I was riding a Fargo with 2.1"ers or one of my fat bikes. Then you come off of that to smooth as glass dirt and the bike takes off like you had an anchor cut away from the back end.

The only green is in the ditches and it still has a ways to go before it covers last year's growth.
So, besides the gravel, the only other signs of Spring's arrival were the green grass in the ditch and the return of several song birds. The grass hasn't overcome last year's dead growth, but with this wet, cooler pattern we are in, it won't take long for that grass to get taller. Add a bit of Sun, which we haven't seen for days on end, and it will accelerate the growth even more.

The song birds were really vociferous yesterday. I heard all sorts of piping and tweeting all along my route. My favorite songs are those of the Red Wing Blackbirds, when they are happy, and the Western Meadowlark. The Meadowlark was a bird I heard a lot as a kid when I stayed with my Grandpa and Grandma in Northern Iowa on their farm, so it brings back good memories. Many people don't like Red Wing Blackbirds, but I like their sassy attitude and they just don't bother me when I ride. They haven't quite taken up nesting and territorial protection duties yet. So, they are not doing the dive bombing and hovering over your head thing just yet, but that will come soon enough.

So too will the flowers and my favorite part of riding out in the country. For now the sweet note of song birds singing will have to suffice. More soon......

2 comments:

STF_ill said...

Over the years or decades as they add this gravel, do the road surfaces get higher and higher? I can't imagine the gravel can pack down so tightly that it remains the same height. Or do they totally grade and resurface the road every few years?

Guitar Ted said...

@STF_ill- I do not offer the following as a definitive answer. This is merely from my own observations.

Gravel actually breaks down and turns into dust due to traffic. Some obviously gets pressed down into the road bed. Some gets graded off by snowplowing. Some gets graded during regular maintenance.

The recent decades have seen farm implements get larger/heavier while farmers employ ever larger trucks and wagons to haul grain and livestock. This also contributes to the pulverization of gravel into dust which washes away or gets blown away in the wind. For instance, it is not uncommon for me to have a fine coating of black dirt mixed with limestone on my window sills after windy days, and I live in the midst of a small city of 55,000 or so.