Monday, April 15, 2019

Country Views: Early Spring Ramble

This past weekend was a pretty decent one around these parts, if not a touch on the cool side. I had to get up early to ferry my daughter to her ACT test and there was a skiff of frost on the windshield of the car. So, it got fairly cold and it never really got very warm Saturday. I ended up doing a bunch of stuff with the family, so no riding of bikes to speak of other than tooling around on the Sawyer which I got up and running for the year.

Sunday it was supposed to be a tad bit warmer and with more Sun. I decided to ride in the afternoon, but it was quite breezy from the Northwest. That made it feel cold anyway. At least the sun was shining and the puffy white clouds made for a great looking Spring day, at least. I got kitted up and rode the same rig I rode last weekend, the Black Mountain Cycles MCD dubbed the "Bubblegum Princess" by my daughter.

I left going North, of course, because I wanted that tailwind push back home. The thing about leaving Waterloo on gravel Northward is that it is mostly uphill for several miles. Combined with the wind it meant I got no break from pedaling hard. So be it. Off I went.....

I went straight up Burton Avenue to see the churches. This is the first as you come f4rom the South. 
The day looked spectacular, the roads were fast, but it was a total slog going North. I could hold a decent pace, but there was no breaks, and after awhile of that I had to stop for a breather. I told Mrs. Guitar Ted when I got back that I had a ways to go before I would say I was in shape again. But I probably haven't quite fully recovered from last weekend's slog either.

The East Janesville Church is on the corner of Marquise Road and Burton Avenue.
I decided I would go check out the old churches on Burton Avenue. The first one is still in use and well maintained, but the East Janesville Church hasn't been in use for some time. I remembered that last year it looked pretty sad with overgrown shrubs, volunteer trees, and weeds. I was worried that it was going to be torn down, or left to rot and that would be a great loss. History is represented here, at least locally, and I think this structure should be preserved. I was afraid of what I might find as I approached from the South.

But I saw a huge pile of brush at the back of the property and the church had been cleared of all the wild overgrowth. It looks as though, maybe, it will be preserved. I hope so. It's an old church, going back well into the 19th Century, and Iowa doesn't have a lot of old countryside churches left. Many were destroyed by fires, so to have this one is amazing and a testament to our pioneer days.

We don't have a lot of controlled burning of the fields here, but I came across the evidence of a burn near Denver, Iowa.
Sage Road was fast and fairly flat coming from the North of Black Hawk County.
The roads weren't bad going up Burton. there were some trouble spots, but nothing unusual. Going East on Marquise Road was a relief, first, and showed a bit more damage, especially East of highway 63. The frost is still coming up, as evidenced by the moist roads in spots and water boiling up out of the ground on Sage Road in a few spots.

Here a "frost boil" has caused an ugly gash to appear in the road which has been marked with flags so people don't drive into it.
We had a lot of heavy rains which occurred just before freeze up and this water then was trapped by that freezing just beneath the surface of the ground. In a field, or in someones yard, you'd never really notice the "frost coming out". But on a road, which kind of acts like a seal, or blockage to the water's moving up to the surface as it unfreezes, this can be an issue. That especially gets bad when we have thaw and refreeze cycles, which when it refreezes, expands the water and that pushes up the roadway until the water breaks up the gravel or pavement. Then as daytime temperatures unfreeze the water, it pours out of these breaks, or "boils" out, and thus the name. Geological intricacies can make frost boils appear near hill tops, and other places you'd not expect water to be a problem. It's a weird thing, and not all frost boils are created equal.

You can see where the water is coming out of this frost boil on Moline Road.
Another super bad frost boil on Moline Road just outside of Waterloo. 
The return trip South was a blast! Pretty easy pedaling. I saw a few bits of wildlife too. I saw two pair of Hungarian Partridge, a few horses, two pairs of dogs I had to deal with, and a ground squirrel which I nearly ran over!

I think I may also have seen a hen pheasant, but I was too far away to be sure. I thought it might be one because of the way it flew and that it took refuge in some tall cattails alongside the road. But whatever it was, it was nice to see the wildlife is out and about again. Winter gravel riding is pretty devoid of wildlife, or......much of anything, really.

All in all it was a good three hour ride. The roads are treacherous now though. Any fast downhill requires full attention as ruts, softer, "heaved" sections, and deep gravel patches all can grab your wheel and throw you down in an instant. I think this is one of the first years in a long time, maybe in ten years, that we've had such issues to this extent. The Iowa Wind & Rock event is this weekend, and if those roads down there are anything like what I've seen, those riders best be sharp and careful. The lack of attention at the wrong time could mean a big crash.


DT said...

I'm heading to Iowa later this week to support my girlfriend's IOWAR attempt! Thanks for the "local" photos and a general idea of what we can expect from the roads.
We were thinking about stopping by Europa on our way home Monday. Will you be working?

Guitar Ted said...

@DT- Yes. Good luck this weekend!