Sunday, May 08, 2016

Geezer Ride 4 Ride Report: Part 1

Getting ready
The fourth Geezer Ride went off on Saturday without a hitch. The day started early for me at 4:30am when the alarm jarred me out of a deep sleep. You know when you are having a dream and the alarm goes off? That always shocks me. I was a bit discombobulated for a while after that moment!

I recovered from that, of course, and Tony was right on time at 5:30am to pick me up so we could drive the hour and a half to get to North English and the Casey's that is there on the South side of the village. Some of you Trans Iowa vets will recognize that as being a convenience store stop from T.I.v5 and T.I.v10. It hasn't changed much over the years, I'll tell you that much! But first, I have to mention that Tony and I saw a wide variety of wildlife on the way down. We saw a enormous snapping turtle lumbering across the road, a coyote scampering across the road, several deer, and I believe a pheasant. Anyway, it wasn't a boring drive!

We arrived at Casey's and we got a few things to eat there as we awaited any other riders that may show up. First to arrive after us was Martin, the ride coordinator for this Geezer Ride. That's right, I didn't have to do anything to set up this route. It was all Martin's idea, and he was a bit anxious for us to see it to find out what we thought of it all. We chatted and then we saw a few other cars pull up. In all, we ended up with 8 riders on the fourth Geezer Ride. Not a lot, but there were a lot of gravel races that day, graduations, and of course, Mother's Day was the following day.

The ride opened up with three miles of dirt road right off the bat.
 We had a few words, introductions, and then we got started. I am pretty sure it was after 8:00am, but no one seemed to mind. The group seemed pretty excited and we were sticking together well over the opening miles which featured about three miles of Level B maintenance road until we reached gravel again. We passed a deer farm, where the landowner raises deer and brings in hunters on an "Iowan Safari" deal. Weird. The deer were already in their reddish coats while the wild deer we saw were all still in their grayish coats which made spotting them against the dirt fields and stubble difficult. Then after that we came to a big nature preserve area which was beautiful to look at.

The opening miles of gravel had gentle rollers and was hard packed making for easy riding.
This barn here, all that's left of Hinkletown, a 19th Century village, was a pretty area to ride through.

We rode through a twisty section of road into a wooded area where a few houses sat on the edge of an area that used to be the bustling village of Hinkletown in the 1860's and 70's. The village slowly disappeared when the railroad built a line through several miles to the South, and the villagers all moved to the new town of Keota, which still exists to this day. That was a common theme in the late 1800's in Iowa. Many small villages either moved or became ghost towns based upon where the railroads built their lines.

We then made a turn North and then East again which slowly brought us into Amish/Mennonite country. The hills were a bit steeper, but the gravel started to become fresh and very chunky as well. It was tough to ride on, even with my Fargo Gen I, which I decided to bring instead of the single speed rig.

We began to come across big Mennonnite churches, many dating from the late 1800's. This one is West Union Church dating from 1897

An abandoned school. Mennonites have newer schools they use now in this area.
Look closely by the pine trees. There is a buggy going down the road. The clattering of the iron treaded wheels could be heard from a long way off. 
The landscape was certainly Iowan, but everything began to become different otherwise. Every home was a wood clad home with paint. No metal siding at all. There suddenly were huge gardens at every farm with crops already nearing maturity due to the Amish/Mennonite's "green house" techniques where they had many plants covered in plastic. The Amish/Mennonite world is a mash-up of the newest technology and 19th Century sensibilities. As an example, there were solar panels every where. Tractors, usually of the 1960's vintage, were in use, but they all featured steel wheels, and all the implements did as well. No rubber tires! This was odd since the cars and trucks all had rubber tires. Telephones were in booths alongside the road, meant for communal use, and were powered by a single solar panel. Even the smells were different, as these folks fertilize with "natural" elements and the scents of animals like horses, goats, and cattle were stronger here. It was like a different world that we had entered into via the gravel roads.

Typically the farms would have a white painted picket fence. The skies were stained with the smoke from Canadien wildfires all day. 
This is an example of the telephone booths the Amish/Mennonite folks use which are powered by solar panels. 
Taking a much needed break after enduring several miles of big, chunky gravel at our Easternmost point on the route.
The roads went alternately from the clear, hard packed, fast gravel to freshly dumped gravel of a bigger gauge than what we see around here. It was while limestone too, so it was sharp edged and the going was tough on this. The graders were too efficient, as it was spread from ditch to ditch and there were no easy lines at all. The rougher roads were really rattling a few of the riders on this ride. We also had a spat of rain drops which never got any worse than a few sprinkles and lasted but a few minutes. Otherwise things were dry and dusty the entire route.

Part 2 tomorrow. Stay tuned.........

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