Monday, July 18, 2016

Looking For A New Bridge

Leaving Prairie Grove Park we were watched over by a large Red Tailed Hawk on the line.
That dratted bridge was out and that cost me. Well, it wasn't too bad, in the end, but when I found out the bridge over the Wolf Creek on J Avenue was out during the running of Trans Iowa v10, it put me into a panic. So, cost me a lot of unwanted stress, but after all this time, it is kind of a laugh now.

I never went back after that Saturday night to see if it ever was replaced. I figured that there was really no other choice for the county but to replace it, but then again, in these times, weirder things have happened. So, it was always a plan in the back of my mind. The idea to go search for the new bridge, if it was there. I went on that quest early this Spring but was thwarted by a muddy B Level road or two. This past Saturday was "take two" on the quest.

I was planning for a while to make this a combination of recon for the upcoming Guitar Ted Death Ride Invitational, and the quest for the bridge, so I had two motivations to get out there. A third motivation to get out on this long ride presented itself when I was texted by Marty, who asked if I was going on a gravel ride and if I was, could he join me? Of course, I said yes. So, we planned on leaving from the starting point of the upcoming GTDRI, Prairie Grove Park, and set a time of 8:00am to get started on the long day's riding.

Looking at the old Geneseo School as we went on our way to Traer. 
I got out of the house a bit late, so I had to "time trial" it down to the meeting place, which was 5.85 miles from my front door. Most of that being bike path, so it went by quickly and I ended up being 1 minute late. (Sorry Marty!) I hate being late, but now I know I have to budget a little more time when I leave the house in a couple of weeks to do the GTDRI. Lesson learned!

The day could not have been more perfect. It was in the lower 60's when we left with a light Southeasterly headwind. The day was drier, with low humidity. Really, a picture perfect day if ever there was one for riding on gravel roads. We headed out on the original GTDRI route which starts down Aker Road, but then it turns East to get over to Ansborough via Orange Road. The route then went all the way into Tama County before we turned East for one more mile to catch V Avenue South and then to a right on D-65 where that bridge was out for this year's Trans Iowa. That bridge is all in and complete, boding well for our quest to find the bridge intact over the Wolf Creek later on.

Barns For Jason: Some rural decorative choices are a bit hard to understand, but.......oh well!
Marty with his snack at our first convenience store stop in Traer.
We reached Traer by 10:00am, so we made decent time, but we weren't burning up the road either, since that was about 25 or so miles in. We checked out the convenience store there. The same one I've been visiting now for a decade or more by bicycle. Every time I stop here I see the place fall more and more into decay. It makes me a bit sad, I guess. Lots of memories here for sure......

Anyway, after a brief stop and a chance to freak out the locals, we moved on. South out of town on P Avenue, where we would hit up one of my favorite B Level Maintenance roads. You can read about that and see an image in the post previous to this, so I won't get into the details of that visit.

The corn is REALLY tall, and the gravel was REALLY fresh and deep in Tama County.
We hit up this super fast and smooth B Level Maintenance road just before getting to J Avenue.
We finally departed the GTDRI course at P Avenue and 220th Street where we went West and headed over to K Avenue where we would come back North a bit before jogging Westward again a couple of miles to set us up to be on J Avenue. Heading North, I saw no signs that would lead me to believe there was no bridge. I figured as much.

The new bridge over Wolf Creek looking back South. The old bridge is forever immortalized in the film documentary, "300 Miles Of Gravel" 
While we had turned out of the now steady wind coming out of the Southeast, we faced deep, fresh gravel at every turn unless we were riding dirt for a spell. The road coming to and crossing the new bridge was strewn with chunky goodness, making the road a real challenge to traverse. It didn't help that we had the infamous "Wolf Creek Wall" to climb!

Leaving the Wolf Creek valley can leave a mark on your soul! That's only the first of a series of steeps that goes on for a mile and a half.
The Wolf Creek Wall, again, immortalized as the cover shot for the documentary "300 Miles of Gravel", is only the opening shot in a mile and a half, or more, as was in our case, of painful steeps. We'd had it pretty easy up to this point on our ride, but if we were thinking we were in good shape, this section brought the truth home to roost! We both were really humbled by this section and I know I will need more of that pain to get ready for Gravel Worlds in a little over a month from now.

Marty and I then climbed up K Avenue to Ridge Road and we cruised straight into the wind, as Ridge Road runs Southeast/Northwest, till we returned to Traer again. We could have gone North before getting back to Traer, but Marty said we should take the "prettiest option". That was Ridge Road all the way to Traer without question, so we went through the town again.

You can see for many miles in any direction from Ridge Road.
Marty was taking in the views on Ridge Road from his trusty Fargo.
We stopped again at the convenience store for a refueling and refilling. Then we left Traer the way we had come in, but at T.F. Clark Park we went West for a mile then straight North. After a few miles we came across a lady on a riding lawn mower that was spinning her wheels, as if she was stuck. Marty motioned that we should stop and lend a hand, to which I agreed. We asked the elderly lady if she'd like us to push her, but before I could get the sentence out of my mouth she leapt up, got behind the mower, shoved it with a mighty heave, and sat herself back in the seat. Then she declared to us that she was used to getting herself out of her own messes. Now that's a true country gal! We were kind of befuddled, but she shut the mower off and we had a pleasant, short conversation before we bade her farewell and moved on down the road.

Now, that was maybe enough oddness to expect for one gravel ride, but we came upon an even odder sight after we had taken a good long rest stop under a tree's shade on the road because my stomach was fighting me a bit. I had eaten a bit too much and my body was shunting energy to digestion and my mind was falling asleep!

Anyway, I saw a blinking light bar up ahead, which is odd enough out in the middle of nowhere, but this was a accompanied by a string of about eight school buses parked on one side of a crossing road and up along our path. As we passed, we could see that this was a convoy of corn detasslers and a few vehicles ferrying the porta-jons they have to have to accommodate the youngsters who are hired to do this task. Apparently one bus had run into the back end of another, causing some significant damage. The kids were all restrained to sitting in the buses, and as we passed they hung their hands out the windows, waving at us vigorously. It was all a bit surreal, actually. Hope everyone was okay there!

Finishing up a long day out on the gravel roads of Black Hawk and Tama Counties.
And that's another for the Cup-O-Dirt tally!
The ride ended up well, and I got home by 4:30pm, 8 and a half hours after the start. Well, actually a bit longer than that, since I had left the house before 8:00am. Anyway, a good, long day in the saddle with some interesting things to see. A bridge confirmed, hills climbed, and rocky roads conquered. Plus we got to see an odd situation with the detassling crew's bus accident. I am pretty certain I won't ever see such a thing again in my lifetime, nor do I want to, really.

I was a bit surprised by the mileage total when I got back and checked it out. I was suspecting I had about 70 plus, but to have eclipsed the 80 mile mark was very surprising and satisfying. That will go on the Cup-O-Dirt Challenge totals for the year, and it will be a good base to build off of going into Gravel Worlds and the upcoming Guitar Ted Death Ride Invitational. 

Speaking of which, this ride was also a test, again, of how my dinged up shoulder will react to a bigger ride and that on the Gen I Fargo. I have determined that for now, the big rides will all have to be done on that bike, with that Luxy Bar, because my shoulder still isn't 100%. I can tell right away when I ride one of my other bikes and the left shoulder starts aching badly after about an hour into a ride. Not always, but many times yet, that is the case. This ride wasn't easy, by the way, and I fought the shoulder pain for most of it, but it didn't feel like I was really doing more damage. Just an annoying pain at different times during the ride. Being able to take advantage of all the different positions on the Luxy Bar rotates that left shoulder joint in different ways so I can keep from having it get hammered by the gravel vibrations. Otherwise I am not able to really get away from it on a more standard type bar.

Thanks to Marty for the great companionship and I hope to get out this way again sooner. It had been far too long since I've ridden that way.


Tony said...

Flowers in a bed frame = flowerbed

Exhausted_Auk said...

Where's that confounded bridge?!

J Fry said...

"Better get to staking!!" :)