Tuesday, August 02, 2016

GTDRI '16: A Tale of Two Level B's

Brian Terhark readies himself to depart from the Traer convenience store stop.
Traer Iowa: We left Traer via P Avenue on the West side of town. It goes to gravel immediately and heads straight South. After crossing treacherous Highway 63, we had about two miles or so to the first Level B road of the day.

But before that you can see two, very unique structures on the East side of P Avenue, if you are attentive. They are round barns made from ceramic tiles. You can see one North of 63 on P Avenue and one South of 63. I pointed them out while we were riding and someone asked me why I thought this type of barn was built. I really didn't know, so I have taken the liberty to find out and report here.

Apparently, Iowa was one state where the production of clay tiles to drain farm wetlands was strongest. This led to ways to utilize the hollow clay tile in more ways. Apparently, state universities like Iowa State and the University of Illinois were doing agricultural research into the efficiencies of round barns over that of traditional rectangular shaped barns. The theory was that a round barn was stronger, saved on construction costs by a sizeable amount, and did not cause issues with lower storage capacities. This, along with the marketing efforts in the early 20th Century, led to a proliferation of round barns and silos made from hollow clay tile bricks. So, there's a possible answer!

Level B road perfection! This was as fun as I was expecting.
When we reached the Level B, I was excited and took the lead on down the grassy two-track. Typically this road stays free from grass in the midst of the road due to drier weather that we usually get in Summer and due to the maintenance by a local farmer. Well, this year we've had copious amounts of rain at regular intervals, plus, I suppose this prevents the farmer from getting in there to scrape the road, so it is overgrown and rutted this Summer. Still, it was a fantastic stretch of road.

The skies began to clear off a little as we pushed South and Westward.
After we left the Level B, we were in for some rollers, which I was quite familiar with. The best thing to do here is not to coast, but pedal, pedal, pedal! Then as you climb the further side, you have momentum and by clicking down the gears to keep the cadence high, you sweep over the top and do that all over again. There is about a mile and a half of this before the grade on one climb just wears you down into a rhythm in a lower gear and that's that. Well, this put me out front again, so I backed off and let others take the lead. This would be at about the point where we went Westward, and that for a few miles. Suddenly, my legs started burning and felt like they were just really tired. I couldn't push as hard as I wanted to, but I figured it was just a spot of rough going I'd survive.

Dangling off the back, but not too far........yet.
Some big hills on 270th in Tama County
We had one after another of the rollers and then a bit of a respite on H Avenue before heading West on our Southernmost bit of the route on 270th. That's a very hilly part of Tama County, and the grades are steep. I ended up falling off the back a long ways at this point, but was still chugging along. The other guys seemed to go as fast up hills as they did on the flats.

One other thing that was odd was that the skies, which at one point seemed close to clearing off, had went all grey again. The roads actually looked as though they had just received some rain, as the gravel was sticky or mushy in spots. It was all rather odd as it hadn't actually rained in a few days, but the humidity was rather high. Thankfully the temperatures were not equally as high!

This all led us up to the Level B Road at the West end of 270th in Tama County. We all gathered at the crossroads with D Avenue, and took a rest there. I looked at the ground suspiciously, and it looked like it had rained here recently. This made me think that the ground further up the road would actually be muddy. That could be the makings for some surprises up on the B Road's dirt! I still held out hope that things would be okay. This was the Level B that MG drove me through during Trans Iowa, so I was hoping it would be in similar shape. I told the guys what to expect, and I then followed Tony in as we attempted to ride this monster.

Josh takes a picture of our favorite sign.
Yes- This is a road in Iowa!
We had some clean up work to do once we emerged on the other side.
Well, this road ended up being really wet, slippery, and really overgrown. We hike-a-biked it to the top of the first big climb and then tried to ride. Nope! Not happening. The clayish mud was just too slippery and your brakes were useless, it was like ice. No grip! We were obliged to walk our bikes gingerly up, down, over, and down again to C Avenue.

Scraping mud is a gravel grinder tradition. We all knew the drill!
I guess things get around. Big muddy situations and bicyclists that do gravel have produced several ingenious ways to overcome what could be a really bad situation. Scott had a big bungee cord which he carried his bike by, since his frame bag prevented a typical cyclo cross style carry. Others were whipping out home made scrapers to clear off the mud from their frames and tires. I was using my customized spatula that I found on Aker Road last Winter. It worked perfectly!

Well, here we were. Eight cyclists busily scraping and chatting while a local or two went slowly by, no doubt marveling at the sight. A couple actually stopped to say a few words, but as I said in the previous report, everyone was very friendly and kind. One gentleman, who thought we were all crazy, professed his love of cycling on Iowa's various bicycle trails and he listed off several that he and his wife ride regularly. If you do not think cycling brings in tourism, think again. Even rural Iowans are looking for good places to ride.

Meanwhile, as we are trying to clean off the bikes and chat with the friendly locals, a herd of sleek, reddish colored cattle began to beller and moan in their extremely loud cow voices to the extent that it was drowning out our conversations. The herd had gathered up to the fence line closest to us in hopes that we had feed, I guess, and when we showed no signs of giving over, they let their displeasure be known.

When Josh tried to video the moaning herd, they went silent! I guess that was the key to peace in the field!

Josh tried to capture the cacophony of cows, but they went silent, as if on cue, when he pulled his phone up to video the scene. We tried to cajole them into mooing again, but to no avail. It was time to move on up the road toward our lunch time stop at Gladbrook. That was straight up C Avenue, and we looked to make excellent time in getting there.

Next: The Wheels Start To Come Off


james said...

No pictures of the round barns? I have an old barn fettish...you have to include pictures, plus Jason would really like it as well.

Guitar Ted said...

@james: I have already posted pics of both before and per Jason's and my agreement, we can't double post barns. Although he has posted the same barn on a Northfield MN route he likes several times, I am still abiding by the agreement. :>)

Robert Ellis said...

Really enjoying these posts! Not quite as good as actually being on the ride itself, which I hope to change one of these days!

MG said...

I remember that road... So does the Subie!

Wish I could've made it out for the ride, but we did a quick last-minute trip to CO with the girls to spend a couple days in the mountains. It was a fair trade... :-)

Cheers Brother!

Guitar Ted said...

@MG: I totally understand! I was thinking about you all the while we were on that road, by the way. It looks very different in late July!