Monday, March 20, 2017

Country Views '17: Where Eagles Fly

Riding the Great Plains looks easy, except you cannot see the wind here!
Saturday I planned on doing a longer ride. This would be the first planned longer ride since I have (mostly) recovered from a nasty head cold. My nose was still runny, but otherwise I felt fit and good to go. The weather was not ideal. The temperatures were in the mid-30's and the wind was stiff from the Northwest, but I have gear for that. No excuses!

The first order of the day was to get shorn. My hair was out of control since I did not feel that I should submit my barbers to the illnesses I experienced during January and February. So, this was the soonest I could get in. Last week I did recon, so that was out. Anyway......

I didn't get headed out until after the hair cut and some lunch. Before that I changed something  on the Raleigh Tamland Two. I had gotten a hold of a WTB Pure V saddle from my friend Tony, who I believe got it when he purchased his used Fargo. At any rate, this replaced a fizik saddle that was okay, but it never really felt good. I knew that Pure V's were good on drop bar bikes like the Tamland because I use one on my Black Mountain Cycles "Monster Cross" bike and I love it. So, I figured why fight it by trying anything else, and so I just decided to go with this Pure V for the Tamland.

I also popped on my Lezyne Super GPS and my FitBit watch and set both to track my ride. Okay.......gizmos. Bah! I get why some folks dig them, but for me they are an extra layer of complexity that tell me precisely what I already kind of know anyway. It isn't that hard to figure out how many miles you have ridden and in what time if you think about that with the natural gizmo you were provided with at birth. But maybe I expect too much........

The Tamland Two with the WTB Pure V now mounted.
So since the wind was out of the Northwest I decided to do a loop that took me East and then North out of town. It is a loop I generally never use unless it is early in the Spring. This is due to the fact that it starts out with miles of flat- really flat- terrain. It is good when you aren't sure where you are at with fitness and you just want to get some miles in. On Saturday, the opening stretches were with the mighty tailwind, so it was fairly easy to get settled in before I had to get working and go North.

There was a stretch which was flanked on the South side by very tall Evergreen trees. I happened to notice something moving high up in the sky, coming from behind these trees. It was a magnificent Bald Eagle, soaring across my path diagonally. I thought that was really cool, and my eyes tracked it as it moved to the Northeast, seemingly untouched by the winds which were strong then. Suddenly, I noticed the Bald Eagle had company!

At first I only saw one......
But there were seven in all.
There ended up being seven of them in all. Bald Eagles are not rare by any stretch these days, but it is odd to see them in such numbers in mostly dry, flat territory. I've seen the odd single eagle sitting in an open field at times, but this was a spectacle that I was blessed to be treated to. After a bit of marveling at them, I decided I had better push on.

Here is where I turned North, on Pilot Grove Road.
I turned North and into the head wind on Pilot Grove Road. Thanks to my friend Tony, who lent me a book on early Native American, Pioneer, and settler's trails in the area, I know now that Pilot Grove Road got its name because at the time of the first settlers coming to this area, there was a Native American trail that cut Northwestward through here that used an isolated grove of trees as a "pilot", or guide", to navigate the wide open grasslands of the day.

Of course, no one knows exactly where the grove was, but as I turned North, I would like to think it was along Poyner Creek in that hollow off in the distance where trees line the waterway to this day. I have done some other research into the area, but nothing has turned up and I may never know for certain where the old grove once was.

The last remnants of snow lining the ditch looking South on Pilot Grove Road
The wind was giving no quarter and I was working the bike hard to maintain 10mph. Of course, you cannot hear anything but the roaring of the wind when you are headed directly into it, or nearly so. This is another thing one has to train for because I feel that this wind noise is a natural deterrent to your mental drive to carry on. It wears on you mentally, and it is easy to let yourself get discouraged by that noise. I try to think about other stuff and it works, mostly. That is until your legs ache and belly aches to the point that you must stop to address those needs. That I did. A flattened banana and some water to wash it down and I felt a lot better. Then it was off Westward on East Bennington Road.

I had a plan at this point to tack the wind by going a mile West, then a mile North, and so on till I reached the county line. However, a turn North on Ordaway Road led me to a "T" intersection with a busy paved county road. Bah! A mile West and an intersection with another paved road! Okay, back South to Bennington then, and off West once more. No more pavement!

Crossing Crane Creek on Bennington Road.
Okay, now I was headed back into familiar territory once again. The way Westward didn't seem as arduous as it had been going North, so this was good, although my legs were barking at me. I knew the truncated course and plan was probably going to work out for the best on this day. Too much too soon and I would run the risk of getting sick all over again.

Oh yeah, I found another country church. St. Francis Catholic Church on East Airline Road, just off Pilot Grove Road.
This dike and emergency spillway are a flood protection for North Waterloo. Located near Moline Road and Airline Road intersections.
The Pure V saddle worked great because I never noticed it at all during the almost three hour ride. So, I think I have finally arrived at the two saddles I can ride on gravel bikes now- WTB Pure V and Brooks Cambium C-17's. That took long enough to figure out!

Hopefully this will make for a good base to get up to speed to do a metric century with my teammates for the Gent's Race on April 1st. I don't have much time!

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