Monday, March 19, 2018

Country Views: Geezer Ride Recon

Gravel track across the plains: It was a beautiful day to be on a bicycle.
I was hoping I could say, "What a difference a week makes", when I got back from my recon ride of the Geezer course Saturday. Last week it was a mushy, mucky mess. I took a day Wednesday to clean off the, what had become by then, cement, off my bike. It was a lot worse than I thought! I was sure hoping that by the time the weekend would come that things would clear up more.

And they mostly did. I decided to wait out the morning where we had seen a light coating of snow overnight and cooler temperatures for clear skies and warmer air in the afternoon. So, I didn't get out as soon as I wanted to so that I could cover the 40 mile course, but I decided that I would just have to push it and hope that the roads were clear and dry.

I started from the Prairie Grove Park car lot where we are to meet this coming Saturday. There was a light, Southeast wind and bright Sun. It was going to at least be comfortable and as pretty as "brown season" can be out there. On my way down the beginning stretches, I saw hundreds of Robins. No doubt more invaders looking to move North into Minnesota. Lots of Red Wing Blackbirds were now taking up posts on the fence rows and telephone polls, looking to establish their territories for breeding season and beyond.

Much to my relief the roads were dry, but there had been gravel laid down and it wasn't super fast. That is, until I turned on to Petrie Road and then to the South on Beck Road where I had been last week. The road was completely dry and the surface was fast! I noted the ruts I put into the road from my ride the week before. Not a particularly good memory there!

Spring is coming! A hint of green was noted in the field to the left here as I looked Southward into Tama County.
I took the course all the way South to Tama County and where we will get a reprieve from gravel for two miles going through Buckingham. Then I crossed Highway 63 and oh boy! That was a big surprise!

Want to work hard? Try pedaling over deep, chunky gravel laid over soft mud sometime!
See, we have this deal where the frost has to be drawn up out of the ground by the Sun's energy. When that happens on a gravel road it has the effect of "fluffing up" the road bed so it is like cookie dough. Either that or it makes goo out of the clay or black earth base. Talk about a situation where ruts can get out of control! Well, the County generally does a dump of big, chunky gravel until they know the frost is up to prevent the rutting issues. Try riding a bicycle over a patch like that and your legs won't be very happy with you. Oh! And you go very slow as well.

It was such a great day out. I could see for miles from some of the hill tops I ascended.
So I was on a time schedule. I had to get going! This slow, soft gravel was not good! I decided not to go any further West and just keep plodding through the worst gravel I'd ridden on since the week before. I took the next turn North and the road was a lot better, but still wet and gritty. I found out later that this area received a bit more snow and that might explain the wet gravel down there.

Eventually I felt that I needed a "nature break". It's harder when the crops are out and everything is wide open. It isn't hard to see that most of Iowa was actually part of the Great Plains at one time when it is "brown season". I finally came across an abandoned farmstead that was out of sight of any nearby farms and I stopped and did my business there without any issues. It was on top of a hill, and on this particular day, the view was spectacular. I could see for miles.

The bike may look cleaner than last week but the roads West of HWY 63 were messy.
The road going North was messy a lot of the way back. Soft, wet in spots, and even a touch of mud here and there. I was a bit surprised, but as I drew near to Hudson it seemed to clear up. I was off the proposed route at this point, but within a mile or two of the route all the way up until I peeled off Eastward on Griffith Road because I didn't want to go through Hudson as that would have slowed me down. I was pressed for time! I had to be back home before 7:00pm so my wife could go to a movie with my son and I was to hang out with my daughter.

As I flew down the final miles on Aker Road there was a complete calmness over the land. It was getting on toward Sunset, and I couldn't have had a much better ride. The country is just barely waking up from a Winter's slumber, and everything was still except the Western Meadowlarks which were flying about and whistling their distinctive call. In a way, although everything looked dead in the fields, it was a beautiful world to be in just then.

The ride was over, and I did make it home with plenty of time for my wife and son to get to their movie. Hopefully the Geezer Ride will have a similarly beautiful day and we will have even better roads.

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