Monday, April 20, 2020

Country Views: Some Rustic Trail

If you've never been beyond this gate in Black Hawk Park, you need to go!
A long time ago, back when I first started in the bicycle business, I heard about a trail that UNI football players used for training runs. It was long, went North along the East side of the Cedar River, and came out at Washington-Union Access. I was intrigued, but it took me a while before I ever went on this old, rustic trail.

When I did, I found rocks, two-track, a pathway through the trees hard against farm fields on one side and the Cedar's backwaters on the other, and another trail near the Northern terminus. It wasn't hilly at all, but it was about as far removed from society as you could get anywhere in Black Hawk County.

I never did this trail as a regular thing, as I wasn't into gravel back in the 90's and riding back the way I had come was, meh! I've never really liked to do that. But the Ford Road Access kind of made it "okay" and a bit of gravel back to Cedar Falls was fine, on occasion. Then the gravel bug bit me and I started visiting this trail as a part of a loop I could do once in awhile. It still wasn't a "regular" thing for me, but I do like to do it. It really isn't a gravel bike friendly trail though, so I usually don't do this trail on anything under 2" tires. Last time I had been out there I roached a free hub body on my old Hope hub, so that's been a couple years now.

Well, about two weeks ago I was sent some tires ahead of a release date which I could not talk about until today. They are from Hutchinson and are 2.3"ers called the Kraken. I put them on the Gen I Fargo and went in search of this old, rustic trail again.

You pretty much are greeted by two sections of rock gardens almost immediately after the gate.
I knew there would be rocks, but I didn't know they had been changed to rocks! I managed to get halfway through the first set before I decided that biffing here would result in a bad contusion, or worse, and no one needed that during these times, if ya know what I mean. No need to be a hero. I got off and walked the rest of the first and all of the second stretch of big rocks. These rocks are there to prevent the trail from being gullied out during our regular flooding. These rocks looked to have been added recently, since I'd never seen such big rocks here in years past.

It can be rather beautiful back on this trail.
Later on you go by a few farm fields and pastureland. 
The rocks don't last long and the trail goes to rough dirt two-track or single track in a wide mown section along a fence line on one side and a line of trees on the other. It's really peaceful and I didn't see a soul. I did see an owl, a hawk, a couple of deer, and a lot of awesome views.

This is near the Northern end of the trail.
Time to eat, apparently. Moo!
I managed to get out at C-57 where there is construction going on for a new bridge. This has blocked off the access to the Northern terminus of the trail, so I had to do a quick hike-a-bike over a plastic erosion barrier. A bit of pavement and I took a left on Ford Road towards Janesville. I had to do a mile on the old HWY 218, now just called "Center Street" by the locals, since the road has been bypassed, and then a quick left back on gravel into the small village itself.

Farmers were gearing up for planting.
Barns For Jason
Eventually I was rolling through Janesville and it was as if everyone was gone. It's so weird now with this "stay at home" order. No kids out, a few cars, but otherwise, it was as if the village was dead. I got through town and left on C-50 going East, then I took the first gravel road South, which was Garden Avenue. I had thought about going up and taking in Ivanhoe Road, but I had already been out three hours and needed to head back to the shed so Mrs. Guitar Ted wouldn't be too worried.

Rock pile on Marquise Road.
Tilling up the Earth. You could smell the freshly turned dirt in the air here.
All the way up I was working a pretty stiff Northerly breeze. But after I reached Burton Avenue, it was all tailwind all the way back home. That was nice as this marked the longest ride of 2020 so far. I didn't keep track of the mileage but I figured it at around 40 or so, given that the Washington-Union Access trail was slow and Burton Avenue was blazing fast with the wind.

St. Paul's on Burton Avenue.
It was about as perfect a day as one could ask for in April.
Burton Avenue has a few big sections of fresh gravel that are really gnarly. Deep and chunky! I was sure glad I had on these new Hutchinson tires as they sucked it up and were really stable in that loose stuff. It was also pretty dusty, but not crazy dusty. The wind pretty much kept it down, but if we don't see any rain soon it will be really bad with the dust real soon.

It was about 4 hours on the nose, actually a bit more, but I'm not counting exactly. It was really fun. It was really normal out there. A different universe compared to Waterloo, with the notable exception of Janesville, of course, which was a stark reminder of the times we are in now. But man! Was it nice to get away and just ride a bicycle without having to worry about passing people far enough away and all that is going on with social distancing.

Hoping to get out again Wednesday. Stay tuned......

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