|St. Paul's church on Burton Avenue on a stellar blue-bird day. |
The route was going to head North, as the cold front brought a Northwest wind. So, I decided upon a "Three County Tour" in reverse from what I had done in the past.This would take in Black Hawk, Bremer, and Butler Counties. I had an option of making it a four county tour, as adding Grundy County wouldn't have have been hard to do, but I wasn't sure how many miles, or how much time I had, in the bank. Since I didn't get started until after lunch, I figured time would be the deciding factor. Not that this mattered. I was just glad to get out the door on such a great day to ride.
The roads to start out were excellent, once I got out on the gravel. There hadn't been any fresh grading or dump truck loads of gravel applied anywhere in Black Hawk County's Northern tier, so the mostly uphill route was easier into the stiff wind than it might have been otherwise. I headed up Burton Avenue and then cut over west on the county line, Marquis Road, to get over to Janesville, Iowa. There I was planning on riding straight West through the village to the pedestrian/bike trail bridge across the Cedar River, and then onward toward Butler County.
|A herd of cattle grazes peacefully in a pasture along the banks of the Shell Rock River|
|I had to grab another image at the West Point cemetery near Waverly Junction, Iowa. |
The wind was tough, more than I had expected judging from the forecast. The wind had to be in the 20mph range and going pretty much straight North and West just kept me into it as it was solidly out of the Northwest. I ended up taking a break at two spots. Once on Burton for a 'nature break' and the other just West of Janesville to eat, drink, and reconnoiter my options via the maps app on the phone. I made a determination and set off, crossing the Shell Rock River and then going by Waverly Junction.
Essentially I never had been in this area traveling in this direction before, so everything looked new. This made for a 'mistake' of sorts, in figuring out how to get to the only bridge across the West Fork of the Cedar on gravel in this part of Butler County. I knew it was on Willow, but I got off on the wrong foot to get to the gravel and instead I found the paved bit of Willow about 3.25 miles South of Shell Rock instead. You cannot use paved roads on my rides. Not gonna do it!
So, another couple of miles West and I finally found a Southbound road. Oddly enough, I had been following another's bicycle tracks for miles. Someone else was pretty much going the same way as I was. Or- I was going the same way someone else had gone already, to be more correct. But I knew sooner or later this would end.
|The highest elevation on the ride occurred out here in Butler County. It also was the chunkiest stretch of road too.|
|I saw about a quarter mile where the high lines were lined with small birds|
I ended up stopping at one point where a Southbound road I found "T'eed" into an East/West bound stretch of gravel along a tree lined farmstead. I took the opportunity to stop, eat, and do more research on my phone maps to see where I should go next. Turns out I was on the right track if I went East, so off I went with the wind at my backside and I was rolling.
I got passed by two dudes, each in their own 4X4 pulling flat bed trailers. They weren't friendly, and they doused me in the fine limestone dust that was prevalent all over due to the lack of any good rainfall in recent weeks. Nothing I am not used to, but this copious dust, and those two vehicles and trailers were the cause of something I came across later.
|Young, inexperienced, and in the ditch. This shot is looking back on the incident.|
I turned right on Willow, and right away I spied a car in the ditch. Odd that. In Winter or Spring, this isn't out of the ordinary, but during late summer on a stretch of dead straight and level gravel? What were these two people doing? They looked to have backed right up to a corn field. At the time I saw them, they were just getting out of the vehicle.
A young lady was driving and the young man who was with her walked up onto the road, saw me, and when I asked if all was okay, he responded. He said, "Yeah. We didn't see the oncoming car and.....", by this time I was passing by, because I could see two other cars full of young people pulling up. The young man turned his attention to these folks and it was obvious they all knew each other.
Then I looked up the road and the massive powerslide skid marks were easy to pick out. Somehow or another the female driver lost control, looped it out, and it would appear that she backed the car into the gently sloping, grass filled ditch in an arc, almost pointed in the direction of original travel again. The skid marks were at least a couple of hundred feet long and I estimated that the young lady was going at least 40mph if not more. Probably faster to skid that far, I would think. Thankfully they looked none the worse for wear, but considering the ditch the car ended up in, they were pretty fortunate. It could have been way worse.
I figured it was the two truck/trailer vehicles that had kicked up all the dust, and I would imagine the young lady probably lost her bearings in the blinding cloud of dust. Moral to the story? Go slower! MUCH slower!
|The old bridge across the West Fork. The only one on gravel on the Eastern side of the County.|
I ended up stopping again on the bridge over the Beaver Creek to see why I was feeling like I had a stone in my right shoe. I had checked this several miles back, but maybe I missed it or another got in there? I did a much more thorough investigation this time, going as far as taking my sock off, turning the sock inside out, and even removing the inner shoe liner, just in case. I found nothing. I determined that it must have been a nerve issue and I pedaled back the rest of the way without incident.
Since it was getting on into the afternoon and I had well over 40 miles in, I decided to make it a three county tour by turning East at Westbrook Road, ironically which is the corner of Butler County that touches Grundy County. Oh well....... Another time then.
I went into Cedar Falls on West First Street and then I used my normal commuting route home from Andy's Bike Shop once I reached downtown. I ended up with a little over 53 miles on the afternoon. Not bad. I was tuckered out though and I still had to get up early to meet Andy for a Sunday mornaing ride.
Next: Double Header Part 2