|Escape Route: bike paths to the East.|
So, you know I was planning on getting out to ride Saturday, and that's exactly what I did. I even made it out of the door before 9:00am, leaving Guitar Ted Productions' headquarters at 8:30am. The ride would start out in the upper 40's and end up around 70 degrees before I got back. That always makes dressing for a long ride a challenge. But I figured a wool jersey, arm warmers, and a vest would make my choices variable enough that I could make it work. I also wore a pair of knickers over some bib shorts and long wool socks on my feet. The Giant MTB shoes I have are a bit too warm for Summer, but for Spring they are spot on. The bike was the Noble GX5 which I am using to test the WTB Proterra wheels for a review for RidingGravel.com.
So, the route plan was South, West, then back home in a giant loop. The wind was supposed to be light- 7-8mph with gusts of 15mph out of the Southwest. That didn't sound too bad, so I made my way via the bike path network to Foulk Road and I planned on heading South first.
|Morning light strobing through the adjacent trees always makes seeing tough. |
|Four of these giant cottonwoods, all spaced evenly, stand vigil on the East side of Foulk Road near Washburn, Iowa.|
Of course, once I hit Foulk Road I found out that the wind was raging. This was definitely not a mere breeze, as forecast. It was a full-on gale, and I was struggling against it on the flat opening plain of this section of my route. Also- fresh gravel. I mean, why wouldn't there be? So that made the going even harder.
|There was a bit of a respite as I went East on Eastman Road a mile.|
|I thought my eyes went buggy. The sky was a weird grey-blue Saturday. |
I hopped over to Cotter Road and then I went as far South as Reinbeck Road and then back West. No quarter was given by the howling wind, nor by the copious amounts of fresh gravel on the roadway. At times the gravel was so deep and loose that the bike would pitch sideways as the stones rolled underneath of the tires.
I'm not sure why, but I found it really hard to get my legs going. I felt sort of dead, and that further compounded my difficulties. While I try to always be very grateful for every opportunity to ride in the country, I must admit that the 'suck meter' was pegged at about this point in the ride. I made frequent stops to give my legs, heart, and lungs some relief.
|Lots of fresh gravel on Reinbeck Road. Here's a look at it from a spot I stopped to rest. |
|A nice, clear stream, a spur off of Miller Creek, which sang a babbling song to me as I rested. |
I ended up stopping to make a plan to see if it were possible to tack into this nasty Southwestern gale. I came up with a good plan which netted me a turn about every mile or two. This would give my tired legs a break.
|I took this shot over my shoulder of a passing tractor. Note the dusty cloud getting blown away by the stiff winds.|
|A tractor waiting for its next assignment.|
As my fate would have it, every Northbound section had cleared gravel, or was so smooth it was like pavement. Then I'd turn left into the wind and boom! More deep, fresh gravel, because, why not? I just kept on pedaling....
|I've feared that our very dry weather would begin to break down the roads into dust. This is Hammond Avenue.|
|This farmer painted his house and garage a kind of purple. I salute his boldness!|
As I plodded along, a strange thing started happening. I 'found my legs', as the saying goes. I was making decent headway, and what is more, the winds seemed to be relenting now as well. The big gusts were gone, but it wasn't like the wind went away.
|This lonely cement pillar was probably a survey marker for an old farm plot long gone now. |
|Ditch burning is a traditional activity during this transition to Spring. Note all the gravel flung into the ditch by snow plowing. |
While my legs found new strength, by this time I was getting pretty tired from my earlier efforts. Talk about sore muscles! But I wasn't going to get home by whining about my legs. I kept on pushing and tacking the wind until eventually I ended up on Aker Road and the end of battling the wind was coming.
|A pile of dirt from a burrowing animal on the road, and a tractor doing field work. |
I'm not 100% familiar with all of Iowa's burrowing creatures, but some are finding this breakdown of the roadways to their liking and are boring holes right into the road bed. Big piles of dirt, flung up from excavations, were seen here and there on my ride. I'm sure the County maintenance department will be having some complaints filed concerning these activities!
I also spied my first tractor in a field for 2021. Kind of early, but with these unusually warm temperatures, I suppose the soil temperatures are following suit and farmers will be getting prepared for planting with a vengeance here.
I finally made it home after almost four hours and about 35 miles of riding. Slow.....but really hard. The resistance to moving was high for much of that time I was out, so I burned some matches there! My legs were aching for quite a while after that effort.