|Patterns in the Earth and in the Sky: An early-ish start.|
I had stared at maps for long enough that I figured I didn't need cues. I just got up Sunday, ate some breakfast, and had a couple cups of coffee. Then I got ready to ride and threw everything in the truck and headed to Gates Park and the parking lot on Mildred Street by the tennis courts. It all worked out that I was rolling by ten after eight in the morning.
Ironically I had no idea what the weather was going to be. I did stop a minute to check the hourly forecast for rain, because things looked dark in the West. But the app said no worries! So I took off and went on my way North first. My aim was to get up into the Northeastern part of Black Hawk County and from there the new roads for me would begin.
So, I decided to use Moline Road and take that up to Bennington Road, then East all the way down, with a slight detour around the Lester Township Cemetery because Bennington is interrupted up there by a small creek. Then back on Bennington, across the blocked off steel gable bridge over the Wapsipinnicon, and then over towards the county line.
To start out things were cool and calm. I could not discern any wind at all, so I had no idea if I was in trouble later or if I had this planned perfectly, according to wind direction and speed. I'd have to wait quite a long time to find out, as things turned out on this ride.
|The roads were fast and smooth, for the most part of this ride.|
|Things vacillated from looking rainy to almost sunny throughout the ride. |
Then later on as I was riding I ended up figuring out that I had done 'it' again. What was 'it'? Well, I ended up turning East, which was part of the plan, but I turned on Mt. Vernon Road, not Bennington Road. I did the same darn thing last year while doing 'The Quest' on the day I was trying to bag the East end of Bennington Road.
So, I had to take some pavement to rectify my error. No harm, no foul here though. There was very little traffic anyway since it was Sunday morning and I had the road to myself, for the most part of that mile. Then, once back on track, I had no further issues with getting off line.
|Too early for church! St. John's Lutheran Church is one of the rare, modern looking churches out here. |
|Lester Township Cemetery on Owen Road.|
I was feeling good on the bike. Really good. The best I've felt all year, probably. Was it the wind at my back? There maybe was a breeze by now, but I was rolling really well for quite a while already. Was it the smoother roads? That probably had a lot to do with it, yes. The roads, for the most part, were still really fast. Maybe taking time off from riding during all that rainy stretch we had was a factor? Couldn't have hurt to get some rest. Speaking of, I had gotten a fantastic night's sleep before the ride. That, more than anything, I think, was what was going on here.
|I had to get a portrait of a couple of pretty flowers on the deck of the old abandoned bridge. |
|These pink beauties always remind me of Kansas' Flint Hills. |
I made it over to the blocked off bridge over the Wapsipinnicon River on Bennington Road with great time. I was planning on deciding here whether I would venture out into Buchanan County, or if things weren't going well, if I might turn back at this point. Once I had crossed the river, I was pretty much committed to the idea. So, I gave myself a bail-out point, if needed, but fortunately I did not need it.
|This fella was patient with me as I stopped to get his portrait. |
|Buck Creek Road in Buchanan County|
Finally I made it over to Buck Creek Road in Black Hawk County where I flushed a beautiful rooster pheasant out of the ditch. Then it was a short jaunt over to Buck Creek Road in Buchanan County via Black Hawk-Buchanan Road. Now I was off on new roads to me. So, you know what THAT means, right?
|Barns For Jason #1|
|Barns For Jason #2: This was a 'barn-mahal'. |
Buck Creek Road looked a lot more like a Level B Maintenance Road than a typical gravel road in Iowa. The road was mostly, if not all, dirt, and it was rutted. I had to be careful not to allow my front wheel to snag a rutted edge and perhaps send me out of control. The roadway eventually did improve, but the dirt section seemed to last quite a while.
|Barns For Jason #3|
|Barns For Jason #4|
These roads in Buchanan County around the area of the Wapsipinicon River are very twisty-turny, wandering roads and many dump out onto pavement, or go off in directions which would have added significantly to my mileage total. So, I was being very careful throughout this stretch and I stopped to consult the iPhone map a few times to get through here. I should have made cues, but I didn't. Next time....
|Barns For Jason #5|
|Back in Black Hawk County on Teem Road.|
I decided on the shortest possible gravel route in and out of Buchanan County, since anything else would have been 10+ more miles, mostly due to having to go so far East to get around the rivers in the area. I was kind of hoping I'd have that kind of time, but I didn't, and I was not really prepared to do a 60+ mile day either. 50-ish? Yes, I could do that with what I had brought for water and food, but while ten extra miles doesn't sound like much, I didn't want to feel like death when I got back to the house either.
|Allis in Wonderland|
|Big Rock Road was more like "Big Smoothie Road" on Sunday.|
|Oh yeah! I rode this for the route Sunday. |
I made a quick stop at the 'Big Rock' to eat a bit and rest. The ride went well, and I even felt pretty good going against the wind, which had come up significantly about halfway through the ride. I felt so good it was uncanny to me. Like I said, I felt the best I had felt on a bike all year.
So, I was pretty pleased with it all. I have to get back out there and add a bit into Buchanan County to make this maybe a century ride at some point this year. It's already going a bit over 50 miles from the house and just about that from Gates Park. I figure it could take in some Amish/Mennonite country up by Fairbank/Hazelton and that should about do it with a trip around Littleton thrown in for good measure and resupply.