Monday, July 19, 2021

Country Views: Recon For ToBHC

Embarking from LaPorte City to save time.
 Saturday I introduced the idea I had for a "Tour of Black Hawk County" via mostly gravel. In that post I described how certain parts of the route were 'compromised' due to rivers and highways getting in the way combined with a lack of connected gravel roads. One of those problem areas was down in the Southeastern corner of the county.

I had a route idea planned but I thought maybe I could do better. Also, curiously the route planner would not allow me to route through a mile section of gravel in this area. It kept auto-routing around that road on to a paved section North of it. I zoomed in on the area and noted that there was a stream at the exact point that I was allowed to route to. Interesting...... Perhaps a bridge has been removed? The DOT maps did not show this. But then, I know how the DOT maps are often wrong. It is rarer for a GPS routing service to catch that though. Maybe this one did? I'd have to investigate for myself. 

As long as I was down there, I figured I could investigate another route possibility. The county border road actually seemed to terminate juuuust North of the Cedar Valley Nature Trail. Investigating further, I noted that by looking at Google Earth that a path from the road terminus down to the CVNT existed at one time recently. (Not knowing when the image was taken, I was assuming) Then there was another possibility with a rock quarry which abutted the bike trail and seemed to have an access to the county line road. 

So, with all of those tantalizing options to explore, which- if even one worked out, I would eliminate a huge bit of pavement, I left on Saturday afternoon to start my ride from La Porte City. It was typically hot and humid with a light Southeastern breeze. The air has been hazy here, likely from wildfires out West. The sky had a weird, unfocused look to it. With the Noble Bikes GX5, I took off into the haze to go in search of options. 

Using the CVNT would get me across the Cedar River on this bridge.

I have to admit that the section of the CVNT South of the Cedar crossing is interesting.

Getting South of La Porte City on the CVNT was going to be new territory for me. I had never ridden this trail before South of there, and that is kind of a crazy thought. In fact, as I rode it I figured that I should have ridden this section before. 15 years prior I was reconning the course for the third Trans Iowa. That course used the CVNT between Brandon and La Porte City, but I just gambled on it being good, and I never rode it to recon it then. This ride, then, was sort of a make-up ride of sorts as well as recon for my ToBHC. 

The CVNT past the Cedar River crossing South is pea gravel and compacted dirt. It also is a bit more scenic than the stretch North to Evansdale. I liked it better, still is rail-trail, which means it is not my favorite thing in the world to ride. Too flat!

A nice overlook at a rest stop along the CVNT of the Cedar River.

Either this is a gravity fed loading station for railway grain cars, or it is something outta science fiction!

The two CVNT related options turned out to be busts. The quarry was at a level higher than the trail and had no obvious access exit/entry to the trail. The road, actually Black Hawk/Bucahanan Road, terminates at a farm which has about a 100 yard marked "Private Drive Way" which continues on from the end of the road and which dumps right out on the CVNT. Man! just that short distance and I could have sliced off about three miles of the route along with some pavement. Oh well......

Onward to check out if there really is a bridge out or what...... 

The dust cloud up the road is from a pick-up driven by a not very nice man.

Barns For Jason #1

I reached the North bound gravel I would need to use now and went a mile or so on that before I would know about the bridge. But before that, I stopped to double check things on my iPhone map. While I was sitting there a white pick-up truck came up from behind me and slow rolled along side as I had mounted up and was rolling now. The window came down and "Mr. Smarty-Pants" made a remark about how the bicycle trail was 'back there' and went the other directions while he was laughing. Nice....

You know, in my head I am thinking, "What a jack-ass!", but you know, that wouldn't be nice back. So, instead, I just said, "Yeah, I know that, but I'm okay. I like riding on gravel. Thanks!", and he rolled on all the while visibly laughing at me. Whatever dude............

"Not all who wander are lost."

And not all who drive white pick-up trucks have any idea what I am doing. So, I let it go and rode onward. Unfortunately, the bridge was out, and the sign looked pretty permanent and old. So, that option was a bust as well. However; my bail-out ride back to La Porte showed me something unexpected.

Barns For Jason #2: This was on some of that pavement I was hoping to eliminate from the route.

McChrane Road looking West

I had previously decided to loop back to LaPorte City by revisiting a few roads I had done previously on "The Quest" last Fall in this area. While I was riding along, the thought occurred to me- "Why not use this instead of the CVNT?". I didn't know if there would be an advantage to it from the getting rid of pavement standpoint, because there was going to be a stretch of pavement coming into La Porte City, but why not consider it?

The idea would eliminate having to go into Buchanan County down there, and it would eliminate some pavement which vehicles would be going at highway speeds where there is no paved shoulder. The paved bit coming into La Porte has a paved shoulder for most of its way into town, with the exception of the last mile, which is where speed limits for the cars start to take effect. There is about a mile and a half of chip seal before the paved section which is little traveled. Plus, it would trade mileage, essentially, paved for paved, with the CVNT where it is also pavement. 

Overall, the 'North of the Cedar' approach loses about a mile and a third of pavement too. I think I will be modifying the route to reflect this. I like it better because it keeps the route in Black Hawk County. This is a tour of Black Hawk County after all. So, I was glad that I did the recon despite the three options not working out.


hank said...

G-T, Howdy;

Nice narrative today. Reckon the 'retro-look' is here for a bit.
Kinda reminds me of blogger pages when they first started out.


Rydn9ers said...

The gravity fed, alien probing station is rad looking.

Guitar Ted said...

@Rydn9ers - It is! The ironic thing is that this trail has been in existence since the 1980's and I've never seen or heard a thing about this structure. To my knowledge it hasn't been made mention of before in my circles. You'd think it would have at least been notable and talked about, but whatever.... Perhaps the first rule of the Gravity Fed Alien Probing Station is.....well- You know!