Saturday, May 06, 2023

Country Views: Country Rocks

Escape route: Bike trail along HWY 63 North.
Well, after a tumultuous April, weather-wise, we have kicked off the Month of May with some absolute bangers. The air is dry, there are no insects to speak of .....yet, and the winds are not stupid-crazy. Well, they were over the weekend, but this week has been awesome. 

I got out for a ride finally on Thursday in air that started off cool-ish and due to the lack of humidity, the air temperature was quickly racing up to what ended up being a Summer-like day of 80 degrees plus. The wind was out of the Southwest, and was pretty steady at 20mph, so I went North first, of course. Why not finish off with a headwind for once? 

It was bright, Sunny, and there wasn't a cloud in the sky. It doesn't get a whole lot better than this, and sooner or later we will have that brutal humidity we always get here. So, having this drier air was a limited chance to experience a warm weather ride without becoming sweat-soaked for once!

The Boat House at Exchange Park on the Cedar River in Waterloo, Iowa.

Mid-American Energy's solar farm off Burton Avenue as seen on my way out to the gravel roads.

It wasn't quite "up to temp" as I started, so I had on arm warmers, a vest, and I wore my old Bontrager commuter 3/4's pants. By the time I got done I could have shed the vest and arm warmers, but since I was about done I just kept plugging along. 

This lonely tree is surrounded by freshly planted fields.

The first ditch flowers of the year, Dandelions, are out now everywhere.

I headed North, as I said, which is mostly uphill as you leave Waterloo, and the roads were okay. The business of planting season, while almost done, has beaten some of the rock into dust and has also cleared up some paths through the crushed rock in places. Still, there was a lot of semi-fresh gravel to negotiate. Good thing I was testing the 700 X 45mm Pirelli Cinturato M's, as they help smooth things out quite a bit. 

A John Deere tractor doing some field work off of Burton Avenue.

The tulips on this farm were positively glowing in the late morning light.

I rode the pink BMC MCD bike for this ride because of the aforementioned tires, but I think this is the bike I'm taking to Kansas because I hear they want us GCHoFers to do a special ride this year the day of the induction ceremonies. I figured I would start using this bike more this month then. 

Not much for clean "lanes" but there was a lot of loose, crushed rock out in the country.

And there were bigger rocks too. Glacial droppings gathered up along this fenceline

As I got to the North the roads were challenging for sure. Lots of loose, crushed rock to negotiate. It was bringing back some of those 2022 memories of Southern Black Hawk County rides, but not quite that bad. Those days are hopefully not coming back!

This time of year it is easier to spot the glacial droppings along fence lines and piled up along ditches in places. The stones can range from bicycle wheel-sized to the size of a small car. "Rock picking" is generally done at around this time of year. I suppose farmers still do that at times. 

A relatively small planting rig by today's standards.
The ditch is littered with large boulders along Moline Road

Once I turned back to go South I was met with the Southwest headwind I knew was coming. I did okay, albeit slower than I'd like to be going, into that wind. I know I said it was a 20mph wind, but it sure felt stiffer than that. I sometimes wonder when I see "drifting dust" being spun up and pushed along down a road as I am riding. There wasn't a lot of that, but when I see it, I always figure that the wind has to be pretty strong to blow limestone dust in that manner. 

It's interesting to watch the land being transformed from a dead, dry, brown wasteland into patches of freshly worked up dirt bordered by green grassy ditches and fence lines. Soon we will see the green heads of corn and beans poking through the rich black Earth and the cycle will repeat itself here again. A cycle which has been replayed here for around 170 years now. 

Before that bison and elk roamed freely here. The occasional passage of Native Americans could be evidenced by their trails worn into the tall prairie grasses. Otherwise this was an empty area. Sometimes I try to envision those hills being covered by grasses coming back to life again. It must have looked pretty imposing back then. 

And all those rocks I saw would have been hidden in the dirt yet, waiting to get exposed by the plow and the yearly boiling up of frost from Winter. The roads? All that limestone would still be under the rich black dirt. It sure must have been different back then.....

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