Thursday, June 15, 2023

Country Views; Dust In The Wind

Escape Route: Ridge Road, Tama County
I was contacted by my church's lead pastor a week or so ago about maybe going for a gravel ride Tuesday. Well, as things went, it all worked out and he hauled myself and the Singular Cycles Gryphon Mk3 to Traer, Iowa for an afternoon of riding the hills of Tama County. 

I think this might have been the oddest pair of "gravel bikes" I've had the pleasure of being a part of riding in some time. As I said, the big, fat tired Singular was one, but the other was a kind of rare v2 Surly Instigator. Josh has it set up with a pair of Surly Corner Bars and it looks almost like a Ghost Grappler, really. It's cooler than that bike though, in my opinion. 

It was pretty warm. Up into the 80's, but with a big high pressure system stalled out to our Northwest, the air has been really dry and, of course, it has been quite breezy. Probably up into the mid-20's mph out in the country with a few higher gusts out of the Northwest. Based on that, my route I suggested we do used Ridge Road, a wandering stretch of gravel that works its way up onto a high ridge and takes you Northwestward for several miles.

My riding partner for the day, Josh Paxton.

The views are spectacular from Ridge Road.

The road rises quickly after a mile or so of flat terrain hard by the Wolf Creek which runs through Traer. The steep climb really reminded me that Tama County is filled with hills like this. Much steeper, longer, higher, and more numerous than anything we have in Black Hawk County. 

Once you get up on the ridge though things calm down and the views open up. We were treated to farms tucked away in valleys, roads running away in what looked like fluttering white ribbons, and blue skies with white clouds flying on the wind high above. 

One of the things that became readily apparent on this ride was that there was a lot of gravel dust in the air. You could see it, but more importantly, you could feel it on your tongue and in your nose. I was drinking water at an accelerated rate just because the dust was caking my throat. 

The dust was coloring the lower horizon in a wash of whitish-grey. You could see dust flying in the backdrop of the green crops and trees. It was weird but with such dry air and all the wind, it wasn't a surprise. 

I have to say that despite the fact that we were headed into a pretty stiff wind, it wasn't all that bad. Maybe my mind was occupied elsewhere with conversation with Josh, or maybe I was just riding well. Hard to say, but I do know that going up wasn't a big deal and I thought it was going to be. 

The roads were mostly fresh graveled. Deep, chunky gravel that would have been really rough to ride on less than 50mm tires. Josh had 2.2's and I was running the 2.8's and we were quite comfortable, but still getting a bit knocked around by loose gravel at times. 

Josh had to attend to his phone so we took a break here.

We managed to get up and ride the three miles of 110th Street.

Once we almost reached the Black Hawk County line we turned on to the three mile stretch of 110th Ave. for some dirt action, and it was good! Then it was a turn to the South and out of the wind. Having a big tailwind push here worked out well. It was what I was hoping for to happen. 

Barns for Jason

So we finally made the round trip in a loop right back where we started and it ended up being 20 miles on the dot. I couldn't have planned that if I tried, it's just how it came out. It was very nice of Josh to get me and take me to Traer so I could ride some roads I haven't been on in quite a while now. To ride that stuff would have ended up being an all day affair and close to 100 miles had I done it from my door. 

I sure hope that I can add a few more rides like this sometime in 2023 before it gets too cold out.


R said...

I remember you describing 'ridge road' out of Traer (years ago). One day, with a south wind, I rode from Grinnell to Reinbeck (met my brother at a nano-brewery there for a ride home). I made sure to find Ridge Road - and it was worth finding. thanks GT.

Guitar Ted said...

@R - I am glad you were able to ride that road!

james said...

Would you happen to know what type of handlebars those are on Josh's bike?

Guitar Ted said...

@james - I tell you what they are in the second paragraph of the post. ;>)

teamdarb said...

As owner of a TransAm Gold V.2, I am super surprised to read one being ridden outside of urban or the deep woods. That frame is stout enough to test crash-test dummies. I am super impressed.

Tomcat said...

Perhaps I'm biased, but riding gravel out in Traer just hits me different than most other places near the Cedar Valley. The hills, the country views, and the B-roads. I really think it's gravel heaven out there. So glad you got to spend some time out there with a friend seizing the day. Have a great weekend, GT!

Guitar Ted said...

@Tomcat. Tama County is pretty special, for sure. I agree with you 100%. A close second would be Poweshiek County. I'd highly recommend any ride out of Grinnell. Jasper County, being the neighbor immediately to the West of Grinnell is no slouch either.