Monday, August 07, 2023

Country Views: The Man Of Dust

Escape Route: The much neglected bike path along US 218/27
 Thursday I had a hankering - and the time on my hands - to go for a nice ride in the country. The morning was grey and quite foggy, so I waited until the afternoon to ride. 

It was in the upper 80's, humid, and the breezes were out of the Southeast, but very light for the most part. I wore a typical Summer kit, but with an eye to avoid black stuff, hoping that this would keep me cooler. 

The ride was done on the Twin Six Standard Rando v2 with the new Enduro Bearings parts. I need to get on with putting that stuff to the test now. I did not use the GPS this time. I just wanted to ride. Computers are distracting to me, especially in terms of how I enjoy riding, so no GPS testing this time.

The Cedar River at Evansdale. Looking pretty poorly these days!

"First gravel" starts just up that hill ahead.

The bike trail is under construction during the weekdays which cut off my passage I normally use from Waterloo to Evansdale. So, I used some back streets to get there and then I get off Lafayette Road as soon as I can in Evansdale because it is a very busy road. I go South and cut across town on Central Avenue and then I pop out on Lafayette on the East side of that town and head on up the hill to Elk Run Heights. Then its down to a little corner where there is a subdivision called "Raymar". Once I get there it's off Eastward on Birdland Drive which turns into Young Road and gravel. Interestingly, I can ride some nice, hard-packed gravel shoulders all the way from Elk Run Heights, so gravel action starts sooner than you'd think if you are looking for it. 

Young Road is not used by many gravel riders here in the area, and that's a shame.

Partly cloudy skies provided a lot of light and shadow contrasts.

My original thoughts were to go on a different route. I had been thinking a good dirt road ride would be fun and not too taxing in the heat. I could go out Southeast of Waterloo via Evansdale and hit up those dirt roads near the CVNT and come back home. But as I was riding along, I felt inspired to head East and get on Young Road. 

Gravel taxi

Garling Road

I was calculating and recalculating my route as I went, and eventually I just resolved to head out as far East on Young Road as I could before I ran out of options to head North on gravel. That led me to Garling Road where I then headed North with an eye to eventually get to Big Rock Road and that would take me back to just North of Waterloo. 

"John's Cross" in the East ditch on Holgate Road Just South of Osage Road.
The prairie sunflowers are just starting to appear.

I was pleased to come across what I call "John's Cross" in the ditch on Holgate Road. It is a white cross made of wood with the name "John" on it with an accompanying cross alongside of it. Generally speaking, when you see this sort of memorial it is a place marker for where someone lost their life. It almost is never a grave site. 

I'm not sure what the motivation is for doing this sort of thing at the place where someone dies, almost always in an automobile accident, by the way. It's kind of like the Ghost Bike thing, but Ghost Bikes are there to raise awareness for cycling, cyclists rights, and lack of infrastructure, plus marking where someone died. I am a bit more understanding of the Ghost Bike thing. But this other practice, as in the example of "John's Cross", eludes me. Beyond the obvious demonstration of grief, that is. 

Anyway, the whole idea of this marker intrigues me to the point that I have done a few artistic studies of the place and in doing so, I have previously always forgotten to mark exactly where the crosses are. I have looked twice earlier this year and haven't found them, but on this ride, when I was not looking for them, there they are! So you can bet that I made a hard mental note of the place this time. 

"Gospel of John", pen and ink study, 2021

After that "discovery" I moved on and did a jig-a-jog over on Osage Road West to Nesbit Road North to get to Airline Road (or "Highway", depending on what map you look at). That took me over to what ended up being the most interesting, and surprising bit for the day. 

First was a dog encounter. I was coming up on a farm and I heard the big "woof! woof!" of a dog that sounded rather large. And it was! Around the corner of the driveway going into the farm came a big, furry German Shepherd dog. A male by the size of it and judging by its glorious "mane". These are not common dogs here in the country. They are extremely intelligent and if trained correctly, they can be awesome animals. However; if they came out of a police academy, or if they were trained in aggressive protection, they can be very dangerous. Which dog I had on my hands here I wasn't sure of. 

The owner was quick to be heard, which was good. The dog did not come to heel though, which indicated to me that this German Shepherd was probably not trained at all, or poorly trained. Like most dogs I encounter then.

Anyway, the owner had to come all the way out into the road, grab the dog's collar, and command it to be still before I could pass. A bit of pleasant conversation ensued. However; in my mind, that was a big fail on that dog owner's part. Do better people! 

I rode on....

A massive, old barn complex on Osage Road
This field of soybeans is looking good despite the dry weather in Iowa.

The weather this Summer has been on the dry side. June was absolutely dry. No rain to speak of, really. July saw a few good rainfalls, but lately we've fallen back into a very dry pattern and that showed in the dusty roads. None more dusty than the ones I was riding up on to finish out my loop. 

St. Francis Catholic Church on Airline Highway.

Dust fills the road behind this pick-up truck on Airline Highway.

I stopped for a rest at St. Francis Church. It was getting downright hot and the wind wasn't strong enough to bring much relief at this point in the late afternoon. I was headed West straight into the Westering Sun and the full power of the Sun's rays was brought to bear upon me. By this point, I was figuring on a few more stops before the end of the ride, just to get some relief. 

And my shoes were killing me! I have these special edition Desert RX8 Shimano shoes which Shimano graciously sent me some time ago. I rarely wear them because they are tighter than my other 46 size shoes. In fact, I am fully convinced these are really 45's. So, if you are interested in a pair of green/purple Shimano RX8's at a good price. Let me know. Seriously.... These shoes don't fit me! 

This glacial erratic is engraved with a pioneer's name and dated. You don't see that often!

Taking refuge from the Sun here on Schenk Road.

When I left St. Francis, I heard a familiar sound. It was of a small engine airplane, but it was a lot nearer to me than it should be. Then I saw it. A crop duster! It had just arrived upon the scene to spray a field just to the South of the church. It's big, swooping turns were fun to watch for a minute. Once the plane came straight over me. I saluted the pilot and moved onward. 

Then I came across a bunch of birds frolicking in the humid air. Those birds were gathering for their move Southward. The countryside is already getting quieter. This is that time of year when everything seems still and frozen in time, at least to me. The "neek-breekers" fill the air with their constant creaking, and the air gets almost stagnant at times, what with the stuffy humidity and usual lack of wind in August. 

A car leaves a dust contrail across the horizon as it scuds along Sage Road.

Remnants of dust hang in the ditches and air above Airline Highway. There is a car up the road waiting which you cannot see here.

I jigged over to Big Rock Road, then made my way over to Schenk Road, back South to Airline Highway again, and that's when I came across another bout with dust. 

There was enough traffic in the area and not enough wind that gravel dust was just hanging in the air. I met a dump truck on my final mile on Airline Highway which was raising so much dust that I could not see anything at all! I slowed down until I could make out the road again and then I saw another car waiting for the dust to clear as well so it could pass along the road. 

I haven't encountered dust like this for many a year. The climatologists indicate that we are in a moderate to severe drought here, and by the indications I see, I'd agree with their assessments. It is crazy dusty out there, and all the creeks and rivers are pretty low. 

All in all it was a great ride and I made it home. First thing I did was to get those confounded shoes off my feet! Ahh...... That's better! 

Until next time.... Thanks for reading Guitar Ted Productions

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