Thursday, October 19, 2017

You Know All The Answers Must Come From Within

I just realized that I have been delinquent in blogging about my riding. I assure you, the lone reader, that I have not given up riding, building bikes, discovering new trails and roads, or even poured myself into new hobbies. I'm a biker, can't quit if I had to.
The images here are from yesterday. I rode my age in miles, 52 this year. It's my own annual physical of sorts. Much like last year the weather was ideal, and my nutrition was dismal. I neglected to pack any food, only one water bottle, no tools, and no sun glasses. I paid the nutritional price for it too. I was walking hills toward the end that I would normally laugh at. I'm sure that I had a goofy look on my face. The vacant stare of a third world starving fool perhaps? Yep. Oh well, I survived. Seriously, these are some massive river valley hills that I rode, along with a Class C road that simply petered out into nothing.

 I'll go back on a proper gravel bike some day and show those miles who's the boss. My 40 pound Mongoose Malus was not the ideal weapon for these roads, but the tires just sound so good on that White Rock gravel that it's worth every aching mile. Still funny to me that one county (Boone) will have brown gravel and the next (Webster and Hamilton) will have tiny sized white rock. I much prefer the white as it puts a better coat of dust on your bike, but maybe that's just me? Badge of Honor kind of thing.
So here are some pics, and I'll do a write up on the trip I took to Duluth back in July and August. Solo ride to Split Rock Light House up in my absolute favorite place ever. That was a soul cleansing experience and I'm better off for having done it. Bikes can solve a lot of problems. Or, at least, they can empower you to solve them yourself. Later!

I have ridden many a gravel mile and never have I seen a feature like this. The county boys poured a concrete culvert right across the road. Must really be a rager when the rain is heavy. This area is known as Deception Hollow, on Maguire's Bend. You look at the river and it defies logic by flowing in what seems like the wrong direction. Super cool.

They put signs like this out there to tempt simple minded idiots like me. Speaking of, October 17th is the birthday of America's Greatest Showman, Evel Knievel! Alright, bye now.

Tuesday, March 28, 2017

It's Just a Phase

I completed another phase of my renegade bench project today. I bolted two wood planks onto the original cast cement structures, using the original nuts and bolts no less. I had taken some measurements on a previous ride so that I would be carrying fewer tools during the installation. I used a 16" Crescent Wrench to tighten things up. I was sure that my dad had a socket set with a big enough socket, but to my amazement he did not. The nuts are fairly well recessed into the sleepers.

I had spotted a nice old timber in Slater during the final Fat Bike Series ride, so my final task today was to retrieve it from the pile of discarded railroad refuse that it was buried in and haul it, by bike/shoulder, back to the bench.  A distance of about a mile and a half. I couldn't wait to drop that thing off! Very heavy, and awkward to balance 70 pounds while riding. Here is a photo that brings the scale of the bench into perspective.

The next phase should involve cutting the timber down to make a pair of sleepers to go across the cement castings, then drilling them out and attaching them with lag bolts. Once that's done all I need to do is cut some decking boards and screw them in. I may just do this as a final push, in one trip. Sounds like a good excuse to load up the Burley and ride all the way down. There's actually some nice winding gravel between Boone and this spot. Below is a cement culvert that I have probably ridden over more than 30 times without knowing it was even there! Another case of the bleakness of winter revealing the otherwise overgrown and hidden. ( like the beaver pond that I found on the Heart of Iowa Trail last year) It is about 9 feet tall at the crown of the arch, and about 50 or 60 feet long. Hard for me to imagine the sheer willpower it must have taken back in 1912 just to form the footings, let alone mix and pour all of those cubic yards of cement!

Wednesday, March 8, 2017

Renegade Made In The Shade

I used a narrow time window today to get in a short ride on the High Trestle Trail. The only thing I really wanted to do was get some measurements for the bench that I'm going to "contribute" to the trail. I saw this old trio of dilapidated, forgotten rail road apparatus during one of the Fat Bike Series rides and the idea to build a bench on part of it was immediate. I'm curious about what was built on these castings originally, but I'm quite sure that it wasn't a free shade bench.

The bright skies gave way to rapidly approaching clouds, which dumped huge globs of slush on me during the drive back to Boone. The slushy snowflakes were the diameter of a quarter. Yesterday we had temps in the 70s with tornadic winds, today was sun then snow then sun again, and the weekend looks like measurable snow. Only in Iowa.

Monday, February 27, 2017

Marsh Madness

Sunday was another ride in the Fat Bike Series, another gorgeous day for a ride. I was hoping that we could ride in some snow during one of these, but it has been such a mild winter that there has been no snow to crush! Riding along solo got so boring that I decided to turn off of the "polite" route and grab a few miles of good old gridded out Iowa gravel. Am I ever glad that I did too. I found a previously unknown (to me)  example of a Marsh Arch Bridge. Marsh bridges are commonly called "rainbow" bridges because of the distinctive arches at the sides. These bridges were created by architect James Marsh. He was a graduate of Iowa State University, in nearby Ames. The bridge design was patented in 1910 and built by the hundreds throughout the entire country through the late 30s. There are at least 5 in Boone County, one down in Dallas County, and one that serves as the logo for the city of Des Moines with a series of arches (Court Avenue Bridge) The one that I discovered is over Big Creek. The Wikipedia page has a complete listing of the design examples. Fitting that so many of them are within a stone's throw of ISU, where the idea for their design took root. I had a dream to try to ride to each of the Boone County examples this summer. Could be good for some blog fodder if nothing else.
I also had an idea to build a bench along the trail using a long forsaken pair of cement castings from the days of railroading. This will be a renegade build, no permission asked for, or given. It just needs to be done. More on this later. In the mean time...

Tuesday, February 14, 2017

Sunday Putt Putt Ride

I did the Fat Bike Series ride again last weekend. It was a great day, just a little windy. Warm, so warm in fact that I saw a caterpillar on the concrete, making his way across a bit at a time. I don't care what the science or other quackery says about climate change, winter anymore is no longer a test of endurance. It's a short bit of cold weather, a bit of snow here or there, and some gloomy days strung in between some nice days. There, that should jinx next year pretty solidly.

Saturday, February 11, 2017

Well Worn

Tuesday found me on the road again, riding from Reilly Auto in Ames back to my home in Boone. The roads here have firmed up pretty well, save a few areas of soft gravel in some low spots. Tomorrow is looking like another nice day for riding. I'll be doing the Fat Bike Series again. Madrid to Slater, back to Madrid and out to the HTT bridge for a selfie. Probably going to be annoyingly crowded. And, since there is certainly not any snow around, I'm not riding a fat bike. I'll probably take my 32er for the heck of it.
Picks from the grit...

Wednesday, January 11, 2017

A Decade In The Making

Last Sunday I  took part in the first of several fat bike rides being sponsored by the Nite Hawk Lounge in Slater, and Flat Tire Lounge in Madrid. The concept is simple. Bring any bike, get a punch card at one of the sponsoring locations, get a punch from the first location, ride to the second location, get a punch there, then ride to the bridge on the HTT and take a selfie there. Three stops, three punches. At the end of the series there is a drawing for a Specialized Fat Boy SE from Kyle's Bikes in Ankeny. Like I need another bike....But still.
So it was not really very cold, not a bit of snow for that stereotypical fat ride, and I had to do something that I have not done in well over a decade. I went into a BAR!!! Not really anything I have tried to, or had to avoid, but just a silly streak that developed and ran on. I can't even remember the last bar I was in. (Restaurants that also serve alcohol don't count.) So I guess that I'll have to sacrifice my streak through this series and resolve to start over afterword. And hope that I win a bike for it. Later!