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!

Friday, December 23, 2016

The Cold Way Home

  •     Well, it was too nice of a day this past Tuesday to stay inside and waste the day. 41 degrees at the end of December, I couldn't say no to a ride.

What...this can't be right...
So I loaded up and headed for the Heart of Iowa Nature Trail, the nicest little trail around. Too bad that they paved a s!all section of it within the city of Huxley. This trail really shines in its natural form. Its a converted rails to trails type format. The rest of the surface is a nice crushed limestone. Perfectly dusty in the right season. Not dusty right now, but soft enough to leave a track in the snow or the stone.
I'm not the first to track this section.

Now, I have ridden this trail innumerable times over the years. I have even raced on it as a section of the Iowa Games Gravel Race. I was surprised, however, to find a couple of things on this ride that I had never noticed before. One of these new discoveries was an ages old spur line stuck in the overgrown side margin of a ravine. I caught the sun's rays reflecting on the rails, even though they were rusted, and patina from years of weathering and non-use had left them nearly invisible otherwise. Some time I'll stop and look closer at this pair of rails. The other discovery on this ride was a frozen beaver pond. It was completely flat, frozen quite solid from edge to edge and end to end, and I had no clue that it was there. Not twenty feet from the edge if the trail. 
Pretty sure I put first-ever tracks on this!

I'll be back to this spot with my other fat bike for some delicious donuts.
Like any great ride does, this one drew to a close before all of the fun could be extracted from it. On the briht side, that leaves something to come back to. Good perspective to keep on so many things in life, I think.