Friday, August 5, 2011


Long time since I posted any of my exploits. I just fell off the wagon for blogging I guess. Still been riding some good stuff lately though. I actually did two days of RAGBRAI, and a day of awesome gravel sight seeing. This year I traveled lighter than my last attempt. Ride smarter, not harder kind of thing. Still had a lot of stuff to tote around, but not a whole Burley full! 6 X 8 tarp, 12 feet of paracord, clips, shelter!

I was able to get a ride to the first overnight town, Atlantic, but had a wasted day on Sunday, since the "real" riders were coming into town that day. So I decided to ride free and aimlessly, yet fit in some landmarks. A little research and map study yielded two must- see destinations.

The first would be the legendary "Tree in the Road" just north of the interstate , South and East of Brayton. A few sketchy notes, a general idea of where it was, and I was off. Tons of real hills, not your central Iowa generics, but "real" hills down there! I stopped to chat with an old farmer and his wife, to be sure I was in the right area. They were boiling corn for canning, and told me that I must be lost if I was looking for RAGBRAI. They would be the first, but not the last, to suggest this. The man assured me that if I "went down to Mark Johnsons, turned right until I got to his hay field road, and just looked for it," I would find it! Oh, yeah, I know Mark Johnson of Nowhere, Iowa. Know right where he lives...
So the story on this tree goes like this. A surveyor was marking a spot between plots and stuck a Cottonwood twig in the ground to keep his place. He left it there and time took over. The roads grew around the tree, the tree grew around the roads, a couple of World Wars came and went, and now we have a very cool landmark. Even has a couple miles of smooth B road on the West approach.

From there I rode East by South to the site of the first train robbery in the West. On my journey I saw a crop duster flying over a corn field. Too bad the field was along the road I was riding, and I have no mites, chiggers,(or chegroes, as my dad always called them) weavels, gnats, root worms, grubs, or other undesirable hitch hikers on my person. I put my arms up in an X and motioned like a tomahawk chop that I would like to pass without having 2-4-D drift over me. He gave me a wing tilt to confirm, and took a dry pass as I booked down the road. That was cool. Silent communication. Upon reaching the paved road I needed to ride to get to my next stop, I stopped for a drink. A car pulled up to the stop sign and the driver told me that I was lost. If I recall his exact words, it went like "Shit Hoss, you're damn lost!" I assured him that I was in the right place, and he proceeded to tell me exactly how to get to where I already was, and called me Hoss about 10 more times. Nice guy though;)

So this was the spot where none other than Jesse James and his boys derailed a train, hoping to score $75000 in gold. They didn't know that the shipment was a day late, and stole $2000 cash from the people on the train instead. The engineer and stoker died of their injuries, and the guys went on gain infamy.
Got in about 60 miles of light touring, all gravel but about 4 miles of pavement and 3 of T Bone Trail, and tons of hills. I thought I had some rollers around home, but these are some rollers now! You know when you crest a nasty hill, and look down the other side, and the top of the next hill is higher than where you're sitting, you're on some rollers. Also, there are many subtle changes in gravel composition along the way. One county has chunky tan gravel, the next has nice pea gravel makeup, and another might have the hated white rock! "Never packed, always hungry for flesh, white rock. You're what's for breakfast."
Home after 9 hours of fun in the sun, showered and crashed. Saw this headstone along the way and had to have a picture. How about having that hanging over your head for eternity, mocking you with what you should have had more of! Kharma is indeed a bi#@%! Later!


Matthew Moggridge said...

Hey, nice post! Love that tree in the middle of the road. Hope you're well out there in Iowa. Nice and hot over here in London, which is good for cycling. Matt.

Travel Gravel said...

Hope you're staying out of the riots! All is well here. As long as I don't look at my stock reports I believe I will get through. I reached a little inkling of what homelessness might be like during my 3 day journey. I think the personal liberty would be refreshing, or should I say will be refreshing? Our hot weather from July must have drifted over the waves. I have never felt THAT hot. Next post will be more of RAGBRAI. Later!