Changing Seasons

This bike ride on the Raccoon River Valley trail had two objectives:  1) Admire the fall colors 2) Test out new handlebars. 

The Redfield grain elevator was busy when I arrived at the trailhead.  Roaring dryers, semi trucks circling, and airborne corn chaff are also signs of fall in Iowa.  Leaving the noise and dust behind I headed towards the river and checked out the spillway before hopping onto the trail.

The falling leaves were just as crisp as the temperatures.  Colors were on the yellow side of the pallet.  The trail wasn't covered completely yet and was free of limbs and walnuts so it was easy to pedal along and admire the changing scenery.  

One of the gravel crossings had recently been paved.  The new designs encourage cyclists to slow a bit and help with seeing oncoming traffic.  

A few days prior I had replaced the handlebars on the Iron Giant and taken short spins to test them out.  I was looking forward to see what they felt like on a longer ride.

I love the look of the new bars, and the different vantage point from behind them.  The upright posture is a way better fit.  The set up isn't aesthetically perfect since I'm using the same shifters,  but it worked just fine and was very comfortable grip.

Handlebars and the weather don't appear to be the only thing changing.  My bike riding is entering a new season as well.  Another mile away from the norm that is Iowa cycling and closer to what is unique to me.  

Happy Riding!

 

 

Hammock Ride to Hanging Rock Park

The morning had only two items on the agenda:  Bicycling and hammocking.

Iowa-Bike-Rides-Hanging-Rock

With my gear tucked away in my pannier I headed out on the Raccoon River Valley Trail.  My destination was Hanging Rock Park in Redfield.  It's a secluded gem with it's sandstone ledges and shady spots for a restful bike break.  (For additional information on Hanging Rock Park check out this previous write-up.) 

I made a stop at the Adel "plaza" to admire the new trail signage and then experienced disappointment when finding the water fountain inoperable.  A pretty trailhead is nice, but I think this is an example of where function needs to be the priority.

Wild plums along the trail still need ripening time.  I picked a couple and found them super tart.  The tree canopy was in it's glory and the trail surface in better condition.  Kudos to the folks who filled the gaps and smoothed the bumps!

Arriving at Hanging Rock I set up the hammock and then explored around.  Man the water was muddy!  I had a the place to myself until I heard the noon whistle blow in town.  Then a gentleman arrived for his lunch break.  He said hello and asked a few questions about my hammock before heading back to the brick plant. Lucky me didn't have anywhere to be but hanging among the trees.

Happy Riding!

Different but Same

As you know, I ride the Raccoon River Valley Trail frequently.  One would think riding the same routes would get mundane, but I've yet to get bored.  It's no exaggeration that something new or different catches my attention.  

This fall ride can't be described as eventful, just an out-in-back from to Redfield.  But, there were sightings causing me to pause, point, and click:

  • Adel's new Patriot Rock painted by art students who deserve an "A".
  • The carved boulder a stone's throw away from the Redfield trailhead. 
  • The posted conservation sign causing me to realize I consider myself wildlife. 
  • A swath of green keeping corn and beans in their rightful places.
  • A truck driver who either can't read...or just won't.
  • The "closing for the winter" sign at the ice cream shop.

Each ride is unique...but they do have a common element.  I'll let you guess which one.

Happy Riding! 



Bike Season Bug Season

The Trail

If you want to get some serious miles in, The "Raccoon" is the perfect trail.  Trailside towns are less than 10 miles apart and provide good options for where to start/stop a ride or to take a break.  There is a variety of scenery ranging from open farmland to wooded areas flanking rivers and creeks. Riders 18 and up are required to a user fee of $2 a day or $10 for a year.  Strong boxes are located at trailheads for purchasing trail permits. 

Trail Map

Trail Information


The Ride

It's a rare thing in Iowa when the wind isn't blowing.  Absent winds make for great bike riding opportunities.  Unfortunately, they can make for a bug filled bike ride.  

This  season gnats have been congregating in droves along river trails.  Clouds of them wait for cyclists to pedal through to later find themselves covered in black flecks.   Eye wear is a must along with remembering to keep the mouth closed and the jersey zipped shut.  

Bugs be dammed I took advantage of the nice weather and rode from Waukee to Redfield. The ride was relatively uneventful and the trail quiet.  New signs at intersections along the Highway 6 have been posted as a result of the Avian Flu.  

Passing through Adel around 5:00 I waited several minutes where the trail crosses  Kinnick Drive.  Cars, cars, cars!  Looks like Adel could use another stop light.  Next to Adel City Hall I saw a large boulder that looked to be in the process of being painted as a type of memorial. 

Reaching the Redfield trailhead I refilled my water bottle inside the depot and noticed a charging station. What a great idea!   This is just one of the handy amenities cyclists can find along  Raccoon River Valley Trail.  

Outside the depot I took a break to enjoy the sandwich I packed  and ended up discussing the virtues of PB&J with a gentelman there.  We decided there's a science to making them and how no matter how old you are, a peanut butter and jelly sandwich is always good, and even better when you can eat them outside.  

Gnats galore on the ride back!  Maybe that's why the trail was so quiet.

Happy Riding!






Season Opener

Trail: Raccoon River Valley Trail

Location: Redfield to Panora

Ride Length:  Long

Surface:  Asphalt and concrete

Terrain: Flat with slight grades

Date:    3-29-2014

Time:    1:00

Weather: 40’s/Sunny/Breezy

Starting Point: Trailhead in Redfield

Ride Map

Trail Map

Trail Resources


Overview

  • It was the official opening day for trails across the United States and the Iowa weather was encouraging folks to get out and celebrate.  I drove west to Redfield to ride the remaining south/southwest corner of the Raccoon River Valley Trail.  

  • At the Redfield trailhead is a restored train depot.  Facilities are open May through September.  It was quiet there with no other cyclists about.  I unloaded the Iron Giant and headed west on the trail with the intention of riding for for an hour and returning to Redfield.

  • The majority of this route travels through wooded areas.  It’s a favorite for cyclists during the summers providing cool relief on a hot day.  

  • The trail wasn’t very busy.  The majority of riders were from towns along the trails.  A group of kids just outside of Linden, a father with his boys, and a couple enjoying the trail on their recumbent bikes south of Panora.  

  • The Dallas/Guthrie county line is not far outside of Linden and is designated with a welcome sign.  At the next gravel road intersection the path changes from asphalt to concrete.

  • Northwest of Linden my watch said it was time to turn around.  Ignoring it I pedaled on towards Panora deciding it would be my turnaround spot.

  • A cool thing happened where the trail intersects with Yellow Ave.  The odometer on the the Iron Giant reached 1,000 miles!  

  • The Guthrie county side of this route becomes more open with glimpses of farm fields and grasses flanking the trail.

  • My turnaround location was the Panora trailhead.  It isn't fancy but is conveniently located next to PJ’s Drive In.

Considerations

  • Riding through forested areas can be a tricky combination of keeping an eye out for tree debris on the trail and enjoying the scenery.

  • Trees flanking the trails results in bumps and dips from roots making their way under the asphalt.  I was caught by surprise by with a big jolt from a bump I didn’t see because of the shadows on the trail.   Ugh! That’s a feeling I hate!

  • Riders get to contend with loose gravel at the multiple gravel road intersections. I got a little wobbly on one of them and wondered if maybe I should free my feet before crossing these types of intersections.  

Stops

  • I took a short break in Linden to check out their trailhead and a longer one on the bridge crossing Mosquito Creek.  There I enjoyed the sounds of the cardinals calling to each other while I ate a small snack.

Sightings

  • On this route you can see a Raccoon from the Raccoon..the Middle Raccoon River that is.  There’s a good spot to pull off the trail and take some pictures of the river as it winds it’s way to meet the Raccoon River south of Redfield.

  • The water tower in Linden is a rare sight.  Not many towns have this style of towers anymore.  

  • Bluebird houses can be seen along the more open portion of the trail.  

  • If it wasn’t for the leafless trees I would have missed spotting an old wooden bridge covered in moss and fallen leaves.  I suspect a farmer constructed it in the past to help get equipment across the creek.

  • A tree trunk sporting some Artist’s Conk (shelf mushrooms) caught my eye.  

Treats

  • I brought along DIY Nutterbutters (aka graham crackers and peanut butter).  With a new rear rack installed on the Iron Giant I realized it can serve as little table. How quaint!

Wrap Up

This ride is just one of many I’ll be taking on the Raccoon River Valley Trail. Opening day for the trails couldn’t have been much better!  

Happy Riding!