Wimping Out?

With another winter storm scheduled to arrive I wanted to get out and enjoy a ride.  It wasn't too cold (low 30's) and the wind was calm.  The only unknown was the condition of the trail. Would there be leftovers from Thanksgiving's freezing rain?  

Setting out from Waukee with Adel as my destination I quickly discovered signs, trees and grasses still coated in ice.  However, the trail was dry and ice-free.  Arriving in Ortonville I was a bit apprehensive of the wooded area ahead.  Would it be dry too?

I was in luck.....until the first bridge.  It was a sheet of ice.  I dismounted and shuffled across.  This was repeated two more times before reaching Adel where I called in a rescue. Thankfully my husband was willing to fetch me for an ice-free and warm ride back home.  

Waiting for my ride I headed over to the Adel spillway for a bit of exploring.   The Wiscotta Bridge is on the west side of the spillway.  It's one of the oldest iron truss bridges remaining in Iowa.  Built in 1879, it spanned the south Raccoon River in Wiscotta (now considered Redfield). In 1996 the bridge was moved to Adel for preservation and enjoyment of those visiting Island Park.  

I suppose one could call me a wimp for not returning home by bike.  Some may view this ride as abandoned.  I'm certainly not chalking it up as a failure, or incomplete.   Being chauffeured home in a warm vehicle while sipping hot cocoa is  just another type of 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!

Coffee Ride on the Raccoon

The Trail

Just blocks away from home, this is my go-to trail.  While I've yet to ride all of the available 89 miles of trail (maybe someday!) The Raccoon River Valley trail is a great trail for long rides.  Trailside towns are less than 10 miles apart and provide good options for where to start/stop a ride or to take a break. The trail provides 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

After a previous ride on the Raccoon I had stopped for a post-ride treat at Al Dente.  Read about that here.  Months later I found myself continuing to crave another delicious latte.  Time for a coffee ride!

This spring day turned out to be a rarity.  Clear skies AND calm winds.  The mysterious headwinds weren't even out between Waukee and Ortonville!  I stopped to take yet another picture of the Iron Giant.  This time it included a lion, which is ironic as years ago this spot was once home to a circus business and real lions. 

The trail between Ortonville and Adel had minimal tree debris from the previous days winds and rain.  There were some serious pot hole type dips in the asphalt.  Hopefully those will get filled in soon.  

Reaching Adel I noticed a new fixstation installed at the rest area at Kinnick Drive.  How cool would it be if every trail town on the Raccoon had one of these available?  

Just a block off the trail on the town square I found Al Dente and ordered my latte. If you ride the RRVT and like espresso beverages, make plans to stop for a cup.  Al Dente is an example of how there is more than beer and burgers to be found along the bike trail.  

Since it was so pleasant out I found a comfortable bench out in the sun across the street on the courthouse lawn.  Modeled after a castle southwest of Paris, France, the courthouse has lots to take in.  There is the red tiled roof, the turret shaped corners, the Goddess of Justice holding the scale of justice, the bell tower, and the large Roman numeraled clocks.  It's staggering to consider how this amazing work of art was once in danger of being torn down. Thankfully the community voted to restore and remodel the aging building.    

The courthouse isn't the only noteworthy element on the square.  There is a veteran memorial, a time capsuel and small gardens.  Several benches around the square provide relaxing spots to take a break from a busy day or a bike ride.

After finishing my treat it was time to head back home.  Along the way I stopped and used a bit of chalk to leave other riders a note.  Maybe you've seen it. 

Happy Riding! 

Returning to the Raccoon River Valley Trail

The Trail

The Raccoon River Valley trail is one of Iowa’s premier trails.  With 89 miles to ride and 15 communities to visit, it provides lots of route options for cyclists in central Iowa.  Each trailside community has it’s own trailhead.  Most are renovated train stations as this bike trail was once a railway.Trailside towns are less than 10 miles apart and provide good options for where to start/stop a ride or to take a break. The Raccoon River Valley Trail provides a variety of scenery ranging from open farmland to tree-lined tunnels of the wooded areas flanking rivers and creeks.

Trail Map

Trail Information

The Ride

Blessed with a December day of warm temperatures and light winds I took advantage of having the Raccoon River Valley Trail close to home and headed to Adel with plans of riding to Redfield and back.  

To date, winter riding on the bike trails has been minimal.  I have taken the  majority of my riding inside at my local YMCA.   Cycling class is a fun and fantastic workout . The exertion of these rides far exceeds what I typically have used to turn the pedals out on the trail. Unfortunately, taking time off the Iron Giant results in getting used to it's fit and feel once back in the saddle.  

Only a few yards from the trailhead I noticed how my favorite "easy" gear was sluggish.  It felt like there was WAY more road underneath the tire.  A side effect from trading outdoor rides for the comfort of the cycling studio. Fortunately by the time I reached Redfield I was feeling back in the groove.

The warmer weather and high humidity resulted in a hazy day.  Luckily for me the sun made appearance halfway through my ride.  Despite the fact there wasn’t any snow,  trail signposts indicated the trail is open for snowmobiling.  

Improvements have been made to several of the bridges leaving them with smooth concrete buffers.  No more jarring jolts when crossing the bridges.  

Arriving in Redfield I stopped to take a picture of the trail bridge decorated for Christmas.   According to the Raccoon River Valley Trail Association Facebook page, the trail was decorated by the Donna Davis.  She did a great job spreading Christmas cheer!

The Redfield trailhead was bundled up for winter after a facelift earlier in the season.  The old building to the south has been removed and an area for covered awnings added.  

Returning to Adel I made a stop downtown for a visit to Al Dente.  Their purple and teal storefront  is hard to miss.  It’s a cozy spot specializing in Italian toffee made from a family recipe passed down for generations.  I bought a small bag of the popular Classic Almond along with a latte.  Both were delicious.  The toffee was soft and not sticky and the coffee was one of the best cups I’ve had in a very long time!   To learn more about Al Dente read this great article from Discover Adel.

While enjoying my post-ride treat I thought about it good it felt to get back out on the trail.  Nothing compares to pedaling a bike that actually takes you places.  Cycling class is a great way to get through the winter months and stay ride-ready.  However, with each opportunity I get to return to the trail this winter I will need to be prepared to set aside a few miles for getting reintroduced to the feel and the fit of the Iron Giant.

Happy Riding!