Closing In

I am fortunate enough to get a week off work for the celebration of our ancestral continental thievery. I decided to use two days of my break to roll out two more gravel centuries for the dirt cup and just to keep it “real” I did them back to back.

Monday morning I met Brian at College Green Park for the 9th gravel century. It was very foggy and around 40 degrees. We rolled out at 8 and went to the Northeast for starters. I really like the gravel roads up that way and the moisture of the last couple of days had made the gravel and B roads very user friendly. The fog was projected to break at 9 and that was a lie. We got good and wet as the beads of water soaked into us.

Near Solon we turned to the East and went North of Cedar Bluff and past Buchanan to cross the Cedar River and head into West Branch for Casey’s. Nice conversation and no views. We had some tasty vittles and went back for more, around halfway done. Brian was feeling tired as most of his training lately has been townie riding to school and back so he turned into Iowa City and I kept going alone. Again. Sniff…

Finally, as my on-bike computer told me I had ridden 68.1 miles, the sun came out! I was

well on my way to the wilds found Southeast of Lone Tree at this point and the accursed mass of incandescent gas had me sweating and gulping all my water in short order. I removed a layer or two and soldiered on to my intended turnaround where I was able to let the wind push me back to Lone Tree and a store of convenience. A quick fill of the

bottles and the last leg back to Iowa City was a breeze. 101.3 miles ridden, 85 of them on gravel. I felt quite spry!

(we bought a new camera)

Tuesday morning I found myself in a large pickup truck heading through another helping of dense fog out to Parnell. Eppen and the Thrillah are building a house out there and they gave me a ride out so I could hit some new roads. The house is surrounded by B roads and after a quick look around the job I was off, wondering what I had gotten myself into. The fog was thick, the wind in my face and my legs were already feeling the previous days ride. I figured they would settle in.

I had a vague plan of action that would lead me to What Cheer, appropriately. The roads were hilly and deserted. I did not see a car until I had ridden 32 miles! I missed What Cheer and set about to the Southeast with no map and no idea where any towns might be found. The fog stayed thick and I hit some awesome B roads. At some point I happened upon Webster which has no Casey’s but did have a sign that informed me that Wellman was 8 miles away by Hwy 22. I was low on water, food and morale at that point so I found a nice gravel road to parallel the highway and rolled it in. Casey’s found, and only 62 miles into the ride! The grumpy staff could not sink my soaring spirits and I left filled with hope and pizza. The gravel to Riverside was a treat and I found myself on some of the roads I had ridden back on the single speed century, the first familiar ground of the day.

I took a pass on the Kalona 4-wheeler trails that have eaten so many derailleurs and quickly found Riverside, just where I had last left it. Finally got some tailwind as I turned north. One mile from town, about 85 miles done, disaster struck. Flat tire! I had a good cry and changed it, my first flat on one of these dirt cup rides. Back on my way and at the crest of the first hill I could see that the sky ahead was a large dark cloud. At the top of the next roller I entered the fog again and the temp dropped significantly and what do you know, the wind switched to the north! Yeah! It sucked, actually. My legs were pretty spent at this point and this change of fortune did not please me.

I rode through Hills and out to the gravel East of there to finish up the 6 miles of rockin’ I needed. The late start and flat tire delay were coming to play here as the daylight started to fade in the foggy gloom. I only had one small light with me so I strapped it to the drop of my bar hoping it could be seen from ahead and behind. I got into Iowa City just before 5 and there was a bit of rain coming down now. The good motoring commuters cared little for my plight and it was a nerve wracking trip across town but in the end I got a hot shower and had a beer. 104.5 miles and 81 on gravel and I was plenty tired but happy to have my goal accomplished.

(says 104.53)

Ten down, just two to go! Stay tuned to this weblog for updates…


5 Responses so far »

  1. 1

    that, my friend, is what makes you such a f-in hard man. wind, rain, gravel, centuries and (gasp) no luxurious rapha gear to help you crank out the miles. it seems that when the weather starts to shift and really get cold and grey, is when i really miss riding in iowa city. man i have some screwy ideas for enjoyable riding.

  2. 2

    ari from Chicago said,

    Man I am on the other side of the mississippi just south of Rockford and can’t find anyone to ride with. I mostly do gravel, alone, and have no idea what weather conditions are. I am coming out to Iowa for Trans Iowa in april. Hope to make some new friends.
    from sycamore, Il.

  3. 3

    chesty said,

    hurray for gravel steve! i’ve had an exercise bike and oprah as my riding companions this break. see you at the jingle madness.

  4. 4

    Tarik said,

    OK freako. I withdraw the race challenge. Well done on the long haul days, sounds pretty fun. I am mostly ekeing out 10 mile rides and feeling pretty good about that at this point in the season. Hoping for snow so I can sqitch to xc skiing here in a bit.


  5. 5

    bikeiowa said,

    Nice to hear from everyone!

    Ira, you have lots of screwy ideas. I miss riding with you my friend.

    Ari, I wish you good luck at that trans-iowa thingy, training by yourself will give you good mental fortitude! We drove through Sycamore just last week going to visit the parents!

    John, you plus Oprah training equals top 25 at jiggle madness!

    Tarik, have fun skiing, we always hope for a good week or two every year, thats all we can count on in Iowa. Lets not race, just hope to meet you someday!

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