Western Trip - August, 2007
948 miles on the green bike
Thu, 16 Aug 2007 6:10 pm
Hello to all,
My little Sony T computer died on me last night and I have been away from home for almost a week without checking in so I am writing a note on Cheryl's computer but I don't have access to my full address book so this note will not get to some I would like to reach. Nonetheless, I make this report.
We are in the dilapidated mining town of Leadville, Colorado at an elevation of 10,200' with hail coming down in this late Thursday afternoon. This will be our fourth night in the mountains and we have much enjoyed the low temperatures and low humidity since arriving in Summit County on Monday afternoon.
Last Friday morning I left Iowa City at 5:45 AM on my bicycle and rode 106 towards Des Moines. I took my usual southerly route through towns like Parnell, Montezuma, Deep River, Sully, Lynnville, Reasoner, and Prairie City before turning north to stop in Colfax along Interstate 80. It was a scorcher of a day with temperatures about 90 and quite high humidity but I truly enjoyed the ride. The wind was pretty calm and I kept a good pace of about 16 mph.
I was a bit foolish about planning lodging for that night. When I got to the Comfort Inn at the Colfax exit I learned that the Iowa State Fair and some other weekend event called "The Nationals" was going on and most motels were booked up. However, just as I was working with a very helpful desk clerk at the Comfort Inn and figuring I would have to ride another 30 miles in the afternoon heat, a cancellation occurred on their computer system and the clerk was able to give me a much welcomed room.
When I left home on Friday it was dark as I rode across Iowa City but since there was little traffic I felt safe and comfortable. On Saturday I had to wait until about 6:15 AM to have enough light to leave Colfax and head through Altoona and the heart of Des Moines as I headed west. Altoona is having a growth spurt and a major road project detoured me south so I lost my intended route and ended up on University Avenue in Des Moines and rode it much of the way across that metropolitan area. It was Saturday morning and traffic was reasonably light and polite so that worked out fine but it is always slower going through a major city and I seemed to be running a good hour behind schedule.
In the West Des Moines area I have found that I can pick up a decent bike trail that leads me to a major trail known as the Raccoon River Trail and gets me 25 miles west of Urbandale without having to get into traffic. I took this route and found it to be pretty busy with weekend cyclists but that was okay by me. It was hotter and more humid than Friday and the wind was against me so I had a tougher day.
The day was made worse because of my own ambition. On Friday night I decided that my Saturday goal would be to make it to a Super 8 at Walnut, Iowa which I estimated at 120 miles out. I made a reservation knowing that Saturday is the one day when it is well advised to have a sure place to stay. I had actually wanted to stop in Atlantic at a Super 8 there but it was booked full for Saturday night. As I neared the little town of Redfield at about 10:30 that morning I knew I had been a bit too ambitious. The heat was slowing me down as was the wind and my mileage estimate was wrong. Walnut would be closer to 130 miles. I decided to go on to Adair, about 90 miles for the day, and try to get a room at a budget motel there knowing that the Super 8 at that exit was booked.
I did make it into Adair at about 1:30 PM quite tired and dehydrated. The lady at the budget motel was Asian Indian and fairly unfriendly telling me that I could have a room if I waited till 6:00 PM. She was short of housekeepers. I decided to have a long lunch at the Happy Chef and think it over while I cooled off. I didn't feel like laying around the Adair City Park for four hours so I thought I would go on to Atlantic and find a room in one of their rundown motels. To be safe I called Cheryl and had her call ahead to one of them to be sure I could get a room and the manager of their Hawkeye Motel agreed to hold a room for me until 5:00 PM. I decided to press onward.
On both of these days I gave thanks to friend, Vicki, who recommended at dinner on Thursday evening that I use my camelback during this trip to ensure a good supply of water. It really did help on both these days because I drained it twice and got into my two additional water bottles as well.
Atlantic is southwest of Adair 21 miles and there was a strong southwest wind as I made my way there. It took longer than usual but after a short rest along the way I made it into town about 4:00 PM after 111 miles and decided to stay in a smoky, seedy room rather than go another 20 miles to Walnut. It worked out fine but it did remind me that I have become accustomed to the high life accorded by the usual Super 8 or Comfort Inn.
It had been planned that I would pedal three days and Cheryl would leave Iowa City at 1:00 PM on Sunday to catch up with me. I had to decide whether I wanted to cross the Missouri River and head towards Lincoln, Nebraska or simply pull up in Council Bluffs and take a motel room there for a Sunday evening rendezvous. I decided to set no alarm for Sunday morning and do what felt good that morning.
At 5:00 Sunday morning I woke up and decided to be easy on myself and choose the Council Bluffs option. It would take me just 60 miles of riding to reach the Missouri River in Council Bluffs so I laid around the Hawkeye Motel until 8:00 AM and headed west on Highway 6 which I followed all the way to the river. It seemed hotter and more humid than the previous two days but it actually wasn't hotter. The road was one that I had never ridden and I feared that traffic would be a problem but Sunday morning traffic is always lighter than usual and I didn't have a problem at all.
However, the hills in this area of Iowa are steep and endless. It seemed that every mile I would plunge down to cross a creek and then climb up to a long ridge line just to plunge downward again. In the heat of the morning I had to work hard.
I worked my way through Council Bluffs with no problems and found a nice Comfort Suite motel near the casinos that this city now sports. I took my time and had a long lunch hoping that a room would be available in the early afternoon and again I was lucky. They gave me a room and I spent the afternoon watching the PGA golf tournament.
During this last summer I have resumed my interest in golf and during the previous week I played several times with my brother, Jerry. We both got excited enough to buy new clubs since I had been using an old set he gave me 38 years ago and he was using the replacement set he bought at that time. Every once in a while I can hit the "Perfect Drive" and that motivates me to keep on playing. I even brought the clubs on this trip.
Cheryl joined me late Sunday afternoon and we spent Monday high-tailing it for the Rocky Mountains selecting a Comfort Inn in Dillon, Colorado as our base for the next three nights. It is one of our favorite places to stay because of the proximity to Frisco and Breckenridge. We have had three fine days here and I will write more about them, just not at this time.
As you all know I write for fun and I write to keep some memories alive as time goes by. I include friends and family knowing that you may have time and interest in what I have to say but I am sure that many of you are way too busy to deal with this. Nonetheless, I like to stay attached and I wish you all well. I may write some more after dinner.
Fri, 17 Aug 2007 9:55 am
Hello to all,
Last night after the hail and rain diminished we had dinner at the Golden Burrow in the heart of Leadville. It is an old saloon/restaurant that claims to be the oldest continually operated restaurant in Colorado. A local lady was giving a talk on the history of the town and we listened to most of it because these mining towns have some fascinating pasts.
Earlier in the day after I arrived on my bicycle we took a historical trolley tour of the area and learned a lot. This mining town once held about 80,000 residents but now is down to 3,000. Gold, silver and lead were the first harvests and the real reason for the boom town was silver. During the 20th century a huge molybdenum mine was developed up near Fremont Pass and it was a large part of the local economy until the 1980's when it was shut down because of price declines. Phelps Dodge owns and maintains the mine to this date and they have announced a plan to reopen the mine in 2009. Molybdenum is an alloy used to make steel, among other things.
Summit County and Vail are the ritzy places in these mountains along with Aspen. Leadville is the kind of place where us later, poorer immigrants feel more in tune with our surroundings. This must be a historical district where nothing is torn down. The dilapidated houses remain whether used or not and the town is full of old miner cabins sitting here and there just as they were first built a hundred years ago. I like the place but wouldn't want to spend the full year at this 10,200' altitude.
There are some high mountains nearby including Mt. Elbert and Mt. Massive. Under the shadow of Mt. Massive is a nine hole golf course that is the highest course in North America. I had planned to play nine holes but the trolley tour, fatigue and afternoon storms ended that idea.
Yesterday's exercise for me was the ride from Dillon up over Fremont Pass to Leadville, 35 miles. The first part of the ride is on the bike path westerly to Copper Mountain. From Copper Mountain up to Fremont Pass the climb seemed steeper than usual at times but I was probably just a little fatigued and out of shape. I really love riding in Colorado and usually don't mind the long, slow treks up the mountain roads. Traffic is quite reasonable.
In Summit County Cheryl had time to visit most of her favorite spots including second hand shops, the Alpine Natural Food Store once owned by Harvey Wehde and his girlfriend from Iowa, and the Frisco Library. On Tuesday I rode up over Vail Pass and down into the heart of Vail where I met Cheryl for lunch. We thought we ought to see how Vail was looking now. I have memories of being there in a rusty old Buick Electra about 30 years ago with Ken and Marlys Peterson. I really felt out of place then and I'm still not comfortable thinking about how pricey everything is there and how rich folks have to be to live or play in that exclusive community.
Wednesday I decided to ride up and over Loveland Pass reaching an altitude of almost 12,000' and then going down to the Loveland ski area. Again it was a nice, quiet, hard ride. It took some extra courage to go down over the pass knowing that I had to turn around and climb over it again on the way back to Dillon. For the normal tourist the Eisenhower Tunnel is the route to pass through by car but bicycles can't use the tunnel so we go over the top.
We are really enjoying the cool mountain air and the sunshine during the days. Each evening we have a nice dinner out and just take it pretty easy. Our plan is to head to Steamboat Springs today and I will cycle the first portion of the 125 miles to the north. Cheryl will drive around Turquoise Lake, a recommended scenic route. Since we have the weekend ahead of us we made a reservation at the Super 8 in Steamboat and I'm thinking that for Saturday night I will cycle north from Steamboat and we can stay near Laramie, Wyoming. From there, I'm not sure where we will head. This tour will develop on its own.
Sun, 19 Aug 2007 6:23 pm
Wed, 22 Aug 2007 8:32 pm
Fri, 24 Aug 2007 9:55 am
Tue, 28 Aug 2007 10:21 am
Just a quick report to let you know that I have returned to Iowa City. It ended up being a 303 mile ride from Spencer and I am happy to have had the chance to do it.
I didn't get into Iowa City until 4:30 yesterday afternoon and I was unusually tired and a bit dehydrated. All three days I had to ride into a headwind. The first day it was a mild 5-10 mph, the second day a more serious 15-25 mph and yesterday it was 20-30 mph. Like grandson Jake tells me, perseverance is the key to success and I just kept smiling and pedaling and most of the time I was a very happy cyclist.
I'll bet that Spencer is a good place to live and raise a family. The town is a county seat and has a population of about 11,000. It is far from any large city so local shopping is the norm and businesses seem to be doing well. People were friendly as is the usual case in Iowa. They take pride in their community.
Despite the mild headwind the ride to Fort Dodge on Saturday, 99 miles, was a "breeze." This part of Iowa is very flat so I made 17 mph throughout the day.
Iowa has its own "divide" and the divide line is in this area. The Little Sioux River passes just east of Spencer and meanders over to the Missouri River. The Des Moines River begins with several tributaries further east and passes through Fort Dodge, Des Moines and the extreme SE corner of the state before entering the Mississippi. Why do I pay attention to these things? I don't know for sure. It's just the kind of thing you explore and contemplate while riding.
The recent heavy rainfall has swelled all the rivers in the state and some of them were out of their banks as I rode by. Roads were closed in places and I had to think ahead about roads that were likely to be in trouble so as to avoid them. I was pretty lucky until yesterday when I had to detour 10 miles because the Iowa River had flooded out Highway 212 west of Marengo. That detour was a bummer because I knew I had a hard day ahead of me anyway.
Many ditches are full of water and corn fields are inundated. If the water stands too long in these fields I expect that the crops will be damaged but I don't know how bad it may get to be. About all the farmers can do is to keep drainage ways open and hope for the best, i.e., no more rain.
On Saturday I had a late lunch in Pocahontas at a family restaurant. Quite a few people there wanted to find out where I came from and where I was headed. I enjoyed visiting and it is always fun to gauge the reactions of strangers. Some are just dumbfounded. Some are genuinely encouraging. Some think I'm crazy.
Fort Dodge has about 25,000 people and seemed less interesting. I did enjoy my restful night there but headed out fairly early Sunday morning in an attempt to get ahead of the winds. Early morning breezes are usually mild and winds pick up in speed as the day heats up.
I rode through Webster City and a handful of very small towns as I headed southeasterly to Marshalltown. It was a harder day of another 99 miles with stronger winds and an average speed of 15 mph but I had a good time.
Yesterday I knew I would have more of a battle on my hands so I left Marshalltown at 7:30 AM and headed east on the shoulder of Highway 30 for about 10 miles before moving onto county roads to get to Tama. The Iowa River is really well out of its banks in much of this area and I had to go through Belle Plaine twice because of the road detour.
The second half of the ride seemed long and slow. Often times I could go only 8-10 mph so I stopped in Norway for a rest and again in North Liberty. I had a goal of reaching Jake's school south of North Liberty about the time that it let out so I could say hello to him but the wind just beat me down so I got there a half hour too late to see him. I was unusually tired when I got home. It had been a 13 mph day.
Now it's time to do about 30 minutes of business paperwork and then I plan to get the golf clubs out. After reading the golfing "how-to" books I can't wait to hit the next "perfect drive." Yes, I am spoiled but at least I know it.
Best wishes and thanks for listening,