First Bike Ride!

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May 1st 2018
Published: May 1st 2018
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Elkater City Park, Elkater, Iowa

For ten days now we’ve been carting the bikes around on the top of the car. First couple of days of driving we kept hearing these threatening noises coming from the bike racks. It really sounded like they were about to come off and, at 60 mph, there’s no telling what a flying bicycle could do. So it was really pretty scary. I kept stopping the car to tighten various bolts and screws on the bike rack and it seemed like that would work for a while but then the creaking sounds would come back.

Finally, after just kind of touching everything, I found a knob that was loose. It seemed to tighten the seam between the horizontal bars on the roof rack, and the vertical bars. And thank god, the thing quieted right up. It seems to want to naturally loosen every couple of days, but now I’ve learned to check those nuts as part of hitching up. So now the bicycles travel noise free and very solid. They catch the wind a bit, especially when we are traveling without the trailer, but with the LandCruiser weighing three tons, especially when I’m in it, it doesn’t move it very much. We can travel with the bikes up top without really noticing them - and that’s a good thing. One less worry.

But if we aren’t going to use them, then why did we bring them? Well, the parks might be my responsibility, but bike rides are Joan’s thing. And she had our first bike ride planned for this part of Iowa. So we did that yesterday.

Drove about fifty miles southwest of here, down onto the flat prairie and farm land. After being in the river bluffs the last few days, it was a reminder of sorts of the flatlands we had come from. The Iowa farm country is really kind of striking and charming in its own way. And there is no sign of depression or bad economic times here - everything is well kept. Yards are mowed and trimmed, fields are carefully furrowed, soil is a rich black color.

Elkater is a small farm-town of maybe a couple thousand people and has all the requisite mid-western buildings laid out on a perfect street grid. It straddles the Turkey River which is a small thing out here, but is bigger than our Rio Grande even as far south as Albuquerque. And it is big enough to support a good size city park with a rodeo grounds, ball parks, and swimming pool. It also has a packed-limestone path they built that parallels the river and then a tributary creek and loops around back into the town. It is called the Hollow Pony Trail and Joan found it on the Internet.

So we got the bicycles down off the car, prepped our water, and then proceeded out of the park and down the trail. Aside from 80 degree temperatures (they are skipping Spring here in the Midwest this year), and a little bit of wind, it was a beautiful day for a bike ride. The path was mostly level and bordered fast moving water. There were interpretive signs every now and then that helped us understand the ecology of the area. I always like that stuff.

We only went out to the three-mile marker before deciding to return. Its been a few years since we rode bicycles, and I’m not real used to it. And there is something about a bicycle seat (called a ‘saddle’) that is just crazy to me. Why are they designed like a wedge? I mean, sitting on them is uncomfortable even at the start, but after an hour or two, it is just plain unbearable. Why, pray tell, do they insist on putting your body on the edge of an axe blade while you pump the pedals up and down. The whole operation is designed to split your body in half - it really is a masochistic exercise. So, at the three mile mark, feeling like there was about to be two of me, I said I was done with this ride and wanted to return. Joan didn’t argue too much, and confided later that she too, was feeling ‘the wedge’.

I suppose it will become a little easier if we get a few more rides in. We have a big ride planned in a few weeks from now, so I’m hoping we can do some more and build up the callouses. But, aside from that, the ride really was fun and I’m glad Joan made me get back up on the bicycle.

Back at the car, getting ready to leave, the park superintendant drove up and introduced himself. I guess they don’t get too many New Mexicans coming to Elkater to ride their bicycle trail. He was very pleasant and wished us well on our travels. I could tell he was proud of his park.

We needed a few more supplies, had to refill a propane bottle, and fill up the gas, so we gave a little back to the local economy. We also bought a bottle of wine to have with dinner and I, unable to resist the challenge, bought a bottle of Templeton Rye, the Iowa state drink of choice.

Back at the campground, we both showered up, getting the Iowa dust out of our hair. We had intended to grill a steak outside, but the wind wasn’t going to allow that, so we pan-fried it instead and boiled up some fresh Iowa corn-on-the-cob. Drank the wine and had a glass of the rye, too - very smooth!

This is it for Iowa, I’m afraid. There is only one National Park bucket list stop in this state, and that was Effigy Mounds. So this morning we will be packing up and moving east into Wisconsin. Can’t say we will be back to Iowa, but I really did enjoy our time here - it has a charm I didn’t expect and a topology up here near the river that is really stunning.

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