Two short weeks after the Alexander, I met up with my partners in crime, Taylor, Kyle and Rick for what has become an annual ride for Kyle - The Great Memorial Gravel Ride to Cedar Rapids. Since this ended in familiar territory and I had to be in Waterloo that weekend for a family event, a plan was hatched - Ride to CR on Friday with "The Group" and then ride the Cedar Valley Nature Trail end to end on Saturday, finishing at my inlaws' house east of Waterloo.
I rolled out of the house at 4:30 Friday AM to meet the rest of the group on the Neal Smith Trail. From there we rolled pavement and gravel north at a fairly stupid pace until we turned east onto the Heart of Iowa Nature Trail and settled into something a bit more sustainable. Our route was a bit more seat of the pants than I would have liked for a ride of this length, but I opted to relax and enjoy the day with friends. We took a break in Maxwell, and then headed back out onto the trail, which is unfortunately a bit broken up due to right of way issues that plague some older railbeds. After a brief route reset at the trail's terminus in Rhodes, IA, we worked our way onto the paved trail which parallels Hwy 330 and rode that into Marshalltown, where we took our second break of the day, with about 67 miles between us and the start.
After leaving Marshalltown, we wandered north for a fair bit, arriving in Conrad, where we grabbed an ill timed adult beverage and rested in the shade for a bit. The temps were starting to climb and, although a cold drink sounded good, it didn't really sit well in anyone's stomach. We then hopped on the limestone Comet Trail, which, despite some weather related issues carried us into Gladbrook. Rick, Taylor and I wanted to stop in Gladbrook to get something cold to drink, grab a quick bite, and refill water bottles. Kyle estimated that we were just 7 or so miles from the next town, which had a restaurant and convenience store. Since we all had water left, we opted to head east and not take a break. Leaving Gladbrook, which I've now visited three times in less than two years thanks to TransIowa, we headed out onto a hilly section of road that was used for both TIV9 as well as TIV7. Estimating your distance via a small GPS screen is difficult, even when the route is on screen. It wasn't long before we passed the 7 mile mark and wondered which hill was hiding Traer. The hills kept coming, and the heat kept building. I pushed ahead and quickly realized we were still a long way from Traer. After an extra 10 miles, I hit the edge of Traer, sat in the shade, and waited for the rest of the guys. Rick came in next, followed by Kyle and eventually Taylor, who had run out of water a while back. Neither Rick nor Taylor looked too good at this point. We rolled into Traer, found a restaurant and made some decisions. Taylor and Rick took a ride to CR with Kyle's dad, while Kyle and I opted to press on. I put 10 lbs of unneeded clothes and camping gear in the SUV, and then Kyle and I then headed east in search of fame and fortune.
About 10 miles later, we pulled into Dysart and I needed to stop and grab a drink. I had dug a bit of a nutrition hole and was having a hard time getting out of it, despite the burger, fries and cola in Traer. After a bottle of iced tea, we hopped on the limestone surfaced Old Creamery Trail and worked our way through Garrisson and then to Vinton, where we took another break due to the heat. With 135 miles or so in our legs, we were starting to feel the day's effort start to hit. Knowing that we had just a bit of gravel left to ride, we headed out to Urbana, dodging some wild driving kids in a Lumina a few too many times on our way there. We caught the Cedar Valley Nature Trail in Urbana, which took us gently downhill to Center Point, where I told Kyle that I needed a break. The hole I had dug myself was getting deeper and my stomach was starting to turn. Despite the nauseous feeling that was starting to rise up, I forced a couple of pop tarts down and told Kyle it was time to finish this up. About 2 miles outside of Center Point, the trail turns from limestone to asphalt. This was also the point where all of the food I'd eaten finally became usable and our pace picked up measurably. I could hear Kyle spinning out his one gear in my draft and then coasting for a bit. We held a solid 16 - 18 MPH pace to Hiawatha where the trailhead was located. A few more miles of wandering through NE Cedar Rapids, and we finally arrived at Kyle's childhood home with just over 170 miles behind us. We both had a highly welcome cold beer, took a shower, and then all of us sat around and ate and talked for a few hours before collapsing on air mattresses in the basement.
After a walk and a good breakfast the next morning, I loaded my Fargo back up and headed north towards Waterloo. I took a side trip to my mom's house for a short visit before making my way to Center Point, where I stopped for the best pork tenderloin I'd ever had. Afterwards, I kept a steady pace north on the limestone portion of the trail, stopping occasionally to take a photo or stretch, since I planned at riding at a touring pace and just enjoying the day. I stopped at a bar in Brandon for two much needed gin and tonics, and again in La Porte city for ice cream and some udder balm for my seat. The trail turned to pavement from here on so it was fairly easy going, other than the sight of storms brewing to the SW of me. After a quick GPS check, I rode north out of Waterloo on a county highway, working hard to stay ahead of the storms. With the rain getting closer and the wind picking up, I took a right hand turn on to the 4 miles of gravel that took me to my final destination. Unfortunately, the rock was loose and chunky and it took a good amount of effort to cover the those last 4 miles. I pulled into my in-laws' garage just as the rain hit. Another 75 miles in for the day, bringing me to 245 for the weekend.
My Salsa Fargo was once again the right ride for the job. Steady and sure on all surfaces. Fast on gravel or pavement, despite the load and the mountain bike tires.
I managed to drag the camera out on both days of the trip. Photos are all here.