Pictures from the Road

Friday, April 10, 2009

The 65 Mile Adventure - Part One, The Way Out

Notes from our first cycling tour

Fast facts:

  • Miles ridden according to GPS: 64.9
  • Time pedaling: 8 hours, 11 minutes
  • Time standing: 1 hour, 36 minutes
  • Average moving average speed: 9 MPH 7.9 MPH
We left the house around 9:00am. We had planned on leaving around 6:00am, but you know how those things go. Lots of things to do and get ready, both trip related, and regular house duties. And, this is supposed to be a relaxing vacation, so we slept in a bit.

Our first point of interest was downtown Omaha to cross the Bob Kerrey Pedestrian Bridge, ab out six miles from home. Both of us cycle five to seven miles a day commuting to work, so this was the easiest part.

Even in the morning on a work day there were several people crossing the bridge. I feel this bridge will become an iconic image of Omaha, similar to the St. Louis Arch or San Francisco Golden Gate Bridge.

Our next stop was about 15 miles later at the trailhead to the Wabash Trace in Council Bluffs, Iowa. This ride was all cement or asphalt, so it was pretty easy, too.

At the trailhead is a park with a picnic shelter, trail map, and my favorite part; the portable toilets. We can't all do the Munson, so these plastic wonders are much appreciated.

So now we ride. Our trip between Council Bluffs and Mineola was the route of the Taco Ride. The ride had been moved to the Keystone for this week, but I think the trail was in decent shape. It's pretty well maintained between CB and Mineola, but could use a regrading.

After Mineola the next town is Silver City. There's no where to get a coffee for Roxanne there, though the bar is open in the late morning and early afternoon. So we pedal on to Malvern for coffee and lunch.
We notice that now the trail starts to change a bit. Instead of crushed gravel everywhere, the trail starts to give way to decomposing forest litter and moss. The tires sink in a bit, and gravel sticks to them, and dramatically change the riding experience.
We found several downed trees that we either had to go around, or in several cases, dismount and walk over. We moved a few ourselves.

Finally we make it Malvern after another 10 miles. We stop in to C and M's Cafe on Main Street. A farmer here tells me that it rained a few hours prior. The streets are still wet. Roxanne and I have some coffee and Dr. Pepper. We split a veggie sandwich and curly fries. After a restroom stop, we're off for Imogene, about 14 miles away.

Along the Trace are at least three train derailment sites. These are places where the train left the tracks and ended up in a creek. My guess is that's it too costly and difficult to remove the cars, so they were just left there. Maybe the line was abandoned since the engineers couldn't keep the cars on the rails.

There are dozens of bridges along the way. Between CB and Mineola you can see lots of tire wear on them. Once past Mineola, the wear is not as visible.

The trek past Malvern was difficult. The condition of the trail made it difficult to do better than 8 MPH; even slower in some places. Our bikes were loaded for touring, and the 700Cx35 tires sank in a bit. We certainly weren't rutting and thrashing, but the extra resistance from the slightly damp trail made it feel like we were riding in sticky sand. At times, a walk was welcome to ease the back and the frustration.

Cruising into Imogene we couldn't miss the Emerald Isle. A tiny bit of Ireland in the Iowa hills. Inside we found the bar had a little bit of everything. A full menu, snacks, pool tables, gambling machines, stage, dance floor, tables, and TV with the news on. We weren't hungry for dinner, but some potato chips, a Corona for me and a Fuzzy Navel for Roxanne hit the spot. It was just what we needed for the remaining nine miles to Shenandoah.

A little north of Shenandoah the trail becomes asphalt. That was nice. Then we hit the highways and ride on in to town. The hotel was a welcome sight. We showered, ate some of our own provisions, found more Dr. Pepper, and slept like babies.

Now it's Friday, our vacation day. We don't know for sure what we're doing yet, but I can tell you we're going to enjoy it.
Summary: Wow, what a blast! I really enjoyed the ride. I think Roxanne did, too. The trail condition makes a huge difference. When it was packed and dry, it was easy to do 10-15 MPH or better. But when it was more dirt than gravel (and damp, to boot) then 5-10 MPH was all we could expect. Roxanne's back is a little sore, as are my knees, and my thumb is numb. However, I've had more exhausting days spent traveling by air than on this 11 hour tour. It's such a great rush knowing that we planned for and executed a trip like this, using our own power, experience, and skill to accomplish it. I foresee more cycling tours in the future.

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