Had another great weekend on the bikes – first chance to really test out the new 1200 Custom. I knew Steve was wanting to get the oil changed (she only had 1300 miles on her and hadn’t yet had her thousand-mile service) but I wanted to ride. Because I always get my way, we rounded up a great bunch of friends including Wade, Howard, Susan (Coyote!), Steve, myself and our daughter Stephanie, for a shakedown cruise on Saturday afternoon.
What a beautiful day – calm, mostly sunny, warm – just perfect. We took off from the far south side of Des Moines and headed west to Highway 28, which took us South through Norwalk to Highway 92 at Martensdale, then west to Winterset. (Yes, we ride to Winterset fairly often – LOL – it’s a lovely small town, a sort of “gateway” to Madison County riding, and my mother’s whole family happens to be from there so it has a bit of a special place in my heart.) Thus far the 1200 and I were getting along great – she rides so smooth at highway speed, and the handlebars Steve had put on for me were SO much better than the drag bars she came with. We stopped at Casey’s at the junction of Highway 92 and 169 for a break – always lots of good conversation on these little breaks, sometimes bike-related and sometimes not. On this trip, Steve was testing out the video camera we’d given him for his birthday, and wanted to find a four-lane highway so he could up alongside each of us to shoot a little riding footage. The nearest choice was the Highway 5 bypass that runs east to west across the south side of Des Moines, so we decided that we’d take 169 north to a county road that would take us back up toward Norwalk and the bypass.
We left the Casey’s behind and traveled north up 169 til we found a county road called G4R. Now Madison County is about as beautiful as Iowa gets with its rolling hills and lush valleys, and in that respect G4R did not disappoint with its lovely rural homesteads and pretty curves. Where this road completely failed was in the area of maintenance. It’s a prime example of my comment about “seams” – actual raised seams that remind me of welts – in Iowa road repairs. They don’t look like much – they raise up probably less than 12 inches. But on a bike, they’re jarring and, if tall enough, unsafe. Adding to the discomfort is that they’re always a surprise – you can never really tell when one’s coming up – and it can be downright painful to go over one. At one point, the whole right-hand portion of our lane was busted up and a few in our group had to swerve to miss it. Given the six-figure value of some of the beautiful new homes along this road, I’m surprised the County would let this road stand the way it is. I’m surprised the folks who live along here would put up with it.
G4R became G14 at Cumming, and took us back into Norwalk where we turned north to head back to Highway 5. Once on 5, Steve rolled up alongside each of us in turn in the left-hand lane and had Stephanie shoot some video of us riding along. A few miles later we exited Highway 5 onto Des Moines’ Army Post Road, and we ended the ride with a beverage break at the same Casey’s we’d departed from at 1:30. We recruited a random customer to snap a photo of our entire group, then headed home.
Later, Steve, Stephanie and I got to watch the videos that Steph had shot… only to see them get accidentally deleted from the camera before being saved to the computer. So, no video from this trip, but we did learn that the camera works pretty good and Steph knows how to get some great shots!
I’ve often thought it would be nice to live in a state where the weather allowed for year-round riding, but lately I’ve been coming around to the notion that having a “winter break” is worthwhile.
Since I’ve owned a bike and ridden around a fair bit of this state, I’ve come to realize a few things that now make me glad I ride where I do.
1. We’ve got curves! Sure there are some spots in Iowa where it’s nothing but long, flat ribbons of highway. But, it doesn’t take long to find the kind of twisty curves that make riding a blast – Madison County, for one… eastern Iowa for another… the Loess Hills of western Iowa… and much in between.
2. We’ve got scenery! Whether you’re coming around a curve as Saylorville Marina comes into view, or cresting a hill on F48 with lush green rolling farmland laid out before you, Iowa is a beautiful state.
3. We’ve got four seasons! And only one of ‘em isn’t suitable for riding, usually from about late November through mid-April. But, here’s the thing: that forced winter break makes you really appreciate the riding time you DO have, so none’s wasted when the opportunity finally arrives. And, if you’ve got plans for major changes to your bike, you can make ‘em in winter so you don’t have down-time during the riding months.
4. We don’t have traffic! Someone mentioned this in the comments of one of my posts (or was it in a forum?) recently… she lives in CA and said yes, they have year-round (almost) riding but it takes TWO HOURS or more to get anyplace where there isn’t a lot of traffic, just so you can slow down and enjoy the ride. I don’t know about you, but I can find a beautiful twisty and low-traffic two-lane just ten minutes from home that’s perfect for a mind-clearing ride any time I need it. I can ride all summer without ever once using the major Interstate that runs along the north end of town, or even the freeway that cuts through the middle.
5. We’ve got road food! We still have lovely, flourishing small towns filled with local home-spun restaurants so you can spend your entire riding life fulfilling your quest to find the best pork tenderloin. And, as an added bonus, there’s usually a local roadside oddity or historic site to make the day more interesting.
My one gripe about Iowa as far as the bikes are concerned? Road repairs are getting shoddy… it’s not that they aren’t making them, it’s that there seems to be a trend to make a raised seam across the road when a repair is made. Everyone who works for the DOT – from engineers to road crews – should be forced to ride these repaired roads on a Sportster before they call it quits for the day. If Iowa wants to attract more bikers as tourists, they should mark my words and make nice, SMOOTH road repairs. (St. Donatus, are you listening?)
SO – your turn to share your view: why do you like riding in the state you live in? What do you NOT like? Do you STILL wish you lived in a year-round-riding state? Let’s hear it!
In celebration of Biker Chick News‘s fifth birthday, here’s the first in the “Friday Fives” series of bike-related lists. This week: five cool places we’ve visited that make great day-rides:
1. Grotto of the Redemption, West Bend – Father Frank Dobberstein was so grateful to recover from pneumonia that he built a shrine to the Virgin Mary out of precious stones and Iowa rocks, and just kept building for the rest of his life! (Northern Iowa, northwest of Ft. Dodge)
2. DeSoto National Wildlife Refuge, Missouri Valley – Beautiful wildlife preserve frequented by thousands of migrating snow geese. Also features an amazing exhibition of items from the 1800’s, found preserved by mud in the sunken Bertrand steamboat, razed from the Missouri River in 1968. (Western Iowa, on the Missouri River just west of Missouri Valley)
3. Albert the Bull, Audubon – Giant concrete statue of a friendly-looking bull, erected to commemorate the contributions of the Iowa beef industry. Very pretty ride. (West central Iowa, west of Guthrie Center)
4. Pike’s Peak State Park, McGregor – Stunning overlook offers a grand view of the Mississippi River, with Prairie du Chien, WI on the other side. (Northeastern Iowa, along the Mississippi.)
5. J&P Cycles, Anamosa – Can’t live in Iowa without visiting Chrome Mecca, J & P Cycles. Biker heaven hosts an annual Open House event that draws thousands. New “Scooters” eatery is right down the road. (East central Iowa, northeast of Cedar Rapids)
And a few more I’m still anxious see:
1. America’s River Museum, Dubuque
2. Arnold’s Park Amusement Park, Lake Okoboji
3. Wilton Candy Kitchen, Wilton