First ride of 2007: ‘up around the lake’

by on March 25, 2007
in Ride Reports

saylorville lake mapThe problem with coming off a long winter is that one becomes really anxious to ride. And that means that one tends to venture out on the first warm day, no matter what the conditions other than temperature might be. Today was a day like that – nearly 80 degrees and sunny, but the “other conditions” were that there was a steady 30 mph wind. This didn’t deter us from taking a ride “up around the lake.” Only about 30 miles total but hey, it counts! Saylorville Lake & Dam is an Army Corps of Engineers project just north of Des Moines. The lake and dam are used to control the levels of the Des Moines River as it passes through the city. (Interesting to note that in 1993, all these efforts failed: steady, heavy rain over a period of weeks in northern Iowa resulted in extremely high water levels in both the Lake and the River, and in early July the River overlflowed not only its banks but also its levees, causing more than $150 million in damage within the contiguous cities of Des Moines and West Des Moines. I think about this every time we ride up around the lake because our house was almost completely destroyed in this flood.)

Our ride took us first to a Casey’s General Store for gas and bottled water, where we got our first taste of the 30 mph crosswind. This was actually worse than what we had experienced on our way home from Sturgis last August, and I decided at Casey’s not to lead us over the Mile Long Bridge that spans the Lake. We rode instead up to one of our favorite campgrounds, Cherry Glen, where we discovered that the lower parking lot and boat launch was closed off and indeed, completely under water. We then rode back toward the dam, and took the road that goes over the it, to get down to the Spillway. (The wind was just as awful going over the dam; I think the only consolation we got from not taking the Mile Bridge was that we were not being thrown around in our lane with a hundred-foot drop into the Lake on either side of us. The dam road contained earthen embankments, steep and rocky though they were, down to the lake on one side and another camp ground on the other.)

The spillway is of course where the water from the lake churns through the opening of the dam and settles back into the flow of the Des Moines River. I wish we had thought to take our camera – we go to the Spillway frequently when we are in the mood for a short ride, but I have never seen the water as high or as turbulent as it was today. The water rushes downward from the opening of the dam into a giant pool, where underneath there is a cement buttress that forces it to splash back, creating the effect of ocean water crashing against shore rocks. This serves to slow the rushing water down so it doesn’t wash away the river banks. The water splashes often some 40 or more feet into the air, and frequently rains down (or washes over) the people standing on the overlook high above. It’s frightening, but mesmerizing, to look over the fence and watch the water rushing down the spillway and being flung back and forth.

After watching the water for some time, we left the dam area and headed back home. I commented on the wind, and our friend Garry said, “The wind must be a ‘woman thing,’ I don’t even think about it.” So now I’m curious – is the wind a ‘woman thing’? Is it a ‘woman thing’ because women tend to right lighter-weight bikes? DO women tend to ride lighter-weight bikes, or is it just a ‘Janet Thing’ because I ride the Sportster? Anyway, doesn’t matter, I’ve got a little bit of windburn on my cheeks that almost looks like a sunburn, so at least it’s obvious I spent the day outdoors. Not bad for March 25 in Iowa.

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