Monday, July 29, 2013

Day 26 - July 29 - Best of rides and the worst of rides in one day

Day 26 - July 29 -  Mankato, MN  to Decorah, IA- 91.5 miles (147.3 kms); total so far -  2098.2 miles  (3376.7 kms)

Distance:91.5 miles (147.2  kms)
Total time: 8hrs 34 mins (including lunch, a couple of rest stops and some sightseeing in Austin before I set out) 
Average Moving Speed: 12.8mph (20.6 kph)
Maximum Speed: 25.3mph (40.7 kph) 
Calories burned: 3759
Elevation gained: 1526 ft (465 meters)

Weather:  Cloudy and nice in  Austin at 9am in the morning with temperatures about 50 degF (11C) with mild south south east winds at 5-10 mph (10-16kph). It stayed that way all during the day. It was mostly a headwind for me, especially as I headed south.  Temperatures warmed up quite a bit over the past 4-5 days to 80F(27C) by the time I go to Decorah.

Powered by:  Breakfast - 2 bowls of cornflakes, banana, bagel, muffin, lots of orange juice,; Lunch of bagel chips, a large slice of cheese pizza,  1 banana, 1 protein bar, 1 Clif bar, 1 Coke,  1 liter of water and 2 liters of Gatorade

I decided to ride around the older neighborhoods of Austin before leaving town and saw many palatial homes dating from the early 1900s, including the Hormel mansion.  The weather looked promising for riding though the wind from the south-south-east was not in my favor.    After about 10 miles on a good road, I came across a nice bike trail, the Shooting Star trail, which was going exactly in the direction I was to Le Roy.  It's a smooth asphalt trail, about 10 feet wide and follows the road closely but separated from it by some vegetation.  I only saw about 6-8 other bikers, mostly families with small children. The trail runs through a few towns and a state park, before ending in Le Roy.  It was the first time in a month that I did not have my guard up for oncoming cars, front and back. It was relaxing and fast.

The Hormel home in Austin

A pleasant surprise - I stayed on it for about 20 miles

Bridge on the Shooting Star trail

The bike trail passed through a state park.  

My day took a turn for the worst when I crossed into Iowa.  Not only is the shoulder (margin) unrideable due to the loose gravel there but the main carriageway itself is terrible due to frost heave (freeze-thaw).  Highway 63 was very busy and having been forced onto the gravel by passing oncoming cars passing a line of slower vehicles, I opted to go onto some county roads to get to Cresco where I knew another bike trail started (Thanks, Frank).   While the road surface deteriorated and the margins did not improve, the lack of traffic, the hills and the Amish farms made it an interesting ride for about 15 miles.  Amish farms are easily recognizable since the electricity wires bypass them, horses are evident close to the barns, multiple out-buildings are given over to mixed farming (the smell of dairy cows are evident), flower pots flourish, and long lines of laundry are set out to dry. Water is procured through a wind mill and often, the owners advertise their wood handicrafts for sale.

That's nice but I'd feel a lot more welcome if you put some asphalt on the shoulders, instead of the loose gravel on there now.

Fun times ahead in about 10 days

This was not the only sign of Amish in the area - fresh horse manure in the middle of the road was another clue 

Amish farm

Rolling hills and Amish farms

Good drying today - nice wind and warm sun

Cresco's claim to fame. Is there something in the water?

From Cresco to Decorah is about 20 miles, and for the first half, the Prairie Farmer bike trail provided a nice and welcome alternative to the busy route 9 alongside. Unfortunately, I had to turn east at Ridgeway and back onto route 9. This highway has the biggest expansion cracks I've ever seen and previous feeble attempts to repair them have eroded away.  A jolt every 15 feet or so for 10 miles is unpleasant but the bigger worry was the heavy traffic and the alarming tendency of a few cars to pass 3-4 other cars, thus coming into my lane as if I was invisible.  I had to veer off into the gravel 3 more times and tried to ride on it for a while.  Decorah did not arrive soon enough.

Prairie Farmer path was a nice alternative to Iowa route 9 - for a while

One of these large expansion freeze-thaw holes every 15 feet (5 meters) can really be uncomfortable on a bike - on route 9 near Decorah

Lots of celebrations of the Nordic traditions in Decorah 

I have about another 50 miles of Iowa's highways to Prairie du Chien where I'll cross the Mississippi intoWisconsin. I hope that state has better roads for biking; they could hardly be worse than Iowa's.  I spent the Bicentennial celebrations around July 4 in 1976 biking in SW Wisconsin and it was very pleasant. I hope I can duplicate the experience.

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