Monday, April 12, 2021

You Gonna Eat Your Tots

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40 years is a long time to be doing anything and in a business with small margins where some shop owners end up owing more than they ever make or they end up putting in ridiculously long hours just to stay afloat, it's even more impressive. Kudos to Kris, Julie and the gang for keeping the pedals turning since 1981!

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This weekend was supposed to be the Trongy Trots out of Tronganoxie, KS but rain sort of put a damper on that idea. We held out hope and didn't call it until Friday but once it was apparent that the rain was going to come it was an easy call. Why drive 3 hours to ride in the rain when the weather here looked to be much better and drier.

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Minnesota Joe showing off the swanky new red and black PCL jersey, ain't she purdy.

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The plan on Saturday, or Plan B if you will, was to head down to Sprague for a decent 40 mile gravel spin. While it wasn't raining on Saturday we didn't miss out on the rain altogether so the roads around Lincoln were a little on the squishy side in the morning.

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Of course almost any trip to Sprague wouldn't be complete without a ditch beer stop at Wendelin's corner. Doug was sporting a pineapple, raspberry, guava, mango, cherry, rhubarb sour or some crazy thing like that.

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Despite the softer gravel the tailwind was pretty brisk, perhaps a bit too helpful as it turned out since we arrived in Sprague 40 minutes before the Pub was supposed to open. Not to be discouraged we sat and ate our snacks and pretended they were something tastier. To their credit, while the grill was not yet going, the guy inside did offer to let us in for a beer if we were so inclined but we all decided that outside snacks were just the thing for a windy day. Very generous offer though as we were more than casually early.

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What blows you south you must fight when returning north so we practiced getting small and hiding from the wind as much as possible on the way back. Of course one might ask why would you ride with the wind at the beginning of a ride, well once again the forecast did not have the winds being that strong. I suppose with the way it's been whipping through here lately we should have expected it but we did not as we are a trusting bunch.

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Back in town we did happen upon a group of people marching to bring attention to the recent uptick in violence against the Asian community in this country. I wasn't around in the 60s and wasn't old enough in the 70s to have witnessed the civil unrest then but I imagine that what we are seeing lately is probably somewhat similar to what was going on then. You can only keep doing the same wrong for so long before people start to unify in an attempt to end it.

Next weekend if all goes well some of us plan to be in Sabetha, KS riding in the Maximum Effort Century which should be a great time and might even have some great pie at the finish. I like pie.   




For your viewing pleasure a little bonus video from Sunday's ride.

 

Wednesday, April 7, 2021

The Land of Happy Little Trees - Part 2

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When last we left our heroes they had indulged in the fruit of the tree in the middle of the road and had picked haunted pine cones in the final resting place of the fist European settler in Audubon county, IA.

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Shortly after the cemetery we split off from the main group and continued up Lark Ave. on our own. The hills really started to pick up after the split but little did we know that they would get worse after leaving Exira.

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We rolled into Exira at about mile 25 and hit the local Casey's for some food and drink. Exira has the notoriety of being the first town in Audubon county, founded in 1857. It is also the birthplace of former NFL player and head coach Jack Pardee who played for the LA Rams and Washington Football Team (formerly the Redskins) before coaching the Bears, The Washington Football Team (Redskins), Chargers and Oilers. Rumor also has it that Exira puts on one heck of a 4th of July shindig if you happen to be in the area around that time.

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Leaving out of Exira we encountered more of the big rollers but this time they were mated to some of the thickest, chunkiest white rock gravel I've seen in a while and it stretched on for miles. I kid you not, looking back at the route it was probably a solid 8-9 miles of chunky white rock. I lamented to Doug that the county must have one heck of a budget as I'd never seen a continuous stretch of new rock this long, ever!

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After all that shake, rattle and roll it was determined that a hydration break was in order on this tiny bridge spanning the even tinier creek below.

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It's probably a good thing we did stop, otherwise we might have missed out on the heaping trailer full of pig manure that went by as we were standing on the bridge and it would have been a real bummer to miss out on that.

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At last we made it to Audubon and the anatomically accurate(ish) Albert the Bull. I say (ish) because while he had all the parts they looked a bit misshapen and odd looking but I suppose what do you expect from giant cement bull testes.

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The town is not only home to Albert but is also the birthplace of Harold Kaufman, the physicist responsible for NASAs Ion thrusters used in the 50s and 60s for spacecraft propulsion. But wait that's not all, it is also the birthplace of none other than C.W. McCall the crooner of trucker based outlaw country songs. His biggest hit, Convoy, subsequently spawning a movie of the same name staring Ali MacGraw, Ernest Borgnine and Kris Kristofferson. If that weren't enough for one small Iowa town, it is also named after John James Audubon... yes that John James Audubon, famed ornithologist and namesake of the Audubon Society. I'm not completely sure why the it was named as it was as I don't believe there are any ties between the town and the person but then again why are any towns named after famous people. For a brief time on Saturday it was also the "home" of two sweaty, scrotum grabbing, cyclists teetering away in the city park... nothing creepy about that at all.

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We jumped on the flat, boring but much appreciated T-Bone paved trail for the journey to the Plow in the Oak. While true to it's name I am not sure what I expected but was hoping for something more but nothing more than a plow stuck in an oak was to be had that day. I feel like there should have been a vendor selling "I visited the plow in the oak and all I got was this lousy T-shirt" apparel but there wasn't even that.

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The ride back to Atlantic was fairly uneventful, other than a lecture from a land owner not thrilled with cyclist on his recently purchased road, and we made quick time of it since it was mostly paved trail. The food and drink at Rancho Grande were fantastic, I opted for the Chuleta Ahumada (smoked pork chop) and the "medium" 32oz margarita. Yeah, they had a 64oz if you were really thirsty but I thought better of that choice.

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After dinner we loaded up the bikes and started the journey back to the Nebraska side of the border. Having spent almost 12 hours on the Iowa side, it was a full day of riding and discovery and I think we were both ready for a hot shower and to be done with pedaling for a bit. It was a fun little trip though and an area that still has lots of other bits of American left to be seen, a quick search on the Google-ator revealed at least another dozen or so things one could hit up while riding in that area. Perhaps another day.

Here is the video from the day, give it a watch if that's your sort of thing and maybe hit that like and subscribe button if you're so inclined to do so. Next week Doug and I are headed to the Tongy Trots in the Kansas City area, should be a fun little event so stay tuned for that.

 

The Land of Happy Little Trees - Part 1

At the crossroads of 350th St. and Nighthawk Ave. stands a precarious cottonwood tree that ought not be there at all. As folklore goes a surveyor in 1850 cut a cottonwood sprout to use as a walking stick while marking the Audubon and Cass county lines. Purportedly the surveyor stuck the sprout in the ground and left it there where it miraculously took root and grew into the 171 year old 100+ foot tall cottonwood tree that call the intersections it's home. Of course there is no way to prove or dispel the story now since anyone who might have first hand knowledge of the events is long since gone. True, false or somewhere in between doesn't really matter now, what matters is that somehow the cottonwood has been allowed to remain smack dab in the middle of that intersection for a really long time. Something like that, a curious person has to see for themselves, and so this is how we found ourselves traveling to Atlantic, IA on a warm spring day with a gravel route and bicycles in tow.

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The "coke" capitol of Iowa you say, sounds nefarious.

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After about an hour in the car we found ourselves in Gravely Country, sounded like we were in the right place. It was intended to be a normal Saturday ride with the usual suspects but only three of us showed from that group. It has always struck me as a bit peculiar that folks will drive a couple of hours for a ride they have paid for but won't make the same drive for a free ride. Not sure where that distinction comes from but I am more than willing to take their money if that's all it takes, cash only I do not accept check, credit card or money order. Thank you, kindly. 

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We did meet up with the Limestoners Cycling Club so there was still a decent group to ride with even if it wasn't the usual group.

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The Limestoners were planning on a mile route that hit the tree in the middle of the road and then headed back to Atlantic, Doug and I decided to check out two additional pieces of Americana and would split off after the tree and get in a total of 65 miles on our journey.

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In the way of a little added bonus, Jon, a local showed up to join us and we were treated to a stop at his farm which has been in the family since 1867! Jon ended up joining Doug and I up to Exira before splitting off and heading back to the farm, hope we can figure out a plan again to ride with Jon.

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Shortly after leaving the Jordan farm we happened upon an old cemetery with several headstones dating back to the mid to late 1800s. There was also a stairway that has long since been missing it's church that we dubbed the Stairway to Heaven.

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Sans church, it still made good for choir practice.

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I've already told the story of the tree in the middle of the road and while that story is interesting it's even more interesting that it's still around. When you think about it, the tree is over 170 years old and in all that time not a single person from the county or roads department had taken it upon themselves to remove the tree. That's almost unheard of, where else would they just allow a traffic impedance to remain? I think they are stuck with it now because removing it would cause a huge uproar I suspect but back 20 or 30 years ago I doubt it would have been noticed.

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A lesser known fact about the tree is that is also bears hipster fruit in the form of Hazy IPAs and they perfectly matched the Fargo too. I have to admit that IPAs are not my favorite type of barley pop but you never look a gift beer in the mouth as they say and it was nice to have something cold to drink on the first really warm spring day.

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While we were exploring the first cemetery a local in a UTV came by and chatted us up a bit, he let us know that there was another cemetery up the road that contained the grave of the first European settler in Audubon county. I wasn't sure if we were going to pass it or not so I was pleasantly surprised when we did ride right by it, a stop was in order of course.

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Nathaniel Hamlin was born in Kentucky in 1814 and settled in what is now Audubon county in 1851 with his wife, Margaret, and started farming his 160 acres of land on the banks of the Troublesome Creek. Nathaniel was also the first treasurer of the county and the first Postmaster of Hamlin's Grove post office and lived to the ripe old age of 83. During that time he grew his farm from 160 to 1400 acres, the family also grew to 63 grandchildren and 4 great grandchildren before his death in 1897. The odd thing about this cemetery was that there were several headstones for folks that lived into or beyond their 70s or 80s, one up over 100. When you think that the average life expectancy back then was about 40 years having that many in one cemetery that surpassed that by a lot is crazy, must be something in rural Iowa water. I did snag a pine cone from the tree that was at the edge of the fence, hopefully it doesn't end up being a haunted pine cone since the tree has spent countless decades leaching nutrients off the remains of the dead. We will end the tale here for now to keep the blog from becoming a novella and we will call this part one, come on back for part 2.