On the windswept plains of central Iowa lies the tiny town of Grinnell Iowa. If you've never heard of Grinnell I would not be surprised, up until March of this year when I traveled there for the C.O.G 100 I had never heard of it either. Saturday we were in Grinnell again but this time for the Prairie Burn 100 gravel ride, not a race but not really a tour either. I guess you could say it was more of a group ride with a hundred people you probably don't know. Unlike the Lazy Horse the Prairie Burn did not have stops planned in surrounding small towns but what it did have was live music in the park on Friday and Saturday nights, so more festival and less tour but still a good time.
I have to admit that I am more than a little enamored with Grinnell, with a population of just under 10,000 people it's small enough to have that small town feel but big enough to have almost everything you could ask for or at least that I could ask for. The town is clean, has some great architecture in it's buildings, there appears to be a vibrant economy, a movie theater and a few restaurants that have no business being in a town this size. The economy is bolstered by the Jen Weld plant, a new one of a kind Brownells retail store and Grinnell College. The is ranked as one of the top 20 alternative colleges to the Ivy League schools and ranked as the 7th best bang for your buck liberal arts college. From the outside looking in it seems like a slice of Mayberry right here in Iowa. If I could convince the other half that the hustle and bustle of big city life ain't all it's cracked up to be, I'd love to find a place like this to call home.
Saturday morning was the ride and for a first year event there was quite a showing, not sure what the total number was but I wouldn't be too surprised if it got up near 100 riders. With three distance options, 25, 50 and 100 it was friendly for almost everyone.
The gravel was worlds apart from the mess it was back in March when we were in town for the C.O.G, there were still soft spots and chunky rock but gone was the endless amounts of mud. I much preferred the gravel on Saturday, even if my legs felt like they weren't there for the first loop. Brent and Beth came up from Missouri for the ride, haven't ridden with them in over a year so it was good to see them again.
It was odd seeing planting still going on in June, there were some fields that were already planted but nothing was taller than a few inches tall. Looks like it's going to be a late season this year, I do think that the lack of corn has contributed to the lack of stifling humidity, so there is at least one positive.
First loop was 25 miles and to be honest it just wasn't my day and there were a few times I thought about doing just the 25 and calling it good. Now had it been a race those thoughts would probably not have been there but it wasn't a race and it was in the loop format, which to me eases the ability to pull out early. If you're 25 miles into a 100 mile loop, you might as well keep going if you can keep going because it's 25 miles back so you'd have at least 50 in before you could be done and if you've gone 50, well you might as well stack on that other 50 for good measure. Did I mention how clean and awesome Grinnell is, I could ride through there everyday and not get tired of seeing the architecture.
Brent and I got back and I grabbed something to drink and a Stinger waffle to snack on while I contemplated what to do. I didn't feel bad but I definitely felt pretty blah and there wasn't much in the legs. As we sat there I did start to feel better so once Beth caught up with us it was decided we'd probably just do the second 25 mile loop and call it good.
As we sat in the shade deciding what to do, we talked to a guy from the news and he was a plethora of information on the history of Grinnell. This building is debated to be the site where one of the first if not the first automobile was manufactured in the US. Check out that crazy balloon on the lamp post sculpture, like I said, a lot to like about this town.
The three of us left Grinnell for the next loop and decided to just ride it as a group, since it had been a while since we've seen these two; that was more than alright with me.
I caught a second wind on the second wind, it ended up being a much better loop for me than the first. This despite the fact that most said the second loop was the harder of the two, not for me. Even managed to sneak in a ditch beer spot which did hurt to pick the spirits up.
Iowa is not flat, at one of our regroups Brent decided to tackle this little molehill just for the heck of it as it wasn't even on course. I told him I'd wait at the intersection for him and take pictures and so I did, that little speck on the left side on the third picture is Brent at the top... waaaaaay up there.
The shade was nice so we did a lot of our regroups in the shade, met this friendly farm cat at one of the stops. Directly across the road was this ground squirrel digging away, the two unaware of each other, someday they might meet up and it probably won't be to discuss the weather.
I thought we made pretty quick work of the second loop and it wasn't too long before we were back in Grinnell. The quicker end of our group decided that they had had enough also so it was quick shower at the local fitness center and then some pie (pizza and rhubarb varieties) and great music for the rest of the evening. The event was such a success that they already have a date set for next year, mark June 6th on your calendars for next year; it's well worth the drive over. Great ride, great food and great music. It's too bad every ride couldn't end like this.