Shakedown ride

Hello, I’m Julie, your cruise director on the Love Boat. Whoops, sorry, my mind wandered off for a sec there!

On Memorial Day weekend, Larry and I took the fully loaded touring bikes (he on his Nishiki and me on his LeMond) to ride the Cedar Valley Trail. There’s a description and map of the trail on the GORP site, with a cute subhead, “Rolling on the River.” The reality of its situation today is a bit less than cute. When we got to the trailhead in Hiawatha the county guy told us that the trail was closed for paving from Boysen to Center Point but that we could get around it on the county roads that parallel 380. Worse, though, was farther north; the damage caused by the Flood of 2008 still hadn’t been repaired. The bridge into La Porte City was out and the trail was partly impassable, he said.

Elwood: It’s a hundred and six miles to Chicago, we’ve got a full tank of gas, half a pack of cigarettes, it’s dark, and we’re wearing sunglasses.

Jake: Hit it.

The trail north from Hiawatha to Boysen is paved, with a snappy yellow line down the middle. At the trailhead, you have to turn west on County Home Road and north on Center Point Road. It’s not bad. At least in the daylight.

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In Center Point you can rejoin the trail, which is now crushed limestone. The trail winds through farmland, lowlands, wetlands, and a lot of things inbetween. There was almost no one on the trail, although we did see two guys (one on a cargo bike with a sound system) heading to La Porte for a team campout. They’d “ridden” through the construction zone and the guy on the cargo bike said he fell a couple of times in slippery stuff. They looked pretty hot and wasted for only being halfway to their destination.

Since this was a rehearsal for the trip in July, we were fully loaded. This was my first time piloting solo with four panniers. When we got back on the trail in Center Point we were riding on limestone. Around Brandon, the trail is overgrown and there were downed branches, thanks to the strong winds.

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We had originally thought we’d make it to Cedar Falls. Before we’d left Iowa City Larry had looked up some old Southern Iowa friends, Gus and Sally, who had moved to La Porte City. The problem is that while he was able to find what he was pretty sure was their address, the listed phone number was busy every time he called.

Sure enough, a few miles south of La Porte, there was a handwritten note directing us off the trail because the bridge was out. Another five miles or so of gravel roads past farms.

Oh, and Gus and Sally? The road into LaPorte took us right past a pretty, brown cottage nestled in the trees. Three fierce watch-Chihuahuas barked frantically as Larry went up to the door and it only took a greeting from Larry for Gus and Sally to invite us in, feed us, and give us a bed for the night.
“Lapland hospitality,” Larry calls it.

To be continued….

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