As I was sayin'...
The Iowa Eight rubbed the sleep outta their eyes, rolled outta the cars and into the parking lot to set about gearing up for an early morning ride. I knew the dawnish ride was planned because we couldn't check in until late morning. We talked about it via email so I didn't think to mention it to my carmates. Eh, heh, heh, Corey and Nick were a bit surprised when everybody started gearing up - oops, my bad :)
Temps were in the high 30's and the wind was whipping wickedly off the lake. There was much discussion about "shrinkage" as we donned layers of cycling gear. I went to take a picture and realized I had forgot to load my camera's memory card.
Awesome, didn't want to take any pictures of this dull crap anyway.
I cleared all the old pictures off the internal memory and later bought a new card so it was all good. Squirrel took the first Iowa Eight group photo, too bad he isn't in the picture but there was no time for that tripod finding, timer setting business, we needed to roll.
Note - I borrowed several pictures from Squirrel because he has a good eye, nice camera and is always miles ahead and can stop to set up shots. So, thanks Squirrel.
I also realized the maps I printed off, like the one below, for everyone were back in my office, which was very helpful. Its the thought that counts fellas (and Teri).
Aaaaaanddddd we're off ---
We headed east on The Womble from the Highway 27 Fishing Village, it was very nice that the trail was basically just across the street. As you can see on the topo profile, it hits you with a big climb right outta the gate.
Here's my Garmin's GPS maps of the day.
I was feeling pretty good and was happy with how I was climbing but definitely hoping the grades were going to mellow out. When we got to the top there was a nice vista.
When the hill mellowed the puddles, bogs and creek crossings began. Sometimes there wasn't a so-much a crossing as the trail was basically just a creek.
One creek in particular was a challenge as the water was fast flowing.
Matt gettin' all Man Vs Wild. Hey Discovery Channel, call us.
As advertised, there was no real mud at all. Its a little bizarre to us rich farm soil types to have so much moisture with so little goo.
Despite the abundant creek crossings the trail was fast flowing and a blast to ride, as you climbed up the ridges the trail dried out and you were welcomed with narrow, bench cut, highly packed trail that rides just about perfectly. Arkansasers, Arkansasi, Arkansasians - whatever you call yourselves you are lucky to have this set up.
I'll do another post reviewing my new bike, but suffice to say I love it. The bigger wheels handle gnarly stuff much better and climbing is good, it will take some getting used to fitting through tight turns and negotiating downhill switchbacks, but that should come with time. The only complaint I have is my brakes weren't adjusted properly and there was some gawd awful hyena squealing coming from them and they weren't modulating, meaning they were sort all ON or all OFF, no real feathering possible. They were still dern powerful, but I had to take it easy on the downs to keep from getting out of control.
As we neared the halfway point to North Fork Lake the sleepless night, long drive, cold temps and wet feet meant thoughts turned to heading back. We decided to opt for a fire road route to Hwy 27 and then pavement back to the cabins. The fire road ride was pretty cool. It was everything Iowa gravel grinders should be; miles of smooth rollers mixed in with long ripping descents and leg burning climbs. I was feeling pretty spry and kept up a good pace through this section. The chilly creeks had soaked our feet and the fire road speed was cooling them down further. We tried not to think about how bad it would get on the Hwy while maintaining a higher speed and being in the open wind. Trying not to think about it is easier when someone (Nick) isn't constantly talking about all-things toes and feet. You wouldda thought this guy was a Podiatrist or something.
Me: Shut up about the feet
Nick: Ok (mumbles something about metatarsals)
Me: Good, let's change the subject
Nick: Ok, well my toes are cold
Unfortunately our toe-fears all came to fruition when we arrived at Hwy 27. It was a long 7-8 miles back to the cabin, but at least we had a wide, buttery smooth bikelane/shoulder. I wasn't really pressing it, but I was feeling good stamina-wise so I kept a good pace all the way back. I was really motivated to end the toefrost as soon as possible.
Note: Squirrel does not like to be passed by anyone for any reason - ever. He was on a singlespeed, so there's only going so fast, but he still whizzed by me on a couple of occasions, just to prove a point. This guy will definitely be racin' wheelchairs down the halls of the old folks home someday. Upon arrival I immediately got in the SUV and turned the heater up full blast, floor vents blazin'. Peeling the wet shoes and socks off clammy cold, "numb" feet was a below average experience. I think that's as cold as my feet have ever been.
Tell me something - when a body part, like feet, are "numb" from the cold why does it hurt? Isn't that the opposite of numb? They need to call that something else.
Squirrel told me he didn't appreciate the passing, in his own unique way. I told him I was f@#$! Craig, so he'd have to deal with it :) Day 1 in the books: 24.5 miles, 3,780 feet of climbing.
It was too cold and we were too drained for a campfire, so it was veg, veg, veg then sleep the rest of the day. We were in for a big day tomorrow.