I want an extra punch on my Man Card for last week, I really do. I mean, usually I’m not all-into that self congratulatory, attention seeking stuff but this time I think I’m gonna break my arm patting my own back.
Ok, it starts with our regular Wednesday night Taco Ride. Unfortunately for the locals Des Moines has been doing its best impersonation of the rainy pacific northwest lately. Since we don’t have a huge freeride park under a Interstate bridge system we’ve been kept off our mountain bikes for awhile.
Our hiatus meant this Taco Ride was pretty well attended with 19 riders eager for dirty frivolity. We rode through Denman’s and, after regrouping, headed off toward Squirrel’s Nest. Most guys are cautious and walk their bikes over the train tracks that separate the two areas, but…
I don’t have many skillz on the bike but I’ve always been pretty good at taming the tracks. “Ride the bucking bronco!” I always say (only probably not anymore). The last few times I’ve done them I’ve had trouble with coming unclipped from the lead peddle halfway through which kills your momentum and this, my friends, is vury, vury bad.
Letting none of the previous warnings dissuade me I hop over the first rail, come unclipped, get my other foot caught on the opposite rail and slowly tip over, taking all the weight on my knee, on the rock, on the railroad tie. Uhm yeah, if somebody woulda yelled “TIMBER!” it would have been appropriate.
Now, I’m not gonna lie to ya, it hurt.
It swelt up too, almost immediately.
As I was still trying to tap into some mental Chi, to rise above the pain in my knee, I hear Justin yapping as he rolls on by “C’mon man, you’re fine! Let’s go!” (or something to that affect). About a minute later I pass Justin by the side of the trail. Seems that right after heckling me…hisssssssssss (air leaving his tire). Ah, karma.
The Man Card part comes when I suck it up and ride Hillside, Rollercoaster, J-11 and Denman’s. For our reverse track of Denman’s I somehow got into the lead of our smaller group of 4-5 riders. Never wanting to slow anyone down I tried to keep the pace up. After we finished my compatriots commented on the nice, quick pace setting and I heard one guy say that was as fast as he had ever ridden it. That made the throbbing in my knee a little less potent, I guess.
If it ended there I could see how one punch on the card would do it, but….before the knee smashing I had made plans to hit my semi-regular noon hour pick up basketball game the next day. It’s the only chance I have to see some good old friends of mine so I was looking forward to it. It’s a great game with guys I’ve known for many years, but its a small court and it can get pretty physical sometimes. I knew going in the conditions were ripe for a knee resmashing incident. I clearly instructed everyone prior to the game to NOT TOUCH my knee. “Hey, you and you and YOU…nooooo touchy.” I even texted my ole’ buddy Joel before hand, knowing he would be the weak link in my knee-protection plan. I informed him of the restrictions, and what was his reply?
“Consider it touched.”
Luckily my knee made through the game(s) with only Joel’s obligatory poking at the start (he met me at the door) and one bounce pass that bumped off of it a bit. Whew!
So if it ended there, that’s maybe a punch and a half, but I’m not even to the good part yet. The next day we headed out of town to an extended family member’s wedding in Dubuque. Never to miss a chance at riding some place new, I made plans to hit the lightly publicized FDR park. I’d heard of it before, but nothing too exciting, so I was really debating on whether taking the bike was worth it. Then fellow local Rick said it was a blast on his recent visit and another local guy, Steve, said he grew up there and also recommended it.
Everyone said it was hard to find and boy was it. I had good directions, tips about it being next to the Children's Zoo and on a unmarked gravel road and I still drove by it twice. When I got to the trailhead I was surprised to find several cars at the end of this dead end road in front of a gate that said no entrance.
Here's a GPS track someone posted online. Its not helpful for navigating on the trail, but does demonstrate just how much twisty track is out there.
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You do a lot of "Did I do this before?" "Is the parking lot that way?" "Wait, I think there's more trail this way....noooo, maybe that way." at FDR.
The reports of it being a bit plagued by a confusing spiderweb of sidebar trails were dead on. You jump in at the first trailhead and immediately its choose spurs A, B or C. That's followed shortly by a D, E, F option and so on and so on. This wouldn't bother somebody familiar with the network, but I think it would take you a pretty long time to get familiar.
Despite this drawback FDR really has a lot to offer. The trail is well maintained. The tread is packed down and burned in about as good as anything I've seen. It looks like it been there for 10 years or more.
Although there's some rip-your-legs-off climbs, there's plenty of flowy goodness that all mountain bikers love. Mix in some long ripping descents along with a fair amount of rocks and roots and you've got yourself one heck of a trail.
Here's a creek crossing. That's an old decrepit HERS outhouse door they're using as a bridge. High marks for creativity, says I.
It was at this crossing where I met Adam. He is from Cedar Rapids and had never been to FDR either, so we rode together for awhile. Adam explained that he is fairly new to mountain biking but has been doing his best to beat the crap outta his bike. He grabbed his back wheel and shook it side to side, showing it had plenty of rattle. "It keeps coming loose." He said, as if it was a spontaneous occurance and he really had nothing to do with it. Later, when he launched off a rickety plywood jump I understood better why his rear hub keeps coming loose.
Adam also gets an extra Man Card punch for recovering from a nasty crash that dented and punctured his helmet in...oh, I don't know just...the TEMPLE area. He was a little groggy from the impact but rode on like a champ. Hopefully he didn't need his brain for anything later that day. We also discovered that Adam had actually read my blog before, having come across my write up of his hometown Beverly Park a year ago. That was kind of super D neat O to meet someone out on the trail who had read my drivel.
FDR is rockier, bluffier and more technical than I gave it credit for, truly it is among the best riding I've done in the state. Like I said, the only problem is the short stretches of confusing trail. If it had better signage and maps as well as closing off some of the less valuable spurs this would be a tree-men-dos improvement.
Its blurry because I was huffing and puffing. No worries, just the side effects of being fat and old.
So it is = my Man Card gets two punches. I think that brings me up to..........two punches (this tally is accurate by +/- 2 punches).
Surely I'll earn a few more punches these next 3 weeks as I will be solo fathering my 10 and 13 year daughters much of the time while the Lady of the Manor is out of town transitioning to, and training for, her new job. Tonight I found myself with Princess #2 in a little girly jewelry shop in the mall, wondering what the hell I was doing there. Maybe I lose a punch for that......damn, just when I was getting ahead.