A morning ride to Gilbert - Bridging the Gap - CycleBlaze

March 30, 2020

A morning ride to Gilbert

My hub is Ames, IA – a college town of ~66,000 located in central Iowa 30 miles north of Des Moines.  This part of Iowa is pretty flat, even by Iowa standards.  It is a glaciated landscape characterized by a somewhat rolling terrain dominated by farmland and peppered with small towns.  My destination this morning is Gilbert, a town of about 1,000 just north of Ames.

It was a sunny brisk day with little wind - a glorious day for cycling. I headed out through neighborhoods marking the progressive, northward growth of Ames  – the older downtown neighborhood established in the early 20th century, the post-war ranch style neighborhoods of the 50’s and 60’s and finally the explosion of McMansions built over the last 20 years. My route took me through Ada Hayden Memorial Park, a 137 acre preserve that includes a small lake, wetlands and prairie crisscrossed by biking and walking trails. These days, the park is a refuge for those seeking a little outdoor recreation and alleviate the confinements of social distancing. On this morning, the paths weren’t overly crowded but I did pull my buff up over my nose and mouth while on the bike paths. I opted to take the less crowded unpaved trail that followed a small ridge along the northern edge of the park and afforded a nice view of wetlands and prairie.  

Vivien George - ready to go
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The Memorial Park honors Ada Hayden - a botanist, conservationist and champion of the Iowa prairie who was the first woman to receive a PhD from Iowa State University.
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Social distancing at Ada Hayden Memorial Park
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Ada Hayden Memorial Park
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Wetlands, prairie and the Purple Martin housing project fill the northwest section of Ada Hayden Memorial Park
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Leaving the park, I hopped on a new county bike path that took me to the edge of Gilbert. The commercial area of Gilbert comprises a two block stretch along the train track and is dominated by a large farm cooperative at the end of Main St.  There were few people out and about, despite the fact that we are one of the few remaining states without a stay at home mandate. Two folks visiting outside the Post Office were maintaining their social distance and a window sign indicated COVID modifications of co-op activities. 

Signs of the continuing northward growth of Ames
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The countryside around Ames is dotted with old barns, many still in active use
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Scott AndersonBeautiful. I think I’d like this country.
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1 month ago
Main Street, Gilbert Iowa
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Downtown Gilbert is flanked by the train track and is dominated by and Key Cooperative at the north end of town
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Sharing local gossip in the era of social distancing
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Small libraries and historical museums are a common feature in small Iowa towns
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Key Cooperative
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Gilbert paper recycling center
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Current market prices of important Iowa commodities
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COVID adjustments at the Key Cooperative
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It wasn't long before I'd taken in all that Gilbert had to offer and I headed west on a county road. Cycling past the fallow fields and farmsteads, it was clear that farming activity is just beginning to quicken. Distant plumes and the smell of smoke signaled the spring ritual of ditch burning. It would not be long before my rides are accompanied by the rumble of tractors as the ground is tilled and the seeds are planted. 

After three miles, I turned south, crossed Onion Creek, and soon reached the outskirts of Ames. The road undulated a bit as it descended and rose from the creek - not hills, just not so flat! What you might call a small deviation from the mean. Just north of the Ames town line, I decided to leave the county road and test how Vivien George handled the gravel. The road contained a lot of loose gravel, which indicates recent application and/or infrequent traffic. The bike handled fine, though I found myself carefully weaving from one side of the road to the other, seeking the more comfortable hard-packed stretches. Luckily, I encountered no vehicles during my bobbing and weaving. Back on pavement, it was a quick jaunt back home where I reflected on how good it felt to be back outside and on a bike.  I’m a bit out of shape after the long winter and social distancing, but I look forward to the yearly renewal and exuberance of springtime cycling.

Long, straight county roads - the good thing is that cars have a long line of sight and should be able to see you far off in the distance.
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Taking a break along Onion Creek
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Vincent, my social distancing biking buddy, is happy to be out in the sun and back on the bike
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A Mallard family crossing Onion Creek
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No, I won't share my apple
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Loose gravel was a little challenging, but nothing Vivien George couldn't handle
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Back home at The Roosevelt, a former elementary school that has been repurposed as condominiums. My unit is the one just above the door - south facing and great windows!
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Graham SmithI thoroughly enjoyed this journal entry Susan. There are many similarities to rural northern NSW Australia (where I grew up) and your part of the USA. My home patch (not where I live now) has more hills and less wetlands than Iowa, but grain growing and grazing are major activities. And that classic small town feel.
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1 month ago
Kathleen JonesI'm interested in that wetland in the park. Is that natural? Is it creek-fed or rain-fed? Seasonal? Something about the photos and the angles just piqued my interest.
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1 month ago
Susan CarpenterThanks for your interest Kathleen. The area was reclaimed from an old quarry and the lakes are man-made. There are a number of projects in the park to restore original prairie and habitat.
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1 month ago

Today's ride: 19 miles (31 km)
Total: 19 miles (31 km)

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Scott AndersonNice to read about someone else’s ride for a change. Watch out for the dogs!
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1 month ago
Bob DistelbergI'm really liking the idea of people posting about some of their 'hometown' rides. Following along on people's tours is fun for sure, and gives you a chance to sort of get to know people that you're probably never going to meet face to face. But, it also seems like it gives a new perspective on people to see what kind of riding they do when not on tour, and a sense of what it's like where they live. I know it's not the mission of Cycleblaze, but seems like a nice thing during these uncertain times. Thanks for posting this Susan.
Bob
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1 month ago
Rachael AndersonTo Bob DistelbergI agree with you Bob. Thanks for sharing Susan!
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1 month ago
Susan CarpenterTo Scott AndersonThanks Scott - your warning about dogs is a point well-taken. Hope your recovery is going well.
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1 month ago
Susan CarpenterTo Bob DistelbergThanks for the feedback Bob. I'm having fun exploring some of the back roads of central Iowa for the first time - sort of my own little mini tour. Anything with a whiff of normalcy is a welcome respite these days.
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1 month ago
Susan CarpenterTo Rachael AndersonThanks Rachel!
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1 month ago
Kathleen ClassenAnother blog to read. How wonderful. I really like this idea. Keep riding and keep posting!
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1 month ago
Susan CarpenterThanks Kathleen! I'm having a lot of fun sharing my rides and appreciate the positive feedback.
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1 month ago