Roads to Rhodes - Bridging the Gap - CycleBlaze

April 5, 2020

Roads to Rhodes

The weather has been cold and rainy the last few days – we even had freezing rain. I busied myself Zooming with family and friends and long walks around Ames. Today’s forecast was for warming temperatures and sunshine, and it was spot on. I set my sights on a longish ride, planning to explore the Heart of Iowa Trail east of Cambridge and perhaps some of the marshland and state parks to the north. To extend my range, I decided to Cambridge. It was just past 10:30 I was on the bike and heading for Maxwell, about 6 miles away.

For the first five miles, the trail wound up and down through the woods  with periodic openings offering views of the surrounding countryside. It was clear that progress was being made in readying the fields for planting, as evidenced by stripes in newly turned soil in once farrow fields. About a mile outside of Maxwell the trail opened up. A line of purple martin nesting houses flanked - I scared one off as I approached, not nearly quick enough to get out the camera. I also encountered a few passers-by out enjoying the day, with everyone keeping their distance. The common form of communication was a wave rather than hello.

Heart of Iowa Trail junction in Cambridge - the start of today's ride
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Nice crushed limestone surface in this section of trail
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The trail is paved in short stretches, usually at hills or road crossings. Equestrians share the trail and usually, but not always, stay on the grass.
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Hoofprints on the limestone surface - a No, No!
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Openings along the trail provided occasional views of the surrounding countryside. The large green-roofed buildings in the distant left is likely a COFA livestock facility
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Stripes of tractor work in a once fallow soybean field
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The trail opened up as I neared Maxwell. The diffuse black cloud in the distance is a likely result of ditch burning
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A number of purple martin nesting houses were lining the trail as I neared Maxwell
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I left the trail after crossing Indian Creek and followed the unpaved Army Post Road to the town park and, eventually to downtown Maxwell. Although Maxwell is only slightly larger than Cambridge (pop. 900 vs 800), the town seemed much more prosperous. The buildings lining main street were in good repair, freshly painted, and all were occupied. The town boasted a large museum, a small grocery store and a Casey’s, the iconic Iowa gas station/convenience store. The Methodist church sponsored a community garden and a can/bottle redemption bin.  I don’t know what factors contribute to the economic prosperity of Iowa towns. I’ll let you know if/when I get some insight from my former RAGBRAI teammate who is director of community and regional planning for ISU extension.

The road to Maxwell - home of the Maxwell-Collins Spartans
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Spring rains can wreak havoc on Iowas gravel roads and unpaved trails, which may make for tough cycling in April
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Happy toothless wooden canines welcome you to the Maxwell dog park
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Rachael AndersonNow that’s what I like to see. A dog that doesn’t bite.
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1 month ago
East side of Main St, Maxwell
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West side of Main St, Maxwell
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Small park outside one of the three buildings comprising the Maxwell Historical Museum. The museum contains over 13,000 items dating from the mid-1800s til the present.
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Lace curtains in the apartments above the Maxwell Historical Museum
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Maxwell has both Logdson's, a local grocery store, and a Casey's gas and convenience store
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Maxwell's City Hall is adjacent to one of the three Historical Museum buildings. No lace curtains in the upper windows, just paintings depicting town life as it once was
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Maxwell United Methodist Church
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The community garden and can/bottle redemption center, both sponsored by the United Methodist Church
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It was another seven miles to Collins, a town of about 500 at the eastern edge of Story County. The route passed through woods and open areas, with a gentle, barely discernible gain in elevation. A display of old Farmall tractors led to a brief detour but I didn’t linger after spotting a German Shepard on the owner’s doorstep. No need for a Scott Anderson canine experience! In addition to City Hall and town Library, downtown Collins has a wellness center, gun shop and tattoo parlor. The most interesting thing I saw was a display of photographs taken by Arthur Rubenstein. A Pulitzer prize winning photographer, he was part Roosevelt’s New Deal Program and was the first photographer sent to document the effects of New Deal initiatives in rural America. Along the way, he passed through Collins and captured town residents in several memorable pictures, including one of three farmers hanging out on Main St. Realizing that I had been dawdling quite a bit, I had a quick bite to eat and headed for Rhodes, my turn-around point for the day.

Heading east out of Maxwell
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Iowa family farmstead
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A line of Farmall tractors on display
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The dog exhibited no aggressive actions but I heeded the advice of Scott Anderson and hightailed it back to the trail
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Rachael AndersonGood idea! Scott gets his stitches out tomorrow but it still looks pretty gross.
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Scott AndersonThat looks more like a tank than a tractor.
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Susan CarpenterTo Scott AndersonYes, quite impressive treads. Perhaps it's the Farmall MacGyver model of all-in-one farm machine that will go anywhere, do anything
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There is some effort by the State to improve Iowa water quality
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The presence of the bike suggests this is old building is currently occupied. Not sure if it's an house - the double garage appears larger than the living quarters. Perhaps some kind of repair shop???
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Scott AndersonDoesn’t appear to be a paint shop, at least.
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1 month ago
Collins, Iowa
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Farmers on Main Street, a Depression-era photograph by the Pulitzer-prize winning photographer Arthur Rothstein
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Mural on the side of Collins Wellness Center
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I was tempted to have lunch on one of the Aidorondack chairs, but opted for a sunny spot on the wall
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East of Collins, the Heart of Iowa Trail becomes fragmented and more primitive as it enters Marshall County.  It was almost three miles of county highway and gravel road before I came to the trailhead. At this point, the trail surface was essentially dirt and grass and remained so over the next six miles to Rhodes. As I made my way through the woods, there were slight changes in elevation that resulted in stretches of water, soggy grass and mud in the lower areas. I soon realized that tall orange pipes marked the wet spots, a nice warning to gird myself for a quick pedal through the muck and out the other side. The whole experience was quite fun, a little challenge in a serene setting, with a warming sun and blue skies. A battered sign pointed to a bridge overlook, so I parked Vivien George and climbed down the rickety steps for a view of Hoy Bridge, whose significance escapes me. The trail ended just outside the corporate limits of Rhodes, pop. ~300. I cruised through town, stopping only to check out the Patton M-60 tank and local memorabilia on display in the town park.

Gravel road connecting sections of the Heart of Iowa Trail
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East of Rhodes, the surface of the trail is more primitive, primarily a wide expanse of grass and dirt
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On the way to Rhodes
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Stopping to look at a bridge
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The Hoy Bridge and observation deck
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Reaching the corporate limits of Rhodes Iowa, population 300
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Main St, Rhodes
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The small town park displays historical bells from the schoolhouse (left) and fire station (center) as well as an M-60 Patton tank
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Rather than a strict out and back, I planned to return to Cambridge on paved county highways and gravel roads. It was almost 3 pm when I left Rhodes, heading west on County Highway E63. The road was smooth with small undulations and it was a joy to be back on pavement, clipping along through open vistas and big skies. I was having so much fun that I decided to change plans and stay on E63 until it ended at Collins. I continued west on gravel roads which, at first were hard packed and easy riding. But the surface worsened as I got farther from Collins and I eventually decided to head south and rejoin the Heart of Iowa Trail for the final 10 miles back to Cambridge. I made a pretty good pace but tired toward the end, realizing that I need to be less ambitious if planning early season rides on unpaved surfaces. Overall, it was a very satisfying outing and I found the Heart of Iowa trail to be a most pleasant route through some interesting little Iowa towns.

Open vistas and blue skies along County Highway E63
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Hendrickson Marsh
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Hendrickson Marsh
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Back on the outskirts of Collins
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View of Collins from US Highway 65
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My car waits for me back in Cambridge
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Home again
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Today's ride: 42 miles (68 km)
Total: 94 miles (151 km)

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Mike AylingAnother interesting ride Susan.
You don't have to go miles from home to see interesting stuff.
BTW here in the state of Victoria Oz you can ride as far as you like but you must start from home. Using your car to get to the start is a no no.

Mike
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1 month ago
Susan CarpenterTo Mike AylingThanks Mike. I do wish all my rides could begin from home but there are only so many interesting corn and soybean fields within a 20 mile radius. I'll keep looking though.
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1 month ago