Story Time - Bridging the Gap - CycleBlaze

May 3, 2020

Story Time

Today promised to be a humdinger, at least weather-wise – mostly sunny, light westerly winds, temperatures reaching into the 70’s. I decided to have another go at cycling to Story City and exploring some of the areas in northern Story County. It would be a day dominated by long, straight roads through fields and farmsteads, with almost imperceptible changes in elevation.

Starting from home, I headed west across town and turned north at the county line road, also known as R38. Traffic was light but steady for the first few miles out of Ames. I passed two solo cyclists heading toward Ames, the first I’ve seen off the trails this year. I’ve biked the county line road a number of times – usually as the beginning or ending leg (depending on wind) of a nice 45-mile loop ride to Roland. I typically take a short break in the shade by the Saint Peter and Paul’s Catholic Church, but the old stone wall in front of the church and rectory was removed during a recent refurbishing project.

Passing the church, I continued north on R38 to the intersection with E18, the east-west county highway leading to Roland. Beyond here, R38 was unpaved as it zigs west before turning back to the north. I was heading northeast to Randall, the smallest town in Humboldt County located just a few miles north of Story City. I continued straight ahead, and the next several miles were a mix of gravel and paved roads. This part of Story County is sparsely populated and there was a calming stillness broken only by redwing blackbirds singing in hedgerows. I spotted a large CAFO (confined animal feeding operation) and knew I’d soon cross the line into Hamilton County (Story County has long-standing a moratorium CAFO’s). It was a large pig operation, and I pondered how they were handling the bottle-neck in the meat supply chain resulting from Covid outbreaks at Iowa meat plants. From the smell of things, they still had plenty of pigs.

A long straight road on a glorious day
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Scott AndersonIt’s interesting that you don’t really need contour to find beauty. Texture, color and contrast can be spectacular too.
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2 weeks ago
Susan CarpenterTo Scott AndersonI totally agree Scott, thanks. And riding a bicycle gives one the time and perspective to appreciate those features - one of the things I love about long rides through the countryside.
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2 weeks ago
On the county line road
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Red barns and cows
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The newly refurbished Saint Peter and Paul's Catholic Church
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Gravel - northern Story County
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View west to Boone County - seems a less flat
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White Barn
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Just me and the redwing blackbirds
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Like many of the smaller towns in Iowa, Randall (pop 170) is dominated by the towering grain silos of the local cooperative. There was little activity on Main St – someone picking up mail and another paying a visit to the Little Free Library box. I cycled through downtown to the park where met a couple of cyclists from Ames who had ridden here on US Hwy 69. They said it was great – a decent shoulder and respectful traffic. Maybe so, but I prefer exploring on the quieter, less travelled roads, even if that sometimes means venturing off the pavement.

 After lunch, I headed south on R61 to Story City, located just four miles south of Randall. I’d been to Story City a number of times, to visit friends and to play golf. But I’d never made it to either of town’s iconic attractions: Scandinavian Days and the antique Story City Carousel. The former celebrates the deep ties of Story City to its Nordic ancestors – similar to Randall, Story City was settled by immigrants from Norway and, to a lesser extent, Denmark Sweden. The 1913 Herschell-Spillman merry-go-round was shuttered, and I could only imagine the wonder of the all-wood, hand carved horses going up and down, round and round.

Welcome to Randall
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Main St., Randall, Iowa
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City Hall and Post Office, Randall, Iowa
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Hoshaw Fine Violins, which moved from Ames to Randall last year, makes and restores violins, violas cellos, and bows. The proprietor, Randy Hoshaw, also does Impressionist style oil paintings that decorate his store - and hang in his window
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Now that looks like a weapon to fend off vicious dogs!
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Scott AndersonHey! Just the thing. I’ll strap one on the back and grab it when a dog approaches. What could go wrong?
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2 weeks ago
Recharging in Randall
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Grain silos dwarf downtown Randall
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One of the sights the way to Story City
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Built in 1913, the Story Theater - Grand Opera House is the oldest continually running theater in Iowa
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The shuttered antique Story City Carousel
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The three most direct routes from Story City to Ames are the aforementioned US Hwy 69, Interstate 35, and a mix of pavement and gravel. I chose option C. Hillcrest Ave runs south from Story City, on the west side of the Skunk river. The road was paved for the first few miles out of town, but the pavement ended after crossing E18. The surface was not too bad, a little more gravel than I like, but much had been pushed to the side by local traffic. There were several residences along the way, but they eventually were replaced on the east side by fields of prairie grass that stretched out to the Skunk River Greenbelt. The road descended on a very gradual slope, coming to a T at wonderful old red barn. I zig-zagged back west and across Hwy 69 toward Gilbert where I picked up the bike path. I flew back to Ames, relishing being out on a bike on this glorious day.       

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Red barn and bike
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Home
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Today's ride: 44 miles (71 km)
Total: 433 miles (697 km)

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Scott AndersonI’ll bite. So what’s the story on Story? Curious name.
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2 weeks ago
Susan CarpenterTo Scott AndersonThanks for spurring me on to investigate -this is what I learned

The first settlers to this area, when it was all prairie, came from the US states of Indiana, New York and Pennsylvania, before the wave of Scandinavian and German immigrants in the 1850's. The county boundaries were established in 1846 and the county was named in 1853 for Joseph Story, a US Supreme Court justice.

I ask, why Joseph Story? It's not clear to me. Story was born, raised and educated in Massachusetts, so he wasn't a local man. But he was a very influential Justice on the Marshall Court and wrote some significant opinions establishing a strong Federal Union at the expense of State power. To quote Wikipedia, "Story saw state sovereignty as a threat to the stability of the American empire. ...asserting the sovereignty of the people of the United States, rather than that of the states, was integral to forming the national republic." Seems a viewpoint we might need right now.

Re naming Story City: It was originally known as Fairview, but in 1881 they went to establish a post office and found that the name Fairview was taken. So they took the name Story City. It is not the county seat, which is Nevada (pronounced Nuh-VAY-Dah and named after the Sierra Nevada Mountain Range).
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2 weeks ago