Sauk rail trail - Two Far 2018 - Trailing through the Rust Belt - CycleBlaze

Sauk rail trail

Although we were only on the Sauk rail trail for 25 miles this morning, I think it is my favorite of all the trails we have ridden so far.

It had a nice mixture of farms and natural areas. There were trees, praries and marshland. The hard work of volunteers was evident all along the trail. No doubt you have heard the proverb that the best time to plant a tree was 20 years ago, the second best time is now. We enjoyed seeing both best and second best trees.

The newly planted trees are all in cages to discourage deer, who think the best time to eat a tree is now.
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Halfway along the trail, we made an early stop in the town of Breda. Team S wanted to get breakfast in Breda. Alain was not the least bit hungry, but agreed to have coffee and a slice of rhubarb pie just to keep them company. The sacrifices we make for friends...

In 1915 this was a bank. Today it's a good place for pie.
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Pam HorneI love pie!
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11 months ago

After the pie stop, we got back on the Sauk trail. The trail had excellent pavement. As usual, most of the roads we crossed were unpaved. In some places the road crossing was paved, in other places the road crossing was gravel. We met a couple of volunteers, Andy and  Mitzi, fixing up a bridge on the trail who shed some light on this. Andy explained that on the paved crossings, bikes zip across the road without slowing down or looking for cars. On the gravel crossings, bikes slow down, making the crossing safer. I'm pretty cautious about crossing roads, paved or unpaved, but I now see the wisdom in leaving crossings unpaved.

A paved crossing on an unpaved road. Perhaps an invitation to cross without checking for traffic.
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Volunteers Andy and Mitzi. We are grateful for their hard work.
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We have seen housing developments along bike trails, and suspect the trail adds a significant boost to the value of the houses. On the Sauk trail, volunteers had built hundreds of houses and given them away for free.

Shining a spotlight on the resident of a volunteer built house along the trail.
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The trail passes Blackhawk Marsh. Signs informed us that marshes in this area need to be periodically drained in order to control invasive carp. The carp stir up the mud on the bottom, causing cloudy water. We saw several otters organizing an all you can eat fish fry in order to control the carp population without draining their marsh.

That blur in the middle of the water is an otter.
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A unique feature that I have never seen on any other cycling route was a tailwind generator. A series of large fans have been placed along the trail. There is an ATM-like machine where you can pay to turn on the fans to create a tailwind. The cost, at $1 per minute, seemed steep to me, but we went ahead and bought 10 minutes of tailwind just to say we tried it. Despite the imposing size of the fans, it was more of a gentle breeze than a wind. If you are that desperate for an assist, I recommend an Ebike.

The tailwind generating fans.
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Reaching the end of the Sauk trail.
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After we reached the end of the trail, we were back on roads, but they had good shoulders. At one point a bridge was being repaired and a traffic light was used to allow traffic in one direction or the other to cross the bridge. Team S timed the light perfectly and came flying down the hill and across the bridge under the green light. Team A came down the hill just in time to come to a srceetching halt as the light turned red.

Curses! A red light at the bottom of a hill.
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We passed several livestock feedlots. The family farm with a couple of cows and pigs is a distant memory, other than perhaps in Amish communities. The farms we have been passing for the last few days are enormous.

These cattle seemed surprised to see cyclists passing by. Isn't RAGBRAI supposed to be in July?
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Fertilizer is big business in Iowa. After a merger, Agrium is now Nutrien, the biggest fertilizer company of them all.
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We are spending the night next to Storm Lake. No storms are in sight, but the lake is nice. The towns along the lake shore survive on tourism. 

Beautiful cottonwood trees in Lakeside: "Best little town by a dam site".
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