New quick note from 4-12-06. I never got around to typing this up last year after I took the trip. My foot was still broken and I needed surgery to fix it. But since I was a fool and didn't go to the doctor for months hoping it would heal, I lost any bike riding time after I took my vacation. I didn't really want to think about all the time I had missed so I pushed these write ups out of my mind. Now that spring is here and summer is coming full bore, I thought I'd return to last summer. My road jopurnal still has a lot of details, but I'm sure my brain has forgotten quite a few as well. These may not be overly detailed, but I'll try to keep it interesting and the pictures are pretty to look at.
Original quick note from 9-8-05 – As I sat down to type this up, it was the polar opposite of the day I took this trip. Outside my front door the sky was a dark gray, bordering on blackness even though it was only 3 in the afternoon. It was pouring rain. Not 30 minutes before I began this paragraph I got stuck in the garage because it was raining too hard to make it inside. In the end I found a blanket, wrapped myself up and ran for my front door. I must have been quite a sight if any neighbors were watching. My wife sure thought it was funny. I think it made me appreciate the day of this trip even more as I typed it up.
My vacation was on day # 2 of 10. I had put off a smaller trip to New Virginia and Winterset. I hadn't ridden at all in 3 days.
It was time to rectify that.
Gas had gone up to $3.09/gallon overnight. Oh well. There was still riding to do. My final goal for the day is my In-laws' house outside of Wall Lake . Only 2 hrs northwest of where I live in Waukee, but I figured by taking the Western Scenic Byway (technically highway 44) and stopping off in Audobon to see Albert the Bull would make it a productive trip. If I'm riding I'm having a good time, but there's no reason I can't cross a goofy landmark off my list along the way.
About 11:30 am I set out on my trip. I had put my things together for my bike bag the night before so I only had to do a quick double-check before leaving. I pulled the bike out of the garage and headed for the Kum & Go down the street where I filled up to the tune of $7. I cruised my way through town up to Highway 6 and headed west. It was 85 degrees with minimal clouds. No wind to speak of. I only had to be on 6 for a few minutes, but the time I was on it was pleasant enough. Not too far out of Waukee I headed north on 169 to Dallas Center .
Dallas Center is a small town, far enough from the city that it seems like the small towns I grew up in, but close enough to have the high mortgages like every other town around here. If a town is within thirty minutes of Des Moines, whether by a local road or the freeway, it's an expensive place to by a house. I was only in Dallas Center a few moments, just long enough to cross the five blocks to the north side and head west on 44. I've ridden 44 before and you can read about it in my trip report to the First Great Train Robbery in the West. Let's just say it's still a great ride with plenty of great scenery. I stopped to take a few pictures to give you an idea of what it was like. Just remember this is a still photograph of one view. To actually stand there and take it in is a different story altogether.
I stopped after only 35 miles in Panora to grab something to drink. Once again I didn't bother to eat or drink anything before I left. I fell on my old standby, chocolate milk, to serve as a quick breakfast so I could get back on the road. A quick stop at Caseys, a fast chug of the goods and I was off. Soon enough I was coming up on Guthrie Center . I had never entered town from the east before so I was surprised to come across this:
After I took that picture I turned to my right and saw a cemetery on a hillside.
Last time I came through Guthrie Center I came from the west. From that side you can see the town nestled down in a valley. I had forgotten my camera last time I was through here, but that was then and this is now. Once I got to the top of the hill I parked on the side of the road and took the picture I wanted to take last time.
It's not the same as if you were standing there, but it gets the general idea across. You see that loose white rock on the side of the road? It was a bitch to use the kickstand on. I had to readjust three times before I felt safe enough to let go of the bike. I kept heading west, still on the Western Scenic Byway. It truly is great scenery so if you get a chance, ride that sucker in the summer. Preferably on a motorcycle, but even in a 4-wheeled cage will do.
Once in Audubon I finally came across Albert The Bull.
I had seen him before, but it was a long time ago. I'm not even sure how long. Albert is a huge bull built as a tribute to the beef industry. They built him big, brown and with a huge set of gonads. I'm not kidding. Check it out:
After getting my pics I stopped by the little info booth and pressed the button to hear Albert tell his story. I was bored to tears after about 15 seconds so I turned around to see a famous celebrity. That's right folks, right here in Iowa I saw none other than Yogi Bear!
As you can see from the above pic, there were quite a few folks camping. I don't blame them. It was damn nice out.
I loaded up and headed north. I was fairly hungry at this point and I knew a place in Carroll where I could get a decent meal. I tell you, halfway to Carroll it occurred to me that I must have killed half of Iowa's butterfly population with my face so far on this ride. It seems like I was killing one every 3 minutes or so. I know when you think butterflies, images of pretty little orange and black Monarhchs come into your head, but at 65mph, those suckers slamming into your cheek sting hard enough to make you tear up.
I pulled into Carroll about 2:30 pm. The day was nice when I started, but it felt even better now. I stopped at The Family Table and ordered up some biscuits and gravy with a Pepsi to drink. I sipped the ice-cold Pepsi and caught up on my notes as I waited for my food. I also called my wife to let her know where I was.
After I finished my meal, I took the quick 30 minute jaunt up to my In-laws place. I rode 127 miles for the day. As often happens to me after a great ride, I couldn't stop smiling for a few minutes after I got off the bike. My wife was already here and she brought out puppy, Sidney, with her. I gave Sid and my In-laws dog, Trixie, a few scratches. After that I unbuckled the bag from my bike and headed inside.
I was up uncharacteristically early for me, especially since I am on vacation. I was out of bed at a very early 9 AM. This may not sound that early to you, but to a guy who has worked the night shift for years and normally doesn't get out of bed until 10:30 AM or later, 9 AM is like getting up at the crack dawn. On my normal days off I prefer to get up at the crack of noon.
Today, however, I have a purpose. I'm gonna head over to Smithland and see the Tin Man. I rolled myself out of bed, grabbed a shower, got dressed, and headed outside. A quick inspection of the bike finds nothing unusual so I slide a leg over and bring it to life. I headed north for two or three miles, turn left for a two or three more, then turn north and ride the few miles into Odebolt. I stop and gas up. I take 175 west out of Odebolt and stay on it all the way to Mapleton. For most of the ride I have the road to myself and cruise along at my own pace, not bothering to pay much attention to the speedometer.
I stopped in Ida Grove to take some pictures. A local guy there, I don't know his name, has some patents for some industrial tools. Or at least that is the story I heard. He is quite rich however. He has a huge-ass house and the entrances to his places have a mid-evil castle look to them. He has a small private lake across the road from his place with a olden times ship floating on the edge. You can't really see it too well in any of the pictures I took, but I did get a good shot of my Shadow by the entrance to the lake.
On the other side of town, there is a war memorial of sorts. There is a cannon, a chopper, and a few other things.
Next to the memorial, is a Pizza Hut on a peninsula. There is a small pond surrounding it that some local ducks tend to gather around.
These ducks are used to humans and tend to get fed a lot by the locals. Therefore if you stop they will come towards you en masse quacking like there is no tomorrow. If you are not used to this, you will think that a duck posse has just formed and is coming over to kick your ass. Rest assured, they just think you have food. But I suggest you don't turn your back on them.
Once I get out of Ida Grove the road got to be curvy and hilly. This is fine as I rode a lot of straight roads yesterday. This is farm country. Lots of fields separated by gravels roads and the occasional house. Here and there you'll see a tractor abandoned in a field. I rounded one curve and came upon a windmill sitting on a hillside surrounded by nothing but green grass. I'm not sure why, but it caught my eye so I stopped to grab a picture.
In Mapleton I saw a few other riders of the Harley persuasion. Like 99% of the other Harley riders I've met on the rode, they did not wave. Too busy being individuals, I guess. I head northwest out of Mapleton on 141. It turns out the hills before were just warm-ups. There are hills galore on the road between Mapleton and Smithland. Over the top of one I spotted this barn that had seen better days.
As I rolled into the small town of Smithland, I wondered how I would find this Tin Man. It turns out I didn't need to worry as I saw him right off the main road that goes through town. The Tin Man has seen better days, he's getting a bit rusty, but I stopped to pay my respects just the same.
By now I was getting mighty hungry as I hadn't eaten breakfast. I rode back into Mapleton to see if I could find someplace to eat. I did see a café type place, but the outside inspired thoughts of a filthy scumhole so I just headed out of town on a road called D Ave. Straight on through a rinky-dink town called Schleswig, north through Kiron, I eventually made my way back to my In-laws place. I was even hungrier so I recruited my wife to head into town with me to grab some grub at the local grease-pit café. I had a little over 100 miles when I dropped the stand back in Wall Lake. I wasn't 100% sure where I was headed next, but I had a day or so to think it over so I decided to enjoy the rest of the day just relaxing.