Saturday, May 28, 2011

The Sauk Rail Trail & The Beginning of Summer Reading

The Sauk Rail Trail
It was raining, raining, raining, so we drove to Swan Lake State Park in Carroll, Iowa, north of the rain showers.  The Sauk Rail Trail runs 33 miles from Swan Lake to Black Hawk Park in Lake View.  Formerly a limestone trail, it used to be a tough ride in parts, but it is newly paved.  On June 11, its Grand Opening, or Grand Concrete Paving, will be celebrated with a ride and a free lunch.

The limestone trail was completed in 1989 and used to be called the Sauk Bluebird Trail.  The new no-nonsense name, Sauk Rail Trail, describes what it is--a railroad bed converted to a bicycle trail.

It is a lovely, effortless ride now that the trail is paved.  We rode 35 miles, from Carroll to Carnivon and back. We saw bluebirds, goldfinches, and two scary-looking snakes--I shrieked and barely avoided running over them.  We took a break in a park in Breda, reading and eating Gummy Bears and M&Ms.  The return was difficult, pedaling into the wind, but we eventually coasted into, if not quite a valley, at least a more protected area.

We have never seen so many bicyclists on this trail.  It is Memorial Day Weekend, so many are camping in the state parks, but there were also casual day-trippers like us.  Swift RAGBRAI teams, laid-back stolid bicyclists like ourselves, young and old couples, professional-looking guys on recumbents, casual people out for a short ride, and fast bicyclists with boom boxes to inspire them to ride faster.  

We stopped in front of this small farm.  Isn't this goat adorable?  There were also ducks, chickens, and a prehistoric-looking bird we couldn't identify.  I put away my camera before I spotted the pigs.  We see them so seldom now:  most are shut up in factory farms. 

We saw a LOT of windmills.  Fun fact:  Iowa is the second largest producer of wind energy in the U.S., after Texas. In 2010, 15.4% of electricity in Iowa was generated by wind.  Wind turbine parts are manufactured in Newton, Cedar Rapids, and West Branch.  We're all about the wind here!

Here's the railroad bridge where we stopped and turned back.

Here is some grafitti on the bridge.

SUMMER READING.  I took Bleak House along for my bicycling break.  There is much reading of Victorian novels around here, and I often read favorite parts of books, but right now I am reading BH sequentially.  I am near the end:  Richard, though still deluded by the life-destroying properties of the never-ending Jarndyce v. Jarndyce suit, is now ill and vaguely realizes that he may have chosen the wrong path.  Woodcourt, Esther's friend, attends him, and he says:

"Woodcourt, I should be sorry to be misunderstood by you, even if I gained by it in your estimation.  You must know that I have done no good for a long time.  I have not intended to do much harm, but I seem to have been capable of doing nothing else.  It may be that I should have done better by keeping out of the net into which my destiny has worked me; but I think not, though I dare say you will soon hear, if you have not already herd, a very different opinion.  To make short of a long story, I am afraid I have wanted an object; but I have an object now--or it has me--and it is too late to discuss it."

Poor Richard!

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