Sunday, October 21, 2007

More off-road riding in Iowa

This morning we woke up to temps in the low to mid 40’s. I was surprised that the overnight temperatures didn’t dip like they usually do. From the time we went to bed last night to the time we woke up this morning, the temperatures remained steady. This was probably one of the more pleasant nights that I’ve spent camping because of that steady temperatures. And we even slept without the rain fly on the tent.

Our camp site, just a step away from the bathroom

Usually when I’m camping, the temperatures are still mild at bed time, and then at some point in the middle of night, or towards morning, I end you waking up to put on more layers and zip up the sleeping bag because the temperature has dropped 10 degrees or more. I guess that didn’t happen this time because so late in the year, when we went to bed it was already pretty cold and never got much colder.

Luxury is an air matress and an electric blanket on a cold night

There is nothing better than getting up with nature and having breakfast by the camp fire

Just like home, fresh hot coffee is waiting

After some hot cereal and coffee, we packed up the camp site, geared up for our ride and took off. It was already in the mid to upper 50’s by the time we left. It was going to be a warm day today, and it was supposed to be very windy. The wind was already blowing pretty hard as we rode out of the park.

Heading out of the park towards the Mississippi River

The roads we rode today were very similar to the roads we rode yesterday, farms, hills, trees, gravel and dirt. The only thing that was different, the wind was blowing me around on the open roads and I had to ride a bit slower because of that. I really dislike the wind and the XT is very light so it doesn’t take much for me to be blown around.

Open space not so fun on a windy day

Found some twists and turns

We found some big hills

It was also getting warmer by the minute, the high for the day was supposed to be in the low 80’s and while going 30-35MPH the temps felt pleasant, riding slow, climbing hills and while stopped I was pretty warm and sweating.

Fallen leafs everywhere

Amazing colors of gold and amber

This road was too technical for me, it was steep with many rocks and there were too many leafs on the ground. I can’t ride what I can not see. The golden colors were spectacular though.

Heading back to the camp on 52

In the afternoon we made it back to the campsite, packed the bikes up on the trailer and headed for home. The sunny skies disappeared a couple of hours ago and the clouds rolled in, the winds kept on blowing and at times it even looked like it would rain, but it didn’t.

GPS tracks from this weekend

I was pleasantly surprised by the roads in this area, they were all a bit different, so we had a nice variety. I ride the street bike out here a lot because of the nice curves, the scenic bluffs and the elevation changes, all that was present for the off-road as well.

Saturday, October 20, 2007

Bellevue, IA on the Mississippi River

The dual-sports needed a good running and the temperatures were supposed to be above average this weekend perfect for camping. The poor bikes have been sitting since the beginning of July, since our Michigan Upper Peninsula ride.

With the bikes loaded up on the trailer, we headed for Iowa. Three hours later we arrived at the Bellevue State Park, IA located by the mighty Mississippi River. The park has two units, we camped in the Dyas Unit which is two miles south on Highway 52 from the Nelson Unit and Bellevue, IA.

The road to Bellevue State Park is not paved

We had no reservation because we didn’t think it was going to be a problem finding a camping spot this time of the year. There were actually a bunch of people camping but we did manage to find a spot that was a bit isolated from the others.

Our camp site at Bellevue State Park

This park has no great scenery, at least not from the camp sites, but the prices were just right, $6 for a regular site, $11 for an electric site. We went with the electric since we brought the coffeemaker and the electric blanket. Also, there was no entry fee like there is in Wisconsin for the State Parks, which is $10 per vehicle, and that’s pretty much why we were camping in Iowa on the left side of the Mississippi River this time. We also had flush toilets, sinks and showers.

We set up our camp, unloaded the bikes, geared up and took off following a route we found on one of the message board’s ride reports.

It took me an hour to get comfortable on the XT, it's been so long, too long, since the last ride. And this was on pavement, once I hit the gravel roads, I realized that I definitely forgot a bit on how to ride off-road in the last three months, which is not good since I wasn’t a good off-road rider to begin with, I’m still a newbie. Ideally, I’d like to ride the XT once a month, but around here that's a bit tough, since all the decent dirt roads are far away from home.

Fall colors in the town of Bellevue

In Bellevue we gassed up, then stopped by the Mississippi River

A gravel road through fields and farms

This gravel road had a nice bridge and river

View from the bridge

Some trees was a nice change in the scenery from all the farms

After riding a few roads, we stoped for lunch in Saint Donatus, IA on RT 52 at the Kalmes Restaurant and Store for a little bit of Luxembourg. This restaurant was featured in Episode 5 in the second season of Feasting on Asphalt - The River Run.

Parked at the Kalmes Store in Saint Donatus, IA

You don't see this Moto Guzzi very often

Pork tenderloin for me

Ribs for Mike

Mike ordered the ribs and I got the pork tenderloin sandwich, it was good, but just not as good as the one I had in Arkansas last month.

Inside the Kalmes Restaurant

After lunch we continued riding the route. It was in the mid 70's and the sun was shining, a beautiful day.

Gravel Ends? I've never seen that sign before

When the gravel road ended a narrow muddy path began, but it only had a few puddles since it hasn't rained recently.

A big church

A steep climb

Doesn't look so bad in the picture, but this was a steep road and a car was coming the other way, so I waited for it to pass before I started going up.

Almost at the top

Looking down the hill I just climbed

Taking a break at the top of the road

Nice hard dirt, my favorite type of a dirt road

Rt 52 and the Mississippi River

Checking out the town of Bellevue and some of the neat buildings

Heading back to Bellevue State Park, the Mississippi River in the distance

The road through the Bellevue State Park with the mighty Mississippi in the distance

Space aliens visiting us at our camp site

Not really. That's just Mike with his headlamp on, jumping up and down and flapping his arms, while the camera is set on timer and shooting in "night mode".

Cooking some dinner

Rice and beans for me

Gumbo for Mike

We ended up with a nice fire, but this one was very hard to get started

After a short stop in Bellevue, we continued to the camp site arriving just before sun set and 6PM. The rest of the night was spent relaxing in the front of the fire and enjoying the food Mike prepared at home and brought with. He had sausage and chicken gumbo and I had beans and rice. It was a clear night, the temps dropped in to the mid 40’s, I was plenty toasty in my zero degree bag with the electric blanket on top.