Return to Prairie Spirit / Stretching my Wind Legs

April 19, 2012

I already knew I was riding. I knew when I started the car for work this morning that I was riding this evening.  Weatherwise it looked like the worst day of the week – lots of wind, rain, thunderstorms – but after 2 days off the bike I was starting to get edgy.  It wasn’t a question of if I’d ride, it was what route & how far.

Pondering this question – which route to take – suddenly it hit me that with all the road miles I’d gotten in lately, I hadn’t been on my beloved Prairie Spirit Trail (save for the occasional 1- or 2-mile transit on the paved portion here in town) for quite some time.  That settled that.

I headed out, southbound, into a good 15-MPH headwind.  Took the PST paved portion down to 17th street where it transitions to crushed gravel.  “Fork in the road” time.  It occurred to me that the more enterprising choice was to cut over & continue south on Highway 59, which is the route I’ve taken most frequently in my cycling career.  “More enterprising” because I would be cycling right into a good headwind, whereas on the PST, the “green canopy” of tree cover which lines most of the trail is an excellent windbreak.  But, having already acknowledged that I was derelict in attention to the trail, I couldn’t just pretend I wasn’t.  So the trail it was.

I took the trail for about 13 miles.  I reached both the furthest southerly point on it that I’ve reached, and also took it the furthest distance south that I’ve done (not necessarily one & the same since I frequently weave in and out between the highway and the trail for few-mile-stretches).  This represented one-fourth the full length of the trail – a not inconsiderable milestone.  I began feeling very confident that I’ll be able to successfully ride the full trail in the near future.  For tonight, though, the darkening skies (already overcast when I headed out) and late hour represented non-negotiable indicators to turn back.  When the couple of raindrops that had been falling on me for a few miles turned to a steady light sprinkle, I knew it was time to return.  At the next cross-street I crossed over to H59 and turned back north toward Ottawa.

I was pleasantly surprised that the early 12-15 MPH southerly wind was now a 10-12 MPH headwind from the north!  I’d been thinking I would have a respectable tailwind pushing me home, which was OK in one respect, but the part of me that felt I’d cheated the wind earlier was content that I would now, unexpectedly, get to battle it all the way home.  It was a good solid return leg, with the wind quite steady, not letting up much.  I stopped at a c-store in Princeton which I’ve stopped at many times, for a health break and to refill my water bottles, and back on the road to Ottawa.

Below, some pictures from today’s adventure.

Above:  The Prairie Spirit Trail in Spring.  Thus far in my cycling career, I’d only been on here in very late Summer, Autumn and Winter – basically barren.  It’s beautiful when it fills out.

Above:  Baby needs a good cleaning.  I’ll do that on the next down day.

Above:  Small dried-up mushroom.

Above:  These clusters of purple flowers lined the trail at a couple of points.  I don’t know what they are, but they are very beautiful.  The clusters of purple really popped out on the trail.

Above:  Big, big sky.  The picture doesn’t really do it justice.  Just an endless sky canvas stretched over America’s heartland.

Above:  Looking back northbound down Highway 59, where I turned and headed for home.


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