Weekend Biking Trip

The closest thing to an Amish interstate!
On Friday, I headed up to the frequent haunt of Hazleton, Iowa.  Though I’ve visited this area many dozens of times, this time it seemed like a fun idea to camp and tour by bike. 
Hazleton is located a little over fifty miles north of Cedar Rapids.  Population is around 600…
After arriving early, I checked in at the campground at Fontana Park, just a couple miles south of town.

Fontana is located along the Otter Creek and the structure you see was once a mill.  Now the upper portion is used for those wishing to occupy the pavilion for special occasions.  The water rushing over the dam and resulting cool breeze makes this one of the most soothing places to visit.

After parking the van and getting set up, I decided to ride the bicycle in loop shaped course and check out the Amish stores.   After heading south of town on the pavement (Highway 150), I took the Bryantberg gravel road west for several miles.  Riding on gravel really sucks and adds a lot of drag.  It was a good workout
Along the way, little kids waved at me at a number of different farms.  The toy of choice was the wagon.  At one farm there were two little girls in purple dresses and wearing white bonnets climbing on a fence.  At another farm, a barefooted little boy in a light blue shirt and dark blue trousers (wearing a straw hat) was pulling a little girl around in a wagon.  A small mongrel dog was also in the wagon enjoying the ride.  Grown men labored in the fields while the woman and children toiled in the beautiful gardens.  Everyone waved at passers by.  In accordance with the Amish folks’ wishes, I did not photograph anyone.  Those of us who live in vans can respect that, right?
The bridge over Otter Creek – Fontana Park

Most of the bike route took me along the Fairbank Road a.k.a. Amish Boulevard.  Every couple of miles there was a school house.   Numerous businesses flank the thoroughfare including bakeries, discount grocery stores, saddle shops, general stores, “bunnies for sale”, etc.  I made a few stops and visited a very special friend of our family who my sister has known since they were both little girls.

Things purchased included some chocolate cashew cluster candies (yum) and a number of cans of La Croix lemon flavored, unsweetened sparkling water.  I drank four in short order… Why?  Because in this area you are hard pressed to find cold bottles or Perrier or Aquafina on every corner…  If you’re lucky, you might be able to talk someone into letting you drink from their well – the water is likely to be brown with iron!
The ride took me another dozen miles north along Amish Boulevard.  It was getting close to 1:00 and I figured the favorite bakery was closed.  Our cousin Jim goes there early in the morning.  Sure enough, his old faded Oldsmo-buick car was sitting in the lot.  Jim was sitting around the table outside talking to old Marv (an Amish guy) using frequent references to two of the three in the Trinity.  Old Marv kind of baits Jim by bringing up social problems to which Jim responds with “Holy Ch****!” followed by an sentence or two.  Cousin Jim is a retired railroad man and one of the kindest folks you will ever find.  But, oh is he colorful!
From the bakery, I fought a strong cornering headwind north until able to turn easterly.  Then it was warp speed to the town of Oelwein where I enjoyed a taco salad at a favorite Mexican restaurant.  It was great and tasted even better after the rigorous bike ride. 
On the way back I was saddened to see that the old grain elevator had been demolished.  A smile came over my face when I remembered some time back Dad was discussing the corn storage facility.   Cousin Jim had said something like “Holy Ch****!  I remember back then there were more g** dam*ed rats in that sonofab****.  Je*** C****!”   You can imagine someone who looks much like a seventy year old double for the actor Lee Majors – a rugged, handsome older man with white hair and seasoned, gruff exterior but with a twinkle in his blue eyes.  He’s truly one of a kind.  
The ride south gave provided a 20+ mile per hour tailwind and I returned to the campground in short order.  I was pleased that the last mile or so followed a new paved nature trail that wound around past the exact spot where Grandma and Grandpa Harris and we kids used to fish.  It was above the Otter Creek dam at Fontana Park.  Talk about memories – I’d never visited that area since their deaths thirty years ago.  It brought back a lot of pleasant thoughts and emotions.  Here is another story… Because of sewage rumored to be put into Otter Creek, Grandpa Harris once said that eating the fish from there was the closest he would ever come to eating his own shi*…  I had forgotten that.  Grandma Harris mentioned it at the wake for Grandpa almost thirty years ago.  We mourned his death but on that day told each other comforting stories of the family’s shenanigans…. stories that Dad and I still discuss today.
After cooking up some memorable burgers Friday night, it was time to explore the interpretive nature trail.  By this time it was late and I didn’t make it far, partly due to exhaustion and partly due to the sun going down.  The trail will be revisited later this summer.  Northeast Iowa feels like home.  This is likely where I will retire some day.

The night of sleep was tranquil.  People were respectful and stopped the noise by 10:00.  It was one of the best nights camping I can remember.  After some bad campground experiences early this season it was delightful to sleep peacefully.

After getting up in the morning, I was doing some swinging and videotaping it for a new special effects video to show my friend’s kids.  You can see where I tried to leap from the swing only to be returned to earth by the swing and chain firmly clutching – and tearing to shreds – my shorts.  I believe the expression used might have been the same as the one Cousin Jim used immediately preceding the comment about the rats…  Nobody’s perfect.   *smile*

Oh well.  It was still fun.  The next day was also enjoyable.  I’ll be putting up a separate post for Saturday’s activities – this one is getting long.
Have fun!  Go do something crazy today!  Don’t tear you pants though!  Jeepers!

About VanTrekker

I am a former vandweller in Eastern Iowa who, for several years (off and on), lived in a 2007 Chevy cargo van. I still travel around Iowa with my tortoise shell cat, Jennifer Stefanie. Our favorite place to explore is the Country Heritage Community, the four far northeastern counties of Iowa (Clayton, Winneshiek, Allamakee, and Fayette). Ride along as we fish in pristine trout streams, enjoy fine home cooked camping meals, and meet new people. It's all possible on a shoestring budget. Happy travels always! --- Brad, the "Van Trekker"
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2 Responses to Weekend Biking Trip

  1. Dragonfly says:

    Iam still housebound so I very much enjoy living thru your writings and experiences.

  2. Anonymous says:

    Oaky, this does it! I AM visiting Iowa. I’m coming to Hazelton, right after Eldon and the gothic house. Cool places, super-sounding people. Thanks, Brad.