grangable gravel grinder route preview
Heading out from Terry True Blood you are able to warm your legs up with about 5 miles of pavement before you hit your first section of gravel/dirt road just past Fareway on 420th st on your way to American Legion Rd. After the short pavement section on American Legion Rd, you head north on Wapsi Ave for 2.5 miles of dirt road, rollers, and the fresh smell of Iowa Farmland (or in our case, lungs full of fresh natural fertilizer air) on your way to Herbert Hoover Hwy. Depending on the weather, we will either take another short pavement section on Herbert Hoober Hwy or proceed north on a level B road. The level B road was not passable at this time, so we took the short pavement section before getting back on the gravel at Utah Ave, just past Sharpless Auctions. This took us to 340th st which is another great dirt road with plenty of rollers to get your backroad fix for the day. A left on Oasis Rd for another short pavement section before getting to the 1/4 way mark at Oasis where we will have some water and other snacks you made need before making your way over a mix of pavement, gravel/dirt roads as you head to Morse and then eventually into Big Grove in Solon for the much needed Half-Way home Beer. (Which we did partake in.)
Getting back on the bike you don’t have much time to get your legs under you as you turn south out of Solon to some good hills as you make your way towards Sugar Bottom Rd. Even though the GranGable Gravel riders aren’t treated to a stop at Dan Gables’ house, you are treated to a drive-by view of another famous Hawkeye, Lincoln McLlravy’s estate. Lincoln was a 5x State Champ in South Dakota, 3x NCAA Champ, and 4X All-American at Iowa. He went on to win two world medals and an Olympic Bronze Medal before retiring. He now enjoys horses and dirt bikes to occupy his time on his modest spread in the Iowa Country Side. After a short pavement section on Sugar Bottom Rd, you again jump on a gravel/dirt road which takes you to a good downhill section where you can let your hair down. We passed a dad going the opposite direction pulling a kid carrier and I didn’t envy him at all. He had to muscle up the hill we just came screaming down all while pulling a kid behind him. I’m sure he just did what the rest of us do when confronted with a hill… put your head down and just pedal until you get to the top. A short jaunt on Newport road to HWY 1, then play frogger to get over to Morse rd before getting back on Wapsi Ave and some gravel. Nice gravel/Dirt roads for the next 5.5 miles until you head into the last “Oasis” until the finish line. Don’t miss your turn onto Fairview Cemetary Rd as you head west out of Oasis on gravel and make your way to 340th st. Once you hit 340th street you are 13 some miles from home and back on the same roads you were on earlier in the day. Don’t make the same mistake we did as we missed our left-hand turn on Utah and added a few more hills and miles before we realized we went too far.(we will make sure to have adequate signage on the route) Past Sharpless Auctions and heading east on the pavement towards West Branch until you take a right on Wapsi Ave, onto the rollers and gravel once again. American Legion Rd, then your last 3 miles of gravel before you coast it into Big Grove Iowa City for your well-earned refreshments.
Our ride totaled 69 miles and 2800 ft of climb for the day, moving time of 4:22:17 and a total time of 5:26:49 after a stop at Solon’s newest bike Shop Briars Ridge Bikes, and a refreshment. We also took a small detour along the route because of my stubbornness but I suspect the route will be right around 65 miles when all is said and done. It was tough to make an all gravel route, so the short stretches on the pavement were nice to stretch the legs a bit. The roads had very little gravel on them so they were mostly packed dirt. Not sure when the county will or if it does put gravel down, but if it does the pavement sections will be even more of a welcome relief than they already are. I enjoyed this route very much and getting out into the countryside is always great. Seeing a total of 7 cars all day wasn’t too bad either.
— Luke Eustice, granGABLE organizer