...or "What did you do after work?" (No pictures as you will find out later in the report why but I will be posting up video once I get it all edited and uploaded.) Wednesday April 11th 2012 The day drags interminably on. Not even the occasional ticket escalation to break up the monotony that is babysitting ~4500 users' browsing habits (the source of the vast majority of all virus infections). I am an Anti-Virus/Encryption admin for a fairly good sized insurance and financial services corporation. The job is not fulfilling. It is downright dull most days because most of the processes for removal and clean-up are automated or simple 2 or 3 click solutions. I knew I spent 4 years in college and 6 years in the Army/National Guard for a good reason. :huh Anyway, my mind wanders. I read rider reports and dream of the great trips I am going to take...some day. But until then, why not try some local stuff to get your feet wet? I mean I have been riding since I was 11 and in the last 26 years have taken in quite a bit along the well beaten paths of these great United States. But off the beaten trail? Never had the bike to do that. Or when I had the bike to do that, it wasn't street legal. Iowa isn't known for its twisting roads and big sky vistas. It is something of a desolate land that fun riding adventurers seem to have forgotten. Or so I thought. I began to think to myself of the adventures me and my shiny new Multistrada could find. How about traveling to the exact geographical 4 corners of the state? Yeah...that could be fun. Looking at Google Earth shows the prospects. Northwest is near a state monument...could be interesting. Southwest actually has a road going to it. Wonder how it looks after the flooding last year? Southeast...the confluence of the Des Moines River and the mighty Mississippi. Northeast is the closest we get to good riding in this state (need to shift my thinking...good PAVEMENT riding) of farms and hog confinement lots. Those ideas are great. But what of the afternoons when the work is put up for another day and your wife has an evening class that gives you a few hours of free time? Do you head home and flip on the TV and you sick into the sofa and let the cares of the day slowly melt away? Relaxing to be sure but we want adventures gawddamnit! So what is a good way to kill a few hours then? I got it! The Bridges! What Bridges? Why the Bridges of Madison County of course! For those of you not familiar with these little architectural gems or the literary work of the same name, The Bridges of Madison County (Iowa) are covered bridges. The county once boasted 19 covered bridges all built in the mid to late 1800s. Most were designed/built by Benton Jones. He was a civil engineer in the area and is the only person in the state to have not one but two counties named after him. Today, only 6 of those bridges remain and all 6 are on the National Register of Historic Places. One of those, Cedar Bridge, was burned by an arsonist in 2002 but was built anew using traditional methods and materials. Because of this, all of the bridges are now monitored electronically which precluded any chances of mid-bridge burnouts. The literary work, "The Bridges of Madison County" by Robert James Waller is a gushy girly book that they made into a movie starring Clint Eastwood and Meryl Streep. I wept for Mr. Eastwood's loss of manhood for starring in this film. The plan was simple. Leave work a half hour early, go home, gear up and visit all 6 bridges and then meet the wife at home for a delicious burrito dinner! So I began by planning out the route. The options were easy...a bunch of dirt and gravel roads or direct route that would take less time. Screw the pavement...let's get dirty! So I locate all of the bridges on the map. Unfortunately, Roseman Bridge is quite a bit farther west than the other 5 and as such, will push me beyond my time limit. Oh well, Roseman...another time perhaps. The other 5 are going to be easy but what will make my 6th landmark? I like symmetry. I like even numbers. I need a 6th landmark. I could visit "The Treehouse"...a friend's house that is quite literally built on and around 6 large oak trees and in such a manner that allows the trees to continue to grow. Unfortunately, I know they are out of town and the gate is locked when they go awol. No joy there. Then I hear rumors of a tower deep in the woods of the Winterset City Park. And added bonus, the trail leading up is pretty cool. So we have our landmarks. I map out a route to optimize off pavement time but to also get me back home in time for dinner with my loving, adoring and understanding wife. The route is almost completely new roads to me. All except for the most diffcult stretch of road are roads I have either never been on or only been on once before in passing. Thank you to Google Maps for my route. 4:30pm rolls around and I pack up my work and head for the parking lot. I rush home and begin changing into my gear and throwing together the few essentials I will need for my short jaunt. Camera case. Check. GoPro. Check. Gum. Check. Water. Check. Bike gassed up. Check. I kiss the wife and wish her a fun class and am off. My first stop is the end of my block. The road will eventually continue west but for now, it is a dirt track that has been blocked off and unblocked off over and over many times since I moved here. I ease through the grass and around the barricade and onto the 1/8th mile long dirt track. Rutted...bumpy...I am so gonna dump this thing. Glance down and notice that I still have the bike in "Sport". Oops. So after I remedy that oops moment, I am off and running again. Heading down gravel, I begin to test the limits of traction...the limits of the ABS system and my own dirt prowess that has been dormant for only about 20 years now. It didn't help that this time of year sees counties grading gravel roads and farm equipment doing their level best to take nice smooth hard-packed gravel and turn it into a loose rutted mess. My first stop is Cedar Bridge. This is the only bridge of the 6 that remain that you can actually drive across. I stop at the near end of the bridge and hop off the bike to grab the camera out of the top case and get some shots of the bike with the bridge behind. That is when I learn a very valuable photography lesson. The camera takes a much higher quality of picture when the body isn't lying on your work bench 25 or so miles away. So I have just taken my bag of lenses for a brisk ride down country dirt roads. No worries. I have my GoPro and videos are more fun anyway...right? I head out from Cedar on my way to Hogback. At the intersection where the Cedar Bridge road splits off to allow you to go over the bridge, I find a section of moon dust. Literally. There is a water treatment plant there and a bunch of semi traffic so the gravel has been pulverized into what I think of as moon dust...grey light powder. I grin to myself and decide to blast through this stuff and see what happens. I blast out this huge cloud of dust and you can actually hear me laughing out loud in the video. The ride to Hogback is pretty sedate until I get to about a half mile away. An S curve leading into a steep down hill drop into the valley. WHEEEEEE!!!! On past the bridge, heading for Winterset City Park, Cutler-Donahoe Bridge and Clark Tower. I ride by John Wayne's Birthplace and give a little nod to The Duke. They are working on funding to build an actual John Wayne museum and his birthplace is a tiny white house on South 2nd St. in Winterset. I enter the city park and the Cutler-Donahoe bridge greets me off to the right. I see a small sign that points out the tower and the road goes from nice 1 lane one way pavement to a single track dirt trail leading back into the woods. Looks like a good idea to me! I start zipping through the woods, following the road signs pointing the way up the bluff to the tower. It is a gorgeous trail winding up through the woods switching back on itself several times. I see 1 jogger along the road but aside from that, no human life except for a couple of hikers who are taking 5 at the tower itself. The trip back down winds back through the south end of the park and then loops back to an exit road that takes you back into the park proper. I see several deer and a fox while winding my way through the park. This park is gorgeous and has a bunch of little features I will need to check out including a stone walk bridge, a log cabin and a hedge maze that I didn't even know about until I was researching this ride report. Anyway, back out on the highway heading out of Winterset to the east, my next destination is the Holliwell Bridge. I had a friend who had a hunting farm down near this bridge so I am pretty familiar with the area. I make a quick loop through the parking area for the bridge and then seek out 225 Trl. 225 Trail starts out simple enough...just another winding gravel road. I zip along at 60-70 mph standing on the pegs now and then and starting to feel my off-highway mojo start to come back...right up until I hit the second half of 225 Trail. At this point, 225 Trail becomes a level B surface road. Just another way of saying, "an unmaintained single track dirt road". There is some construction in the area as a utility provider pulls cable/pipe through the area so the road has been torn up and rutted pretty bad. There are several ruts still filled with mud and the ruts seem to cross and recross and crossover each other several times over making a straight run through this area an impossibility. So I ease my way through and make it back to a main gravel road. Off to Imes! Imes Bridge has been moved 3 times in its lifetime. From Patterson to Hanley to its present home in St. Charles. I would have really liked to have seen the Roseman Bridge. It is also known as The Haunted Bridge. In 1892, a posse trapped a county jail escapee a the bridge. As the posse closed in, it is said that the man rose straight up and THROUGH the bridge roof before uttering a wild cry and disappearing. It was later judged that anyone who could do that was obviously innocent and the charges against him were dropped. Unfortunately, he was never seen again. After Imes, I zipped up some county highways to get back home. I was already running a hair late but wanted to keep my loving and understanding wife happy. As stated, there are no pics from my ride because I remembered the lenses and forgot the camera. The videos are fairly long and need to be trimmed up and edited but I will post them up as soon as I can. If you made it this far, reading through my first ride report, I appreciate it and envy your willpower. If you skipped to this point without reading, you missed the boobies hidden within the ride report.