The Old Barn

“There is beauty, heartbreaking beauty, everywhere.”   ― Edward Abbey
Since moving to Iowa, I’ve discovered that Ed Abbey was right.  There really is beauty everywhere, even in the smallest things.  I’ve ridden by this barn maybe one hundred times.  It’s on appropriately named Seven Hills Road, about a mile and a half southwest of Jefferson.  It sits at the end of the first climb out of the river valley and I’ve never stopped to shoot it because I’ve always been huffing and puffing and wanting to carry what little momentum I have through the top of hill number one.  Tonight I stopped.

Heartbreaking beauty…  I’ve seen the same things Ed Abbey saw.  How cool is that?  Most people race through places like Iowa on their way to other, more popular places never quite grasping that the entire universe is right there, close enough to touch.  But then it fades in their rear view mirror at 80 mph and is gone.  I used to be one of these people.  Riding on gravel has changed everything for me.

There was a story in Worth magazine yesterday that suggested that gravel cycling is the new golf.  Apparently gravel provides something that’s missing to hard charging executives and money managers.  I found it kind of funny in the sense that these are folks who get paid to spot trends and yet they are so far behind the curve.  It’s 2019.  Apparently everyone knows about gravel now…even corporate America.


I see a lot of things when I’m out here that I wouldn’t see otherwise.   I hear things. I smell things.  I feel things.   Good things.  Important things.  These are not the kind of things that those who control the message worry much about and yet the message seems to be getting through anyway. Gravel is the new big thing.

Part of it is the venue.  As more and more of us choose to live in cities and suburbs, the rural world might as well be on another planet.  Gravel-land is an exotic place.  Too few of us get to experience it.  They call this land unimproved and yet when you come out here and ride through the middle of it there’s no doubt in your mind that there’s absolutely nothing you could possibly do to it to make it better than it already is.


Then there’s the challenge.  Riding a gravel century will test your mettle…both physically and mentally.  I think we need this.  So much risk and danger has been filtered out of modern life.  We’re safer than we’ve ever been before and so there’s something very appealing about heading out into the wilds knowing that you’re going to have to be the one to get yourself back in.  Out here, heart and desire and courage and guts still matter and I think that people come because deep down they want to feel these things again, regardless of what the popular message of the day might be.

Most of all, though, there’s peace out here.  There are no screaming voices.  There is no rage.  Just blessed silence.  In an ever more crowded world, it comforts the soul to be here and to hear the crunch of the road under your tires.  It’s a good thing.  I’m glad it found me.   I’m not letting go of it.  Not now.  Not ever.



  1. Thank you, Daniel. Your comments mean so much to me. I’m so glad you liked the post, and I hope you and yours are doing well!


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