Melt 2019 is well underway in central Iowa. After about five solid weeks of snow cover, the landscape is slowly turning from white to tan, brown and black. Green isn’t far behind. I’m so ready for it.
So is the wildlife around here. You can just feel it in the way the critters are behaving. Sometimes in the midst of a never ending Upper Midwestern winter, you question why you choose to live here but then this happens and you know why. Days like these are so incredibly special that it’s hard to describe them as anything less than a gift from heaven above. They’re more than a fair trade off for all of that dark frozen cold. Without it they wouldn’t mean nearly as much.
Routefinding around Jefferson has been a challenge for the last week or so. I would guess that we had around a foot of snow cover and most of it melted over a period of two days. That has resulted in flooding in some spots and created some surreal landscapes as the snow turned to water and fog. Conditions are not nearly as bad as they are further west in the Loess Hills and Missouri Valley. Ground around here is mostly high and our river valley is mostly undeveloped. There isn’t going to be a lot of human suffering from this weather event, at least not in Greene County. The challenges it poses to an everyday cyclist like me are manageable.
I was thinking about this again yesterday because I read that Fleur Drive, a major arterial on the west side of downtown Des Moines is closed due to high water on the Raccoon River. This happens just about every time the Raccoon (the same river that flows through Jefferson) gets unruly. Des Moines has a system of really good bike trails but most of them follow the water courses through the city and that means a lot of them are closed, too. What’s worse, they will be closed for weeks to come. People who rely on these routes will be forced onto surface streets if they want to continue cycling until things dry out and the city hasn’t done much to accommodate cyclists on surface streets…mostly because they have this wonderful trail system that functions really well, at least until the rivers rise.
Things will return to normal much more quickly out here. Within a week, the last of the drifts crossing the Raccoon River Valley Trail will be gone. Even now, the trail is passable as long as you don’t mind walking the few treacherous sections that remain. Our county’s extensive network of gravel roads will soon dry out enough to support the road graders and they’ll make relatively short order of all the bike-swallowing ruts that have formed. Sure, they’ll lay deep gravel and washboard the hills, but that’s okay. Those roads will be open and passable and much sooner than down in town.
It really was serendipitous that Jan and I landed in Jefferson. I can’t think of a better place to be an everyday cyclist. Sure, the winters are harsh but I’ve learned how to deal with them and there’s a tremendous sense of accomplishment that comes from that. The rest of the year is just pure joy. We’re moving into that period of time now, and I’m really going to cherish it. Spring has sprung. I’m looking forward to the days and weeks ahead. You, too, I hope. Cycle on!