By LMQC Battle of the Bulge blogger, Alan Sivell, St. Ambrose communications professor, RAGBRAI-er, pizza lover and longtime weight watcher.
We recently made a quick getaway to Decorah, a quaint little college town with a strong Nordic heritage. It’s not New York or Paris, but still, I was looking for a few days off.
And by that I mean a few days off of watching everything I eat and making sure I get my work outs in.
I decided to give myself permission to grab an ice cream cone or maybe 2 during our stay. And I was going to wander into the candy store that seems to be in every quaint little town and fill my bag with jumbo malted milk balls.
I was still going to pay attention. Just not as strict attention.
And in case all my time wasn’t taken up visiting the ice cream or candy shops, I threw my bike on top of my car.
(Okay, I say I “threw” my bike on top of my car. That may have been true 20 years ago when I had a lighter, stripped down Trek and I had a few more muscles. It would be more accurate to say I “put” my bike on the car. It would be even more precise to include the word “struggled” in whatever sentence described that action.)
I am so glad I did. Decorah’s environs include 2 great opportunities for bikers. The first is the aptly named Prairie Farmer Trail. I say aptly because it runs through 20 miles of prairie farmland, from Calmar to Cresco.
Prairie Farmer Trail is a paved trail on an abandoned rail bed. Sometimes you ride under a tree canopy that grew up on the land that wasn’t farmed and other times, you are out in the open, riding next to tall grasses.
It’s a great ride, especially for those who only experience farmland as they travel by at 65 mph. It’s also far enough away from a large population so that you have the trail almost to yourself and you can safely crank up your speed when you are out in the middle of nowhere, between towns.
The small towns along the way – Conover and Ridgeway – are great places to take a break.
It’s a good trail for some training rides, where you can concentrate on your cadence. Because there aren’t any hills or turns, you can focus on your cycling. You can find all geographical variety you want a few more miles north in Decorah.
The Trout Run Trail has it all. And I mean ALL.
The Trout Run Trail is an 11-mile loop that travels through the heart of Decorah, along the Upper Iowa River then heads south into some very hilly farm country (so hilly that there are switchbacks to help you up the hills) before it brings you back into town. It also runs right by the world famous Decorah Eagle’s nest, all 750 pounds of it.
I absolutely loved it!
It’s now one of my favorite trails ever (OK, I haven’t biked in Europe or New Zealand so that list could still change).
Obviously, it’s fun to bike in a small quaint town where the residents and bikers respect each other. But what I really loved was the scenery outside of town. Because Decorah is about three hours north of the Quad Cities, it features many more of the rounded hills Grant Wood made famous in his paintings.
Before I started out, I saw that it was only 11 miles and I had told my wife that I would probably do 2 loops. But … with the hills and the fact that it was so beautiful and I had to keep stopping and taking pictures, I only managed one loop.
And when I say the Trout Run Trail has it all, I am not kidding. It even has a selfie stand. You may not think that’s such a big deal but I have an editor whose first question EVERY month is: “Did you get a picture?”
This month I could smugly answer, “Yes! No problem.”
Other trails for mountain biking, hiking, cross-country skiing and ordinary walking can be found there, too. It was a truly great get away!
|Meet Battle of the Bulge blogger, Alan Sivell. Alan is a communications professor at St. Ambrose University and a former reporter for WQAD-TV who has exercised – and dieted – his entire life. Read Alan’s other blog posts.|