I love exploring the back roads of Miami County, KS. To some degree, that’s because most of the roads are unfamiliar to me, but mostly it’s because there’s a lot of natural beauty there, even on a mid-winter day when all the trees are barren, all the fields are fallow, and all the pastures are brown. (It also doesn’t hurt that it was a 60°F day.)
As in the ride from last November (South From The Cider Mill), I started at the Louisburg Cider Mill. But this time, instead of heading due south, I headed southwest towards Paola. In all, I ended up with right at 26 miles of mostly gravel roads, along with a bit of pavement and a bit of dirt road.
Since I knew I was riding gravel, I swapped the front tire out, from the stock 1.25″ WTB Slickasaurus to the 1.95″ Specialized S-Works Control from the mountain bike. I left the stock tire on the back (though I let a bit of air out to soften the ride). Though the mismatched wheels look a bit odd, it actually worked reasonably well. The fat knobby tire on the front gave me good control and a bit of air suspension, and the slick on the rear worked OK as well, other than a bit of slippage when standing on uphills.
However, once I get another wheel set up with a 9-speed cassette, I’ll likely switch over to a larger rear tire with some degree of knobbiness.
Some pictures from the ride:
Victory Road north of the North Wea Creek Bridge.
According to some maps, this road is supposed to lead to an old abandoned bridge. I followed this road back as far as I could, until the road crossed a small stream. In drier weather this would probably be passable, but for now it was too wide to jump across, and I didn’t want to wade.
This was my first time riding the Long Haul Trucker on a true dirt road, and it did rather well. There were a couple sketchy sections as I bounced between deep ruts, but it was manageable.
On the Lake Miola dam.
From Victory Road, it was just a short hop to Lake Miola, which was still frozen. I stopped for one picture on the dam road, and one more at the western end of the dam. I like this shot of the water tower framed by the bike:
Paola Water Tower
I stopped in Paola at the Miami County Veterans Memorial. The memorial is located at a busy intersection, so it’s not exactly a peaceful setting, but it is a beautiful and stirring tribute to the men and women from Miami County who have lost their lives serving their country.
Miami County Veterans Memorial
Heading back east on 311th Street, I turned off onto Victory Road to take another stab at the bridge, this time from the south. After about half a mile of gravel, the road turned to dirt, then the bridge came into view.
The North Wea Creek Bridge is an elegant structure, even now, over 100 years after it was built, and 6 years after being closed to traffic. The deck is deteriorating, and the steel is rusting, but it’s still a beautiful bridge.
North Wea Creek Bridge
This turned out to be a very enjoyable ride. This seemed to be the first ride where the LHT really seemed to come into its own, feeling natural and smooth beneath me. Back roads, with fat tires, an easy pace, and lots of stopping for exploration, are a good fit for this bike.