Galena River Trail

The Galena River Trail, which starts under the Highway 20 Bridge in Galena, extends for almost 10 miles south a little bit beyond Chestnut Mountain. This mixed paved and tightly packed crushed gravel trail is beautiful and worth the drive from Dubuque.  We were on it a day after a heavy rain and only had a few mud puddles to dodge, so Kevin and I highly recommend this trail.  

       It leaves the Galena River Boat Landing area, winding through a grassy area with its own spring. Meandering westward through wooded riverside terrain bursting in late summer yellow wildflowers, the trail becomes wider as it is shared with local driveway accesses.  The section also includes signage of the natural and historic features. One informative board describes how a flour mill became an electrical plant, another explains the Galena River Lock and Dam history, and several others feature the local flora, such as ferns, horsetail reeds, wetlands vegetation, and wildflowers. After four miles or so, Adirondack chairs invite riders to take a break and view the junction of the Galena with the Mississippi.  The trail heads south along the Mississippi backwaters. Riders soon see a hiking trail on the left that leads to Casper Bluff, a Jo Daviess Conservation Foundation Land and Water Preserve with effigy, conical, and linear mounds. This hike is well worth the time. 

        Back on the bike trail, riders will find the village of Aiken, a whistle-stop community from the train era.  Here the gravel path merges with the paved South River Road. Views of the river on the right are spectacular, especially in a clearing that shows Chestnut Mountain Ski Resort downstream. Traveling through more woods with exposed limestone rocks adds to the scenic quality.  The trail passes along the west side of Chestnut Mountain. It is fun to watch the alpine slide riders on this warm summer day.  Continuing on for another mile, the shared road trail is bumpy and hillier than before but still navigable. It stops with several large stones and an Illinois DNR sign informing the rider that the trail ends. We are ten miles from Galena. Hopefully, in the future, this wild segment to the south can be developed and continue towards Blanding’s Landing and Hanover, and ultimately join the Great River Trail in Savanna.

       We retrace our path back to Galena.  Since it’s such a lovely day, we notice that another portion of the Galena River Trail also runs north from the Highway 20 Bridge to the Buehler Preserve entrance. This segment sits atop of a dike or old rail bed.  Views of the Galena River are immediately below the trail and provide lots of opportunities for birding.  We ride back to the car, sad to see another beautiful day of biking end.  Yet we make a pledge to return in the fall for another spectacular show.

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The Great American Rail Trail

Rails-to-Trails, a nationwide trail advocacy group, has begun the nation’s first coast-to-coast trail, stitching together a series of existing trails in 12 states, including Iowa.  At 3700 miles, the Great American Rail-Trail, as it will be called, spans from Washington, D. C. to Washington State. Over 52 % of the trail, or 1900 miles, is now complete with 125 existing segments. Another 90 segments need to be developed. A national campaign has been started to increase fundraising and complete the rail-trail within a few years.

        The Rails to Trails Conservancy started in the 1980s as a thought from David Burwell and David Harnick who decided that recycling the abandoned railbeds was the right thing to do. Although small at its initiation, the concept grew steadily throughout the years. Once a number of converted trails began to line up, the idea of a single national trail was possible. Today it has reached beyond expectations. Over 50 million Americans will be within 50 miles of the Great American Trail as it will cross centrally-located states. Here in Iowa, the proposed route includes the Great River Trail and the Mississippi River Trail in the Quad Cities, the Hoover Nature Trail in eastern Iowa, the Cedar Valley Trail from Cedar Rapids to Waterloo, and the Cedar Lakes Trail in the Waterloo and Cedar Falls area. All of these lie within an easy driving 70 to 90-mile distance for Dubuque area residents. A map of the proposed trail can be found on Google Images under The Great American Rail Trail.

            Follow this link to watch a video produced by Rails-to-Trails Conservancy: Donations can be given online. More information can be found online as well.

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Southwest Arterial Highway 52 September 2019 Progress Video

            The Southwest Arterial is making progress despite the unusually rainy September.  As of this writing, the Dubuque area has received over 12 inches for the month of September instead of the usual 4.5 inches.  This is causing delays but the city publishes a video monthly now that progress is quite visible and fast-moving.  A bike trail is being constructed along with the road. Paving of this trail will not occur immediately but city leaders will be writing grants and securing funding as quickly as possible.  Here is September’s video: October’s will likely be coming out soon.

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Nation’s Longest Canopy Walk at Whiting Forest

 by Dianne Koch

         Our travels recently took us to the Whiting Forest of Dow Gardens in Midland, Michigan. A unique canopy walk in the forest trees provided a unique hiking experience. Opening in October 2018, the canopy walk is the nation’s longest at 1400 feet long with two lookout points at 25 feet in height, and the third point at 40 feet overlooks the Forest’s apple orchards. A children’s playground, a meandering stream, the Forest Café, an education center, woodlands, ponds, meadows, and, of course, hiking trails give visitor’s plenty to see and explore. The Visitor’s Center was originally designed as a home for the Whiting family by a relative who studied at Frank Lloyd Wright’s Taliesin School in Spring Green, Wisconsin. Nearby is the Dow Gardens property, a lovely large arboretum that was the estate of the Dow Chemical family who bequeathed the land for outdoor nature appreciation.

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Ride-Sharing Program in Midland, Michigan is Engaging

Trying Out a Ride-Sharing Program in Midland, MI

            The Whiting Forest Birding Festival extended an invitation to my husband Kevin to teach a nature writing workshop on September 21st in Midland, Michigan. On the morning of his workshop, I decided to try out the city’s bike-sharing program. A bike-share station was located at a city park within a block of our hotel. The ride company required the creation of an account, recording the chosen bike’s number, and unlocking it, all simple steps done from the convenience of my cell phone.  The 5-speed bike was heavy but actually moved easier than I expected. A front rack could hold my purse and water bottle.   

            I decided to check out three trails from the park, but the first exciting feature of this ride was Midland’s famous Tridge.  This walking and cycling bridge, an engineering marvel, crosses the junction between the Chippewa River and the Tittabawassee River. Built in 1981, the Tridge is 8 feet wide with three 180’ sections forming a Y. The trail to the left enters the Chippewa City Park and then upon of the recommendation of a Festival participant, I traveled about one mile to the Whiting Overlook.  This mountain in the middle of flat land overlooks several ponds with visiting pelicans. By the time I arrived at 9 a.m., the pelicans were gone but the ride to and from the area went through some scenic wooded marshland and prairie remnant fields.

I rode back to the Chippewa Trail and headed west for 3-1/2 miles to the Chippewa Forest Preserve, a county park with 1568 acres and numerous trails, a nature center, a homestead, kayak/canoe launch, and lots of educational programming. Fall colors in the shrubs along the way made for a beautiful ride.  The trail travels through extensive and scenic sections of the preserve. A visit to the Nature Center and the Homestead are well worth the time.  In the Nature Center, a room with floor-to-ceiling windows provides an overlook, extending over the Chippewa River. Comfortable couches allow anyone to view the river wildlife and foliage. Exhibits detail natural information and also educate viewers on the offerings of the area and its inhabitants. The homestead area immerses the hiker into the 1870s-era homestead, barn, syrup building, a schoolhouse, and a wigwam.  On the return trip back to Midland, signage again offers insights into the land, the animals, and the plant life. 

Once more at the Tridge, I decide to take a quick ride on the Pere Marquette Rail Trail on the north side of the Tittabawassee River. (This trail’s namesake has ties to the Dubuque area. Father Jacques Marquette floated down the Mississippi with Louis Jolliet in 1673.) Historically, the trail is named after the Flint and Pere Marquette Railway that ran through here in 1857 as a central Michigan rail connecting Flint, Michigan to Lake Michigan on the west. This 22-mile paved  Pere Marquette Rail Trail running from Midland to Clare then becomes the 55-mile Pere Marquette State Trail from Clare to Baldwin, which is primarily crushed stone.

The Pere Marquette Rail Trail detour due to bridge construction takes the rider on the city’s lovely West Main Street with grand older homes.  In one-half mile, the detour connects to the main trail and travels northwest for 22 miles to the city of Clare.  Unfortunately, I only traveled three miles and then returned due to time limitations, yet it is a scenic section.  It passes a couple of city parks that line the Tittabawassee River. The Herbert Dow Memorial Museum, Northwood University, and Dow High School all have access to the trail. The tree-lined trail is busy on this Saturday morning with bikers and runners of all ages. 

All in all, the ride-share bike trip was a success. When the rider needs to stop, the rear bike tire can be locked and the bike carries a cable to lock onto bike racks.  Opening the app and touching the resume button is easy.  At the completion of the ride, riders touch the “end ride” button.  The cost of the pay-as-you-go plan is $1 for each half hour, so I had a bill of only $5, inexpensive entertainment for over two hours of activity.  For more regular users, also has an option of an annual $20 fee. With this method, all trips under two hours are free and then $1 per hour after that. I recommend utilizing bike sharing programs when a rider has to leave his or her bike at home. The well-marked trail system was easy, beautiful, and varied in woodlands, rivers, and activities.  Midland, Michigan, is blessed by such a wonderful amenity and the inexpensive Zagster ride-share system.

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TSTV Summer 2019 Newsletter

TSTV Summer 2019 Newsletter

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Active Bike to Work Week

Bike to Work Week 2019 was held from May 13-19. Dubuque area bicycling groups, such as Tri-State Trail Vision, the Bike Coop, and TMBR, actively promote BTWW.  Several activities filled out the week. Free Flight and Bicycle World supplied raffle prizes for BTWW registrants. Mayor Roy Buol proclaimed May 13-19 as Bike to Work Week. City buses gave bikers free busing during the week and sported banners to develop awareness. Bike rodeos were held the prior week to teach bike safety and get the word out to student riders.

Avid Dubuque cyclist Jim Saul created a Bike to Work Week page this year. He encouraged riders and provided timely advice before, during, and after the week via postings. Riders who signed up via the Facebook page could pick up a BTWW 2019 decal from the Bike Coop.  Winners of the raffle prizes from Free Flight Bikes and Bicycle World included:

Bicycle World Water Bottle – Nick Harrold
Free Flight Water Bottle – Kristen Winkler
Kryptonite Cable Bike Lock – Amy English
Park Tool AWS-10 Multi-Tool – Christopher Wilson
Incredibell Original – Denny Thibadeau
Nashbar Seatpost Light – Darrell Clark
Finish Line Dry Chain Lube – Jordan Giesemann
Nashbar Ding Dong Bell – Libby Root
$50 Free Flight Gift Certificate – Brandon Harms

Nearly 1460 miles were recorded by the 41 participants, thus saving the environment and providing good exercise. The weather generally held out as well. Thanks to all the participants and sponsors during this year’s BTWW.

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Farmer’s Market Bike Day Coming Soon!

Plan on attending the Farmer’s Market Bike Day on Saturday, July 27th. Renee Tyler, City of Dubuque Director of Transportation Services, and Main Street Dubuque are coordinating efforts to promote cycling in Dubuque.  Stay tuned for more information as the day draws near.

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Urban Bicycle Food Mission Dubuque Pedals Through Downtown

Melinda Vize, a Dubuque resident who comes from a family well entrenched in the Dubuque biking scene, is giving back to the community in an unusual way via her bike.  She started the Urban Bicyling Food Mission Dubuque project last summer, based off of a similar program in Des Moines. Volunteers arrive at the Dubuque Rescue Mission on Sunday afternoons, prepare to-go meals of burritos or sandwiches, and then deliver them in groups via bikes to the homeless and homeless shelters in the community. The volunteers use child trailers or bags to deliver the food, usually burritos or sandwiches, a dessert and water bottle, to the recipients. No food is wasted.

How does she make this work? She gathers donations and writes grants to fund the project. Her work with the Homeless Advisory Coalition in Dubuque gave her tips on where to find the homeless. The Urban Bicycling Food Mission Dubuque Facebook page (UBFMDBQ) has event signup options for both the food prep and food delivery. Volunteers are always needed.

Vize views this project as a way for the biking community to give back to the larger community. Her efforts were reported in the Telegraph Herald and also picked up by U. S. News and World Report Congratulations to Melinda Vize and her efforts to make a difference!

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Mountain Bike Trail Condition Reports on Facebook

With the advent of new mountain bike trails in the Dubuque areas, numerous opportunities allow for riders to enjoy the trails, scenery, and challenges.  However, the chronically wet conditions have caused concern. The Tri-State Mountain Bike Riders (TMBR) have Facebook group pages devoted to listing conditions for their trails. It is advised to check these sites out before venturing out.  From the TMBR Facebook page, bikers can join Interstate Power Preserve Trail Conditions Facebook Group or the Cloie Creek Trail Conditions and Rides Facebook Group for updates.

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