Posts Tagged: decorah

Bike-Minded: Driftless Region Biking

By Sam Wiles

When people commonly think “Iowa,” they think corn, farms and uninterrupted flat land. Maybe even the well-known statewide road ride, Ragbrai. But mountain biking? Come on.

We’ll tell you a secret though. There’s a unique spot in the Midwest called the Driftless Region, and for mountain biking, it’s ideal. Fast rising bluffs and thick wooded areas provide a place for trails that challenge even the most expert of mountain bikers, and the flowing rivers and streams provide the perfect backdrop for a great ride.

Mountain biking began in a more conventional location: California. During the 1970s mountain biking founding fathers such as Joe Breeze, Gary Fisher, Charlie Kelly, Charlie Cunningham, Keith Bontrager, and Tom Ritchey converted cruisers and balloon-tire bicycles into human-powered machines that could traverse all sorts of terrain. Mount Tamalpais, better known as Mt. Tam, is where they conducted their experimental downhill riding. They would have the bike delivered to top of the mountain, then would race to the bottom.

Things have evolved a fair amount since then, and the trend has spread. It took awhile for it to trickle in from the coasts though, let alone to the Midwest. Yet somehow, tiny Decorah in Northeast Iowa was at the head of the pack, even though not everyone around “got it.”

“I had literally one of the first mountain bikes in the state of Iowa,” says Richard ‘Deke’ Gosen, owner of Oneota River Cycles bike shop in Decorah. “There was a misconception among not only city officials but people who owned them at first. Remember those mountain dew commercials where those guys were ‘doing the dew’ and tearing everything up? People in the community thought that’s what we were doing.”

So mountain biking was banned from the Decorah parks system. Many people thought it meant motorized dirt bikes producing air and noise pollution. When the ban was lifted in 1990, it was for the first Decorah Time Trials, and riders could only ride within a three-day span, one day on either side of the Time Trials race day. Gradually local mountain biking enthusiasts began to earn the trust of the community, and in 1993 the ban was lifted and preliminary construction on the singletrack trails began.

“[That year] it became okay to bike on the Decorah trails. It taught us something: that we had to become valuable enough to the community. We have done that through a lot of activities, starting with building the trails and promoting mountain biking,” says Gosen.

The pioneering race was the first and is now the longest-running in the state of Iowa. This year marks the 20th anniversary, and fittingly, 2010’s time trials will be featured in the Iowa Mountain Bike Racing Series for the first time, helping to put Decorah on the map for more mountain bikers and leading to wider publicity in general for the race.

The annual race is grueling one, winding through Decorah’s challenging singletrack. Racers do the route in laps, and how many laps depends on the biker’s skill level. It’s different from other mountain biking races because rather than starting in a pack (which would be impossible on the narrow trails) racers are released in intervals, the timer being the only gauge on the competition. Finally, the route is kept a secret until the day of the race.

“There’s a lot of speculation, and that’s part of the fun,” says Gosen, who picks the course each year.

And to make things even more unpredictable, Time Trials happen rain or shine. Historically, it’s been the former.

“The weather has always been bad. I’d be hard pressed to remember when the weather wasn’t terrible,” says Gosen. “But we ride no matter what.”

The trails are muddy this time of year, making the ride more difficult yet. Tires can get stuck in thick, black mud bogs or slide off of what’s already often tricky terrain.

Decorah mountain biking has truly come a long way in the past two decades. In the spring of 2003 – with the help of Gosen and fellow mountain bikers Jesse Reyerson, Jeff O’Gara, Ben Shockey, and a handful of others, Decorah Human Powered Trails (DHPT) was formed. Now a division of the Decorah Parks’ system, DHPT has built and continues to maintain over 17 miles of trails in the Van Peenen, Palisades, Ice Cave and Dunning’s Spring park systems.

“It came out of the need to consolidate a variety of user groups that were all involved with (off-road) trail development, and that included runners, walkers, and hikers. We were all kind of working together but not organized, and by all moving together and working on the same projects, it also gave us a little credibility with the community and the city,” says Gosen.

And no one in Decorah confuses dirt bikes with mountain bikes any more.

“I’ve heard a lot of people talk about how special Decorah is, but I think there are a lot of special people who live in Decorah,” says Jesse Reyerson, DHPT president. “It is probably pretty rare to have a town of 8,000 people support two bike shops anywhere else in the state.”

But even so, Decorah isn’t plastered all over MountainBike.com or Cycling Magazine. In spite of 500 acres of park and more than 17 miles of off-road trails, it isn’t rated as one of the 100 best cities for mountain biking by cycling site Singletrack.com.

That might be the best part.

“You can do any kind of cycling you want. It’s not just a road cycling community; it’s not just a mountain biking community. And it’s fantastic mountain biking that no one seems to know about so there’s virtually no traffic,” says Travis Greentree, owner of Decorah Bicycles – the second of the two bike shops in Decorah. “Five minutes away from town you can completely get away. Plus there’s enough mileage out there to keep finding new things to do, new places to ride, new obstacles.”

But don’t think any obstacle on the trail was a lack in maintenance. It is most likely there for a reason.

“If a log falls in the path, we just leave it. It makes for a new challenge,” said Decorah biker Ben Shockey. The challenge is all part of the enjoyment for mountain bikers. They revel in constant tests of unexplored terrain and natural surprises.

“There’s also not a one way direction on any trail so you can ride them any way you want. They’re so intertwined out there; you could never ride the same one twice and never run into the same person,” says Greentree.

This labyrinth of twists requires a means of navigation for the newcomer (and sometimes even the frequent rider). Gosen is at the helm of the DHPT team that helps map Decorah’s mountain bike trails. He had used aerial photography in the past and gradually segued to more sophisticated GPS systems to make particularly detailed sets of maps. He has also been behind a move to give up paper maps, as new trails are created often. The e-maps are available online at www.ExploreDecorah.com.

“Our maps are useful for trail users but we’ve also helped the city define their borders, with planning bike routes and community centers. Plus our races and non-competitive events bring in thousands of people every year. We’ve given away 5500 trail maps. Someone is clearly using them,” Gosen says.

And some of those people are also clearly not from around here. The fact that biking draws tourists is no secret. Decorah plays host to not only Time Trials annually, but also The Summer Sizzler, The Night Shift Night Race, and summer mountain bike festivals such as Big Wheel Ballyhoo and The Dirt Burger.

Locally it has garnered some great traditions too. Several area mountain bikers partake in Tuesday’s ‘Night Rides.’ Each ride lasts for an hour and a half, and allows for mountain bikers to get some time on the trails in the midst of busy schedules.

“Night riding is a lot of fun and a different kind of ride than hitting the trails during the day time,” Ryerson says. “It is easier to focus on exactly where you are placing your front wheel, because it is about the only thing you can see.”

The members of DHPT always emphasize that the mountain biking community is a social one. Each Tuesday night ride ends in a celebratory beer. The Spring Time Trials end in an award ceremony at T-Bock’s Bar and Grill on Water St.

“The social aspect of each race is awesome,” says Decorah biker Ben Shockey. “We’re pretty tightly knit. You get to know a lot of the same people.”

Shockey has organized the most physically demanding of cycling experiences, ‘Spring Training in Decorah.’ The event consists of a two-day ride throughout gravel and off-road trails of Northeast Iowa. This year from March 11 to March 13, Shockey and four others rode 203 miles in 48 hours, with 18 hours of actual ride time – a grueling stretch by any measure, especially over rough terrain. The group suffered through cramping, back spasms, and dehydration, all common with this type of endurance riding.

Shockey documents the event on his blog, SpringTraininginDecorah.blogspot.com with photos and daily updates during the ride. He is one of many in the biking community to utilize the online medium to talk about biking. Reyerson operates BikeDecorah.com, a sight with links to other biking sites, biking blogs, and maps of area trails. The BikeDecorah blog, operated by a number of local mountain bike enthusiasts, including Reyerson and Shockey, documents the activities of DHPT. The viral aspect of DHPT also helps connect the group to other parts of the Driftless Region – Northeast Iowa, Southwest Wisconsin and Southeast Minnesota – that is primed for biking.

Marty Larson operates The Prairie Peddler blog that highlights trails in Southwest Wisconsin.

“From a purely physical perspective, the terrain in the Driftless Region is fantastic for riding. Frequent scenic vistas, tough rock sections, smooth flowy tracks. We’ve got it all here,” says long-time biker Larson. “I’ve long maintained that the riding – both road and mountain – we have here in [our region] is some of the best in the country.”

Whether they consider it a sport, an activity or a pastime, for many, biking is more than pedals and handlebars and helmets. It’s about personal challenges, physical wellbeing and communal existence. It’s much more to people like Marty Larson.

“For me, cycling makes LIFE enjoyable. It gives me purpose; it drives me to be better at everything I do, from fatherhood, to being a better husband,” he says. “I want to improve cycling opportunities for everyone around so they can maybe get that feeling that I do. That euphoric joy of being in the moment on the bike.”

Sam Wiles had a great time talking to the bikers of Decorah and the region, and even did some firsthand research on his own bike. He’s thinking his next article will be titled, ‘The Joys of Gold-Bond Medicated Powder.’

Get on the Trail!

In Decorah:  Over 17 miles of single track trails! Beginner/Intermediate: River Trail & Twin Springs. Intermediate/Advanced: Van Peenan,  Ice Cave, Palisades. There are also endless miles of gravel roads to ride in the region, and some nice mid-distance rides to scenic destinations & watering holes including Bluffton, Ridgeway, Sattre, etc. Organized rides most Tuesday evenings for those with some experience, call Oneota River Cycles for more information. Beginners & beyond ride meets every Sunday afternoon at Decorah Bicycles (next to the Whippy Dip!).
www.bikedecorah.com, http://decorahbicycles.com/, http://www.exploredecorah.com/

In Prairie du Chien: La Riviere Park has roughly 8 miles of trail. Difficulty varies from wide, grassy trails that flow around the south edge of the park to horse and hiking singletrack. Some good climbs, sandy sections, and rocky areas. http://theprairiepeddler.blogspot.com/
Pikes Peak State Park above Mc Gregor has a single trail there from the lower upper parking lot down to Point Anne and down to the lower parking lot. Not terribly lengthy, but a scenic ride, especially in the spring.

Harpers Ferry: 8000 acres of the Yellow River State Forest. 20+ miles of trails with lots of ‘double track’. Lots of climbs and beautiful views.

Wyalusing State Park just to the south of Prairie du Chien has beginner trails. New intermediate trails being built this summer on Maple Ridge.

La Crosse: Lots of great single track and well built trails. Check out www.humanpoweredtrails.com!

Iowa City: Sugar Bottom, more info at www.icorrmtb.org

Repurposeful: Recycling in Winneshiek County

 

Terry Buenzow

Terry Buenzow

 

By Aryn Henning Nichols

He’s been called the Willy Wonka of recycling. Terry Buenzow walks around the Winneshiek County Recycling Center pointing at different contraptions that squeeze, shrink, shred, and generally squish all sorts of recyclable materials. With a friendly, teaching sort of voice, he talks over the clang of cans and the whir of forklifts, explaining the path of the cardboard box or number one plastic ­– “You’re wearing number one right there. Polyester!” He names off numbers and details on each item like he’s listing off grandchildren; this guy really loves recycling.

For nearly a decade, Buenzow has been watching the paper/plastic/metal/textile/glass market to analyze what’s going to happen in the recycling world and how to most effectively and efficiently put items we no longer need or want back into use or back on our shelves. Since the Winneshiek County Recycling Center (WCRC) became a public facility on April 1, 2009, interest in the center has increased dramatically. People are stopping out to drop off items, learn a little (or a lot) or to just say hello.

“Our direct traffic out here since April 1 has tripled,” Buenzow says. “A lot of people in this county feel some ownership now. Which is good. That’s the kind of attitude you want in this business.”

Perhaps it’s this attitude that makes the area’s recycling so consistently high quality.

“People in this county are really great about recycling. Things are clean and there is very little public dumping,” Buenzow says. “As far as the recycling jobs in Iowa, I got the best one. This is it. I don’t complain.”

Other counties have a harder time, especially with appliances, and when it’s $15 a pop for disposal, this can really add up. “We are fortunate we don’t have to deal with that very much,” Buenzow says.

That being said, Buenzow has seen some interesting items come into the center over the course of his time there.

“You name it, I’ve seen it in here,” he says.

Barbie dolls?

“Tons of ‘em.” (FYI: you CAN’T recycle Barbie dolls – take them to a second hand store for reuse.)

Toilets?

“I’ve seen a toilet come in here,” Buenzow says. “But they’re hard to fit in the bins anymore ‘cause we made the openings smaller.”

The things they do accept have a varied life. Each state has its own recycling policies, Buezow says, and most centers are county-run. The different materials go to manufacturers across the US and Canada, and it is an ever changing market. The sale of recyclable plastic, for instance, is entirely tied to the natural gas market. The type of paper you’ve got in a bale can more than double its worth. Textiles can go to another country for reuse or cut up to be repurposed. It’s an amazing world of working with what you’ve got – something people seem to be relearning these days.

Luckily, the path can be pretty short for recyclables in Northeast Iowa. There are many manufacturers just a short truck route away. International Paper in Cedar Rapids. the largest cardboard recycling mill in the country, second in the world, is just 90 miles away.

“I’ll have a dedicated semi-load of cardboard in six days, same with paper,” Buenzow says. “Most likely it will go to Cedar Rapids, and it can be there in just a couple of hours.”

Check out Inspire(d)’s illustration of sample paths many of the things you put in those bright blue bins might take. Buenzow says that although people around here are educated about recycling, the center could accept even more materials. He hopes his latest education efforts – like entering the social networking world by putting WCRC on Facebook – will help people learn even more and in turn recycle even more. Check them out to learn more about recycling or how your tax dollars are being spent. Or stop out and say hi. Better yet, volunteer to help and really take ownership of this publicly funded organization.

“It’s great if you want some therapy – just come out and smash or shred stuff,” Buenzow says, (after signing a liability form, of course, he adds). “Junk is fun!”

Aryn Henning Nichols was excited to win the golden ticket and visit Terry Buenzow and the Recycling Factory.

Winneshiek County Recycling Center, 2510 172nd Avenue, Decorah, IA, 52101
563-382-6514

Find Winneshiek County Recycling on Facebook – there’s lots more information and even guides on how to prepare your recycled materials!

Below is some information Inspire(d) got on recycling in Winneshiek County while visiting Terry Buenzow.

Cardboard: Most of the WCRC cardboard heads to Cedar Rapids International Paper, the largest cardboard recycling mill in the country. “The cardboard industry thrives on recycled content. The International Paper mill is running totally recycled,” Buenzow says. Do accept: Basic brown corrugated boxes, cereal, cracker and cake boxes, 12-pack cartons and pizza boxes, shoe boxes and mailing tubes. Do not accept: Waxy containers like butter boxes and orange juice cartons. $65/ton

Paper: Paper comes in different grades – office paper, newsprint, mixed waste (the “I can do no wrong” paper) – the price range for paper starts at  $25/ton and runs up to $250/ton (that’s for sorted white, ledger). It might go to some tissue mills in Wisconsin or a newsprint mill in Ontario. “Our first choice is always to make a similar product.”
# 8 News – needs to be 80% newsprint – this is worth around $35 to $40/ton
Office paper – traditionally strong $165/ton at least – pure white $250/ton
And yes, you CAN recycle magazines! If you’ve passed Inspire(d) on and on and on and don’t want to save it for your “collection,” recycle it!
Things you might not know about paper recycling: don’t worry about staples or little plastic windows. Paper plates? Not recyclable, sorry.

Plastic –  #1 & 2 hold the best market value. The price of plastic is tied entirely to the price of natural gas. “Plastics are the most complicated and confusing of all the materials we take. We have to sort the plastics by their number at the recycling center because the different types are not compatible with each other when they are re-melted at a plastic processor.”
#1 – pop bottles, water bottles, etc.– might go to a place like Mowawk Carpets in Georgia Makes good carpet, fabrics, fleece blankets, etc. It’s a very strong plastic. “The power of number 1 plastic is unbelievable.” Over the past six months #1 has been worth from $120 – $175/ton.
#2 – milk jugs – can get 15,000 pounds in one bale. It squishes better. It can be made into pails, toys, car parts, or construction materials. The rest of the numbers (3-7) go into waste reduction bales along with enough 1 and 2 to make them at attractive on the market. The bales are sold to a variety of plastic processors.

Aluminum/Tin/Metal – “Metal items are some of the easiest products to recycle. In fact, almost all of them have some recycled content. The basic tin can may end up being part of a new car or made into a can again. Aluminum beverage cans usually become new beverage cans or foil. Aluminum frying pans and cookie sheets can become about any other aluminum product there is.” Some goes to processor in Eau Clair, WI, to make steel siding – you can buy that siding at Menard’s – and a lot of other metals go to Le Roy Iron.
Do accept: Food cans (the basic “tin” can), beer cans and pop cans, aluminum foil (they have an aluminum foil cubing machine), pie plates and roaster pans, metal cookware, such as frying pans, cookie sheets, sauce pans, etc., decorative canisters and tins, electric motors, electrical cords and wall chargers. Metal prices can range from $30/ton to quite a bit more for

Textiles and shoes: Take your used clothing and shoes to the Depot Outlet in Decorah (or another second hand store in your town). WCRC works closely with the Depot. What they can’t sell goes to WCRC for baling or sorting and selling. Textile bales may go some place like Toronto for resale “What’s not fashionable here might be there.”

Glass: “It’s really hard to work with,” Buenzow says. “That’s why there isn’t a market for it.” It’s not a favorite topic at recycling centers. That being said, you may take glass directly to WCRC. It will be crushed and used for landfill drainage at the Winneshiek County Sanitary Landfill. Best option? Be conscious of glass packaging you do buy. Choose plastic if possible.

Interview with Winneshiek County Paramedics

By Mary Marx

Steve Vanden Brink

Staring out my window at leaves falling from a crab apple tree, Steve Vanden Brink replays a scene in his mind – I watch as he carefully weighs his willingness to share a story.

Steve is a paramedic specialist. He’s one of the few who respond when your car is wedged between two trees or when you’re helplessly lying on the bathroom floor. He gives life-saving breath and coaxes your heart to beat on its own. Steve brings calm to your chaos.

He apparently reaches some conclusion and our conversation resumes. “I see death and dying more than your average person. One day, three people died…traumatically… in 12 hours. They were young,” Steve says to the corner of my desk. “Every call affects each paramedic differently – over the past 20 years, there are always those calls that stand out.”

Steve studies the notes he prepared for this very interview. “It was maybe 15 years ago – I worked the night shift – and the ambulance was dispatched to a home birth. We delivered the baby; that’s not something we get to do very often. The crew brought both mother and baby to the hospital for care and then, about an hour later we were called to a house – to a family just like the one celebrating a new child – to try to revive an unresponsive infant. We gave that child all we had, our combined expertise, our equipment, everything, but the baby died.”

In this profession, nights like these are sad realities. But there is also life. There is beauty in the eyes of someone whose pain has subsided and joy in the monotonous tones of a heart once again beating on its own.

“I heard a call for first responders to the home of one of my friends,” says Steve. “He’d collapsed while getting ready for a night out – his wife found him. I got there first and did CPR until the ambulance arrived. The paramedics on duty shocked him with the defibrillator – and we waited for the beep to start, but nothing happened. And then, the lines on the screen began to move. Everything worked that night – it happened the way it should – and now I see him jogging through town, enjoying the life he almost lost.”

Dave Neinhaus

“You have to absorb the good moments,” says paramedic Dave Nienhaus. “You have to let those happy endings fill you up… and enjoy them.”

Dave’s first happy ending earned him the gratitude of the patient, and a canned ham.

“I was a first responder at the time – pretty green, I was out only two years. I heard the call and arrived on scene, shocked the patient and her heart began beating again. Not too long afterward, she stopped over to my house, gave me a hug and pressed a canned ham into my hands.  It was such a touching – and memorable – gift; I don’t think I will ever forget it.”

In Dave’s mind, paramedics are not in the business of “saving lives.”

“Whether or not someone lives, that is between the patient and God,” he says. “If they are to live, and I am part of that plan, I am happy to serve and will do so to the very best of my ability.”

Training and experience play a significant role in a paramedic’s ability to help a patient, but “good equipment and new technology make it a whole lot easier.”

The Advanced Life Support monitors the Winneshiek Medical Center Foundation is raising funds for this year through Festival of Trees allow paramedics to attend multiple things at once. The monitors will hook up with the chest compression machine and deliver shocks as needed. The paramedics will be able to provide better care, and that means more happy endings.

“People expect us to come busting into their home, perform CPR and shocks and then whisk the patient back to the ER where they will make a full recovery – kind of like it happens on TV,” says Dave. “When this happens in the real world, it is a kind of euphoria – like you are experiencing the scene from somewhere on the ceiling. You watch hands placing the machine on someone’s bare skin, see their chest rise with returning breath – it is surreal. And then, you meet them walking to cardiac rehab two weeks later and you know you had a part in it.”

Occasionally the happy ending is more bittersweet.

“Sometimes, if we can bring someone back, it is just long enough to say goodbye to loved ones,” Dave says. “We don’t save them in a physical way, but it brings a sort of acceptance to the family. Like I said, I don’t save lives – I just help people.”

Dave Reutlinger

He’s been there. Dave Reutlinger has provided emergency care for people as long as I have been alive – 29 years – and I cannot even fathom the different experiences that have shaped him into who he is today.

Dave is nationally certified in … and a specialist in… and licensed in…, but amid all the accolades, I get the feeling that experience is his true teacher. Yet he is anything but boastful. As I attempt to understand the whys and hows that are his life’s work, Dave is reluctant to share too much. This man carries within him some the most personal experiences of many of us reading this very article– his stories are ours.

“When we are on our way to a call – maybe a car accident – we make our plan,” Dave says. He explains that everything makes a difference in what to expect: the voice inflection of the dispatcher (which could mean a serious call or an over-excited caller reporting the accident), the weather conditions, time of day, even the way the glass is broken or the vehicle is dented or the smell of the scene when they arrive.

I can imagine that his kind face and quiet way of speaking would bring calm to even the most frantic of patients. “If we can, we get in the car with the patient – talk to them while starting IVs or assessing their injuries,” says Dave. “We explain what the sounds mean – the snapping and banging of the metal roof being cut away, why the car is swaying, that we are doing everything we can for them.”

Dave stresses that they are not alone in their task.

“The entire emergency system is… interconnected, on the scene with first responders, law enforcement, the fire department,” he says. “And when we return to the emergency department –everyone has a hand in saving a life.”

Josh Moore

Time is constant. Seconds turn to minutes, minutes to hours. But it doesn’t always seem that way.

“Time had never moved so slowly,” recalls Josh Moore. “We were waiting for the defibrillator to give us direction after the shock. It only takes about 10 seconds to analyze, but when a teenager is lying at your side without a pulse, those 10 seconds…”

His eyes are bloodshot and he offers a weary smile – it is seven in the morning and time for him to go home. It was a quiet night in the emergency department, though that is something to never even suggest in the presence of the staff who work there. Josh willingly puts off a good night’s (day’s) sleep for 10 more minutes to share the memory of what he calls, “his first save.”

“I worked with my dad and a few other guys in a basic ambulance service. We got the call of a man down at the school, and following our protocol, ran lights and sirens to get there, though it was only a few blocks from our garage.”  Josh was the baby, the newbie, green. “When we rolled up to the school, it was my job to get the jump kit while the others went to the patient. We only knew someone was down in the gym; I assumed in my head they had hurt their ankle – something pretty minor.”

Josh focuses on a point somewhere above my head and continues, “He was only 19. It was a scrimmage game, something for fun. He fell past the three-point line, just short of the hawk emblem painted in the center of the floor, and his teammates could only stand over their friend – they knew his pulse was gone. I was the one who placed the defibrillator patches on his chest. I remember the lump in my throat as the machine said, ‘shock advised,’ and I pushed the button and watched his body jerk… and waited.”

After 10 painstaking seconds, the defibrillator advised the paramedics to begin chest compressions once more. “I started compressions,” says Josh, “and just willed his heart to begin beating. And then, against the heel of my hand, under his sternum, I felt pounding – I actually experienced his heart come back to life.”

He goes on. “We delivered the patient to the nearest emergency room and were heading back out to the garage when the doctor stopped us – he told us, ‘He’s in there talking to his family because of you guys. Congratulations,’ – and it was at that moment I committed to this path – one of day shifts and night shifts, adrenaline rushes and lulls. I want to make a difference in someone’s life.”

Mary Marx is a life-long Winneshiek County-ian, and is proud of her family and this year’s garden. Her favorite things include crushing hugs from her two sons, a good cosmopolitan and watching the sun set from her back porch with her husband, who also happens to be her best friend.