Iowa offensive tackle Tristan Wirfs made his mark on Mount Vernon. Many in town made their mark on him, too. Wirfs and his mother, Sarah, took The Gazette on a tour of his hometown, revisiting scenes around what essentially is the one square mile where he grew up. This story is a little about what can hold you back. This is mostly about what moves you forward.

Outdoors

A sweaty adventure, with a view

The Nature Call: Getting outdoors on a hot day can be a battle

Catching the view from “Mount Trashmore” was part of a hot midday adventure for John Lawrence Hanson and his wife. (Jim Slosiarek/The Gazette)
Catching the view from “Mount Trashmore” was part of a hot midday adventure for John Lawrence Hanson and his wife. (Jim Slosiarek/The Gazette)

“Mad dogs and Englishmen go out in the midday sun.”

My father-in-law loves that line.

He’s the only one I’ve ever heard use it. Instead of channeling sentiments from a silly song about Limey colonists in Southeast Asia, he could as well have been referring to me.

Though I’d rather be considered the mad dog. Make that two mad dogs as my wife and I came to put in a big training day on the hottest day of the year. We were first-time empty nesters because our children were away for a two-week camp. What else would we do?

Painters recommend to “keep a wet edge.” I apply that to exercise and general summer sweatiness. Once the perspiration is flowing, there’s little sense in getting dry and cool if you’re only going to get hot again.

We didn’t plan on having a big effort on a day when the weathermen were flailing black flags. The plan was just for a bicycle cruise on the Cedar River Trail (south), hopefully in the most shaded sections — that wouldn’t be too bad in the heat.

Then I over inflated her tire. With the bikes racked on the car, we were just about to leave for the trailhead when BANG! 120 psi let loose like a shot. Our first stop was at the bike shop. I have a history with exploding bike tires and I now leave repairs to the pros.

Sweating from just rolling the injured mount into my favorite bike shop, its air conditioning was a relief but also a threat to my maxim. Instead of waiting, we opted to kill time running up nearby Mount Trashmore.

What a gem, a silk purse from porcine products. The summit registers 948 feet above sea level, which is what I call it. The overlook is handicap accessible and worth the time by any means. And yes, the view reminds me of Paris, too.

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The Red Cedar River is ennobled from the vantage point. She cuts a ribbony figure in her concrete forms before relaxing. For a moment I thought of The Seine. Our muse awaits her artists. Très Bien.

Hill 948 shares an elevation with the middle floors of One World Trade Center. At the summit, you could hop off onto the campus of Iowa State University. Ames sits at 942 feet.

It’s not the height of Hill 948 that is special but rather its prominence over the city. The gain of 200-plus feet over May’s Island gives the City of Five Seasons an extra majesty. As a static view you get to linger rather than rushing by when on the wing.

We ran up the footpath and back down the road, a happy little conquest despite the heat. The repair might not have been done, so a lap around the Prairie Park Fishery was ordered. There was no more “wet edge” — just drenched from head to toe.

Satisfied the bike was ready, we retrieved it and set out on our original mission: from NewBo down the Cedar River Trail a little bit and then back. The path was smooth and I was craving something cool. If we biked to Ely, we’d have earned a pause for ice cream. Excursion extended, on to the Hoover Trail.

The hot wind helped propel us back to Cedar Rapids. The silky path made for easy pedaling, the shade made it tolerable. Terry Swails said the heat index hit 122 degrees in Monticello. I did not hear or want to know what it was in Linn County.

We met few others during that midday crucible. We met no dogs, mad or otherwise. Nature didn’t stop for a broiler of a day. With a little sense (or none at all) and a willing partner you don’t have to either.

Looking up, looking ahead, and keeping my pencil sharp.

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