Today was, for me, the hardest day on the bike. We got a late start (the hotel we stayed in last night served a later breakfast than most) and weren’t on the road until about 7:30. Right off the bat we started hitting the hills.
Most folks think of Iowa as a very flat place and I am sure it is in places. We started today at about 300 feet in elevation and almost broke 1,000 about three times. There are not mountains here but the farmland is rolling and the climbs sometimes lasted 30 minutes or more. We would climb a few hundred feet and the drop into a valley only to have to regain all that altitude. Some of the climbs were more than a mile in length – we didn’t expect it!
I should have taken pictures of the climbs but didn’t – I was too whupped to whip out the camera.
The heat index today in Tipton, where we arrived for lunch at Caseys, was 116 degrees. We ordered a pizza and ate it while sitting on the hot cement in front of the gas station.
A “mechanical” is what bike tourers call a mechanical breakdown. Today we had five of these and there was no shade available to hide under. We had two broken spokes (Josh and I), two flat tires (Josh and I), and “the weak one” had a strange rear axle seize up. We had to remove the hubs to fix the spokes and I think I messed up the axle when I did that. In any case, I had to remove all the guts and rebuild the bearing clusters – thank God for spare parts once again! Pray that these bikes make it. After the tour I will be posting my thoughts on using rebuilt mountain bikes for touring.
At one point I snapped at Dave and Josh in anger – there was no call for it and I was very shamed by my behavior. Tempers were short all around and we were working hard all day. It was just plain tough.
We arrived at Riverview Ridge Campground and found a wonderful little river which we all enjoyed. We let the water run over our aching muscles and spent the time talking about the day and recalibrating our relationships. It was a wonderful memory that I would not trade for anything. In years to come we might forget the hard day of work on the bike but we won’t forget the fun of lounging in the babbling water as we sifted rocks and watched birds and fish go by. The picture below is the view form our picnic table at the campsite.
The good news is that we logged 76 miles. We cut straight north from Muscatine, leaving the Mississippi River Trail for two days, which will save us one entire day on the trip (not to mention the hills around Dubuque). While the day was hot and hard, Iowa is beautiful and lush with agricultural riches.
Tomorrow we are planning a shorter ride and a ferry across the Mississippi. If all goes according to plan we will cross into Wisconsin sometime in the afternoon.