We woke up in our tent definitely aware of the humidity. We’d been warned by the cyclist Rebecca met the night before and many Iowans that the humidity would be hard to bear, and they were right. We only had 20 miles to go to the campground that night so we knew we could make it.
Tim left a bit before Rebecca, hoping to get a jump start on the day, but was passed up only about a mile in, with Rebecca saying hello as she quickly biked by. As Rebecca biked past a house she got chased for a second by a small dog. Luckily the dog didn’t leave his yard and was on the other side of the road. That meant that the dog was on Tim’s side of the road, so she made a mental note to text him a warning once she stopped. The next house made her laugh though, and she relaxed back into the slow, hot, sweaty day that this day was turning into. (The next house was selling little fences).
She arrived at the entrance to the park, texted Tim about the dog, and set out on her search for the campsites. According to the map, they were almost two miles into the park! She cursed the luck as she was exhausted from the humidity and knew Tim would be too. Biking up the monster hill into the park with all the weight on the back of her bike wasn’t going to happen so she got off and walked the bike a half mile in before biking the last 1.5 lightly hilly miles to the campground. She quickly texted Tim the bad news, but we agreed that this campground was still our best option.
Tim had a slow day crawling through the humidity. Only 20 miles felt like much more with the amount he was sweating and he started to get low on water about 3 miles from the entrance to the park. He texted Rebecca to bring him some water, at least to the entrance since it was still 2 miles to the tent. She reluctantly filled her camelback and headed out. She needed to go buy us dinner at the next town 4 miles down the road anyway, so she grabbed a bag and met Tim right before the big hill into the park. He had run out of water by then and was pretty thirsty. Luckily, there were spigots on the way in so we only transfered a little to get him to the next spot. Rebecca headed out to the gas station/pizza place to get sandwiches and sweet tea. When she got back, we both ate slowly, and sank into humidity stupor. Unfortunately, Rebecca’s plan to get free camping by setting up in someone else’s spot failed when we were caught by a ranger. Chuck said it was a $20 charge for every camping unit, so the tent would be another charge. We reluctantly paid, but were soon no longer sad when we befriended Chuck and he invited us to camp in his yard the next evening! Our option in West Branch had fallen through, so this was a lucky chance for us. We crawled into our tent, turned on our battery powered $1 fan to fight the humidity, and fell asleep.
The next morning, Chuck had agreed to take our tent with him from work, so we dropped it off in the office on the way out of the park. We left most of Tim’s extras there as well so his pack would be lighter. The day was significantly less humid, but it would be a long 27 mile day, and having a lighter pack for both of us was a welcome break to the day. (Thank you Chuck, you really saved us!)
Rebecca planned to bike into Iowa City to write some blog posts from a coffee shop and we decided to meet there for lunch. On the way we both enjoyed the same joke.
When Rebecca got close to Iowa City, the hills started to get the best of her. As the roads got larger, she worried that drivers would get angry so she opted to cut through the University of Iowa campus. Unfortunately, there was lots of construction on campus and very few signs, so she got lost and it took a half an hour to go the one mile through campus. Back in town she biked to the coffee shop and settled into a back seat where people wouldn’t judge how sweaty she was. Tim enjoyed the lightness of his bag, and searched for a sweet corn stand for Chuck to buy some for dinner. Tim did not get lost on campus and enjoyed the vastness and grandiose buildings.
We met at the coffee shop before heading around the corner to The Hamburg Inn, a famous diner in town for politicos. After lunch, where we got free post cards, we both aimed for the Herbert Hoover Highway (the HHH to locals). Rebecca made it to West Branch and waited in the library to write just one more blog post before heading up to Chuck’s to wait for Tim.
Chuck passed Tim on his way home, and Tim refused a ride. The HHH wasn’t treating him too badly, and he wanted to try to walk the whole way. He did agree to be picked up in town instead of walking the last two and a half miles out of the way, up the road to Chuck’s house though. Only ten minutes later, the shoulder disappeared and he regretted not accepting the ride. But, luck would have it that another kind man stopped to offer him a ride and he accepted, but after conferring with Rebecca about the shoulder and traffic up to Chuck’s house, only got the ride into town so he’ll have made up the distance. That night we feasted on sweet corn and veggies and so much more that we have missed on the road. Then we set up our tent next to the corn field and got a true Iowan experience of sleeping near the corn!
In the morning Chuck woke up early and gave Tim a ride into town while Rebecca biked down to meet them at Reid’s Beans (right now, this is Rebecca’s favorite breakfast from the trip) where we had an amazing breakfast after saying our thank yous and goodbyes to Chuck and his son.
We had a long day ahead of us, 31 miles into Muscatine, and the sun was getting hot. Rebecca had to add a few miles to avoid dirt roads, and Tim did too when he saw how dusty some of them were. When Rebecca met up with our hosts for the evening, the derailleur on her bike broke! Luckily, the husband of the couple was handy enough to fix it well enough to work so she could bike to the bike shop in town the next morning. She was able to borrow a bike from our hosts to get dinner for both of us. Tim got in late but we were able to discuss their experiences doing RAGBRAI on a tandem bike for many years. We slept in their basement that evening and savored the air-conditioned, no-humidity air. The next day was only a 23 mile day. Tim was getting worn out with long, hot days and was ready for a short day ahead.
The next morning we separated, Rebecca heading back into town to get her bike fixed and Tim headed north to take the highway toward Davenport. Rebecca’s derailleur was replaced and she was on her way. Tim barely saw anything other than a loud highway until Davenport. Rebecca took the scenic route (which had no shoulder, so Tim, smartly, wasn’t comfortable walking it).
At a gas station outside of Blue Grass, Tim finally had his “Wild” moment (the movie starring Reese Witherspoon based on Cheryl Strayed’s book). While eating a bag of peanuts and drinking Gatorade on the shady side of the building, a man in a truck got out. Tim gave him the friendly nod. As the man left the gas station, he asked Tim if he was traveling. Tim said he was waking across the country. The man handed him a tall boy (beer) and $2. The man said “every little bit helps”. We agree. Thanks, stranger!
Rebecca made it into Davenport, crossed into Illinois to go to a coffee shop, and then met Tim just west of town where we met with our host for the night. Unfortunately, the host wasn’t able to have us for the night because of a change of heart with his girlfriend. Luckily, he found us a friend to stay with and took us over to the friend’s house instead! While he made arrangements, we waited at the Davenport Brewery and enjoyed a local beer, enjoying the view of the Mighty Mississippi, which we would officially cross the next morning.
Today(s) we walked through:
Tim: 44,794, 51,636, 75,021, and 54,472 steps
Rebecca: 25, 28, 31, and 24 miles
2,125 miles finished