State #7 down, and I’m on to Nebraska. I stayed Wednesday night with Warmshowers hosts Dan and Penny in Brayton, Iowa, on a beautiful farmhouse down a gravel road. As we sat around chatting in the evening, two longhorn cattle and a calf came wandering down the road, escapees from a neighbor’s farm. While I and the rest of the family watched, Dan got his shoes on and took off into the cornfield to help the neighbor, who’d just arrived, try to corral the beasts back onto the right path.
That was a long, hot day. I probably rode 6 or 8 extra miles, to downtown Atlantic to a bike shop which didn’t end up having the things I was looking for, and the day was full of hills and headwinds. 94.1 miles in all. The next day was longer. I was aiming for Onawa, IA or perhaps Turin, having been warned about how hilly the terrain was going to be as I approached the Missouri Valley. At some point in the late afternoon, I saw a sign – Decatur, NE: 15. The wind had shifted by then and I almost automatically decided to push onward to wrap up Iowa by sunset. The last miles across the river valley were perfectly flat and with the tailwind, I cranked out the miles while glancing back at the sunset on the Loess Hills, and dodging the white tufts that drifted off the cottonwood trees. I felt like some cinematic music, the only sample of which I had was the soundtrack from The Fellowship of the Ring. The album ended right as I got to the bridge over the Missouri River to Decatur. Clearly choosing to ride onward was the right decision. I gobbled down dinner and chatted with local old-timers at the first restaurant I saw, then set up a tent after dark in the town’s RV campsite right on the river. I was too exhausted to take the time to shower.
In the morning I started wondering whether pushing through so many miles had been a good idea. A stuffy nose and sore throat, accompanied by a fair amount of lethargy, made it tough going through Nebraska’s hills, which were just like Iowa’s – less steep than Pennsylvania climbs, but just as relentless. Nebraska, if anything, had even taller hills. Then once the terrain flattened out, I saw a bad sign. “Road Work: Next 13 Miles.” Then another. “Milled Surface.” This means they tore the road surface apart and left it that way. The next 13 miles were fairly horrible, but at least the wind was helping somewhat.
Somehow I powered through all the way to Norfolk, covered in sweat and totally out of gas, to two more very nice hosts, Jackie and Doug. I was their first guest – their son is in the middle of the TransAmerica Trail and they signed up to reciprocate the hospitality he’s getting. As usual, the shower was blissful and I was fed dinner – fantastic.Now I’m typing up a quick post on their computer, where I could write a novel in the time it would take me to finish an average post on my phone.
I’m planning some more short, relatively relaxing days for the weekend. I’m pretty sure my body needs it. On the plus side, my knee is not hurting while I ride anymore, though it still is quite stiff and can get a jolt of pain when I get up to a standing position. I know the smart thing to do would have been to take a few days of downtime back when it started hurting and do nothing but elevate and ice it, but…I didn’t, because the only thing I knew how to do was to keep on keeping on, like a bird that fleeeeeeeeeeeeew. That’s a reference for you, Dad.
Going to get some photos up and probably be asleep before too long:
Country scenes. Is my Uncle Michael reading this blog? If not, somebody get him to tell me what those birds are.
This replica of a famous statue of the Little Mermaid (the Hans Christian Andersen version, apparently) from Copenhagen was the centerpiece of a tiny hamlet in Iowa – Hamlin. There were also sculptures representing other of his stories. The main street proclaimed itself a “Danish Village,” but aside from a few Danish flags, I didn’t see what that was supposed to mean. At least the Czech Village back in Cedar Rapid had a few kitsch shops full of genuine glassware from Czechoslovakia.
As I headed west in Iowa, more pastures appeared among the cornfields. Still not feeling like I’m really in the West, though…
Then I dropped into the Missouri Valley after a long day of endless climbing, and the Loess Hills were the first scenery to look western. After all, the Missouri is the beginning of the West. It’s all going to get more exciting from here! I think.
Across the river and my 105-mile day was finally over. Well, after I guzzled down a massive double cheeseburger to the admiration of the tall-tale-telling old timers in the local bar.