A couple of things about Iowa:
- Every Iowan checks to make sure other Iowans have been nice to you like, "Hey where are you going?" <explain etc> "Well that's just great! You've liked Iowa right? The people you've met have been great, right?" Verbatim x 12. Like there is peer pressure to be a Good Samaritan because there is going to be massive collective Iowan shame if you aren't. But hey, everyone's truly been unfailingly kind so I never know what to say other than "Yes everyone here seems like they'd pull out their own kidney if I needed it, please, no need to fret about your brethren."The niceness is kind of freaky but let us all strive to more like Iowans and hold our fellow citizens accountable for immense generosity of heart and home.
- Despite it being the most bike-enthusiastic state we've been in: no roads have paved shoulders; county roads are fabulous; city road suck.
- There might not be sports but there is RAGBRAI.
Anyways, this morning, we ate a fabulous, nerdy pancake breakfast with our couchsurfing host Sarah, big thick pancakes browned on the griddle. Her Log Cabin syrup brought me back to my bottling days in the UCLA cafeteria. Actually I really never need to go back there again.
Going into detail about our route today since Google kept trying to put us on gravel so read on if you're interested, or feel free to skip ahead if you're not.
We didn't leave 'til late and it's hot every day now. We were able to take the Cedar River Trail out about 10 miles to Ely before ending up on some classic no-shoulder Iowa highways (Ely Road/W6E/hwy #?). Pro-tip: stay on that road and follow it to Solon. We stopped at the Big Grove Brewery for a sip and some lunch for Rachel and spent like an hour and a half there. We took 1 down to the turnoff to Morse, and then took Morse road into town. We couldn't find a way to get to West Branch without gravel but maybe you can. At least it's hard packed and short (2 miles, maybe 3). The Herbert Hoover trail is this great, overgrown crushed limestone trail that is surprisingly easy to ride. Take F40/290th to 38, then bear left and follow 38 over 80 until you get to Hwy 6 or 155th street. Google's good from there, except definitely ride down to New Era road, which is paved and pleasant, if a little hilly.
We didn't get into Wildcat State Park until it was almost dark. We've just started to get into firefly territory, and they'd float up out of the grass and out of the cornfields in the hazy dusk, lighting our way to the park. The camping area was one of the strange-ish open ones where all tent sites are right next to each other on the same meadow of lawn grass. They had fresh water, though, and good picnic tables, and fees were only $9 which seems like kind of a steal when you're from California. I tried to go tootlin' off to find Pine Creek but realized I'd have to go down a big hill to get there (aka I would have to climb it on the way back) and the skeeters were out in force so I turned back. I made a really mediocre tofu stir fry for dinner and prepped the tent for the predicted thunderstorms by hooking the tarp grommets onto the tent poles and tying the rest of it up via a couple pieces of cord.
We didn't go to bed 'til late but the thunderstorm came even later and it was a heavy metal kind of rain, endlessly pounding the tent and trees around us. My Big Agnes Air Core has been leaky for a while, but it totally gave out last night, so I slept-woke on the ground (soft, muddy, grassy ground, not bad) and ate a granola bar at 3 am to reflate my deflated spirits/reality.
I'd hoped to leave early to beat the heat a little and run some errands in Davenport but it poured like hell from 7 til 9 am, so much so it didn't make sense to leave. Eventually, though, the rain let up enough for it to get hot and sticky inside the tent and I couldn't take the claustrophobia anymore. I talked to Vince for a while, who's doing his own east-to-west trek (Chefs Fore Vets). He's averaging 35 miles a day and has 'til December and is trying to get on Jimmy Kimmel Live on December 7, so go forth, and tweet about and for(e) him.