Day 58: Pave America with bike trails (Cedar Falls to Cedar Rapids)

Woke up feeling fresh this morning, stomach seems to be all healed up. John made us Scottish oatmeal with raisins and vanilla almond milk with a touch of honey. Plus the best coffee we've had this trip. Well. I've had. Rachel's cutting her addiction loose and reverting to tea.

Goodbye goodbye!

Goodbye goodbye!

Goodbye's are always bittersweet and this one especially so. Naomi and John took such good care of us, so that while this could have been an extraordinarily low couple of days, it wasn't. Instead it was a treat to spend an extra day in a house full of art, adventure, clean sheets and generous meals. But pedal on we must so off we went.


We rode bike trails along the Iowa river almost the whole way to Cedar Rapids. The first segment, to Waterloo, was all paved, green light filtering through the veil of cedars (I assume, I don't know trees) that bowed over the path. Every so often we caught a glimpse of the river, of an old man with a cap and his fishing rod, of a couple of happy kids out on boats. 

Construction blocked the bit of trail from Waterloo to Evanston, where we caught back up with it and rode an easy 20-something miles on a blacktop path through the riparian forest. The pavement gave way to gravel, then to dirt, sometimes totally grown over with grass, until 10 or 15 miles out from Cedar Rapids. Sometimes the mud got real sticky, catching the tires and making each pedal a slog. But for the most part, it was incredible to be off the road. One of the pieces of this trip I didn't really think through was that the best roads are often the most traveled.. or at least well traveled. So on a bike, we can only really access places you can access by car - until now. It looks like we're going to have trails almost clear to La Porte, Indiana, our next teaching spot. 

Day 55: When 50 miles seems easy (Iowa Falls to Cedar Falls)

Inches out of the sleeping bag at 9:12 and met Sherrie for coffee and the Coffee Attic. We are two breakfast sandwiches and gave an interview to the town paper too.

Then she took us on a tour of Iowa Falls: to the bike shop (home of the Super Tuned tuneup), Ricky T sr's garage (the Ricky's are not related) to see Sherrie and his decked out bicycles, stereo systems and all, the hospital to actually visit Ricky T, where Rachel got some advice about her knees, then finally back to Mark's house to pack up. Sherrie offered to drive most of our stuff to Rachel's family at Cedar Falls, so we only had to carry a few bags. We didn't leave until 1:30 but weren't worried cause 47 miles seemed breezy after yesterday. Or not breezy. We're just finally confident we can make it any distance 60 and under with no real difficulty, assured of our strength. It's a deep kind of comfort that we only just learned.

We had a headwind the whole way, but no detours. We even stopped for a road whiskey at Grumpy's in Ackley. We made it to Cedar Falls by 6:30 or 7, welcomed by Naomi and John, Rachel's dad's cousin and her husband. They cooked us an incredible meal of Iowa State Fair food (no deep fried butter, don't worry).

Then, while unpacking, Rachel realized she couldn't find either of her rain jackets, which had been tied to the back of the tent. Worse, her wallet was in one of the pockets. So we called in our Iowa Falls reinforcements, but, no luck. The jackets are gone, along with her wallet, so we're trying to figure out how to get her an ID. Turns out California is the only state that doesn't allow you to apply via mail, you have to go in in person. But she can't. Cause she's in Iowa. There's traveler IDs, but those require an itinerary, which we don't have, cause we're science vagabonds. And expedited passports take forever and also take you for all your worth. Any ideas?

Day 54: Iowa Falls aka magicwonderbikeland (Nemaha to Iowa Falls)


I used to find it impossible to get up early in the morning, the world soupy, thick and heavy, but that's shifted substantially in the last two years. Anjali started me a little at school, and in Davis, I'd get up before work to run because the summer days there are brutally hot. Now, on this trip, I love waking up at 6:30, getting out before 8. No flies, the air is cool and sweet, the sun's up but not fiery and there's nothing like putting 50 miles behind you before noon.

So I left Jim's place early, before Rachel woke up. And this splendid day rose before us and the tailwinds propelled us and there were those 50 miles by noon. I also don't do well with heat so I stopped for lunch in a cemetery (only place in Fort Dodge with shade on the way out). Rachel and I decided we could do 100 mile, our first century, so we plugged Iowa Falls into the GPS. Best decision ever.

It's this sweet little town that feels bigger than its 5200 residents. We figured we could camp in Assembly Park, which was right on the Iowa River without getting kicked out so long as we hid ourselves kind of well. Cooked up some lettuce wraps filled with kielbasa, quinoa, mushrooms and onions and basked in the glory of the evening and how easy the day felt despite the distance.


The evening was so warm, I decided to clean up in the river. I ran up the swinging bridge and down the road to the river, interrupting the migration of twelve mama gooses and their goslings. I wasn't sure if the river was safe.. It seemed a special kind of crazy that on such a gorgeous evening, there was no one else swimming in the river. So I flagged down a guy driving a boat and asked if the water was safe. He assured me it was. 

I jumped in with all my clothes on ... double duty, washing machines are few and far between. While I scrubbed off the thick cake of sweat, dirt, sunscreen and bug spray, the guy on the boat, Mark, docked his boat right there next to the shore. When he found out Rachel and I were cyclists, he called up his friend Sherrie. It was Tuesday and Tuesday's are bike nights in Iowa falls. She's loud and blonde, Mark said, you're gonna love her. 

Rachel's in there somewhere 

Rachel's in there somewhere 

Sherrie was awesome and kind of adopted us for the night. She took us to Alden, where the cyclists were grabbing some brews before heading back. And the first song Burchfield plays when we arrive is Wait So Long by Trampled by Turtles! I went crazy like always; that was a good introduction.

Anyways, we stayed there for a while, then Sherrie drove us back to town to meet Mark, Chow neè Kevin and Ricky T jr at Woody's, where Rachel was proposed to and then had the world's second worst beer (the first can be found on tap in Sundance). Old Legion: don't do it. 

We ran outside at midnight to look for the ISS but it was too bright, or we got the time wrong. As the night wound down, Ricky T convinced Mark to take us out on his boat on the river. And out there you could see the stars. We've had the universe stolen from us by weather for the last two months so to finally see them speckled up there was, well, kind of magical. Mark got a call from a guy in England about an engine failure in a commercial airplane we could see flashing in the sky from the deck of the boat. Turns out he's a machine genius.

We didn't end up camping in the park today, we slept on the couch in Mark's basement which is the most classic man cave I've ever had the opportunity to invade. The plane was fine, made it safe all the way across the nation. Now we just have to do that.

What happened to Days 29-47?

Hey everyone, 

so we know we're real behind on this blog, but as we enter our last month on the road, we really want you to be able to follow along live. We'll get these inbetweener posts up, I promise. In the meantime, here's a quick recap of how we got from Boise (day 29) to South Dakota (day 48): 

From Boise, we headed east, lost our tent, raced past craters of the moon, got a new one, visited the first nuclear plant to produce power, then headed for the Tetons. 

We chowed on some amazing hamburgers in Victor (still in Idaho) before crossing the state border into Wyoming, over the insanely steep Teton Pass. It hailed at the top and we just about froze on the way down. We thawed in Jackson for a few days, then headed to the actual Tetons, which were magnificent in a way that words will never do them justice. Out of the park, we ran into, and then from, a grizzly. After a Louisiana barbecue, we headed to Casper to teach at our fifth school. I subbed for a pro football player at career day. My mom flew in to hang out with us for a week, during which we crossed into South Dakota and saw the Wind Caves, Mt Rushmore, and Crazy Horse. Out of Rapid City, we entered the Badlands and saw lightning dance silently a hundred miles in the distance. Then we learned South Dakota isn't flat. We ran into Steve in White River, who took us on a tour of his family's ranch, which meant we got up close and personal with some adorable baby buffalo. That pretty much gets us to day 48, mom's last day in town. Read the dailies for the details. 

So glad you're joining us for this journey, and we promise these posts will be up soon!

Adventure on,