Not counting our lunch break, we rode 73 miles in a little over five hours. The cloudy skies, lower temperature, northeast tail wind, and return to the tandem all provided a boost.
Also helping are the incredible Iowa drivers. I don't know if its a law, or the general attitude towards bicyclists, but not only do most cars and all trucks give us plenty of room, passing us as if we are a car, but also, most of them will wait behind us until they get a good place to pass, i.e., they can see ahead. We've had cars follow us for nearly a quarter mile, waiting to get around (even though there were no cars coming in the opposite direction).
At our half-way point, Council Bluffs (we'll probably be there in two days), I'm going to post a "best of" list, Eastern US version. Awards such as "Best Roads", "Best Towns", "Most Courteous Drivers". I already know that Iowa will get "Best Overall State to Bike In." I anticipated friendly and bike sensitive people, but what we've found is incredible. It may be because we're riding backwards thru RAGBRAI country a week following the tour, but two examples will serve here.
We stopped for lunch in Centerville, a town of about 6000 with a town square surrounding a grey limestone courthouse. We ate lunch at a cafe on the square, and did laundry at the edge of town. Will and I rode on from the laundromat to the campsite for tonight. Somewhere in town, Will's pannier must have dropped off. Two miles out of town, a small grey car passes us, with a lady showing us the pannier out the passenger window. They pulled over, gave us the pannier, and smiled. I thought they weren't going to say anything, so I said, "We didn't even know it was off! Thanks a lot for bringing it."
"We didn't see it drop; we found it near one of the stoplights." A smiling man, balding with a moustache, hands in pockets, just grinned with Christian charity.
"Gee, we're really glad you made the effort to follow us all the way out here."
The couple did not seem inclined to talk, just got back in their car, and drove off in the direction from which they had come. Somehow, they knew we were biking out of town, and figured we belonged to the pannier, and needed it.
Earlier in the day, we took a detour into downtown Milton, five blocks off the main highway. A town of under 200, Milton seemed very sleepy this morning. In the middle of the two-block long downtown, a ConTel worker was up in a gantry, fixing a wire connection, A couple of gentlemen talked on the curb. Cars were parked along the streets, but none were traversing them. I saw a brick building with a newly painted mural, showing a hot-air balloon, two bicyclists, an Amish buggy, and the logo, "RAGBRAI XXV". We stopped to take a picture.
Returning to our bikes, we started to ride off when a smiling woman walked over to us with mail in her hands. I couldn't tell if she was picking her own up, or was the postmistress.
"You coming back from RAGBRAI?" she asked.
"No, we're biking the other way, east to west, across the country." I told her a little bit about our trip.
"Oh my, that sounds like a grand adventure. Your family is probably really enjoying it. You know, we had some folks from around here who went from California to the East Coast one year. They stopped and did RAGBRAI in the middle." She described a route which included San Francisco, Yellowstone, Tennessee, and New York. "Let's see, the Henderson's did that. How long are you expecting to take? Two months? I think they did it in three. George, " she turned to the ConTel man, who was ambling over, across the street. A car waited while he came up to us, then slowly drove by, giving us plenty of room. "George, how long did the Hendersons take when they biked across the country?"
"Oh, let's see; they started on Memorial Day, and came back Labor Day." He added a few places to their itinerary.
We encouraged each other, and went back to our separate tasks.
One final note: George, our Plymouth Rock picture taker, keeps following us, in spirit, across the country. Today, in Centerville, we saw a placard on the town square, commemorating the "Reminisce Trail". We read a bit about a team of Belgian draft horses, which went from the east coast to the west. Apparently, they stopped in Centerville, and flew to San Diego, intending to complete the rest of the journey by coming back from California. No mention was made of its eventual resolution. I looked at the accompanying route map, which showed Sugar Creek, Ohio, among other places.
George had told me a story of this expedition, taking place in 1993. He said they'd go about 20 miles a day, and offer rides to locals along the way, sort of like Olympic torch bearers. Two of the permanent drovers were married along the way, in Sugar Creek. Whatever possessed George to tell me that story, or me to stop and walk thru the town square of Centerville, I'll never know, but, like I said, that connection has now followed us half-way across the country.
For the first time, there is no phone within a mile of our campsite, and my cellular, which we've yet to try for an upload, is not working, so sending this page to our server will have to wait for another day.
Miles: Will, 73; Al (Tandem&single) 73; Cheryl (Tandem) 53.
Total Miles: 1633
**Next Day's Journal**