Nauvoo, IL to Farmington, IA: A friendly Iowan welcome
Sunday May 16, 2010, 39 miles (62 km) – Total so far: 427 miles (687 km)
The light rain overnight turns to continuous rain as I pack up. I head out around 7:30 and ride in now-driving rain all the way to Niota. I’ve got to pedal east and uphill out of Nauvoo, then turn north to get to a bridge over the Mississippi to Fort Madision, IA. There’s little traffic going my direction, but a decent amount heading into Nauvoo (for church?).
The bridge over the Mississippi is a double-decker with the rail-line on the bottom and the cars on the top deck. It is the largest swing-span truss bridge in the world. I do not stop to take a photo of the approach to the bridge because I’m being chased by a dog at the time. But it’s really cool because you can see the car bridge heading up over the railroad tracks with the tracks curving out from below. I’ve timed my ride over the bridge to be an early Sunday morning, not knowing what to expect. It’s actually a very low bridge, so no worries trying to climb something steep while slowing up traffic. You also get a real feel for the width of the river here, because you aren’t that far above it. There is no shoulder and the roadway is very narrow, but only a couple cars pass me. They are able to get by me because no cars are coming the other way – a train is passing and holding up traffic on the Iowa side.
I get to the line-up waiting for the train on the other end and notice that there’s a welcome to Iowa sign. After the train passes, I move over to this and start to lean the bike against the sign for a photo. A man pulls up in a pick-up truck across the road and dashes over and says, ‘I don’t know where you’ve come from, but I’m certain it’s a decent distance, so let me get you in your photo, too.’ I thank him very much, as he dashes back to his Iowa-plated truck and takes off over the bridge. Wow – the Iowans are already much friendlier than the folks in Illinois!
I love the look of all the buildings facing the river – they seem to ooze history.
The main road pavement is poor, so I head back a couple blocks to parallel the road. I pass a bunch of beautiful old buildings and homes. I pop back out on the main road further down and the pavement has improved.
I ride on through town and turn off for Highway 2. It gives me a good taste for what I will encounter over the next week – hills with pavement that is sectioned concrete and no shoulder. For this hill I have my own climbing lane. The rain has stopped, too. The road is kinda busy and I listen to the ‘ka-dunka, ka-dunka’ of my tires crossing the concrete sections as I keep an eye on my mirror. Poor Verne’s head shakes as we cross each pavement crack. After crossing the Hwy 63 junction, the traffic quiets down and the road becomes bitumen again. There’s no shoulder, but sight-lines are good and there’s usually a small shoulder in the curves themselves.
It doesn’t take long to get to Farmington – which looks like 2 buffet restaurants and 3 gas stations and a central business district in decay. I head over a very full Des Moines River and take a left onto Hwy 81 and an immediate left to Indian Lake Park. There’s a short, steep uphill, a creepy looking guy in a pick-up truck at the top, and then a road down to a collection of buildings and the office. The place has been around for a long time and there’s a beautiful CCC shelter overlooking the lake (ave depth 5 feet – if you fall out of your boat, just stand up – surface area 55 acres).
A woman registers me and tells me that all primitive camping is free this weekend as it’s the third weekend of the month. Cool. She also gives me a site in the loop close to the bathrooms even though this would technically be a powered site. It’s okay, but finding a spot where the tent won’t end up in a puddle or in the path of water streaming off the road is a challenge. The shower building looks scary, but even though it’s old, it’s clean. Luckily I have 4 quarters for the pay shower. I steel myself to get in, even if it’s just cold water, but it does get hot. I also go for the 2 mile walk around the lake and think about how many local kids would have great memories from trips here. 70 percent chance of rain tonight – so it could be a wet start again tomorrow.
Max speed: 29