Iowa 2010 – Day 12

Indian Lake Park to Lacey-Keosaqua State Park: Some real ‘trail magic’

Monday May 17, 2010, 21 miles (33 km) – Total so far: 448 miles (721 km)

It rained and rained – all night long from 8:30 pm. It is still raining at 7:30am, but seems to have eased off a bit. I’m not ready to face the rain yet again, and I’m not planning on going far today, so I lie there until about 8:30am. I slowly begin to pack up and once everything is in the panniers, I take them over to a covered picnic table area and then drag my tent over there, too. I slowly pack up and eventually leave around 10am.

It’s lightly raining, but not nearly as bad as the mornings leaving Lincoln and Nauvoo. Luckily, now that I’m in a new county, Hwy 2 has a shoulder so I’m able to cruise down the hills and crawl up the next ones in peace. It doesn’t take long to cover the five miles to the turnoff to Bonaparte. Unfortunately, the county road (J40) seems to have a similar amount of traffic as Hwy 2, but no shoulder. I manage though. There isn’t much to Bonaparte. I go into an old and still-functioning grocery store to buy a chocolate milk, and the stench of mould is nearly overpowering. 2 blocks from the Des Moines River and it has obviously been flooded a few times and never properly dried out! I chat with the check-out lady about all the rain, and she’s not particularly worried about flooding. The floods a couple years ago were higher than the floods in 1993, but the 93 floodwater stuck around longer (and based on the smell, I’m thinking some of that water is still infused in the warped floorboards!). I then have a look at the old lock and riverfront park, noting that the fancy restaurant place is putting out some delicious garlic smells.

Standing in the old river lock, looking upstream on the Des Moines River
Looking toward the Old Mill in Bonaparte. Fancy restaurant located here.

I head off to Bentonsport – some initial climbing away from the river and then just rolling hills. The road drops back down to the river at Bentonsport, but I want to check out the village, so I can’t ride out the downhill run. Bentonsport is a sleepy little place at the moment – the shops in the historic buildings aren’t open and the only signs of life are two people walking up the road with fishing poles and a man pumping out the basement of a building. I go up to check out the old bridge that is now a pedestrian-only affair. It’s one of the only remaining iron truss bridges in the state and was used by autos up until 1985. It’s so narrow I have no idea how cars passed each other – very closely, I suppose.

One of only a few steel truss bridges left in Iowa – closed to auto traffic in 1985.
On the old steel bridge looking toward Bentonsport

From here to Keosaqua it’s more rolling hills that seem to take forever. It’s been drizzling or sprinkling on and off all day, so the beauty of the area is ‘dampened’ by the bleak, grey skies and temps around 60 degrees. But at least it’s not windy!! The road into town (Hwy 1) has a shoulder and I zoom downhill to the main street. I find a café, Village Cup and Cakes, and get a beautiful, huge cup of hot chocolate, a salad and some broccoli soup. The service is pretty slow but the food is good and reasonably priced. The only other option I could see in town looked like a diner/ fried food sort of place.

As I’m leaving, I ask the counter staff if there is a laundry in town (everything I have is damp and/or sweaty). This leads into a conversation with a woman sitting at a table with her friend. The woman is a social worker at the local hospital and we talk a bit about my trip. She wants me to come and do laundry at her house and even spend the night. She’s done RAGBRAI a number of times, but not recently. I decline – I’m pretty shy, so it’s a bit out of my comfort zone. The woman gives me her card and tells me to please call if I change my mind or if starts to rain again. She warns me about the one big hill in the state park that ‘seems to go on forever’ and then tells me that her daughter is coming home from out-of-state to ride RAGBRAI this year, and that seeing me has inspired her to get back on the bike and ride RAGBRAI, too. (Note: I kept her card and emailed her after my trip to thank her for her hospitality – she emailed back and said that yes, she had done the ride with her husband and daughter!).

I climb an uphill into the state park, but the following downhill cruise is stopped by water washing across the road at the bottom. There’s a pretty swift current and the water is so muddy you can’t really see the bottom in the middle. I go for it though, and it’s pretty deep in one part, but there is still pavement under that bit of the road. I roll through fine except that my feet and the bottoms of my front panniers get soaked. A car comes up behind me, hesitates, then drives through – probably figuring if the cyclist got through that it can’t be too deep.

Looking back after crossing through more water over the road. The deepest bit came over the bottom of my front panniers.

I’ve got no momentum to get up the hill that ‘goes on forever’. It’s not that bad, but difficult to start from 0 mph. I already feel much stronger in my riding, though, and feel like I’m climbing the hills pretty well.

At the campground, the camphosts are extremely friendly and direct me to where they think it will be least soggy and where it might capture some of the sun that is just starting to come out. I tell them I’m just sooo ready to dry out and that all of my gear is damp and smelly. The wife offers to drive me into town to do laundry, though she warns that the laundromat is a bit grotty. I tell her it should be okay, I’ll just spread some stuff out in the sun, and hopefully the tent will dry after I set it up. The couple are quite interesting, and have led an interesting life, and I enjoy our conversation. The woman even comes down to my site later and brings some rope and clothes pins to aid in my extensive solar clothes-drying operation. I ask if she knows anything about Lake Wapello State Park, and any flooding there, and she says she’ll see if the ranger can find out the info if he comes by that evening.

Spreading my stuff out over two campsites, trying to get dried out. Everything is pretty damp after several days of rain.

The sun fully comes out shortly after this and it feels so good to soak up the sun after several days of cool, cloudy and rainy weather. I’d thought about taking a day here to do some hiking, but I’m going to push on in the morning because everything is just way too wet. When I return the clothesline that evening, the camphosts haven’t seen the ranger, so don’t know about the state of Lake Wapello. We have another nice chat and I thank them for their kindness. Today has been a day of real trail magic 🙂

Ave Speed: 9.9mph

Max Speed: 29.7

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