Lacey-Keosaqua State Park to Lake Wapello State Park: Sun, oh glorious sun!
Tuesday May 18, 2010, 43 miles (69 km) – Total so far: 490 miles (789 km)
Oh, this is a glorious day. Sunny, high of 71 degrees, and a light north wind at about 5 mph. I get an early start – up at 6 and on the road by 7:20am. It’s a beautiful, shady, but COLD downhill through trees to the river and the site where the Mormons crossed on their way west.
The road connecting the park to J-40 is fairly new and I don’t lose much elevation to get there. J-40 is fairly flat with decent paving for the first bit to Troy, though the frost heave cracks can be demoralizing and butt-destroying. I try to top up my tires at Troy, but probably let more air out than I manage to get in. Troy is a couple of big grain silos, a post office that’s not yet open this early in the morning, a church and an ag supply place.
The next section of road is so bad I think I’d rather be on Hwy 2 fighting the trucks with no shoulder. Bouncing through all of the cracks keep making the fenders rub and knocking the mirror out-of-place so I can’t see anything. Poor Verne, back at the helm today after hiding in the panniers from the rain the past few days, probably would prefer gravel. His poor head bounces with every hole and crack. A few miles later, just when I think the turtle and I can’t take it any longer, we cross the intersection with V-42 and newer and better paving commences. It’s a decent ride into Bloomfield. I meet Joe who is out doing a loaded training ride in preparation for a tour on the Lewis and Clark trail this summer. He says to look him up and give him a call if I need anything in Bloomfield. Another lady out for a day ride whizzes past, too.
Bloomfield has a nice, historic square. I go into the post office to ask about a laundromat, and the post office interior is all wood and formal and original. Gosh, if only we built public buildings like this nowadays! The laundromat is quite grotty, with ancient machines and the ceiling about to cave in and the floor all wet from where the ceiling is leaking. I find the little restroom, change into my only clean clothes and everything else goes in the washer. The dryers all stink like mildew and I wonder whether I should even use them. Stupid me wastes an hour and way too many quarters on those machines which never dry anything but leave my clothes smelling almost as bad as how they started (just mildew smell instead of sweat). I chat with a woman who’s come in to wash curtains – she’s a farmer and they are going to have to replant all of their crops because of all the rain and cold soil temps. She confirms that this is the type of weather and temperatures they usually have in April, not May. She also gives me directions on where to pick up Hwy 2 out of town.
So I pack up my damp, now-musty smelling clothes and head for lunch at the Mexican place on the square. The owner is super-friendly and even offers to let me bring the bike inside. The food is okay, and I eat all of the complimentary chips and salsa. As I leave, the owner gives me his card and says they had a guy come through two weeks ago riding from New York to San Francisco.
I fill up my tires at a gas station then head out of town on Hwy 2. It is newly paved and has a good shoulder on the right-hand side of the rumble strip. The traffic isn’t too bad. I then turn north to Drakesville on a county road with no shoulder and average quality concrete pavement. It seems to me in this part of Iowa that the county roads have nearly as much traffic, no shoulder, shittier pavement and more hills than the state highways. Perhaps it’s more scenic and there’s fewer trucks though. This part of the state has a large Amish population so there is no hard shoulder on the county roads, but there is a soft shoulder for the buggies. I stick to the hard surface though. Most cars are good about giving me plenty of room.
I stop at a gas station in Drakesville for a rootbeer. It’s a hoppin’ place. There’s a bunch of men of various ages and states of overweight-ness sitting in booths along the window. The middle-aged lady running the cash register asks if I’m riding or running. ‘Riding.’ She asks if I’m training for RAGBRAI. When I say ‘No, I’m riding from Indiana to Colorado for fun’, she asks in a whisper, ‘alone’? I say yes, and she asks if I have a gun. Telling her I carry pepper spray alleviates her fears a little. She says she wishes she had the fitness to do this sort of thing. That’s funny to me since I had absolutely zero fitness when I started. I think it’s more determination to keep going than anything. I ask her about the state park and she says, ‘oh, there’s a really big hill to get there, and then it’s all gravel. You don’t want to ride on gravel, do you?’ I think, well, not if I can help it, and poor Verne hates it, but we’ve been doing okay with it so far.
So I head out, preparing for some rough riding. The sectioned concrete out of town on J3T is average and there’s a bit of traffic. This continues for awhile until just past a sawmill. There is then nice pavement all the way to the park. I cruise down the big downhill the woman talked about (which will be a bit of a morning wake-up call tomorrow). There are then several decent size hills to climb going into the park, with the campground being the furthest point into the park on the road. I cross the Mormon Trail again. However, the road is all paved – so I wonder how long it’s been since the gas station lady has actually been out here.
There’s only one tent camper high up on the hill and the camp-hosts. None of the non-electric sites have a level, non-soggy place to pitch a tent in the grass, so I pick one that has a flat gravel pull-in and then clear away the biggest and pointiest gravel and set up my tent on the gravel pad with a nice view of the lake. Operation: solar clothes-drying, part II commences and I head off to take a few pictures of Kermit and Verne by the lake. I finally get to charge the solar battery on my weather radio, too! It is a beautiful lake, surrounded by green, leafy trees and rounded hills. It’s very peaceful – nice to be here off-season and through the week. Oh goodness, did I ever appreciate the sun today!
Ave Speed: 10.6 mph
Max Speed: 29.7