Iowa 2010 – Day 14

Lake Wapello State Park to Lamoni: Still following the Mormons

Wednesday May 19, 2010, 98 miles (157 km) – Total so far: 588 miles (947 km)

Whoo hoo! As a reward for the uphill slog on the way in at the end of the day yesterday, I fly down the hills out of the park in the morning. It’s curvy, pretty fast (26 mph) and I use both lanes to corner. The final bit of the hill has a great run-out so I get some early morning thrills. Then it’s up that huge hill – but I just gear down and spin and it’s fine. I hook back up with J3T and I’m heading west once again. I will cross the Mormon Trail or ride along the Mormon trace many times today. The official auto tourist route is down on Hwy 2, but it seems much of the actual trail and trace are along my route today.

As usual, my muscles and such protest for the first 20 or so minutes then get warmed up and get down to business. There’s not much to Paris, and Unionville is still quiet at this early hour. However, it has an ag supply place, a post office and a café, plus a nice setting. It would make a nice rest stop if passing through later in the day.

Last night, when looking at today’s route on the map, I was perplexed by the wiggliness of this road on the map. It didn’t appear to follow a river, so why would a road do that? Drunk cartographer? Unlikely. It quickly becomes clear this morning. The road, where possible, is following a ridge line. In many places, you can see that you’re sitting quite high in the terrain.

Much of the ride looked like this in the early part of the day.

Just past Unionville, J3T takes a sweeping right and a long downhill -whee!! – past Sundown Lake on Soap Creek. Of course it’s a bit of a long hill back up out of this creek drainage until I’m on top of the ridge again. There is a housing development for big, expensive homes being put in around the lake.

The descent and climb out of Soap Creek – good morning, legs.

The road twists and turns along the ridge and several guys out repairing a fence wave as I ride by. It’s a good ride this morning. Then… I can see a suspect dog hanging out in a yard. Somehow he remains oblivious to me until I’ve actually already passed him. But then he is up and coming for me. Shit! He’s serious.

Having grown up in Indiana, I’m experienced with dog chases. They’re quite common there when riding out in the country. Long ago I figured out that there are three types of chases: 1) not serious – they’re just in it for fun. Their tails usually wag, their bodies remain loose, and the barking they do is just to get your attention – like ‘look at me, play with me’. These are usually the ones that do stupid things like run in front of your wheel.; 2) somewhat serious – they are defending their turf and there’s lots of barking involved but they mostly run along on their property boundary or, if coming onto the road, they run alongside you, not at you as they bark; and, 3) serious – they want to eat you. These dogs’ bodies are tense and a canine equivalent of an arrow. They rarely bark on approach – all energy is converted to speed as they come AT you. They only bark, and usually it’s a snarling bark, once they get to you.

Well, Mr Canine is pulling out chase type 3. He’s a medium-sized dog and out-of-nowhere a smaller, more vicious one joins him. I’m moving now!! Luckily, it’s pretty flat, but these dogs’ skills are honed. It’s like the bigger dog is shepherding me toward the little one who is running, snarling and then taking leaps for my heel or panniers. I’m in the middle of the lane now and weaving a bit because it seems to throw the little one off. He loses speed whenever he leaps at me, so I’m slowly putting ground between me and them. I don’t really feel like I need to use the pepper spray, but damn, 22 mph fully loaded on the flats is pretty good for me! Luckily, once they realize they won’t catch me they give up. I’m just glad this road had little traffic so I could duck and weave as required.

I’m hungry and looking for food, and Moravia has a beautiful old Carnegie library and a park on the requisite town square, but I don’t see much besides a down-home convenience store and a general store. This town would have been a neat little place some time ago. So I stop and mail some things at the post office then head on. Just across Highway 5 is a bigger convenience store which has a food bar inside. I order a 6 inch sub, and while the woman is making it for me, I pick up some trail mix, Friday’s Tater Skins, a chocolate milk and Corn Nuts. Junk food taken care of for the next couple of days. The young chick at the checkout says to me, ‘You know, I don’t think I’d have the motivation to ride a bike like that’. I just reply, ‘Well, everyone’s got a dream – this one just happens to be mine’.

From here it’s a pretty flat, fast ride through Iconium on J18, north of Rathbun Lake. It’s the biggest lake in Iowa. There’s plenty of camping opportunities along here. The southeasterly wind is blowing me along again today. I know what this means though – it’s gonna swing around and bring more storms. I’m used to this pattern now. The lake is actually not in view from the road, but I ride down a road to the lake by a boat ramp and eat the sub there. It’s windy and not all that pleasant down by the water today. I’ve researched a route option taking off northwest from the reservoir to Red Haw State Park and the town of Chariton. This would add a day to the ride and allow me to check out a rail trail, but I don’t go out of my way to do this since I think the earthen/gravel rail trail is likely to be a slow, muddy ride with all the rain they’ve gotten.

Instead I turn south, then west on J22. The wind’s still pushing me along, it’s pretty flat and I settle into a rhythm – kadunka, kadunka, kadunka, kadunka – over the sectioned concrete. I’ve had light traffic all day today and I’m really enjoying myself.

I come up to a road construction section and the flag guy has the ‘Stop’ sign up. But I can’t see any of the construction from here. However, the pilot truck has just arrived. The flag guy and pilot guy converse. They look at me. They converse some more. They don’t know what to do with me. This must not be in the handbook. The pilot guy says, ‘should I just take her through?’. Then he says to me, ‘I’ll lead you through, do you think you can keep up with me’? I reply, ‘well, I’ve got the wind at my back’. So he takes off, and I pedal like mad, but within a quarter mile, he leaves me for dead. Never mind that I’m sprinting and doing 24 mph. I get to a downhill and throw caution ‘with’ the wind and hit 37.4 mph. The concrete sections are a bit rough – I’m just lucky none of the seams are huge enough to eat my wheel. They have individual concrete sections jack-hammered and sitting in piles. How long does this go on? I get to an uphill section and climb as fast as I can – 12 mph – normally I’d do 6 mph on something like this. Once I get up the hill I see the orange cones and jackhammered sections continue on and on and on. So I keep sprinting. Toward the end of the 4.5 miles of work, the missing sections are on my side of the road, and though I keep an eye out, I’m still pushing hard. I finally get to where they are doing the concreting and there’s about 20 guys and various pieces of equipment, etc. I squeeze past all of them as they give me a pretty dirty look – sorry, the pilot guy left me for dead.

In Humeston I stop for a coke and sandwich. The wind has picked up to 20 mph now and it’s out of the south. The south run on R69 is tough and slow into the wind. A man pulls up alongside me in his truck and comments on the wind. I tell him, ‘it’s okay – sometimes it’s with me, sometimes it’s against me.’ He smiles and wishes me luck and heads on.

Looking back to where I’ve come from outside of Garden Grove
Looking forward to where I’m going outside of Garden Grove

By the time I get to Garden Grove (established by the Mormons as a semi-permanent camp on the Mormon Trail) the hills seem endless and the clouds have come in. I can watch the thicker mass advance as I head towards it. I’m tired at this point, and looking forward to ending the day in Leon. However, first I have to survive Hwy 69 at 4 pm. It’s rough pavement, narrow, with no or little hard shoulder and the traffic is bad. Plus I’m heading south into the wind again. Where did all these people come from? I develop the mantra, ‘Hold your nerve. Hold your line.’ I repeat this over and over to get myself through. I keep an eye on my mirror and just get off the road when I see big trucks coming up behind me.

I finally make it into Leon and it just feels bleak, worn-out and old. The downtown motel looks scary – no way I’m staying there. So I go over to the DQ for an ice cream. There’s a kiddo screaming his bloody head off in there, so I eat my treat outside and figure out what’s next. There’s one other motel in town. So I ride down there, but it’s loooong gone. I’ve already done 85 miles, the wind is up, the clouds are in. But it’s not raining yet. Let’s push for Lamoni. So off I go with the quartering headwind down Hwy 69. This part is newly paved though, and it even has shoulders in the corners. There is considerably less traffic. I’m tired, but I’m still having a good time as I push myself. I do love a challenge. Davis City has a nice park on the northern edge of town, but the town itself is bombed out. On the southern edge of town, there is a café, but it’s not open for dinner.

Davis City had a little downtown that was all boarded up. But it does have a nice park where you can camp on the north side of town and a cafe on the south side.

The next succession of hills goes fast, an Amish guy in a buggy gives me a big wave, and pretty soon I can see the light poles at the I-35 freeway intersection. This spurs me on. Then I can see a Super 8 sign. Yay! There’s a room for me on the first floor, and it even has a rocking chair. It’s my longest day yet – 97.71 miles. With the exception of my time on Hwy 69, I’ve had a terrific day. I text my parents: To Lamoni safe and well. 97 miles! Crew in good spirits. Love, Em

The room at the Lamoni Super 8 even has a rocking chair – I’m just about to kick Verne and Kermit out so I can put my feet up after a long day.

Ave Speed: 13.1

Max Speed: 37.4

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