SUN!! Cold but sunny, yay!!!: Macomb to Fort Madison, IA
Saturday April 20, 2013, 55 miles (88 km) – Total so far: 255 miles (410 km)
Brrr…. it is 29F when I leave this morning. But it is sunny!!! It has been nearly a week since we’ve seen a clear day. The guys get to ride in the handlebar bag today. The wind is a light 5-10mph breeze from the WNW. I underestimate the cold though and have to put on another layer 10 miles up the road.
We travel up and down the gentle hills of 136, climbing in and out of small creek systems draining toward the Lamoine River. In quite a few places you can see where the water has been onto the road, even though the road is raised on a levy of sorts in the low sections. The sheer volume of water covering all of the fields between the East and West forks of the Lamoine River is unfathomable to my little brain.
At Carthage I stop and get a sausage biscuit at Hardees. Yuck – it is so, so salty! Even though it is only 36F, I sit at the outside tables in the gorgeous sun. Oh, glorious sun, I am so glad to see you!
I head out on county roads I used on the last trip in 2010. Clearly evident are the remains of all the rain run-off which has gone over the road. Mud, corn stalk bits and other debris reach a quarter of the way into the road on each side. The ditches are full of corn cobs and stalks.
There is very little traffic and the going is not too hard – even into the light headwind. It is so great to be in the sun, even if it is so cold it never gets over 46F today.
Unfortunately, I cannot take the River Road north from 136 to Nauvoo as I’d planned. The Mississippi River is flooding and there is the possibility of getting stuck somewhere since the river is still rising. The crest is not expected for several days. So I just stick to the county roads up in the corn fields instead of heading down to the flood plain. The descent through the river bluffs to Niota is fun and fast. The road takes you from flat corn fields down through a tree-covered ravine and onto the flood plain in just a few miles.
There are six or seven cars at the community hall. There has been a call for people to come help sandbag here, and in several other communities. This little town was hit hard by the floods in 1993. Many homes were demolished or moved then, and to me, it seems like maybe it never really recovered. It’s a sad little place (I thought so in 2010, too). I suppose my humanitarian side is suppressed today, as I don’t feel like stopping to help. It seems like a losing battle anyway. They do have a line of sandbags already laid next to the road leading to the bridge.
I head up the narrow ramp onto the bridge and pedal hard to get across quickly. I look down once to the flooded river, awed by the power in the swirling muddy current that is carrying large logs downstream and pushing curls of water high against the bridge supports below. Whoah, it gives me serious vertigo. I don’t look down again, though, because I need to keep an eye on the expansion joints and holes in the road so I don’t hit anything too hard.
I head down to the info centre and museum at the old train station. The volunteer comes out when he sees me, ropes me in, and gives me a 45-minute, personal tour of the museum. Pretty cool. There are some interesting pieces, including Betsy Ross’ grandaughter’s version of the US flag based on Betsy’s pattern. These little museums never fail to amuse, entertain, enlighten and educate me – even the small ‘donations accepted’ sorts of places. The conversations with the volunteers are always very interesting, too.
Of course, here I am, not one mile into Iowa, and they are talking RAGBRAI. It ends here this year, and the guy giving me the tour has ridden it four times. Iowa impressed me in 2010 with its friendly, down-to-earth and polite people. It’s starting out just the same this year.