The first lost item: Fort Madison to Lake Wapello State Park
Sunday April 21, 2013, 79 miles (127 km) – Total so far: 333 miles (537 km)
State Highway 2 in Iowa is known to be pretty hellish for cycle tourists. In places it is in poor condition, and like most roads in southern Iowa, it generally has little to no shoulder. It is also heavily used by trucks. In 2010, I avoided the highway where I could by using the good-quality (generally) county roads. The one thing that was helpful then, however, was the courteous car drivers who almost always gave me plenty of room as I traversed the state. I postulated that this might stem from drivers being used to accommodating slow-moving traffic since there is a large Amish population in this area of the state. I don’t know, but I do know I came away with a good impression of Iowa drivers last time.
When I head out on Hwy 2 today, it is a Sunday morning. There is little traffic of any kind as I climb the first hills and give my legs their first big test of the trip. It is also below freezing again, and my asthma is acting up today. But I’m buoyed by a decent weather forecast: high of 55F, partly sunny, winds SSE at 15-20 mph. Yippee! That’s the best forecast we’ve had yet.
All of Kermit’s cousins are croaking a chorus of welcome as we travel along at a decent pace. The creeks are all full, and for the first time, something seems alive in the landscape. We make good time. We do get sprinkled on for a few minutes between Farmington and the turn-off to Bonaparte, just because what would a day be if we didn’t get wet at least once!?
We’re going well today, despite my wheeziness. The wind picks up at about the 30-mile mark, but it’s mostly a crosswind, so it doesn’t bother our forward progress too much. We get to the turn-off for Keosaqua and pause for a moment to debate about whether to head down there and use county road J-40 or just stay on Highway 2. I remember J-40 being quite rough in that section in 2010, and I’ve not been having any traffic trouble on Hwy 2 today, so we just stick to the highway. It’s new to us in this section, and that always makes for a more interesting ride.
It’s a good decision in the end. Though there’s some rough pavement for awhile, after we cross the Fox River, there is new pavement with a shoulder (!!!) all the way to Bloomfield. Absolutely fantastic!
At the top of the hill after the Fox River, we come across Waubonsie Trail Park. You can camp here; it has a frisbee golf course. For us, it’s a great rest break and a chance to get out of the cold wind in the sunny lee of a hill for a few minutes.
The wind picks up to its forecasted 15-20 mph, but it’s do-able and sometimes it even gives us a push. Even though it’s cold today, it actually feels like a bike tour for the first time!
I stop to get money and a Subway sandwich in Bloomfield. This is also where I leave behind my credit card, though I don’t know this until 4 days later. I eat half the sub on a picnic bench outside of the closed info centre and save the other half for later.
I then head north out of town on Fed Hwy 63 – flying along with the wind on good pavement with a good shoulder. It is sunny and 55F. Yippee! My spirits soar (I don’t know about that credit card yet!). They soar even higher when some motorcyclists honk and wave enthusiastically. I turn off on J3T, heading toward Drakesville. There are some short steep climbs on the rollers, and plenty of weekend boat traffic, but everyone gives me plenty of room, and several cars honk and wave or give thumbs-ups.
I stop in Drakesville to pick up some water, in case none is available at the park. Once to Lake Wapello, the campsites are deserted and I’m able to get one that protects me from the wind a little. Ah, a hot shower, a short walk and all is good with the world.
Only one other group comes to camp for the night. Unfortunately, they have a hunting dog that barks ALL night. The barking even gets incorporated into my dreams. Then, in the morning, I see the dog disemboweling a bird. Grrrrr…. I give the people filthy looks when I ride by their campsite on my way out.