Friday, July 4, 2008
Day 2: Montezuma to Tipton
I woke up around 5:30 AM Wednesday. I went through my normal morning routing of changing into my biking clothes and brushing my teeth. Damn. Pulled the toothpaste out of the drawer and didn't pack it in my kit. Oh well. Broke camp, packed everything up and headed out of the park. Exiting the park, I was greeted by a beautiful sunrise. After snapping some photos and swatting away the gnats, I headed into Montezuma for some breakfast. A couple of pancakes, some scrambled eggs and coffee allowed me to get the morning started properly. I had some conversations with the locals about my bike trip. I encouraged the waitress to think about a day of RAGBRAI, and just think about it as a series of 8 - 10 mile rides with breaks in between. It makes the day within reach of people that normally don't ride a lot.
I headed east out of Montezuma with a SW wind helping to push me along. The road was fairly flat and boring until the highway climbed onto a ridge, dove down over a small stream and then quickly climbed into the town of Deep River. Exiting Deep River, I kept heading east at a steady comfortable pace, the overcast skies keeping me comfortable as I rolled along. I managed to pick a fairly uninteresting route for this portion of the trip. I followed the same road for close to 40 miles. There were no towns of any remarkable size, and, with a few exceptions, not much along the route that was really photo worthy. I took a brief break in Parnell to eat a doughnut, drink some water, and put sunscreen on my face, hands and my now oddly striped feet. I continued rolling along near the flood plain of Old Man's Creek, enjoying the tail wind and the flat roads. A couple of miles outside of Iowa City, the road turned northeast, climbed out of the valley, and followed a ridge. Looking ahead, I spied another cyclist coming towards me. It was then that I saw the valley he was climbing out of. I quickly shifted into a 36x30 before diving down the hill. After the speed bled off I found myself standing on the pedals, refusing to let myself walk my bike up what turned out to be a 10% grade. After a brief break at the top to catch my breath, rest my legs and take a photo of a cool abandoned house, I finished the ride into town.
I stopped at a convenience store for a drink (2 Gatorades for $3 is the deal this summer), checked my email and eventually located the address for Geoff's Bike and Ski. I cruised down Gilbert Street to meet the infamous Steve "GPickle" Goetzelman, whom I had failed to cross paths with in May at the Dirty Kanza. With the shop buried in repairs due to the short week, Steve had no time for a mid-day lunch or beer. However, Ira Ryan was in town. Both he and Steve were planning on heading to West Branch at 6 to visit Tom Teesdale's shop. Since I was heading the same direction, I decided told Steve I'd give him a call if I decided not to go for some reason. I headed up to the Dubuque street mall for a tasty Panchero's burrito, and spent a couple of hours in the public library working on the previous blog post, uploading photos, and taking a short nap. About 4 PM, I went across the mall to the grocery store, pulled my book out of my panniers and sat under the shaded veranda and read while drinking a couple of beers. I met Steve and Ira back at Geoff's around 5:30. The shop closed at 6 and all of us (shop staff included) hung out while waiting for the approaching storms to hit. After an hour or so of waiting, and not a drop of rain, we decided to head out to West Branch. We decided to take some gravel since it was the most direct route to West Branch. The conversation on the way out was entertaining, with G Pickle and Ira sharing numerous stories about the cycling culture and events around the Iowa City area. About 2 miles from West Branch our luck ran out and I started to feel rain drops smacking my helmet. This quickly turned into a complete deluge and the gravel immediately started looking more like a river than a road. We took shelter in a granary at the top of a hill and waited for the line of storms to pass. Once they were finished, we continued on and arrived at Teesdale's shop, wet but happy.
Tom Teesdale has been building bike frames for close to 30 years. Ira has been building bike frames for a number of years, and Steve is a bike shop wrench. I was definitely the odd man out once the three of them got together, but it was extremely cool listening to Tom and Ira talk about the merits of filleting vs brazing and various issues that are encountered when building and designing frames. We watched Tom quickly install two braze-ons into holes that Ira had previously drilled into Steve's fork Afterwards, Tom looked at both Ira's bike and asked me some questions about mine. Dark was quickly approaching, thus we left Tom's shop so Steve and Ira could make it back to Iowa City before dark. I parted ways with Steve and Ira soon after leaving Tom's shop and headed north out of West Branch.
With my Dinotte lights blazing and blinking, I rode over the rolling hills that lay north of West Branch. With only one of the three bridges allowing access into Tipton still operational, I made my right turn onto Cedar county F36 and was confronted with a road of damp gravel. After double checking my maps and ensuring that I was on the right road, I soldiered on to the east. I met a number of oncoming cars on this road, and almost every one slowed considerably once they got close to me. I'm sure the sight of a single slow moving light approaching got the drivers' curiosity awakened. A few miles and a number of soft muddy spots later, I was back on pavement. I made a quick left hand turn and soon I was plunging down into the darkness towards one of the few passable bridges remaining over the Iowa River. After crossing the dark watery chasm, I started the long climb out of the valley and kept marching on toward Tipton.
After 6 more miles of long rolling hills, I reached Tipton around 10:30 PM. A quick spin around downtown showed that the only places to eat at were Hardees and a bar. I was too tired to think about drinking, so trudged into Hardees with 30 minutes left before closing. After a quick burger and a large Powerade, I headed back to the motel I spied entering town. The lights were out, and the manager did not answer the doorbell. Not good. I rode around around town for a bit looking for alternatives. A campground was located five miles east of town, but I had no desire to ride one more mile, let alone five. I attempted setting up camp behind the glare of the security lights at the high school, but the spot was directly at the business end of a downspout. I cruised back to the motel and tried the motel one more time. No luck. By this point, I was tired and getting cold and I needed to find a spot to sleep, so I started riding towards Muscatine, figuring that I could find a quiet spot somewhere along Highway 38. About a 1/2 mile outside of town, I located a paved road that dead ended in a freshly mowed field. I set up my tent, spread the ground cloth out inside and quickly crawled into my sleeping bag, hoping that the county sheriff didn't wake me up in the middle of the night. The night was cool and comfortable, though a bit humid. I quickly fell asleep, attempting to rest for the next day's long ride across the Mississippi and into Illinois.
So 50 or so easy miles, 12 miles of hills and about 10 miles of gravel. The Long Haul Trucker is handling it all with aplomb. I love this bike.
My route for today is here.
Photos are here.