Wednesday, 19 June 2013

From the Rocky Mountains to the Mississippi River

[Crossing the Mississippi from Dubuque, IA, into Wisconsin]

As we came down the Mississippi River bluffs into Dubuque, Iowa, this morning, my bicycle odometer registered my thousandth mile since we started out from Cheyenne, Wyoming, on the eastern slope of the Rockies, three weeks ago on May 31th.

We’re about half way to the East Coast, if we make it that far. Since leaving the BRAN group ride, we’ve been averaging a little under 50 miles a day on our own.

It’s been a wonderful trip so far. I’ve been too tired most nights to blog, but here are a few notes:

[“Welcome to Iowa!” Bob Kerry Pedestrian Bridge over the Missouri River from Omaha, NE (background) to Council Bluffs, IA.]

  • Iowa is not flat. (I’ve been in all 50 states of the USA, but had only been in a small corner of Iowa before this trip.)

[Typical Iowa glacial-moraine terrain.]

  • The wind at ground level does not always blow in the “prevailing” direction.

  • The annual Bicycle Ride Across Nebraska (BRAN) is an amazingly well-organized group ride, and I would recommend it highly to anyone interested in a supported week-long ride, and/or in an experience of American small-town life and hospitality. Unlike RAGBRAI, the much larger annual ride across Iowa to which it is inevitably compared, BRAN is not a rolling party but a family fun event, small enough not to engage with, rather than overwhelm, the towns through which it passes. BRAN is organized by volunteers, and has the cooperative atmosphere of a club ride where everyone tries to help each other finish at their own pace.

  • Both the pavement (generally excellent, even on tertiary roads) and the behavior of the drivers (much more respectful of bicyclists than in coastal states with more bicycle traffic) have been better than we expected. Motorists in agricultural regions are accustomed to wide agricultural implements that are entitled to be on public roads, and can’t go as fast as cars or trucks. They treat bicyclists on two-lane roads with no shoulders the same way they treat tractors: they wait patiently behind us for a place where there is adequate visibility and a break in oncoming traffic, then cross the dotted line fully to allow as much side clearance as possible while passing.

[Much of our route, like this typical stretch of the Lincoln Highway in Nebraska, has been along two-lane roads with no shoulders.]

  • Food has also been far better than we expected. The best meal so far was a potluck supper for BRAN riders put on by the First Slovak Catholic Ladies Association of Brainard, Nebraska. A worthy runner-up was lunch at the 11-Worth Cafe on Leavenworth (but at 24th, not at 11th as one might expect from the name) just west of downtown in Omaha. It’s worth a substantial detour.

  • Best accommodations so far: Prairie View Bed and Breakfast near Panora, Iowa (and near the Raccoon River Bike Trail into Des Moines). In some countries, “bed and breakfast” connotes home-stay lodging typically less expensive than a hotel. In the USA, many B&B’s are marketed as romantic getaways and priced higher than nearby motels. The Prairie View B & B splits the difference: A well-appointed and extremely comfortable but unpretentious modern (not Victorian) house, with large rooms priced only slightly above the nearest nondescript chain motels. It’s managed by a friendly couple of bicyclists who couldn’t have made us feel more at home.

Link | Posted by Edward on Wednesday, 19 June 2013, 21:43 ( 9:43 PM)

Wow! 1000 miles by bike! That is a serious accomplishment! You should be really proud, as I'm sure you are. I'm living vicariously through you right now, as I don't have the resources to quit my job and bike across the country, but reading your story is second best!

Posted by: Karen, 2 July 2013, 15:04 ( 3:04 PM)
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