Happy first day of Summer, everyone!
Our room last night had a view of “Adventureland,” an amusement park straight out of a movie. Somewhere between the Griswold’s Vacation and Zombieland. (We didn’t go, but it is still operating.)
Michael got a few scowls this morning at breakfast, and the woman who manages the breakfast room asked pointedly, “Did you get enough food?” They had a yogurt machine! (Nate liked the pancake machine.) So, for the record, Nate ate a much larger breakfast.
Nate reports that the bike trail (in part a rails-to-trails path) we’re on to start the day’s ride in Des Moines is excellent. (I’m looking forward to it!)
Update (Day’s end): Wow! We had an eventful day! We both agree it was arguably the best, or at least a leading candidate for the best ride day yet!
We left Altoona and took different paths into Des Moines this morning, but both made a stop at Krispy Kreme (but wait, that isn’t even the highlight of the day!):
We each found our way onto the bike paths in west Des Moines. Seriously, the people of this area should be proud of their greenway programs–the trails we rode today were just perfect.
The Raccoon River Valley Trail (RRVT) runs out of Des Moines, westward (um, that’s admittedly from our perspective) to Redfield–where we would turn south, off trail–and continues in a 75+ mile loop back around to the city. If you’re ever in Iowa, get a bike and spend a day riding this trail!
Along the way, Nate met another cyclist, Steve, who rode with him for 15 miles or so and shared some of the history of the area. Later, Michael also met Steve–nearer to the Des Moines end of the trail network. Steve somehow figured out Michael was the other cross-country cyclist Nate was talking about!
Further down the RRVT, two eastbound cyclists similarly deduced that Michael might be heading far out of town, and stopped to chat. They too had met Nate earlier (gabby one, that Nate is). Dave and Brent are from the area, and have participated in something like three decades’ worth of RAGBRAI rides–the largest bike-touring event in the world, since 1973. One or both of them were wearing RAGBRAI kits or t-shirts (good advertising). And camp rumor is, Dave has basically been running the whole event, under the guise of being the radio communications manager, since 1988. All that is super cool because literally every Iowan is required to ride in (and perpetually promote) RAGBRAI or they lose their Iowa citizenship, or something. Seriously, it’s a big deal here. Everyone we’ve met has asked “Are you doing RAGBRAI?” or said they’re getting ready for this year’s ride, or referenced a past RAGBRAI in conversation. (Remember when Michael ate lunch at the same place Lance ate pie during RAGBRAI? Yep.) Basically, Nate and Michael are obligated to come back and do it at least once.
Anyway, Dave and Brent are awesome humans. After finishing their eastbound ride today, they drove back to our stopping point, Adair, and took us out to dinner at Zipp’s Pizzaria. We had such a great time talking over dinner, while filling up on “The Bomber” and “Taco” pizzas.
Going back earlier in the day, Michael turned a corner on the trail and saw a group of boys jumping from an old train bridge into a river below. It reminded him of Austin (where they do this all the time), so he stopped to watch. That lasted about 30 seconds. He propped his bike against the bridge, took off his helmet and shoes and climbed up on the rail. That caught the boys’ attention; They didn’t think he would jump. One boy did a back flip. Another a cannonball. The water looked deep enough…so Michael jumped in. It wasn’t much of a jump, but the water was refreshingly cold. Yee Ha! He crawled out, climbed the bank, donned helmet and shoes, and rode away wet! (At 90° he was completely dry in a couple miles on the trail!)
Michael also met another cyclist (who, yes, asked if Michael was doing RAGBRAI), who kind of tagged along while Michael was getting a snack and refilling water. Paul was a nice guy, curious about the trip. He was quite a character, wearing cut-off jean shorts, and riding a classic 1975 Peugeot 10-speed.
We have a working theory that there’s a universal governor on our max-average cycling speed–our average speed over the full course of a day’s ride. (Math translation: A parabolic curve with asymptotes approaching infinity at 15 mph.) Today’s ride supports the theory. Nate and Michael both had strong rides in favorable conditions, but neither could finish with an average speed above 15 mph. That’s the limit. Some factor–frequent intersections, excessive wind, steep hills, spiteful squirrels, whatever–always thwarts our efforts. Michael cycled most of the day well above the mark only to have it fade in headwinds and climbs during the last 14 miles of the route. Nate had tailwinds most of the day but similarly couldn’t tach up to the mark. The 15-mph pace is elusive at best! (Update: Michael disproved this theory with a 15.89 mph pace on Day 33.)
Almost without exception, the people of Iowa have been so good to us. We’ve been told several times that if we just knocked on their door, they’d take us in.
But, we didn’t have to test that: We’re camping at a city park in Adair (pop. 750) tonight. Nate paid the city clerk $6 for the campsite! It’s totally setup for camping, complete with electricity hookups, water pumps, great showers, and… no bugs! Oh, and Jesse James robbed a train right here!
Watch the Relive video. (This one is really cool!)