Greetings from Yankton, South Dakota! It is in
the southeastern part of the state for those of you playing the home
game. I have been remiss in keeping everyone apprised of my
progress, but I have surprisingly less spare time than I thought I
might. A lot has happened since my last e-mail. I was in and out of
Chicago, crossed the Mississippi River, spent a great day on a farm
in Iowa, crossed the Missouri River, broke the 1,500 mile mark,
biked five states since Ohio and am about to shift over in to the
Mountain time zone.
When I last left off I was in Brunswick, Ohio. Pedaling out of
Brunswick I covered 356 miles in 4 days to pull in to Chicago ahead
of schedule (you didn’t know there was a schedule did you?). Those
356 miles to Chicago were not without their problems though. Within
a 50-mile span I came across 3 bridges that were out. The first I
was able to carry my bike across on some scaffolding that was set up
across the river. The second one I was able to walk across on
someone’s farm, but the third bridge got me. I had no shot on the
third one, as it was a couple hundred yards across this river. One
good thing about the last detour was that it took me through
Napoleon, Ohio. Why is that a good thing you ask? Because they were
having the Tomato Festival on the day I was passing through.
Basically it involves a parade where people dress themselves, their
cars or tractors as the case may be, as tomatoes. They don’t even
grow tomatoes in the area anymore but the festival stuck. Perhaps
it’s because everyone consumes boatloads of alcohol.
On one of the days to Chicago I covered 100.2 miles averaging 17.2
MPH. I know that I won’t get the nod to replace Lance on the tour
next year, but 17.2 MPH over 100.2 miles, that ain’t bad. You give
it a try.
The closest I have come to death so far was on Route 6 in Indiana. A
big rig cut it real close and literally blew me off the road with
his draft on to the gravelly shoulder. I managed to keep it upright
and just stood there for a minute contemplating life’s worth. I
drove off the road a few other times myself, but that was just
because I wasn’t paying attention. I know I have to try to stop
doing that, but after a few hours on the bike the mind tends to
The second place award for “Sketchiest City I Rode Through” goes to
Gary, Indiana (it will be hard to dethrone Youngstown, Ohio as
number 1). I would have preferred to ride through town with a
bulletproof vest, but I didn’t have that luxury. At least the roads
were newly paved so I had that going for me. I just kept thinking,
“don’t get a flat, don’t get a flat”.
Chicago is a very bike friendly city as there are bike paths
everywhere, beginning nearly at the Illinois state line. I know they
don’t call Chicago the windy city because it is windy, but that
doesn’t necessarily preclude Chicago from being windy, which it
certainly was when I rode in. I have been relatively lucky with wind
so far, but when pulling in to Chicago it was against me.
I took 5 days off after hitting Chicago. I took the bus up to
Wisconsin to visit some family friends for a day and then spent the
other four days in Chicago trying to undue all the training I had
done thus far. I didn’t eat particularly well, including some fast
food in the wee hours. I also drank far too much beer for someone
who still had 3,000 miles to pedal. I did however have a few good
Sarah came to Chicago for the weekend so I played through until
Monday. The air show was in town, so along with a million other
people we got to sit out by the lake and watch the planes fly past.
True to form for an air show, two fighter jets brushed one another
in flight. One of the jets lost a missile holder in the clash, which
plunged into Lake Michigan.
In western Illinois I started to hit the farmland. I found myself
intrigued in the dance crop duster. It was pretty interesting
watching this small plane zip about, that was until the wind shifted
in my direction and I took in a few good breaths of some sort of
pesticide. I know sucking that stuff into my lungs wasn’t good for
me, but at least my lungs will be insect free.
My most satisfying day so far was when I hit the 1,000-mile mark and
crossed the Mississippi in the same day. That’s it. No funny story.
Remind me to have words with all the people who ever told me that
Iowa was flat. At least in Nebraska the roads run in between the
hills and they keep the road relatively level. The whole western
part of Iowa is designated the “Loess Hills Scenic Area” for crying
out loud. Also in Iowa I got to ride on the Lincoln Trail. It was
the road that Lincoln used to cross that part of the country.
Unfortunately, no work had been done on the road since Lincoln
In Iowa I had the chance to stop by a friend’s family farm. While I
was expecting to be put to some manual labor, I was instead sent
fishing on the farm pond. On top of being put up for the night, I
got an education in farming and a tour of Newton, Iowa. I never
realized how little I knew about farming. This stop was certainly
one of the best parts of my trip to date.
On Friday my stop for the night, (mostly due to a late start and an
aching knee) was in Ames, Iowa, home to Iowa State. As luck would
have it, it was the first weekend back for the students. I made my
way downtown to have a few drinks. When did college kids get so
young? I remember being in college and you always wondered what was
up when some older person walked in the bar. I was now that person.
I didn’t care, I had a hard week of pedaling and it was quarter
draughts. Ahhh, the days of college.
For you movie fans out there, the path I took through Iowa was just
south of the Field of Dreams and just north of Madison County. You
know… the place with all those bridges. Hopefully none of those were
In South Dakota I am now starting to get in to lonely country. When
I say lonely, I mean that if there is some sort of mishap you are
pretty much screwed, as the next town is 30 miles away.
Some notable towns that I had come across were, Valley City, Ohio
the Frog Jump capital of the state (not even the world or the US,
does frog jump capital of the state warrant a sign?). Boone, Iowa,
birthplace to Mamie Eisenhower. New Castle, Nebraska, home to a
campsite of Lewis & Clark (I have to imagine there are hundreds of
towns that can claim this).
Another one to file under only in the Midwest was the market
“Smokin’ Larry’s Fine Food”. The advert on the sign “Can of Blatts
for $1”. Not that we shouldn’t believe that Larry would have some
fine food, but Blatts?
Going forward, I should be getting to the Badlands and Mount
Rushmore by this weekend, Labor Day weekend. Could I have timed that
any worse? More importantly though, I think I will be ready for the
Rockies. I just hope my body holds up as well as my bike. The only
thing I had to do maintenance wise other than normal care was
replace the chain. If only I could trade out my legs that easily.
Days Ridden: 21
Total Miles: 1, 504
Average Miles a Day: 71.6
Best days Average speed: 18.2 MPH over 87 miles
Worst Road: Route 6, Indiana
Best Road: Route 6, Indiana
The one singular thing I have seen the most on this trip so far:
corn...and lots of it
Number of times I turned the pedals (estimated): 375,000