No, Seriously, Where Are We Staying Tonight? A Day in Iowa, Part 2

Howdy! This is the second of two posts with some day-to-day detail. If you missed the first, maybe go check it out, though this can stand alone. I don’t write much about our daily life on the bikes, but wanted to in order to give a taste of our experience. Also, for all you new readers to the blog wondering how in tarnation we do this (we wonder too some days), I recommend the post on trip logistics and why we’re doing this tour.

Backroads of Nebraska.

Back country roads of the Midwest.

It’s hard to leave wonderful people we meet and stay with along the way. I always feels like yelling, “no, waaaaaait” as we’re pulled off into the distance. Places to go before it snows keeps our pedals spinning, so the next morning we departed from Mary and Ken’s home. The day soon found us pedaling off (and up) some of the steepest hills Not-Flat-Iowa could throw at us on another scorcher day.

Absorbed in an audiobook, I biked waaaay ahead and Chelsea took an inadvertent turn. I always wait at intersections, but this time (a trip first!) it didn’t work out. I should probably mention that we didn’t know which town we were heading to that day since we were just going to follow pavement and avoid gravel until we were somewhere worth stopping. Which means Chelsea, when she was five miles off route, couldn’t answer a nice local cyclist when he asked where she was headed. (Maine is a vague answer when you’re in Iowa.) Did I mention we didn’t have cell phone reception?

WHATever. We figured it out, even if we lost a couple hours and added mileage to our day. Erick, the cyclist, drove around for an hour on country roads making sure we found one another. (Thanks man!) A perfect example of the giant heart and generosity of every single person we met in Iowa, not to mention throughout the Midwest. At least the adults are – three teenagers later that day stared at us like we were hippos on skateboards when we asked them where we could refill our water bottles in their tiny town. Hooligans…

Early morning with 50 giant emoticons on a farmer's fence cheering us on.

Early morning with 50 giant emoticons on a farmer’s fence cheering us on.

This long day on the bikes turned to dusk with our muses the fireflies blinking in the descending darkness. We had a couple choices. Two miles (that we’d backtrack the next morning) on a rutted gravel road to a showerless campground OR pushing on through in the dark to the next small town an hour distant. We opted to continue on the pavement toward Greenfield, Iowa, just south of Des Moines, blinking red taillights alerting approaching drivers. This may sound terrible, yet it was a magical evening and our first time riding in the pitch dark. A nice breeze, sparse traffic and the fireflies popping up around us in the quiet night turned this into an almost meditative experience. Yep, even 65 miles in and exhausted from literally more elevation in one day than we rode coming over the pass in Glacier! (Again, Iowa is not flat. I’m permanently scarred.) Sometimes i’s the unexpected that forms the strongest memories of a trip and this was no exception.

Wind turbines spin on the horizon at dusk headed toward Greenfield. Hundreds upon hundreds of these are scattered across the Midwest.

Wind turbines spin on the horizon as night falls as we head toward Greenfield. Hundreds upon hundreds of these are scattered across the Midwest.

Arriving in Greenfield after 9 pm and finally getting a cell signal, I called the lone hotel in town.  Sunday night in a small town, noooo problem…except for the tour bus (in Iowa?!) that just booked the entire hotel. OH NO. Practically begging, I pleaded with the hotel clerk to help us out. “Well, we do have the opera house next door that we have a deal with for times like this…” I pictured a dusty janitor’s closet but took her up on checking it out. Nope! We scored and wound up in a historic opera house replete with a three room suite and the balcony above the stage just outside our door. PLUS a turret in our bedroom overlooking the courthouse in the city square. One of the coolest places we’ve stayed (this trip or others) and another serendipitous experience. It sure beat pitching a tent in the city park.

The historic Greenfield Opera house. I'm in the turret at top left.

The historic Greenfield Opera house. I’m in the turret at top left. I hauled our bikes up the steep stairs  in the bottom right.

Corn and hay, hay and corn...

Corn and hay, hay and corn…

We need to let it all hang out there sometimes to experience our edge. It doesn’t always work out, and it’s best to be prepared with all the gear and skills to survive, yet the edge of our comfort zone is where the magic happens. In its own way, everything will work out. I’ve had more thrilling or adventurous days traveling with Chelsea and we’ve certainly experienced more scenic landscapes. That wasn’t the important part of this day. By leaning headlong into the fray, however tame by some standards, we further reinforced our trust in one another and solidified our confidence in humanity and whatever force is out there watching out for us.

Someday, I’ll think back to these two evenings in Iowa and the words from a Mason Jennings song will ring out in my head: “The past is beautiful, like the darkness between the fireflies. Beautiful like the darkness between the fireflies.” I’ll close my eyes and be there next to Chelsea on the old family farm in the middle of nowhere or humming along on bikes in the inky stillness with our firefly and cicada cheerleaders whooping it up. And I’ll smile and know we reaped serendipity’s reward those days in the rolling hills of Iowa.

Here’s to discovering  your edge, wherever and whatever it might be, and pushing past it every so often.


A great hotel in the middle of nowhere! The Hotel Greenfield is definitely worth a stay.

A great hotel in the middle of nowhere! The Hotel Greenfield is definitely worth a stay. Here we are well rested, stuffed from the great hotel breakfast and ready for another day of battle.

Our favorite rest break: eating cold watermelon in the shade.

Our favorite rest break: eating cold watermelon in the shade. Did you know it helps to relieve sore muscles, according to Dr. Michael Gregor from Refreshing AND helpful!

Until next time, off we pedal.

Until next time, off we pedal.

5 replies
  1. Pam Salling Fulton
    Pam Salling Fulton says:

    Another great post, D. But you keep talking about these “hills” and all the pics look flat as heck. So what gives? And “tarnation”…not sure I’ve ever seen that word in writing. Keep it coming, loving the realness of your observations. Write (and ride) on!!

    • Dakota Gale
      Dakota Gale says:

      Oh it is SO ON. I don’t take pictures on the climbs because I’ll fall over! Check out the elevation chart below for a 70 mile day we did there with 4k in climbing. No huge peaks, just up and down and up and down and up.

      I’m rooting for tarnation to make a comeback. Best part about this being my site is that I can do whatever I please. And so I shall.

      Riding on through Pennsylvania tomorrow and into New York state. Getting officially somewhere this week!

      • Jeffrey Fritts
        Jeffrey Fritts says:

        You go Dakota, but I have to agree with Pam, “…tarnation…”? I just had to laugh. Being from the Midwest myself (KCMO) I think tarnation is a Midwest word. Don’t quote me on that. 🙂 My mom is from Boone IA and so I know there are many hills in Iowa. The bicycle is the most sensitive inclinometer known to man.
        AK Jeff riding his AWOL

        • Jeffrey Fritts
          Jeffrey Fritts says:

          Dakota…From the home page I clicked on the Comments and found two of my recent comments displayed with this awful mean looking avatar. Did I say something wrong? Really, I consider myself a nice guy…
          AK Jeff riding his AWOL


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