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.
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…
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.
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.
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.