Friends of Riding Hills for Hillary,
Since we last wrote in Madison, we have endured approximately 300 miles of biking, a few broken spokes, and another presidential debate. After all this we ended up in lovely Des Moines, Iowa where we currently write from the home of our Warm Showers hosts, Bill and Saraleigh. Des Moines is another up and coming city of America, with a truly awesome capital building, a AAA baseball team called the Iowa Cubs (go Cubbies!), and an impressive sculpture park. We took a campaigning/rest day here today, hitting Grand View University for some canvassing work with Next Gen Climate, which is part of 350.org. Nothin’ like talking to fellow millennials about the Climate and Hillz all at once!
Our most important news is that the crew of five that entered Madison has now split up for the time being (but will be reunited soon!). Fierce Nina (yes, the one we took through the gauntlet in Northwest Pennsylvania) has been dealing with knee demons for the past couple weeks and finally went to see the trip doctor. Doc said it was “bad, bad, getting worse” and ordered a strict two-week hiatus from any bike related activities, so Nina is firing up the base in Minneapolis before rejoining in Colorado. Benny Boo Feldman had to part ways with the crew a day after Madison to spend time with his family in California, where he is currently scouting the beaches for an appropriate final destination swim, and also plotting his return to the journey in Colorado. Finally, after much deliberation we decided to send Mr. Mike (Bike) Bienkowski as an envoy across the Nebraska plains while we take it slower through Iowa, stopping to campaign and enjoy the corn fields, and then hop on a train from Omaha to Denver. So it has been Meredith, Jamie, and Iowa for the past few days of riding.
Our time since Madison, though lonelier on the dusty road without the rest of the crew, has remained quite joyous. Day uno found us riding through spectacular, rolling Wisconsin farmland as we set off southwest. That night we hunkered down in a town park to avoid getting caught in a thunderstorm, where we met a jolly police officer who offered to take us in a ride in the back of his car (why did we turn this down!?!) and opened the basement of the police station in case the downpour became too extreme for our liking. Fortunately the storm mostly skirted past us and we had only a brief period of intense yet manageable rain attack.
The next day we had a surprise visit to Illinois (another state to the trip list!) before crossing “America’s River” and officially entering the fine state of Iowa. If you, like we, had visions of Iowa being a desolate plain of dry cornfields, then you are sorely mistaken! Well, there are a lot of corn fields, but the area we have been biking through is known as the “driftless region,” which means that those behemoth Ice Age glaciers didn’t quite make it down here to do some natural plowing. Good for residents of Iowa, as there are many lush areas and lovely hills, bad for bikers trying to crush miles. Ever since we entered the state it has been up and down up and down over rolling hills, leaving our legs real tuckered out.
Iowa is also home to what we have now termed “The Worst Biking Road in America.” We encountered this road, Dreaded Highway 30, just west of Cedar Rapids. Google Maps had us cruising this thing for 30 miles, which we confidently took to mean that the conditions were dreamy and decided to take a leisurely lunch, nap, ice cream afternoon in Cedar Rapids before hopping on the bikes. After beating our way out of CR we popped on to 30 and soon found that the shoulder on this road was not paved, but instead consisted of a thick layer of gravel. We can abide by gravel roads in rural areas, or biking along busy highways if we are going warp speeds on nicely paved shoulder, but the combination of getting windblown by semis while churning gravel was downright disheartening. Without any backup options we labored at a solid 6-7 mph before jumping ship and taking to the dirt roads.
Despite this serious setback, we did manage to complete our first century ride of the trip the following day! We are quite proud of our ~108 mile trek from rural Iowa to the heart of Des Moines. More to come when we reach Omaha in a couple days and have more time.
#strongertogether, even when we are divided…
Meredith and Jamie (plus Mike, Ben, and Nina in absentia)
P.S. We saw Bernie in Madison! Even though the primary is over you will all be happy to know that he is still talking about the 1%