Leg 19 – An Easy Century of Iowa’s Rolling Hills and Thunder

I made 105 downwind miles today, to Urbana, Iowa, plus a few extra miles for detours. About 40 miles were on paved bike trails.
Robin was worried that I was not eating enough. Since the cheap hotel I had last night did not have a breakfast buffet, I went out last night to make my own. Breakfast was three bananas, a yogurt, an orange, four chocolate frosted donuts, and the free hotel coffee. I think I am eating enough.
I checked the weather and the forecast first thing. Light rain was falling, but the winds were forecast to be out of the southeast. Today was the first leg of a new stage of the trip – from Cleveland to the Mississippi I was following the Adventure Cycling Northern Tier Route, but that route now cuts too far north for me so I am on my own. The next landmark is Norfolk, Nebraska, the start of the Cowboy Trail rain trail. I am on my own for route finding now, so I asked Google Maps for a route. It gave three choices, and the more northerly route via Cedar Rapids was allegedly the quickest. Since the wind was out of the southeast, it looked like a good day to roll some miles downwind. Though thunderstorms were in the forecast, there was no severe thunderstorm forecast, just possible heavy rain.

So I followed the google route out of Davenport, and was soon rolling pleasantly downwind on Route 130. I found the Iowa scenery quit charming after the austerity of southern Illinois. There were actual rolling hills, and trees that looked like they grew naturally. Farms fit more into the pastoral ideal, with cows grazing in pastures instead of in barns, and older farmhouses and silos dotting the landscape. Cedar county Iowa actual smelled like cedar, though o didn’t see any cedar trees.

In Bennett, Google tried to gravel road me, but a turned back to Route 130, since I knew it went to Tilton, which was on the way. But miles before Tolton the skies darkened, and the radar indicated the squall line already in Tilton. I began to assess roadside structures for possible shelter. Barns were all to close to houses, the grain tanks wouldn’t give any shelter. Lightning bolted straight down on my left and I counted the seconds to five – less than a mile away. I saw a metal building with a big bay door just as the heavy rain hit, and there was a light on in the office. I went in an shouted but no one answered, so I went in the bay door where a truck was parked and shouted again. Two men eventually appeared and graciously let me shelter in their warehouse, while they went back to a project on the truck that involved torque wrenches and swearing.

In twenty minutes or so the lightning had moved on and the rain was light enough to ride again, so I rode to Tilton. Route 130 ended there, and I couldn’t get a signal for a new route, so I set out on a westbound county road, figuring that west was the general direction I wanted to go.Eventually, Google confirmed I was on the right track, but it still tried to take me down gravel roads, so I started ignoring google and sticking to road W27. Eventually, I realized I was headed southwest instead of northwest, and had nearly reached Iowa City by mistake. But Iowa Route 1 took me to Solon, where there was a pharmacy for more foot cushioning and a Subway for a caloric and electric charge up.
Urbana Iowa looked like it was in reach – at about 105 miles for the day. On downwind days I want to do centuries to make up for tough progress on upwind days. Camping options were uncertain since it is the holiday weekend, so I reserved a room at the Urbana Inn and Suites. Google seemed to promise a route on bike trails rather than gravel roads.

But soon after Solon, Google told me to turn right onto a road that started as gravel. Not wanting to get lost again, I followed it. The road soon turned to deep soft mud that was impossible to drive through, much less bike through. After caking my shoes and my bike in mud, I climbed up the grassy embankment and walked and rode the bike through the tire tracks in the grass, but I had to cross the mud again to get to a paved road.
Google soon led me astray again, telling me to turn right onto the “Hoover Nature Trail”, which had “No Trespassing” signs on both sides of it. Ignoring the signs (they must mean no trespassing off the nature trail, of course), I found the trail soon ended at another impassable mud slough, but with a paved trail visible just beyond the 100 yard quagmire. So I muddled through.

I soon found myself delighted to be on the Cedar Valley Nature Trail – a 50 mile mostly paved bike route to Cedar Rapids and beyond, to Waterloo. So the rest of the day was spent on a pleasant downwind pedal through woods and fields, with many other cyclists. I had to stop at a drinking fountain the clean the mud off my bike and shoes, though.
I detoured on Cedar Rapids to the Dicks Sporting Goods store to get a functional taillight, spare inner tubes, and a new sleeping pad. The last five miles of the bike trail into Urbana got quite soft, and I was very happy to arrive at the hotel for a hot shower.


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