I made 73 miles today, to Lewis and Clark State Park in Onawa, Iowa, despite the wickedest winds I have encountered so far on this trip.
As promised, the morning brought heavy rains, so I slept in. But by 830, the rain let up and the weather looked clear, so I got up, struck the tent, and hung the tent up to dry in the breezes. There was even some sun poking through. Winds were forecast to be south south west at 20-30 mph.
A long line of RVs were lined up at the sewage dump station across from my site, as they headed home on this showery and windy Memorial Day. I hit the road at about 920. The first part of the ride was a breeze, as I headed North to resume I-175 in Lake View. The coffee shop there was packed, they seemed surprised I wanted coffee to go in this weather. I dropped the cup in the handlebar cup holder, stuck my metal straw in, the meandered through Lake View until I found my way back to 175.
Down the hill out of town I immediately started having trouble keeping the road in the strong crosswinds. I could barely stay up on the bike, and sometimes a gust would just spin my front wheel off to the right and point me straight down the grassy roadbank. I heard a sound familiar from offshore sailing – the sound of a gale shrieking in wire rigging – only the wires were the telephone wires. I struggled on, terrified of catching my wheel on the drop off from the pavement and falling left into traffic, like I fell yesterday. I put on my flashing taillight for visibility in the spitting rain and tried to take the lane, but I still could not steer straight and kept getting blown off the pavement.
I stopped about three miles out of town, to take a picture of the Boyer River bridge to add to my collection of every river crossing across the country. I realized that part of the problem was the tent on my front rack, which would catch the wind and turn my wheel. So I moved the tent to the rear rack. But now I had to get rolling again going up the hill from the river. I wanted to wait for a clear road to get my wobbly start, but every time I looked behind me there were headlights coming at me from behind. For the first time in the trip, i thought I might have to stop for the day. I thought I could ride a bike in any weather, but I simply could not ride my bike in this crosswind. But maybe, I could at least make it to Ida Grove, at about 30 miles. I could stop at the next town and sit somewhere out of the wind until conditions got better. Maybe I could bike into the evening when the winds calmed down and still make a motel in Onawa.
After trying, unsuccessfully, to get rolling straight a couple more times, I looked wistfully at the grain tanks and tree line at the top of the rise in the road. And I started to walk my bike. After all, I could still walk. And 2 mph is what I considered an acceptable pace on a steep hill (which this was not). And even if the tree line was not a town, there would be some shelter from the crosswinds there. So I walked a half mile up the hill. There was no town, and the grain tanks provided little relief from the wind – but the trees – beautiful merciful wonderful trees, did. All of a sudden I was biking in the calm again, rolling along at my ten mph pace. The trees came and went and the crosswind gusts came back, but never as fiercely as by the Boyer River. It turned into a normally adverse day instead of a impassable one.
When I got to the town of Odebolt, I did not stop after all, or in Arthur, either. I was looking forward to Ida Grove, where things surely would get better. After all, a grove is trees, and trees are shelter. And I knew 175 would start to follow the Maple River in Ida Grove, a major river which would surely have a valley with trees and lees.
I made Ida Grove at around one – a hard fought 25 miles at barely a seven mph pace. Ida Grove has castle turrets all over it for some reason. And a lighthouse. And I crossed the Maple River, but there was no wooded river valley. But as the road wound southwest out of Ida Grove and the wind veered to the northwest, the crosswind# became a quartering breeze and I started ticking off miles again.
In Danbury, at 45 miles, I stopped for a sandwich and a donut at the deserted BP QuickStop ($3.50). I checked the price of the Super 8 in Onawa and the mileage to the State Park, and decided it was worth a shot. When I planned this trip, I thought I would camp four nights out of five west of Pittsburgh. Hotels are expensive – even cheap hotels add up on a 45 day trip. And hotel stays have carbon impacts (can’t research this right now). And motel rooms are isolating and lonely. And I can get started earlier from a campsite for some reason.But so far I have actually been about 50-50 motels and camping. Camping just hasn’t worked out because of rainy and cold weather, lack of available camping near my daily mileage goal, or my leaking sleeping pad (replaced in Cedar Rapids). So I was hoping for another night in a state park.
As 175 ran south into the Loess Hills of western Iowa (the first actual hills I have seen since Pennsylvania), the breeze became even more favorable and the sky cleared to a blue background studded with cumulous clouds. I started spinning down the road at fifteen mph. Around one bend, I saw a field full of brilliant purple flowers – bluebells, I think. By 615 I was shopping for dinner at a real grocery store in Onawa with actual fresh vegetables, and by seven I pulled into Lewis and Clark State Park. The park is on an ancient oxbow of the Missouri River, and has a replica of the Lewis and Clark expedition keelboat. I picked out a waterfront site in the near empty campground.
So I think it is fair to say I have reached the Missouri River! Tomorrow I will cross it to Nebraska