Bout time for a status report, eh? I’m in Belgium, Wisconsin, about 50 miles from the ferry. Last night, I went to my first Wisconsin grocery store and was very disappointed in their cheese selection.
Last time that I checked in, I was in Emmetsburg, Iowa, and I had just taken a shower. Well, the shower trend continued. I headed east out of Emmetsburg, planning to stay on the same highway all the way to the first metro station near Chicago. But, after getting lost in Mason City shortly after my departure from Emmetsburg, I decided to alter my route to avoid large cities. All those streets and buildings and cars are confusing. My map isn’t that detailed.
Somehow, after leaving Mason City, I found myself biking east on Interstate 18. That was terrifying. The shoulder was about a two and a half feet wide, two of those feet were taken by rumble strips. Also, there was a 15 mph crosswind that blew me towards them. That’s rough. My butt is already sore from biking 2,000 miles on a stock bike seat, but, then, I was continuously pushed onto the rumble strips which feels like getting kicked in the ass a hundred times by a leprechaun that’s high on caffeine.
I could have biked an hour to the next town on the I-18, but I couldn’t handle the stress—cars, wind, leprechauns. So I bounced at the first exit that I found, some country road headed south. That was good enough for me. I biked that bad jackson for the rest of the day. At about five o’clock, I broke a spoke, an event probably caused by all the rumble stripping that I did earlier in the day. Greene, Iowa, was eight miles away, so I went there. It was Sunday and Father’s Day. Nothing was open. I called it a day and headed for a campground. On my way there, I saw a guy grilling in his backyard. He had road bike in the back of his truck.
I said, “Hi, there. Sorry for bothering you so late in the evening. Do you happen to have the tools to fix a bike spoke?”
“Sure do,” he said.
Dude’s name was Tim. When he was younger, he raced road bikes in Colorado. That was thirty years ago. He was 54 when I met him grilling his chicken in his backyard. I fixed my spoke, and we got to talking. He had only been in town for 40 minutes, just returned from a year in Colorado. He brought me a beer. Some people stopped by to welcome him back. We talked some more. He threw a piece of fish on the grill for me, offered to have me stay in his house for the night, offered me a shower. Talked some more, drank beer. I had a nice time chilling with Tim.
Headed east in the morning. Biked all day. Feet hurt. The pedals don’t seem to be wide enough for my little footsies. I arrived in Strawberry Point. Stopped at the grocery store. Bought some strawberries. Camped in the city park.
Headed east in the morning. Biked all day. Feet hurt. I arrived in Maquoketa, a place that I still find hard to pronounce. I broke another spoke. A breaking spoke makes a horrible sound, like a chipmunk breaking its tooth followed by a twangy squeal of chipmunk pain. The nearest bike shop was about 100 miles away. I called Jim, Stuie’s mom’s boyfriend, my biking sensei. He told me not to worry about it. Hope for the best. Ride on. So I camped for the night at the fairgrounds, then rode on.
I’ve gone about 300 miles, now, with one less spoke. All the other spokes are really manning up. I owe them a steak dinner when I get back. I stopped at a bike shop in Kenosha to replace the spoke, but the guy said he couldn’t get the gear cassette off, said I’d have to leave it for the night. And I said, “Hell, no. I got a date with the Badger,” or something like that. (The Badger is the Manitowoc ferry.)
I biked from Maquoketa, Iowa to Sycamore, Illinois, and I felt good. I stopped to eat in Oregon, Illinois at a place called PB and J’s. I hadn’t planned on stopping there. I was headed for a grocery store, but the restaurant looked so pringles that I had to stop there. It was decorated with counter culture-hippie paraphernalia, posters, and whatnot. The walls were covered with little sayings like, “Be happy” and “It’s all good.” So I ordered a grilled, double decker, peanut butter and jelly sandwich and a milkshake, and I was happy. Pam, the owner, brought me a free sample of fried chicken.
After Sycamore, I biked the fifteen miles to the Elburn Metra, and took the train into Chicago.