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We Got Here Early For This?

Hank – When I got up this morning I saw the lights were on in the tent sites that were still underwater. It made for a good picture. We were on the road by 6:50 am today. Today’s ride brought to mind a scene from the movie Rat Race. It’s not the best comedy made but it’s worth watching at least once. Anyway, the characters played by Rowan Atkinson and Wayne Knight are speeding down the road in an ambulance. Knight’s character asks, “Wanna know what’s in the back?” Atkinson’s character answers, “You already told me. We’re hauling ass.” I guess you had to watch it yourself. But on today’s ride we were definitely hauling ass. Small gradual climbs and descents were on the menu along with a slight tailwind. And although we covered 50 miles in 4 hours of saddle time, the day was not without its challenges.

Arriving in Ruthven, about 14 miles east of Spencer, the paved shoulder switched to gravel and the roadway had a high edge above the shoulder. We stopped to take a short break and asked a local guy about the shoulder status for the rest of our trip. He said the shoulder was gravel at least until some point east of Emmetsburg. He also told us a story we cyclists hate to hear–a dad was killed just last week while riding with his family. So be careful. We also met Bradley, a nice young man who took an interest in our bikes.

Riding on the gravel shoulder would slow us down so Kathy and I worked out a system. I would stay behind her and yell “Car back”, Truck back”, or “Get off.” “Get off” was for when oncoming and passing traffic was going to put the squeeze on us. Thankfully that didn’t happen very often, but just often enough for Kathy to get some real world experience. Things like slowing down before you jump off into loose gravel and not approaching a high edge with the front wheel at a shallow angle. Most of the time traffic was light so we cruised. Kathy had it in high gear so we could get through this part.

We stopped in Emmetsburg where we found a cafe that isn’t on Google maps. Brandi at Kirby’s Cafe looked after us and took an interest in our adventure. A gentleman came in later and while joining his friends at a table next to us jokingly asked if we were buying. Funny guy! Brandi wrote a nice note on our check.

Then it was back on the road with no shoulder. Yesterday Kathy mentioned she wouldn’t mind getting a hotel room for the day just to get out of the humidity and heat. During the ride I said I thought that was a good idea. That was a carrot on the end of the stick for us that also kept us moving quickly. We finally reached a paved shoulder when we left Palo Alto County. Whew!

We stopped for a cold drink when we got to Algona, today’s destination, at 12:30. We called all three hotels in Algona. They were all booked. I called City Hall and asked about camping in a city park. They have several parks but there’s no mention of camping on their web site. The lady says it was okay because they don’t have anything that says we can’t do it. So we rode to the largest park, Veteran’s Park, which was closed due to the recent flooding. A fellow working there recommended we go to South Park where the aquatic center is. They have showers, a swimming pool, bathrooms, and there’s a quiet spot to pitch a tent. That sounded good but first we went downtown to check things out and maybe eat. I also wanted to check out the Camp Algona POW Museum. Algona was one of many places where German and Italian prisoners of war were imprisoned during World War II.

The only open restaurant was Chocolate Seasons but they were full so we went to the museum. Along with the cool displays they also had air conditioning! We went back to Chocolate Seasons and got a table only to find they stopped serving lunch 30 minutes ago. So we went back to where we came into town and ate at an Italian restaurant. The young man waiting on us could not have been any less enthusiastic or interested in his job. Why is he working there? But the spaghetti and meatballs were good. After that we went to the aquatic park. Five bucks each got us showers and a couple hours of cooling off in the pool, which was the high point of my day. I’m not a pool person but today it was very welcome. After getting our skin all pruney we moved across the street to the park shelter where we set up camp. Now we wait out the heat and sweat away the drinks we’ve been downing.

Kathy – Our ride today was really good.  We made great time with the goal of beating the afternoon heat.  Yes the 20+ miles of riding with no shoulder made that part of the ride a bit scary.   It was a two lane road with a speed limit of 55 mph.  We had a mix of cars and trucks slowing down to get around us, or trying to speed up and get around us quickly before oncoming traffic was next to us, and finally trucks from opposing directions meeting at the same time next to us requiring us to quickly move over to the thick gravel on the side of the road. This was the most frightening part, trying to quickly slow down and move into the gravel before the trucks arrived next to us.  Then once traffic cleared, getting back on the road were the road is higher than the gravel proved to be difficult because you had to take it at an angle.  Didn’t care for this section of our travels today, but all else was fabulous and we were thankful to arrive at our destination safely.

Our total mileage today was 56 miles with a mere 500 feet of elevation gain and no headwind.  The temperature was 90 degrees, but with the humidity the heat index equaled 100 degrees.  Yes, we were both looking forward to a hotel night to escape this heat however it was a no go.  The pool really helped cool us down and it was so fun to watch all the kids play.  The toddlers had fun romping around in the kiddie pool with lots of fountains and sprays to make them happy as moms tagged along behind them.  The older kids took advantage of two large slides and two diving boards.  Loved watching the kids’ silly dive moves.  Then pre-teen’s were all about dunking and splashing each other.  Finally the teens were busy hanging out just being cool.  It was really enjoyable to see all the kids have such a fun time as we just tried to stay cool.  Nice shower at the pool and then over to set up the tent in the park across the street.

We meet lots of really cute and polite kids at the pool and in the park.  They were asking us lots of questions about our bikes and our travels.  It was fun to talk with them, especially Charlie (a girl about 7 years old) and her brother Chris (11 years old).  Chris was so interested in everything about our trip that when we went to the park to set up the tent he followed us over to ask additional questions.  He was a very bright young man.  I hope someday he can go on a cool bike trip.

So, here we are in the tent because the gnats and mosquito are so bad.  We are both just drenched in sweat awaiting the sun to go down so it cools off.  At midnight the temp will still be 76 degrees and the low tonight in 67 degrees which will hit at 5:00 am when we are awakening for our ride tomorrow.  Tomorrow is a repeat of today’s weather.  We are both looking forward to a hotel tomorrow night.  We booked it, so we are all set for the sweet air conditioning.  As for now…we sweat.

About the author hankgreer

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