Rubber Tramps

Hank – Neither one of us slept very well being all hot and sticky from the humidity. And I guess I didn’t help matters much when I put my arms over my head while lying on my back and blasted Kathy with some savage underarm odor. But we’ll be spending the next two days in a hotel in Clear Lake resting up, staying cool, and healing all our bug bites.

We were on the road by 7:00 am after a light breakfast. Getting back on Hwy 18 we discovered the shoulder was again gravel instead of paved. I checked the map and found we had about 9 miles of that before we could get on old Highway 18. Traffic was light so we had to get off the pavement only a couple of times. Old Highway 18 got us through Wesley where I learned we were going to miss America’s Darkest Day, Jimmy’s 50th Birthday on July 14. We went on to the halfway point for the day, Britt IA, where the National Hobo Museum resides. After a great breakfast at Mary Jo’s Hobo House we checked out the museum across the street.

The National Hobo Convention has been held in Britt since around 1900. It’s a huge party for the town with thousands of people coming but the disappearing hobo lifestyle means only 70-100 hobos attend. While at Mary Jo’s I mentioned that Kathy and I are kind of like hobos. I was informed that we are referred to as rubber tramps since we’re on bicycles. I’ve been called worse.

We had a choice between a 20-mile detour or getting back on the gravel-shouldered Highway 18 for the 11 miles to Garner. Since our system for calling out vehicles and getting off the pavement worked well for us we chose the shorter route. This time the gravel was very loose and deep with deep tracks of tractors tires showing us just how loose and deep it was. It was not a good time and we were relieved when we arrived in Garner. From Garner we could tale old Hwy 18 and other non-Highway 18 roads to our hotel in Clear Lake. A little rain fell in Garner but the small storm system didn’t have much energy and it passed by without further incident.

We had a very peaceful ride through the countryside to Venture where we stopped to have a snack. Just when we were leaving three people on road bikes showed up to refill their water bottles and have a snack. Tara Brick, her son Scott and her daughter Riley were out for a long ride. They live in Mason City, which is about 10 miles east of our destination in Clear Lake. We struck up a conversation and Tara asked if they could ride with us. We could talk and she could guide us to our hotel. Again, we meet some nice people. Cool! Tara and Scott like to do endurance rides. Riley, who is 12 years old–she informed me she’ll be 13 in September–is just getting into long rides. She has done a couple of days of RAGBRAI and this year she won a lottery entry to do the entire ride. Tara has done Dirty Kanza four times. Scott has done the Tour of the Mississippi Valley Ride. The last 6-7 miles to the hotel went quick and easy as we chatted about all kinds of stuff and Tara showed us a little around Clear Lake. Clear Lake is a very bicycle friendly tourist destination. We parted at the hotel with a promise to meet at Cabin Coffee at 8:36 am. We were trying to pick a meeting time and finally asked Riley, the youngest and presumably the one who would struggle the most with getting up early, what time. Tara through out 8:36 and that sounded good. It’s about a mile ride for me and Kathy. Probably 12-15 miles for them. I’m hoping Tara’s husband shows up on one of the wooden-framed bikes they told us he made.

After showers and laundry–when are we not doing showers and laundry?–we treated ourselves to a big dinner and a couple of drinks before calling it a night.

Kathy – Yes today was a repeat from yesterday during our time on U.S. Highway 18.  It was very frightening and we were happy to have that part of our journey done.  We decided in the future to check Google Maps ‘street view’ to ensure roads have a paved shoulder before we travel.  Regardless we rode 51 miles total with only a few hundred feet of elevation.  Our temps again were in the 90’s, muggy and hot from the humidity.  Other than our time on sketchy U.S Highway 18, our ride was great.  Love finding things on our travels like the Hobo Museum. That was interesting and fun.  Also love meeting new friends like Tara, Scott and Riley.  It was really enjoyable to talk with them as we rode in our last few miles.  Looking forward to chatting more during our coffee/tea time tomorrow.  Happy to have a hotel night after 11 days.  Also happy to have a rest day tomorrow after riding 5 – 7 hours a day for the past seven days.  Enjoyed a relaxing dinner and drinks with my sweetie and no doubt we will crash tonight.

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  1. Lynn and I call it the Wyle E. Coyote principle: the paths of two cars passing each other in opposing directions will intersect precisely where is the biker is!


    1. And it happens all the frickin’ time! That’s a good name for it.


  2. Pat@26InchSlicks July 17, 2018 at 11:51 pm

    “only 70-100 hobos” still seems like kind of a lot of hobos to me. That said, I’m not sure I’ve ever normalized “a lot of hobos” in my mind. I will now give it some thought. Thanks, I think.


    1. Never thought that. I was thinking a hobo convention would have hundreds. I don’t think there are that many left. It’s a fading lifestyle made even more difficult by technology and government requirements.


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