Put yourself in the first seat of the biggest roller-coaster your mind can wrap itself around. Now feel yourself tilt back, and listen to the sound of chains clinking beneath you as it slowly approaches the first apex. Look over your shoulder–Sam and i are in the seat right behind you, and we’ve just arrived in Ida Grove, IA, excited to have reached our destination after a long day in the saddle. Quick–turn back around! You won’t want to miss the insane ride that was the 24 hours spanning days 24 and 25. Here we go–hands up!
If small towns across the country had their own slogans, Ida Grove’s would be, “a sight for sore eyes.” Let me explain. Ida Grove marked our 300th or so mile through the great agricultural state of Iowa–that’s about 300 miles of corn, soy, and feedlots (let’s not forget Illinois has their fair-share as well). Of course, these major cash crops (note: not the feedlots) can be extremely beautiful, but they definitely should come with a warning label that reads “do not admire for longer than 7 days, unless directed by a doctor.” Well, as we were encroaching upon our 7th day, or somewhere thereabout, Ida Grove stepped in to execute a perfect ocular/olfactory 180; this small town was completely surrounded by conifer-scattered pastures! Evergreens! Lush green grass! Thankfully, neither of us is diabetic, because air has never smelled sweeter. It was truly amazing to have a change of scenery and rest our eyes on some fuzzy green triangles as we rolled through the streets of Ida Grove.
The evening was going swimmingly as Denise, the manager of the town’s Super8 Motel, was allowing us to cruise the lobby’s wifi signal to find a campsite/catch up on our blog. There we were, taking care of business and making small talk, when all of a sudden the television (which had been playing Law and Order) began to report a severe weather warning. Three heads spun toward the t.v.–although two turned more quickly than the other–and we watched intently to find out what was supposed to be coming our way. Of course, tornados–why expect anything but the worst? We started to pack away the computer and gather our gear while mentally preparing ourselves for the night to come.
Just as we were about to throw an at-this-point trembling leg over the saddle (you should have seen the sky), Denise came outside…”Come in,” she said, “I’ll give you shelter from the storm.” No, that may not be a direct quote, but she offered us a room at a super-discounted rate, and single-handedly lifted an immense weight off our shoulders. I couldn’t help but picture Denise as the guardian angel in Dylan’s song…maybe i was just giddy to have escaped the imminent danger…but seriously, that song’s about her. Denise, we’re both extremely grateful for your help that night and really glad to have made such a kind friend in Ida Grove. Thanks for everything!
Just to think that it all began on a long-forgotten 'morn
The next morning (Day 25). Time to spin rubber. We head down the main road through Ida Grove, and turn onto the highway that will take us West–Boom! We hit an invisible wall. We throw our bikes into low gear, lower our heads, and try to push through it, but no matter how hard we pedal, our bikes insist on crawling. The wall wasn’t just invisible, but it was pushing against us…the headwinds that morning were 30mph. There’s no riding through that kind of wind, no matter how strong you are. We ground our gears until we reached the only business we could see on the side of the highway–the plan was to get a piece of cardboard and catch a ride to Sioux City. Got the cardboard. Made the sign. Began to wait.
Not two minutes had passed–actually, no cars had passed either, when we heard someone yell, “Hey! Bring your bikes” from the business behind us. Neither of us knew it, but the business we were camped-out in front of was the headquarters of a trucking company! The man told us there was an off-duty trucker coming through on his way to Sioux City. Apparently, the trucker needed a spare part for his rig, so he was driving a pickup and agreed to give us a ride. What a ride it would be.
Mark, our gracious driver, was probably the perfect character to get a lift from. He was two-parts talkative, one part funny, three-parts unfamiliar and 100% open. Our conversation started on the topic of geography, slowly melted into motorcycles, took a sharp turn at South Dakota’s vacation spots, touched into his family’s medical history, and finally settled on the trucking industry–a topic of conversation i never thought could be so deep. Being East-coast boys who couldn’t be more unfamiliar with the trucking industry, it was absolutely fascinating to learn the ins and outs through they eyes of someone on the inside. Mark told us about how almost no drivers these days keep legal logbooks, because it’s near impossible to make a living driving only 11 hours a day (the legal limit). He taught us how the various tactics involved in “working the books.” We learned about how the number of trucks on the road, the per-mile wage of drivers, and the ability of the drivers all affect big-picture economics. It might have looked like we were riding three-abreast in a pickup truck, but looking back on it, the cab we were sitting in might have been a classroom on wheels. Mark, thanks for the lift, and for giving us an insider’s snapshot of a completely unfamiliar industry!
Chur to our unexpected learner
WHEW. 15 hours. Two more-than memorable characters. One crazy ride. Fortunately, the ‘coaster has plateaued, and we’ve been stable for a while. We spent the night of Day 25 in Sioux City with Tom and Susan, two wonderful warm shower hosts who treated us very well. Their son, Todd, rode us out of the city the next morning, gave us a short tour, and showed us to the local bike shop. Also, gotta give a shout to Ben Stone who took us under his wing in Des Moines!
Ragbrai-baggin' professional right here.
Ben is a fellow bagger with a clear passion for being on two wheels–Cheers to all of you!
Note of business: wifi is becoming more scarce, so posts may become longer and more sparse–forgive us, but we’ll try our best to keep you updated!