Thursday, July 7, 2011

Oskaloosa, IA to Mt Pleasant, IA

At 3:30pm today after riding 73 miles, Cal rode into the alley to our home in Mt Pleasant, Iowa to be greeted by myself and our close friends here in Mt Pleasant.  Wow! What a feeling! He has ridden 2375 miles!  He really cannot believe he has ridden this far, and in such a short time.  The whole idea of riding from the West Coast to Iowa seems overwhelming, but each day we cut off a chunk, and when you add all of those chunks together, Cal made it whole way!

Coming Down the Street, Approaching Home

Home at Last

This morning and all afternoon there were heavy clouds over southeast Iowa.  Rain was predicted, and we did encounter a few sprinkles, but not enough to run the windshield wipers.  However about the time Cal arrived home the sun began to shine. Note on the photo of Cal arriving at home – the flowers in my garden.  I was sure hoping I would not miss the blooming lilies – I have not, and the day lilies are just beginning to bloom.      

Cal’s brother and wife met us along the route today, along with friends from Chicago who are in the area for the weekend.  The Chicago friends were brother and sister-in-law to the friends we stopped to see in Mills City, Oregon.  The Mother of the Litwiller brothers and the mother of the Chicago brothers were friends in grade school in the 1920’s – an old connection! It was great to see all of them again this summer. 

The corn in southeast Iowa is tall in comparison to other parts of the State.  Here are some photos of the corn – you can only see the roof line of the buildings.  Also here are a few more photos of Barn Art.  I have had responses from several of you that you are enjoying the barn art. They are on new barns as well as old barns.

Iowa Tall Corn

Iowa Tall Corn

More Barn Art

Barn Art

Now it is the task of unpacking, and yet keeping together some of the items we will take with us on the second phase of this adventure! It will be great to sleep in our own bed tonight!  Cal lost 5 pounds on this trek and I am the exact same – which is amazing for all the sitting around I was doing – riding all day.  I was not nearly as active as I am here at home.  Also we are thrilled that we have arrived home the day before our daughter arrives home from the United Arab Emirates.  She will be in Iowa for the next year, finishing her dissertation for her doctorate degree.

As to the second phase - to the Atlantic coast in North Carolina – it will probably begin soon after September 15.  We need to be in the Chicago area the second weekend of September for a meeting of a Rotary committee on which Cal serves, therefore we will not leave until we return from Chicago.  The reason we are going via North Carolina is that our son and daughter-in-law live in Charlotte.

Please join us in mid September for the continuation of this adventure. In the meantime, I may post an update around August 1 and September 1.  If anyone wants to contact us with any thoughts you may do so at  If there are any ideas of what you want to hear more about or see more photos of during the second phase, please express yourself. 

Have a Great Safe Summer!

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Marshalltown, IA to Oskaloosa, IA

As of tonight Cal has ridden a total of 2301 miles from Neah Bay, WA to Oskaloosa, Iowa.  It is unbelievable the area he has covered.  We are having a hard time comprehending it.  If everything goes as planned, we will be home by tomorrow night.  And this segment of the trip will be over already! There is just so much to see in these great United States and we have seen it on the back roads at a much slower pace than normal. I have driven the Envoy a total of 3551 miles – that is all the extra running around!

Oskaloosa is normally 1 hour and 15 minute drive from Mt Pleasant – that is of course at 72 mph!  However it will take most of the day tomorrow to get home. Cal’s brother and sister-in-law are planning on meeting us along the route tomorrow. 

Today Cal continued to ride on the secondary roads or what we call County roads, as there are fewer vehicles.  The ride was fairly hilly again – what you expect in the southern part of Iowa.  The temperature climbed to 85 and the humidity was its normal high.  We have not experienced much humidity on this trip, so it does feel uncomfortable.

As to the landscape, it is field after field of corn and soybeans, soybeans and corn and more corn and soybeans!  The rivers in Iowa flow to the southeast – toward the Mississippi River, so since the roads go north and south or east and west, you are constantly going downhill into a river valley and up out of it again until the next downhill to a river valley.  The rolling landscape with good looking fields of agriculture is beautiful – if you were not on a bike, thinking about the next hill!  

Oskaloosa is located in Mahaska County – here is a photo of their Court House.  I have found some counties have a very generic building while others have a beautiful court house on or near the town square. 

Mahaska County Court House - Oskaloosa, Iowa
Below are a few of the sites we photographed today.          

Interstate 80 - Hills across the Heartland of Iowa

Wagaman Mill on the Skunk River - Lynnville, Iowa

Chopping Hay near Oskaloosa, Iowa
Where is the Road?

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Webster City, IA to Marshalltown, IA

Another day! Another day closer home and the finish of the first part of our adventure! It is amazing how fast this trip has gone. Cal has ridden over 2200 miles so far. I, of course have driven more than that in the vehicle. When we arrive home we will give you the exact mileges for this segment of the ride.                                                                               

I did not say in my blog yesterday that the terrain was fairly flat all day, however today we moved over that glacier morain line in Iowa.  North central Iowa is very flat due to the affects of glaciers during the ice age, but after you cross the morain, southern Iowa is hilly. Late this afternoon Cal began encountering series of hills.  It is a false assumption that Iowa is flat!! Especially southern Iowa!   However, even with the hills, Cal rode a total of 94 miles, but it was before he stopped tonight – too late! I want him to stop by – his muscles need that time to recoup for the next days ride.  The reason he push so late tonight is that he wanted to get into Marshalltown today - that way the next two days will be reasonable length.   

We are in Marshalltown tonight.  When I stopped at the motel, I asked for their best price.  For their best price, she gave us the honeymoon suite - hot tub in the room!!  And a fireplace - would be nice any other time of the year except now! To say the least we are enjoying the amenities and the spacious room tonight.

I also did not tell you about the wind generator farm located east of Storm Lake.  Yesterday when we stopped for a break, we counted the wind generators we could see from that one location - 140 +!!  Today east of Webster City I counted 125 generators on another wind farm.

Marshalltown has a beautiful courthouse.  The architect was the same person who designed the Iowa State Capital building.  At one point there was an effort to make Marshalltown the Capital of Iowa as it is located more nearly in the middle of the State.
Marshall County Courthouse - Marshalltwon, Iowa
We are realizing that Iowa is not necessarily a bike friendly State – all of the other State through which we have traveled, have paved shoulders on their US Highway routes.  Iowa does not.  Due to this we are taking all secondary roads – less traveled roads as Cal is on the roadway.  As everyone knows from the photos of him on the bike, he has two orange flags and a slow-moving triangle, plus he wears bright clothing, so he is very visible. 

What I find so interesting - is the way people look at Cal.  They see this strange contraption of a bike, they take a second look, and then they have this big smile cross their face. People who are passengers in cars lean out the window to take a photo of him (this has happened several times).  

Cal is in bed – so we will post the photos tomorrow. 

Monday, July 4, 2011

Storm Lake, IA to Webster City, IA

Happy 4th of July to everyone!  Tony, Happy Birthday!

This morning when Cal opened the drapes in the motel room he said, “It’s foggy”!  This is the first we have experienced fog on this whole trip. We knew we had to kill some time until the sun burned the fog off, so we went to HyVee for breakfast.  At breakfast we meet the “unofficial City council” of Storm Lake - a group of men who meet at HyVee every morning.  They wanted to know if I had any problems they needed to discuss – I told them “I needed the fog to lift”.  The one guy said, “Well give me 1 ½ hours and I can guarantee you it will be gone!”  In about 1 hour it was lifted and Cal began riding. 

We learned from the ‘coffee club’ that last Sunday night this area of Iowa had 5 to 7 inches of rain in 50 minutes.  There was flash flooding everywhere – including basements!  As we drove/rode east of Storm Lake we could not believe the amount of water damage in fields.  Some fields still had ponds/lakes of water standing in them, while in others the water was gone and so were the plants.        
Flooded Field of Soy Beans

Soy Bean Fields as far as you can see
From the time we left Storm Lake this morning until we drove into Webster City tonight we did not go through any towns – that is any towns with as much as a convenience shops. There would be a cluster of a few houses with a huge grain elevator standing beside the rail tracks.  Cal is riding on secondary roads as there is less traffic on them.

Grain Elevator in Vincent, IA - The Only Business in Town

Cal rode 75 miles again today however he did not get the whole way to Webster City.  He stopped about 12 miles west of town.  Today the temperature was up to 86 degrees, and the wind was out of the east southeast, so the wind was in his face all day, at variable speeds.  At he told me to not get too far ahead of him.  At I said, “enough is enough!”  He was hot and tired. We loaded the bike on the rack - the rack Cal has made for this bike has worked wonderful on this trip.

These are a few of the sites we saw today:

Egg Factory - Egg farm - 9 barns for laying hens

Hog Building - The smell!  To a hog farmer they say it is the 'smell of money', to the rest of us ..... 

Barn Art

The weather forecast for tomorrow includes storms during the afternoon, so I guess time will tell as to how far we travel/peddle tomorrow.  They are also saying there will be a northwest wind, so Cal hopes to make good time while he is riding.  If the wind is indeed from the northwest, this will be the first westerly wind in 4 days - Cal is ready for the wind to help him move east.    

Sunday, July 3, 2011

Sioux Center, IA to Storm Lake, IA

Today was 76 miles of hills and wind.  Last night we mapped out our route for today, but mid morning we changed our minds due to the need to go through larger towns to find accommodations for tonight. Well we made a mistake, and went south too far by 10 miles.  We were on the north edge of the Loess Hills and riding on roads with constant hills.  Plus the wind was out of the southeast!  It was not an easy day, but even so Cal still rode 76 miles. Positive things of the day – it was cloudy, so the high temperature was 76 – great biking temperature.
Ribbon of Hills
We also encountered a detour as apparently there were flash floods in the past week – we could see the remnants of debris over fences and over corn plants that were already at least 3 ft tall.  Roads were simply washed out, as well as 2 bridges.  To get around the one construction area, we loaded the bike on the rack and we drove on a gravel road.

Today as I was driving it occurred to me that some of our readers have never been to Iowa or even the US, so maybe I need to take photos of things we consider very common.  Those of you who are from Iowa, please be patient.

Some of the things we saw today:

Landscape – Iowa is gentle rolling hills (they are ‘gentle’ if you are not biking!)

Landscape with Ripening Wheat in Foreground 

Landscape of Corn fields
Field terraces – farmers terrace their hilly fields to keep the soil from eroding

Cattle Lots – there are some large cattle lots in northwest Iowa – not as big as in Kansas.

Barn Art – Barn Art is becoming more and more popular in Iowa.  I took 3 photos today
    and I plan to continue developing a collection of barn art.  I turned around to shoot 2 of
    my barn art photos today.

Young Deer Fawn – I saw two small fawn at the edge of a windbreak around a farmstead – they
   still had their spots.
Turkey barns – there are 10 turkey barns this farm.  Interesting they had their own wind
   turbine generators to produce power.

Round barn – Iowa has a few round barns still in existence – very unique
County Court Houses - While crossing Iowa I am going to take photos of the Court Houses of the
               Counties we travel through. This Court House is for Sioux County in Orange City, IA

Hog barns – we have seen and smelled lots of hog barns since being in Iowa! Hopefully will have a good photo tomorrow.

We also traveled through Orange City, IA today.  This area was first settled by Dutch immigrants and still retains heavy Dutch influence. They have a lovely windmill on the edge of town and any new buildings must bare some Dutch building motif. It was nice to drive around town without RAGBRAI being in town!
Orange City, IA - War Memorial with Flags and Dutch Windmill

Orange City Stores with Dutch Facades

Our day ended in Storm Lake - We have been in Storm Lake 3 times on RAGBRAI (Registers Annual Great Bike Ride Across Iowa).  It looked completely different today – there were no bike, no tents, and 15,000 fewer people!!

Tonight there were fireworks over the Lake, but we were/are too tired to go watch them! 

Tomorrow, July 4, we will continue east. Tomorrow is also our son Tony's birthday. 

Saturday, July 2, 2011

Sioux Falls S.D. to Sioux Center, Iowa (91 miles)

It was a beautiful morning, and Cal began riding where he stopped yesterday afternoon due to the storm. He rode 48 miles before reaching the Minnesota border. We had lunch in Hills, Minnesota.  He rode a total of 15 miles in Minnesota before reaching Iowa. We just caught the corner of Minnesota, but that was our 6th state.  Cal rode a total 90 miles today so that we made it to Sioux Center, Iowa by tonight. Cal was ready to stop as the temperature this afternoon was in the mid 80’s and the terrain was rolling hills.    

The crops are looking great in this part of the State, and everything is a healthy green.  The farmers are cutting hay. They even cut the grasses in the ditch and bail them. I like the designs in the fields of new mown hay.
Bailing Hay in the Wide Road Ditches

Design in the Field of Newly Cut Hay

Cal watches his odometer very close as he rides, keeping track of distances he has to go between towns.  Today he realized how accurate the roads are in this part of the country.  They are 1 mile apart regardless which direction you go. He rode 90 miles today, and through the duration of those 90 miles, cross road intersections did not vary – this included going through towns. Surrveyor of long ago were correct.   

The farmsteads in this part of the country have natural windbreaks around their buildings.  Here are photos of a newly planted and another photo of mature plantings.        
Mature Wind Break Around a Homestead

Newly Planted Wind Break

Mature Wind Break Around a Homestead

I took several landscape photos today, but the camera was on a wrong setting, so those photos are too dark.  I will take more tomorrow – beautiful fields of corn and bean, beans and corn, and more corn and beans, but that is our beautiful rolling Iowa.   

It was great to reach Iowa today! Home! Everything is so green!
Minnesota Welcome Sign

Iowa Welcome Sign - Great to be back in the Home State

Tri-State Monument - Location where Iowa, Minnesota, and South Dakota Meet 

Even thought we are in the northwest corner of the State, we are in HyVee land, and Pizza Ranch land (these are two Iowa businesses we began to see today). For those of you who are not from Iowa, HyVee is an employee owned grocery chain in the Midwest with Corporate offices in Iowa.  Cal and I eat breakfast at our local Mt Pleasant HyVee Deli several mornings each week when we are home.  Pizza Ranch is a pizza chain located in small towns in the Midwest.  Just today we learned their corporate offices are in Orange City, Iowa.  They began in the little town of Hull, Iowa. I forget where we were in South Dakota when we saw our first Kum & Go Convenience store, but we knew we were getting close to home!

Sioux Center is town settled by Dutch immigrants and it still has a heavy Dutch influence. Dordt College, a private Reformed College is located here. From the looks of things, it is a growing town. Tomorrow, Sunday, no stores will be open except HyVee and Wal-Mart.    

Friday, July 1, 2011

De Smet, SD to Sioux Falls, SD

It is July 1 already!

The day started sunny with temperatures in the 70’s and only a light breeze. At first I drove with the windows open, but by 11:00 I wanted the air conditioner.  By the time we meet for lunch, the air conditioning at the Subway restaurant was wonderful. However by the weather was changing! Again! The western sky was black with thunderstorms bearing down on us. By this time Cal had ridden 65 miles, so he loaded the bike and we drove south into Sioux Falls for the night. Cal rode until he was approximately 8 miles west of I-29, so we are in the very eastern part of South Dakota. 

Tomorrow we plan to finish South Dakota and then ride/drive through the very southwest corner of Minnesota.  We want to come into the northern part of Iowa, as it is flat. We will be staying north of the Loess Hills in western Iowa.  Cal had ridden enough Loess Hills on RAGBRAI rides.

I guess what really surprised us is how many marshes are in South Dakota – the way they farm around them and their preservation of them. The eastern part of the State also has a lot of lakes – you would think you are in Minnesota (10,000 lakes). The duck and pheasant population was also a surprise.  The farther south and east we came the better their agricultural crops look. The Northern Plains area of the United States definitely are not lacking in rainfall this year.

I only took one photo today – it continues to be marshes, hay fields, wheat, corn, soybeans - until we took a photo of the black clouds in the west.  

The Smell of Newly Mowed Hay - Familiar Sight in SE South Dakota

Afternoon Rain Storm - Brought Bicycling to an end for today