Day 8 - Iowa's Bumpered Bowling Alley
Council Bluffs Travel Blog› entry 8 of 16 › view all entries
WEDNESDAY 28 JULY 2010
Departure from Portsmouth: 7:50 am
Arrival in Council Bluffs: 10:25 pm
Saddle/Total Time: 2:24:32/2:35
Average Speed: 15.1 mph
Wrong Turns: 0
Money Spent: $8.16
I left my favorite, a $17, pair of underwear at St. Mary's in Portsmouth. I was hurrying along this morning and must have forgotten them on the bathroom floor after I changed into my cycling shorts. I was nine miles down Highway 191 when I realized it. It was one of those times when you've left something behind on a trip and, even though you aren't searching for it the next day, it suddenly pops into your head as you replay the morning's events. Damn, I can't recall picking them up and putting them into my bag...
Highway 191 is blessed flat. It runs down a river valley all the way between Portsmouth and Council Bluffs. There is no shoulder, like most highways in Iowa, but also like most highways in Iowa, it isn't trafficed too bad. I cruised so fast today that I only had the courage to stop once, when I needed to urinate, 3 miles south of Underwood, in a cornfield. I then ate two peices of my very fine, homemade Nishna Bakery Danish Rye.
Denise greets me at her front door. The O'Tooles are bikers as well. Denise has ridden the full RAGBRAI twice. Dennis: I don't know how many times. I shower up and rest, then Denise and I head out for errands. She tells me about another Warmshowers guy who passed through some time ago: Ho, a Chinese man my age, was biking in the same direction. "He was a little guy, too," says Denise. "He was riding on a mountain bike! Rudded tires and all. He told me he walked his bike up most hills." I think back to yesterday, coming west over the countless hills from Guthrie Center, and shake my head. Later, Dennis would add to Ho's legacy: He spent every night on picnic table benches. Without bug spray.
This further puts to rest any inner conflicts I had about whether taking a train compromises my 'tough-guy' façade; it was compromised from the day I began. Well, it was never a figment to begin with.
After a short grocery pitstop, Denise and I stop in a California Trails museum and learn about the people who headed west 160 years ago on the Oregon, California, Mormon, and other Trails. The place is full of miniature, interpretive metal-working constructions of settlers and Native Americans interacting. A quote on one of the displays reads:
Who is there that does not recollect their first night when started on a long journey, the wellknown voices of our friends still ringing in our ears, the parting kiss feels warm still upon our lips, and that last separating word Farewell! sinks deeply into the heart. It may be the last we ever hear from some or all of them, and to those who start... there can be no more solemn scene of parting only at death.
Everyone on the west-bound trails in the 1850s topped both bikers, Ho and I, as far as toughness goes.
The clerk-lady tells Denise and I the museum is closing in five minutes. We go to pick up two of her and Dennis' granddaughters. One, Emma-Kate, is four-years-old and the other, Raven, is nine. They spend Wednesday nights at the house with their "nanny" and grandpa. We have sweet corn and BLTs for dinner. As the food is being prepared, I'm upstairs on my computer, watching a TED.com talk featuring John Francis [http://www.ted.com/talks/lang/eng/john_francis_walks_the_earth.html], a man who spent 24 years without ever riding in or driving a gas-powered vehicle after witnessing an oil spill in San Francisco in 1971. John walked across the country back and forth several times (he sailed across the seas, or built himself wooden rafts to travel down rivers, Huckleberry Finn-style). Also, he did not utter a word for 17 years straight. So I guess Ho, the Chinese guy, isn't all that hardcore. John Francis is equal to the pioneers in toughness. Me? I'm Paris Hilton.
The O'Tooles and I go to a park in Council Bluffs to watch live vocal jazz. The band plays well, but the park is right beneath the thouroughway of a nearby airport; flights leaving the city obfuscate the lead-woman's trained, gravelly voice. The weather, at 71*F, is just about as great as it gets. Kids play as a crowd of older folks sit in folding chairs in a half-circle, watching the band. The band ends with "At Last."
The O'Tooles and I drive over to the newer, $20 million pedestrian bridge that spans the Missouri River. The suspension towers reach high into the sky, cables splaying from them. The cables vibrate like mute cello strings. At one point on the bridge, you can stand in both Iowa and Nebraska at the same time. I planned on crossing into Nebraska for the first time via bike, but I actually do it on foot. Dennis and I discuss the difference between Omaha weather and Madison's. People are out on bikes as early as January some years. This surprises me. The fact that Omaha has skyscrapers also surprises me.
Dennis tells me the bridge was controversial on account of its pricetag and its eastern landing, which leads into the back of some neighborhood. "The people of Omaha have this thing against the people in Council Bluffs. They call this the bridge to nowhere," says Dennis.
At the house, before bed, we have ice cream. I read two bedtime stories to little Emma-Kate, who has almost all night been asking me whether I will stay two nights. It would have been nice to stay another...