Days 3 thru 4 - Underwater

Cedar Rapids Travel Blog

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Cedar Valley Nature Trail. -Alburnett, IA

FRIDAY 23 JULY 2010
Miles: 73.2
Departure from Dyersville: 10:15 am
Arrival in Cedar Rapids: 7:30 pm
Saddle/Total Time: 7:10:32/9:15
Average Speed: 10.1 mph
Wrong Turns: 2
Temperature: 84*F
Crashes: 0
Money Spent: $1.00

Heavy, heavy thunderstorm last night. Woke up this morning feeling alright. Took advantage of Super 8's complementary breakfast. Pocketed five single-serving jellies for my soynut butter sandwiches. Also pocketed a hand-towel. Felt kind of bad about that one, even though it's nothing.

Rick's great room. -Cedar Rapids, IA


Trying to leave Dyersville today, I am biking alongside the playground when I notice it's all under three feet of water. At a four-way stop, a man in a police SUV shouts at me from the driver's seat. I mishear him. It sounds like he's chastising me for running the stop sign, so I ask him to repeat himself. He tells me that I was about to run the stop sign. I say: "No, I wasn't."

The officer in the passenger seat takes a sip from his Diet Coke. "Where are you going?" he asks. I tell him I'm leaving town south-westerly. He tells me I can't. "All west of here it's flooded." It turns out half of Dyersville is underwater. I ask him whether there's another way. "Highway 138?" he says. I'm not sure where that is or where it will lead me, so I thank them to get them to move on.

I head to the library.
The sun sets on my last day in Cedar Rapids. -Cedar Rapids, IA
It's raining. I ask to use the computers so I can plan a new route out of town. It costs a dollar per half-hour. I find Highway 138 and take it south. Of course, Googlemaps soon has me back on loose gravel. Surprise? no. After cursing the directions to high heavens, walking my loaded bike up steep, muddy inclines, and sliding around on what amounts to nine miles of an overgrown BMX trail, I find pavement again in Hopkinton and decide it's the last straw. I will ask locals for directions from here on out. I would rather ride eight extra miles up the side of a shoulder-less freeway than take an unpaved shortcut. Googlemaps Bike may take elevation into account, but not something more important: the condition of the road itself.

In Coggon, I meet a woman at the post office and ask which direction Alburnett is in. She tells me it's further down IA-13 S - the highway I had ridden in on - and then a right at the sign. I then ask her where I might fill up my water containers and she invites me to her house to fill up all I want.

Outside her house, she asks me which ones I want filled, but then decides to invite me inside altogether. The air conditioning feels nice, coming out from the 94*F heat and 96% humidity. She sets a Diet Lipton Iced Tea and a bowl of grapes in front of me. I fix myself a soynut butter and jelly sandwich. We talk about ourselves and our lives in general. I realize there are many similarities between our families. She puts some cookies in a bag and I'm on my way.

A mile or two south on the Cedar Valley Nature Trail, I meet Rick, my Couchsurfer host. He is a 58-year-old divorced man living alone. We ride the rest of the way into Cedar Rapids and he gives me a brief tour featuring city history. He informs me the city was completely flooded in 2008. Over 10% of its homes were lost and many more damaged.

We eat dinner over the course of two hours at a house which Rick has lived in for 32 years - since 1978 - but alone only for the first year. He bought it for $19,500. Rick has no furniture in his great room besides a reclining chair like those Ab Lounges, except it locks in place so you don't exercise with it. Pictures sit on the floor, leaning against the walls and ready to hang, but there is nothing on the white walls for the most part. There are sconces painted white. There are wall speakers painted white - volume control-knobs in every room, playing music from a receiver he has rigged to all the house's speakers. There is very little inside the place.

Rick likes to talk about a lot of subjects. Economics in particular. He told me the best magazine in the world is The Economist. He has been all over, spent a lot of time in South America - even has a home in Guatemala - and helped start a company called Frontier, an organic coffee company.



SATURDAY 24 JULY 2010
Rest Day.
Money Spent: $105.00

Woke up late. Knew I would not be biking today. I lounged about, resting, then set to contacting Des Moines hosts on Couchsurfers. Planning to go to the bus station tomorrow and ride to Des Moines. I need another day of rest. Not disappointed about traveling some of the way via bus. Also, I bought an Amtrak train ticket from Lincoln to Denver. I know I will not be able to go the distance all the way and make my August 10th deadline to Crestone farms alive. Or anyway, I will feel horrible and have had a horrible time biking 65-70 miles a day. I am biking to have fun, so I won't if it's not going to be. I will plan more carefully for the leg from Longmont, CO to California; more rest, more time off, more fun. I will bike 90% of that leg, if not all of it.

Though he doesn't have much for your average guy, Rick is as generous as anyone I've met. He tells me to help myself to anything in the house and also tells me I can stay until Sunday if I would like, when he leaves town. Not only did he come out to meet me yesterday and guide me into town, but he also drove me to the bike shop to pick up a bike box today. The lady on the bus info line told me I would have to box it. Rick then calls around to his friends and family, trying to find me a ride to the bus terminal tomorrow morning, since he will be rising into the air as I'm rising from bed.

Over lunch, Rick tells me stories today about how he had been held hostage by the PLO in the middle east, and how one of his workers was murdered on a bus in Guatemala City. He drank with the gorillas in Peru. "The commandante was four feet tall. But whatever he told his men to do, they did right away. He was only, like, 20 years old." Rick's interpreter had told him they ought to meet some gorillas at some point, so he agreed and they went. The gorillas were a boisterous, fun-loving group of men that also happened to murder people on a regular basis. "They were trying to decide whether we were bad outsiders; whether or not they should kill us."

'We are very serious people. We only deal with other serious people. Otherwise, we kill them,' Rick's interpreter informed him on the gorillas' behalf. Rick later discovered the gorillas had just killed five military men and had taken over the street the bar was on. They were celebrating. The commandante drunk himself into severe intoxication. The small, young man was spilling drinks, knocking over chairs. "He fucked up everything he touched," says Rick. "But we couldn't laugh."

Rick takes me to his friend Patley's house for a grill-out. There are many people, all related or tied in some way. We then go to Wal-Mart. He is buying some food to take with him to Disney World in Florida tomorrow. He is going with his children and grandchildren. On the way home, we take IA-13, the highway on which I rode from Ryan to Alburnett. Rick tells me a story of his friend, named Bear, who was struck on his bicycle and killed over thirty years ago on IA-13. It happened at an intersection, as the car was turning off the highway. "They couldn't have been going very fast," Rick says.

After the sun has set, Rick shows me his heated and air-conditioned garage. The inside of it looks nothing like the inside of his house. It is packed with all sorts of thirty years' magazine subscriptions - some in order, some not - sofas, easychairs, a pool table, and workshop-type equipment. One wall is spray-painted by a hired artist with vehicle-themed graffiti. Rick tells me the story of the red rug we are standing on. He had left it un-picked-up at the store for two years, originally intending to put it in his cabin. Sometime after deciding that he wouldn't put it there, he went to claim it. The employee at the store said: "No we don't hold rugs for people." But when Rick repeated his full name, the employee said: "Richard? You're Richard?! You're famous! We have your rug."

lewismc13 says:
Ted, sounds like you've had a rough, yet interesting start. It's awesome how many cool people you've already encountered! It's nice to know there are still good people out there in the world :) Hope the weather cooperates for you this week. Have a good one!
Posted on: Jul 25, 2010
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