July 12, 1999 - Day 37 - Chariton to Burlington, Iowa

124 miles! - 16.2 mph average - 2334 total miles - max speed 35.3 mph

54 roadkill

IMPORTANT CHANGE FOR ALL THOSE PLANNING TO RIDE IN WITH ME TOMORROW, JULY 14!!! WE HAVE MOVED THE START POINT FROM SANDWICH TO OSWEGO (MILEAGE ERROR). MEET AT THE OSWEGO HIGH SCHOOL PARKING LOT BETWEEN 1:00 AND 1:30 AND HOPEFULLY I'LL BE THERE BY THEN TO LEAVE WITH YOU. (Of course I'll be there. Would I let you down?)
KEEP READING: (I'm tellin' you, these high school kids today!). IF YOU NEED TRANSPORTATION FOR YOUR BICYCLE AND YOURSELF, CALL MRS. GRAHAM NOW AT 717-8027 FOR INSTRUCTIONS.
TELL ANY OF YOUR FRIENDS ABOUT THIS CHANGE. THIS IS THE ONLY PLACE THIS INFORMATION APPEARS.

AND FINALLY, I FORGOT TO MENTION THIS BEFORE - YOU MUST HAVE A HELMET FOR THIS RIDE. I REFUSE TO BE ONLY GEEK OUT THERE WEARING ONE. WE'LL ALL LOOK LIKE GEEKS TOGETHER!!! YES!

    A special welcome today to the readers of the Ottumwa Courier (Southern Iowa's Best Newspaper). Route 99 is being featured in today's edition of that newspaper. We hope you get a good look at what high school students in America are REALLY like as you browse the web site.

    A record-smashing day today. 124 miles, my all-time high. Weather conditions were ideal, there was no wind to speak of, and Iowa pretty much flattened out by the time I reached Ottumwa and crossed the Des Moines River. I'm guessing that I hit that part of the midwest that's been glaciated. Can someone tell me for sure?
    Let me put that 124 miles in perspective: it's twice the daily average I planned before the trip. 70 miles of it was done after 3:30. I could have done more but ran out of daylight.
    Of course, tonight at about 3:30 I'll probably wake up in the shape of a pretzel.

White Lines and no shoulder
White Line Fever
    One reason I did all those miles today was because I was feeling increasingly uneasy about Iowa's lack of protection for bicyclists in not providing any kind of paved shoulder. This is it, just like this, all the way across the state. It's the only state I've been through that does this, and when I ran into Stephen two days ago, he said it's the only state he's seen it in all the way from New York.
    Because the Iowa Department of Transportation does this, it leads more Iowans to be rude to cyclists because we must be out in the lane of traffic. I don't know why they get mad at us, but they do. I've said the big rig drivers are the best, and that is generally true, but if I ever could get my hands on the guy driving that Walmart semi, I'd give him more than a piece of my mind; it's unconscionable to play with someone's life like that. (He laid on the horn and cut it close and didn't have to.)
    Iowa is very proud of its huge ride across the state (going off next week). It's called RAGBRAI and thousands participate. They should not be proud of what happens to cyclists in their state the other 51 weeks of the year.
    Several people gave me the same story about the farmers needing the gravel to drive their tractors on. That must be some kind of party line or something. Nebraska farmers seem to do just fine driving their tractors on the paved shoulder there.

Wapello County
Wapello County
    The accent is on the first syllable, please, and is named after the Indian chieftain by the same name. I love how we chase 'em off, then name everything after them.
    I started the day in Lucas County, then Monroe (John Cermak), Wapello (Stephanie Achtien), Jefferson (not done), Henry (Allain Kintenaar), and finally Des Moines (done, but I can't remember by whom). Check the info maps. A couple of these sites are really good.
    And for my old friend Steve Rostron, do you know who's a native of Des Moines County? None other than our old buddy Fred Mertz (William Frawley)!! We hated every character on that show except him.

A sign reading Wemon
Great combination: lack of education AND respect for women
    I'm glad I can't remember the town where I saw this sign. It was early in the day, and this whole store had that kind of feel to it.

Airpower sign
Wow, only 7 miles from Belgrade!!

Chebuhar
Catherine Chebuhar, owner of the Ottumwa Dairy Queen
    When I got to Ottumwa I took Business Rte. 34 into town and came across Catherine's Dairy Queen. I ordered the extra large root beer float and she began asking questions about the bike trip. Within a few minutes, she was calling the local paper, the Courier, to see if they'd send someone out.
    And sure enough, they did. Duane Nollen was the reporter and Dani Ellison was the photographer. We talked for about a half hour, maybe forty five minutes. They said Route 99 would be featured in the next day's edition of the paper.

Duane and Dani
Duane and Dani - the tables are turned
    I then turned the tables on them and told them I needed their picture for the web site. And so here they are with the tools of their trade. Thanks, you two. I appreciated your professional approach to your job, and your quick response to a local interest story. That tells me you've got a good newspaper going there. Good luck to you both.

    I left Ottumwa at about 3:30 and just began to make miles. When you're not in sync, you look down at the odometer about every 1/10th of a mile, and it hasn't moved. When you're IN sync, you don't care about the odometer, and when you look, three or four miles have peeled off.
    That's the way the rest of the afternoon went. 70 miles, then 80, then 95 in Mt. Pleasant with some daylight left. I felt good. I can GET to Burlington.
    One reason was a telephone call I had with Lois last night. Besides just feeling good all over after the call, she had told me to eat right - that it had sounded like I hadn't been. And she was right. Partly, it was just difficult finding good food farther west, but mostly I'd been letting myself slip.
    So I got back on track today with a lot of help from the HyVee food stores located usually right on Rte. 34 in most of the decent-sized towns. First, they have good bananas, and I hadn't been buying bananas for more than a week. Mistake.
    Second, they had either an in-store restaurant or at least a really good deli. Quick, cheap, nutritious variety. Excellent.
    So I ate good food today, and I believe it really made a difference.

Gambling
Near the River
    Sadly, the first sign that I'm nearing the Mississippi River is not a geographic or geologic one. I simply do NOT understand our national mania with throwing our money away in this manner.

    Side note on the past week or so. In general I've been following what is now the Burlington Northern/Santa Fe tracks. I've told you how I love to hear the sound of that diesel horn wailing across the fields, from near or far.
    Whenever a freight comes within sight, I'll give the engineer the 'highball' sign, learned in my days working in the CNW yards at Proviso. (Of course, no train could highball in the yards, but we learned the signal for it.)
    I think every engineer likes to see that signal (Sociology students, it's symbolic interaction, right??) for a couple of reasons: even if they can't go full throttle, they'd like to, and it tells them a fellow railroader is on the other end ot the signal.
    And so I always get a good long blast on the whistle from them. I like the connection.

Tomorrow? Old Man River and the Land of Lincoln! I'm pretty excited to be reaching Illinois. I'll be home soon!!

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