This was a short day for us in which we made our way out of Iowa City to get back on course. We’d gotten advice from bikers on the best routes to Muscatine and, as we left, we noticed the bank sign reading 88 degrees at 9:00. (Everyplace we stopped, the temperature was the main topic of conversation.) We didn’t feel rushed (with only 45 miles to go) but the roads didn’t really have good shoulders and from time to time, big trucks blew by us, so it still had a kind of intensity. It was a beautiful Iowa day that reminded us of Grant Wood paintings. But it was hot, and the gnats are really amazingly annoying if you stop the bike. We made our way into Muscatine and straight to a bike shop we’d heard about from friends. Not because we needed work done, necessarily, but I wanted my brakes looked at and some cleaning and lubing done. I don’t think we’ll see another bike shop for a long time, and our experiences yesterday just made me want to have someone else look them over. The shop is Harper’s Bicycling and Fitness, and the elder Mr. Harper is a legend in Iowa biking. His son Greg looked over our bikes while we walked across the street for fish tacos and Coronas. The Harpers have a great collection of antique velocipedes among the shiny new Treks. I picked up a couple more tools and tire patches (and something called Bug Soothe which is supposed to keep the gnats away) and then Mr. Harper hopped on a bike and led us to the trail that runs along the river and up to our hotel.
It was fun to be met by our friends Lynne and Nancy for dinner downtown, and they were probably the last familiar faces we’ll see for some time.
Tomorrow, it gets real. We cross the bridge into Illinois and will begin biking into completely new (to us) country. Our plan is to cycle south on the Illinois side of the river and camp down near a town called Dallas City, Illinois. It’s about a seventy mile day. Then next day, we ride to Hannibal, MO, and take our first day off. As we move farther south, the whole thing seems like it is gaining momentum, and when we tell people we are from Minnesota, it seems to make more of an impression.