Day 29: Cascade, IA – Elkader, IA

HAPPY BIRTHDAY MAMA!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

In celebration of having the best mother on earth, I was granted an amazing day of cycling. It all started last night after I posted about day 28…

After leaving the library, I walked my bike to the Corner Tap, a tavern run by a man named Tom. It had been recommended to me by the lady working at the town hall who I’d spoken with when I found the police office to be closed. As I was walking there (just a few blocks) a man stopped me. He was sitting on a ledge by a big brick building and he made a comment about all my stuff, in a “I’m amazed you can bike with all that!” kind of way. Really sweet. We got to talking, and he asked about my trip. I told him where I’d started from, and where I was pointing to. His response: “I’m giving you 5 bucks for dinner.” It wasn’t a question. It was an emphatic statement. I told him he was really kind, but it was quite alright. He insisted. I introduced myself and asked his name. He said, “My name is Mike, not that it matters.” I told him it matters more to me than he might imagine. My adventure across the US has been so blessedly full with friendly encounters like this one. Plus, I told him, my Papa’s name is Mike, so there was no way I’d forget him. He chuckled. I promise you, I’m not going around with my helmet out asking for food. Everywhere I go I meet tremendously generous people. Mike was only the tippy-top of the iceberg…

I get to Tom’s tavern and park Guffy at the side of the building. I go inside, and maybe 10 people are sitting at the bar but there is no bartender. I sit down (one seat away from the nearest person, because I smell horrid…) and wait. About 10 minutes in, I casually ask the man next to me if he knows who runs the place. I’m told that they are probably back cooking and the place is so casual I could just as easily serve myself. I have patience and nowhere I’d rather be, so I keep waiting, and we start talking. Thus I meet Jake and Ally, (I’m sorry I didn’t ask how you spell your name! If I’m spelling it wrong, just let me know and I’ll correct it!!!) to Cascade residents about my age. We talk about everything from bike touring, to WarmShowers to Nebraska. It was awesome to have a quality conversation at the end of a hard day of biking. Soon enough, Tom comes out and I order dinner. More talking and waiting and prolific consumption of ice water. Tom comes out and asks about my trip (while provisioning me with the absolute best onion rings I have ever tasted). He shakes his head and walks off. A few minutes later, he comes back and says he told the men at the end of the bar about my adventure, and one of them wants to buy me a beer. I laugh, but tell him I’m just working on hydrating and will have to pass. Then I think better of it. Who am I to turn down a beer!? I gratefully accept, and have my first ever Busch Light. Jake, Ally and I keep talking till I notice the sun is going down. I need to get to the Legion Park before too long, so I’m getting ready to ask for the check and Ally says not to worry about it – they want to get my meal! I’m already in love with Cascade! I leave Mike’s $5 as a tip for Tom, and I roll over to the park to set up my tent thinking about how absolutely grateful I am for all the wonderful people I’ve met along the way…

Not two minutes after I arrive at the park (and notice a fire in one of the trash bins – oops!) up pulls a car. It’s Ally and Jake! They say the idea struck them that I might as well camp at their place rather than the park, for their peace of mind, and so I can take a shower. Can you see the grin on my face as I’m writing this??? Too kind! I follow their car back about 5 blocks to their house, set up my tent, take a glorious shower, and fall asleep absolutely content. The world is an amazing place, and Cascade, IA is full of amazing people!

Wow. So on that note, I can start writing about today. πŸ™‚ I woke up at 5:30 and snoozed till 6. I packed up and started my ride to a glorious sunrise. That’s how you know the day will be good! I’m kicking myself for not taking pictures last night or this morning. Maybe Jake and Ally can send me a picture of Cascade so I can post it. Gorgeous town! Thanks to some recommendations from locals, I went off the ACA route and took 136 to Dyersville, saving me about 10 miles. The road wasn’t too busy, and I was grateful for the miles saved!

On my way out of Cascade, I stopped and picked up coffee which I drank while looking over maps in a small town between Cascade and Dyersville. Mmm…

In Dyersville I called Mama to sing to her. While I was singing, I saw this truck go by. Mama’s birthday present for when our pigmy goats arrive???

There were also a plethora of beautiful old cars. See exhibit A:

…And a beautiful Catholic Cathedral. There was a funeral taking place, and the bells were simultaneously melodious and eerie. I felt awkward taking a picture, but I wanted to be able to remember the church. I was able to give my condolences as I passed some of the attendants.

After Dyersville, it was a long haul to Petersburg, including about 6 additional miles that I added by not paying attention to road signs. The road I was on was so desolate I was listening to Spanish lessons. I got caught up in how to ask for beer (I swear, today’s lesson was about money, food, and beer. Very interesting.) and went straight past my turn. Oops! Once I realized, I decided to put the ipod away for the day. Listening to music or language lessons or podcasts really makes the time go more quickly when you are by yourself, but I guess the moral of the story is you can still zone out too much even when there are no cars around to keep your attention!

Big grain storage area in Petersburg…

It caught my eye because as you enter the town, you see both the storage bins and the Catholic Church, one on either side of the road. The thought struck me of the parallel between the physical work that people do and the spiritual. I’m sorry I couldn’t get a picture of them both together. Quite the juxtaposition!

Here’s the church. First consecrated church in Iowa, apparently.

After Petersburg came Colesburg, population 400-ish. I stopped for a shade break. It was in the mid 90s today. Hot hot hot.

As I pulled up, a lady invited me to sit and rest in the Gazebo. She was watering the flowers and tidying up the Veteran’s Memorial. There was no cell reception, so no texting, no emailing. I ate a Lara Bar (tangent: it really is too bad that Lara Bar doesn’t sponsor individuals. I eat SO MANY cherry bars!!! They are my absolute favorite. I don’t eat any other flavor, and if they knew that I was single-handedly keeping them in business, they would sponsor me! Hehe.) and drank my water. In short order, I fell into a conversation with Janice.

At first Janice kept on watering while we talked, but after a while she came and sat with me in the gazebo. Watering would recommence at 5, she said, once the sun wasn’t so brutal. We talked and talked and talked… about the importance of studying history, about diversity, the military, the world. We talked about how wonderful it is to put yourself outside your comfort zone and to explore beyond the bubble of your daily life. We also talked about family. She and her husband are researching their genealogies and she was able to visit one of her distant ancestor’s graves. She imagined that when he came to the US he could never have thought that one day his distant relative would come back to find his grave, to remember him. How wonderful to reflect on all the people who make us who we are, whether our relatives or the people who influence our lives. I told her about Mike and Jake and Ally, and the numerous amazing people I’ve met so far on this journey. I met them all so briefly, but they’ve left great impressions on me.

We finally parted ways and I headed into the library to fill up my water bottles. I’m serious, the libraries (and the librarians!) along my route have been phenomenal! (I write this from the Elkader Public Library, by the way…)

The views today have been significantly different than the past week. I’m in the gateway to hill country, which effectively means hill country. The climbing can be rough, but the views are breathtaking, and the descents are really fun.

This picture doesn’t really do justice (it’s that 2-D phenomenon problem… losing the depth is so frustrating! Eek.)

It was 24ish miles from Colesburg to Elkader. I Luv this snowplow and I Luv bicycling!

When I finally rolled into Elkader, I was greeted by a beautiful little town. Elkader is the county seat of Clayton County. I felt like I was in the Northeast again! The Turkey river runs through town, and there is a beautiful stone bridge spanning it.

“Longest double arch stone bridge west of the Mississippi.”

I decided it was time for Mama’s birthday celebrations to commence. I found just the place.

I was so excited to see that they served espresso that I even got that, despite it being about 4:30 in the afternoon. I told the barista that while I appreciate gas station coffee for what it is, there just isn’t anything like really quality coffee. She got a chuckle out of my enthusiasm. πŸ™‚ Mmm… crema!

And for Mama, a scoop of strawberry ice cream! (Not Sarvari… but still tasty! Orias gomboc!) Only thing better is if I’d had a candle. Maybe by the 12th for Papa’s birthday!

And that’s where my day stands! It is 6:15 now and I’m off to find the city park where I’ll be camping tonight. I was able to catch the librarian just before she closed the library at 5 in order to obtain the wireless password. She also informed me that the lobby area remains open 24 hours, so I’m sitting in a nice cool lobby and charging my electronics as I type. Today was a seriously successful day!

Thanks for bearing with my excessive typings! I really enjoy recapping everything at the end of the day. πŸ™‚ Tomorrow I’m off to Lansing and my last night in Iowa before jumping into Wisconsin for a bit before Minnesota! I’ve heard amazing things about the camp I’m staying at tomorrow. It is a barn that a farmer has opened up to bike tourists. If it is 20% of what its reputation makes it out to be, it will be glorious!

Mental hugs, and happy Friday!

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5 Responses to Day 29: Cascade, IA – Elkader, IA

  1. bethandmarty says:

    We always hear about all the bad things going on in the world, but then we read your blog and realize there are a lot of good things going on as well. So many good people who have touched your life as you have touched there lives on your amazing journey!

  2. Hey Flavia,

    It’s so fun keeping track of you through this blog! Let me know if you are passing through the Iowa Great Lakes area (Spirit Lake)… I might be able to hook you up with shower/meal/place.

    The rolling hills of Iowa are beautiful…doesn’t come across in pictures, you’re right!

    M

  3. Regina says:

    Hi Flavi,

    It is so great to read your blog. I am a real fan of you and I am exited to read the upcoming reports. You are doing so great riding your bike throug the US and after all this to write this incredible blog 😊

    I wish you all the best for your trip.

    Love
    Regina πŸŒΊπŸ‘πŸŒ…πŸ€
    Regina

  4. Luke Henriksen says:

    Really great meeting you! I wish we had a chance to talk longer. Best wishes

    -Luke The Bartender

  5. sea mik_c says:

    best birthday post . . . ever!

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