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On the road again


By the time you read this, Sabra and I should be mid-way through our annual bicycle ride.
We’ve been taking the two-week excursion each year for the past decade. Several trips have seen us through Wisconsin, and at least once we’ve rolled over Illinois, Missouri, Pennsylvania, Minnesota, Germany and Italy.
No matter where we go, we always manage to do two things really well: get lost and take lots of photos.
There was a hot afternoon in Madison, Wisconsin, when we seemed to have entered a singularity, a twilight zone that caused us to circle back to the city no matter how hard we tried to continue on west to Milwaukee. There was the time I asked a couple in a parked car for directions to the town’s restaurant and they simultaneously pointed in exactly opposite directions. While at the intersection of two curvy roads of Door County, Wisconsin, Sabra and I studied a map for a half hour, arguing about exactly where we were on the Rand McNally. After coming to an agreement, we rolled forward about 10 feet and discovered a street sign telling us that we were smack dab in the middle of the only place we didn’t consider.
Because of this, we’ve opted to take long trails like the Elroy/Sparta in Wisconsin, the Katy in Missouri, the Cumberland/C&O Canal in Pennsylvania. It’s a lot harder to get lost when all you have to do is stay on the trail, but not impossible, as we’ve proven time and again. We also gravitate to trails because they are a lot more relaxing to ride. With no cars zooming by, we can ride side-by-side listening to a small stereo or even in a moment of marital bliss, talk with each other. The trails, built atop old rail beds, are also very flat and scenic.
There are down sides to trails, however. They can be very secluded and lonely. We rode the Rib Mountain trail to Green Bay a few years back and we passed exactly one person on a 50-mile day. Sabra got his photo. On the other hand, they can be too crowded, like the trails in and around Washington, D.C. Also, the monotony of mile after mile of flat, compact gravel can wear on the nerves as wells as the chain and gears.
Whatever, it is all documented visually by Sabra whose motto is “if in doubt take a photo of it.”
To date, we have driven or flown to our starting point every time, but this year we are doing something different: riding out our own front door. If all has gone as planned, we should be on day six as you read this and saddled up in Winterset, doing a day ride to the Bridges of Madison County. To get here we first rode 42 mile to Keota, where our friend Marjorie maintains the Elmhurst House, a rambling and historic bed and breakfast on the edge of town. From there we pedaled another 48 miles to get to Oskaloosa, 18 miles to Pella, and 66 miles to Winterset.
This all assumes the weather and wind cooperated and we didn’t get lost. If need be, we can shorten rides or even stay an extra night in any given town.
If all does go as planned, tomorrow we turn north to Des Moines to attend an Iowa (wait-until-next-year) Cubs baseball game. Then on to Ames and back to Iowa City by way of Marshalltown, Tama, Vinton and Cedar Rapids.
I’ll try to file my column from the road.
Note to would-be house burglars: Pearl, our attack Labradoodle, is on duty as is a house sitter, several neighbors and an old motorcycle riding buddy from California named Jax Teller. Trespassers will be shot; survivors hung.
But right now, we should be looking for the Northside Café and the fourth stool from the front where Clint Eastwood sat in a scene from the movie “Bridges of Madison County.” Sabra wants to get a photo of me sitting on it.