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On the road again

Walkin'

This year’s ride started as planned Thursday morning. After winding our way through the familiar streets and trails of Iowa City we soon found ourselves on Black Diamond Road, a remote ribbon of tar going from nowhere to no place. Sometimes I wonder why I love cycling but rolling quietly over roads like the Black Diamond brings it all back. It’s the sun on your back, the forgotten cemetery you would have missed if in a car, the smell of clover, the time to remember and reflect while you inch your way along… At mile 16 we arrived at the KTZ’s Roadhouse in Windham.
The village of Windham was platted in 1854 with hopes that train tracks would soon follow. Its only road, “Railroad Street,” and any hope of becoming a town, are no longer there other than a half dozen homes and KTZ’s.
The Roadhouse is a big step up from the tavern called Sokup’s that used to be located next door. I came across the establishment in the early 1980s. As publisher of The Johnson Country Farmer, a now-defunct monthly publication serving the agricultural community of the county, I felt it was my duty to drop in on businesses and introduce myself. I enjoyed the responsibility, and if I got a beer in the process, so much the better. Hunkered into a small Quonset hut, about half the already small space was devoted to a couple of shelves of grocery items. A deep layer of dust coated just about everything including a display of Twinkies, no doubt as edible as the decade they were manufactured. On the bar side, Mr. Sokup dozed, his chair leaning back against a wood stove, the only source of heat in the poorly insulated metal structure.
The outcome of waking sleeping men is about as predictable as waking sleeping dogs, I believe, but I risked a “excuse me, can I have a beer?” question nevertheless. The reward proved to be worth the risk as the sleeping barkeep was talkative and interesting; the beer cheep.
From KTZ’s, we backtracked slightly on Black Diamond and headed south on the Orville Yoder Turnpike, named most likely as the result of an inside joke only known to Orville and a few close associates. Turning west and then south we arrived at Bender’s Bar and Restaurant in Wellman. We were soon glad we only partook of ice tea at Bender’s as a steep climb awaited us as we left town.
We arrived without incident (well, we did make one wrong turn which caused us to ride on gravel for a mile) at the Elmhurst House, a sprawling, 10,000 square foot, Bed & Breakfast in the little town of Keota. We’ve been guests a few times now and have become friends with owner/operator Marjorie. I’ve known a lot of interesting people in my day, but I’d nominate her for the world’s most interesting lady. Among other things, she’s had many near-death experiences as documented in earlier columns. On this visit I learned of two more: she almost died of Lyme disease and asphyxiation.
Total distance for the day was 48 miles with about 1,300 feet of climbing.