A Random Smattering of Anecdotes

Here are a few things that have happened in just the last few days.

  • A construction worker I was asking directions from in Grinnell (which is an absolutely awesome college town in Iowa) was dumbfounded that I was heading to San Francisco on a bicycle. He gave me a five dollar bill and his phone number; I am to call him when I arrive in SF.
  • I got into a two hour conversation in a restaurant with a woman passing through Grinnell. We talked about her 20-something daughters and how their lives are different from hers as a young woman in America; the hard truths of what we may be facing with the myriad effects of a changing climate (and our collective inability to process just how dramatically we’d have to change to mitigate it); and more than anything, the realization I’m having and that she’s been having for years travelling constantly for work- People are Good. We agreed that when you’re interacting with lots of different people- rather than just seeing them on whichever scaremongering media outlet you choose- you realize that the world is in fact full mostly of kind human beings. She and her boyfriend host Seder dinners where a Somali refugee will be sitting next to a Jewish American, and next to them a white rural farmer. It’s usually a great time. We talked about how your perceptions change when you make yourself, as she puts it, ‘intentionally open.’ She matched the construction worker’s five bucks.
  • As I was riding along some road, I saw in the distance a person on a bike heading my direction. This was…not typical of my location somewhere very outside of Sigourney, Iowa. He crosses over when he gets close. Turns out his buddy had passed me on the road and run in to tell him. He’s 2700 miles into a 5000 mile trip. Started back home in Baton Rouge, worked his way up; next he’s taking the train to Denver, which I’ll be doing at Omaha, and picking up the Transamerica route, same as me. While I’ll be following up with the Pacific Coast route, he’s thinking of going for the Great Divide Mountain Bike Route. We just happened to be between nowhere, Iowa and nowhere, Iowa at the same time.
  • I did some last-minute rethinking of my route to take me north a bit and through Des Moines, rather than tackling a dauntingly remote section of Iowa that I just wasn’t feeling strong about. I found a journal on the touring repository crazyguyonabike.com that went through a beautiful-looking state park for camping and the town of Montezuma. So I followed the route. Slept at the spectactular Diamond Lake State Park and was treated to an incredible sunrise with fog burning off the lake. It was a truly special moment. The town of Montezuma was a wonderful and alive little town.
  • Here in Grinnell, I stopped at the bike shop, where the owner talked with me about my trip. He is working on getting in touch with folks that may host me in the next places I’m heading, and with storms threatening today and tomorrow, he’s putting me up. His shop is a charter for RAGBRAI, the massive weeklong annual bike ride across Iowa. He’s building trailer bunkhouses with A/C and electric for riders to stay in on the upcoming ride. He’s letting me stay in one until weather passes.

So there are a few highlights from a period of about 48 hours on the road.

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