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Day 56 - Bennett Park to Davenport, IA
Fog! Everything is dripping wet, get out as fast as possible without breakfast, riding with flashlights, not even early Sunday Morning churchgoers on Hway 130 South, everything grey. That was how I got into Davenport two and a half hours late and just as I crossed the city limits, the sun broke through the fog, timidly at first but getting stronger. I met my warmshowers host Ann at Centennial Park and we decided to have a little breakfast in a restaurant she regularly visits. We talked about cycling tours, she had wonderful stories, one of which was about the Glacier National Park Park's Road Going to the Sun - that road I personally could not enjoy because of the ongoing fires ... When she and her friends reached the starting point of that long climb at West Glacier it was already 3 pm and they had to decide whether or not to go up. The middle top section was closed to cars on the 20th of June due to snow but cyclists were allowed to pass. When they reached the first gate that blocked the cars it was possible to squeeze through the rock on the one side and the gate's pole and when they reched top it was already getting dark. They quickly took their pictures nd went on to the second gate. This time, however, there was no space to squeeze the bikes through on the mountain side so they had to find some other way to cross the locked gate. The only way was to lift the bikes around the gate post on the precipice side of the mountain - hopefully without falling down, or dropping a bike down that cliff! So they inched one bike after another around that post without really seeing anything. Ann said that it would have been even more terrifying in daylight! So, finally they rode down in complete darkness that wonderful road which in daytime presents one of the most magnificent views imaginable ... Project Renewal Ann, who took me into her house as a warmshowers host, manages a non-profit social project in Daventon which has been caring for underpriviledged children between 6 and 18 years of age since 1974. On the wall there is a photograph with Mother Theresa in front of this very building - a picture that was taken in 1976. Ann's energy and intelligence is palpable throughout the cosy old building in which up to 40 kids are helped to deal not only with school issues and homework but are given a haven against the different every-day problems they have to live with. The description on their website describes the organizations' aims better than I can: http://www.projectrenewal.net
Day 55 - Dyersville to Bennett Park
Nearing my stepping stone to Chicago in Davenport, IA, I did a fairly long run of 130 km and decided to call it quits at Bennett Park, a small campground 2 miles south of Bennett. Only two campers were present and later these very friendly people told me about a charity party going on that evening in Bennett with a frog jumping contest. I wanted to see this! Not since Mark Twain had I heard of people betting on whose frog would first jump across the circle line!
Two people with their giant frogs make their animals jump in the desired direction but without touching them. The winner gets to start in the next round. This is not a cheap undertaking, since the frogs are "sold" at a starting price of 100$ up to 300$ a piece. This money goes to the community's fire station and even the winner usually gives most of his earnings back to the community. Live music and of course lots of beer form the backdrop to this bucolic rural pastime.
And then I met Kris and Dave Wendt (German ancestry, of course, like almost everyone here ...). These two own and manage a farm here in Bennett and spontaneously invite me to pay them a visit on Tuesday, together with my son, This might be an interesting impression of rural life in Iowa! Now all I have to do is persuade the young man to spend an hour on a farm... 😉
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Day 54 - Monona, IA to Dyersville, IA 28 Aug 2015
My most uncomfortable (riding) day so far - who said this was supposed to be fun!?!
90 km against the wind, constant rain and then first signs of an approaching conjunctivitis! My right eye has started to pain and is constantly wet. I covered the eye against the wind with my buff for the last 20 km but I am glad that from Monday I will have some rest from the wind when Niklas and I will be touring by car for a week. I have always known that my bifocal phototropic glasses are great but don't really shut out the wind enough. I can't stand lenses so I need correctional glasses. Bought closer fitting sunglasses today but I don't see as well .... A ver lo que pasa... as the Spanish say.
I have entered "Catholic" country, or so it seems. I came across the "first consecrated church" of Iowa in Petersburg and quite a few farm houses are decorated with statues of the Madonna ...
Saints Peter and Paul Catholic Church is a parish of the Archdiocese of Dubuque. The church is located in Petersburg, Iowa, United States and is listed on the National Register of Historic Places.
The first church building for Saints Peter and Paul parish was constructed of limestone in 1868. The present church was completed in 1906. It was constructed in cut-stone in the Gothic Revival style. The interior contains an intricately carved high altar, dark woods and gold trim.
Completely wet, I checked into a motel in Dyersville today ...
Today I again had one of those short but significant encounters which either oppose or confirm what you seem to know about this country. When I came into the Super 8 motel - an international chain present in Europe, too - the manager handed me over to a lady in her early fifties to check me in. It turned out that I was her very first customer and that the manager was guiding her through the computer-based check-in procedure. Both were very concentrated on the process and later the manager thanked me for my patience - well, I wasn't going to run away ...
Later I met the manager in the cafeteria again and she told me that this was the fourth person she had trained for this position but that she had a good feeling about her. I asked about the previous people and she went through them all: there was a young man in his late twenties who left after a short time because he had something to do with dealing drugs; a 19-year-old decided to go back to school ("school" in the US includes higher education such as college) and the last one in the trio finally found a full-time job so here she was, training the fourth person in a row, hoping she would stay on a while.
"But it's nicer than working alone after my other job," she added. "Why, for you this is a part time job, too?" I asked. "Yes, I used to get by with this job here, but my health insurance has increased its rates so much that I had to get another job last year. I just didn't want to tap into my savings so I got a morning job at a school just across from where I live."
"That sounds good," I said and she replied, "Yes, it's easy work, I clean tables and help the kids with their morning meal."
Many people here seem to have more than one job, especially if they work in the service industry ...
And the issue of health insurance arises again and again in my conversations. In Montana, the state where everybody! seemed to be Republican and some openly expressed their hatred towards President Obama and, basically, any form of government at all, even mentioning the word "health insurance" automatically led to the exclamation "ObamaCare is killing our country, our way of life and the Health Industry!" (cf a previous post)
I close this evening with listening to a concert by the Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra ... Life is great!
No pics, sorry
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Day 53 - Lansing, IA to Monona, IA
Today I learned about "Effigy Mounds" created by the Native people of North America between approximately 1000 BC and 1200 AD; for over two thousand years these gathering and hunting peoples created different types of hills, called effigy mounds. Within these, archaelogists found burial sites but also remnants of the culture these peoples left behind such as pottery, jewellery, flint tools ... The shape of these mounds could be oblong or show the outline of animals such as bears. The question on "why" these huge mounds were formed has been hard to answer. It is a fact, however, that over a period of two thousand years different cultures came together every year in an area where they might gather, hunt,bury their deceased whose bones they carried with them until they reached this place, and strengthen ties with their neighbors. It seems they used baskets and furs to gather material and bone or wooden hoes to pile up "their" mounds. The archaelogical excavations have been prohibited by law now so what is still there, will be there for a very long time to come.
More information can be found here. Very interesting! http://www.nps.gov/efmo/index.htm
My hike took me up high onto a bluff over the Mississippi from where I had a magnificent view. I had a nice chat with the park ranger and a local biker (he was astonished I had no motor ....). When I told them the annecdote with getting rid of my bear spray both laughed and their unanimous comment was, "Oh those ignorant Westerners ..."! After all, we are now a lot closer to the "civilized" East Coast, aren't we 😉
My day's ride ended after a long steep climb, which I thoroughly enjoyed since always going flat is somewhat boring - my wife thinks I'm either crazy or hyperactive to feel this way ... Love you, Sue! So I'm now in Monona, IA in a fantastic city park WITH FREE WIFI, hooray, I don't even have to walk over to the Subway ... 🙂 (Can't stand the stuff anymore.)
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