Rob, Robyn & Carmelo
I had some of the best Lasagna ever that night (sorry Mom!) and slept soundly. The storm passed during the night, Robyn drove me out to Vermillion, SD, in the morning (and left me with some Apple Pie, 5 pounds of cold cuts, bread and snacks)and after a few miles I crossed the Missouri River into Nebraska. People were super friendly, everyone waved or smiled. I thought it was a great day until I see a black cat start to cross the road. "NO" I yelled. The cat looked at me, startled; yet frozen in time. "Please... listen to me Cat, I don't want any problems, just turn around and go back to where you came from... Yes?". "STOP! No! Don't move, please!". At this point I am yelling as loud as I can at some cat that has made it about 60% across the road. I see the neighbors door open and 3 people come out. I smile and wave nonchalantly at them and then speed across both lanes of traffic (very little traffic) in hopes of scaring the cat into thinking that I will get to him faster before he can get across and instead it will be smarter for him to turn around and not complete his unfortunate (for me) road crossing. Needless to say it didn't work, he crossed the road, I cursed at him with the people still looking at me and kept heading East. Thankfully nothing bad happened and the next few days were pretty good, although you can never be too careful.
I got on hwy 20 with the goal of crossing the Missouri again and camping somewhere in Iowa but when I saw this path leading to the river side I knew I had to take it. I found a great spot for the night and had pie for dinner. Thanks Black cat!, I guess.
Iowa is not flat. I never expected to be as hilly as it was. Iowas DOT also doesn't believe in shoulders, and sharing a 10' concrete road with Tractor Trailers wasn't to much fun. I do have to however Thank each and every driver that moved over into the passing lane (when they could) slowed down, waved or honked to inform me he was behind me. I do wish though that a major highway could be designed in a way that doesn't have me looking back every few seconds. I managed 86 miles with a Southerly cross wind and camped right by the road. The forecast called for 10-20mph winds from the WEST and I was set on catching every little breeze that I could. I was on the road before 8 that morning and managed 201 miles in 11.5 hours (12.5 hours with breaks). It was a new 12 hour record for me. I took a nude bath in a stream that night by moon light and was pleasantly happy with myself.
As nature would have it the next day wasn't so fun. The wind was now from the East, rain was falling and the bike path I was told to go on by the Visitor center wasn't suitable for my skinny tires. I got to the Mississippi River at Dubuque and knew perusing a crossing with no information on bridge condition wasn't the greatest idea so I camped out by the River in a park. In the morning McDonalds provided the internet which let me know the closer bridge had no shoulder and only 2 narrow lanes. I took a ride through Dubuque to the northern bridge and my return Mississippi crossing went by without a hitch on a nice wide shoulder.
I went through Wisconsin and then headed south into Illinois, was some 180 miles from Chicago at that point. It didn't rain much but it was cloudy and cold. I stopped at Subway for lunch where a lady was interested in my story. I don't believe I got the couples name but before they left I was handed a one hundred dollar bill and told to get a nice Hotel room. I was pretty moved by this gesture and hope the folks realize how much their generosity meant to me. (Thanks Judy & Gary Bocker!) It wasn't about the money really, just another reestablishment of the idea that people actually care about one another out here.
I didn't get a room for that night as I really wanted to camp out. I found a great spot on some hunting land by the highway and got lucky in the morning when the crew working on the highway nor the sheriff said anything when they saw me coming out of the woods.
I made it across Illinois in 2 days and got to Chicago that night. I stayed with Ethan who I contacted via warmshowers. The roads to get into the city were hell as usual. Chicago was yet another city. Clean, nice. I don't know how to describe cities. An open field? A river, a wooded swamp? No problem, I can write a whole book about that one place. Cities, on the other hand, are too big to truly grasp in any meaningful way on paper. Too much is happening, too many people are moving. I went to Rei and then a Polish Diner before heading out the next day.