The day started with a cool for hanging over much of the Iowa countryside. Without the sun fully risen, it was quite cool outside and this all made for pretty decent riding weather. The early start also allowed us to ride on the shoulderless Highway 34 with much less traffic constantly trying to pass us.
The hills started off aggressively this morning and it seemed like we were constantly climbing only to fall not quite as much as we had risen. From the hilltops the foggy landscape appeared to almost be an ocean in the middle of Iowa. We approached a thick fog bank that fortunately had good visibility once we were within its boundaries.
As the sun grew warmer the fog began to lift. The shoulders were still a meager zero to three inches wide. Occasionally there would be 20ft of shoulder that would suddenly appear and then end abruptly for no reason. Reaching Corning, a shoulder appeared once more and this time actually remained for many miles. I was always sure that around every corner it was going to suddenly disappear and we would be sharing the right travel lane with trucks and cars.
Now that we had a shoulder, Highway 34 was closed to traffic. Since we have had good luck with closed roads previously, we headed past the signs forbidding thru traffic. Three miles in we saw a collection of cranes, trucks and heavy equipment. Where there should have been a bridge, there no longer was one. We walked down into the construction site and we asked if we could walk through the site and on a side construction access path. The workers saw no issue with this and we did not have to backtrack on gravel county roads. We were back on our glorious empty shouldered road.
Eventually we reached Creston (about 43 miles in) and we ate another Taco John's meal. This first portion of the day had gone by slowly and I was concerned that we would be able to reach Chariton (99 miles) by the end of our ride today. Luckily our pace quickened after Creston. We were flying up and down hills alike. For whatever reason we had suddenly regained the ability maintain our fast 16-18mph cadences up the rolling Iowa hills. Combined with the ever-present shoulder, we were making great time.
By the time we reached Osceola for a snack and break to refill our water, I had gone from doubting that we would reach Chariton to believing that we could stretch our day out to reach Albia. Following Osceola, our speed continued. The hills were unrelenting but barely slowed us. Finally with these shoulders and speed I began to appreciate Iowa. It is a much prettier and stimulating state than Nebraska and I no longer spend my day hoping to get a chance to stop staring at flat nothingness.
We powered on averaging over 15mph to Chariton. As it was still before 5pm we decided to grab dinner at Subway then push on another 25+ miles to Albia. Dinner inhaled we set off. Leaving Creston we hit some good climbs which are never too fun on full stomachs. Luckily a "flat" section appeared and we got back into our powerful cadences and were making good time once more. During a short break we remarked that we had finally gotten better at biking. These rolling hills had given us repeated practice at choosing the correct gear and powering up minor and medium inclines alike.
Right before 8pm we reached Albia and headed to the Albia Dairy Bar before our motel. Nothing finishes off a 127 mile bike ride quite like 800 calories of blended ice cream and candy. Our motel provided us with free drink tickets for the lounge. Altering showering, I put on my best (only) outfit and headed to the bar. For my first beer in over two weeks, I ordered the most local bottled beer they had: Sam Adams.
Photos by Jonathan Kobles