(Note: This entry was written last week, but I posted the resilience piece instead. To clarify, the adventure took place Labor Day Weekend)
Throughout the summer, my friend Sarah Botkin and I have been riding our bikes together, with the goal of riding from Dubuque to Dyersville on the Heritage Trail sometime this fall. Since that trip will be approximately 52 miles, we have gradually added mileage as the summer has progressed. Unfortunately, August and the start of the academic year derailed us a bit, and we missed three key weeks of riding. Back on the trail, as I wrote in last week’s entry, we recommitted ourselves to getting ready for the longer day trip. As part of that plan, we decided to use the Sunday of Labor Day weekend to ride to Center Point and back. We invited our intrepid friend (and new bike owner) Colette to join us.
And then the mishaps began. The biggest and most serious was that a member of Sarah’s family experienced a medical emergency that took her out-of-state for the long weekend. At first, I didn’t feel right about taking the ride without Sarah, though in the email she sent notifying us of her changed plans, Sarah strongly encouraged us to go anyway. After much thought and discussion, Colette and I decided to continue with the plan.
Sunday morning dawned a little cloudy, which I know because I went to bed so early Saturday night, I couldn’t sleep past 5:30 a.m. Eventually, I rolled out of bed (around 7:30 — amazing how long I could lay there anticipating the day while not sleeping!) and dressed. I hopped in my car and, after a pit stop at the Boyson Road Starbuck’s, headed north on I-380 toward the sleeping town of Center Point. I was on a reconnaissance mission, since we planned to eat lunch in Center Point before heading back to Cedar Rapids. I wanted to see where the trail access was in relation to the eateries in town. While driving, the clouds disappeared, and a truly beautiful day commenced. I was excited to begin!
Once home, I gathered the items I would need: in my sport bag I placed cash, an ID, my sunscreen lip-balm, and a short-sleeved shirt (the morning was cool enough for long sleeves, but with the sun shining I expected it to warm up); a bottle of water; my tennis shoes with the bright orange accents were lined up on the kitchen floor next to my bike helmet.
I have a bike rack that hooks onto the trunk of my car and which makes me incredibly nervous…perhaps as a result of the accident I had last summer when my bike fell off the rack as I exited the interstate. But that’s another story! Colette and I were scheduled to meet at 10:00 at the Hiawatha trail access parking lot. At 8:50, I took the bike rack from the trunk of my car and began hooking it up. My bike was in place, rack and cycle as secure as possible with three additional bungee cords preventing slippage, at 9:58. Suddenly, my leisurely morning had turned frantic. As I backed slowly out of my driveway, I called Colette to warn her I would be late. I drove a full five miles under the speed limit, constantly checking my rearview to ascertain that the contraption and cargo remained secure.
Colette was running behind as well, due to a dead battery on her van. We met up, only 15 minutes behind schedule. And that is when I realized that I had brought my bag, but not my helmet. Colette, veteran of a nasty spill last year (on bicycle safety day at her kids’ school, no less!) insisted on a return to my house for the helmet — and truth be told, I wouldn’t ride without one. It was a much faster trip back home to retrieve my helmet because I left the bicycle with Colette. When I returned to Hiawatha, put on my helmet and prepared to mount my bike, I realized that my tennis shoes were at home, and on my feet were a pair of Adidas slides. Good friend that she is, Colette offered to wait while I made yet another trip back to the house. However, after a quick ride around the parking lot, I was convinced that I would be fine nearly barefoot.
That feeling lasted until I saw the snake, at approximately mile 9 on the trail. I caught sight of it on the path with barely enough time to miss its tail by a quarter-inch. The snake saw me coming, though, and had reared back and struck just as I swerved to avoid it. Luckily, it missed — and I don’t believe it was a poisonous variety, though I truthfully didn’t stop to take a closer look. (Colette did, and claims it was a corn snake. It was certainly colorful enough to be one). Note to self: never be on the trail without appropriate footwear!
The ride was easily the most beautiful of the summer. The weather was perfect, the trail sun-dappled but cool. Colette and I rode apace of each other and talked most of the thirteen miles out to Center Point. When we arrived in town, we discovered that small towns in Iowa maintain an old tradition: restaurants are closed on Sundays. This was particularly problematic for me, as it turned out that in addition to forgetting to bring important items, in my obsession over the bike rack, I had also forgotten to eat breakfast. At 11:58 a.m. Colette and I walked into the only place we found open — the “One of a Grind” coffee shop, which closes at noon on Sundays.
Fortunately, the folks at “One of a Grind” are a really great, friendly family who agreed to let us eat and chatted with us on our break. If you are ever in Center Point, please give this place a try — the food is delicious (I didn’t actually try the coffee, but the iced tea was perfect).
Back on our bikes, both now sporting short sleeves, Colette and I made good time with less chatter. That is, until we really started getting slugged by the wind. The final 3 or 4 miles were difficult — I felt like a salmon swimming upstream, though nothing as grand as spawning was at the end of the road for us. Mostly sore butts and windburn. And a sense of accomplishment. We labored, and it was good.