My Route

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Day 31: Wednesday, 1st August. REST DAY #4: Lincoln Hotel, Lowden, Iowa

Yesterday afternoon I crossed the Mississippi river into Muscatine, at the end of Map 4. It really feels like I'm getting somewhere. Muscatine's famous for being the "Pearl Button Capital of the World" - well, it was, back in 1897. Back then, it was producing more than a 3rd of the world's supply of buttons, all made from freshwater clam shells. But these days it's famous for having an excellent bicycle shop, Harpers Cycling & Fitness. I had my gears re-tuned; bought a long-sleeved cycle shirt (my arms can't take much more of this sunshine, even with Factor 50); stocked up on Gü gel; and most excitingly, bought a pair of teva-style sandals with pedal cleats! As I'm sure Edward & Ewa will remember, tevas with cleats have been the Holy Grail of cycle shoe comfort for me since I first saw a pair on the feet of a cyclist called Matt back in Ticonderoga, NY. My old cycle shoes are boxed up and on their way back to England. Thanks Greg, for your help.

Now, as you'll have noticed by the shape of the new map, I've reached the NNW leg of my trip that will take me through Iowa and Minnesota up to Fargo, North Dakota. Some of it follows the Mississippi, and it'll involve a lot more ups and downs than I've become accustomed to of late. This is a landscape formed by long-gone glaciers: plenty of moraines, drumlins and eskers to traverse, and an area of 500-million-year-old dolomite to see, South of Red Wing. But for tonight I'm enjoying a semi-rest-day in Lowden, 35 miles north of Muscatine. I'm staying at a fancy B&B called the Lincoln Hotel, opened in 1915 to serve motorists using the Lincoln Highway (the 1st official coast-to-coast highway in the US). Supper tonight at the Country Club. Should make a nice change from Motel 8's and Taco Bell…

(Later) … but of course, it wasn't quite that simple. The Country Club was full of polo-shirted beer-drinking guys standing at the bar talking loudly. I sat far away in the corner keeping a low profile with my fishburger and fries, watching a bugspraying truck send clouds of white smoke into the warm dusk air of suburban Lowden, in preparation for the town's 150th anniversary bash over the next 3 days. Low profile or not, I ended up being bought several whiskies by the proprietor and having an intense conversation with a very drunk young man who was either impressed by my trip or thought I was crazy. Perhaps a bit of both, something along the lines of "Wow. That's awesome. You're totally crazy." These guys were gearing up for some serious beer drinking and hell raising. An invitation to stay and "see things I'd never seen before" not withstanding, I shook hands with all, gave thanks for the whisky, and went to bed early...