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Day 33: Friday, 3rd August. Destination: Harpers Café & Motel, Harpers Ferry, Iowa
Although the map showed that I was heading towards the river plain, it seemed like my route was keeping to higher land up to the very last moment. My Northbound day's cycling made an abrupt eastern turn directly towards the river at a place called Monona. It didn't seem to hold much by way of attraction for the passing traveler, and the only café I could find was a darkly shuttered burger bar wedged into the front of a dilapidated 2 storey building, where they served artificially coloured fruit smoothies. The girl behind the counter looked like being bored was simply a fact of life, and I almost felt a little ridiculous trying to prove otherwise by coming all the way from the UK to cycle across America. My half-hearted attempts to chat sunk like dinosaur bones into sediment.
Turning east out of town the first thing that happened was a slight buckle in the road knocking my right pannier off its rack, somehow twisting it round and getting it firmly wedged between the rear wheel and frame. The sudden deceleration felt just like a puncture and it took me a moment to figure out what had happened. I came to a stop directly outside a small office prompting a dog to run to the end of its chain and set up a loud barking that continued without break till I'd finally managed to extricate the pannier and unbend the rack. All this accompanied by a certain amount of swearing, some aimed at the stubborn pannier, some at the road buckle, some at the dog, and some at its owner who was nowhere to be seen. I ended up talking to the dog in an attempt to lessen the stress it was causing me. Something along the lines of "I'm here on the other side of the road, obviously not about to invade your territory, so why can't we just get along?"
And finally, the back of my knee on my right leg has started to hurt. It's quite a sharp pain, and although I have no proof I think it may be caused by my new shoes - otherwise heavenly. Perhaps the cleat set slightly differently on the peddle, or the stiffer sole altering the way my tendons work. I'm hoping it's going to settle down once my leg's adjusted to it. But ever onwards, the 13 mile eastern stretch followed a high, exposed ridge and it was hard to know what was to come.
Cycling down to the Mississippi, at last, felt like entering a secret valley: from open, rolling hills into a world of high, tree lined bluffs. First stop, Harper's Ferry, a little town by the banks of the river frequented by beer-drinking bikers and retired folks who like to sit on the porch and watch the lazy river roll by. I did a little bit of each activity, and found them both to be rewarding.