Preemption, Illinois to Muscatine, Iowa: (52kms)
The next morning, after an early coffee, Dan dropped us back to the church in Preemption so that we could resume on route to Muscatine. We had booked an Airbnb for 3 nights and were looking forward to the rest.
We cycled the short distance to the town of Reynolds and bought a “Breakfast” burger and a coffee at the local Casey’s gas station. I’m thinking they should give us shares in the place, we eat at them so often!
Our stomachs full, we headed off west once more with a strong southerly wind to keep us cool. At the town of Buffalo Prairie we found a small shop that Dan had told us about and stopped in for a cold drink. Unfortunately, the doors were locked. I checked the time, they wouldn’t be open for another 20 minutes. Luckily for us, there was a woman inside and she quickly came over to the door, a wide smile on her face, and opened up for us. We apologised for making her open up early, but she’d have nothing of it. We got a couple of drinks and a muesli bar and she filled our water bottles up with ice for us. Then, as we went to pay her, she wouldn’t take our money. What a lovely lady!
West of Buffalo Prairie we got to fly down a long, steep hill into the Mississippi River Valley. I clocked 35mph as I hurtled down it praying the bike wouldn’t start to wobble and throw me off. It was just a short ride from there up to the busy 92 with a stiff tailwind to blow us along. Soon, we were crossing a bridge and got our first look at the mighty Mississippi River, and Iowa.
Shazz managed to get pictures of the welcome signs for both Illinois and Iowa, then we turned down East 2nd Street through some roadworks and down towards our Airbnb room. We walked the bikes for the last couple of blocks, deciding to get a coffee at a nice looking cafe a block away from our room.
As we were locking our bikes up outside the cafe window, a guy came and introduced himself. He was really interested in our trip and the fact we were doing it on bikes. Dean Jacobs is a photographer and motivational speaker and had just returned from South America. He gave us his card and invited us in to have a coffee with him, which he abruptly paid for before we had a chance to. We hung around and chatted for a while, then he had to go. He was doing a presentation at a school about his journey using his photos. Shazz and I stared at each other again. It seemed everyone wanted to pay for us today! Oh well, we weren’t complaining. It was a really nice way to be welcomed to Iowa though!
Our room was above a jewellery shop which sold wine and imported beers. Melissa, the owner was really nice and let us keep our bikes in a spare room out the back. The room was huge and had a great kitchen (not that we intended to do much cooking) and the bed was like sleeping on a cloud! It also had a view out over the river, which was awesome, except it had just started to rain.
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While the town has its own craft brewery, Contrary Brewing, we soon found other, closer bars to enjoy a beer and something to eat. Boonies on the Avenue and Mississippi Brewing Company were both just around the corner, and, while not being breweries, stocked a respectable collection of local craft beers and had pretty decent menus to boot.
A few blocks over was the local Kum & Go, a supermarket with gas pumps and a good variety of ready-to-eat meals and craft beers. We were set!
The next day, I rode up to Harper’s Cycling and Fitness to see if my new spare tyre had arrived, it hadn’t! So, I got them to ring the freight company and check its whereabouts. Apparently, it was in transit and would arrive tomorrow afternoon. I chatted with the owner’s father, he had been to Tasmania racing Penny Farthings of all things! He eagerly showed me his collection, one of which he rode across the States. I could only imagine how difficult that would have been, even with a support crew!
Desperately needing a haircut (I looked like the Wild Man of Borneo by now!), I stopped by a local barber on the way back from the Kum & Go. He was just closing, but I stuck my head in the door and made an appointment for tomorrow at 11 am, it would cost $15 – bargain!
That night we went to Boonies and met Kelly, his dad Ted and Danna, locals enjoying a night out. Kelly was a truck driver and gave us some tips about the local roads. Ted gave me a 1979 dollar coin, I’d never seen one before, a good one for my collection! It wasn’t long before they started buying us beers. I think everyone thinks because we ride bikes, that we must be broke. We did, however, manage to pay for some, but it was another fairly cheap evening and I was a bit scratchy the next morning!
I wasn’t too hung over to miss my haircut though. I turned up to the barbers and was the only one there. Steve, the barber ushered me into the seat and abruptly swung it around facing the street with my back to the mirror. This was a bit weird I thought, but I really need a haircut and just went with it. Steve was a really nice bloke and told me a little about the town and how it had fallen on some hard times. Steve’s business was only open 3 days a week, others, as we’d already so often seen, had closed permanently.
I noticed he had a lot of paraphernalia about the Vietnam war on his walls. I had deduced that he was a veteran, we’d met so many. When I told him we lived in Vietnam, his eyes opened wide in surprise. He wanted to know what the place was like now, and if it was still dangerous (everyone here thinks it still is). I assured him the country had changed significantly, was very safe now and welcoming of foreigners, even Americans! He had lots of questions and I hung around with him for a while after he had finished cutting my hair, answering them as best I could. I took $20 out of my pocket to give to him, but once again, he wouldn’t take it. I insisted, but there was no way he’d take it. He pointed to his walls and said, if I really wanted to do something for him, when I get back to Saigon, send him a postcard. I shook his hand and made a promise to him it would be one of the first things I would do*. I took one of his business cards and wished him well.
That afternoon, I rode back up to Harper’s and picked up my tyre. On the way back alongside the river bike path, I stopped to take a few photos of a doe with her two baby deers. They weren’t bothered by me in the least and just kept grazing in the long grass.
We finally got an early night, we needed it. Muscatine had been a real treat for us. From here we ride north and follow the Mississippi toward its headwaters before the final, long push west to the Rockies and the Washington coast.
*The first thing I did back in Saigon was to visit the Post Office and send Steve his postcard.