Right now I am sitting at the kitchen table of my in-laws house in Illinois.
Have you ever wondered if you could hoist your 25 lb bike with the same weight in gear over the coupler of two train cars? I have.
The day started out alright. Michelle and the kids had decided last minute to get a room in Storm Lake and stay a couple nights before moving on. This worked out really well for me since I got to spend the first night on the road in a nice hotel room bed instead of a sleeping bag on the ground. I got up about 6:30 and headed on down the road.
The wind from the south was stiff--a steady 15 mph. I made quite a few two to three minute stops beside the long sleepy road as I trudged south. At one point I stopped to get my bag covers on since it started to look like rain.
The rain held off till noon or so. I had gotten on my first rail trail in Lake View and it was beautiful. There were several shelters scattered along the trail and when it started raining heavier, I'd duck in until it would let up from drenching to just annoying.
I was dodging my way through a part of the trail labeled "closed" because of "wet tar," when I heard the train. "The tar isn't the only thing wet today," I was mumbling to myself as I pulled up the hill on to the gravel road where the path crossed the active track. I watched the train with indifference until it stopped--blocking my progress.
I glanced down the line and while it wasn't a very far trip to go around, it looked very treacherous with a steep ditch and a narrow path of jagged rocks to navigate. This was when I was starting to ponder what it would take to get my bags and my bike up over the chest high coupler of the two train cars barring my way.
It was just as good that I'm not generally hasty to action. I probably would have been in the middle of whatever half-baked operation I could come up with when I heard a big "clunk" from one of the couplers down the line. Pretty soon the whole train was clunking and creaking as it came back to life and headed down the track.
I took the path to Carroll and made another stop at a trail head since the rain had come on heavy again and I was sick of it. After 15 minutes, or an hour--I'm not sure which--I started down the road again. I soon ran out of trail and was put back on the road. At least the rain had stopped.
My mode of navigation at this point was looking at the route suggested by the phone and trying to guess if the roads it was going to put me on were busy or not. I picked a route that had the smallest white lines and headed toward Jefferson.
The thin lines I had picked turned out to be gravel and that was when the second round of rain set in. There was really nowhere to go but forward so I kept at it.
I was soaked and thoroughly defeated as I pulled into the A&W for a burger and a root beer float. It took me three more more miles of riding after I had finished before the shivers went away. I still think the rootbeer float was worth it.
The shower at the campground outside of Jefferson was amazing. My hands were numb from the grip on the handlebars (they are still slightly tingly as I sit and write this 4 days later). I got my tent set up and promptly turned in. I had gone 97 miles loaded down and wet. It was time to sleep.