Catching Up On the Trip: I am one day away from polishing off the state of Iowa. I have pressed hard through the state and I must say it has been the hardest cycling to this point. The elevation here is stunning. The hills on the regular roads and especially the gravel roads are some of the most difficult I have ever seen. For example today the elevation gain in my 85K ride was around 2125′, that is just shy of one quarter of the Leadville race gain in Iowa! The temperature has been stultifying at between 90 and 105 degrees every day (30-35C). I am trying to get the rides done early and relax (this often involves beverage, internet and AC somewhere). I have not always been able to keep up on the blog. I have now (as of today) completed 1818 kilometres of the trip (over 1100 miles) and only Nebraska now stands between myself and Colorado. Nebraska has been my fear state all along as I know the heat can be punishing this time of year but maybe (yes I know maybe) it will be less than the furnace of the last few days. I have only had rain a couple times and mostly the big storms have been at night when I am snug in my tent. I have yet to see a tornado, and I have been looking!
Flatness Is A Relative Concept: OK, the one thing I have figured out over the years is that flatness is a relative concept often determined by the ability to press on the gas pedal or not. Iowa for example is a ‘flat’ state according to the people in Illinois, and Illinois is a ‘flat’ state according to the people in Indiana, and Indiana is a ‘flat’ state according to the people in Michigan and guess what Michigan is ‘flat’ according to those darned people in Ontario. Now the people in Iowa tell me that Nebraska is a flat state. No-one however has been telling me that about Colorado. The fact is that people who tell you someplace is flat usually just need to press a little harder on the gas pedal to go up that ‘little hill’ on the road. One of those little hills today in Iowa was three kilometres long and rose a whopping 500′ in those three kilometres. So, here is what I have learned as a cyclist. I do not believe any of you who define flatness who do not ride a bicycle. You do not have an intimate knowledge of a hill or the land that comes when you have to gain mastery over it with your legs, your heart and your mind. I earned those 2125′ of elevation today on a bicycle pulling a trailer and load that more than likely weighs in at the fifty pound end of the spectrum. I gained them through sweat and determination and brokenness. It is a different reality. To be honest once you get into the athletic world hills are what define how tough you are, and how determined you are. I truly enjoy being the chubby guy in a half marathon who steams up the hills passing people, seeing their will break in the last couple kilometres of say the Chilly Half in Burlington. My wife hates it when we hit hills while running because I punish her, sometimes though she returns the favour. I almost beat her at the MudPuppy trail run once because they put one of those hills near the end. Almost!
Connectedness: Flatness leads me to another idea I have been dealing with in the last few years and that is connectedness to the earth. I love the connectedness to creation that being on a bicycle gives me. Others get that sense of closeness to creation from running, or camping or walking. I have found more places where I live in the last couple years by just wandering new gravel roads and going places I have never gone before. Most of what we live in our world now serves to bring us further from a connectedness to the earth and groundedness. For example last night I was chatting with Joy at my campground as the night turned to dusk. It was say 9:15 for me and suddenly a huge bird swooped down out of a tree and pounced on something on the ground. That was followed by three or four other large birds swooping down. I quickly got up and could see they were owls. I finished with Joy and the night was surrounded with the cries of barn owls (thanks to YouTube for the owl sounds to identify). I could hear them close in the dark in the trees around me. I took my flashlight and found one and moved within 20′ of it. I have never in my life been so close to owls hunting and prowling in their habitat. I was the only one in the campground and I got an owl show. God gave me another gift I never would have received in a hotel or a B&B. Connectedness is what brings us back into intimacy with the creation and the creator.
Postcards From The Edge: OK, if you have read this far here is a gift to you. I love writing postcards when I travel. Most people think it is cute and truly it is but it is also fun in this digital disconnected world to actually receive something written by a human being. So here is my offer. If you want to receive a real honest to goodness handwritten post card from me from my journeys somewhere as I go send me your address and I will make it happen. You can either send me your address via the Contact Me page of this blog (we fixed the CSS so the text should be black on white not white on white, tell me if this isn’t so), or send me an e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org saying ‘I want a postcard!’ but please give me an address.
Closing Thoughts: I got into my campsite today in Atlantic Iowa and a couple places over was the man who runs the campgrounds and a young man working with him. They came over to chat with me, Jim and Twumi. I asked Twumi where he was from and he proudly said Nigeria. I said, ‘very cool my wife is from Nigeria, she was born in Jos.’ Twumi is from Jos so we chatted. Then to close before they drove away Twumi ran over to me and gave me a box of donuts. Generousity is close to the human heart, and connectedness is not just with the creation it is with people also. Stay generous my friends, there is always someone who is needier today than you are!