Friday, July 29, 2011

Adopted by a Bike Racer

Joe Ossman rode with me two days ago.
Eastern Iowa (very hilly).
It was a good day to ride today:  fairly cool (only about 88 in the afternoon), not too humid, mostly good Iowa roads.

And the people are nice.  Today, I ate breakfast in Allison, Iowa, and was invited to sit with three beautiful women, Donna Kruse, Gladys Henders and Mary Hewitt.  Allison is the county seat of Butler County, but my breakfast companions told me their county is the only one in Iowa without a single stoplight.  In fact, the only cafe in town recently closed--a curse of many small towns in middle America--and so breakfast was being served by some other kind and beautiful women from the Amvets Auxillary in the Amvets Hall.  All three of the women I sat with have lived their entire lives in Iowa; but they admit that most young people are leaving because there aren't enough jobs.

Again, they called the local paper and I am now apparently going to have my picture on (or maybe

If this keeps up, I'm going to expect a statue to be erected in my name soon.

Most of the rest of the day was uneventful, although as the afternoon wore on my rear tire seemed to be losing air; so I pumped it up, and it deflated slowly again, but not as slowly as before.  I'm stubborn, so I kept pumping it back up.  But each time I got less and less distance on a full supply of air.

Dave Delperdang.
Meanwhile, I happened to meet a local racing rider, Dave Delperdang, who changed course just so he could ride with me for a few miles.  Dave watched me pump up my tire several times, then led me to a local bicycle shop when we got closer to his home.  His son Jeff, 21,  is presently biking from Iowa to Washington, D. C. in a ride to raise awareness about climate change.  So Dave thought of his son, and decided to adopt me.  Soon I was watching Russell Rayburn, a true mechanic in the style of Wilbur and Orville Wright, work on my machine...and in now time he had it fixed and operating better than ever.  Russell has a sign on his counter that says a lot about his shop:  "In the summer I will refuse certain jobs.  I refuse to sacrifice quality for quantity."

Dave lives with his son and his wife Judy in Clear Lake, Iowa, a really beautiful resort town.  So they invited me to go to dinner on the lake and we had a great pizza and took another back to Russell, who is still working late as I type at around 11 p.m.  Judy works for one of the newspapers in the area and Dave works for the Lutheran Church and you couldn't find a nicer pair.  They even gave me a tour of the town, and although Russell joked earlier that "Iowa resort town" was an oxymoron, this is a beautiful area.  (I'd estimate that Clear Lake is about ten square miles in surface area.)

Dave and Judy.
So, yes, the trip is going well and no one has thrown beer bottles at me, even though today I was wearing my Ohio State bicycle jersey.

I know Dave and I were talking about climate change and how many Americans don't believe it's a problem; but I'm not so sure.  Dubuque had 14 inches of rain in one night recently; and Chicago had almost 7 inches in two hours; and one of the warning signs scientists have been predicting would be freakish weather events.  I also saw a tiny article recently, noting that a whale from the Pacific had crossed over through the Artic into the Atlantic, something scientists say hasn't happend for 200,000 years.

It's also interesting to me that almost every lake, pond and stream I've passed in the last ten days is clogged with thick green algae, the result of farm fertilizer run-off.  This same run-off into the Mississippi causes a dead zone in the Gulf of Mexico every year, where algae is so thick oxygen in the water is depleated and fish can no longer live.

This year the dead zone was the largest ever, 8,500 square miles (I think), bigger than New Jersey.

I taught World History, and I know many societies in the past collapsed when they collapsed their own environments.

So call me "worried."

Caesar started as a dishwasher in his
cousin's restaurant twenty years ago.
Finally, let me stay on my soapbox a moment longer, and say that in Clinton, Iowa I had the best meal of my trip at a Mexican restaurant called La Feria (I think that's spelled right).  The owner is named Caesar Lopez, and he came to the United States with his family when he was a young boy.  The meal his place put down in front of me was so huge, and so good, I felt almost guilty paying such a minimal price--and even thought of ordering a beer just to improve the tab.  I asked the waiter if the owner was around, and Caesar came out to see me.  He's probably only 35, but already has three places, and says, "I love what I'm doing, I don't see myself ever doing anything else."  He just loves to make the customers "feel good," "to put the best food possible" on the table.

I asked him what a "bad" day was in his place.  He said when they served 500.  "What's a good day?" I asked in astonish-ment.

"We serve 2,000."

Caesar is a lot like Russell.  A man committed to his job, to doing it right.

So, yep:  I believe America still gains by immigration.

Russell in his shop.  The guy is good.
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  1. Great stories you are telling, John, and wonderful that Joe came out to ride with you. I just did a Mapquest, and you are about 1700 miles or so from Tioga Pass - bet you'll make it in time for me to try to struggle to keep up with you for a few days. Just drove the "back route" from Stockton to Oakland, scouting out a night spot inroute. Praying for your safety, too - try not to land on that camera if you take another tumble! Tim V.

  2. Thanks for making Clear Lake ,Iowa an overnight stop on your journey. As the saying goes "It is good to have an end to journey toward, but in the end it is the journey that matters." I think history has taught us that much,has it not John? Now then,I'm off to look for my Jared Diamond books amidst the clutter.
    Russell; from the clutterd Bike Shoppe

  3. John:

    We just entertained Tom and Patricia Moore, visiting from OR, overnight and today (they were down our way for a Bay Area wedding) and we got out the maps and started to retrace your JDRF ride this year (overlaid on the route of your ride to Oregon three summers ago). Anyway, now they are headed home and I am re-scanning your earlier blogs to get the varied small towns your cruised through from Maine to your current locations. A request; keep mentioning the quaint, small towns you will tour through, so wierdos like me can "map your route" (and see my email a few days ago, for suggested "final 3-4 days, Tioga Pass to SF route"). Love you, brother. Tim V.

  4. I had a great time riding and having supper with you. I'm glad I happened to be riding on the same stretch of road as you. Our son has made it to DC and had a great time. I hope your journey will continue to bring you across good people and good times. Enjoy the journey!
    -Dave, the bike racer