Monday, August 1, 2011

Iowa in the Rearview Mirror: Hello South Dakota

Big Sioux River.  Iowa on right.
It was so hot I jumped in wearing all my clothes
(including my shoes).

I pedaled across the bridge over the Big Sioux River this afternoon, so now I'm in Tea, South Dakota, enjoying the hospitality of the Woitte family.  I'll tell you more about them in a moment; but trust me, it's still HOT.
As far as Iowa goes, a newspaperman told me the other day that the state has the third oldest population, with Florida naturally first.

The main problem, of course, is that so many young people leave in search of work. All I can say is the people who remain seem universally nice.

First, a sad note. I don't follow the news much, pedaling across the states, but saw a copy of People magazine while doing my laundry a few days back. It was sad to see that Trouble, Leona Helmsley's old pet bit the Big Dog Biscuit and passed on to a better place at age 12.

His place on earth wasn't too bad either.

You may recall that Helmsley took over her husband's hotel chain when he died and employees promptly tagged the old witch with the nickname "The Queen of Mean." So: you figure she didn't have many friends and when she died she left most of her fortune to Trouble, $12 million.

A judge later knocked it down to $2 million, but Trouble took his defeat with equanimity and never uttered a "woof" in complaint. He ate well in his final years, enjoyed $8,000 worth of grooming annually to take care of his fluffy white locks and was protected at all times by a security detail at a cost of $100,000 per year.

I was a little behind schedule getting into South Dakota because I felt beat the last two days and decided to quit early both nights. Two days ago, I almost ran into problems when I overstayed at dinner after sitting down with a great group of people at a bar and grill in Bancroft, Iowa (population 700). I kept talking and listening and procrastinating until finally I had to pedal like Hades the last two hours before dark to find a place to camp.

Tony Berte started it all, inviting me to  join the group after he heard about my ride, and even bought me a drink (Mountain Dew). I try never to pedal and imbibe.

The group included his wife Sue, a nurse, Rick and Bertie Hagedorn, she's another nurse, and some other very nice individuals who I've gotten a little mixed up. Sue and Bertie told me conditions in the nursing profession have improved since they startred.
I do know that.

Wayne Amy, I think, was the truckdriver and a jovial soul. There was a red-bearded fellow across the table but I could never hear what he said and a nice woman sitting directly to my right who used to do some farming. She said land is now selling in Iowa for $8900 per acre; but farmers are getting high prices and the weather this year has been good.  So most farmers are smiling.

Rick told me you could get $7 per bushel for corn these days and the yield per acre can be 200 bushels. He's not a farmer, but drives a machine that lays down fertilizer in the fields. It's air-conditioned and has auto-drive that will steer you straight each time you criss-cross the field.

The problem is: how anyone new could ever afford enough land or the equipment, when Rick says "you can't buy a new tractor for less than six figures." So farms get passed down in the family or big corporations take over and consolidate.

I apologize for mixing the names: but Julie Amy, if you're checking this blog like you said you would, it's legit. Your kind donation of $30 will go straight to JDRF.

So, "Pedal on!" Isn't that the line from Wayne's World?

Earlier this evening Eric and Gala Woitte picked me up on the side of the road and took me to their home for dinner. Gala helps run a JDRF organization in this area and the Woitte's middle child, Lexi, is a type-1 diabetic herself. (They also have two sons, Kenny, the oldest, and Mason, 14.)

Lexi always seems to be smiling.
Lexi is a pleasant young lady with a ready laugh--and really the whole family is nice. But since this is a blog about diabetics, we'll focus on the girl. She's going to be a junior at Teddy Roosevelt High in Sioux Falls this coming year. It's a big consolidated school, with plenty of class options, and she's already thinking very seriously about going into nursing some day. She hasn't always been the "perfect" diabetic. There was a time when she let her A1C count get up to 11; but it's good now and she's working very hard in school. She says she remembers spending hours on homework last year and wondering "when is it ever going to end."

But she still did it. She works as a volunteer at a nearby hospital, runs track (100 meters and 200 meters) and won a beauty pageant last year, Miss South Dakota Junior Sweetheart. She's unassuming and didn't tell me that. I just happened to see a picture her parents have hanging in the kitchen. She's only sixteen; but she has a long experience with diabetes, having been diagnosed when she was only eighteen months old. She also remembers getting in trouble when she was little because she kept eating glucose tablets when she didn't need them because they were so good.

She strikes me as a cheerful person, and when I ask her if she thinks she is she says yes, and her dad readily agrees. She "reads alot," vampire romances among others, and loves the Harry Potter movies, but hasn't read the books. She tells me she goes to Christian Youth Group every Wednesday and adds, "I just love it." She does admit, however, that on one occasion on her way there she turned her car in front of an oncoming truck and both vehicles were totaled.

Yet, almost no harm done to the occupants.

Lexi and Eric Woitte.
The name is pronounced "White."
Gala is off at class tonight, herself (she's studying for her nursing license) and Eric has been helping me with a variety of computer problems. He has to talk really slow, because I'm pathetic, but he, too, keeps smiling. Mason tells me he is doing roofing part time this summer, a good job for one his age, and he and I talk about the Marine Corps, which he thinks he may join. Kenny and his girlfriend are going to a movie and I am relaxing, out of the heat.
Phil heads east for another mile.
So there you have the latest.  And now I'll ride in Lexi's name, too.

The Badlands are next.

P.S. Right before I got to Bancroft I met another distance rider, a fellow named Phil Hinrichs, a retired EPA specialist from Dayton, Ohio. Phil has made SEVENTEEN cross-country trips and estimates he's done 260,000 miles since 1976.

I will try to post a few more pictures as soon as I can.

Pool party for cows.  Western Iowa.

You can eat big and stay slim if you pedal 2,000 miles.

If you would like to donate to help find a cure for type-1 diabetes please click HERE!

(This single click takes you to my fund-raising page. There, click again on "donate to this event." Then click "Biking and Painting for Diabetes."


  1. Congrats on making SD. I figured that would happen soon. On to the Black Hills!

    Leona Helmsley is also remembered for saying, "Only the little people pay taxes." That seems to be increasingly true, with the current Congress.

    Glad to hear that the corn farmers are doing well. Unfortunately, that's mostly because as much as 40% of the nation's corn crop is being used to produce ethanol, which doesn't do a thing to reduce greenhouse gases and as a side benefit, causes food prices to go up. Plus, corn growers traditionally rotate their crops with soybeans, which restore the nitrogen to the soil. I noticed very few soybeans being grown in Iowa, which probably means that the farmers are using more chemical fertilizers, causing the runoff problems you referred to in a previous blog.

    Sorry for the rants. Keep pedaling!

  2. Great Photos. Keep pedaling, good stuff.

  3. John: Love the commentary, the humor and the pictures; but, can't figure out why the "DOG Patch Hotel" name did not give you suspicions! Anyway, hope it cools off (in CA, we've had unseasonable cooler weather for the past couple months; maybe that will carry over to WY, MT, UT, NV, too?). Ride safe, keep posting! Tim V

  4. John: Just scanned your Badlands pictures and the others you posted via Facebook; guess you have that flattened camera working again, eh? Great scenery; you are making S. Dakota look worthwhile for a future trip. Ride safe, say hydrated; wear bright colors~! Tim V.