Tuesday, May 21, 2013

Monday May 20th - Bettendorf to Dubuque

Today was a day of many miles.  And it was hot as well.  I headed out of my casino hotel by about 7:30 and decided to try and put some miles in for the day.  It was tough to not stop and take a lot of pictures along the way, but I think I am starting to see the patterns of how we treat the river.  Basically it is a resource to haul stuff up and down for the large corporations who have control of all the prime river front property – along with the power companies who provide them the power they need.  

Heading out of Bettendorf, there were more barge unloading terminals for sand and gravel, petroleum products, and some other stuff. I past a foundry of some sort as well.  The trail that followed the river didn’t last long and then it was onto highway 67.  Found out that like Illinois, Iowa also doesn’t pave its shoulders, so battling traffic was not fun.  Plugged the headphones in my ears and turned up the music and soon quit worrying about cars and trucks – kind of – the one thing that keeps going through my mind is if you get creamed by one, do you get some kind of warning so that you can enjoy that last moment before you become part of the pavement? 

There were some smaller river towns along the way, and started noticing a pattern with them as well.  The smaller towns that are not attractive to large industry ply on the tourist trade that is located primarily from the larger Cities nearby.  These towns, like Princton, can afford to keep the old business districts kept up and specialty shops that ploy their goods to tourists occupy them.  As the small towns get further away from the tourists, they no longer can afford to keep things up, so they become more rundown looking. 

Heading into Clinton, which is another major industry City, I started getting this annoying cough that would not go away.  I also began to smell this spoiled grain kind of smell and then noticed a huge factory of some sort located adjacent to the bike trail the City of Clinton built that paralleled the highway.  I was trying to avoid stopping and taking all kinds of pictures, but this facility was full of photo ops, so I stopped several times along the way.  There were no signs in front of the facility calling out who it was or what they did.  There were homes right across the highway from the facility and I wondered how the poor folks who lived there could put up with the smell and noise from the facility.  I thought to myself, that whoever owned that facility – owned the City as well. 

Then I noticed on top of one of the three large grain storage silos was painted an American Flag with the initials ADM below it along with the words “Proud to be Save” – which I am not quite sure what it meant – but must be something to tap into passer-byers subconscious patriotic nature.  Being one of the largest corporations in the world, they likely did own the town, and probably employed many of its residents as well.  As I made it about ¾ of the way past the half mile long facility, a white pickup truck with some initials painted on the door stopped in front of me, and a younger man waved me down and asked me what I was doing as he had gotten a complaint that I was taking pictures of the facility.   I told him that I was just biking along the river and have been taking pictures of interesting things along the way, and told him I wasn’t a terrorist or anything.   

He asked to see my camera, and I told him I wasn’t going to give him my camera, and asked why I could not take pictures of the facility.  He said I was on private property, and I asked him if the bike trail was private property and then he apologized and said that his boss told him to check me out.  I told him I understood, and told him to have a good day, instead of telling him off which is what I thought about doing most of the day later. He drove off, and I continued down the path and took some more pictures as I went. The whole incident really ticked me off to think that some huge corporation can try to intimidate people from taking pictures of their facility that is so huge that people could be taking pictures of it from across the street.  I also wondered what it is they are trying to hide, or why they were so paranoid.   

 The whole experience left a bad taste – a long with a bad odor in my noise – about the City of Clinton.  Despite that I did stop at the Jimmy Johns on the way out of town and had a tuna fish sub.  While sitting outside eating, I saw a couple of City police cars drive by, and I half expected them to pull in and confiscate my camera, but that was my paranoia talking. 

I also noticed what must have been the court house with a huge clock tower built on top of it, and then a Catholic church that had not one, but two huge steeples.  A reminder that our government and even our churches get caught up in the idea that bigger and more is better.  That it is all about the image.  Then on the way out, I noticed that the water tower in Clinton had the name “American Water Company” emblazed on the side of it – indicating that the City had even sold out it water utility to a corporation – although  this corporation also plyed to the patriotic nature with the name “American”.  My experiences in Clinton gave me more incentive to put as many miles in as I could, as I was starting to realize that I was seeing the same things in City after City, and I was feeling like I had seen enough.  So Dubuque was my goal and I peddled on and saw little of the river on that day.  In Clinton, what I did see of it was from behind the flood dike that ran through town.  

There were more small towns, more small farms, more large farms, and a sign for the “Iron Horse Bike & Music Festival” sometime after highway 67 ended and highway 52 began.  There was much less traffic on highway 52 which was nice.  The road had a much more rural feel to it, but I was leaving the flatter lands behind.  In this section there were limestone quarries, assorted cows, and some gravestones; and I felt like I was making good time.  

Somewhere along the way, I heard a loud horn blast that scared the begebers out of me.  I turned around to see what was coming up behind me to see an ambulance.  Since I was already way over to the right, and not blocking its path, and it didn’t have its sirens blaring, it seemed pretty rude for the driver to blow the horn that way, but then maybe I was still just ticked about the Clinton experience.  Later when I saw the ambulance returning from the other direction, I was tempted to give the driver the finger, but my better nature kept me from acting on my instinct. Earlier another driver coming from the other direction blew his horn repeatedly to get my attention and then waved at me – I think it was a sign of encouragement.  I also passed by a man mowing his lawn on a hillside above the road who also gave me a friendly wave when I passed by.  

There were some picturesque towns in the last stretch of the highway.  One had their wastewater treatment planted nestled along the river, and I saw two of the operators working outside in the plant.  I felt like

biking down and talking to them.  Then there was a neat looking old red mill located next to a stream.  I stopped and bought a gallon of water and two slices of pizza at a gas station and found out Dubuque was another 25 miles.  

Further down the road, was I was leaving the town of  St. Donatus, where I debated spending the night at an inn by the side of the road, another man pulled his truck to the side of the road in front of me and came walking over to me with a bottle of water in his hand.  He asked if I had enough water, and then explained that his dad who is 72 now made a biking trip 3 years ago from Canada all the way to Mexico.  On the way he ran out of water on one segment of the trip in New Mexico.  He stopped at a house to ask a woman for water, and the woman almost wouldn’t give him any water.  He said that he and his three brothers took turns driving a support RV for their dad in the trip that he did in multiply segments over several months.  He would go home and rest up after each segment, and get a different son to drive him.  I thought that I needed to get my two daughters to drive a support vehicle for me next trip I did.  I thanked the gentlemen and showed him my full water bottles, and felt reassured that human beings are still good; it is the corporations that are bad.  He also told me that after I finished climbing the hill I was on, the road followed the ridge top, and then dropped down a long hill, and then there was another hill to climb before Dubuque.   

And he was right.  Coming into Dubuque I debated stopping at a motel at the top of the hill that advertised single rooms for $36.  But I decided to work my way the 3 miles to the City.  Unfortunately there was road construction that diverted the four lanes of traffic down to two, and this was on the stretch up and then down the big hill prior to the City.  The shoulder was in terrible shape, traffic was heavy, but fortunately I was so tired I didn’t care anymore, so fought the traffic and crappy shoulder and made it to Dubuque.  I was looking for a Hotel and saw a building with a Hotel name on it so stopped and walked in with my fluorescent yellow vest, soaked in sweat, and with small gnats sticking to me all over and asked how much their rooms were.  She said the lowest price was $99, and I told that was out of my price range and I asked if there were any other lower cost options nearby.  She suggested the Holiday Inn.  But then I saw a sign for the Canfield Hotel.   

I walked into the lobby and found out their rooms were in my price range - $44 for the night.  I asked if I could bring my bike up to the room, and she said no but I could keep it in a hall way, and when I told her that wouldn’t work, she let me take the bike up with me.  I asked about a nearby laundry mat as I was starting to run out of clean cloths, but there wasn’t one nearby, but there was a sink in the room so I used it to wash out a couple of shirts and socks, hung them from the cords used to open and close the windows, opened the windows and hope they would dry by morning.  Then I headed across the street to the family café and had a salad with some chicken, and a piece of cherry pie for desert.  The staying indoors at night was becoming much more comfortable and convenient as compared to sleeping on the ground in a tent.  And at the cheap motels, it was only about twice the price of some of the campgrounds I had stayed at. 

I got caught up with writing, talked to my friend Joe and wife Kitty on the phone, and went to bed in hopes that with some rest I may be able to put in a repeat performance of that days miles, but that may be too much for this old man.  Note a check of Google maps shows I put in a whopping 96 miles.  If I could do that every day, I would go far, but likely miss much along the way.    

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