We had holed up in a Roach Motel for the night somewhere northwest of Omaha, Nebraska. Around midnight it started to rain, nothing heavy – just steady showers. Once again rising early – this time to beat the morning commuter traffic past that big city – I zipped the waterproof liner into my riding pants, and elected to do the same with my mesh riding jacket instead of switching to my heavier and much warmer Rallye 3 jacket.
That turned out to be a mistake. While the lined mesh jacket was certainly waterproof, it was a short jacket that left a small gap between jacket and pants. Driven by the speed of our passing, the rain worked its way into my waistband and down my legs. The rain stopped an hour later shortly after we crossed the Missouri River, but by then I was soaked from the waist down. In fact, my boots were filled to overflowing and I could feel my toes sloshing every time I changed gears.
One of the things I enjoy about traversing farm country in the part of the nation many refer to as Fly-By States is the fact that so many of the little towns that dot the landscape maintain municipal parks. As the sun came out we pulled into one of those parks. Barley and I played fetch to limber up, then I ducked into a structure to change into dry gear. The wet stuff went into a mesh laundry bag secured loosely to my topcase where the wind could fluff and dry it as we rode. Barley woofed a greeting; I turned around to greet our visitor. People out here are friendly, and it’s rare that Barley and I can stop in a park without strangers coming up to introduce themselves and welcome us to their town.
But this man was Bill Clinton!
It turned out he was not the former president, but he looked and sounded so much like him that I scanned the grounds for Secret Service agents!
There were a lot of bicycles on Iowa roads, and as we entered a small town under a RAGBRAI banner I realized we had stumbled into the middle of the annual bike race. Barley woofed greetings as we passed clusters of bikes, and the riders in turn laughed and called back to him. Later that afternoon we crossed the Mighty Mississippi into Illinois and pulled into a small rest area. Barley enjoyed the break. I enjoyed the fact that Illinois tends to dot their rest areas with information about the region’s history.
We pressed on through fields of corn, soybeans, peas and green beans. Miles and miles of crops in a land where the highest structures are grain silos. We checked out enormous tractors at a John Deere dealer, tractors that dwarfed our sidecar rig. When we found our path blocked by a long train we took the opportunity to chat with the locals. We pulled over for a phalanx of state troopers escorting an enormous windmill blade.
Tuckered, we finally stopped for the day somewhere in eastern Ohio. Barley immediately fell asleep.