Oxford Junction, Iowa to Dyersville, Iowa
Distance: 54.4 miles
Ascent: 2,246 feet
Cumulative Distance this tour: 550.5 miles
Not a single drop of rain last night. The winds did not even pick up. I’m certain that locals are expressing care for us, but I think they also like to exaggerate the possible weather hazards.
A real strange thing last night, though. Around 4AM I had to get up for a stroll to the latrine, which was maybe 100 yards away. The stars were out and it was peaceful. In near full darkness, I returned to my tent but then hesitated. The tent I was about to enter had a small square window on it – mine doesn’t. I sure didn’t want to barge in on a fellow camper. Looking around, I checked the position of Phil’s tent and then Jack’s tent. Those looked right. I looked around again, and then I spied a 4th tent. It was over by the street with a small camping light on inside. Standing by my tent in some confusion, I actually stared at it for a while and finally decided, wow, someone must have set up after we went to sleep, and did so very quietly. Looking down, I also finally determined that the tent “window” was actually the square white REI logo on the side of my own tent, so in I went.
In the morning, I poked outside and looked toward the street. No 4th tent and no sign of one. A very stealthy camper or a hallucination. Maybe I’d actually walked to the potty but stayed locked up in some sort of dream. Or maybe I’d never even left my tent.
The three of us hit Cenex for morning beverages and then said goodbye to Oxford Junction. I already have good memories of this little town.
Up SR 136 through tiny Wyoming and Onslow. 136 is bad for bikes with no shoulder, but good for bikes in that traffic is sparse. An occasional semi would roll by, but those guys tend to be professional and courteous, on average anyway.
After 27 miles we reached Cascade. The old section of town looked cool to me, and I noted a few signs of support for candidate Trump. Phil asked a resident where to find breakfast and was directed to the Cascade Café. Good stop, and we were all hungry. I had a big tasty plate of eggs and pork chops.
Following the advice of Donna from yesterday (and also the ACA addendum sheets), we took a detour out of Cascade and headed east on US151 for a bit. The detour was designed to avoid a stretch of gravel road around Farley on the regular ACA route. The detour took us north on N. Cascade Road, another one with zero shoulder but little traffic. Then further north on Roller Coaster Road. Aptly named – up and down through corn fields for 2 miles. Mostly up.
We finally crossed US20, emerging into the town of Epworth. It was getting pretty hot, so we regrouped at a c-store for beverages and rest.
From here, Donna and other sources had suggested a ride along a path called the Heritage Trail. With some local instruction, we found it just north of town and headed west. It was a rails-to-trails conversion, with tiny packed gravel that rode great on our Surlys. An honor system was in place, and we had to stop to pay a trail fee, but found the first station out of envelopes. We did eventually pay further down the line.
What followed was a leisurely 10 mile roll through idyllic woodlands. Picture patches of dense forest, fields of Queen Anne’s lace, babbling brooks and butterflies. Numerous bridges crossed the Hogans Branch creek. These were heavy steel constructions – remnants of the railroad. I must have stopped 20 times to look around, take photos, and you know, smell the daisies.
We reached our destination for the night: Dyersville Iowa. One of things this place is famous for is the nearby Field of Dreams movie set, and we’d actually passed near it on the trail coming in. (Mary Ellen and I even visited there back in 2010 when RAGBRAI passed beside it.)
We made our way downtown to a spectacular two-spired church (the St. Francis Xavier Church) and found The English Pub for beverages. Perfect dark little place with draught Guinness, draught Coke, and cashews.
We had plans to ride north a few miles to New Wine Park and tent there tonight. When the friendly barmaid overheard us, though, she suggested we stay right here in town. Picking up the phone, she called the police and suggested we tent at the city park. The police’s answer: no problem – we won’t bother them. Such hospitality is downright marvelous.
A pizza at Chad’s was the ticket for dinner, followed by a short roll east to the Dyersville Commercial Club Park. We picked a spot beneath some huge old trees and set up. Warmup for a ballgame was already in progress nearby, and we soon found out it was a semi-pro double header, the quarter finals of an ongoing tournament (the 66th Annual Dyersville Whitehawks Baseball Tournament). $5 got us seats near the 3rd base dugout, and a couple more bucks had us slurping on beer, soda, and ice cream. A slice of heaven right here in Iowa.
People tagged us as strangers right away and were super friendly coming over to talk. In fact, during the intermission between games, the PA started up with Queen’s “I Want To Ride My Bicycle.” The announcer came on over it to welcome “those 3 guys on the 3rd base line who are riding their way back home from RAGBRAI.” We waved to the applause and I don’t think I stopped grinning for at least 20 minutes.
Phil and I even won door prizes. He won some specialty shampoo, which he donated to another fan. I won a sweatshirt but ended up not collecting it. I couldn’t see using a sweatshirt under these conditions and hoped the town will use it for a door prize at the next game.
The games themselves were good fun. Several hundred fans were in the stands, but no one got overly excited about any of it. Rather it was just a wonderful relaxing way to spend an evening in a small town. Makes one feel real comfortable.
I left after the 5th inning of the 2nd game, content to listen to the remaining innings through my tent walls while laying on top of a pillow. Like Oxford Junction, Dyersville will be very fondly remembered.
Another great day of riding today, with a measure of tail breezes and only 2K feet of climbing. Certainly hotter than yesterday though.