Ames, IA

Garden Spider Just like Boston, leaving Iowa City was tough. Putting so many friends in the rearview mirror without a clue as to when you’ll see them again is not pleasant. The interesting thing about Iowa City is that I didn’t know a soul in town when Cristy and I rolled in. Now I feel as much at home there as anywhere else in this world. But I couldn’t stay. The open road had started calling me again, pushing me onward and westward. I had thought it would get easier to make friends and then leave them as this trip progressed, but I’ve learned by now that the only thing easy about it is knowing that as far as I’m concerned they’ll always be a friend. The same stands for all of my friends that I’ve had to leave anywhere- Buffalo, Rochester, Boston, California, Sydney, and everywhere in between. II have learned at this point, though, that the road always brings new and exciting things if you’re open to them. Leaving Iowa City was no different.

After saying my last goodbyes to The Hedonistas and Emmy, I met Lee for a quick lunch and chat about my publicity. He’s pretty eager to make sure my face shows up in print and on TV as I roll along. And as long as it doesn’t interfere with the basic principles of this trip, I don’t mind. I headed out of town and saw a cool spider, which is the only photo today. I then routed myself to pass through the Amana colonies northwest of Iowa City. I’ve seen a bunch of old building built by separatist artisans since I started (the shakers and quakers mostly), so I wasn’t particularly drawn to Amana for the architecture or this-is-the-way-they-lived museums. It was the Millstream Brewery, my 16th of this trip (my count may have been off before, but it’s on now), that brought me out. I had their Back Road Oatmeal Stout, which is just how it should be, and in the 90+ degree heat, I wasn’t surprised to find myself being the only one drinking it. My map had gotten wet overnight, so I spread it out to dry while I grabbed a pint of their weizenbock. This isn’t a style I drink too often, but since it’s a wheat beer I thought it would be appropriate for the weather, and being a big beer I thought it would be up my alley. It was, and it was good, although it only solidified my opinion that I only truly enjoy wheat beers when I’m on a beach. Really I think about sitting at the lake by my friend Kurt’s parents’ house on Cape Cod drinking Franziskaner. That’s the only time I think I’ve really loved a wheat beer. Anyways, the beer was only part of my stop here.

The other centered around a man in his mid-60’s who struck up a conversation with me, starting with things related to the trip. Talk eventually turned to computers, and L.W. admitted to not owning a computer or ever having used the internet. I tried to explain the difference between the world wide web and email, with less-than-perfect success. L.W. told me he wanted to track down the love of his life, whom he lost touch with the year I was born, and whom he thought would be very computer savvy. I grabbed the little netbook I’m typing on now and grilled L.W. for questions about this woman in an effort to track her down. Surely enough, after a bit of searching and following various leads, I found a telephone number for a business I found she ran. I gave it to him, although I’m not sure he’s going to have the gall to call her, to be honest. Time will tell. He’s also a collector of brewerania, and I volunteered to get him some beer labels from breweries I visit across the country. This exchange meant that I was at the brewery for much longer than I had originally anticipated, so I had to really book it to Grinnell, my destination for the day, to get there before the sun went down.

When I did get to Grinnell, I had little motivation to do any more than get some food and find a place to sleep. I could have called on a number of friends-of-friends who were around, but I felt like sleeping outside, so I did. After getting a pizza with a half dozen toppings, I went to a park on the east side of town and layed down on top of my sleeping bag which I rolled out on a picnic table. I would have just layed in the grass, but the picnic table was under a big gazebo, and I knew the weather forecast called for storms. It was still more than 85 degrees out well after the sun went down, and the lingering humidity meant I was sweating even while lying still. I don’t mind sweating too much, which is good because I do it constantly for hours on end while I ride, but I do mind mosquitoes. And the mosquitoes were out in force that night. I ended up riding to a convenience store for bug spray and returning to my sleep spot, armed with some deet-free repellant to keep the bastards at bay. Soon an epic thunderstorm rolled in, the kind that I’ve only seen in Iowa and seen often since I got here, and somehow the mosquitoes were still out and decided they were no longer repelled. I chose to crawl inside my bag and sweat nearly to death rather than be carried away by mosquitoes. The whole time, as well, I was nervous about every car that drove by, thinking that one of them would be a police officer who might not like my presence in the park after dark. Between the mosquitoes eating my face, my sweat glands working overtime in my bag to cool my overheating self, the monstrous thunderstorm, and the fear that I would be forced to relocate, I didn’t get much sleep. It wasn’t until about 5 am, when the sky began to lighten the sky, did I manage to get more than 30 consecutive minutes of sleep. The bugs were gone, the storm was over, it had cooled the atmosphere considerably, and I was now allowed in the park, so I slept solid until about 11. Then I got on the bike and headed for Des Moines.

The ride to Des Moines was uneventful, and I’m not sure I stopped at all during the 60-mile trip. That is until I got into Des Moines and my bike started making a clicking sound each time the tire went around. I’ve learned when I hear this that more often than not it just means I’ve run over some bubblegum that then picked up some detritus from the road and started rubbing on the fender. All I have to do is scrape it off. Such was not the case this time, however, as a nail sticking out of the tire requires a bit more than scraping off. My tire wasn’t flat, but wiggling the nail told me it would be soon. I booked it to a gas station where I could have easy access to an air compressor and popped in a new tube. It was no big deal, but it ended my perfect streak with flat tires. I should mention, however, that this flat happened in a tire that I had just put on 500 miles prior. The original tire developed a bubble the day I jumped on the magic bus with the Hedonistas, and I replaced it on the first day of RAGBRAI with another tire that was donated by James from the Bike Library in Iowa City. It obviously didn’t have the same flat protection as the original, but it’s much better than most tires. I’m leaving it on there and replacing both tires somewhere in California I figure. The front has gone 3,000 miles now without a flat, and still has life left in it!

In Des Moines I stayed with Allison, a friend of Rochelle’s who offered to put me up for the night. After the adventures of the previous night I was quite thankful for a bed and a shower! While we were eating some chicken and corn-on-the-cob for dinner, Allison’s friend Katie came by. They had scheduled a conference call with their friend Kathy to have an intervention regarding some boy stuff. The fact that they called it a conference call made me chuckle, but Kathy was in Kansas City, so a speakerphone conversation worked well for the purpose. I retired to the couch to look at a map and generally occupy myself as they had some telephone drama. Something about person A likes person B but person B likes person C, and person C likes person B but is friends with A, although A also likes D, but D is uninterested. 6 is afraid of 7 because 7 8 9. I chimed in when I was needed to offer an outside guy’s opinion, but generally stayed uninvolved. It was actually more hilarious than it may sound. I hope it works out for the whole alphabet.

The next day I decided to head north to Ames, home to a bunch of my RAGBRAI friends who go to Iowa State University. I had plenty of time to get to Omaha before my weekend flight for Lindsay’s wedding, so I wasn’t in a rush. When I got to Ames, I found the local brewpub called Olde Main, and ordered myself a sampler flight. To be honest, I was unimpressed by everything but their stout, which was decent. All the others had this same off-flavor that I hate every time I taste. I can’t say what it is, maybe dimethyl sulfide if you’re a beer nerd, but it reminds me of part of the taste profile of Miller Lite. If you’re reading this and you can confirm that part of the badness that is more prevalent in Miller lite than other cheap swill is DMS, please let me know. I’m curious now. I went from the brewery to my friends James’ and Bari’s apartment to hang out and help them move in a little bit, and then went out to get food with Melanie. These are all friends I made on RAGBRAI. While having a pint at a pub with a Brazilian-themed menu, we started talking to Adrian and Amber, who bought us a round after seeing my bike. Adrian insisted we go to his restaurant, Stomping Grounds, when we needed food. We obliged and headed there for a delicious meal before meeting up with James and Bari next door for drinks. Needless to say, after a day where the beer was flowing from the early afternoon and didn’t stop, I was ready for bed. Today I woke up and almost immediately took a nap in the grass before doing anything productive. Now I’m looking to leave Ames in the direction of Omaha, which should be a three day ride. Unless, of course, something exciting comes up…

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6 Comments

  1. Alex's Mom
    Posted August 8, 2010 at 4:33 PM | Permalink

    Jesse,
    Went to a funeral and saw Mrs. B from SAIL. She is watching you on your website. Have always thought that she was so instrumental in shaping you and Alex into such wonderful gentlemen.
    The funeral was for the husband of my mom’s first cousin. He was hit riding his bike by the Ford Plant by the circle on route 5 and 179. He had been an avid biker all his life as well as running many marathons. Anyways, Tom and Betty or Tom with friends or family traveled all over the country on bike trips like you. One of the trips was even RAGBRAI! How strange that I should hear about this from someone, while you were participating.
    Keep an ear out for vehicles behind you!!!! Enjoy your adventure and maybe next stop, raise your beer to Tom who is a kindred spirit.
    take care, jmt

  2. Lee Beck
    Posted August 8, 2010 at 7:45 PM | Permalink

    Jesse! Lee here from ragbrai. I am planning to be in Omaha headed out to Cali on Tuesday evening and crashing with Dusty. When will you be there?

  3. Charles J St.Charles
    Posted August 8, 2010 at 10:32 PM | Permalink

    When I read your post this time I felt it was time to write. When your brought past your comfort zone, well thats the stuff that you will remember. Im glad to hear about the bugs and the storm, and the lack of sleep. Just remember that what dosn’t kill you might make you stronger or could make you so sick that you would wish you were dead. Your girlfriend sends her love! She is listening to Motzart symphony 41 right now swaying her but fromm side to side. Charles

  4. Lowell Smoger
    Posted August 9, 2010 at 1:06 PM | Permalink

    “I hope it works out for the whole alphabet.” – Jesse Steiner

    You’re a philosopher now. Immortalized you I have. Best quote of the post.

  5. jim wilcox
    Posted August 23, 2010 at 10:46 AM | Permalink

    saw you napping on central campus. Thought maybe it was a bagger on his way home from BRAI but now know it was someone on a much bigger adventure. Saw your bike on BRAI one day too. I ride with Team Skunk out of Ames/Des Moines,. Olde Main can be kind of up and down, some speculate that some of the batchs aren’t aged enough but some of their small batches and seasonal beers seem better. The Reindeer Fuel, a choc.stout, in the winter is usually good and the lemontyme in the summer reminds me of the shandies I had in England. Maybe someday I will finally do a solo tour, so far only groups, England, La to DC and up the Mississippi from Venice to International Falls.
    safe travels.

  6. Posted April 10, 2013 at 12:08 AM | Permalink

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