I biked all the way to Rochester, where I turned onto Interstate 90. The blacktop was nice and smooth, and the road had plenty of shoulder. Basically, I was cruising, and it was an amazing ride. Simple, straight, uncomplicated. I put my MP3 player in my pocket and the first thing I listened to was the complete soundtrack to Star Trek, which made for an epic experience. When that was done, I started listening to the soundtrack to Star Wars: Revenge of the Sith. Again, that gave me the energy to keep an extraordinary pace. However, I stopped listening to music for a while after I stopped by a gas station in a small town called Dexter.
That was probably a good thing, because when I was only two miles away from Austin, I heard a beep behind me. It turned out that someone had phoned in a police car, and it's illegal to bike or walk along the interstate. Fortunately, he took it easy on me and didn't give me a ticket, and he transported me and my bike to the outskirts of Austin. I then located the library and printed off a new set of instructions, specifically directions that would not take any interstate highways.
Oh, and I took my medication while I was there. I usually look at my watch whenever I take my medication, so that's how I remember that this was at 2:00 PM.
Anyway, after following these new instructions, I got lost a few times, since they weren't always clear. Once I was out of town, however, I was fine, and the roads were fairly simple. It was easy to pick out the turns I was supposed to take, and cars rarely traveled the roads I took.
At this point, I looked down at my arms and noticed how tan they were getting. I really don't spend that much time out in the sun. I also didn't wear a hat or helmet, so the rays hit my face full-on. I really wondered what I would look like the next time I saw myself in the mirror. Speaking now after the fact, I regret to say that I look as average as ever. Ah well.
Anyway, after taking several roads, I started trekking across gravel passes. This was no fun. Up until then, I could maintain a constant 15 mph, but between the gravel and the hills, my average speed went way down, and once my legs meet some resistance training their ability to commit to endurance training plummets. So basically, my pace was never the same after that point.
The weather channel had predicted periodic rain that day. I had seen some of it that morning, but there was still more to come. Fortunately, it rarely ever lasted more than a few minutes and I never got truly drenched.
Since this was going to take a while, I listened to the rest of the Revenge of the Sith soundtrack and a couple dozen songs by Billy Joel. Nice stuff. Finally, after traveling a ways across State Line Road, I turned left to officially enter Iowa.
I played "American Pie" to celebrate.
Here, I have to say just how beautiful this country is. I know, the gravel roads took forever, but I had the pristine pleasure of seeing the countryside go by in slow motion. These are obscure parts of the country that almost no eyes fall upon save for the farmers who till the land. With gravel beneath my wheels and grass to either side of me, I really felt at one with the elements. All those stories of my father growing up on the farm came to me. My family has really been closely tied to the earth and the stretches of land out in the countryside. Many of my uncles still own farms to this day. Even though I was so far away from home, I felt my family name inside of me like a rock.
Well, after that beautiful song stopped playing, I called my best friend and told him how things were going. We decided that the next day, if I managed to arrive home, we would hang out. It was great having that to look forward to.
After that phone call, I turned off of the gravel road I was on to the temporary luxury of a paved road. I heard a splashing noise, and looked to my left to see a dear getting out of a puddle in the ditch so deep that it was its own little pond. The deer pranced off, making big splashes as it went. I laughed, since people don't get to see these things every day, not the way I do.
As I continued biking, and the sun settled down, I called an uncle of mine to tell him exactly where I was at. Specifically, I had just turned onto Iowa Highway 9. I had been on a gravel road called 480th Street, but the Google Map instructions told me to go on that way for over thirty miles, and there was no way I was going to stay on a minimum maintenance gravel road for that long. Anyway, he was at his computer, and he looked up my location to give me some directions, since my turn onto Iowa Highway 9 officially put me off of my course.
Suddenly, in the middle of the call, I saw another deer, and it ran out right in front of me. And then there was another deer. Pretty cool.
Well, after a long while I finally came upon a small town known as Thompson. I called my uncle again. My aunt was there with him, and she initially though I was heading toward a town called Manly until I got close enough to Thompson to read the sign.
It was the first sign of civilization I had seen since I first took to the backroads at Austin well over sixty miles ago (and I had even initially missed 480th St and traveled across several miles of gravel road before having to backtrack, so I have that to add onto my tally). I stopped at its gas station. I only had a dollar bill and a few coins on me, which turned out to be just enough to buy a loaf of bread.
If I had been unable to afford it, I seriously would have stolen that loaf of bread.
Well, it was 10:30, and I finally called my mother to tell her where I was. Nothing about this trip intimidated me in the slightest except for the part where I told her about what I was doing. Seriously, I was broke, so I couldn't afford to stay a night in a hotel, so there was no safe and professional way of doing this. I was traveling the land like a pauper.
She freaked out on me. Truly, she freaked out on me. As she should, since she's my mother and it's her business to be overprotective. And, as it turns out, I'm not allowed to visit her anymore. She was scared, worrying, and angry, and she told me how completely and utterly selfish I had been and how I had completely betrayed her by not telling her what I was doing. Though it wouldn't have made any difference if I had told her what I was doing.
In any case, the consequences are clear: for this act of recklessness, I'm no longer welcome at my mother's house. It will be a very long time before I see her again.
I listened to her talk about how shameful I was for a long time. It was a difficult and painful thing to go through. I knew the whole thing was coming, and when the phone call was over, I felt depressed.
Though I had planned on biking through the night, my mother made me call my father so he could pick me up. So I did, grudgingly, and found out that he was still working late that night. Apparently, she regularly called him as well because she assumed I would lie about calling him.
Anyway, it got dark out, but I could still see fairly well. The moon didn't come up until after midnight, but the stars offered enough light for me to see the reflective lines on the road. I could always tell when a car was approaching because I would start seeing my shadow.
At long last, I came to a small town called Britt, a town "founded by rail, sustained by the plow." Also, the home of the National Hobo Convention.
So I was right at home.
Well, by then it was 2:00 AM, and I was getting tired. I found a Goodyear parking lot and hid underneath a blue truck. I figured it would hide me from any onlookers, not that there would be anyone to onlook that early in the morning. It would also provide cover from rain, even though there weren't any clouds in the sky anymore.
Well, I only got an hour of sleep, then called my father to see where he was. He was just outside of Algona (which I kept on accidentally calling "Angola"), and about half an hour away. So I got up, moved my bike over to the nearby Casey's General Store, and waited.
And I was tempted to call my remaining loaf of bread "Wilson."
He came (my father, not Wilson), and I sighed in relief. Not for my own sake, but for my mother's.
For a while there, I felt depressed. I thought that for much of this trip I was going to think about my friends and the people I was looking forward to meeting, but it turned out that my main thought for much of that journey wasn't my destination, but rather what I was leaving behind. What was the price of tomorrow? Family, trust, and a home. I don't know how long it will take for that bridge to get rebuilt again.
And I wonder: if I continue to be this reckless, how many more bridges will I burn? Who will get hurt?
It's an amazing experience, actually. I go out there with almost nothing and try to accomplish everything. I put everything on the line, and in return I get to see the Lord provide. I make it through it all, and it gives me an opportunity to be thankful for how blessed I am. It makes me want to do these kinds of things every day.
Currently, my friends are just distant enough from me that they don't have to think too much about my safety. They hear these things and think that they're pretty cool. I would love to be closer with my friends, but will there ever come a day when they will fear for me as my mother did?
I've told a few friends that I biked across Minnesota and Iowa, toiling for over 150 miles in one single shot, but I didn't tell them the sins I committed along the way, so I'm confessing them here, where I'm a bit more anonymous. There is one friend who I will tell about this, the one who told me to go for it in the first place, who said she would be praying for me. Because I sinned on behalf of her, I owe her an apology. As well as my thanks, of course. Because she's encouraged me to let these miracles happen, and because I accepted that encouragement, I'm a much more confident person than I used to be. Maybe then I'll be a little more at peace with myself, after I get that off of my chest.
Until then, I'm not finished with these insane antics. You can expect more out of me in the days to come.