Wednesday was a day for the record books. It started out normally: me leaving camp alone around 7:00. I was ready to get our 138 kilometres done and rest up for the next day. I had my map all ready, lunch made, water bottles filled, tires pumped up and an appropriate amount of sunscreen applied for the distance we had to ride. Everything was going great. I hit SAG #1 and received the cursory warnings to "keep the eyes on the rearview mirror and to wear sunscreen." I agreed that I would indeed do that... I was 50 km into the ride when I began to get that sinking feeling in my gut. I hadn't seen another cyclist in about an hour, but in and of itself that's not unusual. But I also should have seen SAG #2 by then and I hadn't come across it. I checked my map and realized that I had missed two turned about 20 kilometres back. That too is normal as sometimes we "turn" without actually turning. I chalked up to missing those turns to not paying attention to road signs, but that it was still the same road- just with a new name.
Now, I don't carry a phone or GPS and I was all alone but surprisingly, I didn't panic at all. I took it in stride and decided to continue working my way north along US-59 until I found someone to direct me. I knew I had to go north and east today so I just worked my way that direction. By kilometre 60 I saw an elderly lady putting her plants out on the back porch. By the time I had cycled around to the back of her house she had already gone back inside so I went back around to the front and rang the doorbell. On the second try the door opened and we had a wonderful conversation. Turns out that her grandsons love to bike and they are currently in the mountains! (have I mentioned that I love this generation!!) Well, she didn't know where Diagonal, Iowa was and no other cities were mentioned on my cue sheet. The only other important marker was a road- US-71. She told me to take a road called US-34 about 30 miles east and I should bisect US-71. I thanked her and continued on my way. By now I was pretty sure I was really lost.
Along US-34 I found two cowboys putting in fence poles. I pulled over, waded through the grass, and asked them if I was indeed on my way to US-71. "Yes," they said, "just keep going east." So I rode and rode and eventually, I rode through a town called Red Oak. I contemplated stopping but decided against it. Then I came across a small down named Stanton. Here I pulled into a gas station and asked the nice ladies inside if they knew where Diagonal was. They didn't (of course), but they did have internet, mapquest and a printer. In 15 minutes I had a printout of where I was, where I needed to be and how to get there.
I set out from Stanton armed with the knowledge that I had yet another 100 kilometers to ride to get into camp and no SAG stops along the way. The mercury was rising steadily but oddly, I didn't worry. Although there were few cities along the route, farmsteads were plentiful. After 80 km on US-34 I turned onto IA-25 and had another 10 miles to go before turning onto J23. By this time it was 2:00 and I had been riding for the last 7 hours, my two water bottles were slowly being depleted- despite me trying to ration it. Just as I was down to my last half bottle I saw two men using a saw in their front yard. I pulled in and asked if they happened to have any water. They blessed me with two ice-cold bottles and I set out refreshed with the knowledge that it was only an additional 16 miles to Diagonal. For the first time all day I had found someone who knew where Diagonal was! Such excitement!
When I crested yet another long hill I suddenly saw a reflective yellow vest on the horizon, just turning the corner. And then I saw another one... and another one!! Oh joy! For the first time all day I saw fellow cyclists. Finally. I. Was. Back. On. Route. I started singing at the top of my lungs! The cows alongside the road must have wondered about the crazy biker girl, but I have never been so excited to see reflective yellow in my life!
And then I saw my first proof that the town of Diagonal actually exists. Although exhausted, my legs cramping up, and my skin burning, I just had to stop and take a picture of this momentous occasion:
I caught up to some fellow cyclists and my excitement at being back just overflowed. I yelled and talked at them and just couldn't stop. It was so wonderful to be back! I think they must have thought I had heat stroke or something. The adrenaline kicked in and I booked it into camp. Signs posted by the United Church of Diagnoal guided the way into yet another beautiful park. They even promised homemade pie and ice cream. To be honest, the only things that got me into camp Wednesday: God, helpful locals, and the promise of pie and ice cream.
My ride today into Chariton, IA was uneventful. I think that everyone was worried I'd get lost again. Come to think of it perhaps that's why Rick rode the entire way with me. I'm unsure about whether it was so I wouldn't get lost... or so he wouldn't get lost. We had about 30 turns to make today so getting lost was a great possibility. So here I sit. I'm tired and ready for the weekend. Tomorrow's short route is a godsend before Saturday's long ride. But we are promised a beautiful camping spot come the weekend and, most exciting of all? Monday we are out of these insane hills!! Finally!
Thank you for all your prayers. For how completely lost I was I should have been freaking out, but I kept my cool- and think it is because so many are praying for me. Also, Rudy and Shirley Folkerts have rejoined the tour. Shirley broke her leg heading into Colorado Springs. She hopes to ride the last couple of weeks of the tour. But for now she's helping where she can and being a joyful face when we arrive in camp. Also, Roger Feenstra is back after his wife's surgery. All things went well and Roger is happier than a pig in a mud puddle to be back!
It is now a week and five days until the tour arrives in Canada and my dear home of Sarnia. We cannot wait! Blessings to you my friends!