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Tuesday, July 8, 2008

Bike & Builders Pause To Build In Carroll, Iowa

Build Day in Carroll, Iowa

By Jessica Lortie

We left Clinton, Iowa with our route redirected towards Mount Vernon instead of the original Cedar Rapids due to flooding. The day ended up being about 80 or 90 miles and the entire way it was beautiful rolling hills. Unfortunately, one of the girls on the trip, Julie, had to be taken to the hospital that morning because her arm was hurting so badly from the night before when she thought it would be a good idea to participate in a Tae Kwon Do class (she’s a black belt) at the YMCA we were staying at. She was sparring with some 15 year old boy in the class who as she put it, was not in complete control of his limbs (haha), and he kicked her in the arm really hard.

This fiasco caused the van to have to wait with her at the hospital where they determined it was broken and had to cast her entire arm. =( This left the rest of us biking people for the day in the town of Lost Nation hungry and van-less. Yes, there is a town in Iowa called Lost Nation, and yes, we found it so we are not sure now if it is still lost or why exactly it is called Lost Nation since there were plenty of signs pointing out how to get there, but this is an entirely different story. Instead we all ended up at a Shell gas station where we had an impromptu lunch of purchased gas station food (mmm… yumm… crackers and cheese, tostino’s pizza rolls, burritos, chips, candy, ice cream, turkey sandwiches). The van was still an hour behind us at this point and we were starving with not many other choices. We decided to have a more formal lunch around mile 65 where we all got to sign Julie’s cast. Julie was in surprisingly high spirits, and even though she is a super optimistic and happy person in general who would probably look at this type of situation in a positive light, I feel that the pain killers they gave her at the hospital probably had a little to do with her loopy behavior =0 lol.

The next morning we had to say goodbye to Julie (we are now down to 29 riders, so sad) who is going home for a couple weeks and will hopefully be back to finish the ride with us once the arm is healed and cast is cut off. Marshalltown, Iowa was our place of destination for the 4th of July and we were all sad to see Julie go, but excited for what our evening would hold. The ride once again, as is becoming a given in Iowa (my favorite state so far), was beautiful full of rolling hills, green green fields of never ending corn and farmland, and big blue skies.

Since our route was redirected to keep us from staying in our original destination city of Cedar Rapids because of the floods, we had to stay in Mount Vernon, but on our way to Marshalltown we did get to ride through part of downtown Cedar Rapids. The sight was so sad. It smelled bad. The flooding had destroyed so many of the houses. Nailed to every house were damage assessment papers which claimed the waters that caused the flood damage to be as high as 13 feet. We all literally stopped in the middle of the streets not knowing what else to do but stare. Household appliances such as refrigerators, washing machines, etc. littered the sidewalks and debris and trash was everywhere. It made me feel so bad that we couldn’t do anything to help. I felt terrible to just keep riding and not be able to stay and do something, anything, to help this community. This moment was, and probably will be, my low for the entire trip. It was a reality check I think we all sort of needed. It was a good reminder of our true purpose in this journey, and just how important the affordable housing cause is as well as general community service, helping people in need, and giving back to those who are less fortunate really is.

We got to the church we were staying at and dinner was still hours away and I was hungry. Town was less than a mile away and a few of us decided to ride back in to get a snack at the Sonic we had seen. As we were sitting there eating, more B&B cyclists started to arrive (I was in the first group to arrive that day) and we called out to them to come join us. By the end, about half our group was there and as always we drew lots of attention and curiosity from the locals who for some odd reason can always tell we are from out of town lol.

Showers were also an interesting situation that day since it was the 4th of July and pretty much any place that we would normally shower (schools, YMCAs, gyms) were closed for the holiday. Our only option was the hose outside the church so we all put on bathing suits, and although the water was freezing, it was actually really fun. Dinner consisted of an awesome BBQ that we made for ourselves using the grill outside the church. We all ate and once it started to get dark we shuttled over in our 15 passenger van to a local park that we heard was having 4th celebrations and fireworks. The night was perfect, full of relaxing, fireworks, and as always great company. We all laid in the grass together, using each other as a pillow, and talked, laughed, ate popcorn, and waited for the fireworks to start. It was definitely a memorable 4th of July, and one that was totally enjoyable despite the fact that we were all so far from home and friends and family. We really have become a Bike & Build family… so cute =)

The ride to Ames was a short day of only 40 miles. It was a great ride that we all flew through and arrived in town in time for lunch. The majority of us decided to splurge a little and eat at a great Chinese restaurant we found in town. The food was fantastic, cheap, and satisfied all of our cravings for Chinese food. The rest of the day was spent for most people either at the coffee shop, shopping and running errands, relaxing, napping, or at an awesome bike shop in town. It was a great relaxing day that everyone was needing after the few long days before.

The ride from Ames to Carroll was another long one coming in around 83 miles. For me, and I think for a lot of others, it was a pretty hard day. The wind was blowing and we were tired. I passed the time and miles on the bike talking to Marty (one of my favorite riding buddies on the trip) and playing the “would you rather” game. You basically come up with two horrible options, and make the person choose which one they would rather do. It provides miles of entertainment. After coming close to delusion and having to ride on that horrible US 30 once again for about 5 miles, we finally reached Carroll exhausted, hungry, and excited for our build day.

A handful of us 21 year old also went out for “the best margaritas in Iowa” (yeah, not saying too much and they weren’t that great) and had a fun night hanging out and playing charades and naming fun facts. The best part of the night was the ride back to the host site where we stopped along the side of the rode, turned off the headlights, looked out into the dark cornfields and saw thousands and thousands of fireflies all lighting up sporadically as far as your eyes could see. It was so beautiful… I can’t even describe it. We all sat there in the van in complete silence and in awe of just how perfect and magical that moment was. When I close my eyes I can still picture them twinkling in the field.

Today was the build day with the local Habitat for Humanity and I thought it was by far above and beyond our best build day. We got to frame and raise the walls of the house they are building! It was so much fun to have a hammer back in our hands and feel like we were being really productive. Seeing how much we accomplished in that one day, and basically starting with nothing there, and ending with the frame of a house complete was such a great feeling. Although I still wish we could have done something to help Cedar Rapids and all the people who have lost their homes there, it was nice today to feel like we at least made a difference in one family’s life.

Tomorrow we are heading into South Sioux City, Nebraska which the rumor mill is saying is over 100 miles away (maybe 110ish?). Goodbye Iowa… you treated us Bike and Builders oh so well and we will miss you. Hello Nebraska and what we are predicting to be more endless cornfields… But on a positive note, tomorrow we will all finally have completed our first century mile ride! Oh, and also according to the rumor mill, sometime in the next couple days we are reaching the half way point of our trip. Time sure has flown by, and although 30something more days of this trip seems like a long time, I have a feeling it is all going to slip by way too fast.

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