I set out on what was supposed to be a 45-mile bike ride Wednesday, with a handful of minor apprehensions.
They were the usual concerns: What if I get a flat tire? What if I missed a new pasty-white patch of skin while applying sunscreen? What if the winds keep whipping across the open fields surrounding the Raccoon River Valley Trail? What if I run out of water on this hot, humid day?
As the trail entered a wooded stretch on my way west, I stopped fretting about most of these factors and began to enjoy myself. The only niggling doubt I had was why no one else was on the trail, but then again, it was early Wednesday afternoon.
Still, as the miles piled up, I decided to quit while I was ahead and turned around somewhere in Adel, after I'd gone 15.5 miles from my apartment, intending to make up the miles elsewhere.
A little before mile 20, I noticed a dark blob to the southwest. Hm. I decided to keep pushing myself instead of letting the wind push me east.
However, a few miles later, my sunglasses became unnecessary. Just make it to Waukee, and you'll have refuge in case of the thunderstorms Weather.com assured you will not arrive for another few hours, I repeated.
The winds stopped propelling me forward and started pushing me sideways. The air grew drastically cooler. Rain drops fell, then barreled down.
Only five miles lay between me and my apartment, but I chose the cautious route and pulled into the Caribou Coffee. This was the right choice, as I soon found out.
Another biker, named Tim, had sought refuge there, and no sooner had I propped my bike up did the storm hit with a vengeance.
Over the shrieking of the wind and clatter of the rain, as precipitation seeped down the walls and under the doors, we shared amused frustration at the lack of warning about this weather. Another customer — I didn't catch his name, so I'll call him Winterset, because that's where he said he lived — showed me the belatedly updated radar and its promised series of severe storms.
But, oddly enough, this is where the story turns cheerful. I bought a latte to warm up and chatted with Winterset, who expressed regret that he'd brought his car, not his truck, to town and thus couldn't help me get home; meanwhile, Tim, much less optimistic about the weather, called over that his wife and/or daughter would come fetch him, and I was welcome to a ride home, too.
Was this the safest thing to do? Realistically, no. But I accepted. I'd trusted the hairs on the back of my neck in Adel, despite the sunshine; I'd stick with the hot hand. (Also, as Winterset and I each concluded, "wife and daughter" made the situation seem safer ... though once I got back, I realized how nonsensical that was.)
Tim's family arrived, in a blissfully warm Jeep (wet clothes in an air-conditioned building, brr!). It turned out that they lived mere blocks from me — though it wouldn't have mattered where I lived, they said; I still would've been able to ride with them — and Tim even insisted that I stay in the car until he'd taken my bike totally off the rack.
I thanked Tim again, tried to offer to do a good deed to thank him, and he shook me off. Instead, he urged me to stop by the family's house sometime and say hello. He even told me the street address.
"Iowa Nice" isn't just a joke or an excellent Scott Siepker video. It's a real thing.
Also, in addition to the kindness of Winterset and incredible generosity of Tim, there was the sympathy from the Caribou Coffee employees. I think one even asked Tim whether he needed a ride home. No judgment, no eye-rolling at the mess we likely caused.