Iowa Nice, and Massachusetts Comraderrie
Almost as soon as we set our wheels in Iowa, we noticed that people were very nice. We stayed with a great couple in Counsil Bluffs, right over the border from Omaha. They let us stay in their above the "garage" room, which looked like high end hotel. The next day we were on country roads where 3 people actually pulled over to see if we needed anything. It was one of those folk who pulled over and told us that people here were "Iowa nice " This was very helpful when it came to dealing with our first major mechanical issue of the trip. We've had other issues, but this one could have sidelined the trip for days were it not for the help of a few individuals.
Two days ago, we were about 9 miles from Adel, IA on a great bike path. The sun was out, the cars were gone, and the path was smooth. We were going to camp in Adel and had just about 45 minutes to go for the day. Isabel and I were ahead by a few minutes so when we came to a small village, we paused to wait for Sarah and Anna. We hadn't been there more than 2 minutes when the phone rang, it was them, and both were trying to tell me at the same time that there was an issue, but I couldn't hear over the other. Eventually I understood that they had a flat tire, so I thought it was no big deal. However, I installed tubes with sealant in them, so the flat should not have happened n the first place. Isa and I rode back to meet them so I could investigate.
Sure enough, Sarah had a flat. I decided to pump up the tire so I coul try to locate the puncture, but there was no obvious hole or visible goop leaking out and we couldn't detect the unmistakable hissing sound. But sure enough, in a few minutes, the tire was flat again. That's when I took the tire off and discovered that the puncture was caused by the actual rim and not the road. This is usually not a good sign, but it can sometimes be "fixed" by tapping up the area that's piercing the tube. But that's when I discovered that the rim had a good size bend on one of the sidewalls.
A bent wall is not great, but since we have disc brakes I thought we could go on like this for a long time, but upon a closer look, not only was the rim bent, there was also a 6 inch crack along the side. This was surely something that we needed to jump on ASAP, and we did right there and then. It was almost 5pm when this was happening so rather than rig a solution and get to Adel, we started calling shops in Des Moines as it was only 14 miles past Adel. We called about 4 shops and while they all were "Iowa nice," they just didn't have the rim we needed.
I then called a shop called Bike World and the woman who answered gathered all the info on what I needed and set off to talk to the service folk. She was gone a long time and when she came back she told me that a mechanic at their sister store wanted me to call him directly. So I called Donald and told him what the issue was. He sounded concerned and told me that he would look around the shop and see what they had, and that he'd call me back. When I started giving him my cell number he said, "ah! a Boston numbah." Turns out, Donald is from Melrose, MA, so, a connection was made. Sarah and I patched a solution to get us rolling and hoped it would get us to Des Moines the next day.
Prior to this, I had been corresponding with Dave, a Warm Showerrs host in Des Moines about him leading us through the city. He had family in town so he could not host us, but he could help us navigate the bike paths through town. I texted him to let him know that I wasn't sure we'd make it and in fact, he's the one who told me to call this particular shop, Bike World. After we arrived in Adel, we continued to text and he told me he would come find us the next day, ride us to his house, and drive me to the shop If they had a wheel for me, and let Sarah and the girls hang out with his wife! How nice is that?
Turns out it was nicer, even. That evening, Donald told me he was staying late at the shop to build a wheel for us. I let Dave know and the plan was confirmed. We rode into his house at about 11am the next day and headed to the shop to get the wheel. But turns out the wheel was the wrong size. So Donald decided to build another one using the good parts from our wheel, but this would take more time. Dave and I drove back to his house where upon arrival we were told that Dave's wife, that Dave was just going to give us a bump out of town to keep us on schedule.
So, while the wheel was being rebuilt, we took Dave to lunch. Afterwards, he patiently waited for the wheel to be finished, a storm with golf-size hail to pass, and once all that was done, he helped us load his truck with all of our gear, he drove us to the shop to get the wheel, and then took us to our next town. Did I mention he had family in town? All of this took a major part of his day, so we really can't thank him enough for being Iowa nice. And to Donald, who also showed his true Mass comraderrie by staying late and then rebuilding another rim the next day! A true and genuine thanks to you both!
Update: the new wheel is rolling great. We rode a full day today and it's as though the this issue never happened.