Friday, June 24, 2016

A rest-less night, literally...

...But before leaving Iowa City we did manage to locate the 'lost' package of electro-mix right at the postal station it was intended for. This, after one bicycle trip, 2 Uber rides and a plea for help from a Post Office employee. All in a day's work!  That evening, my Iowa City 'Couchsurfing' hosts (a lovely international, intergenerational household), drove us out to a restaurant in nearby Kalona, in the heart of Amish country.  Tidy goat farms, horses, buggies and women in bonnets - picturesque as anything.

After a hot and muggy walk the next morning, I paused in the town of West Liberty and went looking for a camping spot, and in this case judgment failed me in my choice of location.  Afternoon was spent writing and showering at a public swimming pool. And as I was settling down for sleep I was visited by the local constabulary, nice officers who moved me over to the (off-season) county fairgrounds where camping is permitted.  There had been rain forecast for that night and was another reason for their concern (aside from the 'private property' issue.) Had it still been light, I'd have had time to scope out the situation, but as it was I made yet another unfortunate choice(!), and situated myself under a large roof in a semi-sheltered place - with a drain in the concrete floor below (which should have been a clue!).  A serious storm blew in on schedule, one that my little tent would never have withstood. And just as it seemed that the worst of it had passed by, it started pouring in earnest (and thundering, and lightening-ing), and kept it up all night.  Needless to say, the shelter floor was soon flooded out and, after jamming stuff into whatever bags were nearest at hand, I took cover in an animal barn where I was able to hang sodden tent parts on the dusty racks and shelves that stood in there.  And there I sat until the birds began to wake up, and it was light enough to see and re-pack! 

It would have been a good day to stop and recover, but I'd made an arrangement to meet with an local matriarch in the next town of Wilton, and so I set off again under still-threatening skies, and sure enough, before long a 'severe weather alert' had been posted on my phone.  No surprise when it started raining again.  After a few miles a nice lady stopped and offered a ride (her teenaged daughter silent and frowning disapprovingly),  Whimpering slightly, I accepted, and was delivered to another vintage motel, unprepossessing from the outside, but scrupulously clean, where, after keeping the aforementioned appointment, I had an early night. Sheesh.

Now in Davenport - tomorrow (weather permitting) I will cross the Mississippi River!

Vintage soda fountain (Candy Kitchen) in Wilton, IA - set to re-open soon with new owners.

Parents of the new owners let me inside to take a look.

The local lady I met had run this business with her husband for about 50 years.

Sunday, June 19, 2016

Sighting the next water tower.

Through Nebraska and most of Iowa most towns have had tall water towers, some visible from miles away, allowing me to get my bearings and guess-timate distances. In the last few days the towers have looked shorter, the hills have closed in a bit and there has been more vegetation; I have noticed that, without a steady point of reference, I sometimes lose the sense that I am moving at all, despite all of this incessant stepping!

In fact, recent heat, humidity and seriously rolling hills have reduced this walk to a virtual crawl.  The westward walker I mentioned last post talked about 'zero' days and ´nero´ days (from his experience on the Pacific Crest Trail).  Zero days were, of course, the rest days, but ´nero´days were the ones when people would walk short distances, just to move, without being concerned about distances. Nowadays, some of my walk days are feeling decidedly like ´nero´days. Yesterday I arrived in Iowa City, at another comfortable and hospitable ´Couchsurfing´ destination. The main goals here are to have a chiropractic adjustment and to investigate what has happened to the high-dose electrolyte powder I tried to have shipped here, General Delivery...

 The other day I met history teach Barry, his wife Jen, and Barry´s sister Melissa (the support vehicle driver) who are walking in my same direction, with a Chicago destination (and making better time, I must say!)  They are walking a Civil War era Underground Railroad route from Nebraska, to raise awareness of contemporary human trafficking. Their Facebook page is called ´Walk Forever Free´. Barry gives presentations along the way and they marched in the Iowa City Pride parade yesterday.  On the day we shared Rt. 6 I was able to take advantage of their support vehicle for some water, electrolyte mix and tailgate shade, and learn about their mission.

Recent offers of shelter have come from the Iowa Rt. 6 Tourism Association director (who also provided a tour of a few significant spots), a passerby in Colfax, and farmers in Grinnell.  Road Angels, all!  Interesting landmarks:  The Ladora Bank Bistro, converted from an historic bank building (hence the name, of course!), not open when I walked through, although I got to see inside; a vintage motel where I stayed in Marengo; historic registry ´jewelbox bank´in Grinnell, one of a series of small banks designed by architect Louis Sullivan early last century.  Oh, and I got some background on another of Rt. 6´s early appellations -- Grand Army of the Republic Highway -- a reference to the Union army in the Civil War.

With Barry from the Walk Forever Free march

Inside the Bank Bistro

Ladora Bank Bistro

Merchant´s National Bank, Grinnell

GAR Post meeting hall, Redfield

Friday, June 10, 2016

From an oasis in Des Moines...

Where to start?  So much has happened since Omaha…  Varying terrain and road conditions have been sort of challenging at times; lots of very rolling hills, little to no road shoulder to walk on, or shoulders of 'unwalkable' gravel.  

Interesting small towns along 'Historic Route 6', which parallels the commercial route.  Some of the old buildings are being restored; local business people have been encouraging travelers to take look past the usual 'freeway' businesses and explore some of the older town centers, many of which are well worth seeing.

 I have found a couple of excellent camping places in parks, with showers(!) At about 18 - 20 miles one day I stopped and asked to camp on some private land where a tattoo'd young man offered samples of his home canned produce and bread he had baked.  One of the best serendipitous meetings was with Orien (pronounced 'Oren') who has a small farm dedicated to donating produce and helping disabled adults, kids and physically/mentally wounded veterans, some of whom help with the farm work.  He also has a year-round Christmas store in the town of Oakland, a 'free store' in his home (available to anyone in need of give-away kid's clothing and toys.)  His many enterprises are volunteer-run, and he holds summer 'camp' days for kids and the disabled, featuring inventive and sensorily(sp?)-stimulating entertainment.  Whew…  and the list goes on.  He invited me out to the farm which was a short detour off my route, and I spend half a day cultivating rows of potatoes, and feeling quite happy to have been able to offer something in exchange for the meals and lodging. Now here, I thought, is a real living Bodhisattva! His website is at:

At a very cute little motel in the town of Anita I met another walker!  He also had a cart for his gear, and a reflective vest. This fellow was headed west and walking to publicize the American Discovery Trail (though he wasn't actually on the route when we met).  It was an interesting encounter and I would have enjoyed a bit more time to chat with him, had the situation allowed.

In the town of Redfield my route intersected with a part of the Racoon River bike and pedestrian path, which I followed all the way into Des Moines.  It was sheer bliss to be off of the roadway for a while!  The path follows a former train route and is, therefore, flat, straight and shaded. There are mulberry trees all along the way, and some had fruit I could reach.

After having some initial problems with the website (still don't know if those are resolved) I can now say that I have used the app called 'Couchsurfing', and in this instance at least, am totally happy.  I have a great new friend; we have loads of stuff in common it's been wonderful getting acquainted. There is a large and beautiful vegetable garden and the front yard is a bird-watching paradise. Jill and Zen friend Shodo (who came down for a day from Minnesota) have carted me around town to REI, to get a massage(!) and to do other walk-related errands. Des Moines is so spread out that, without these 'taxi-bodhisattvas', I'd have spent many more hours and Uber dollars.  (Actually have used Uber once here and once in Omaha, and it did work very well.) Now I have to apologize profusely to Shodo, who had been looking forward (as was I) to our meeting up somewhere around here, for a day or two of walking. As it happened, some difficult foot problems had developed and dictated a couple of rest days for me in Des Moines, to her great disappointment, and my chagrin... So we had a 'stationary' visit at Jill's house, but no walking.

And the last coincidental encounter I have to report, from yesterday, was with a radio host and environmental activist from here who was an organizer for the coast to coast Climate March that happened in 2014, and ended up in NYC for the huge ('yuge'!) rally that took place there in the fall.  Here was another encounter it would have been nice to extend a bit, but hey - who knows where the connection may lead?

Old railroad station along the bike path

Camping spot on the Racoon River

Town Hall in Adel, IA
Downtown Des Moines cafe, with Jill and Ed

Visiting the State Capitol
In the Capitol law library