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: www.santascampandwonderland.org.
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|