16.2 Miles today.
Saturday / Sunday Rest – For those of you who went to the bottom of the page looking for an update, I apologize and will be putting the latest updates at the top like I should have been all along.
I AM IN NEBRASKA… Yahoo! There were a number of times that I really didn’t know if I could make it or not but without adding up my zig zag miles, I have put around the first 300 behind me with around 1100 to go…Ouch! My 3 ½ weeks in IA have been painful but conditioning, wonderful but sometimes overwhelming. Some of my most unexpected surprises have come in the form of friendships in Iowa’s small towns and countryside. Take for instance, Macedonia, population 325. Upon first impression, it is a town that had its hay day 100 or more years ago with the small streets lined with once stately buildings that are now mostly vacated and in need of some paint, but just passing thru at 45 mph won’t let you get to know some of the most wonderful and trusting people that you have ever met. After stopping in the one room city hall and library to see if I could sleep in their neatly trimmed flower lined park, I got the royal treatment. The city clerk called Ruby Bentley, the town historian, to come and meet me. She drove in from her farm and she awarded me with a great hard covered history book about their town, which I loved. She then showed us one of Iowa’s most outstanding antique bird collections, the summer theatre building in the old implement store, and where one of the buildings on the main street used to be the Macy’s of the Midwest to shop at. They have a historical society and an arts council. She then gave us the keys to a number of buildings if we needed to use a rest room or if my escorts wanted to set up their air mattress in one of the buildings. I was then greeted by a number of curious residents and children and then the Mayor heard that I was in town and came over to visit me and we had a great conversation and he welcomed me and wished me well. Isn’t it interesting that this shell of a great town has all of the qualities that we all wished that we had in our own neighborhoods, where everyone leaves their door unlocked because there isn’t any crime. They give you the keys to anything that you need and you just leave them on the table when you’re finished and where everyone is friends. All of the things we wished that we had…. but that we move away from. This town is not unique to my travels. Towns like Newton, Colfax, Anita, Atlantic, Redfield, Adel, Brooklyn and the list goes on, are all varying degrees of what I just described. So if you want to make some new friends in just a short afternoon, travel the back roads of the heart of America…that’s where you will find some great people.
So to give you a bit of an update since last Sunday in Atlantic, the trail has taken me on a combination of paved and gravel roads and the gravel gives me difficulties like you don’t understand. I suppose that you can only mention and complain about the conditions so many times without beating a dead horse. My feet a doing much better but are just fatigued each night. My right knee gives me pain when I climb gravel hills all day long and my hernias seem to cripple me when I end of walking fast, other than that, I believe that my old body is slowly conditioning to this pace, even though I have been getting leg cramps at night recently and they are painful.
It is the most rewarding when I am on actual trail, be it paved or gravel. In my mind’s eye, I can see my grandmother with her six children walking these green hills with me. Whenever I find berries or a fruit tree, I can imagine them also being able to find the same food. You just feel closer to 150 years ago when you are out in the country and walking gravel, even though it extremely hard, that is what this is all about.
So after going through a few little towns and a lot of gravel roads, I needed to camp for the night but couldn’t find anything but a corn field, so I found a field that had just a small piece of grass tucked into the middle of this 7 foot high corn and that’s where I pitched my tent. Now my escorts left and went to a small town to sleep at the motel and left me to my wild imagination. I told you that had just slept in a cemetery a few nights before, but for some reason, I was more uncomfortable with the corn than the cemetery. This is the only night since I left that I took my gun to bed with me. I have a pistol that shoot small shot gun shells that I planned on using in WY if I could kill a rattlesnake for dinner, anyway, I pitch the tent, eat my meal, and crawl in with the “Children of the Corn”. Now if you have never seen “Children of the Corn”, you won’t appreciate my imagination, but for some reason, that is what stuck in my mind. Now corn, when the wind is blowing, makes a lot of noise. It’s pitch black outside, my head is stuck in this rattling corn, and….. and…..that’s right….4AM I can hear a noise that is not the corn and sounds like it is about 50 feet away. Now you have to understand that I have brought my Jack Russell Terrier with me and she hears the noise and starts to growl. The animal gets closer and is making this unique hissing growling sound that is unique only to a Badger of which I have seen and heard many times in Montana and a Badger is not an animal that you want to deal with under any circumstances. It sounds like he is searching/digging for food and getting closer to the tent so I pop the side of the canvas tent with my hand a couple of times to try and scare it away and the sound stopped. So I slowly untied the tent door and looked into the dark corn and saw nothing around any longer and uneasily laid back down and tried to get some additional sleep in the “corn field”.
On Wednesday the 1st, I walked two days in one so that I could get into Council Bluffs a day early so that I could take an additional day off and also to let my escorts go home to Utah for family business a day early. The hike was long and difficult. I even was given special permission to cross a bridge construction are that only had a culvert at the bottom of this ravine and the embankments were very steep, so steep in fact that I couldn’t pull the cart up the other side and had to have Shirley and Galin help push.
Upon arriving in Council Bluffs, I began the search for someone to escort me to Winter Quarters, since my escorts had just left for Utah. After calling everyone that had given me a contact number in the area, I had no one. I was resigned at that time to taking the cart apart and putting it in the truck and driving it the 16 miles to NE when all of a sudden there was a man standing at my truck window who was interested in the handcart and what was going on. Long story short, he volunteered to escort me the next 16 miles.
The journey on Friday to Winter Quarters was a good trek, long but fairly easy. I was interviewed by the channel 6 news out on the trail (go to: http://www.wowt.com/home/headlines/49887947.html) and it was a good piece. I then stopped at the Crescent gas station for some ice and there was three teenagers selling corn out of the back end of a truck and so I went over to try and find a way to get them to donate a piece of sweet corn to me. I started to tell my story and before I could finish, they wanted to know if I would accept 6 ears of corn and of course….yes. Then as I was continuing a discussion with these three enthusiastic entrepreneurs, they gave me 6 more! They have no idea how much that means to my stomach and taste buds. Thanks kids! You’re awesome…
Continuing West, I had to try and get away with walking 3 ½ miles on the 680 interstate and over the Mormon Bridge into Florence NE (Winter Quarters). No more than a ½ mile onto the interstate I was stopped by the Highway Patrol and said that I couldn’t walk across the bridge because it didn’t have a breakdown lane. After a few moments of pleading my case and what I was trying to do, he agreed to let me walk on the shoulder and then I needed to load the cart on the truck to cross the bridge, at least I would be able to continue. I then walked to the bridge and discovered that it had a breakdown lane and so I hustled across and got to walk the entire distance, including walking across the Missouri. I arrived in Florence around 5PM and was glad to be able to put a milestone of having IA behind me, but the awesome task of walking NE for the next 45 days!
The missionaries here at the Mormon Trail Center in Florence have been great. They have let me pitch my tent in the rear of the property and everyone has been so kind, especially Pres. Brewster who is in charge of the center. We shared some great conservations and he, in true pioneer fashion, offered me some charity and took me to the local store and let me buy some supplies for the coming days ahead. He purchased an onion, potatoes, carrots, 3 apples and some potato rolls. They will be consumed with gratitude. Everyone has been wonderful.