(Editor’s Note: Shevonne and Pat Travers, Waitsfield, are in their second week of a multi-state mid-western bike tour on a variety of canal and rail and bike trails.).
From Davenport to Decorah, we cycled across parts of Iowa. Though we encountered some unexpected stormy weather, we’ve learned to keep our yellow slickers close at hand. There were hills, plenty of them, but this time we avoided cycling on gravel thanks to Pat’s research. The Candy Shop owners and customers in Wilton were a highlight as was spending part of a day in West Branch, birthplace of Herbert Hoover. In the visitor center we learned that Hoover and his siblings, who were raised as Quakers, became orphans when their parents died in their early 30s. Other family members took in the children but eventually Hoover was asked to help a relation on a farm in Oregon. The 10-year-old packed his suitcase and took a train to the other side of the country. Under the tutelage of an uncle, Hoover made his way to Stanford University, (then a new college) and graduated as a mining engineer. After that he had a variety of adventures across the world, became wealthy, served under earlier presidents as one of the cabinet members, created UNICEF and was elected president.
Hoover's post-presidential efforts toward humanitarian causes elevated the public's perception of him in the years following the depression. His wife, Lou, and West Branch community members invested in restoring his childhood home and other structures that were intact during his time as a boy in West Branch. From there we traveled on county and paved bicycle trails to Cedar Rapids.
The next morning, we were confused as to which trail to take -- the detour sign had been knocked down so we assumed we could ride in that direction, but a half mile out, we came to a standstill in the midst of a huge construction project. Cedar Rapids has dewatered their lake. Once we got ourselves out of that mess, we cycled past suburban neighborhoods and crossed multiple streets before we found ourselves back in a rural setting. In Center Point, we learned more about the former local railroad, that had been created to move supplies during World War I. We said adieu to this lovely trail and took county roads through Walker, Quasqueton and Winthrop, to the Jak Way campground outside of Aurora. It was another day with several uphill climbs and we were tired. Suddenly a vehicle pulled over and a woman yelled "You are doing it." Turns out it was Kyra, our family member. She was nearby and decided to find us. When we arrived at the campground, we discovered we were the only guests for the evening. This time we did eat our cold baked beans, and settled in quickly as darkness unfolded, listening to an owl.
Pat reported that his bicycle was wobbling; and from past experience, we knew it needed a serious repair. Our plan was to get as close as possible to Decorah, our night's destination and wait for Corey and Kyra to borrow a truck and take us back to their home and a bicycle shop. In Fayette, we stopped for lunch and then determined we could go no farther safely because of the lack of shoulders on the highway. We spent the afternoon under a picnic shelter, playing word games and reading. It was there I found an old book about Iowa's history and learned about Blackhawk, the famous Indian chief, who attempted to save his lands to no avail. He was arrested, jailed, taken to Washington, DC, to meet President Andrew Jackson, released back to Iowa and when he passed away, his gravesite was robbed. When his bones were recovered and placed in a museum, the museum burned to the ground. The book references Blackhawk as the reason Iowa named itself the Hawkeye state but that's not 100% accurate. There are conflicting opinions; suffice to say we may never know its true origin.
Decorah was hosting their Pride weekend. On Thursday night, we carried lawn chairs to town, ordered drinks and sat outside on a local street to play Pride trivia. On Friday morning, Pat received the bad news that he needed a new wheel and it would cost $100 in shipping to get it to Decorah by Saturday. We agreed as we had planned to leave by Sunday morning. As we walked into town Friday morning, the children were in the school playground and there we spotted our former orange-haired cat from Grand Isle, that we had gifted to Corey and Kyra when they moved. Lucky, is a school mascot and he thrives on all the attention from the children. We were told there are even playground rules about Lucky. No taking him down the slide.
Kyra, our daughter-in-law, led swing dance instruction on the main street Friday evening and it was a thrill to see so many young people practice the steps. We also had surprise visitors. Laura and Randy Hashman, who were our Cedar Falls Warm Showers hosts two years ago, brought their camper up and we spent Friday and Saturday evenings sharing stories with them.
Corey and Kyra assisted in some additional bicycle and camping equipment repairs. We had a wonderful visit with them; they, like Pat are very well known in Decorah. And now off to Minnesota.