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Coon Rapids, Iowa, to Hudson, Iowa

This chapter was written and sent on the internet from the Cedar Falls Chamber of Commerce.

May 9, Saturday
Before we left Coon Rapids, Steve Garst took us to breakfast and arranged for an interview with the local newspaper. Today, we are riding with Monty Palaniuk, a bike rider on his 5th trip across the United States. He arrived in Coon Rapids a day before us, learned of our expected visit, and stayed to meet us. Monty worked in a sawmill and lost his left arm above the elbow in an accident in 1974. After this, his wife left and took the kids. Depressed by the turn of events, Monty drove his car off a 30 foot cliff, but he survived without a scratch and took this as a sign that God had bigger things planned for him. He decided to ride his bicycle across the country to demonstrate to other disabled people what they could do. Monty has kept his sense of humor about his arm and had a dragon's head tattooed on his stump so that when he lifts his arm, the dragon's mouth opens.

We rode on the Raccoon River Valley Trail, a paved rail trail that extends 34 miles from Yale to Waukee, which is just west of Des Moines. We passed through several interesting towns and met more friendly people. We are camped in a city park with Monty and are turning in early because the mosquitoes are eating us up.

RAGBRAI, (Des Moines) Register's Annual Great Bicycle Ride Across Iowa! This state is bicycle crazed. At least 90% of the people we have met in Iowa ask us if we have ever ridden RAGBRAI., had we heard of RAGBRAI, or are we going to ride RAGBRAI this year. This annual event uses a different route every year to cross the state from the Missouri River to the Mississippi. At least 15,000 riders or parts of their entourage are expected this year. Think of it, that's like moving a small town across the state by bicycle. Each town that hosts the mass overnight goes all out to provide hospitality and food. It's a great economic boon to the towns the ride passes through. Folks come from all 50 states and 14 foreign countries to ride this tour. Several on our mailing list are planning to ride it this coming July, notably Pete Fornof and Steve Henry, who we met last year on our ride on the Katy Trail. Pete is Broknspoke, our online correspondent.

53.8 miles, 10.9 mph average, 4 hours 52 minutes, 982 miles total

May 10, Sunday, Mothers Day
Bull Shirts! When we were taken to lunch in Audubon, the city with the Albert the Bull statue, we were each given a tee shirt with his picture on them. So now we proudly wear our bull shirts around town at the end of the day.

Since today is Mothers Day and we have been riding for almost three weeks without a break, we decided that even through we continue to have good weather, we would find a motel and take the day off. However, Adel, and many of the small towns we pass through have no motel, so we had to ride 15 miles to reach one. Before we left Adel, we went to a pancake and biscuit and gravy breakfast at a Masonic Lodge. While talking to some of the Masons there, one commented "So, you're from Virginia and you're going to Cincinnati by way of Iowa? Did you take a wrong turn or something?" Laurie responded that she thought Bill had taken a wrong turn but he refused to ask for directions. "Well, that's a man for you," he said.

For dinner, we were met by Bill's cousin John Haack and his girlfriend, Ann. John's parents hosted us in St. Louis last year on our trip west. John is Bill's 2nd cousin, once removed (we think) and we had never met him before, so we were delighted to have the opportunity.

16.1 miles, 10.1 mph average, 1 hour 34 minutes, 998 miles total

May 11, Monday
After our free motel breakfast, we headed north and picked up the Clive Greenbelt Trail. We meandered almost effortlessly down a small stream on a new asphalt trail. After 5 miles or so, we rode on city streets to downtown Des Moines, capital of Iowa, and insurance capital of the world. Then, we entered the coup de grace of all city trails — the paved East River/Neal Smith Trail. We rode for 25 miles along the Des Moines River, Saylorsville, and Big Creek Reservoirs under a cloudless sky with an actual tailwind at our back. This is a spectacular trail through thick forests interspersed with prairie. We passed many picnic areas and several campgrounds along the way, and there were no highways to cross.

We arrived at the small town of Slater and met Howard Hammond, architect of the Heart of Iowa Nature Trail (HOINT), which we will ride tomorrow. We stayed in a B&B tonight as thunderstorms are predicted. We went to dinner with Howard and then attended a Story County Conservation Board meeting and explained the importance of these trail projects to the overall American Discovery Trail. We noticed we passed the thousand mile mark today.

46 miles, 12 mph average, 3 hours 48 minute, 1044 miles total

May 12, Tuesday
The Heart of Iowa Nature Trail is a 32 mile rail trail, of which 11 miles is currently completed. Between the completed sections, we had to pick up county roads, some of which were gravel and after last night's rain, they were sticky like gumbo. Laurie got a flat tire — her first on the trip.

Then, Gary Campbell and his wife, Jacqui, pulled up along side us. Gary was one of the board members from last night's conservation meeting and he wanted to take us to lunch, an offer we couldn't refuse.

After lunch, we crossed over the Hoy Bridge, a tall, arched, concrete based structure with a design that reminded us of the Roman aqueducts. Once off the HOINT, we ran into some bad luck. A newly paved county road wasn't completed and they wouldn't let us ride on it. Taking a different route on gravel roads, we ran into more road construction at a bridge replacement project. Bill took a dramatic drop and roll fall on the deep dried muddy ruts coming down the hill to it, but was only slightly scratched, and not all scraped up as Laurie was last year on Grand Mesa :-). The workers at the bridge did let us cross over the stream on a narrow I-beam, but we learned that the road we intended to use would turn to a dead end at the new busy US 30 overpass, so we had to do some backtracking.

Once in Marshalltown, we set up camp at the city park. This is another city which has its own campground with showers (YEA!). Marshalltown is the home of the founder of Lennox furnaces. Our scheduled interview with Chuck Offenburger, a reporter from the Des Moines Register had to be conducted via phone from the nearest gas station.

57.3 miles, 10.6 mph average, 5 hours 20 minutes, 1101 miles total

May 13, Wednesday
When we first thought of completing the northern leg of the ADT, today's ride was just the way Laurie envisioned it — blue skies, gentle breezes, temperature in the 70's, riding on trails and country roads through lush farmland. The trees are in full leaf now and the corn is about 1 inch high. Corn and soybeans are the two major crops in this area and now that the planting is nearly completed, the farmers are busy spraying the crops with fertilizer and insecticide. We did two more newspaper interviews and met with two more county conservation board administrators today.

The two rail trails that we rode on today were the Comet Trail and the Pioneer Trail. Like many other rail trails, segments of them are completed while other parts remain to be done. Often one or two farmers who own land adjacent to the abandoned rail line have bought their little piece from the railroad prior to the conservation boards getting their funding together. Some farmers are resistant to the idea of a trail, forcing the biker and hiker traffic onto a road. What we see happening, however, is the rail trail creating an economic resurgence to an area that once depended on railroads. We try to spread this message in our travels and interviews to hopefully promote trails and clear up misunderstandings. Today's ride brought us to the town of Hudson, just a few miles from Cedar Falls and Waterloo. We will be riding mostly on trails for the next 100 miles or so.

53.2 miles, 12.1 mph average, 4 hours 23 minutes, 1155 miles total

© Copyright, William & Laurel Foot, 1998, Lynchburg, VA.
The Happy Feet

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