It was pouring rain and chilly when we woke up in Davenport. Neither of us were very enthused about getting on the bicycles. The solution – the 392 Caffe where we shared three delicious cappuccinos. Once injected with all that caffeine, nothing could stop us. We cycled up the hill outside of Davenport, connected with a local bicycle trail and headed west on historic US 6. By the time we arrived in Walcott, the rain had run its course. The main street was lined with US flags. From there, we proceeded to Wilton, a diamond in the rough. The Wilton Candy Kitchen caught our eyes. Inside we not only found penny candy but an old fashioned soda fountain with a plethora of milk shake, sundae and flavored soda offerings. In the back section of the store, was a collection of Wilton memoraiblia that will one day be moved when a museum is constructed. Three sisters were diving into hot fudge sundaes and milkshakes as we shared a tuna melt sandwich and a cherry coke. They are on a tour of their ancestors, one of whom settled the town of Wilton, naming it after his home town of Wilton, Maine. Lynn, the Candy Shop owner was intrigued by our goal to reach the Mississippi headwaters and we were smitten with his shop. If only we could have feasted on a malt or ice cream soda; but that would have put us right to sleep.
We continued to make our way toward West Branch, Iowa, the birthplace of Herbert Hoover, our 31st president, spent the night at a Days Inn and in the morning, took in the Herbert Hoover National Historic Site. In the visitor center we learnedthat Herbert 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 Herbert 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 eventually made his way into Stanford University, (then a new college) and graduated as a mining engineer. From thence 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. Though Hoover’s reputation suffered greatly during the subsequent Great Depression, his post presidential efforts toward humanitarian causes elevated the public’s perception of him. His wife, Lou, and many West Branch community members invested in restoring his childhood home and other structures that were intact during hisWest Branch. Here’s a question to contemplate – if Hoover hadn’t become an orphan, would he had become president regardless?
As we exited the visitor center, we bumped into a couple who wanted to know more about our journey. They were on their way to South Dakota to ride the Mickelson Trail. Close to two decades ago, they cycled across the country before the dominance of smart phones. We found plenty of hills to climb, stopped in a small community for sandwiches on the steps of the former Morse General Store, turned onto IA highway 1, to Solon, where upon we found the Hoover Nature Trail on the back side of the high school. Solan had an extensive array of outdoor recreation fields, a playground and a historic lodge that can be rented for events. The skies were once again turning dark; something we hadn’t expected because thunderstorms were not in the day’s forecast. Six miles in after we had passed a shelter, the skies opened up on us and other unprepared cyclists. We quickly put on all our rain gear and patiently waited out the lightning and torrential rain. Back once again on our bicycles, we cycled on to Cedar Rapids, on paved trails. Now in the city, we could hear a sound check for the band, Train, that was performing at an outdoor venue and noted the gigantic Quaker Oats plant that took in several city blocks. It was our silver anniversary and we splurged on a fancier overnight stay at the Doubletree Hotel and dinner on the 16th floor.
It was a bit confusing the next morning 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 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. Or, perhaps we were just tired. We spent the afternoon under a picnic shelter, playing word games and reading. It was there that I found an old book about Iowa’a 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, a few years later, the museum burned to the ground.The book references Blackhawk as the reason Iowa named itself the Hawkeye state but that’s not a hundred percent accurate. There are conflicting opinions; suffice to say we may never know its true origin.
Follow us as we spin our wheels.
Shevonne and Pat