Tuesday, May 25, 2021

Weerollin' on Iowa Trails

It isn't days that are bad.  It is moments, and then you laugh with someone, or you see something that brings you out of that pain.  So just keep breathing through the pain or sorrow, because in a moment the feelings and experience can change.

That is my wisdom for you today.  Ha ha.  

I bring this up because it has been an interesting few days.

For example, I was feeling lower then usual this morning.  Not sad, just not ambitious I guess. Then my camping neighbor came over and chatted a while and shared his experience with The Journey Continues: Alzheimer's Trippin' with George that he started and finished the night before.  (I had gifted him a copy.) 

The praise and connection washed over me, gave me purpose again.  Thank you Jim!  He obviously put some thought into what he was going to say.  He said it was well edited and his emotions went on a roller coaster ride and he laughed and cried, "Sometimes at the same time!"

I will tell you of a few other... ups and downs later.  

This is what I have been doing, and where I have been.

Today I am near Des Moines, IA.  I traveled here to meet up with my bike friends, Bill and Ruth.  I also traveled here to ride more of the great trails around this area.  There are so many!   And the Raccoon Valley Trail meets up with other trails that form a 72 mile loop.  If you are that ambitious, which I don't seem to be these days.

Before I get into my experiences in Iowa, I want to share with you what happened during the rest of my stay at Echo Bluff State Park in Missouri and my journey here... if you don't mind.

At Echo Bluff in Missouri, it continued to rain most of the time.  I put on my raincoat when the rain slowed to a drizzle and  walked or hiked or do short rides through the park on my two-wheel bicycle.

I told you I met Sheryl (I got her name wrong, it is Sherry) and Dennis who are living full-time in their campers.  I really wanted to spend some time chatting with them, but they were staying dry inside.
There are a couple of  loop trails that combine to make a two mile walk in the woods above the bluffs.  I drove up there and took a walk in the drizzle.  It was other-worldly.  Little waterfalls singing everywhere.  I saw this lovely box turtle on the trail.  I really tried to get his picture because his head had red markings and his legs had yellow dots.  This picture doesn't capture his beauty, and I don't have the patience of a nature photographer.  He kept hiding, I gave up.  I later looked it up and I think it was a three-toed box turtle.

I was pleased to get a picture sent to me of our bike group on a regular Tuesday ride.  It is good to see them.  One of my Facebook friends had joined them for a ride and sent me the picture.

The last morning as I was hooking up to leave Echo Bluff, Sherry came over and said she was sorry we didn't get a chance to talk more.  She handed me her card.  It turns out she blogs too. 

As I drove away it struck me that I have seen her before somewhere.  Probably I saw her on Youtube being interviewed by some other camping star.  Or maybe we met at a Sister's on the Fly event.  

I left Echo Bluff State Park and headed to Mark Twain State Park.  On this day I would be crossing the Katy Trail in Missouri.  

For those of you who don't ride trails, the Katy Trail is a crushed limestone trail for bikers and hikers that runs over 200 miles beginning in St. Louis.  It is mostly along the Missouri River. I thought I would ride it a few miles when I got there even though I had a little over 300 miles to drive.

I took a driving break and went for a walk in Owensville.  A memorial marker on the side of a communications building had a type-o. 

I forgave them when I stepped a little further and saw these lovely roses in front of their building.

I stopped in Herman, MO.  It is across the river from the Katy Trail.  It appears they have two downtown areas.  One was down by the Missouri River bridge.  I was surprised by how nice it was.  I didn't remember the shops and breweries when we rode the Katy Trail, but maybe we didn't cross the river to get here.  The bridge has huge shoulders for bikers to ride on over to visit Herman.  

The downtown was full of Bed and Breakfasts, shops and restaurants, breweries and directions to a winery.

I walked down to the river, the water on the Missouri River was flowing very fast.  There was a train track and an Amtrak station.

I saw a loaded bike and the rider was resting under a shelter.  He had ridden with friends for three days and all of those days and nights were wet and rainy.  His bike was covered in grit from riding on wet crushed limestone.  He said the pedaling was harder because the trail was soft in many spots.

Hmmm, maybe I won't ride the trail, I thought.

After enjoying an ice cream and a chat with a local cattle farmer, I drove over the river and into McKittrick to visit the trail.  My brain flooded with great memories of the two times I rode this trail.  Once George and I rode it by ourselves, staying in motels and B&B's.  

Then our Wisconsin bike group rode it (four couples).  Each couple took turns driving the van that carried our luggage.  We stayed in motels.  When we got to the end of our adventure, we hired a U-haul.  We put our luggage and the bikes in the truck and drove back to our starting place near St. Louis.

A memory that stands out for me of that trip is one of the small motels where we stayed. (I had reserved it). Our rooms were non-smoking and upstairs and the people at the front desk were chain smokers.  Our rooms were so smoky!  There was no lobby, so we sat out on the sidewalk to relax and chat, only going in when it was time to sleep.  We laughed about that one for years.

This day of driving, I stood on the trail, wondering if I should pull out my bicycle.  I started to walk, and then thought, "Nahhh."   I took some pictures and drove on.

When I arrived at Mark Twain State Park Campground, I was tired and ready for the driving to end.  Then I discovered they didn't have me in their books and I didn't have a confirmation in my emails.  Oh oh.  The host just stated that fact over and over, you don't have a reservation.

"Well let me ask you this, do you have a site available for two nights?"

"Yes," he replies.

My notes told my I had reserved site 65.  So I asked if site 65 was available.

"Yes," he replies.


I didn't unhook.  I was only there for two nights.

I had time to go for a bike ride before dark.  The Mark Twain Campground is near a boat ramp, but other than that it seems you can't get to the lake.  I rode over about a mile to a picnic area that had a nice overlook.  The lake is huge, nestled between bluffs and steep hills.  It was strange, I didn't see a single boat out there.

I don't investigate areas before I get there.  I knew the place had something to do with Mark Twain, but didn't really know much more than that.  I rode 4-5 miles further down the road, and found the museum, and the town of Florida where Mark Twain was born.

The streets were named have some of the characters in his stories.

There was a winery in Florida.  It was closed the evening I was there.

The next day I hopped on my bicycle again and rode back across the bridge to visit the beach by Florida.  Swifts were making noise and there must have been hundreds of nests under the bridge.

I had forgotten that in the northern states, the beaches don't open until after Memorial Day Weekend.  I was tempted to climb over to get closer to the water.

At some display somewhere along the line I found a map of the area and decided to bike over to another lake access area.

I biked through hilly farm country on back roads.  I passed Grandma's Country Music in the middle of farm country.  There they occasionally have bands play.

The water in the lake is muddy brown.  It may be due to all the rain and run-off, or it may always be like that, stirred up by bottom feeders.  I ate my picnic by a marina.  Then I walked onto the dock where they had the supply store and cafe.  I bought a Payday with chocolate.  OMG was that good!

I passed a pretty field with new rows of something planted but the field wasn't tilled so the rows were interspersed with larger yellow weeds.  

I got back to the museum around 3 p.m.  You need to make a reservation 24 hours in advance.  Well, I guess I won't be visiting the museum.  If I really wanted to learn about Samuel Clemens I could look him up on the internet or read some of his many books and articles.

I had biked about 40 miles.  I don't have a speedometer on my bike, but the mileage of the signs added up to that.

In the evening I walked down to the boat landing to sit.  I saw that the flood level was quite high in 2008.  The ground where the post starts is probably one story above the current water line.

As the sun was setting a young couple was getting into their kayaks.  I was ready for bed.

With only two nights at Mark Twain, I was also glad that my next stop would be for six nights.

Driving to Des Moines I stopped to pee and use the internet at the library in Moravia.  The library is closed on Fridays.  Isn't that strange.  The library was nice, but as I walked around looking for facilities and taking a driving break, I saw the small town was pretty poor.  It had one small store that seemed open, cracked sidewalks, unpainted homes.  I wonder if Fridays are a holiday for the Moravians.

While I was setting up camp at Bob Shelter Corp of Engineers Camp Ground which is just below the dam. My neighbor camper came over and introduced himself.

Jim loves to camp because he loves meeting new people and people are so friendly in campgrounds.  His wife doesn't like to camp so she does her thing and he goes camping.  He usually doesn't camp far from home.  He told me he was in his normal spot when he comes here, but this time of year the tree over his spot was snowing flowers.

I told him after I was done setting up I would bring my chair over and chat, which I did.

Under his canopy it sounded like it was raining, but it was the flowers falling from the tree.  Jim was a radiologist and is now retired.

After our chat I still had time to go explore the area around the dam before dark.  I went for a ride. 

Des Moines is a trail-riders wet dream.  There are trails everywhere it seems.   There is a trail that runs right across the road that crosses the dam.  I could probably take it and other trails into Downtown Des Moines and out into country towns.

I walked behind the visitors center and walked some trails to get down by the water.  This water wasn't so muddy.  It looked inviting.   When I returned to the visitors center there was a wild turkey under the bird feeders.

My first day in Des Moines I just went around and got stuff done.  I can't believe how good it felt to be in one place long enough to get stuff done.  I did laundry. Right next door was a bagel place and I got an egg salad sandwich on a tomato and provolone bagel.  It was sooo good.  I don't eat bagels very often, so high in calories and carbs, but ooooh that was good.

I went to a car wash, $14 for the executive wash.  The most expensive wash they had.  I wanted the wheels cleaned.  It only cleaned 1/2 the wheel!

I have a sheet that I folded in half and sewed to fit my mattress.  Today I removed it to wash it.  I thought I would take a picture so you can see how my bed is put together.  It is a regular folding cot (army cot?).  My friend, Dave, added a board to it that is split at the fold, so I can still fold it if I want to.  I placed an old yoga mat on top of the board, and then my Therm-a-rest goes on top of that.   The Therm-a-rest is a self-inflating air mattress that keeps the cold from seeping up to me on cold nights.  I find it very comfortable.

I like the cot set up because it is light-weight and I can store stuff under it.  To balance my load, the fridge is on the left and my spare tire is under my cot on the right.

I have some cloth cubes.  In one are my cold-weather clothes like pants, shirts, wool socks.  In the other are my jackets and scarves and mittens.  I don't need to pull them out very often.

I also have a down comforter I store under the cot.  And my yoga mat.

I hung the purple unicorn my sister gave me for a while, but it didn't feel like a decoration for me.  So it rides in one of the baskets under my bed.  Inside the unicorn is a conversation "game".   A nice tool if the conversation falters.
Jim came over and wanted to take a picture of me and Lilac to send to his wife.  I told him to send a copy to me too.

Well the day finally came to meet up and ride with my friends, Bill and Ruth.  Our first ride we started from their house and rode the trails to a brewery for lunch.

Ruth said she was looking forward to a bloody-Mary.

There were lots of bicycles at this bar.  It had lots of outdoor seating.  We saw this neat non-kick bike stand for this tandem.
We headed back home after lunch and Ruth announced we were stopping at another bar.  This one was new and had a dog park.

There were not paper menus, no menu boards.  If you wanted to see a menu you had to use your phone and scan in the QR code.

It was only about 26 miles but with the hills and the warmth and the beer it felt like 30.  Ruth let me shower at her house and she had bought me a package of veggie burgers that she grilled along with their real burgers.  Thanks for the great supper, Ruth!  I drank a glass of wine at dinner.  Between that and being tired I had to struggle to concentrate on my drive back to camp.

Monday I met Bill and Ruth in Slater and they took me down the High Trestle Trail to go over the beautiful High Trestle bridge.

We ended up in Woodward at a bar and grill.  Attached to it was a campground with trees for shade and electric hookups.

On Tuesday I was to be a guest on a podcast.  I remembered I needed to find a library and see if they had a space where I could talk and not bother anyone.  I used google after our ride and found the Ankeny Library.  It was beautiful and new and they reserved a room for me.

In the evening I was eating dinner when Gaye in a golf cart stopped by.  An older woman she has been volunteering and now working for a wage for the Corp campgrounds for several years.  Jim had talked to her about my book.  She has two friends that are caregivers.  She wanted to know where she could buy my book.  I gave her one, "Read it and pass it on."

On Tuesday I went to the library and hooked up and waited for the link.  It didn't come, and didn't come.  Then I get a text from Linda, "Are you coming on?"

It turned out she had sent the link at the very top of a long email and I had not seen it.

I finally got on and we were having fun, when my WIFI started to fail.  Now that I think back, the lights had motion detectors on them and went out shortly before I started to have problems.  I wonder if they turn the router off for that room.  They actually had a WiFi address specifically for my conference room.  Anyway, I felt horrible.  Linda had to cut her program short because my WiFi failed.

Feeling low and a bit of a failure, I decided to go to Anytime Fitness while I was in town. It turned out is was less than a mile away and in a nice neighborhood with sidewalks.  I decided to walk.

On the way there I found and Acai place and got an Acai bowl.  I didn't know what it was, but it was frozen blended berries with bananas and granola on top and then I added mixed berries to the top of that.  Yum!  I was feeling better!

While I was at Anytime, seeing my older body in the mirror wasn't totally uplifting.  But then I got a call.  It was from Jerry of Connie and Jerry back home!  I stepped outside to talk.

He had called just to let me know he was thinking of me and loved me.  How wonderful is that?  Thank you, Jerry.  You lifted me up.


Oh!  I forgot to tell you that I had listed the Inflatable Stand Up Paddle Board (SUP) on Facebook Marketplace for Des Moines when I arrived.  Ruth helped me decide how to counter offer.  I endedup with a buyer.  I met her at Burger King at 4:00 this afternoon.  I was nervous (you hear stories) so I texted Debra and gave her the gal's name and where we were meeting.  I would call her after it was over.  The woman turned out to be very nice and excited to have the SUP.  I suddenly was feeling richer and lighter.  Debra and I had a celebration phone chat afterward.

This evening I had just finished eating dinner when Gaye stopped by in the golf cart.  She said she started to read my book last night and stayed up too late because she kept reading "just one more page".  As we were finishing our conversation I turned and saw the back door of the Weeroll was missing a screw!

On further investigation it is missing a screw, washers, and the hinge is bent.  How do I keep the doors from blowing open too far when I want them open on a breezy day?


I called and left a message for a trailer repair shop.  The recording said it may take a while because they are super busy with the weather.  I am guessing spring, first time out, lots of rain, lots of repairs are needed.  I don't know how I will fix it.  I suppose just get an ordinary bolt and try to make do until I can get it into a trailer repair place.

If you have ideas for me, leave a comment here or use the contact form. Ideas are welcome.

So, there are the little challenges and the big smiles for this part of my trip.  Thanks to all who helped bring with those smiles.

A Miracle and a Good Laugh

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