Planting the 3 sisters- corn, squash, and beans. We will carry these seeds of growth and tolerance to Portland, Oregon.
Day 1, June 20 after, Indian Boundary Park
We left this morning at 7 and it ended being a 12 hour day through very hilly but beautiful countryside. Moving through northwest Illinois, we ran into late day thunderstorms. Lightening hitting the landscape late in the day right before our stop. Riding through areas of decommissioned railroad beds affords us a view of the rolling plains and thinly populated countryside. We are still adjusting to the physical demands and usual aches and pains. I think about the coal from the international peace fire that I received from Pat. The fire was brought to Illinois a year or so ago and another coal was recently placed at the camp at Auschwitz (among other places). As we struggle through our minor inconveniences, I think of the struggles people have endured in the past and the focus of our mission,- to listen to these stories and try and honor their personal histories.
I felt the coal in my bundle for aid.
We are at dinner, showered and checked in. Tomorrow will be a campsite. The day after we hit Dubuque and it’s supposed to be a big storm. At the end of today we passed through some lightening. Before we left I read about Wakinyan from the Lakotas…so I keep the ceder…
“Wakinyan has instructed us to burn cedar during the thunderstorms, as Wakinyan’s lodge is in the west and is made of cedar, and cedar is also cleansing. Hence, when Wakinyan flies over our houses, he will view favorably the houses which burn the cleansing cedar and he will leave our homes alone as he continues on in his cleansing journey to that which does require his cleansing.”
Day 2, June 2064 miles today. Up and down, we get respite in the woods following the train lines. The Galena railroad was decommissioned in the 1990’s and this now makes for some nice flat grades. Anything that needs water needs to travel on level ground to conserve energy. Moving into the Mississippi makes for an amazing but tremendously hilly landscape. This is like eastern Ohio as it approaches the Appalachians. Time for rest after an intensive day of climbing.
Day 3, June 21
Started out a bit slow. Quincy broke off and headed to Stockton. We moved into a small town to take shelter from high winds. The fronts have been moving in quickly and we have a delay in movement. A funnel cloud passes over our head and the rain starts to deluge. The sky turns day into night conditions. The clerks at the convenient store monitor Facebook to see who’s barn is destroyed. Interesting use of social media as a commons for disaster.
After the rain passes, the wind picks up and we make our way west in the rain. The fronts keep moving through and it seems even more threatening as we are in remote areas. Our path takes a back road route and we see no towns. Rolling hills and steep climbs as we approach the Mississippi. The wind starts to pick up and we take shelter at a farmstead. The wind speed hits 95mph and trees are coming down. Later in the day we see grain driers blown across the road and downed power lines. No tornados hit the ground but it seemed like a perfect storm opportunity for this to occur. Afterwards, the landscape opened up to bucolic scenes.
We pass through Sinsinawa Mounds. This high mounded landscape was eventually turned into a convent after being wrestled away from the native tribes that inhabited the area. This was were Chief Blackhawk had his last stand as he was eventually driven across the Mississippi. We cross the Mississippi at the end of the day today.
Day 4, June 22
Today we climb out of Dubuque. I so grateful that a farmer put us up in his garage as a shelter from those 95mph winds yesterday. Today it’s cool a breezy day but we hit the open plains and rolling hills that seem long and long and go on forever. The farm land seems more pleasant and gentle than in NW Illinois for some reason. The land looks rich. Earlier, riding on an old converted railroad beds we share the same things that locomotives need,- gradual rises. Parts of Dubuque climb straight up like San Francisco!
As we head away from the Mississippi, we start to see vast open fields and stands of pine trees. The scenery seems to be setting us up for the Great Plains. It feels a bit higher in elevation. This place looks like America’s breadbasket. Especially in the back roads that most people never see. Corn and beans are planted everywhere.
We are beat today as we pull into Postville, Iowa and we stay at a hotel for a break. There is a pizza place down the road and the hotel owner offered to pick it up for us! Her husband offered Julia the use of his car too! Iowa hospitality.
Day 5, June 23
Today was much smoother and quicker. We are done by 3pm and gives us some time to clean cloths and dry out wet tents. First sign of birch trees and all farmsteads have huge pines lining the main houses. They look like they would keep everything protected, from winds to blizzards. The railroad beds are once again a source for seeing amazing parts of the countryside. They pass through forests and fields with no roads in sight. This is like looking out into a view from horse and buggy days. We don’t see or hear any traffic or other modern noises or static. The air is so much cooler inside the groves and it makes me think about how out of connection we are to nature going from air conditioning to air conditioning. Pulling into LeRoy, Minnesota today, the temperature registers 81 degrees but it feels much cooler. Five inches of rain hit this place a few days ago and it seems to be threatening again a bit later tonight. We opt for the local ‘Sweets Inn”. A true 19th century roadhouse.
Day 6, June 24
66 miles, Owatonna, MN
Cool morning and beautiful weather. The storms that came through Monday seem to still be leaving the area in a partly cloudy pleasant sky. Good for riding.
The landscape again seems to be becoming very northern in its appearance,- huge pine and spruce line farms and seem to appear everywhere in the forest gatherings we pass through. This part of the country seems very Scandinavian in its appearance. Bicycle paths seems to endlessly run through farm fields and wooded areas. They are immaculate in upkeep. Occasionally we will see others but for the most part we are crossing into more remote areas. It is starting to feel far from home. The quaintness of the small towns is charming and they are getting farther apart. Again, people are very nice and accommodating. We pass o meet a friend. deer frequently in the area and we have spotted an eagle. We have to start to carry more water as our travels are taking us further and further from sources of resupply. Luckily, we have hit towns at a very convenient distance and lunch and dinner worked out well. We were also able to get supplies for the morning. Usually, we wake up at 6, eat, pack up, and get rolling by 7 or 7:30. It’s nice to be moving early in the day when it’s cooler and in case of mechanical problems. Luckily, we have been spared anything too serious. Across from our camp tonight, a small boy is sitting in a boat in the reeds by the river. This looks like something out of Huck Finn. As time slows down for us, we see slow time activities all around us. The tiny city hall we passed by earlier today and the remnants of a one room school house speak of a different era. These things are long gone from urban areas. Tomorrow, we will see Adrian off. In the morning we will ride together and then split east and west on a trail as he heads off to meet a friend. Julia and I will be riding towards the Dakotas to eventually meet up with Pat and Mark around Glendive, MT.
Day 7, June 26
51 miles, Mankato, MN
We leave camp early today. Up at 6 and packed and rolling around 7:30. Overcast and about 65 degrees makes for great day to ride. The day went much smoother with a smaller distance and more rolling landscape. We are on an old railroad bed converted to a trail and it is easy to envision the landscape how it may have looked 150 years ago. The Corn comes right up to the edge of the trail and trees line the path. Anything that needs water appreciates a gradual rise in grade and that is what makes it nice riding on an old railroad right of way. Adrian split off from us today and we had an mythic parting as we came to a fork and he went east and we went due west. We spent the rest of the day riding on a desolate trail.
Our day ends at Mankato. We stay the night across the street from Reconciliation Park. A sacred site to the Dakota Sioux. This park is a memorial to the loss of life in 1862 after the Dakota uprising. This site is marked by the 38 names of the native people who lost their lives in the largest mass execution in American history. The invasion into native hunting grounds led to killings on the Minnesota plains and tragedy all the way around. The poem by Katherine Hughes sums up the sentiment that would speak well to us today,- regret for the attitudes that reason abandoned and respect for the deeds and kindness that brought honor to both cultures as well as a future when memories remain balanced by forgiveness. We plan on marking this location of landscape and memory with a survey, recording GPS coordinates, and mapping a new territory of tolerance.
Week 1 Question: As we cross many divides today, the Governor of Alabama takes down the Confederate flag from state buildings, the Supreme Court passes law regarding same sex marriage, and we travel through Mankato and Reconciliation Park. We wonder if we will forget the people on the fringes of the fight for equal treatment under the law? Will we basque in the glow of landmark legislation but loose the cultural war for the greater narrative? We are reminded of the passing of the 13th, 145th, and 15th amendments abolishing slavery, and that it took 150 years before we truly addressed equal rights. How should we challenge traditional notions of privilege?