Iowa was definitely a sweet spot in our ‘Ride so far, so it is only fitting that it was our 16th state. Not only was it pretty (but so have been most states so far), and had perfect summer weather (probably more a matter of luck than state quality), I had the easiest time by far in finding helpful locals along my route to help with places to stay, trailer support where needed, water for Apollo along the road, and so forth.
We entered the state near Clarinda, which was a very quiet, friendly town full of well-kept beautiful old buildings. As I came to see, at least in the part of Iowa that I rode through, this is just how it’s done here.
Each small town had its own character and charm, but the constant between them was clearly a love of neighbors and home. Perhaps my favorite small town was Malvern, where this tiny dot on the map supported several eateries and other businesses, featured an abundance of local art like this beautiful tree sculpture, and had a well-attended concert and market every week in the summer.
Malvern was also home to one of the best bakeries so far, Moreau’s Backerei and Pizzeria, where I stocked up on a few days worth of pastries for the road, including this unbelievably fabulous pecan roll.
Southwest Iowa is a very scenic place that doesn’t get nearly enough credit for being a nice place to visit. I rode through the Loess hills, where the soil is ideal for crops, and the rolling landscape is covered in picturesque farms, trees, and rivers.
It is also a great place to be a cyclist. Their Wabash Trace, a flat, shady rails-to-trails multi-use path, runs 62 miles from Coucil Bluffs to the Missouri border. Unfortunately, this is the only place where I found some unfriendly people - I had been warned that the cyclists on this path tend to be “possessive” and found this to be the case. Although a few tried to make me feel unwelcome and as though I was breaking the rules by bringing a horse on the trail, most were as friendly as the rest of the Iowans I met. I hope that the folks who manage this great trail can get it together to clarify for its users whether (and where) each type of user can go, and disseminate this to those users to prevent future conflict and hurt feelings.
Nine days in Iowa was not nearly enough. If the rest of the Midwest treats us so well, it will be smooth sailing for the rest of the year!