Alright, I’m in Des Moines already! Wow, I only have 4 more days to get across Iowa, and frankly, it can’t come soon enough. It’s not that I don’t like Iowa in general, it’s a pretty nice state, but the roads are truly awful. They have some sort of fetish here with rumble strips, gravel shoulders, and gravel roads. The other day I rode for about 50 miles on a road where every 10 feet there was either a large seam or a bump in the road surface. That kind of riding can really wear you down.
Today I took it easy. It’s only about 40 miles from the Garrard family’s house, where I was staying near Pella, to Des Moines. So I decided to go a little out of my way and go to the Friends of the Prairie Learning Center in the Neil Smith NWR. It’s really amazing. They have about 8000 acres of land that they are restoring to the native prairie. Right now there’s about 3000 acres restored. It’s enough for a lot of animals, but not quite enough for some, like the prairie chicken which requires 8000 acres per nesting pair. That is a ton of space! I didn’t go hiking around, but they have buffalo there, and lots of hiking trails. I was enjoying getting in out of the heat and the sun and watching their film about the prairie and looking at their really nicely done exhibits. I did end up helping a group of kids with their scavenger hunt because any time I’m in a place where there’s interpretation happening I can’t seem to help it.
Even with it being a short day, I got worn out. Coming into the refuge my directions led me onto 6 miles of gravel road. I found out later I could have done the whole thing on paved surfaces. Then coming into a big city is always exhausting. the roads get narrower and busier, the people get meaner, and the sprawl as you approach drags on forever. But I made it! Sue cooked the best cornbread ever and had some home made chocolate ice cream left. Then she drove me around and showed me the bike trail that I can take tomorrow that will get me off of roads for all but about 20 miles of my big 80+ mile day.
Also, don’t forget that I update trackmytour.com/6055 a lot more often and you can leave comments both places.