Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Day One-Hundred-Twenty-Four, Southbound

I was longer on the road than I was yesterday. I managed just about the same distance. Sixteen, maybe seventeen miles. I am frankly ashamed of myself. My soles were sore and my legs were weak. My pack felt unusually heavy. I found myself looking forward to sundown, and an excuse to put up my tent.

The day started fine. I was up at seven. I was sleepy but I'd slept enough. I struggled to find the energy to pack up my gear, but I was sure I'd have a fine day of walking. But these things are hard to predict. I never know what will happen. Some days I just thunder up the road. Other days are better suited to sitting.

My first three or four miles were not too too bad. I arrived in Lake View, Iowa. Where I sat on a corner for ten or twelve minutes to wait for my friend Maren. She had made me some new business cards. My supply has dwindled some. I pass them out along the road. The give me legitimacy.

Or the suggestion of it. At any rate they distinguish me from the other hobos. And distract policemen and promote my blog and get me discounts at motels. Sometimes. I feel rather naked without them. I thank her for taking the time.

It is getting to be overwhelming, really, these kindnesses of the Smiths. When I think of all they have done for me I feel like a mean little dog. It seems the least I can do to be Born Again, but that is sort of a stretch. I didn't even add my Amen when they said grace. It would be a hypocrisy. I don't feel it; I am quite without Faith. It seems disrespectful. Sorry.

I did promise to reread my Bible. That doesn't seem too much to ask. I've read Moby Dick a half-dozen times, footnotes and commentary. A little biblical knowledge won't do me much harm. There are times when it does come in handy. Even if I do go unsaved I'll be better at Jeopardy.

It was my honor to be Mrs. Smith's guest for breakfast. I ate with my usual vigor. And enjoyed what I guess is our last chance to talk before I darken their door again. I don't know for certain when that will be, but I do have an interest now. It is nice to have friends in Iowa. I bet you wish you did too.

Lake View, by the way, is a nice little town. I was much impressed. It has maybe thirteen-hundred people and a number of tidy homes. Everyone I met there was nice to me. An old man laughed at my beard. He gave me something of a hard time, but it was nice that he got the joke.

They've spent some money making things pretty. There are flowers and trees and lawns. And park benches. The laudromat is upholstered in green carpet. There's a good cafe and a grocery store. The lake sits east of town. Black Hawk Lake, I think it is called. It contrasts nicely with the corn.

Like a lot of lakes it is surrounded with homes. I wouldn't mind living in one. Perhaps not for the rest of my life, but it sure seems a comfortable spot. I like water skiing, or I once did. I could take up ice fishing. Or just watch the water and admire the trees and enjoy life in Iowa. I really liked the vibe of the place, to employ that outmoded expression.

I was further delighted to find the Sauk Rail Trail, the Sauk Bluebird Trail in spots. And not quite arbitrarily; I did see some birds that were blue. Not close enough to describe them to you, but they were no bird I've ever seen. They may have been jays, but I could not tell you. Look it up or ask a bird geek.

I was in the mood to find a trail. The highways were wearing me out. They are too well travelled, the gravel's too thick, there aren't enough places to camp. And I still had pretensions of walking today, of putting in some real miles. And as an unimaginable luxury, the Sauk Rail Trail is paved.

I talked with a nice bicycle lady (recumbant, my theory stands). She said it cost $1,000,000 to build this one sidewalk. I don't doubt it cost even more than that. Concrete does not come cheap. Thirty-three miles, smooth enough for skates. It will take me all the way to Carroll. And through some beautiful countryside, now very much showing the season. The snakes are sluggish, the leaves are changing, there's harvesting being done.

I got an encouraging note from Billy, youth pastor, baby brother of Maren. He's putting in some very long days to get the corn in on time. He's pleased with the weather, but he's a positive guy. He'd be just as happy with rain. It was in fact rather warm today. A bank sign said eighty-three. And I think too it was fairly humid, which may go some distance towards explaining my sluggishness.

I sort of felt like I should have hung back, to help the Bergmans with their harvest. But they know what they're doing. I'd just be in the way. I don't know how to run a combine. At least their trailers are easy to hook up, unlike those few poor saps who have yet to invest in an Agri Speed Hitch.

What're you waiting for, by the way. It's an investment that pays for itself. Order your own Agri Speed Hitch today. Tell 'em James sent you.

There is something very real, if that makes sense, about harvesting. It is nice to see where food comes from. I don't want to see them slaughter a cow. Or milk one, if the truth be told. It all seems so indelicate. But harvest time seems kind of fun. You can feel it in the air.

When I lived in Japan I eagerly volunteered to participate in a rice harvest, but I backed out when I learned there'd be snakes. They thought I was just being lazy, but I swear that wasn't it. I would have been paid with a big bag of rice. I thought that would have been neat. I would have felt sort of proud of myself, every time I ate curry.

I am less frightened of snakes than I once was, but I don't like them any better.

My trail took me through one little town. I do not remember the name. There was nothing there but a closed saloon and a hardware store/post office. And a used speed boat lot, of all wonderful things. Alas, I am not in the market. Nor did I buy pop from their vending machine. They wanted a buck twenty-five.

I once took an exotic vacation on a tiny Pacific island not Hawaii, and in the honor fridge in my room the Cokes were going for five dollars. I had money then and mine is a generous nature, but I tell you, I was pissed off. I found the very implication that I might pay five bucks for a can of pop personally insulting. It was like they were calling me a bitch.

My apologies to my good Christian friends. I am compelled to express myself.

The next little town began with a B. I am not holding back its name. It just does not occur to me. I believe it ended in a vowel. I stopped there at the saloon for my dinner. Red's, I think it was called. All they had were things deep fried. It didn't do me much good. Nice place, though. Red was kind. They are auctioning a shotgun for charity. I debated whether to purchase a ticket, but I was afraid I might win.

From there I did not get far. Find me now on the edge of my trail. Camped amongst the blades of another wind farm. I am close enough to one of these monsters to hear its roar. It is something like the sound of the ocean. Which can be a good deal louder than many midwesterners may even suspect.

But not unpleasant. Until a bearing gives out. Then I bet it would crack your skull. Anyway, goodnight. I'll try to do better tomorrow.

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