Iowa. What can be said about Iowa other than it was a great, great experience. From Dubuque to Council Bluffs, Tom and I had a great time. The names of those we should thank are too many for a blog post. It’s cliched, but you know who you are. To the Veterans, supporters, families, churches, organizations, and all others who fed us, sheltered us, washed our clothes, gave us showers (we showered ourselves, they just provided the space. haha) and helped make our trek through Iowa easier, both Tom and I extend our most sincere “thank you” to you all. Each and every one of you accepted our thanks at the time, but humbly declined to accept the fact that YOU are making this trek happen. Accept it. Without your help, Tom and I are probably 100s of miles behind schedule and hungry. We would smell WAY worse, too–that is guaranteed.
Iowa provided us with a change of pace from Wisconsin. When we left home and trekked from Milwaukee to Dubuque, we had some hot, humid, ridiculous weather. Iowa, for the most part, had far better weather for us to walk in. Our first steps west from Dubuque on the Heritage Trail still mark the best steps of our journey. That trail is a standard-setter. Wisconsin trail creators take note: If you want to do a trail right, go walk the Heritage Trail. Beautiful.
Iowa also marked the first real difficulties of the journey. While Tom and I began getting blisters while in Wisconsin, Iowa was the first stretch where we had no choice but to slow down. We took several unanticipated days off, slowed our pace, and had no choice but to rest. Our bodies, minds, and attitudes were great. Our feet were just too bad to continue to push. We took extended rest in Manchester, Independence, and Marshalltown. Each of those stops allowed us to tend to our feet in a way that being out on the road everyday just wouldn’t allow. Now, we find ourselves with foot issues that are more manageable than had we not been smart and slowed down. I, on a personal note, sincerely appreciated the warm words you all shared when I had to pull the plug for two days. In Independence, Tom and I started walking for our day and I made it like an hour and I just couldn’t walk anymore. I felt incredibly dejected knowing that it would screw up our timeline and cost us some unexpected money. But, you all reminded me of what a great thing we were doing and I found comfort in you all being so understanding while I was being so critical. That allowed me to reevaluate the situation and just accept the reality without feeling as though I was letting others down.
As we continued to head west, we got surprise visits from friends and family who drove to see us before we got too far out of range. These visits were great morale boosters. While it was hard to have to say goodbye again, it was time well spent. Those experiences also allowed Tom and I to see familiar faces which made us feel different about the situation. Even though we’ve met and made some great new friends, seeing those you know from home feels comforting and familiar in an unfamiliar place. Suddenly, 100s of miles apart becomes same room, same space. It helps make away feel like home. Those times really help.
Iowa was a fun time despite the gravel road dustings, blisters, failed shoes…and Waterloo. We both feel glad that Iowa was the first state we went through after home. It makes us excited for our next leg.
Now, on to Nebraska. We crossed from Iowa into Nebraska with guests. Tom’s former Army roommate lives in Omaha. He and his wife not only walked with us, but have hosted us the last 2 days. It has been great. Tom and Aaron hadn’t seen each other for years and it gave them the opportunity to catch up. By coincidence, Aaron and I did basic together. Small world.
Omaha is a nice place. Crossing the Missouri River, we could get a pretty clear view of where we were going. We walked all the way across Omaha, through downtown and through the ‘burbs. We went to WalMart last night to get a couple things. Nightmare. In Wisconsin, hell, even in Iowa, if you have 3 items and someone in front of you has a cart piled with so much crap it’s falling out, the person in front lets you go first. In Omaha they don’t. Here, they bring competitor coupons that aren’t honored, argue with the cashier requiring 3 visits from a manager, argue with said manager about how things “should be,” then write checks…without ID requiring them to leave their crap and retrieve their ID while they leave their kids in the cart. All while you wait. My line was bullshit. Tom’s line was bullshit. Aaron’s line was bullshit. WalMart on 72nd St. in Omaha is bullshit. How do I know? Cause I was there. Argue with me and I’ll tell you to go there and I challenge WalMart on 72nd St. in Omaha to give a better experience to you. Don’t hold your breath. If all of Omaha was like that WalMart, Tom and I decided we’d refer to it as Blowmaha. Thankfully, the rest of Omaha doesn’t suck. You know what, it’s not even WalMart’s fault. Hey, lady who was in front of me whose name I don’t know, listen up: WalMart cashiers and managers neither set the prices nor do they determine policy. Cut them some slack. Additionally, who brings 3 gallons of milk to the register only to determine you no longer want them? Lastly, no one needs to buy 2 cubes of regular Mountain Dew. I could tell just by looking at you that you’re single. Lay off the Dew, ma’am.
With that, we sign off for now. Tomorrow, the documentary folks return and we continue with filming. They’re New York City people. They’re going to camp with us. Should be fun. Hopefully, they don’t require too much pampering, cause they probably won’t receive too much from either Tom or me. But, they’re great guys and fun to work with. The next week with them should yield some good material.
Thanks, again, to the people of Iowa and especially those who did so much to make us feel welcome in their state. People of Nebraska, you’re on notice: Iowa and its residents are awesome to Veterans Trek. Challenge thrown down.
To all of you who have supported us, donated to our trek, donated to Dryhootch, shared your stories, walked with us, told your friends, etc….YOU are awesome.
See you on the trail,
Anthony and Tom