In May 2013, Ed (my husband) and I biked a brief portion (14 miles) of the Wabash Trace on our way to South Dakota. Since Joyce hadn’t ridden the Wabash Trace, I agreed to ride the whole trail with her. Ed offered to drive us to Iowa and to provide shuttle service for us 🙂 . We left Atlanta on Friday morning at 9 AM and drove 10 hrs to Columbia, Missouri to spend the night. We stayed in a brand new Candlewood Suites Hotel and ate dinner at a Mexican restaurant close to the hotel.
While driving to Iowa, Ed joked about going to the Iowa State Fair to see the presidential candidates while Joyce and I biked the Wabash Trace. After looking at the maps and candidate schedule, we decided that ALL of us should take the detour to the Iowa State Fair in Des Moines on our way from Columbia to Council Bluffs. After two hours of searching on Twitter, etc., I discovered that Donald Trump planned to land in one of his helicopters at a baseball field near the fairgrounds. According to the press release, Trump planned to hold a brief press conference and to give some lucky kids rides in his helicopter prior to going to the fair. So, we decided to get up early and drive four hours to Des Moines in hopes of getting to see his dramatic entrance to the fair! When we arrived at the baseball park, there were less than 50 people waiting to see Trump. The media release that I found online specifically stated that the landing site was not to be shared with the general public, which explained the small crowd. We asked the policeman stationed at the park’s entrance if we were allowed to stay for the press conference, and he said “Yes.”
We parked our truck and walked over to the ball park where we staked out a spot along the outfield fence directly in front of the microphone where Trump would address the press. The crowd grew to about 200, but most of them were press or Trump Team staff members and their children. There were 2-3 secret service agents and two local policemen. After a short wait, Trump’s helicopter came into sight and circled the adjacent fairgrounds a couple of times before landing on the pavement in front of us. After exiting the chopper, Trump walked to the microphone and answered questions for about 20 minutes. He welcomed the children and asked them to come stand with him. After his speech, he took a chopper ride with some of the children and newscaster, Martha Radditz from ABC. The helicopter pilot continued to give rides to groups of children while Trump and his staff rode by golf cart to the fairgrounds. We followed in our truck and three cameramen, including one from CNN, asked to hitch a ride with us. When we arrived at the ticket gates, Trump had already entered the midway and was surrounded by hundreds of Iowans. We were thankful that we got to see and hear him without the crushing crowds 🙂 .
After our Iowa State Fair drive-by, we drove two hours west to the northern terminus of the Wabash Trace in Council Bluffs. We unloaded our bikes, geared up, and started pedaling about 4 PM. Ed went to check into our hotel, and he later met us at 7 PM in Malvern, 22 miles south.
Despite the summer heat, Joyce and I enjoyed the ride; there was a nice breeze and the trail was predominantly tree-canopied. I was relieved that the crushed sandstone trail was hard-packed with no visible ruts or debris. Our 2 ½ hour ride went by quickly as we pedaled past beautiful Iowa cornfields. We arrived in Malvern 30 minutes earlier than expected so we parked our bikes, purchased a cold drink at C&M’s Café, and waited for Ed at a wrought iron table on Main Street. Other bikers who purchased ice cream cones at the café told us about their 3-day biking and camping adventure on the trail.
Ed transported us back to the Holiday Inn Express in Council Bluffs. After a quick shower, Ed and I went to eat wings at Quaker Steak & Lube, a unique car-themed restaurant, while Joyce chose to eat free Saturday night pancakes at the hotel. We got a good night’s sleep and ate a scrumptious breakfast, including decadent cinnamon rolls, before leaving the hotel. Ed dropped us off in Malvern about 9 AM, and we pedaled 41 miles south to Blanchard, which is located on the Iowa-Missouri state line.
I enjoyed the first 20 miles of our ride from Malvern to Shenandoah. Although the trail climbed and descended numerous hills, the climbs were not steep or long. Today, we saw more soybean crops, and there were numerous wooden bridges spanning small rivers and creeks. Most of the bridges were short; however, there were a few longer ones with iron trusses. We noticed numerous large red-tail squirrels and countless butterflies of all colors. Until we reached Shenandoah, the trail was mostly tree-canopied. We spotted several large walnuts on the trail and noticed more wild flowers today than yesterday.
We stopped in Shenandoah to eat a snack and to call Ed to let him know that we were running about 30 minutes behind our anticipated arrival time in Blanchard due to the hilly terrain. Leaving Shenandoah we had a difficult time finding the trail. After a brief period of feeling lost, we were able to spot the green bike route signs directing us back to the trail.
Below Shenandoah, the trail was much more exposed to the sun. In addition, this portion of the trail was not well maintained. Encountering tree limbs every few feet made it imperative to keep our eyes fixed on the trail to avoid the frequent obstacles. There were also several sections of loose gravel, which made traction a little treacherous. Since there were very few bikers on the trail, we encountered numerous cob webs spanning across the path. Needless to say, I did not enjoy this portion of the trail as much the northern part. The trail conditions and afternoon heat made the last 10 miles more challenging. At one point, I stopped and poured my water bottle over my head to cool off 🙂 . When we arrived in Blanchard, Ed was waiting for us about ¼ mile from the abrupt, non-eventful trail end. As I pushed my bike through the thick grass leading over to the street where Ed was parked, I was extremely thankful that we completed the 63-mile trail without getting a flat tire!
After loading our bikes, I persuaded Ed and Joyce to drive two hours out of our way to Madison County, home of the famous covered bridges where the movie Bridges of Madison County was filmed. En route to the small town of Winterset, the home place of John Wayne, we ate lunch and a hot fudge sundae at McDonald’s. About two hours later, we arrived at the dirt road leading to the 107-foot Roseman Bridge, which was built in 1883. I relived the scenes from the movie, snapped a few pictures, and browsed the gift shop located adjacent to the bridge. We decided to drive through Winterset to see John Wayne’s birthplace on our way to the Holliwell Bridge located about 3 ½ miles southeast of town. The 122-foot Holliwell Bridge was built in 1880 and was also featured in the film. Despite the extra driving, I am extremely thankful that my husband agreed to this side trip; we may never have this opportunity again!
We plan to drive to St. Louis tonight (ETA midnight) and back home to Atlanta tomorrow. Originally, when we planned this quick trip to Iowa, I did not anticipate any opportunity for sightseeing. However, we not only saw a press conference with the Republican front-runner for President but we also visited the beautiful covered bridges of one of my all-time favorite movies. Biking the Hall of Fame trails started out as a dream, but Joyce and I made it a reality! If you have a dream, don’t allow the mundane obligations of life to silence your desires, confining your dreams in a box…live each day to its fullest!
“…realities that kept the music silent, the dreams in a box.”
― Robert James Waller,