The Midwest Love…….

As I travelled across Iowa my company on the road grew substantially. Outside Mount Vernon, IA the local high school team of almost 40 strong, would run into town with me. Iowa with its non-shoulder roads and sloping gravel had made pushing my 50 lb. stroller a challenge and that along with heat and humidity pushed the heat index to 112 or higher. Despite these small speed bumps it was a great return to the midwest. Unless one has lived here there is no way to really describe the sun climbing high in the morning over corn that has been soaked by the dew overnight. The smell of fresh cut hay is glorious, the smell of cattle trucks and fertilizer, downright nauseating. Outside Davenport friends join me again along with 3 members of the National Guard and a Sunday becomes a social hour on the road. Miles fade away and the Mississippi comes into view. Now I can smell home. I cross the grand river and head up the bike path from Rock Island, IL to Savanna. This is a 60 mile stretch of sweetness. No cars, paved pathway and towns close enough to my route to remind me of life along the river. It is also a nostalgic period of time for me here on this stretch. As I enter Thomson, IL, I run past my grandmothers house. She has been gone from us for 8 years now. I stand out front on the sidewalk and close my eyes and smell sugar cookies and hear a parakeet, one she kept on the porch. I smell my grandfathers rolled cigarettes….We were young then. My brothers and I, way back in the early 70’s. It was a time of camping every weekend just down a dirt road from this house. A time when the only thing that mattered in our young life was fishing……and more fishing and grandmas treats when we could get away. I shuffle on and enter the shrouded tunnels of trees near Savanna, IL. These open up to a stretch of highway that leads to the hills of northern Illinois. Galena is a pre-civil war town that sits along the aptly named, Galena River. It is the only town I have ever seen that had a flood gate that can be closed, barricading the main street from the rising flood waters of the river. It is a historical town with much character. President Ulysses Grant had a home here and it stands now as a museum. I climb a long road for 7 miles to my grandpas home. The 85 year old retired farmer/bulldozer operator/slot machine gambler is waiting. The love of a grandparent becomes more evident the older they, and we get. I shuffle on and on, up one hill and down the next. The flies are a nuisance and I feel like a cow or a horse or some farm animal. I never tire of coming home, though my visits have been so sparse the last few years. This past Sunday I am greeted by a small group of friends and we run in to Rock Falls, IL. Our group swells to 20 then 40 then 60 and then 80. The road is ours and it is pleasant to see the reception this run has been given. It is by far the largest group to greet me and keep me company on the road. This is also the end of my 3rd Section of the run and the beginning of the last. These corn fields will give way to the eastern part of the country that I have not seen yet. This line of flags continues to grow as my brothers join me for a short section of the day and place flags also. They are now connected to the journey as are so many others. As one friend said in Iowa, the flags, in their unending weave,  have become a memorial highway. So be it then.

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6 Responses to “The Midwest Love…….”

  1. kath Says:

    You are an amazing person! As I follow your journey, there is only great admiration what you are accomplishing.

    Awesome experience in IL

    I hope you realize the number of lives you have touched on your journey beyond words can say.

    My friend, again..God Bless You!!

    tha

  2. linda wright Says:

    So glad to hear you are doing well and were able to be back in your surroundings growing up. Be safe, continue to be you and look for the rainbows along the way. Your flags you placed are still around here in Fort Collins, CO. We share our time with you and your journey with the Colorado Relay team the Lost Soles. They all say hi and think it is amazing what you are doing. We ran this passed weekend and did well. Chuck did Georgia Pass. I was runner 10 it was awesome to do the finish of it all. Thought of you and when you were on our team. Take care, write when you can. Hugs to you, LINDA

  3. Bill Halberg Says:

    Mike, I am glad I decided to read the online paper and stumbled onto your project and was able to track you down. What an amazing tribute to our troops and awesome adventure for you. I hope to catch up on our lost years in the near future and wish you well on your journey.

    Bill Halberg, PHS ’79

  4. david henson Says:

    I was an honor to meet you. Our family prays for your safe travels. I am glad you enjoyed the flags we set out for our passing though our little town. It was our way to honor your dedication to our fallrn heroes. My daughters will never forget the honor you gave them for placing a flag for you. It is an experience they will never forget and they learned how special the moment was. The flag is still there and we go by it everyday and we remeber how thankfull we are for those who gave the ultimate sacrifice. I will send a picture that turned out well. You are saluting after placing a flag on the town cencus sign. The flags we put up are in the backgrond. take care and it was grea meeting you.

  5. lea ann Says:

    Mike I continue to cherish your stories of life. Sometimes we tend to forget what this journey of so called life is all about. God bless you, a good thing is happening. Love you.

  6. desiree Says:

    your friends in the midwest love you and enjoyed so very much the entire weekend spent with you….i am so thankful to have had this time and experience with you my friend and what you continue to do everyday is something you can’t put into words…..thanks for asking us to host you and we loved meeting Peggy as well…..everyone involved; all your adventure race buddies, our military guys, and your new friends now that came out to run all had an awesome time Mike…..the grandpa memories i can relate to as i was very closet to my granpa……grandparents are a true gift and i am sure he is beyond proud of you and your quest ….take care , be safe and we will be following youalways up the road….hugs from the midwest….des

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