Friday, September 2, 2011

Skip Through Waterloo

September 2: I'm not really a color inside the lines sort of person. Confining myself to the rigid structure of the American Discovery Trail turn-by-turn (the godlike manual which determines my route) has been hard in the past.
Those of you following the journey via atlas may have noticed that lately I seem to be heading on a line more consistent with the North Pole than San Francisco. I enjoyed the Cedar Valley Nature Trail the last few days, but now we have parted and the moment has come to head towards the Pacific once more. Therefore I am skipping the scheduled jaunt into Cedar Falls, the far northern reach of the ADT, and cutting across Waterloo before turning back to the southwest.
From my morning base in Evansdale I had only three miles to Waterloo. A thunderstorm shortly before dawn got me going extra early. By eight thirty I was in the center of the city named after the battle which ended the Napoleonic nightmare in Europe. Never again would a short man curse his inadequacy and slash out angrily at the rest of the world in compensation.
Waterloo has a population of 68,000, many of whom work for John Deere. Their corporate offices may be located in Moline, but the tractor the company is known for is made here. So is Wonder Bread and other Hostess delicacies. Hogs are sent to their delicious fate within the city's boundaries. Waterloo is missing an opportunity here - there should be a chapel where you can come give thanks to the pigs for their gift of crispy bacon and sausages.
The United States Wrestling Hall-of-Fame is also located in the heart of downtown. Iowa is a natural spot for the museum as the two main state colleges have won 57 of the last 56 national championships. Those numbers may seem to be statistically misleading, but they just go to show how dominating the Iowa boys have been.
My favorite part of the day as an amateur history dork was seeing the monuments to the Sullivan brothers. For those of you who don't know there were five (seen above) and they all joined the Navy together during the second great war, insisting when they signed on that they be able to serve together. For such a haul of recruits the rules were waived and the boys ended up on the USS Juneau.
In 1942 at the battle of Guadalcanal the ship was sunk by a Japanese submarine. None of the lads survived, one of the great Shakespearian tragedies of the World War II. Whether their girlfriends back home threw themselves off balconies after delivering a long soliloquy is unknown.
I left Waterloo's main streets and headed southwest towards my intended goal of Hudson. A Howard Johnson's intervened along the way. I heard the siren song of fresh laundry and a shower, neither of which I have had for some days. The feet were exhausted and in need of a break, rain was scheduled for much of the rest of the afternoon. I gave into temptation.

8 miles/1488 total miles


Kathy said...

Hey Alastair,
My comment last night didn't go through, it seems. I wanted you to know that I've kept up with your blog as I traveled this summer (in much more comfort that you are encountering). What a wonderful journey you're having! BTW, I'm glad you didn't switch permanently to kilometers to measure your distance ;-)

Kathy H

Anonymous said...

Fascinating tidbit about the Sullivan brothers. I had the good fortune of interviewing a WW II vet in Franklin recently who kept a diary of his U.S. Navy experiences during the Battles of Okinawa and Iwo Jima. He had two other brothers who also joined the service during WW II, though only one other brother saw combat action. But in a crazy coincidence, he randomly ran into the brother who was serving during the war when they were both at Ford Island, resupplying before heading back out to the Pacific Theater. They had a happier ending though as both survived the war intact.