Emmertville, Iowa to Spring Valley, Wisconsin to Toronto Canada!
The first thing we noticed when we opened the door to our motel the next morning was the smell of cows!
As soon as we had hit Minnesota the day before we knew we had made the right decision to come East. The scenery, farming and even the people were so different. If we had only stayed West then we would have completely missed out on so much ...after all our decision to visit the USA was so we could visit and experience the whole of the country.
Our navigation app once again took us straight onto the back country gravel roads and we were soon happily riding past crops and farms.
We passed a crop that we didn’t recognise and Nick once again got off to have a “look see”. Turns out it was soya beans …this must have been what they were combining the night before.
We approached one deserted (hahaha they are ALL deserted!) crossroads that was so like something from a movie set we expected to see Cary Grant dart out of the maize and start running down the road while being chased by a crop duster plane.
A little further down the road we passed a turkey farm. The turkeys (all housed) were looking out of the sides of the shed through the mesh but over the side sheets that they must drop down in good weather. They all craned their heads and watched us ride past. We felt so bad that they should be couped up in there …waiting for their heads to be chopped off while we had the freedom to roam where ever we wanted. Nick ended up making light of it by commenting “Oooo….whats that green stuff out there Mable? Something in my genetic make up is making me want to peck it”.
Our destination for that day was a place we had seen on the map called Mystery Caves in Minnesota. We had looked it up and seen they did some very cools tours AND had a visitors centre so we could glean some more information about the area. Unfortunately when we got there they were only open Mon, Thur and Fridays …so that ruled out tomorrow too! Cest la Vie.
The following day we visited an acquaintance made via social media about 8 years ago when we were posting daily about our farm life. Scott and his wife Liana had purchased their farm in Wisconsin around the same time as us and they were (and still are) running a pasture based system where the cows stay outside all year like most new Zealand dairy farms.
It was great seeing their farming system and their VERY happy, quiet and relaxed cows out grazing grass. These are the first dairy cows we have seen outside grazing since we arrived in Canada and the USA 2 months ago, lots of beef cows/steers out but no dairy! The majority of dairy farms here in the US run what is called a confinement farm where the cows might have an outdoor space for some sun etc. but they never actually go out and graze a field …all their food is brought to them and they are fed a daily ration.
The cows on a pasture based system generally give less milk with a high concentrate of fat and protein making it ideal for cheese …which they also make on site. Due to the lower intensity of the farming system they also live for a lot longer.
Go and check out Uplands Cheese …you can even buy it online, and its DELICIOUS!
In the evening we had a delicious homecooked meal, it was such a luxury after eating so much of “healthiest we can get our hands on” …which is not always that healthy!
We saw a hummingbird in the garden and actually managed to get a video of it. And then later when the sun went down Nick had to go and get something off the bikes and heard a few coyotes howling …so he hurried up what he was doing. Then they started to fight which sounded horrendous so he ran back to the house!
Later in the evening those Coyotes must have been having a fight club for all in the district as the snarling and howling was so loud for a long while. One thing is for sure and that is no way is Bec camping out up this way, and Nick is just fine with that!
We left Scott and Lianas early the next day and were on the road before 8. It was cold …again, but bearable with all our layers and the heated grips on the bikes. We headed east and south a bit to try and avoid having to ride anywhere near Chicago which person after person told us was terrible.
Rural Illinois was actually a nice surprise, very friendly with some quaint little towns. We stopped in Warren where they had decorated all the lampposts with corn (maize) plants. We assume this has been done for Halloween (still 4.5 weeks away) as we are starting to see more and more homes decorated for Halloween too.
As we continued through Illinois we again took the back rural roads and saw more and more combines harvesting soya beans and maize. It’s a wonderfully familiar smell …corn dust as the combines worked.
The next few days were a bit of a blur through Ohio, Pennslyvania and new York State.
What really struck us was the change in scenery again as we hit miles and miles of forests in all their autumn splendour.
We passed a lot of Amish communities …more than we expected there to be, probably dues to the more rural roads that we wwere taking.
While we don’t necessarily understand their lifestyles we have a lot of respect for how hard they work and how they survive with just small amount of land. It certain makes you question the cost of your “stuff” that the society that we live in insinuates we “need”.
We made a quick night stop to Toronto to visit Tom and Ruth (the third!) who we met on the Dempster highway. It was lovely to see them …we didn’t much like the urban travelling to get there though.
Next stop Vermont!