250 Miles; Week 8

Tillwyn, joyful with wind and yogurt, at a rest stop north of Algona

We have now completed one-quarter of our northward journey, and with that comes a sobering thought: it would take most species 25 years to shift their habitat ranges by the same amount that we have walked in just 8 weeks. That is, if they can make the move at all.

One-quarter in, and we are doing well, having grown strong enough that the slight hills we are beginning to encounter again seem like no big deal. Walking on the left side of the road into oncoming traffic has started to feel normal, and accelerated our pace. Several times this week we set new records for ourselves, walking 11 miles one day and eighteen miles the next, thanks to a new option we generated for ourselves: a solo walker bearing a flag that we painted with the image of a burning planet.

After an initial mishap in Fort Dodge, IA (where our wagon was towed and impounded from a Fareway grocery store at the behest of an unsympathetic manager), we walked north along the exceedingly windy U.S. highway 169 for many miles and many towns, bringing us within a stone's throw of the Minnesota border by week's end (at least, if a very large giant were throwing it). In the town of Algona, IA, we encountered a well-attended annual motorbike rally, and spent a somewhat surreal day walking along a tiny country highway, parallel to 169, to the constant sound of motorcycle engine backfire, and pods of bikers, like schools of fish, streaking past us from behind and in front. By the end of the day the crowd had thinned so that small groups of bikes, or solitary riders, lazily droned past us like bumble bees or dragonflies.

We spend hours walking alongside fields whose soy plants are too small for the time of the year, corn that looks spring-tender while a summer sun beats down upon it now. The farmers who ride out on the gators to speak with us (and many do) worry that crops which were delayed in planting by weeks by torrential rainfall and flooding will now burn up because the shallow roots that have developed won't provide the plants enough water. We've had interesting conversations with those farmers about changing jet-stream and rainfall patterns that come with our changing climate, and we've handed out most remaining copies of the first printing of our Climate Crisis Information Sheet.

Everyone is talking about the climate crisis now. You cannot go to a news outlet without seeing a half-dozen stories about the situation, day after day. The floodgates have opened. The question, of course, is will the response be enough, be in time to make a difference? The President has declared that to doubt climate change and its imminent importance is to belong to the "Flat Earth Society." As we pace, we are now encountering very little skepticism that our world is changing. Our country's race for the planet has finally, finally begun.

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