Like the parts of western Missouri we visited, we quickly discovered that our stereotyped views of Iowa as being nothing but flat cornfields was completely off the mark. Yep, there are cornfields galore, but flat? Uh, no. Perhaps some parts of Iowa, but certainly not Shelby County. You can actually see a representative hill at the upper left of this photo. There were also a lot of hills in the park.
If you aren't familiar with Iowa, here's where Shelby County is, in the western part of the state, fairly close to Omaha, Nebraska.
Although Prairie Rose State Park has a Harlan address, it's actually located down at the lake you can see in this zoomed-in map, about 11 miles southeast of Harlan.
Another thing we learned about Iowa is that in the rural areas, there are very few paved roads. In fact, the roads you see on the map to the right are the only paved ones: the highways in yellow, and the county roads in gray. There are a lot of other roads, but they're all unpaved.
Barry had drawn a detailed map showing all the roads in the area from Google maps, but once we got out there on our bikes, we realized we had very few choices since most were unpaved. We'd just cleaned and detailed our Bike Fridays, so we weren't going to ride them on the dusty gravel roads! So our planned ride to Harlan for a couple of groceries ended up being mostly along Highway 44, not exactly our favorite type of riding. The main part of the shoulder was gravel, so we only had a small lip of the road to ride on as there was also a serious rumble strip. Fortunately, drivers were courteous and gave us the whole lane when passing, if they could. We appreciated that!
We didn't take any photos along the road, as we were too busy concentrating on holding our lines.
The first grocery store we came upon in Harlan was Fareway and even though it was a little small, it turned out to be a real gem, with a good selection, and bag boys wearing white shirts and ties and assisting customers by taking their groceries to their cars. We felt like we'd stepped back into the 1950s!
On another day, we rode over to the little Danish-American town of Elk Horn, also shown on the map above. This route was hillier and a little longer than the route to Harlan. We also had a hotter day for it. As a result, I really suffered, but it was very pretty ride, and the town was cute. There's a Danish-American museum and the only working Danish windmill in the US!
.The 60-foot windmill was built in 1848 in Denmark and purchased here for the US Bicentennial in 1976. However, it took the people of Elk Horn until early 1977 to fully re-assemble it, so they missed the Bicentennial celebration (Source).
It was a beautiful day to view the windmill.
On the way back, I took this photo of Barry; you can see some of the hills we tackled. Fortunately, traffic was light, and the area really was beautiful.
I love the hex signs on barns. Most in this area had one.
Although Iowa was beautiful, we're still looking for flatter roads to ride. Maybe in Minnesota?
Emily & Barry
We're a long-married, early-retired couple who are currently traveling as nomads with no fixed home base. After years of living in North Carolina (Emily's home state), we spent 18 months living oceanfront on Ambergris Caye, Belize, a year road-tripping the US in a Honda CR-V, a year in Playa del Carmen, Mexico, and are now roaming North America in our 32' motorhome, Pearl, following warm weather whenever possible.
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