As we headed out of Cascade, we got a bit of a surprise. While we thought we had seen, or rather smelled, factory farms through Ohio, Indiana, and Illinois, nothing really prepared us for the first 30 miles outside of Cascade.
Factory farms, sometimes known by their more explanatory name, Concentrated Animal Feeding Operations (CAFOs), are the sites of significant ecological damage, threats to human health and well-being, and animal cruelty. These operations are well hidden. We are cycling mainly on smaller county roads, far from the highways most of the population would use to get around, and therefore they are largely out of sight. Even so, they are sometimes ringed by trees, and are only recognizable visually if you know what you are looking for: long barn-like structures with feeder tanks along the sides and fans built into the walls.
Maybe they were previously fewer and farther between, but, in the rolling hills of northeastern Iowa, they dotted the landscape. We could smell them before we saw them, and our pace would always quicken to move past the overpowering stench as soon as possible. We were thankful to leave that corridor of farms as the day went on.
We stopped in Elkader for lunch and feasted on Subway and fries from Burger Barn, a local restaurant, both kindly donated. As we left, a headwind picked up and we spent the rest of the afternoon and evening fighting our way up hills (mountains?) towards Monona. When we finally arrived, we stuffed ourselves full of recently expired (and therefore free) food from the grocery store, including an entire pumpkin pie. Satiated, we went to watch another (and our last) Iowa sunset over the rolling green hills. We camped under a pavilion in the local park for fear of more storms, but, thankfully, none came.