As I travelled across Iowa my company on the road grew substantially. Outside Mount Vernon, IA the local high school team of almost 40 strong, would run into town with me. Iowa with its non-shoulder roads and sloping gravel had made pushing my 50 lb. stroller a challenge and that along with heat and humidity pushed the heat index to 112 or higher. Despite these small speed bumps it was a great return to the midwest. Unless one has lived here there is no way to really describe the sun climbing high in the morning over corn that has been soaked by the dew overnight. The smell of fresh cut hay is glorious, the smell of cattle trucks and fertilizer, downright nauseating. Outside Davenport friends join me again along with 3 members of the National Guard and a Sunday becomes a social hour on the road. Miles fade away and the Mississippi comes into view. Now I can smell home. I cross the grand river and head up the bike path from Rock Island, IL to Savanna. This is a 60 mile stretch of sweetness. No cars, paved pathway and towns close enough to my route to remind me of life along the river. It is also a nostalgic period of time for me here on this stretch. As I enter Thomson, IL, I run past my grandmothers house. She has been gone from us for 8 years now. I stand out front on the sidewalk and close my eyes and smell sugar cookies and hear a parakeet, one she kept on the porch. I smell my grandfathers rolled cigarettes….We were young then. My brothers and I, way back in the early 70’s. It was a time of camping every weekend just down a dirt road from this house. A time when the only thing that mattered in our young life was fishing……and more fishing and grandmas treats when we could get away. I shuffle on and enter the shrouded tunnels of trees near Savanna, IL. These open up to a stretch of highway that leads to the hills of northern Illinois. Galena is a pre-civil war town that sits along the aptly named, Galena River. It is the only town I have ever seen that had a flood gate that can be closed, barricading the main street from the rising flood waters of the river. It is a historical town with much character. President Ulysses Grant had a home here and it stands now as a museum. I climb a long road for 7 miles to my grandpas home. The 85 year old retired farmer/bulldozer operator/slot machine gambler is waiting. The love of a grandparent becomes more evident the older they, and we get. I shuffle on and on, up one hill and down the next. The flies are a nuisance and I feel like a cow or a horse or some farm animal. I never tire of coming home, though my visits have been so sparse the last few years. This past Sunday I am greeted by a small group of friends and we run in to Rock Falls, IL. Our group swells to 20 then 40 then 60 and then 80. The road is ours and it is pleasant to see the reception this run has been given. It is by far the largest group to greet me and keep me company on the road. This is also the end of my 3rd Section of the run and the beginning of the last. These corn fields will give way to the eastern part of the country that I have not seen yet. This line of flags continues to grow as my brothers join me for a short section of the day and place flags also. They are now connected to the journey as are so many others. As one friend said in Iowa, the flags, in their unending weave, have become a memorial highway. So be it then.