Menlo Iowa

After sitting on the ramp for a few minutes outside of Des Moines, I got a ride about 30 or 40 miles down I-80 to a small town of Menlo Iowa.

The gentleman that dropped me off had mentioned the city park had very cheap or free camping for tents! He had also mentioned the name of a guy that would be in the local watering hole that could help me with info about this small town. I quickly realized I would be hanging in Menlo for a few days because of the friendly open arm welcomes I got from the locals.

Menlo is how I feel every town/city in America should be. Great family values, community support, no ignorance towards strangers… I had a great time hanging out with the locals! Playing blackjack and cribbage while enjoying very low priced drinks at Short’s Place on the bustling Menlo main drag. After the first couple nights there a huge storm system started to develop in the south killing 16 people in Arkansas. Having spent time stationed at Offutt AFB I knew how the weather would turn out in the plains. A few beers later I decided to hang in Menlo and wait out the storm system!

FIVE DAYS! Yup, that’s right! I waited five days for the storm system to pass! First started with high winds that just about flattened and snapped my tent poles. Tornado warnings and all the fun stuff that comes with that. Luckily I was pitched close to a community shelter. At this point most of my gear was soaked and was starting to get that musty smell. I still have fun though hanging with all the locals and bitching with the best of them about the weather.

pee sign
Funny sign at Short’s Place
Menlo Iowa Water tower
Just a cool looking water tower in Menlo Iowa

I-80 Ride

Didn’t take long flying the I-80 sign to get a ride! I was probably only on the ramp about 15 minutes when a guy pulled up in a mid-sized pickup truck. He had seen me on the ramp when exiting for gas, moved stuff in the back for the dog and then came to pick me up.

Luckily he was heading all the way to I-80! Couldn’t ask for a better ride. Very chill guy that lived in his truck while traveling around the south and midwest as a welder. We talked politics, economics and how relaxing it is to live on the road and see all the great sites.

The ride was about 5.5 hours with a couple little stops along the way. When we arrived in Des Moines Iowa area I still had long underwear on from the cold of Minneapolis area. It was 80+ in Des Moines.

To I-80

I spent a night south of Minneapolis waiting for the weather to clear. It was still pretty chilly at night and woke up to the tent covered in ice and snow. Sure glad I purchased a air pad from REI and a decent sleeping bag this year!

It had been awhile since I put the thumb up out on the road so I was a little nervous when first starting. I also felt kind of lazy after laying in the tent for so long. What to do? Well I made up a quick little sign for I-80 and tossed Shmoo on there for good measure. Southward bound!

manny ready hitch
Manny ready to hitch to I-80

First Ride

My first ride this year wasn’t really a hitch. A good friend of mine from Ironwood spoke with his daughter who was driving back to Minneapolis. I was kind of nervous in a way to travel this first stretch with someone so close. I hadn’t been on the road for awhile and had all kinds of emotions confusing me. All this quickly changed once I had a real chance to sit and talk with his daughter on the way to Minneapolis.

What a smart young lady she is! I was very pleased having great conversation with my friends daughter. Sometimes I manifest this wall between the younger generations because of basic ignorance in me. This is something I have been working on to open up more to all generations to learn and grow. It makes me feel so good that these younger generations are learning about the world and how things really work at a much younger age than I had thought. We may actually have a chance of love and peace yet!

When my friends daughter dropped me off we made our quick good byes, had a quick hug and she gave me an agate that I have been carrying with me for the past 6 or so weeks. I will have it wire tied to hemp at the National Rainbow Gathering later this summer! Thanks Alli! Much love!

Friends daughter Alli gave me this agate when I first left Michigan.


Lots of people ask me why I’m doing this. Plain and simple, it makes me happy.

I’ve struggled with depression and alcohol problems pretty much my entire adult life. I find myself getting more depressed when I sit in a house and work a 9-5 job. There has to be more to life than paying bills then taking a dirt nap.

When I’m out hitchhiking I meet great people doing great things for complete strangers. I get to visit beautiful places that I may have never had the chance nor desire to visit. The excitement of waiting on the ramp and wondering who my next ride is going to be makes me feel vibrant and full of positive energy. From all this I hope to create and share tools that can help others along the way. I think everyone should travel with nothing but a backpack at some point in their life to experience the different cultures, ideas, relationships of all the great people we have on this planet.

developing on the road