Traversing the Hinterlands – Part 3, by Iowa Farm Boy

Dangerous Areas

It will be extremely difficult to cross this region while avoiding some major cities. For example, Cedar Rapids and Iowa City are very close together. You all know as well as I do what happens when people get desperate. How far away from the cities this will effect the countryside, I don’t know. Cities to avoid specifically are the ones with major prisons, like Fort Madison or Anamosa. There are several prisons or minimum security facilities across the region, and someone coming through Iowa needs to do their research and avoid them, if possible.

I have spent the last 35 years, until recently, living in Marshalltown. I believe this town was also mentioned in one of JWR’s books. During the time I lived there, I watched the dynamics change. The packing house closed then reopened, and it renamed itself to get the union out; at least, that is my opinion. It then expanded and started hiring migrant workers, and dare I say, illegals. The crime rate went up and the neighborhood where I lived went downhill. Marshalltown was and may still be considered the meth capital of the Midwest. I have heard that they had at least two members of every major gang in the country represented there, including MS13. There have been several murders in the last couple of years, including one drug deal gone bad involving mutilation of the body. All I am saying is that if I was traversing the countryside, I would avoid Marshalltown by a big margin.


There is also the Meskwaki Indian settlement close to Marshalltown. Whether that is good or bad depends on them and you. Other than their annual Pow-Wow, they have mostly abandoned their traditional ways of living. There is also a large casino there.

Other bloggers have mentioned the Amish or Mennonites. There are several communities of them in Iowa. The biggest is called the Amana Colonies near Iowa City, although they aren‘t necessarily Amish. I believe they will be the most prepared and able to survive, but I don’t know how they will react to strangers after the SHTF. Is it just a coincidence that they have chosen a way of life that will be ideal in a TEOTWAWKI situation?

The people of Iowa are a good and kind people, for the most part, especially in the small towns and the farming community. Growing up on a farm you see the best come out in people. Especially in the days before a lot of the processes became mechanized, we helped each other. In the past, it was thrashing, and more recently I remember the days we shelled corn. All the area farmers would get together for the day to help. For lunch, the women would throw a huge meal together for the men. Sexist or not, that’s the way it was, and nobody complained. Everyone did their part to bring in the harvest. When I was too young or in school, my mother was driving the tractor in the fields right along with my dad. As soon as I was able to carry a bucket of oats, I helped with the chores. My sisters would gather the eggs. We would all pitch in weeding the garden. Was it child abuse? No, it was life lessons. When a farmer was sick or somehow laid up, the neighborhood farmers will come to help with the field work and chores. Our neighbors still plow us out with their tractors from the snow without being asked. Many of us all go to the same schools, churches, stores, and bars and have known each other all our lives. My own example was that I went to church in one town, went to school in another, and had relatives I pretty much grew up with in a different town. We had friends and relatives in each town. All these towns were less than ten miles apart. Everybody knowing everybody’s business can be bad and good. Having people around a 10 mile square area of the countryside that have known you and your family for literally generations has to be an advantage. I am certainly counting on this when the SHTF.


Obviously, the further west you go, there will be fewer towns, roads, and wooded areas. Northwest Iowa is probably the least populated. If you get well into Iowa, I would head northwest. It isn’t long after you cross the Missouri river that the vegetation gets scarce. Half way across South Dakota or Nebraska, and you’re in pretty much desert. Watch your maps for lakes and rivers and plan accordingly. If you are angling for the Redoubt, you will be crossing huge regions of nothing but desert. The Badlands are in this region and are easily seen from space. The Black Hills are also on the way. Some of these same areas were traveled by the Mormons. I can’t imagine how they did it with just a wagon train. You can still see the ruts their wheels left in some places. I know of one bowl-shaped area in Wyoming that is 100 miles in diameter with no water. Consider how long it took to cross that area when a wagon train only progressed about 14 miles a day. Even if you have a vehicle, the distances between towns are great. You don’t realize how big this country is until you have traveled it, and I don’t mean by flying. Once you get to the foothills approaching the Jackson hole area, you will have more food and water available as well as shelter. Here, it is going to be difficult to avoid the major highways, because there are only so many places to get through the mountains. The roads between Rock Springs and Jackson, Wyoming, for example, travel through steep valleys and/or ravines with cold rivers. Unless you want to get deep into the mountains to avoid the roads, you can’t help but be visible at some points. Taking a short cut through a random valley may lead to a dead end.


I know of several places in Iowa where people are getting together and doing what they can to get ready. There are also people forming groups and small “Redoubts”, and I may join one, depending on circumstances with my parents. Just about all farmers are hunters and/or have guns, but are they truly prepared for the worst? Only with the varied skills of the local farmers as a whole can a few of us here survive a true TEOTWAWKI. We are used to being miles away from a city and having to “make do“, but a full scale collapse is another story.

My Story

I have read the first 20 or so of The Survivalist series books back when they first came out [in the 1980s.] I couldn’t wait for the next one. They have always been in the back of my mind as the years went by. Then in late 2008, I suddenly woke up again and found myself and some friends putting together some of the first Tea Party groups in Iowa, hoping we could head off what was coming. We spoke our minds and did our thing and got involved. At the same time, I started to realize that even though we did make a difference, it wouldn’t be enough. I have seen nothing that makes me believe we will stop what is coming. One day in the past two years, I was in a book store. I was walking down the aisles of books when the cover of one jumped out at me. I wasn’t even looking in that book section, but passing through to get to another section when I saw it. It was Patriots by James Wesley, Rawles. I think I read it in two days. I have read them all now and recently finished Liberators. I highly recommend them to everyone for help, as a reference book and just a good read. If I may offer one critique. Although they are very helpful in describing people traveling across the “hinterlands”, the one thing that keeps making me think is the weather. I feel a greater emphasis should have been made in them for the potential for very bad weather. It is so unpredictable and the effects can be terrible in many ways. Imagine if Joshua, Megan, and Malorie, and the boys were pushing their deer carts through Ogalalla, Nebraska when that rain I described above hit. That’s what I’m talking about here. You can plan or train for just about every scenario, but unexpected weather situations can throw it all out the window. Gardens can be ruined by hail or too much rain, or simply several bad winds from big storms passing through the area.


  1. By all means, grow a garden, but do not depend on it for all your food. As stated above, in some way, your garden can be ruined by a variety of issues. Weather, blight, insects, and animals can all wreck havoc on a garden. Have a supply of canned food stored or double the amount of production in your garden in case of bad years. Do you know what to do to prevent blight in your tomatoes? Do you know what to do if it is already present? What about weed control? You either need to build up a supply of herbicides and/or insecticides and/or fungicides or take your chances of not getting much of a crop. Do you know how to properly save and store seeds?
  2. Keep your eyes open for good deals. Some stores have shelves with inexpensive items right when you walk in the door or next to cash registers. Lighters, soap, safety pins, toothpaste are inexpensive items often on sale. Look in stores’ weekly ads for special prices and deals. I recently purchased 12 bars of soap for $5. Browse through the clearance racks or aisles. Consider trial sizes in quantity, and go to garage sales, auctions, and estate sales. Driving between two small towns the other day, I saw a blue water barrel with a sign saying it was free. It was used for a dog house, and after cleaning it, screening the one end, and putting a spigot in it, I had a rain barrel that was full in two days. The cost to me was less than $15.

I hope this was helpful to people. I wish I could go with you. I cannot afford to move to the Redoubt, and I have my elderly parents to take care of here. I will probably try to “bug out in place”. Although I live within ten miles of one of the major cities in Iowa, I’m hoping it is just hidden enough that it will be passed by. Most of my neighbors are relatives and friends, and we may be able to secure the area enough to protect ourselves, depending on the severity of the collapse. Even though I grew up on a farm and worked in my parents’ garden, I know very little. This year is my third year of gardening, and it is a steep learning curve. If your parents gardened and canned and are still around, they may be able to help you with little tidbits of knowledge. My mother has been helping me learn to garden and can. She is 85. Otherwise, I am stockpiling what I can afford and doing what I can to be self-sustainable. Even if I can hide here, and hopefully let the worst wash over us, I know that I tried. If I don’t survive, nobody can ever say I did nothing or didn’t somehow prepare.

I wish to thank Mr. Rawles for your website, although there is no way I can read it all. It feels like drinking water from a fire hose. I’m all by myself, because my sisters are in far away towns, and even if they agreed with me, they would never get here in time. I’ve known all of my life that I was going to be around for what’s coming but only the last few years have I been preparing. Good luck to all. BTW, not all farmers think an AR-15 is a space gun. 😉 I have one other critique of books and prepper info.– let’s not forget our sense of humor. I realize we are talking about some drastic events, but if we don’t keep humor in our lives and smile and laugh, we will certainly lose our humanity.