Iowa is a state in the midwestern United States. It is a rather flat state, but if you like corn, you're in the right place. Many people will drive past you, but also there is plenty of awesome folks that will find you.
Iowa's state law is very friendly towards hitchhikers. The state of Iowa appears to be aware of police constantly abusing the uniform vehicle code's wording of "roadway" to intimidate hitchhikers into thinking hitchhiking is illegal. The law now expressly notes that it is completely legal to hitchhike off the traveled portion of a road:
321.331 Pedestrians soliciting rides.
1. No person shall stand in a roadway for the purpose of soliciting a ride from the driver of any private vehicle.
2. Nothing in this section or this chapter shall be construed so as to prevent any pedestrian from standing on that portion of the highway or roadway, not ordinarily used for vehicular traffic, for the purpose of soliciting a ride from the driver of any vehicle.
This means that if you stay on the shoulder, you'll be fine. Police will still occasionally stop you to check your ID, keep in mind that you do not have to show ID if you're not in breach of any laws (but better be sure about it because insisting on your rights, while a good thing, will likely piss the cop off).
Iowa has great rest stops, with coffee machines and free wireless internet.
The main highways traversing Iowa are: (east to west)
- Interstate 80, connecting Davenport, Iowa City, Des Moines, and Council Bluffs
- U.S. 30, passing through Cedar Rapids and Ames
- U.S. 20, passing through Waterloo and Sioux City
(east to west). Avoid stopping in Rockwell City, there's a prison there.
- Interstate 35, passing through Ames and Des Moines, a great place along this Interstate is the Kum and Go in Story City. It's just outside all the larger towns and everyone stops here from the Interstate. You should be able to catch a lift here and get everywhere from Kansas City to Minneapolis.
- U.S. 218/Interstate 380, passing through Waterloo, Cedar Rapids, and Iowa City
An interesting way to get across Iowa is to actually get caught by the county's local sheriff department. I have heard stories from hitchhikers and sheriffs alike who will pick up a hitchhiker and drop them off at the county border in the direction that they are heading. Then the next sheriff will pick them up and drive them off. This is really useful in small counties (which are numerous in Iowa) without much traffic to bounce across the state without much work. I would avoid trying this in counties with larger cities as the sheriff department will have bigger problems that will be more important than a hitchhiker that they will have to attend to. Always give them your story as they love to trade stories about this stuff when they get back to the station for the night or home to their families.
It's legal to walk on the highway in Iowa. And you can deposit cans in Iowa, I recommend stopping at a Fareway to do so as they're usually the most lenient on their redemption policy. They also have the cheapest food at their grocery store, and great produce. The people in Iowa are usually really friendly, and the older folk are surprisingly liberal. The age group that I would try to avoid the most is the early thirties to late forties as they're usually the least accepting and usually are more hostile towards those different than themselves.
In fact, go to either of the main grocery stores in basically ever town, Hy-Vee and Fareway, and talk to the kids working there. You should be able to learn a lot about the town, best places to hitch a ride, where you can either find a couch or sleep. These stores also don't use trash compactors so you should have luck dumpstering, especially after 10PM. There is a lot of forests in Iowa where you can sleep. NEVER sleep in a ditch as stuff will probably get dumped there, sometimes drug paraphernalia. It may be tempting to sleep in a corn field during the summer but it is highly unrecommended. There are animals and spider that live in there and you don't know if the farmer will be working in the field at night at all.
The winter gets VERY cold. Standing out on a road any longer than an hour can be dangerous without the right clothing. You may be able to use the weather to gain pity, or say your car broke down and you need a lift if you feel comfortable lying.
- Des Moines, the state capitol. Try to stay in West Des Moines, as most of east Des Moines is filled with thugs and becomes VERY dangerous at night.
- Cedar Rapids
- Davenport, part of the "Quad Cities" along the Mississippi River
- Sioux City, home of Brier Cliff college. If you talk to some of the students you may be able to bunk in their dorm.
- Waterloo, watch this place as it is known as the Chicago of Iowa
- Iowa City, location of the University of Iowa
- Council Bluffs, across the Missouri River from Omaha, Nebraska
- Ames, location of Iowa State University. Be careful in this town as it is larger than it looks. It branches out a lot with the central mass near the college. It's a fairly safe town, but watch the western parts as they seem to be more poverty stricken.
- Had no problem walking on the interstate, although catching rides took a while, one dude ended up giving us a long ride, a hotel, money,etc. No problem with the local or state pigs either. -samson
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