Waterloo man ends walk across Iowa in Lansing, carrying message about hope, unity for the USA

Celebrating much more than just a walk ... Several family members met Doug and Liz Walters at the end of his Walk Across Iowa journey - the Mississippi River at Lansing. From left (standing): Tom McGowan, Kathy McGowan, John Woods, Liz Walters (holding Timmy Too, who joined Doug and Liz on the whole adventure), Doug Walters, Ann Woods; (kneeling): Don Faris, Jerry Stevens, Julie Stevens. Photo by Julie Berg-Raymond.

Walk across Iowa concludes in Lansing ... At the end of the road, the Mississippi River at Lansing. Liz, left, with Timmy Too and Doug. Photo by Julie Berg-Raymond.

by Julie Berg-Raymond

The late Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, noting the climate of political divisiveness and partisanship currently seeming to tear at the fabric of American democracy, was quoted shortly before her death September 18 as saying, “I think it will take people, true patriots, on both sides of the aisle to say, ‘enough of this nonsense, we should work together for the good of the people of the United States’.”

Doug Walters, of Waterloo, is a good example of the “true patriot” to whom Ginsburg was referring. He recently walked 300 miles across the state of Iowa, carrying that message, along with an American flag, and asking people to pray for the United States. He completed his walk at the Mississippi River in Lansing Sunday, October 17.

After suffering a heart attack in 2018 followed by successful open heart surgery, Doug - feeling better than ever - started working out regularly, with his venue of choice being Waterloo’s Cedar Valley Sportsplex (“where active lifestyles take shape”). Sometime in late February or early March, before the COVID-19 shutdown, he mentioned to a work-out buddy at the Sportsplex that he thought he’d like to walk across the United States.

“(My buddy) said, ‘maybe you should start with Iowa first and see if you can do that,’” Doug recalled.

When the Sportsplex closed down temporarily because of the pandemic, Doug couldn’t work out; so he focused on walking 10 miles a day - and started planning his trip across Iowa. “I started to walk more miles every day and researched the highway that would be the best choice,” he said.

The route he decided on would begin nine miles west of Larchwood on the Big Sioux River and take him along highway A18 until it met State Highway 9 - which he would follow all the way to the Mississippi River at Lansing. “It seemed like a fairly straight line across Iowa; it’s mainly rural and it’s a beautiful part of our state,” Doug said.

As he thought about making this trip, he decided he wanted to carry along a message: “I wanted to ask Iowans to please pray for our great country - to get rid of the divisiveness, and to all work together for the good of our country,” he said.

While his wife, Liz, drove a van - with “Walk Across Iowa: Please Pray for Our USA” printed on its side - Doug walked, carrying the American flag. He covered 300 miles in 17 days, averaging 18 miles a day. Some nights, he and Liz drove back home to sleep; other nights they spent in a hotel or in their van.

“Some days were more challenging due to weather and winds, but it really was not that difficult,” Doug said.

Along the way, he was reminded why he loves Iowa. “Our people are so friendly and patriotic. Most everyone who passed me would wave or honk their horn, or both, because I was carrying our American flag,” he recalled. “Some saluted our flag, too. I had quite a few people who wanted ‘selfie’ pictures with me, and who asked me what I was doing. I asked them to please pray for our USA.”

Liz posted his progress on her Facebook page, and - as a surprise for Doug - asked her cousin, Ann Woods, to have a banner made for them to hold when they got to the Mississippi River Sunday, October 17. Part of that surprise involved having a group of family members meet them in Lansing, to congratulate him on a walk well done.

Two of the people surprising him were Liz’s sister and brother-in-law, Julie and Jerry Stevens, of Kansas City, MO - who had been following Doug’s walk with a map of Iowa on their wall at home by marking where he got, each night – and praying for him, every day.

The surprise welcoming committee spent Saturday night in Decorah and had breakfast at S&D Café in Waukon Sunday morning.

“The lady waiting on our table was really nice,” Julie said. They talked about Doug’s walk across Iowa and the waitress asked her why he was doing it. “I said, ‘no reason, he just wants to encourage everyone to pray for America,’” she said.

Julie described Doug as “a ‘people person.’ “He doesn’t have an enemy in the world,” she said. “He’s joyful.”

“And he’s genuine,” Jerry added. “He means it.”

Doug was grateful to everyone who met him in Lansing, and to his wife for orchestrating the surprise. “It was a great ending to my walk, to be congratulated and celebrated for accomplishing the goal I set for myself.”

Doug is clearly a man who might come to a place a stranger but who always leaves new friends in his wake, when he leaves - and he’s also a man who loves to laugh. Asked about what he learned during the course of his trip, he kept it simple: “I learned it’s a long, long walk across Iowa …”

Mostly, he realized - over, and over again - something he already knew. “I am so happy to live in the great state of Iowa, with all of her awesome people,” he said. “Good ol’ Iowa. Best people in the world.”

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