Iowa, like its denziens, is very straightforward

Iowa was terrible.

it was all like that above, at breakneck speed. in the back country, the roads are dangerous and terrifying.

no, no. no. it wasn’t. Iowa is actually very nice. it is exactly as you remembered it. it is wide, and incredibly flat in some places, and still full of rolling hills. and the skies are huge. it’s pastoral. it’s rural. it naturally has the sleepiest city of 200,000 that I’ve been through in a while. it is Iowa.

“you can mix and match on those two-for-one king-size candy bars.”
— cashier at truck stop on I-80

I left Indiana at 1 pm on Wednesday, and got directly on the interstate near mom’s crib. I-80 runs across the country from New York City to the Bay Area, and it goes right through Des Moines while doing it. so I got on board that wave, put on the cruise control and was there in six and a half hours.
now six and a half hours is a long goddamn time to spend on the road. because you are locked into an unnatural position for so long, in a state of atrophy, I’ve tried to skip out on the awful stuff that you tend to consume when you’re traveling. the snacks you buy at truck stops. 32 oz. fountain drinks. candy. packaged shit. everything loaded with salt and fat.
I have been successful at this until I punted on this trip. never again, man. I downed a bag or two of M&Ms, half a hoagie, a bag of salted cashews, a Chicago-style hot dog, a bag of fries and a diet pepsi. all while sitting on my ass over two days in my pickup truck.
beyond the gastronomic boot I took to my gut, I took a lot of pictures. most of these were taken either from overpasses, or tenuously out of the window of my car while driving with my knees. my camera sucks and so does my eye for a good picture, so I usually take a large quantity of shots. out of that, I figure, I’ll get one or two decent ones. maybe something that would be a summation of the drive, of the scenery. this one works:

this storm followed me for about 200 miles. every time I stopped it would catch up with me, and I’d get dumped on again.
this isn’t based in any study, any meteorological science, but having watched the nightly weather report for eight years in Chicago’s media market, I have gained an assumption that systems move from west to east over this far side of the plains. storms come from Iowa. storms like this one. it was big, dropped all kinds of rain, looked very severe and was above me for a good chunk of the day. and it really threw my sense of direction off, because it’s large mass in the sky full of crazy angles and it obscures the sun. thank god I was in the midwest where everything’s on a grid and you can almost see where you’re going.

“how’s the construction on the highway in Illinois?”
— County prosecutor, making small talk after the press conference

my hotel was a block away from the Drake University campus in Des Moines. it was summer, so there were no students, and it was very quiet on Wednesday evening. so I watched the Blackhawks win the Stanley Cup (this is a bandwagon I will have absolutely no problem getting on. I’m gonna get a t-shirt.), got six hours of sleep and was up at 6:15 for the 9 am press conference.
there’s a couple of reasons for this. first, I was not sure exactly where the press conference was going to be held, save looking at it on a street map, and I wanted to get there, make sure I could find parking … to be hassle-free. second, I wanted breakfast, which I got continental style in the lobby. and third, and this is not a joke, I can’t tie a tie to save my life. I wanted at least a half hour of leeway to get that fucker around my neck and looking presentable.
of course, none of this turned out to be necessary. it’s not like downtown Des Moines sees a lot of traffic jams. so with time to spare, I think I was the first person at the “press conference” — which was me and a handful of local media in front of a podium placed on the police station’s steps. the Des Moines river was twenty yards on the other side of the street. the county sheriff showed up twenty minutes late for the event, and we all just kind of stood around and enjoyed the weather until he arrived, and then the speaking went off without a hitch.
my interview took place afterward at a coffee shop, and lasted a little over an hour. when it was over, and I hit the road again, it began to pour.
this was the beginning of the aforementioned rain. kind of put a hitch in my plans. I had watned to stay off the interstate on the ride back, see a little more of the state on the way out. it’s hard to see much in a rolling thunderstorm, so I was faced with a choice: the easy way out, the way I had come; or the road less taken, US 34?
I decided to stay off I-80 the whole way back, which proved time consuming.

“how far can you see?”
— my brother on the phone, while I was  just east of Galesburg, Ill.

I’m a big fan of the interstate highway system. god bless you, President Eisenhower. with it, you can drive just about anywhere in this country. and that is pretty cool, dude; any half-awake idiot can get in their ride, and if they got the gas money and the gumption, they can drive across an entire continent. no papers necessary, unless you’re hispanic in Arizona. America is a big place. there is all sorts of shit to see out here, in the thick of it.
most people don’t even do this. but think of all of the towns, the cities, the lives, the views, the bridges, the rivers, that don’t hit an interstate. the shit you would never see if you never took a blue route.
I don’t know. if you don’t like blowing through a farm town at 40 mph; of stopping to occasionally stretch your legs and stand in the bed of your truck at a high point; to cruise through low crops at 60 mph, blaring Chuck Berry and not seeing the horizon in any direction, only distant houses and stands of trees like islands on a green sea; if none of that picques your interest, don’t take the long way home.

my back hurt when I got out of the truck at 10:45 pm. mom and grandma had hit Jimmy John’s on customer-appreciation day and loaded up on subs. so I pounded one, a glass of tea, and passed out in bed.
I rolled over when my phone rang at 7:15 in the morning. someone left a message. mom and grandma left around 9:30 for a funeral; someone from church had passed away.
I listened to the message at 10:30 when I got out of bed. got the job offer. that’s what happens, kids, when you dress to impress and drive hundreds of miles to show your interest. good things, they can happen.

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4 comments so far

  1. composecompriseconstitute on

    Congrats on getting the job offer! That’s awesome!

    That is a big and beautiful storm.

    Mike and I are taking a road trip from Buffalo to Cochrane, Ontario later this month. I can’t wait to see what rural goodness awaits me on Highway 11.

    – Tasha

  2. Spencer on

    I called it.

    Threw a fist in the air when I read this. Welcome to DC.

  3. R on

    i just grinned real big, ear to ear. congrats homeslice, it’ll be good to have you only two hours away.

  4. mowgli on

    so, are you gonna take the job?


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