Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Across the frying Heartland

Iowa's got some gorgeous windfarms over their corn and soy farms. 

Right away, you might want to watch this video of crop dusters if you've never seen them.  I'm watching from the Interstates, hoping they don't hit a power line as they do their loop do loops.  I have no idea what the Spanish words are to this song, but the feeling of the music, which you might hear on an Olympics commercial, fits the adrenaline rush, I'm sure.  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ssIEb46UYWQ

I'm the last car in the Elkhart lot, all the farm workers who were hanging over the balconies last night are picking corn!  See the puddles? 5 minutes of rain!

Monday. . . July 23.  Another very hot day, hotter than yesterday. This afternoon, the radio DJ kept mentioning in a casual tone that it was 101 degrees F.  So today I learned how to leave my car running with the A/C on, windows up, doors locked, so I could go to the bathroom.  It takes two keys, and luckily, I have two keys with me. Yoko never knew it was above 75 degrees.
I left Elkhart way after the farm workers got up and went out into the fields to pick the corn. A whole lot of Mexicans, a whole school bus load of them, stayed over night in the motel, and left with the sunrise. No one wants their jobs, trust me. They hand pick the corn. In the heat. Soon after I left Elkhart (on I-80/90) I passed the exits for Notre Dame and South Bend. That’s the big deal around here. Exit 7.  I won’t post the website, I know you can find it. Oh, what the heck, here’s the website for the Notre Dame Basilica.  http://basilica.nd.edu/
Never saw even a deer in Elkhart, but saw many signs like this.
For once I'm on the right side of the highway, and not stalled in construction. 
Tax dollars at work on the Interstate. Trucks gotta run so you can have Cheerios and bread. 
Darn sky won't rain. Teasing clouds up there.

Today I saw lots more sad corn in Indiana before I got to the Illinois border. My goal:  get around the Gary/Chicago network of roads as safely as possible. So I didn’t leave till after 9 to be sure rush hour was over. And then, off I went. By noon, it was 93 degrees.
I haven’t mentioned that I wouldn’t leave Cape Cod until a special package came, and that package held a “transponder.”  It lets me roll through all EZ pass lanes from the East Coast through Illinois without stopping to chuck quarters or dollars. And it sure is a nice thing to have. I can go on line and see how much money I’ve used, and add more with a credit card. So, I got to stay way over in the left lane, not turning into the cash only jug handles that you know about if you’ve ever traveled the greater Chicago area. It’s called the I-pass lane in Illinois, of course. But the E-Z pass works! 
Love my EZ pass, accepted here in the I-pass lane.  Got mine from the Mass Dept. of Transportation website.

So today was a rolling meditation of agriculture and gridlock. I’d have just about enough of gridlock, and hit the country again.  And once I got over the Mississippi River, which looked very healthy up here on the Illinois/Iowa border on I- 80, and then it was all country, of course.
I slowed down at Exit 94 and considered: did I want to go visit the Egyptian Theater or the Glidden Homestead?  Yes I did, but it was too hot. http://www.egyptiantheatre.org/    I’ve seen a restored theater or two on Cape Cod. But the Glidden Homestead, wish I could have gone to see that. But then again, I do like the song, “Don’t Fence Me In” so much that it could be my theme song. And Mr. Glidden changed the history of the west by inventing barbed wire fencing in the 1800’s. So maybe I didn’t want to see his house.  www.gliddenhomestead.org  I started jig-jogging my way north, so my Route across Illinois was from Route 80 to Route 355 north to Route 88 West. . . this is called the Ronald Reagan Memorial Highway.
Route 88: Illinois was so flat in places today that an overpass over a farm road was thrilling, I could see more scattered barns.   Farms, corn, crazy crop dusters, ever see one?  There was an interesting stop at the Dekalb Oasis. Some cranky old guy challenged me for parking in the handicap spot. Even though they could see I have a leg prosthesis. His license plate said Eagle Boyscout, although he was really an Eagle octogenarian. It figures. I smiled and showed him my tag hanging on the mirror.  Then he went to rant at the Shriner’s van. But on the positive side, Dekalb has had more rain then other areas I have passed through. I could tell, because the corn was green and approached normal height. And the ponds were full, not half empty. 
The scene where I was accosted by a grouchy old boyscout
The lovely Oasis. Really, you need these places.
There was a crop duster over that corn field just a second ago. See the video up top.

Husband Jim kept in good contact with me, as he has been doing. I have a hands-free phone device. Not the Blue tooth, I’m too cheap. It’s called the Blue Ant, from Radio Shack. Works GREAT.  After the Dekalb Oasis, I went through a pretty interesting corporate area. . . Nestles and 3M, and noticed the five track railroad underpasses. So, it’s a shipping center. . . who knew?
Illinois was not only the birthplace of Abe Lincoln, but also of Ronald Reagan. And so, if I had taken exit 41, I could have visited the museum dedicated to the man: http://www.tampicohistoricalsociety.com/R_Reagan_Birthplace_Museum.html But I had Yoko with me, so I moved that to the other end of the bucket list. I like the rainbow picture, though. Read the bottom of the webpage. Temperature was rising, it was now 95 degrees. And then it was 103.  I heard on the radio, we passed the previous record in temperature, which was set in 1914 at 99 Degrees F.
Crossed the Mississippi and into Iowa before I knew it. Whipped out the camera to point and shoot over the bridge abutment for you: 
Didn't put the window down, sorry. Too damned hot out there.

 Now in the Silos and Smokestacks National Heritage Area: http://www.silosandsmokestacks.org/sites/ This conglomeration of industrial and agricultural historical spots was amassed to keep you and me interested in our country and off our couches and i-pads. If I lived here, I’d visit all these little cool sleepy hollow’s of history.
 It’s beautiful, green, hilly, and hot. I stopped at “The Largest Truckstop in the World” on Iowa 80.  
OK, so I missed the sign. It says, "World's Largest Truckstop" 
Grayhound still runs across the country. This bus from Texas on the way to??
The Truckers Museum.  click on the links, some really cool old trucks in there.
You can shop the World's Largest Truckstop on-line. see the sign.
That John Deer costs more than my house.

 That’s where I learned to leave the car running so the dog wouldn’t die. Five minutes it took me to wait in line and pee. She would have died. The largest truck stop in the world has a new museum. It is called, “ Iowa 80 Trucking Museum.” Cool.  I didn’t go in. Yoko would have died, remember. But I really drooled on this one. Give me truckers over old boyscouts any day.    http://iowa80truckingmuseum.com/
Then I-80 to I-380 at Iowa city, up I-380 through Cedar Rapids, which was really Cedar Sluggish today and up to Waterloo. (Why would anyone name a town Waterloo after what happened to Napolean?) On the other side of Waterloo. . . very good looking farm country. In fact, lots of seed testing fields in  a little town, called Waverly.  I fantasized about hopping out of my car and switching those seed labels around at the end of the corn rows.  I hate GMO’s because they won’t label them. And for other reasons, too many to cite here. But I only fantasized. The “Prairie Bread” variety looked very strong and green and tall.  The “Pioneer”, not so good.
Some of these sweet towns have not so sweet gravel roads. When someone is coming along one of them, you can see them for miles. A white curtain of dust rises up behind the perpetrator (speeding truck) and hangs high in the sky for quite awhile.  Never buy property on a gravel road. I hear a radio commercial for something exciting. Come see many car crashes at the Hancock County Fair!!!  Who doesn’t like a good old fashioned stock car race?  But seriously, it is county fair time of year, even back on Cape Cod http://www.barnstablecountyfair.org/.   I’m missing it!   And the Hancock County Fair sure has a lot of fine animals that I’d like to see.  www.HancockCountyFair.com
I also hear the Iowa farm report on the radio. Not so good. 40% of the corn crop in Iowa has been declared poor or very poor, compared to 27% last week. A big jump in the “poor” department.  Soybeans took a chopping this week, too. Rain, already!  But, I think it’s too late. Oh, the radio broadcaster said Illinois had it worse.
I see a sign somewhere on the Road I am traveling which keeps changing from 2 to 218 to 18. . . I see a sign that says, Welcome to Rudd. And there is the biggest beautiful cloud overhead and the rays of light are coming down in shafts and spreading out to the east and the west. Soon after that, the second big wind farm I've seen during  this short time I’ve spent in Iowa. Good for Iowa.  These wind farms are a sight to see. It’s been a beautiful ride with the big sky. I hit the next Interstate I'm looking for which will bring me up into Minnesota, I-35. And then, I get lost in Albert Lea after I cross into Minnesota and head for my dog-friendly hotel.  But with guidance from husband on Cape Cod who looks it up on the Internet and gives me driving directions, I finally make it.  And type this up for you all.  Did I mention that there is white sand along some of the roads in Iowa? The rivers are not all low, just some of them? The corn is not all dead, just too much of it? That the country is still worth getting out and surveying? I am so lucky. I am.
Oh.  And I heard the bad news that one of my heroes died. She took a bigger ride than I ever will.   RIP Sally Ride, who went up in the Space Shuttle in 1983.  Loved her. She was just 61.  Pancreatic cancer. It happens. 

Olympians, shoot as high as Sally Ride!

 Sally Ride, you go, girl!!!!

1 comment:

Jim Wolf said...

I love you---

Your secret admirer