Mississippi River Bridge at Burlington, Iowa
Last Sunday, I finally left to see fields that were planted two weeks late due to the rain and take photos for the Blue River Hybrids product guide. I spent the two days before I left running around tying stuff up and prepping for game night (why did I buy this house?), and had worship committee at 11 A.M. before loading my new duffel into the truck and jutting off to Ames.
I made one stop on the way up, at Crane Coffee because I had run out of coffee on Friday and been crushing Starbucks Vias. The barista recommended Smooth Omaha (thanks Heather). Already weary, I treated myself to Crane’s specialty Turtle Latte and was back on the interstate, weaving my way through Colorado SVUs with Michigan bumper stickers and luggage racks loaded with bikes and canoes.
Monday morning, I was out the door at seven after waking early, reading and walking. Under a sky divided by dark and light clouds, I drove to Hubbard Iowa, about an hour north of Ames, passing an industrial truck that had a headlight that pointed into its cab (?). I turned off I-35 onto Iowa Highway 175 and passed the gas station/repair shop/utility store in Radcliffe for what must be the fifth time. I had to wait for about half an hour at the home of a grower, due to an emergency, but he made the appointment. By 9:00-sometime, I was back on US 65, heading south to get to Washington to avoid passing Radcliffe again.
It rained off and on the way, reinforcing my belief that I was better off for not going back I-35 and adding another thirty miles to my trip. I had to use a back road highway to eventually get on I-80 due to construction, but by the time I did, the rain had stopped.
For lunch, I stopped at the Perkins in Newton, Iowa. I don’t normally care for the other clientele at Perkins (this one was no exception), and it is one of the few restaurants that can be busy in between peak meal hours, but they have bacon and eggs all day. My server, a pretty student-type named Auburn, was very good, and I received my meal in short order and was back on the road around noon.
There isn’t a good road to Washington if you are coming from the east, so I cut off on Exit 230, ten miles east of Iowa and headed south on the blacktop of Black Hawk Avenue through the hills and gullies of Eastern Iowa, eventually rumbling into Highway 1.
When I got to Kalona, I made the critical decision to go ahead and stop for gas and to use the bathroom. If I hadn’t made the stop, I would have passed the fourteen miles to Washington with ease before the severe rain started. It slowed me down, and by the time I got Washington, I had to spend forty-five minutes in the basement of the library because of a tornado warning.
Washington Public Library
After my appointment, I took the same route I took last fall prior across the Mississippi into Illinois to met the soybean growers who live around Peoria. I stayed in the same hotel I did last year, but ate dinner at Stake ‘N’ Shake, watching a bunch of teenagers working what must be their worst summer job ever. (I forgot about the grease that accumulates in the fast food industry.) I had to change my order because they were out of chicken strips and had to remind them to get my milkshake. They were lucky I was at the end of a long day.
The next day, I awoke early and went through the circle of growers around Peoria. They are all guys who we haven’t worked with much in the past and who we hope to help get a better start this year. Most of them are doing okay, even though they all planted on a late start. When I was done, I grabbed a Turkey flatbread sandwich and coffee at Mika’s in Eureka, a coffee shop with maroon concrete walls, all the while reading the reaction to Nebraska’s alternate uniforms. Before heading out of town, I stopped by Eureka College and took in the Regan Statue, then drove up and at times along I-39 to take photos.
My final appointment was delayed until Wednesday morning, but it was worth it. I got the photos with the Breslins, a father-daughter farming team by Ottawa just before a fierce rain storm started. They invited me to stay for tea, which was enough time for the rain to stop and the sky to clear. I then bolted down I-80 toward Nebraska, stopping at the Starbucks in Des Moines to read the Superme Court/Aaron Hernandez new of the day. I was relieved to be home-after all, I’m leaving Saturday for Idaho.
Hope springs anew…