Monday, July 29, 2013

Straight roads heading west

The biggest difference between riding a motorcycle in the Midwest vs in the Northeast are the straight roads. Much of the Midwest is laid out in a grid pattern with ruler-straight roads. Today we spent over 200 miles heading straight west on Route 2 in Iowa, giving Mike lots of opportunity to count the cars coming toward us. At one point, we went 20 miles without meeting another vehicle, and overall we saw an average of 1 car every mile.

I expected flat fields stretching out in all directions, and was surprised that southern Iowa was so hilly. The hills were formed as the glaciers receded after the last Ice Age and rivers and streams cut into the soft soil leaving low, rolling hills. Even with the rolling hills, Iowa produces more corn and soybeans than any other state.

 West Point, IA sweet corn festival

We started the day early, leaving Burlington, IA at 7am. I wore all of my rain gear because it's still cold - only 59 degrees - and once again the weather forecast is for rain. When we stopped for gas at 10am Mike put on his raingear as well, and soon after the rain started. I started noticing road signs for the Mormon Pioneer Trail soon after we crossed the Des Moines River. Brigham Young led a group of 3000 Mormons from Illinois to Salt Lake City beginning in 1846, traveling through Iowa and Nebraska.

We stopped for lunch just after crossing the Missouri River, the longest river in the United States and the border between Iowa and Nebraska. It was raining so hard I couldn't take pictures, and Mike didn't even notice the river until I pointed it out to him.

Soon after lunch the rain let up and the landscape flattened out as we rode another 150 miles west into Nebraska to Grand Island. Mike commented that 'Grand Island' is a strange name for a town in a land-locked state, and our waitress at dinner explained that the name stems from the name given to an island in the Platte River by French fur traders:  Le Grand Island.

Most of those 150 miles we rode through pancake-flat land planted in fields of corn and soybeans. We rarely saw farmhouses and the towns were spaced even farther apart than usual. The landscape was dominated by huge grain elevators, enormous buildings that we assumed were research and development facilities for seed companies, and long sprinkler irrigation systems.


Wet clothes are hung in every available spot in our hotel room, and I cranked up the heater to try and dry out my waterproof gloves, which of course are once again completely soaked through. We're due for another day of sunshine tomorrow as we continue west through Nebraska and into Colorado. We're now farther West than we've ever been on a motorcycle, and I'm looking forward to watching the Rocky Mountains appear in the distance, and then get closer and closer until we stop tomorrow night in Boulder in the Front Range. An added bonus to leaving the flat plains and entering the mountains:  we get to see our kids!

1 comment:

  1. With all those fields and not many farmhouse it makes me wonder if they are mostly commercial fields for animal feed, ethanol, etc.

    i am glad you have a warm motel room for the night. After those rides, hot baths feel so good. I always feel bad about leaving the muggy hotel rooms for housekeeping after drying my gear so I tip extra during rainy weather. Stems from my days cleaning rooms I guess.

    Thank you for continuing to share your journey.