by Bob Sparrow
Just outside the city limits of Denver heading east the state of Colorado quickly becomes Nebraska – not geographically, but visually. Here the world is flat. There is nothing but miles and miles of nothing but miles and miles. If in the world of ‘new energy’, corn is oil, then Omaha is the new Abu Dhabi. Would have made better time, but a McCormick Reaper took 35 minutes to pass a John Deere tractor leading a herd of cattle crossing the Interstate – I’m having steak tonight for dinner, just out of spite.
Weather is heating up and so is the car. While I don’t know a great deal about cars, I do know that smoke coming out of the front is not a good sign. I pull over, pop the hood and assume the requisite ‘guy’ stance as I stare vacuously at the engine even though I have no idea what I’m looking at, much less what I’m looking for. As far as I know, there could be a nativity scene under there. I continue to stare. I see a bundle of wires and a lot of . . . parts, and just generally think that things look pretty grimy under there. A middle-aged woman stops and asks if I need help. Not wanting to suggest a lack of masculinity, I assume I can discourage her assistance with some manly ‘car speak’. I give a knowing, Barney Fife sniff, a tug at my pants and nonchalantly say, “Nah, it looks like the rotator gasket came off the muffler bearing. I got it covered, thanks.” She stares at me like I’ve said something really stupid, shakes her head, turns and goes back to her car, returns with a container of radiator fluid and says, “When it cools down, pour this in that thing in the front of the car that looks like a washboard, then I think your muffler bearing will be just fine.” She continues to shake her head as she drives off. I make it to Omaha for that steak dinner and good night’s rest.
Finally make it through Nebraska and into Iowa, which is just the same as Nebraska, but with museums, and more corn, if that’s possible. In Iowa you’ll find a museum for the birthplace of John Wayne, the museum for former Cleveland Indian pitching great, Bob Feller, the museum of The Bridges of Madison County, the Herbert Hoover museum (be sure to watch the up-beat video, ‘The Great Depression’), the Buffalo Bill museum and somewhere I’m sure is a museum containing the world’s biggest ball of twine. I drive through the iconic town of Newton, Iowa, long-time home to Maytag, whose repair people could never find work. Now even the people who made Maytags can’t find work – they were purchased by Whirlpool. Just outside of Newton is the ‘world’s largest truck stop’. Top selling bumper sticker: “If it has boobs or wheels it’s gonna cause you trouble.” I didn’t buy it, never been one for espousing my philosophy on the bumper of my car, but it gave me something to think about for the next several hundred miles.
As I near Chicago it starts to snow and although the trip was book-ended with storms, the weather for the rest of the trip could not have been better. I considered the light snowfall just as I entered Chicago as a ‘ticker tape parade’ welcoming the end of my journey.
Factoids of the trip
- It’s exactly 1,000 miles from my driveway to the first Irish pub in downtown Denver
- One-third of the time was spent listening to great CDs, one-third of the time was spent listening to the soybean and hog futures on ‘local radio’ stations and one-third of the time was spent in silence ‘listening’ to what I saw.
- There are about three times as many trucks as cars on the Interstate between Denver and Chicago.
- A Corolla gets 37.4 miles to the gallon cross country – even Al Gore didn’t feel the globe warm on this trip.
- There is a North Platt, Nebraska, but no Platt.
- I passed through three time zones on the trip, four if you count going back to the 50s while driving through Nebraska
- Driving time: 30 hours. Gas: $177.27. Coffee: 2.6 gallons. Delivering my daughter’s car to her in Chicago: Priceless