Yesterday we announced our arrival at the banks of the Mississippi River without much discussion of the day’s travel, which we will address presently.
The Mississippi has always been a line of demarcation for travelers, as you’ll often hear about the “highest” or “lowest” or “biggest” something west or east of the Mississippi. And with the introduction of car radios, which our Model T missed, travelers would, for the most part, hear a “W” or a “K” at the start of radio call signs depending on whether they were east or west of the river.
So it was with understated excitement and a sense of accomplishment that we pulled into Burlington last night, with the primary goal to do laundry and then have dinner but having only completed one of those tasks before going to bed with clean underwear.
But yesterday we also had the opportunity to travel along parts of US route 30, also known as the Lincoln Highway, which was the first transcontinental road although in Iowa much of the original now consists of gravel road sections crisscrossing the new route 30.
We also stumbled upon the Ding Darling Highway which seems important to celebrate. Jay Norwood “Ding” Darling was a Pulitzer Prize-winning editorial cartoonist and conservationist who also initiated the Federal Duck Stamp Program, but in 2013 the Executive Director of Keep Iowa Beautiful was touring the roads leading to Lake Darling with members of the Red Flag Horseless Carriage Tour when the seed was planted to rename the modest highways leading to Lake Darling.
For those interested in commodities trading, here’s a sneak peek at corn futures:
But we’re also picking up lots of drop-in visitors as we drive along the crop fields, and, in fact, we’re seeing entire squadrons of them forming up in front of us as we plow through them all. It’s the worst hail storm we’ve run into this trip and we had to put the windscreen up. On that note, the only precipitation we’ve had all trip was half the day in Yellowstone. Every other day has been clear and sunny.
Something interesting we also noted yesterday about the corn: each field is remarkably universally consistent in it’s height. Looking across the tops of the fields we would be lucky to drive a mile before seeing one random stalk standing 8-10 inches taller than its surrounding fellows. We suppose that’s because the corn being planted today has been scientifically engineered to produce consistent, quality yields and, in fact, we noted that the sweet corn you have for dinner or put in your fuel tank is probably less “Grandma’s Heirloom Select” and more likely P1197AM or W7456RIB. Same goes for your soy burgers and lattes: P31T11R or P36A13X, among others.
As we write this we’re putt-putting through the Illinois corn fields, which look a lot like some of the other corn fields we’ve seen recently except taller. We’ve actually been noting the corn has been getting taller the further east we get, with it being, in the old days, “knee high by the Forth of July” and in modern times “waist high”. We thought maybe it was because summers are longer a little bit to the east, or better soil closer to the river basins, but as David Rising pointed out it’s all the same, it’s just been growing up as fast as we’ve been able to move across the country.
We did take some time this morning to see if we couldn’t track down a spurious misfire we hear once in awhile, and checked and cleaned our ignition timer before leaving the hotel. That really didn’t seem to do the trick so we found some shade and replaced all the spark plugs.
We’re confident we haven’t licked the problem yet but its more of a nuisance than anything else right now so we’ll continue to press on and maybe swap out our timer tonight. Our goal will be to make it to Lafayette, IN and see if any the wicked smart engineers there can help us, but as always we’ll play it by ear.
See you on the road…..