Illinois and Indiana

Yesterday we set off from Burlington, IA with an arbitrary goal to make it across Illinois mostly without stopping, which we pretty much did except to purchase 3.4 gallons of gas in Farmington just in case our fuel consumption calculations were off, which they weren’t and we could have made it across with the gas we had.

A barn is unimpressed with our passing.

Our goal was Lafayette, IN, figuring it’s a good size town, Purdue University is out for the summer so there would be plenty of hotel rooms available for us to pick from, and there would probably be a good selection of local beers to report back on.

We didn’t know about the 2018 Compressor Engineering/Refrigeration and Air Conditioning/High Performance Buildings Conference, a biennial event drawing world-wide attendance.

An engineer from Peru, and his Purdue host, check out the ‘10.

It seems a lot of people take this kind of stuff seriously, although not seriously enough to have developed automobile air conditioning by 1910, and finding a room actually became a bit of a challenge. But we succeeded with the very nice little Campus Inn mixed in with all the higher priced hotels at the foot of the campus hill at almost half the rate, plus it was an easy walk to the Black Sparrow which advertised “No crap on tap!” and they win an award for truth in advertising. Indiana is producing some very good beers and the Black Sparrow’s food was also very good.

To get to Indiana required us to pretty-much set a course of due east and not deviate from it much except to skirt south of Peoria and then continue east again. And again, lots of corn, but taller still, and just as much soy bean production.

But along with the production of corn and soy beans it seems Illinois is producing a lot of energy. There was lots of barge traffic on the Illinois River, and from what we saw it was lined up for the power plants lining the river.

Barge traffic on the Illinois River

We also passed by the Twin Groves Wind Farm which consists of 240 wind turbines spread out over 22,000 acres, almost every one of them turning, and the Pioneer Trail Wind Farm with another 140 or so turbines, with almost all of them stationary. Best we can figure is all politics are local and the Pioneer Trail mills had a moratorium on them until the local residents can figure out why they can no longer receive the 50 or so broadcast television stations they used to receive.

Some the Twin Groves windmills.
A Twin Groves blade passes its tower.

In the good news column, we think we finally tracked down our sudden case of spurious misfiring to a batch of bad fuel. Lots of analysis on the four ignition coils, always the first and easiest things to be checked, plus checking and cleaning the timer, playing with fuel mixture and cleaning the carburetor, and even checking and replacing all four spark plugs didn’t solve the problem, but filling up with name-brand fuel did. We’re happy that’s all it seems to have been.

We also seemed to have missed some pretty good weather. We noted the possibility, and telltale appearance of afternoon thunderstorms but we didn’t encounter any at all. The closest we came was the smell of rain that had fallen not too long ago, but the roads were dry. However, a look at the radar (not original T equipment) shows what we just missed: a line of storms crossing from north to south as we drove west to east.

A line of storms passed in front of us.

Finally, our late starts are paying off!

We’re now on the road to Richmond, IN, and the Model T Museum and MTFCA National Tour. We’ll just stop to say “hi”, maybe pick up a few parts as spares (wonder if anyone has a crankshaft?) and be on our way as we’re still racing the clock to get back to the “real world” next week.

Jumping Ahead

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:

Place your bets on 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.

Drop-in guests on the floor mat.

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.

Real-life shade-tree mechanics.

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…..

Hello, Burlington Birds!

We’re here safe and sound in Burlington, IA, and today’s trip can be summed up as one for the birds.

Attacking the corn pests.
A lazy flyby this afternoon.
A visitor while pumping gas.

Tomorrow we’ll cross the Mississippi River and make a run for Indiana. We figure we have about 900 miles to go, which means two more oil changes and, hopefully, tonight will be our last night of laundry!

As always, more to follow…

The Big Picture

We woke up this morning in Carroll, IA after making it to the Carroll Brewing Company last night before it closed at 7:00. There was no one else there except for Martha, the bartender and Andrew, a friend of Martha’s. A few minutes later Jen, the tap room manager at CBC, showed up with what appeared to be a week’s worth of bar pretzels.

Before long it was closing time but Jen wasn’t interested in kicking us out and instead we sampled more of their products and talked about Iowa. Jen told us about Snake Alley, the crookedest street in the world, which with 1,100 degrees of turning beats Lombard Street’s mere 1,000 degrees, even though Lombard Street is longer. And we learned, or confirmed, that Iowa produces more corn than any other state, including the Corn Husker State, which ranks third behind Illinois.

When we finally said goodnight we thought it appropriate to teach Jen a bit about the T in return and gave her a ride around the block.

Learning about the Model T at Carroll Brewing.

Checking into the Super 8 hotel (not the one on the hill) we met manager grandmother Joni, who’s real name is Jon after her grandfather who lived to 104 years old but thought it better to add the “i” and who’s been contently living at the Super 8 for 23 years. A very nice woman indeed and we imagine, in the interest of space, most Christmases her 16 grandchildren come visit her rather than the other way around.

Since it was getting late, and we didn’t really feel like driving anywhere for dinner, we walked next door to the unassuming Bloomers bar and restaurant where we had a very good ribeye steak and an exceptional boneless pork chop.

This morning we’ve set off towards Burlington, IA which lies on the banks of the Mississippi River, certainly a lofty but worthy milestone to pursue. We’ve already crossed the flooded Des Moines River and will skirt north of Des Moines itself, although the number of 2,000′ antennas and 500′ windmills we’re starting to see growing in the corn and soy bean fields tells us we’re getting close.

The Des Moines River at flood stage.
Near Slater, IA

Looking at the map of where we are and where we still need to go can at times be disheartening unless one looks at the bigger picture or recalls certain sayings about a bad day of fishing. For example:

  • Distance to the Moon: 239,000 mi
  • Circumference of the earth: 24,901 mi
  • Approximate distance to go: 1,150 mi

So it seems we’re doing okay and, in fact, if the ’10 continues performing as she has been we may even get to the Model T Ford Club of America’s National Tour at Richmond, IN by Wednesday evening just to say hi.

We’ll keep everyone posted on our progress.

Eastward, Ho!

As we write this, the Missouri River to which the Yellowstone River is the largest tributary by volume, lies behind us to the West.

We crossed, as promised, at Decatur, NE and are now rolling along the Loess Scenic Highway in Iowa, made possible by a generous donation of ground dust from the last glacial maxima about 22,000 years ago.

Our plan will be to continue on towards either Carroll or slightly farther to Jefferson, depending on whether we can make it to the Carroll Brewing Company before it closes. If you don’t hear from us this evening, we’re in Carroll.

The drive in Nebraska took us through the quiet towns of Pilger, Wisner, Beemer, Bancroft and Lyons.

Pilger, NE
Wisner, NE
Beemer, NE
Bancroft, NE
Lyons, NE

Interestingly, Bancroft is home to the eponymous John G. Neihardt State Historic Site, recognizing Nebraska’s Poet Laureate in Perpetuity, although we must admit we did not stop to visit as the Missouri River was calling.

In Decatur, while getting gas before The Crossing, photographer Elmer Smith found interest in the ’10 and broke out his Mamiya 220 to snap some pictures.

Local photographer Elmer Smith captures the ‘10 on film.

Finally, we’d be remiss if we didn’t acknowledge all the friendly drivers in Nebraska who have been giving us the finger all day. This apparently customary wave between two oncoming cars consists of raising the index finger of whichever hand happens to be at the top off the steering wheel when passing, thus acknowledging their approval of the ’10. A fine custom indeed!

Stop Us If You’ve Heard This One Before

We aimed for another early start today, and at 10:30 we finally got underway. We’re confident we’ll crack this nut but may need a few more days to figure it out. The good news is we changed our oil and got ourselves a tire pump.

As previously discussed, we drove into O’Neill, Nebraska last night just before the end of nautical twilight. Having the headlights and taillights on the car gives us comfort, but we’re more concerned about traffic coming up behind us than oncoming traffic.

Scene outside O’Neill, NE, several minutes before our arrival.

Our first planned event today is to drive by 306 S. 13th Street in Norfolk, NE. After that we’ll continue south (but really east) on US route 275, which we joined at its northern terminus in O’Neill, until Wisner, NE, and then head straight to Decatur, NE, where we’ll finally cross the longest river in North America, which we promised to do several days ago before metallurgical considerations changed our plans.

If you happen to be in the area feel free to drive along side but please don’t honk….we’re a little jumpy about sudden, loud noises.