Saturday, June 18, 2016

Des Moines Iowa to Paxton Nebraska

We started the day in leisurely fashion and didn't get to the breakfast room until 8:00 AM. They had biscuits and gravy in addition to the usual cereal, toast and yogurt, but the biscuits were pretty solid. There were groups of lean, fit fighting folk all around the hotel.

When we left at 8:30, the temperature was already 82F under clear skies. Moving south to Iowa 5 and around to I-35 and I-80, I made a wrong turn. This caused me to reflect on my sometime over-reliance on the GPS, missing details I should have seen from the posted signage. I'll have to change the way I do things so that I don't embarrass myself as many times in the future.

Muy Thai participant from Ontario

Army Post Road - Des Moines Iowa - Saturday morning

Merging from a quiet I-35, we found I-80 packed with westbound trucks. The commerce of the nation does not stop just because it is Saturday. I'd been searching through our Sirius/XM channels for something that resonated and I found it on Channel 32, The Bridge, "devoted to gold-based soft rock and adult contemporary music".

Pylons for Kenny

There was a huge new wind farm near Adair, Iowa. I stayed here in 2000 on my way home from the VROC 2000 Rally in Durango, Colorado and think I remember just one turbine. The last time we were through here was five years ago (how time flies) and they weren't here then, either.

Adair Iowa is always a happy place

The huge wind farm at Adair is new

We stopped at a Kum & Go (who thought that name up?) at 10:00 AM for a bathroom break and some snacks. That just happened to be the time they tested the tornado siren right outside. Piercing isn't enough of a word to describe what that sounded and felt like.

This was a typical I-80 Midwest interchange. Two motels, a McDonald's, a gas station and absolutely nothing else. The towns are on the US Highway that runs parallel to the Interstate a  few miles away.

Lots of oversize loads today

Sandy said she felt like we were always going uphill across Iowa. I explained the optical illusion and proved it using the Elevation panel on the GPS. When we crest a hill, it feels like we are on level ground when we are actually going downhill. It is a variation on the Magnetic Hill Effect.

Typical Iowa

A mixed load

We went around the north side of Omaha on I-680, avoiding the traffic of Council Bluffs completely. Once over the border, we encountered a convoy of army vehicles hauling containers. The first Nebraska gas I saw was $2.13 per gallon, the lowest yet on this trip.

Crossing the Missouri River

Cornhusker territory

Part of an army convoy hauling containers

Didn't we pass this guy yesterday?

Seen near Lincoln Nebraska

York Nebraska - a colourful place

West of Seward, there was an exit with signs claiming a Love's Truck Stop and a McDonald's. These are usually paired but, in this case, Mickey D's was three miles north in the little town of Aurora. Small town crossroads McD's are a whole lot more laid back that their busier cousins in the rest of the world.

We kept seeing interesting vehicles as we moved along, some on trailers and others driving along. We also kept passing the same vehicles after we'd stop.

Off the beaten track

Self portrait

Beautiful mustang - lousy RV driver

I haven't seen an MGB-GT in many years

There is now an exit at The Great Platte River Road Archway Monument. The last time we stopped here, in 2004 on the Nomad, we had to exit further on in Kearney and drive several miles back. The exit overpass does reduce the impact of coming around the curve and seeing the huge structure over the road.

The Archway sits at the halfway point on I-80 between Boston and San Francisco and contains several levels of dioramas and exhibits explaining the history of cross country American travel. It is interesting, with the stories told through a set of headphones they provide you with. I did miss Woody Guthrie singing This Land Is Your Land in the Main Street America display.

The Great Platte River Road Archway

One big buffalo

Harrowing tale of survival

Ready to enter the Archway

Dioramas and stories abound

Sandy didn't even help push......

This is where Woody used to sing

We are at the mid-point

I-80 through the window (with radar unit)

What goes up must come down

When I went to put my sun glass clip on, it broke. Snapped right in two. Too many years of flexing, I guess. Luckily, I had a set of over glasses I have never used, probably because they make me look like a bug-eyed monster:-))

Broke my clip-on sunglasses - these were the spare pair

All the gas stations in Kearney advertised Super Unleaded for $2.29 and Regular for $2.59. We encountered this before in Wyoming. The disparity was due to the regular not having any ethanol. I opted for the higher price to see if we get the 10% better fuel mileage we experienced last time.

Regular is more expensive because it has no ethanol

Nebraska reminds me of the first ever opening sequence of the classic Canadian TV comedy series Corner Gas, which was based in the similarly flat and rural Saskatchewan.

Also, I need to reread Michener's Centennial.

Heartland Museum of Military Vehicles


The traffic ground to a halt and we crawled for several miles as the road merged to one lane due to construction. Trucks ran blocks to prevent people from jumping the line so we didn't have to. Eventually, we cleared to zone and got back up to speed.

Stop and go through miles of construction

North Platte was hopping due to Nebraska Land Days, complicated by a huge amount of street construction. We couldn't follow the GPS directions to the Union Pacific Golden Spike Tower because we could not turn left for the longest time. We finally made it by going out of town to the north and looping around. The attractive young lady at the tower said we were lucky we missed the parade.

The tower overlooks the Union Pacific Bailey Yard, the largest railway yard in the world. It is eight miles long by 2.5 miles wide and handles 10,000 railway cars per day. This includes 36 coal unit trains heading east and a corresponding number hauling the empties west every single day. Given these quantities (and this doesn't include the huge tonnage also hauled by the Burlington Northern Santa Fe), I question the feasibility of eliminating the national dependence on coal any time soon.

The yard was impressive and the tower was well appointed. Anyone interested in trains should pay a visit and bring a lunch. They have tables and chairs in the eighth floor panoramic viewing area where people can sit and eat while watching the never-ending hum of the trains below.

Union Pacific Bailey Yard - North Platte Nebraska

Golden Spike Tower

Static display

The world's largest railway classification yard

Looking the other way

Sandy at the Golden Spike Tower

Saw this in the parking lot

Trying to get back to I-80

It was only 30 miles to our hotel at the Paxton exit. Shortly before we got there, we crossed into the Mountain Time Zone. This stop was a combination Days Inn, gas station, car wash and small RV site. The motel was older but it was completely adequate for our needs.

The town of Paxton, a mile away across the South Platte River, was about four blocks by four blocks with a reported population of 503. Ole's Big Game Steakhouse was a memorable place to have supper. The walls were covered with trophies and photos of Ole hunting for those trophies. They even had examples of an Alaskan moose, a Canadian moose and a Wyoming moose. I became aware of these flavours of moose back in 1978 and have, since then, realized that nobody but me cares. Sandy had a pulled pork sandwich and coleslaw while I had an excellent club sandwich. Karen, our server, was a hoot. She was a Potvin. Her mother was from New Hampshire and her father was French Canadian. Service was fast and chatty. We have been lucking out with servers this trip.

Paxton Nebraska

I'll recommend this place

Alaskan moose

Back at the motel, I arranged for a room in Pueblo, Colorado for tomorrow night, and worked out times and routes for having coffee with Waterman in Brush and lunch with friends in Colorado Springs later on. I didn't quite finish this blog entry before going to sleep.

Today's Route (472 Equinox miles):

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