wine by the color

Friday, August 31, 2007

Sticking to my plan to visit all 50 states, I crossed two more off the list this week:

#40 - Iowa

Here's what I can say about Iowa:

1. I wrote my weekly column for the local paper late Tuesday night. But I couldn't send it at that time because I was awaiting confirmation on something, so I needed to find somewhere to send it while driving across America's Heartland. I was hoping to find a Starbucks. Let me assure you, Starbucks are hard to come by in Iowa.

So I was cruising across I-80 toward Des Moines when what to my wandering eye should appear, but a sign reading "Wireless Internet - Next Rest Area." After cutting across two lanes of the fortunately empty highway to the exit ramp, I parked the car and Sweet Georgia Brown, there was free wireless access. So I sat in my car and filed my story.

2. In most of the places I travel, the gas stations are called Shell, Sunoco, Exxon and the like. In Iowa? Kum and Go.

Do with that what you will. (They are hiring, though.)

And here's a picture of the capital building in Des Moines:

I wish I'd had time to make a stop in Dyersville, which I imagine is the highlight of the state, but my schedule just didn't allow it. I could say I would stop there next time, but it would be dishonest for me to indicate I'll be visiting Iowa again anytime soon. Nothing personal.

Moving on...

#41 - Nebraska

Pop quiz ... if I asked you to name the location of the nicest hotel I've stayed in all year, which would you choose?

a) New York, N.Y.
b) San Francisco, Calif.
c) Palm Springs, Calif.
d) Pinehurst, N.C.
d) Lincoln, Neb.

Yep. I have no explanation for it, but I am giving The Cornhusker in downtown Lincoln four stars across the board.

First, look at the size of this room. It's about half the size of my condo. Not to mention much better decorated:

It figures that I was only staying there for one night. Everything else about the hotel was great as well - the food, the staff, and, most notably for me, the unbelievably comfortable bed. The previous night, I slept a grand total of 75 minutes. At the Cornhusker, I made up for it with nine hours of sound slumber.

While in Lincoln, I made the rounds at the football stadium, which was impressive. Well, the outside of it was:

That's the best view you're going to get. That place is locked up like a prison (more on that in a moment).

They have these signs at the entrances around the stadium. I appreciate the enthusiasm of the sentiment, but disagree with its accuracy. Let's just agree to disagree on this, Husker fans:

As I drove out of Lincoln, I passed the Nebraska State Penitentary, which is more or less around the corner from the university. There's a McDonald's across the street. Had I known how hard eateries would be to come by for the next four hours, I'd have stopped there. I didn't, and that was a mistake.

Shortly after I left Lincoln, I drove through the charming town of Beatrice, where a garbage-truck driver honked at me as I drove by, then drove over a curb while gawking in my direction.

Hey, it's nice to be noticed.

From there, it was time to drive almost 300 miles to my next destination, in Kansas. This is what the view looked like for most of those 3oo miles:

I would have stopped on the side of the room to take pictures like this more often. But there is no side of the road in much of Nebraska and Kansas. There is simply no shoulder. There is the road, and there is the field on the side of the road. To take this picture, I simply stopped my car in the middle of the road. The speed limit is 65 to 70 MPH, and there is no shoulder. Call me crazy, but this seems unsafe. Particularly given the proliferation of tractors on the roadways.

That brings us to Kansas, where I am now. And here's all you need to know about Kansas:

This is not something they've done for Labor Day weekend. I've driven past this house repeatedly on three separate trips to this area during a five-month span, and this is the house's permanent decor.

Americana, baby.


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