Oh, Cedar makes your life easier

Cedar Rapids, Iowa — 3550.9 miles

Maybe the Cedar noise-reduction system might simplify my life, once I spent the ten or twelve years it takes to get good at such things. In the meantime, this is Day 11 of 14, and there are things to report, starting with the Car Wash Incident in Urbana.

Five bucks to use the automatic wash in back of the Mobil station, and I had exactly five singles. The third one wouldn’t take. There was no indication that a fin would be more acceptable, so I kept trying. No luck. A Ford van pulled in behind me. Finally I gave up and drove through the wash. The clerk at the counter was bemused, but she allowed me a code for the usual price, minus the two bucks I’d already dropped into the machine. The Ford owner was right behind me, asking “Is it broken?” It was not broken, but I waited until the van was finished before I punched in my code.

I was going to start out on I-74, but it was shut down for about twenty miles, so, map in hand, or at least on seat, I plunged into the cornfields. And there were a lot of cornfields, occasionally interrupted by soybeans. I couldn’t help but wonder just how much of that stuff was going to end up in gas tanks. Not being a big fan of nondrinkable forms of ethanol, I found myself wishing that we’d give up the whole idea and return corn to its proper place in American life: taco shells, Fritos®, and whiskey. At about thats moment I passed a soybean field which bore a sign reading BIODIESEL and a URL. I like that better: the big rigs might be able to run on it, and I won’t care if the price of tofu goes up.

Iowa is offering free Wi-Fi at Interstate rest areas, so I pulled in to try it out. No soap. (Not a lot of soap in the actual rest room, either.) Admittedly, I was at a fairly distant picnic table, and I’ve had wireless issues on this trip before (maybe I just don’t have much of an antenna), so I am loath to pronounce it a failure. (Something like this is what comes up when you log in.)

The sweet (apart from one item of roadkill) little town of West Branch vends both historical color and Herbert Hoover, who was born there in 1874. Hoover had the misfortune of having had the Great Depression hit during his watch, which no doubt explains why he served only a single term. (Were that term today, Hoover would probably have been blamed for Hurricane Katrina.) But Iowa, for all its vaunted progressivism — I spotted a “Welcome Home John Edwards” sign on a fence — does not turn its back on an honored son.

Cedar Rapids bills itself as the City of Five Seasons, after this stylized tree. I liked this quote from Jack Kerouac better:

[I]t was getting better as I got deeper into Iowa, the pie bigger, the ice cream richer. I was halfway across America, at the dividing line between the East of my youth and the West of my future.

When you’re on the road, you tend to make statements like that. I know.

(Title suggested by Jan.)



  1. Michael Bates »

    21 July 2007 · 4:06 pm

    Texas has put Wi-Fi at all of its roadside rest stops, too, and there happened to be one just a few miles from where my wife’s aunt and uncle live. I had good signals from two separate access points with the same SSID. It appeared to assign me an IP address, but I couldn’t get anywhere. I didn’t even get a welcome screen. I rebooted to make sure the problem wasn’t on my end. I suspect their DNS gateway was hosed. I couldn’t very well call for a Texas State Trooper to come and cycle power on the router.

    It’s a nice idea, but I’d rather states subsidize free access points at truck stops and other 24-hour roadside establishments, where you can get a cup of coffee, where you can come in from the weather, where there are other people around, and particularly where one of those people around can cycle power on the router if need be.

  2. CGHill »

    21 July 2007 · 4:36 pm

    I should have checked to see if this place had any connectivity.

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