Road Trip Day 3: Champaign to Omaha

This morning we ate a quick waffle at the Econo Lodge’s free continental breakfast, then made a quick stop at Kohl’s to buy Dave a couple of University of Illinois T-shirts (so he can represent while he’s on the road), and got on the road around 9:30 am.

Iowa Corn #2There is a lot of corn in the Midwest. It is not a myth. There are also a lot of soy fields. The third largest crop may be orange highway construction cones. There are a lot of them as well.

Today we saw three different stimulus projects, bringing the grand total up to 5 for our road trip so far. They were all on I-74 in different parts of Illinois.

The Machine Shed Restaurant in Davenport, IAWe had lunch in Davenport, Iowa at a place called the Iowa Machine Shed restaurant. Its motto is “Dedicated to the American farmer”. There is a bunch of farm equipment out in front, and the entire restaurant is farming-themed, including dressing the wait staff in overalls. The food was super tasty, but OMG there was a lot of it. Dave was responsible and got a fried chicken salad, but I got a chicken salad croissant sandwich, which also came with a cup of DELICIOUS potato chowder, some of the best sweet potato fries I have ever had, and a fruit cup.

About halfway through our meal, one of the waitresses was going around collecting the ketchup bottles, and she took ours as well. Dave’s and my commentary to each other:

Jenn: I guess they’re cutting us off.
Dave: No ketchup after 1 o’clock.
Jenn: That’s how they do things here in Iowa.
Dave: It’s the devil’s condiment.
Jenn: [laughed for about 10 minutes]
Dave: Are you going to spew chicken salad out your nose?
Jenn: No, but maybe honeydew.

I drove for about an hour after lunch but was too sleepy to make it all the way to Des Moines. We pulled over to switch and take a bathroom break, only to find that the two gas stations at that exit were both boarded up and deserted. Creepy.

Wind Turbine in IowaThen I completely zonked for about an hour and a half while Dave drove. When I woke up and started looking around, I said, “Windmills!” They were well over 200 feet tall with gigantic turbines. I think windmills are surreal normally, but after waking from such a long nap, it was very dreamlike to see them in the middle of the corn and soy fields, waving away seemingly lazily. (Though Dave later calculated that they’re spinning at something like 136 mph. He’s the engineer, you see.) Click here for some interesting info about Iowa’s wind energy industry.

Old Dutch Windmill in Elk Horn, IA - HDRSome time later, we decided to pull off the interstate to the Iowa Welcome Center. Really we just wanted a quick bathroom break, but when we got off the offramp, we discovered that the place was 6 miles off the freeway. We obligingly set off down the road until we came to a different kind of windmill – an 1848 Danish windmill. So, we got both low-tech and high-tech windmills while we were in Iowa.

Before we got back on the highway, we drove to the top of a rise and Dave took some photos from the top of our Escape. The visibility was pretty good from up there, and the weather was beautiful.

More Day 3 photos can be found here.

We finally got to Omaha around quarter after 7 pm. We are staying at our friend Becky’s, but since she’s on a business trip, we were greeted by her 80-year-old neighbor Ruby and her 6-month-old Maltese-Cavalier puppy Missy. After getting settled a bit, we got dinner and a beer at a pub called (ironically) “Old Chicago”. Then we ran some errands to prepare for a few upcoming nights of camping, and then called it a night. Long day, but good progress!

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