Mid-Ohio Trip – Naperville to Denver

Day 8 – Saturday, June 1

Slightly late start to the day. On weekends the hotel starts breakfast at 7 instead of 6. My plan was to have the car loaded before 7 so I could be out as early as possible without skipping breakfast but my route planning took a bit longer than expected.

First leg of the trip was to Clinton, Iowa, where I wanted to take a short break at a park by the Mississippi River. I took two lane roads almost the entire way; very easy driving. The park in Clinton was a hive of activity with some softball games going on. I walked maybe a half mile down the river, then back. US 30 crosses the river on a suspension bridge and the rail bridge is almost at the water line. It’s one of those bridges that has a center-pivot to let river traffic go by. I didn’t see this one in operation, but later when I crossed the Missouri I saw a rail bridge pivoted and open to river traffic.

Riverview Park, Clinton, IA

From the satellite photos, this little lighthouse is generally 70 or 80 feet from the water and there are four or five more light posts that are submerged. Clearly, the levees here are high enough to handle a lot more water. But if this were to be breached, the major part of this little town would be submerged.

US 30 bridge, railroad bridge, at Clinton

The next leg of my trip was from Clinton to West Branch for a quick visit to the Herbert Hoover Presidential Library and Museum. Again, two lane roads, this time almost all state routes rather than US highways. I don’t think I had to pass anybody the whole way from Naperville, other than in the towns. I’m sure I’m sounding like a broken record when I say how much more I prefer the small roads to the interstates.

I didn’t spend a lot of time at the library. I watched the film that they show hourly and toured the exhibits in the museum. And, of course, the gift shop. For some reason, they have a bunch of trinkets related to ancient Egypt. I don’t recall Hoover having any connections, but I could be forgetting. In the museum was a hunk of the Berlin wall. Again, I’m pretty sure he had no specific connection to the Berlin wall, but it was cool to see it. In general, I don’t go around touching museum exhibits, but I couldn’t resist this time.

Most of the building is off-limits to the public, so I had to ask: If I were to be writing a book about, say, Belgian relief, could I get access to the library? The answer was that all I’d need to do is get a research license, which is about as hard to obtain as a library card. In the mean time, I was free to ask any of the staff researchers questions and they’d do their best to respond. Interesting. Not that I’m planning on writing about Hoover. Or anybody else, for that matter.

Hoover grave site

The Hoover library is only a few hundred yards from I-80. I’ve driven by here many times and never bothered to stop. Or even notice how close it was. Add this to the long list of places I ignored because I was in too big of a hurry on the Interstate. The more I avoid those roads, the happier I am.

Third leg of the day was from West Branch southwest to join US 36 somewhere in Missouri, then as far west as I could get. I had the endpoint tentatively at Bethany, Missouri. I reached Bethany before 6:00pm; clearly too early to stop. In my first iteration of the plan, weeks ago, I was looking at St. Joseph. As it turns out, I made it to Hiawatha, Kansas, about forty miles farther.

One of the reasons I don’t drive after dark is the danger of animals. This was illustrated perfectly just a few miles before Hiawatha. I came upon what I thought was debris in my lane. It wasn’t obvious to me at first what it was. Then I saw it was moving. Slowly. It was a good sized turtle, moving from left to right and about where my drivers side tires belonged. I avoided it, and the smaller turtle a few yards past it, which had almost reached the shoulder. I sure hope they both made it. Frankly, I’m a bit amazed they didn’t get clobbered by the clump of traffic about a quarter mile ahead of me: two semis, two tour buses, a motorhome, and two cars. I have no idea how they all managed to miss both turtles.

My minor irritations with technology continued. As soon as I pulled up to the hotel, my phone decided it didn’t want to talk to anybody. I had no cell service and no GPS. At first I thought it was just the cell service that was lacking. But I saw other people yakking on their phones and spotted a cell tower a short distance away. All was good after rebooting the phone. I guess the day wouldn’t have been complete without some sort of technical glitch.

One of the key events of Herbert Hoover’s tenure as Secretary of Commerce was his relief work in the aftermath of the Great Mississippi Flood of 1927. This was the most destructive river flood in the history of the United States. Twenty seven thousand square miles of land was inundated and 630,000 people were displaced from their homes. To try to prevent future floods, the federal government created the world’s longest system of levees and floodways.

Yesterday, one of these levees failed in the West Quincy area, and other levees were breached along the Arkansas river as well. Luckily, I was in neither of those places and saw nothing so dramatic. However, I did drive by a huge amount of acreage that was under water. Not being from the area, I can’t look at a river and tell if it’s high compared to other severe flooding years, but every river I saw looked very high. At Clinton, all the access stairs leading down to the river were closed, and lampposts on the river side of the levee were under water.

In Missouri, just east of the Mississippi, there’s the Platte River. This is not the same one that flows through Denver an on through Nebraska. I didn’t know there was another one. This one is sometimes called the Little Platte River. This Platte was well out of its banks, flooding perhaps a half mile on each side of the river. Most of Iowa and Missouri that I traversed through the day was rolling terrain, so there wasn’t much flooding to see. But quite a bit of land on the Kansas side of the Missouri is flooded as well as large areas of Illinois that I drove through. Of course, I also mentioned flooding last weekend through the section of Illinois that I went through farther south.

We aren’t in need of someone to do what Hoover did 90 years ago (feed and house more than half a million people), although there are still quite a few people affected by the high water. But I think I can say that the levee system did what it was intended to do (regardless of other good or bad side-effects). In 2011, the Mississippi rose a foot higher than back in 1927. And the flooding along the Missouri this year is worse than it was in 2011. But the damage and displacement of people is far, far less than back then.

Today’s miles: 525 road Total miles: 2,254 road, 407 track

Day 9 – Sunday, June 2

A fairly straight-forward and uneventful drive through Kansas and eastern Colorado. I well remember last year’s range anxiety on this same road. Today I filled up in Smith Center, Kansas, three hundred miles to Byers. I’d been getting a bit over 33mpg and figured I could make it easily. Just the same, I topped off the tank at my lunch stop in St. Francis, at the last working gas pump before HPR.

Today’s miles: 524 road Total miles: 2,778 road, 407 track

Total trip miles: 3,185

Mid-Ohio Trip – Denver to Mansfield

Day 1 – Saturday, May 25

Before heading out I was feeling a bit of … trepidation isn’t the right word. More like low-grade anxiety. A good chunk of the center of the country has been getting hit with nasty weather the last several days. Tornadoes, some fatal, have hit Missouri, and that’s where I’m spending the night. I didn’t make hotel reservations because I didn’t know how far I’d get. My goal was Monroe City, and as it turned out I easily made it another 30 miles or so to Hannibal, right on the Mississippi River. Not that I’ve seen it yet; my motel is ten or twelve miles away. So far the weather has been good. My phone tells me no precipitation is expected in the next two hours. We’ll see.

I picked what I thought was a fairly cheap motel, at least according to Google. All I’m after is a bed and shower. When I got here, there were only four rooms left, all smoking. I’m surprised anybody still offers smoking rooms. I’m not happy, but it’s a room, and I’ve been in worse. It turned out to be on the more expensive end, about what I’d expect to pay in these parts for a Marriott property.

I can’t get internet here in the room. It never challenges me for a password. I managed to connect down in the lobby, but shortly after returning to the room I lose it. At least I managed to plan my route for tomorrow.

Today’s route was US 36 the entire way. Here in Missouri it’s four lane divided highway the whole way. Not exactly like an Interstate, as it’s not limited access. And although there were trucks, there weren’t many. Through Colorado and most of Kansas I couldn’t have asked for much better conditions. It’s not hot yet, so the clear blue skies and bright sunshine weren’t a problem. And there was almost no traffic at all. There’s an event going on at HPR, so I followed a Porsche with a giant rear wing from the gas station in Byers to the track, but after the track I didn’t see another vehicle going my direction until I got into the small towns of western Kansas.

Before reaching Kansas, I saw a fox crossing the highway in front of me. Close enough to easily identify it as a fox, but not close enough to worry about hitting it. Shortly after that, I saw a couple of pheasant standing on the shoulder of the road. At first I thought they were turkeys, but they weren’t that big, and were slender. I was a bit surprised they didn’t take off as I passed them.

Nearing the Missouri River there was quite a bit of standing water on the fields. Sometimes just large puddles, other times it was acres of field under water. I didn’t get much of a look at the Missouri and I don’t really know what it normally looks like, but it seemed it was running high. A few of the other smaller rivers I crossed, again just glimpses, looked like the trees along the banks were in the water. Tomorrow I’ll start my day with a short visit to Riverview Park here in Hannibal and get a good look at the Mississippi.

When I do my trip planning, I typically check the box to avoid highways. What I really want is “avoid Interstates”. I didn’t give it much thought, and was under the impression they were the same thing. But the other day when scouting routes for the return trip, I noticed that it was keeping me off US 36 here in Missouri. It’s not an Interstate, but it is a four lane divided highway. I’m not sure they’re consistent on this. I drove quite a few miles on US 20 through Iowa last year on my Road America trip, and that’s more Interstate-like than US 36 is here.

For tomorrow, I could easily take Interstate most of the way. But I find it so much more pleasant to take the smaller roads; I’ll gladly trade some time for the near elimination of traffic. I find it much less stressful to take the scenic route than the super-slab.

I hit another bird today. What is it about this car that causes me to hit so many birds?

Today’s miles: 660

Day 2 – Sunday, May 26

I was awakened by a peal of thunder at 4:15. I didn’t hear any tornado sirens, so that was good. But I wasn’t exactly sure I’d hear any if they were sounding. I glanced out the window and things didn’t look too bad so I went back to bed.

Breakfast wasn’t scheduled to be available until 6:30, so I loaded up the car first. It was raining pretty good. I was in the breakfast area by 6:25 and people were already eating. So I loaded up a plate with sausage gravy and biscuits, some sort of cheesy scrambled eggs, and potatoes. Then back up to the room to brush my teeth and I was on the road by 6:54.

By now the rain had slackened somewhat. But I quickly fogged up the interior of all the cockpit glass. Cracking the windows didn’t help much, and neither did the defroster. Good thing I carry a towel with me. Usually it’s in the boot, but I had anticipated just such a situation and had it in the cab with me.

I found my way to Riverview Park easily enough. It’s a dark forest early in the morning in the rain. I found a place with a view of the river (not as obvious as you might think, given the park’s name) and took a look around. It was still raining, so I didn’t hang around. Had it been nicer, I’d have explored the park a bit more. I was hoping to see some barges on the river. I did see some when I was back on the highway, crossing the bridge, but they weren’t visible from the overlook I visited.

Mississippi River, Riverview Park, Hannibal, MO

The first section of the drive was on the Interstate. My biggest issue with interstate highways is the truck traffic. There was none this morning, so I was unbothered.

My planned route had me heading north on I-172, but Navigator decided to send me farther east on I-72 instead. This turned out to be an interesting route. My first intermediate destination was Havana, IL, on the Illinois River. The route I ended up following was IL 100, along the western shore of the river from Beardstown to Havana. The river was well outside its banks through here, but it looks to me like they’re prepared for this and perhaps it’s a regular occurrence. One house on the river side of the road was built on stilts, and many of the trees along here were standing in water.

As it was, I crossed the Illinois River three times. Once on the interstate and twice on US routes. These two bridges are older, steel girder bridges. Beauty is in the eye of the beholder, so I won’t say these old bridges are more beautiful. It could be argued that the newer bridges have a simplistic beauty to them. But I find these steel girder bridges more interesting.

Writing up these notes and referring to the map, I see that I narrowly missed visiting Lotus, Illinois. I passed within a few miles of it, but it’s so small it never appeared on any signs. Had I been on the correct road I’d have had to make a short detour. I doubt it is big enough to merit a post office; from the satellite photo it looks to be a grain elevator and about six houses, about a thousand feet from the highway. Presumably, there’d have been at least a sign of some sort. Oh, well, I’ll never know.

My third intermediate navigation point was Logansport. (The second wasn’t interesting enough to get a comment.) I generally edit my route for these navigation points so that I stay on the highway rather than detouring through town. I’m glad for this one that I didn’t. Logansport sits beside the Wabash river and my route was on a side street on the south bank of the river. It, too, is running high, submerging one of the islands in the middle of the river.

The rest of the trip was fairly boring. US 24 and US 30, with a short shot on I-469. Both 24 and 30 may as well have been interstates, being four-lane divided highway, often limited access. In Ohio the speed limit was 70.

I made good time. Rather than having the motel as my destination, I had the track. Chin Motorsports does registration and tech the night before, but I figured I’d miss that, arriving after 6. But today’s event there (either NASA or PCA, I heard both) went late due to some weather and when I arrived I found myself at the end of a long line waiting to get in. So rather than just taking a picture of the sign and heading to the motel, I waited around, got registered and teched. Tech inspection amounted to me giving them my completed form and them checking that the number on the car matches the number on the form.

After checking in at the hotel, I found a gas station and a restaurant. So I’m all ready to go in the morning. It’s about a 20 minute drive to the track, and the drivers meeting is scheduled for 7:10, so I’ll try to be out the door by 6:30. That should give me time to find a spot in the paddock.

Today’s miles: 557 Total miles: 1,217