Saturday, January 29, 2011

Winter Road Trip - Dodging Snow Storms Through Main Street America

We took a 2700 mile road trip to visit Ron's daughters in Iowa and Minnesota in early January. Why January, you ask? I had a lot of time off in January and Ron's oldest daughter had just given birth to a new baby in December.

After checking the weather forecast, we decided that departing Monday, January 3rd and getting back by January 12th would be our best window to dodge snow storms and avoid dangerous icy roads.  We left our home in New Mexico January 3rd, heading east on I-40 following the heart of historic Route 66 through the plains and rolling hills of eastern New Mexico.

I-40 through the eastern plains of New Mexico

Tucumcari Mountain (4,999 ft. elevation)
We arrived in Tucumcari in 2.5 hours.   
Tourists who do a tour of old Route 66
usually stop at the historic Blue Swallow Motel

Passing through the old downtown area, barely hanging on were a few commercial stores and ancient looking motels, we only stopped for gas here. We then headed northeast on US 54 toward the Texas border. 

We drove 500 miles in about 9 hours through the grasslands of Texas, Oklahoma, and Kansas to Pratt, KS where we spent the night.  As we passed through southwestern Kansas, we viewed hundreds of small family farms amid brown stubble cornfields and patches of green planted with winter wheat.  The railroad track along US 54 served the ubiquitous grain elevators and silos that were the center of every town. This is tornado country, the land flat and with little elevation but for some rolling hills. The weather was cold, but we were blessed with sunshine and ice-free roads.  We headed toward Kansas City via the Kansas Turnpike.

Kansas City - located at the confluence of the Kansas and Missouri Rivers,
is a major city for two states: Kansas and Missouri
Kansas City is a huge metropolitan area located in the center of the United States and is the cultural heartland of the American mid-western region.  It takes almost an hour to navigate the tangled highways around and through Kansas City and head north to the Iowa border.

We drove a total of 520 miles on January 4th, entering Iowa  snow-coated farmlands via I-35.  Passing the capital and largest city of Iowa, Des Moines, we decided to rest overnight in Grinnell, Iowa. Home of a top-tier liberal arts college, Grinnell College, we found downtown Grinnell to be a small, neatly laid-out Main Street American town with a number of diverse eateries and shops, mostly vacant due to the college Winter Break.  We dined at the Bourbon Street Grille and Voodoo Lounge for some New Orleans-style Cajun and creole food. We asked our waitress about Grinnell College's reputation as a highly respected liberal arts college.  She had graduated from Grinnell the previous year with a major in Psychology and Art and was very fond of the school.  We asked how much it cost to attend Grinnell and were blown away with her reply: $46,000 a year! And now she works as a waitress! $184,000 for a Batchelor's degree? Something is very wrong with America's education system that people actually buy into this dream but may never see the return on their investment. If she took out loans to pay for her college, she now owes the equivalent of what might have been a very nice house!

As Ron is from Cleveland, Ohio, he enjoyed watching Ohio State defeat Arkansas in the Sugar Bowl football game later that evening.  We left Grinnell for Davenport, IA on a cold but sunny Wednesday morning.  It was a 2 hour drive and we stopped for lunch off I-80 near the Amana Colonies  of Iowa. The Amana Colonies was established as a religious utopian community of German immigrants. Although we didn't get to tour the Amana Colonies, we did enjoy some good German food and took home-made fruit pies and Amana Colonies-produced Millstream Brewery Beer with us to Davenport.  We arrived about 2PM to Jeff and Margaret's home and finally saw Max Henry, almost one month old now.

Max Henry at 1 month old
We were quite the doting grandparents and were delighted to hold little Max in our arms.
Me with little Max
Ron holding Max
Margaret was adjusting to first-time Motherhood and Jeff was very supportive as a first-time Dad.  As a photographer and videographer (these photos are from Jeff), he was documenting Max's life .  Margaret will take six months of maternity leave from her job at Augustana College.  Jeff, unfortunately, had to return to his job as a high school teacher after only a month home. We brought in take-out dinner (Thai food was requested) the first night we visited.  On Thursday night, Ron made a wonderful Spaghetti dinner for all.

Mom (Margaret) with baby
Touser was very protective of the new baby

We stayed at the Radisson Quad City Plaza in Downtown Davenport.  Our lovely room had a view of the Mississippi River and Rock Island, Illinois.  It was quite cold but the sun was bright and days clear during our three day stay, and it wasn't until we left Friday headed north toward Minnesota that we finally saw our first flakes of snow.  The 6 hour trip ahead to Minneapolis and Chaska would be pretty tough as the snow flakes changed to a raging blizzard. Continued at Part II 

1 comment:

  1. What an adorable little baby. It's only been 8 years since my last baby was that tiny, but I sometimes get excited about having my own grands one day :)

    Your road trip sounds like fun, but I garee the cost of college has gotten outrageous. How are our young adults supposed to start their lives already in a huge amount of debt?

    Anyway, I just wanted to say hello. I saw your comment on another blog and realized you're a neighbor. I live in Tijeras.