Road Trip Report- MN, IA, MO, KS, IL (with pics)

Started by Mdcastle, July 10, 2012, 08:24:41 PM

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Part I of IV

Time for my 23rd annual (and presumably final, as Cornerstone Festival is apparently ending) July 4 Great American Great Plains Road Trip. Day 1: I-35 from Minneapolis to Kearny, MO, except for stretches of US 69 in Des Moines and north of Ames.

*The I-35 & US 14 interchange is moving along nicely. Didn't stop to take pictures

* As another poster noted, I-35 just south of the Minnesota border is a candidate for the worst stretch of interstate in Iowa. It's gotten better in previous years, but is still bumpy the last few dozen miles.

* The top of Iowa Rest Area. The first (and last) under a program to permit commercial developement at rest areas. It looks a lot nicer in this photo because in real life you can't ignore the fact that it's next to a gaudy casino, Burger King, gas station, and hotel instead of out in the country (like it was a year or two after it opened) Archive photo.

Lots of Windmills in northern Iowa. Archive photo.

* Planned to clinch US 69 between IA 5 and US 20, but a stretch north of Ames was closed so I went back to the interstate. Stopped at the "Roadgeek Rest Area", the I-35 Story City Southbound. The Top of Iowa was the first new rest area in years and was a unique design, from that point forward new and rebuilt rest areas use a standard design with individual theming. This one has a transportation theme. Highway shields are on the floor, transportation trivia is set in tiles in the commons area. THe new standard design has tall ceilings, a large commons area with laptop booths, lots of windows, easily the nicest rest areas I've been too, as opposed to the old design which is among the most basic. Archive Photos

*In Minnesota most signals are one of three designs, Minneapolis and St. Paul have their own designs but most others use the same design as Mn/DOT signals. Iowa they seem to vary a lot more widely. Here's a structure on US 69 in Des Moines that looks massively overkill for a couple of signal heads.

*Several areas of head to head traffic for bridge replacements south of Des Moines. I've never been on I-35 south of Des Moines before

If Iowa has some of the best rest areas, Missouri has some of the worst, and they keep closing them rather than rebuilding and expanding them. This one entering from Iowa is the best one I've seen, it has both an indoor commons area and a walking trail, something others lack.

Spent the night in Cameron, MO. The stupid Super 8 reservation site never goes to the confirm screen, so I clicked "confirm twice" before I got emails saying they had actually gone through. I called the number to try to cancel one of them and got someone probably in India that said she'd cancel one of them, but she did not. I found I had two rooms on arrival, but the night desk was kind enough to just cancel one of them rather than charge me for two rooms.

Day 2 I drove the remaining distance to Worlds of Fun / Oceans of Fun. I saw a cable stayed bridge from Mamba, I assume it was the Bond Bridge, I rode again at night but was unable to pick it out.

Worlds of Fun is owned by Cedar Fair, who also own the park near me, Valleyfair. Some of the rides were similar, but better. Some of the food stands were exact duplicates, and the layout was vastly different. My two favoritites were Mamba; a DH Morgan Hypercoaster, and Prowler, a GCI woodie. Mamba>Wild Thing (although Mamba should be the one that's bright green and they make the ops at WOF repeat stupid speels); Prowler>Renegade. Pattriot was OK but like most inverts it's only really good in the front seat. The rest of the coasters were forgettable. As for flats, it was my first time to ride a Wipeout or a Round Up, and I like them. The Wipeout is an indoor dark ride adding to the effect. Oceans of Fun, the waterpark, was OK. It is a lot better than Soak City at Vallefair and was probably better before being outclassed by even the ones at a typical Six Flags, but it felt good on a 100 degree day.

That night I drove down I-35 to I-435 to Blue Springs, where I spent the night at the Days Inn. First time driving through Kansas. I like it that they actually care about interchange lighting; usually a 100 tower with metal halide luminaires, Minnesota has a couple of those left at the Fish Lake interchange but Kansas they're everywhere. From what I've seems among the midwest Minnesota and Kansas are the best at lighting interchanges. Wisconsin doesn't care if people get killed on their highways at night as long as they don't have to pay a light bill. Iowa and Illinois strangely light the exits but not the entrances, Missouri does both but only has a single truss arm at each point. Which may be OK, the defining Minnesota study on interchange lighting found the safety benefit between nothing and half-assed is much greater than half-assed and complete. Sometime Minnesota will use less than the standard 14 poles to light an interchange (but only at very low volume locations, where lighting is warranted based on mainline volume but not ramp volume). ND and SD have lighting where it needs to be, but there are a number of areas with very low traffic where it's not warranted.

Day 3 I drove down I-470 and then headed back east on I-70. Stopped to see the the Oregon Trail Museum. Drove around the Independence courthouse, just like the wagons trains used to do while departing. Tried to fix the perspective on this but it wound up looking goofy so I left it as-is.

Took a detour to see the Liberty Bend Bridges

I got off on US 40, Here's a stretch of original pavement that is still drivable.

And a stretch that is not.

Drove back and forth to pick up the stretch of I-70 I had missed, including the Rocheport Bridge

Headed south and spent the night at the Days Inn in Jefferson City. I saw a rainbow just north of town


Part II of IV

Day 4: I'd been to Jefferson City before to see tour the old penetentiary and the capitol, , but I wanted to go back again to see the Jefferson City Bridge again. Minnesota has declared war on truss bridges since they're fracture critical, so soon all the ones in Minnesota (except the Kettle River and Stillwater bridges which are on the list to preserve if at all possible) will likely be gone. So it's nice to see some newer ones in Missouri that will presumably be around a long time.

Another things I'm interested besides roads is true crime. I watch trials on TruTV all day at work, read a lot on the internet and sometimes visit notorious sites. Visiting the old prison last time I was in Jefferson city was a real fun experience, if a bit surreal. This time, I wanted to see some sites associated with Alyssa Bustamante. This case tweaked the country's interest because of the age and alleged motive of the perp, and I was drawn to it especially because I share some background with the perp. It's something I thought of a lot, but in the end what I decided was it's not about being fundamentally good or bad, but the fact that everyone is one bad decision from doing something that will permanently ruin their lives and those of others. Staying on public property I saw her house (a McMansion hobby farm with horses in front and a pool), her victims house (a small rambler on small lot),  her school, the Juvenile detention center where she was first held. I headed out on US 54 and drove by the prison by Vandalia where she'll spend the next generation at least. Somehow it felt good do drive on.

US 54 was detoured east of US 61. Overall US 54 was a fairly high quality road. I  like the Missouri detour assemblies compared to the often crude Minnesota variety.

The Champ Clark Bridge. There's some more of my photos from an earlier trip on Wikipedia I put there during the short time I was realeasing pictures on their. I drove to the end of US 54, then west on I-72, clenching it west of Springfield.

From there I headed north on IL 110. Some nice new signs. After 110 ended I followed US 136 through Macomb and then IL 41 to Bushnell, arriving and needing to set up camp when it was still about 100 degrees with no breeze.


Quote from: Mdcastle on July 11, 2012, 04:17:22 PM
Minnesota has declared war on truss bridges since they're fracture critical,

is this a problem in other states as well?
live from sunny San Diego.


Quote from: agentsteel53 on July 11, 2012, 05:21:36 PM
Quote from: Mdcastle on July 11, 2012, 04:17:22 PM
Minnesota has declared war on truss bridges since they're fracture critical,

is this a problem in other states as well?
Well, they're not really building truss bridges anymore, so as they wear out they get replaced with something else. But Minnesota is a unique situation. In the fallout from the I-35W bridge collapse a bill was passed over the gov's veto that gave money and mandatated Mn/DOT replace or rehabilitate bridges that were structurally deficient or fracture critical, and all truss bridges fall into the latter category. The only exceptions to the requirement are bridges that (A) Are on the 25 "historic bridges to preserve" list or the national register of historic places, (B) Bridges designed after the mid 1970s when metal fatigue became more understood, or (C) bridges that are in good shape and will continue to be with minimal maintenance, usually implying low traffic. A few truss bridges that fall into those categories and are likely to survive include the MN 99 bridge at St Peter, MN 123 at Sandstone, and the Wabasha bridge. The Stillwater Bridge did too before the new project going through made it a non-issue.

Revive 755

Since you drove I-35 in MO, did you notice if MoDOT happened to reinstall any mainline I-35 shields between US 36 and I-435?

(Prior discussion regarding this:


I can't say one way or another. If they did they were definitely not on the same assemblies with the MO 110 markers, I remember seeing those without any I-35 shield and thought that was odd.


Part III of IV
For part 3 I thought I'd share some photos of the festival, don't bother reading further in this post looking for the usual highway pictures. Over the years I've probably gotten 1500 pictures of the festival. And almost none of them are bands playing. I just don't have the equipment or interest for that. Instead I take pictures of people and things, leaving the band photos for my camping buddy, who has a DLSR that'll do ISO 3200. Here's a few that even people who have no idea what the festival is about might find interesting:

I had just got my camp set up when it got dark and the moon came out. I was soaked in sweat since there was absolutely no breeze that day. The other days it was still 100+ but there was a breeze.

Some flowers. The second photo is my Jeep Grand Cherokee

Red Wing Blackbird. I don't see them in the city but they're ubiquitous in the midwest countryside

Some shady character I found lurking around.

A fixture of the last few years as been sometimes elaborate art projects. A favorite of mine from 2007 was a series of metal cutouts mounted in layers over a metal plate. Most of the time it produced random patterns but each day precisely at noon it produced a cohesive image. This year the most elaborite project was a fully functional wooden ship.

The sun sets on probably the last Cornerstone Festival.

The leader of the pop culture seminars got the idea to take the ship down to the lake, float it, and set it on fire to send off the festival with style. I was listening to them on my scanner, but other people saw them grab the ship and start carrying it down to the lake, word spread and probably 3,000 of the 5,000 people went down to see it. I feel sorry for any bands that happened to be playing at the time. It actually never sank, it eventually drifted onto a sandbar on the opposite side of the lake and never quite burned up. People were saying it's a sign the festival was meant to continue.

Overall, it seemed like half a festival, ending it's run with a wimper instead of a bang. I remember being crowded with close to 30,000 people that came for POD on the mainstage in 2000 and seas of tents, now it was more like people camped here and there, and all the bands playing did so for free. A few ancedotes over the years- Brian "Head" Welch said some of the crowd looked wilder than those at a Korn concert, and President Bush offered to speak on the campaign trail in 2004, but the festival declined to have him.


What are you using for a camera these days?


I have a Canon SX20. It's a "superzoom" with a 20X lens. It can't match the quality or speed of a DSLR but it has a longer zoom range. I have a third party adapter where I can mount standard 58mm filters on it, I have a polarizer and a 5 pt star.


Quote from: Mdcastle on July 11, 2012, 07:20:51 PMthe Wabasha bridge.
Hell, that bridge was built in the late 1980's. It replaced a VERY rickety old through truss with a unique curved landing on the Minnesota side of the Mississippi.
old bridge:
current bridge:
"Speed does not kill, suddenly becoming stationary... that's what gets you" - Jeremy Clarkson


Quote from: on_wisconsin on July 12, 2012, 10:29:17 PM
Quote from: Mdcastle on July 11, 2012, 07:20:51 PMthe Wabasha bridge.
Hell, that bridge was built in the late 1980's. It replaced a VERY rickety old through truss with a unique curved landing on the Minnesota side of the Mississippi.
old bridge:
current bridge:
Two sharp 90 degree turns. I remember it had signs that said "Trucks must not meet on bridge" which seemed kind of pointless because you'd never be able to tell if there was a truck coming from the other direction when you started up it.


The about 1 mile stretch of road leading up to the festival is officially called "Cornerstone Road".

On the final day, I drove IL 41 to I-74 to I-80. Lot's of memories- the "welcome Cornerstone" signs in Bushnell. Driving by the prison. Stopping many times at the Krisdala Baka rest area- once I looked up my name in the guest book that I had signed a year earlier. "Baka" means "hill" in Swedish, it reminded early settlers of the hills around their town of Krisdala. I've been told some parts of the midwest bear an uncanny resemblance to scandanavia, perhaps a factor in why so many scandanavians settled here. (I'm probably pretty unusual here in I have zero scandanavian ancestry- I'm British-German.). Laying under the ash trees is refreshing after the long drive across Iowa.

I crossed the Schwengal Bridge, incredibly boring but a traditional part of the road. Upon crossing the bridge I found the only gasoline station was sold out, so I turned into the city to find an open one, Several miles later I got to a gasoline station, and had 2/10th of a gallon left. Archive Photo

New sign and old sign. It's grainy because I got the exposure way off and had to "force develop" it in post. From the Quad cities I followed US 6,

Unusual stoplight in Wilton. There was two kittycorner to each other, they were dark, and the one car every 5 minutes or so was just blowing through it.

Sign on US 6

I went north on US 65 to US 20 before heading back to the interstate. Here's a new tied arch bridge in Iowa Falls. I'm kind of ambivalent about these, as much as I like cute bridges another part of me says it's false engineering and a waste of money to build expensive designs when a cheap one will do.

Finally tally on this trip:
1699 miles.

Notable Roadgeek accomplishnents during my time doing these trips (It was only in 2002 I strayed from taking the shortest route there and starting to see other things)
*Covered a vast swath of territory, from MSP to Kansas City to St. Louis to Chicago to Wausau.
*Came close to completing the Ave of Saints, down to Bowling Green.
*Drove all of the Great River Roads between MSP and ST. Louis, except for a short stretch between I-70 and I-270
*Crossed every Mississippi bridge between MSP and St. Louis, except the I-270 and McArthur Bridges.
*Drove long sections of the primo roadgeek accomplishment, X0 X5 interstates, sections of I-35, I-55, I-70, and many other roads.
*Took a ferry for the first time as a driver

Non-Roadgeek accomplishments:
*Went up the Gateway arch
*Toured a defunct prison and sat down in a real execution chamber.
*Went to Six Flags St. Louis and Great America, Worlds of Fun, Mount Olympus, and Noahs Ark theme parks.
*Saw Mark Twains house
*Saw Lincolns tomb
*Saw the state capitol buildings of WI, MO, IA, and IL

The reason for these trips may be history, but I do want to finish what I started as far as the GRR, Ave of Saints, and the Bridges and go back to St. Louis. Although I may elect to fly instead of drive. But then I'd be tempted to go further, maybe all the way to Cairo...


Next time I'm in Iowa I need to go to Wilton just to see that signal. It looks like the N-S street has stop signs so it's not a totally uncontrolled intersection. I wonder if the signal turn-off coincided with US 6 being rerouted onto I-80.

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