A week and a half ago, I ventured into the Everglades-like country that – at most times of the year – is the fertile farmland of central Iowa.
Never, ever, have I seen it like that. Not in all of my growing-up years there have I seen flooding like they experienced in the southeastern part of the state.
Of course, my first thoughts were for the poor people whose lives have been turned upside down by the flooding. The damage they face is truly devastating, and the cleanup effort will take months – years in some cases.
Soon after that altruistic thought, I started sputtering about the potential delays that lay ahead as my wife and I traveled toward Des Moines.
I didn’t have to go far to get a sense that my travel plans were about to change. At that point, I started devising a way to ‘beat this thing’ – as I told my wife, who was seated in the navigator seat beside me.
‘Beating’ it, for me, was finding a quick way around the devastation and getting to my intended destination – Drake University in Des Moines, where we were going to watch the NCAA track meet.
As an alum of Drake and a former member of the track team there, I’ve been planning for months to go back to my old track and watch the best of this year’s collegiate athletes show their stuff. Several of my daughter’s teammates from Iowa State had qualified, so it was going to be a treat to see them compete in the rarified air of the NCAA meet.
Our first effort to ‘beat the system’ consisted of continuing on I-80 even after the signs directed us to an alternate route. After all, nobody was there to tell us we couldn’t keep going, and plenty of other cars and trucks were headed west on the interstate, too. We drove for 25 miles until a small brigade of state troopers directed us to exit the interstate and head back to the Quad Cities. They were all business, and seemed a bit miffed that we were there at the last outpost before the interstate succumbed to the flood waters near Iowa City.
Once back to scenic Bettendorf, we were directed to head north. So we did. And we drove on, and on and on.
I felt a bit like Christopher Columbus, who set off on his journey by sailing west to get to the east. By the time the troopers let us turn west, we were in Dubuque. That seemed darn close to the Minnesota border.
So, after hours of sightseeing in Northern Iowa, we arrived in Des Moines three hours later than we’d planned – walking into the stadium, just as the events of the day were getting under way.
In all, our original 400-mile trip had grown to 600 miles.
Two days later, after the track meet was over, we contemplated our trip home. We weren’t so cocky this time. We might be a bit bull-headed on these adventures, but we’re not entirely stupid.
We headed south out of Des Moines on I-35 and returned to Vandalia by way of Kansas City and I-70.
Besides, I’d seen enough news coverage by that time to know that things in Eastern Iowa were going to get worse before they got better.
As I was searching for a quote to use for last week’s Scrambler in the Banks of the Okaw, I ran across one that seemed appropriate: ‘A truly happy person is one who can enjoy the scenery on a detour.’
I can’t say that I actually enjoyed all the extra scenery, but I did have the opportunity to count my blessings as we drove past soggy fields and damaged homes of those who felt the brunt of the flood damage.
My traveling inconveniences can’t hold a candle to the disruption they face.