Reflecting on my road trip from Iowa to Washington.

A week ago tonight, I arrived back home with my parents. Almost two months ago I bought a one way ticket out to Iowa (Omaha, NE actually) to meet them in the middle of Iowa. The plan was for me to ride shotgun on their migration westward. My parents were moving to Washington, closer to me. Fortunately, I'm one of those (seemingly few) kids who enjoys talking and spending time with his parents.

The driving across Iowa, South Dakota, Wyoming, Montana and Washington wasn't particularly interesting. However, there were a few events on the trip between July 23rd and July 28th that I thought were worth capturing. Those thoughts follow here.

1. My grandpa lives in Atlantic, Iowa. I was staying with my aunt and uncle (who live near there) Sunday and Monday while waiting for my parents house sale to close and start their trek from Dubuque, Iowa. Now I hadn't seen my grandpa for a couple years but he was there when my aunt and uncle picked up me up outside of Omaha, Nebraska. We drove to his place first and chilled out for a while. During that time, my uncle caught the end of a Nextel NASCAR race on TV while my grandpa showed me the paintings that he had been working on since my grandma passed away. Most were watercolors (which I remember being a favorite medium of my brother's as well) of nature and events you'd find in a Louis L'Aamour novel.

However, it wasn't the paintings that really struck me that afternoon. They were cool (especially the drinking glasses on a simple black background) but it was what he said while I sat at the dining room table with him that I remember most. He said, "I remember when you and I were out throwin' hay bales. Heh, heh. That was a good time then, wasn't it? Out pickin' up hay bales with your Dad." I smiled. Throwing hay bales was hard and hot work but I had always enjoyed it. There was something about using every ounce of my strength to stack hay bales, sometimes higher than my head, in Dad's huge grain truck. Dad would throw the hay bales in the back and I would organize them. Then we'd go home and I'd toss the hay bales on the elevator running up to the second floor of the barn and it would be Dad's turn stack and organize the bales in the barn. Grandpa would drive and help out wherever he could. All of this in long sleeve shirts during the middle of summer in Missouri, 90 to 100 degrees by midday.

I smiled with my grandpa. Those were good times.

2. On Monday, while waiting for my parents to arrive at my aunt and uncle's house, a graduate student from Wisconsin stopped by. She was doing a study to see how the land my uncle had put aside into CRP was doing. In particular, she was interested to see how well the vegetation that was supposed to be native to the Iowa prairie was doing where he planted it. What I actually found interesting was how excited she was about her work. It was fun to ask questions and see her really get into the answers and sharing her knowledge. Talking to her reminded made me wonder if that is how I sound when I talk about technology. Probably.

I figure it just goes to show there are geeks in every field.

3. Tuesday was uneventful but Wednesday morning we made a bit of a detour from I-90 to visit Mount Rushmore. I had never been there so it was pretty cool. I recommend everyone go at least once. Beyond the mere spectacle that is the faces in solid granite, I was really impressed by the way that the whole viewing area blended in with its surroundings. The entrance's archway, plus the hall of flags, plus the museum, plus the amphitheater all seemed to fit in really well and funnel the amazing amount of foot traffic efficiently.

Anyway, I recommend going at least once. I've heard the monument is impressive at night when it is lit up... maybe I'll go back one day to see that.

4. The general scenery of Iowa, South Dakota, Wyoming, Montana, and eastern Washington was mostly unappealing to me. Many times I would wonder, "What do the few people who live out here do?" However, there were two things that struck me. First, the Badlands of South Dakota are very imposing and powerful. We didn't drive through them or even particularly close but from a distance they were very cool looking. Maybe one day I'll go back and look closer. Second, and this is more interesting because I didn't expect to discover this, I found that I enjoyed the scenery western Montana and the little bit of Idaho we traveled through more than anything else. After thinking about this for a while, I realized it was the fact that the horizon was blocked off by mountains instead of flat land or rolling hills. Of course, the Greater Seattle Area is surrounded by mountains but it wasn't until I went back to the flat lands of the American Midwest that I realized how much I loved the mountain-scape.

Green everything and mountainous horizons. I like Seattle.

So that was my recent trip across the country. I'm pretty much caught up on the backlog of email and other work that accumulates when you're absent for four days of work. I'm a little behind on the blogging but I hope to catch up over the next few days since Jenny is going to be out of town.

Until next time, keep coding, you know I am...

Comments (2)

  1. DMac says:

    It’s good to get out and do something that’s not work, isn’t it? Even if you love your work, it can be a great thing to take a break and do something totally different, like visit with your family. Great blog Rob.

  2. Pete D. says:

    With all this talk about SD and the badlands, you managed not to mention those "Wall Drug" signs that litter the highway (seemingly) from Indiana to Wall SD!

    It’s weird how certain things are etched into your memory. Like your memories of bailing hay, I recall our many summer trips in a Chevy station wagon with no A/C driving the plain states on the way to/from WA/OH. Its weird how I can remember all of the A&W root beer stands we visited and how good it felt to get into the motel pool at the end of the day’s drive.

    PS: You wonder what people in SD and Wyoming do for fun -When we were there we used to fish, ride horses, pan for gold, sightsee and avoid the flash floods in Rapid City. 🙂

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