Mar 23

Links on IA 12 page fixed

June 4, 2014: The national north end of US 77 is just across the border at I-29 in Sioux City.

Well, this is embarrassing: When I moved the website from, I moved the locations of the IA 12 South and US 77 pages. However, I never edited the links to those pages from the main IA 12 page. They are fixed now, and linked properly in this blog post.

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Mar 22

Closing off an ancient curve, and Centerville’s IA 60 history

Appanoose48 appanoose1951
Appanoose County in the 1948 (left/top) and 1951 Iowa Highway Commission state maps. Notice the non-existence of Lake Rathbun. Drake Avenue is shown as the north-south piece of IA 277, but it actually belonged to IA 60, as you will see in the research below. (Also, the map dot of Brazil became the map dot of Sunshine, at the end of IA 138, but the name wasn’t changed until the next year.)

Appanoose County is going to take out a curve that was part of a state highway until the middle of the 20th century.

Drake Avenue, or 217th Avenue, runs a fraction of a mile west of IA 5. It was the original road for IA 60 (IA 6 until US 6 was brought into Iowa, then renumbered again in 1969). At the time, having that north-south road with a little curve meant traffic between Numa and Centerville could avoid a railroad crossing, and the curve is visible on late 1930s aerial photos. Now, the railroad is long gone, and the angle to the east-west road creates safety issues, so the county is going to make that a dead end and pave the north-south gravel road in April, the Centerville Daily Iowegian reports.

In a series of construction projects in the 1950s, IA 60 was moved to the east, following 18th Street in Centerville. A decade ago, tracking down specifics would have been extremely time-consuming, but thanks to the magic of microfilm scanning and OCR, it took a matter of hours to get what I wanted from the Iowegian archives.

Originally, 60 followed Drake Avenue and Haynes Avenue in Centerville. The modern street configuration is a clue; Haynes keeps its name even when the road turns east-west. On April 27, 1949 — a date learned a decade ago from research at the Iowa DOT library — 60 was realigned from Cincinnati to Green Street on the south edge of Centerville. It had gone north from Cincinnati to meet IA 277, the spur to Numa. The first state map to show this was the “1950 Alternate.”

But to get 60 onto 18th Street in Centerville, three different projects were undertaken. The first was to take out the brick paving and widen 18th south of IA 2; the second was to rebuild 18th between 2 and Haynes; and the last was angling the road northeast of Haynes away from what is now Shamrock Lane. These relocations were completed in September 1952, September 1956, and September 1957, respectively.

But where was 277′s end during this time? That’s a bit murky. The 1950A to 1953 maps show parallel lines, perhaps because the roads (Drake and 18th) were close enough that the mappers weren’t quite sure how to show the change. On June 2, 1948, before any relocation, the Iowegian reported:

When the new route is completed and finally paved the present highway which goes south from Centerville on Drake avenue by way of Streepyville to Cincinnati, will become county road and will be turned over to the Appanoose county engineer and board of supervisors.

That implies that Drake was going to be dropped from the system, and that is what handwritten notations on a county map show. I believe that in the 1949-52 time frame, it’s possible that 277 curved up to meet 60 at the intersection of Drake and Green, but not likely. The east-west road where the curve splits off was already part of the state system, as part of IA 216 to Exline, before that highway was paved on a different alignment.

In October 1952, most likely prompted by the relocation of 60 onto 18th Street south of 2, the Highway Commission set the east end of IA 277 at the southeast corner of Section 12. That is where J46 intersects 5 today, about half a mile east of the old curve that is going to be sealed off.

Five years later, the entirety of IA 277 was paved, including the replacement of 18-foot concrete with 24-foot concrete on the part that used to be IA 60. The spur to Numa was a victim of the Great Decommissioning of 1980.

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Mar 21

Analysis of 2017 RAGBRAI route

July 23, 2008: RAGBRAI riders enter the west side of Tama.

FORTY YEARS after its first and only visit to Allamakee County, RAGBRAI is going to end in Lansing.

From Orange City (which is new as a starter town; others started in Hawarden) to Charles City, not much is totally new to RAGBRAI, with the exceptions of Sutherland (on the gravel loop) and Thornton. But then the route opens up to many new sights.

The route has been to Chickasaw County only once since 1993, and hasn’t routinely trod any ground northeast of West Union except for 1977, and both those change this year. New Hampton, Waukon, and Lansing are both on the route for the first time since 1977, the latter two as host cities (making Allamakee the first county to have two overnight towns in one year). Lawler, Castalia, Waterville, and Harpers Ferry are all new, as is Postville, heretofore the 10th-largest place in Iowa the ride had not visited.

Wapello becomes the least-recently-visited once-host city (1979), followed by Akron (1982) — which, given the trends, is likely to be here permanently — then Keokuk (1992) and, surprisingly enough, Marion (1994).

Finally, with Ionia on the route this year, 1977 becomes the third year for which every town passed through then has been passed through at least once later (1975, 1980).

My list of yearly RAGBRAI towns has been updated based on the Register’s daily maps issued last week.

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Mar 20

947. Palmer

March 20, 2003: A Fort Dodge Messenger newsrack in Palmer announces the beginning of U.S. military action in Iraq.

Fourteen years and five ISU men’s basketball coaches ago, I took my first solo multi-day trip to photograph Iowa highways.

Palmer was the first town on March 20, 2003, that I had never been to before. I have not been back since. That makes it my least-recently-visited town in Iowa. But I was glad I got there, because a month later IA 315 was decommissioned (Pocahontas County signed agreements before the mass turnover later that year).

One of these days I’ll get back and see what things look like now. But that will be part of plans yet to be made.

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Mar 18

Bring on the Boilermakers

IFOctober 29, 2016: Penn State scores one of its many touchdowns against Purdue in West Lafayette, Indiana. The final was 62-24. Yes, I watched both Iowa State and Purdue play football in person in 2016. You can’t hurt me.

The Big 12 Tournament’s winner takes on the Big Ten’s regular-season champion tonight (WHY are we so late this year?) in Milwaukee for the chance to, presumably, play the Big 12′s regular-season champion.

Iowa State has never played Purdue in football, as I mentioned before, but have met four times in basketball (h/t They would have met last year in the NCAA Tournament but Purdue fell on its face. Now, in a game between two teams’ fanbases who are historically scared to death of being snakebitten/losing a player to injury/having a house dropped on them, the question is, who will come out alive?

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Mar 17

US 20 detour starts next week

The detour for US 20 in western Iowa that originally was going to last through two winters but then discontinued will restart Monday, the Iowa DOT says in a press release. Construction will go on throughout the year, pushing ever closer to making US 20 four lanes across the state.

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Mar 16

Turnarounds before the tournament

December 8, 2016: Harbaugh? Harbaugh. Harbaugh Harbaugh Harbaugh, Harbaugh Harbaugh.

I freely admit that in the two days I saw the ISU basketball teams come out flatter than flat in Carver-Hawkeye Arena, I had my concerns about the season. But they got better as things went on, and they’re in the NCAA Tournament, and the Hawkeyes are not. (The Drake and UNI women are, too, outstanding achievements for both.)

The ISU men are hoping to do at least as well as last year, which would result in playing Kansas in Kansas City, assuming they can 1) beat Nevada and 2) get past a likely Purdue matchup the committee wanted last year too. The women… well, they’re going to Storrs as a geographical outlier against a Syracuse team the hometown paper says is underrated. The winner gets to say they won on UConn’s home court, without the technical detail of playing UConn, and then get ground into fine dust for the Huskies’ next “road to the championship” video.

Today, the men play literally the last game of the day — compared with getting the second tipoff in 2015 and flaming out in time for me to watch “Jeopardy”. Last year’s suffocation in Chicago and Virginia’s subsequent choking messed up ISU’s predictable NCAA pattern, so who knows what will happen this year.

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Mar 15

South Hardin sharing agreement extended

July 21, 2015: Architectural elements of Radcliffe’s 1915 school building were preserved when the building was torn down. Currently, Radcliffe Elementary is used for Hubbard-Radlcliffe grades K-5.

KLMJ Radio and the Iowa Falls Times-Citizen have both reported that Eldora-New Providence and Hubbard-Radcliffe have extended their whole-grade sharing agreement through 2024. That means Iowa’s current oldest traditional multi-grade bidirectional sharing agreement will reach a decade and a half. (I say “traditional” because Iowa Falls is only sending one grade to Alden, and ending that in 2017, and because the North Kossuth/Armstrong-Ringsted/Sentral sharing tripleheader has resulted in the latter two merging since.)

The Times-Citizen said there was no interest in consolidation because of “upheaval within their districts.” I don’t know what that refers to, but I suspect it could be because Hubbard and Radcliffe feel it’s the best way to make sure both of their towns have schools (especially Radcliffe). In fact, Hubbard tore down its original building and replaced it with a new one just a couple years ago. The giant new gym, though, doesn’t look like it takes the place of the 1940 one for games, since there are no bleachers.

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Mar 14


The state City Development Board has approved the discontinuance of the town of Mount Union, the AP reports (via DMR/Burlington Hawk Eye). The referendum on disincorporation passed by one vote last year.

There are now 943 incorporated places in Iowa, down four from the 2010 census (Mount Sterling, Millville, Center Junction, and Mount Union).

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Mar 13

Is Mallard school a sitting duck?

October 3, 2016: Beautiful architectural detail on the Mallard school building, which you can see is celebrating its centennial this year.

Three years ago, the West Bend-Mallard school board discussed the future of the Mallard school building. At that time, as reported in the Emmetsburg News, the board voted in favor of a motion that set triggers for the building’s closure. One of them was a drop in certified enrollment below 320 — and this year, Mallard fell just below that level. This past October, the WBM board voted in favor of keeping the building open another year.

In February, the WBM district had a hearing on bids to build a new facility in West Bend. “We are not doing this to close the Mallard facility, but we’re looking out into the future if we ever need to close the Mallard facility,” the superintendent told the Algona Upper Des Moines. The key word there, of course, is IF. KICD Radio says the new building would be complete in April 2018….which would be just in time to close Mallard that spring. An August 2015 story from KLGA Radio said, “The building would house athletic facilities, freeing up space in the regular school structure.” But any intense renovation (say, dividing the existing gym into classrooms?) would take another year at least. That website stopped updating the first day of summer 2016, apparently replaced with a new location that has a limited backlist of stories.

WBM is in one of the geographically stranger sharing arrangements in Iowa. Thanks to a quarter-mile border shared at the Des Moines River, Gilmore City-Bradgate is sending grades 7-12 to West Bend. That means West Bend covers upper grades from the Humboldt/Webster/Pocahontas county corner up to the west US 18/IA 15 intersection, including Rodman and Pioneer in addition to the towns named in the respective districts (but not Curlew, Whittemore, or Ottosen, all of which are just outside). But since Mallard is only used for WBM elementary students, that arrangement doesn’t benefit it at all.

Why yes, I am pleased with myself for that headline.
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