Feb 23

Photo 33,000

In my Big South Trip, I visited three state capitols — in Jackson, Baton Rouge, and Montgomery. Louisiana’s state capitol building, a Depression-era Art Deco skyscraper, is deeply entwined with the history of one of its most colorful politicians, Huey Long. (Have I covered my fondness for Art Deco?)

Some of the pictures I took in the capitol suffered from low light, including the milestone photo, cropped below. This is in a hallway near the governor’s elevator.

IFOctober 21, 2016

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Feb 22

Maple Menace vanquished

Overnight (Iowa time), Team USA won the women’s hockey gold medal for the first time since the first time it was featured in the Olympics, in 1998. It took hockey’s overtime, a shootout, and then an extra shootout. NPR ran a live-blog here.

Heard during the coverage: “led by a goaltender who was seven and a half months old the last time the USA won gold…”

Woof. But I’m still young enough to pretend I could be an Olympian, right? Right?

Kikkan Randall Wins Her 1st Medal In Cross-Country — A Gold — After 18 Tries

With plans firmly in place to retire and make a new home with her family after the 2018 Games, it seemed possible that Randall, 35, might see her career end without an Olympic medal.

*shakes fist at young athletes*

ow my back
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Feb 21

Last chance to see old Wyoming school building

The Midland school district, based in Wyoming, is having a garage sale and tours of its 1914 school, which has been replaced after passage of a bond issue. According to the school’s website, the garage sale is Saturday from 9 AM to noon.

The district has closed buildings in other towns over the decades and the 1914 “Bronson” building was across the street from later construction (even the World War II-era gymnasium).

Speaking of Midland: The school district forgot to do some housecleaning when it closed the Lost Nation Building, according to this column from the Quad-City Times. The column says it closed in 2012, but my school timeline indicates it happened at the end of the fall 2010 semester. (My original source has been 404′d, but a quick dive into the Jones County newspapers archive confirmed a closing “upon completion of the remodeling at the Oxford Junction Center”.)

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Feb 20

Traer City Council majority female

Also majority people I know.

A short item in the Traer Star-Clipper online calls to attention a historic first: Four of the seven people on the city council are women.

Sometimes all it takes is a willingness to run — and an open seat. Laurie Schafer, the newest woman on the council, won a four-way race to fill a two-year term caused by a resignation.

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Feb 19

Monowi, Nebraska, population 1

The BBC goes to the smallest town in America, a bit over 100 miles west of Sioux City.

No town in Iowa has a population in the single digits, at least since Donnan, population 7, disincorporated in 1991.

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Feb 16

Love’s opens at Greyhound Park

December 14, 2004: The new truck stop is on the left side of this picture.

The double-left-turn lane built on US 63 to Waterloo Greyhound Park (pictured above) became a minor tragicomic symbol of the expectations of the dog track that closed nine years and nine months after it opened. The major symbol is the site itself, since abandoned, all the windows broken, attractive only to vandals and urban explorers. (Here is a super-informative long video tying it to Cattle Congress and Iowa casino history, and a short video of the site today.)

Now, in the racetrack’s shadow, is a Love’s truck stop that opened around the beginning of the month and will put those lanes to use. Stories: KCRGFleetOwner (a trucking industry publication). The truck stop includes a Wendy’s, which is the first restaurant built directly at a US 20 interchange west of the McDonald’s at Elk Run Heights. (A Fazoli’s between San Marnan Drive and 20 was not accessible from IA 21 and didn’t make it.) It’s also the first fast-food burger place an eastbound driver will encounter after the McDonald’s in Webster City. (The IA 14 exit has a Godfather’s in the truck stop.)

FleetOwner mentions this is the eighth Love’s in Iowa after the seventh opened in Mills County a week earlier. The Glenwood Opinion-Tribune notes that the intersection for the truck stop, on new US 34 just west of I-29, has the first stoplight outside Glenwood . I’ll note that it becomes the third stoplight on post-new-bridge 34 in the entire distance between the east edge of Lincoln NE and IA 25 in Creston. (The other two are at Avenue B and NE 66 on the west side of Plattsmouth.)

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Feb 15

Yes, they’re really going to cram a SPUI in there

I’ve looked at the entire letting document for the IA 27/58 interchange at Viking Road in Cedar Falls and I continue to marvel at the idea. The document, nearly 400 pages long, was released ahead of the official letting on Tuesday. The state is expecting a winter shutdown date of Nov. 20 and a completion of Nov. 26, 2019 — each the Tuesday before Thanksgiving. That’s fitting given that the area is now a retail hub that arguably has passed College Square (especially with the latter losing Younkers this year).

When it’s all said and done,* Viking Road will be more or less at-grade over a sunken four-lane IA 27/58 with ramps that hug the edges of the mainline. It will be signed as Exit 181, following IA 27′s numbering. For what it’s worth, US 218′s Exit 181 is the US 63 interchange.

*that story is nearly three years old

EDIT: After looking at the map and being reminded that Hobby Lobby and Menards are there now too, “arguably” is even arguable. The College Square area will be down to Von Maur, Hy-Vee, and Kohl’s as its biggest stores, along with the 12-screen theater (and of course Texas Roadhouse).

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Feb 14

The chocolate ration has increased

On sale, or perhaps “sale”, at the front of Hy-Vee recently was a new type of M&M’s bag. It was sealable at the top — which makes it harder to store small-side-down — and it was a different size than what’s been around recently. After buying a couple packages I took a closer look. “Formerly Medium,” it said in small print. Oh, really? Well, I just happen to have a “medium” bag around…




This is grade-A BS. It’s not “formerly” anything, it’s a redesigned package — which is more often than not a flashing red warning that the quantity has decreased. What’s worse, the “10% more” Medium is an increase from an 11.4 ounce bag seen here, but it’s 10% LESS than the 14-ounce bag once also billed as “medium”. All of them, of course, are smaller than the legendary Pounder. (That’s an older picture since M&M’s got rid of the “Plain” name in 2000, but the Pounder lasted longer than that.)

This is as underhanded as the Mike&Ike “breakup” that disguised the reduction of the theater-size box from 6 ounces to 5. The M&M’s packaging lineup is being changed, and what we’re being sold is smaller.

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Feb 13

Two consolidations passed last week

Two stateline school reorganizations that were essentially pro forma votes were approved last Tuesday. Both will take effect in fall 2019.

North Winneshiek and Decorah approved consolidation (Radio Iowa), or more accurately, North Winneshiek finished the endgame it planned out when insufficient state funding increases, declining enrollment, and increasing transportation costs put it in an impossible situation. North Winn has the highest student transportation costs in Iowa because, well, it’s in Winneshiek County. The Iowa House is going to try (again) to equalize transportation funding statewide, something North Winn’s superintendent told the Des Moines Register might have bailed out the district.

Van Buren and Harmony (AP via Newton Daily News) also approved consolidation. This one’s a little closer enrollment-wise, about 2-to-1.

Unrelated to the votes, but maybe tangentially interesting, IA 11 ran through these areas in the early 1920s, long before the modern school system in Iowa.

Finally, also last Tuesday, Easton Valley got a majority but not a supermajority on a bond issue for the second time in a year (KWQC).

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Feb 12

Suggestion: Rebuild Northeast 14th — then reroute US 69

Tuesday night there will be a meeting for a project years or decades overdue: Expanding US 69, aka Northeast 14th Street, between I-80 and Ankeny to four lanes (PDF). It’s in the part of Polk County that officially is not part of either Des Moines or Ankeny — Ankeny has, so far, strategically avoided annexing it.

With that in mind, here’s a semi-radical suggestion: Once the expansion is completed, reroute US 69 through a good chunk of Polk County.

Now, I tend to oppose moving US routes onto interstates, but I’m open to them under the following conditions: The new routing is completely signed (Arkansas and Indiana get F-minus-minuses on this, Wyoming gets an A-plus-plus), it doesn’t make the highway’s overall route look too goofy (this is where the US 6 reroute in Council Bluffs fails), and the highway being moved is all or predominantly an urban arterial (SO. MANY. STOPLIGHTS.).

Moving US 69 onto I-235 and I-35 between I-235 and either the Elkhart or IA 210 exits would satisfy those requirements (IF the state made new BGSs at the northeast mixmaster or at least had ground signs). Northeast 14th and I-35 are less than a mile and a half apart.

This action would be distantly related to the Iowa Highway Commission’s old efforts to delete parts of US 69 after I-35 was built, but with a modern angle. The trend for the Iowa DOT the past few years is to decommission urban arterials (Business US 169, University Avenue in Waterloo-Cedar Falls, the aforementioned US 6 reroute) and pay the cities decent money. (In retrospect, a no-roundabout clause would have been a good idea.) Ankeny is adding new streets all the time, Des Moines could be interested if the price is right, and the Polk County part would be shiny and new.

To cover the issue of IA 163′s west end, I wouldn’t pull it back to I-235. The interchange is incomplete; westbound 163 to northbound 235 requires using Delaware Avenue to Easton Boulevard. Rather, I’d retain University Avenue like it is and sign 163 down the fraction of a mile past East High School to meet I-235 at the East 14th/15th exit. It would create two eastbound exits in a row to 163, the new “South 69/East 163/E 15th St/E 14th St” exit and the existing direct ramp that gets clogged at State Fair time.

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