Friday, July 04, 2008

St. Louis to Des Moines - Day 6

No run this morning – C wanted one, but I needed a break. Instead we worked a bit then got on the road for Des Moines. It was a long trip, about 375 miles or 6 hours of driving. The road took us briefly through some pretty rural parts of northern Missouri, then southern Iowa.

We passed some areas that still had visible signs of the flooding that ravaged the area a few weeks ago. One small lake was still well beyond its normal bounds, and we saw some extensive sandbagging along parts of the highway. All in all, though, it seems to have drained well.

Speaking of farmland…the Midwest has been synonymous with corn for a while now, but wow, corn fields stretch as far as the eye can see! This is the agricultural industrial complex at its finest. It was a little depressing, though, knowing that millions of our tax dollars are being poured into this area via subsidies, feeding the corn-producing machine. I’ve also been reading Omnivore’s Dilemma, which laments the problem, so I’ve been on a bit of a tirade against corn recently.

Soon after entering Iowa we stopped for lunch in the little town of Mount Pleasant. We resisted the urge to pop into the nearest fast food joint, and instead drove to downtown. It was a quintessential Midwestern town with a town square surrounded by run-down shops and restaurants. We picked the most authentic-looking café and went in for a couple of burgers and fries. It was obvious that we were out-of-towners, but our waitress was really nice.

The rest of the drive into Des Moines was pretty long and uneventful. There’s not a whole lot going on in Iowa besides corn. Des Moines, though, was a nice-looking city. In most of the bigger cities we’ve passed through, there’s been a ton of development happening. I’ve read that this has to do with a younger generation coming of age, wanting urban living as portrayed in popular shows like Seinfeld and Friends. It’s also being driven by rising fuel costs – it’s no longer as exciting to live in the suburbs and pay the costs of commuting.

Upon arrival, we met up with my friend Rob for the first annual 80-35 music festival. We caught a few smaller bands, then ended the night with the Flaming Lips. Some magazine has called them one of the top 25 bands to see before you die, and it was certainly a spectacle. The lead singer rolled out into the audience inside of a translucent ball, and the stage backdrop was a continual psychedelic light show. But the scene wasn’t really our style. We were pretty tired from a long day of driving, and hundreds of drunk, smoking hippies and hipsters aren’t our crowd. Needless to say, we slept well that night.

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