I grew up in the Midwest. It was in a tiny town. It was a town so small that both “resume speed” signs were on the same post, just on opposite sides.
My wife called little Wadena, Iowa, a “peek and plumb town.” She says, “If you peeked around the corner, you were plumb out of town.”
Readers of this column are used to reading about my road trips. This recent one covered 2,400 miles and six states at the end of May and early June.
We left Wyoming in weather so bad on May 28 that we could not go through snowbound Laramie and had to take a longer detour through Casper, Douglas and Wheatland. Cheyenne and Pine Bluffs had torrential downpours plus the threat of hail. Why does it hail so much in the Cheyenne area?
While driving an 80-mph speed limit highway on Interstate 80 near Ogallala in more rain, a diesel pickup blasted by us going 20 mph faster that we were going. Yup. It was pulling a long horse trailer and was a member of that group of the fastest-driving people in America.
The trailer had a Wyoming license plate. It was a Wyoming cowboy or cowgirl driving a big pickup towing a huge horse trailer in a helluva hurry. Nobody drives faster than these folks. And nobody puts on as many miles.
There was lots of construction everywhere. The Wyoming Department of Transportation does a good job with warning signs and are busy all over our state.
The Iowa Department of Transportation is the worst, though. They had a section of I-80 blocked down to one lane for 22 miles because of “construction.” Traffic was so bad we were stopped several times. Semi-trailer truck drivers were going crazy trying to move up.
When we finally got to the end of all that, there was just an Iowa DOT pickup with two guys slowly picking up all the barriers they had placed over those 22 miles. Sure made a lot of bad impressions on a lot of out-of-state visitors.
We were in Nancy’s hometown of Harlan, Iowa, for their annual Relay for Life event for the fight against cancer. We marched for Nancy’s kid sister, Tami Rueschenberg, who has lung cancer, and brother-in-law, Lee Rasmussen, fighting lymphoma.
Later, we buzzed up to northeast Iowa to “Driftless” country where the territory is full of big hills, deep valleys, canyons, and amazing landscapes.
I had not heard of the term “Driftless,” but this apparently means a place skipped by the glaciers, thus leaving all these hills and valleys. It is called Little Switzerland, which would seem to be a very odd nickname for any part of super flat Iowa.
We met eight of my siblings for a nice get-together, including Ron Sniffin from Cheyenne and Susan Kinneman of Riverton. We picnicked near Iowa’s first state park, Backbone. This is a magical place originally called the Devil’s Backbone because of an odd rocky ridge that runs for about 12 miles above the prairie around it.
The cemetery at our hometown of Wadena included another gathering as we visited my dad’s grave along with a passel of ancestors.
It always amazed me to see so many single, older Irish women and men living back in the hills as spinsters and old bachelors. In the cemetery, we counted the multiple headstones of five such families, which just seemed crazy to me.
As young knuckleheads, we always called these old gals the “blessed virgins,” as they attended every church service and always claimed their assigned pews. Very little socializing among the different clans.
Is this an Irish thing? As I get older, this looks more like a mystery than ever to me. Didn’t these folks have hormones firing in their bodies when they were in their late teens and early 20s? I plan to check this out during my next trip back there.
On our way home, we took Interstate 90, which is a much quieter road than I-80.
I love to watch B-1 bombers take off and land near Ellsworth Air Force Base outside Rapid City. Wow, are they ever pretty machines. And yet so deadly.
I-90 seems like it gets about 10 percent as much traffic as I-80. You can go miles on end without even seeing a semi-trailer truck.
Always glad to be back in Wyoming. It is about as green as I have ever seen it. The farm country around Worland was especially pretty.
Check out additional columns at www.billsniffin.com. He has published six books. His coffee table book series has sold 34,000 copies. You can find them at www.wyomingwonders.com.