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20100924: Day 1: StL to Cedar Rapids
I'm starting to write this on the 17th floor of a La Quinta in Bloomington, MN (one of the many proud cities in the Minneapolis-St. Paul metropolitan area). I thought I'd write a bit while resting before going out to find the local contra dance this evening.

We packed and prepared and finally hit the road at almost 12:30. Given that Google promised a 9½ hour drive to Minneapolis, we figured that we'd get into Iowa before stopping. We were starting out tired, and were out of condition for travel. We hadn't taken a trip since 2007.

Map info: We headed west on I-64 to north on US-61 (at Wentzville) up past Hannibal, MO till it became US-27 then I-380 up to Cedar Rapids. (Google Map)

It took us 5½ hours to get to Cedar Rapids, where we spent the night. We arrived at sunset, registered at a Red Roof Inn, and got directions to a local restaurant, TJ's Steakhouse. They did respect a piece of meat. However, the "butter" was mostly corn oil.

Speaking of corn, we noticed many fields of dried up corn, with the cobs still on the stalks. Also many billboards begging for advertisers. These are both signs of our sad economy.

How do we choose a motel? We use two sources: The AAA guidebooks, and the coupon books we pick up at gas stations and rest areas. The coupon prices are better than AAA rates. But AAA tells us how bad the joint might be, and what comparable motels are around. On this leg, Karen spotted that the Red Roof Inn in Cedar Rapids promoted Beligian Waffles for breakfast. So all day I was quoting Shrek's dunky (sic), "I'm making whaf-fles!". Simple as that.

Read the captions for some more details of the day:
The first day was mostly spent on the Avenue of the Saints. This signpost is in Hannibal, MO. Someday we'll stop here and do the Clemens tourist thing.
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As there are no rest areas on the US Highways and freeways, we stopped to change drivers and stretch our legs at (in this case) Wakonda State Park. The park seems mostly to be for RV camping for users of the nearby casino. But the beach is closed.
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Can anyone tell me the purpose of these structures, scattered around Wakonda State Park?
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We eventually found this facility at our Wakonda State Park rest stop. It had working plumbing, motion-activated lights, and was clean.
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I took a snapshot of this living re-enactment of the classic DHL commercial, in which the upstart delivery company zips past the big brown box.
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Let's say that I took this to show the gas prices near the Missouri/Iowa Border
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The People of Iowa Welcome us to their "Fields of Opportunities"
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As Karen pulls behind our room for the night, you can see that we lost a wheel cover somewhere. Every trip we take the car to NTB for tires or service, they screw up at least one wheel cover, and we lose it.I remember the old Red Goose Shoes ad, and sing, "Half the fun of getting sleep is Red Roof Inn."
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Next: Day 2: Cedar Rapids up to Minneapolis

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