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Local Editorials

Seventy Five on Eighty

Editor’s Note: The following are the reflections of a Newton-to-Des Moines commuter written last Friday.

I want to take a minute to record some of my thoughts about the commute this week. There is quite a bit happening between Newton and West Des Moines right now.

Let’s start with the obvious: the increasing number of brand new travel trailers headed west from Indiana. These high-end campers get hauled through our state usually by diesel dual-wheel pickups – ninety percent are from Indiana. For all I know, they’re from stopping at a dealer in Omaha.   

The Facebook building’s progress is always a welcome site in Altoona or “The Toona” as I call it. Bass Pro has brought some of their kayaks outdoors for the season by the way.

The traffic in this area is still maddening. Eastbound is void of any joy. The cars and trucks entering the highway at The Toona’s main exit have very little room to gain admission and it seems no one is ever willing to yield. I say my version of a Hail Mary every time I cruise through.

I believe Tuesday was the windy day this week. In a lighter, high-profile vehicle such as mine, this can be rather scary. The hardwood trees still look dormant so your only indication of wind speed can be found by looking to the flags.

There are three major flags on the wide-open section of this commute: one on each side of the highway at the Mitchellville rest area and one at the weigh station — wherever that lies. The only other way to tell is to nearly lose control when a gust of wind nearly sends you off the road.

We had a bit of light rain this week though it was hardly worth mentioning — unless it accounts for the greening along the road — always a welcome sign this time of year.

It’s also time for farmers to prep their fields. This week was seemingly a good time for discing and spraying the anhydrous ammonia stuff — saw quite a bit of that.

As far as poor driving is concerned there is one major traffic norm that seems to be eluding most of our fellow drivers. When I leave 25 to 30 feet of open space between me and the car in front of me, that’s for my peace of mind and the peace of mind of the driver in front of me. It is not for you to sneak in and act like I was holding you up.

I’m going the same speed as the car up there. You achieve nothing by this move. In most cases, it’s rather dangerous.

The other dense act that stands out occurred on Thursday morning, when I witnessed a gray SUV tailgating a Crown Vic. This behavior is unfortunately kind of typical, but not when the car up front reads “State Officer” on the trunk.

I could not believe my eyes. The law enforcement officer was in one of the light blue cruisers — the ones for commercial vehicles — but still. Who does that?

Because I am a sportsman, and since I know every bump on my 46-mile commute, I make myself aware of the good places to spot game. I didn’t see one deer this week. The ducks have been in and out of that low spot by the Skunk River near the Colfax exit. And the turkeys are almost always foraging in the open grounds surrounding the Baxter exit.

The big surprise came Friday morning when I saw the biggest Eastern turkey I have ever seen. He wasn’t in an area where I usually see them. He was in this “side pasture” — which for months was home to five gorgeous horses — also near Colfax.

I miss seeing those wild-looking horses. The great tom had a few buddies with him but none was even close to his size. What a lovely site!

Thankfully it’s Friday. But it’s also nice to reflect on that which the road has to offer for the weekly commute. Stay safe.

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