9:02 a.m.—It’s just after nine o’clock on a cool April morning. I’m in Waterloo, Iowa today, though I’m about to hop into my rental car—kudos to Hertz for setting me up with a nice Mazda MX-6—and drive almost 225 miles across the state to Sheldon, Iowa, where I have a plant visit early this afternoon. MapQuest tells me that the trip is going to take about four-and-one-half hours, though I’m optimistic that I can make the trip in four. I’ve just gotten off the phone with my Managing Editor, to whom I’ve offered my latest “the dog ate my column” excuse and promising that she’ll have it in her hands this time tomorrow. Suddenly, I have an idea. I’ve got a column to write. I’ve got a ton of time to spend in the car this morning. Hmmm…. maybe I could use this opportunity to provide my readers with a look at what it's like to take a road trip with this editor. Hop in the car and buckle up! We’ve got some driving to do!
9:25 a.m.—I’m barely 20 minutes into the trip, and I’ve already encountered Britney Spears’ song “Toxic” twice on the radio. “I love what you do. Don’t you know that you’re toxic,” oozes Britney. This does not bode well.
9:40 a.m.—I’m starting to remember why I so rarely listen to FM stations anymore. My radio has been on “SCAN” ever since the “Toxic” incident and I have yet to find anything remotely appealing. Well, I guess that’s not entirely true. I have found a few songs that I like. The problem is that I seem to possess a remarkable talent for tuning into songs just as they are ending.
10:12 a.m.—I’m in Clear Lake, Iowa. Though my trip so far has been devoid of much of anything worth writing about (maybe this road journal wasn’t such a great idea after all), I’m marveling at the fact that I’ve just completed the first major leg of the drive —an84-mile stretch of highway—in just an hour and ten minutes. Hey, at this rate, I’ll be in Sheldon in no time flat! Actually, I’m just about to pat myself on the back when I realize that the second leg of the trip consists of 130 miles of driving along a two-lane road. That means lots of passing of slow-moving cars and tractor trailers. And while Iowa’s roads aren’t particularly hilly, they sure do wind around a lot. Things could get interesting.
10:48 a.m.—I’m trying to call into the office to check my messages, but the little antenna icon on my cell phone is toggling between one bar and the dreaded phrase “looking for service.” Finally, I get two bars, and I quickly punch in my office number.
10:49 a.m.—I’m halfway into entering the four-digit PIN number for my voice mail when I lose the signal. Grrr….
11:08 a.m.—For what Northern Iowa’s roads lack in cell phone reception, they more than make up for in bugs. All of the little splattered corpses on my windshield are starting to make it take on the look of a Jackson Pollack creation.
11:31 a.m.—“Toxic” is playing yet again. What’s worse is that I just caught myself actually singing along with Britney. I slap myself hard across the face twice in an effort to snap myself out of it, and press “SCAN” on the radio in hopes of finding some Bob Segar.
12:02 p.m.—I skipped my morning coffee, due to a lack of time. I didn’t sleep well last night, so I was initially concerned about falling asleep at the wheel. However, I’ve found that the fear-laced adrenaline rushes associated with passing tractor trailers on these winding roads are doing a fine job of keeping me alert.
12:16 p.m.—Ooh, horsies!
12:40 p.m.— I’m just nine miles away from my destination and “Brown Eyed Girl” is playing on the radio. Life is good.
12:50 p.m.—I’m here in Sheldon! I got here a little quicker than I thought I would, even after factoring in the two lane roads. I’ll make my plant visit now, and in a few hours, I’ll turn around and make the trip back to Waterloo. Thanks for keeping me company!