Tuesday, June 17, 2008
Watch out downstream
My favorite cheap thrill at Burlington (on the Mississippi) is a fast ride --- observing the speed limit you bet --- down the U.S. 34 hill, then out across the Great River Bridge, which manages to look gracefully like a sailboat despite its giant size, to Illinois. I could do this again and again, like a kid with a new sled on a snowy Christmas morning, but resist the urge.
Wouldn’t be doing that this morning I see by the news, since Illinois is closing its approach to the bridge as the floodwaters that swamped Iowa last week move out and downriver.
I also like to sit on a bench just south of the Port of Burlington building, half under water here, and just watch the river flow by. Not this morning either, but maybe before summer‘s done.
The Burlington Northern and Santa Fe railyards and Amtrak depot are down the river, too, in Burlington --- and that makes a difference in Chariton where the Union Pacific and BNSF main lines cross. The UP is kind of pokey, but unless floods or other disasters divert them, BNSF trains carrying everything from coal to passengers speed through dozens of times a day. Some, especially folks who don’t live here, say the racket drives them nuts. But I like it and miss it when something’s wrong.
Wonder how Fort Madison will fare. I’ve spent time on it’s lovely riverfront, too, watching the water flow by. In addition to the state pen, my favorite pen (as in Sheaffer and other writing instruments) shop, Pendemonium, is there, too. And you gotta love that swing bridge across the Mississippi --- unless you’re in a hurry.
Elsewhere the water is going down. Poor Cedar Rapids. I heard yesterday from the relatives who live there and they were high and dry, although only two blocks from the flood. But I can’t even imagine what it’s going to take to get that all sorted out and on the road again.
University of Iowa buildings took a major hit in Iowa City, although the library --- on slightly higher ground at the base of the Pentacrest hill --- was spared. You can kind of understand why so many university buildings are down so close the river in Iowa City, and I’ve enjoyed many meals myself looking out through the big Iowa Memorial Union cafeteria windows to the west, but still.
The University of Iowa got its start in Old Capitol when the new Capitol was built in Des Moines, so the campus always has been hemmed in. And I suppose it’s been tempting to build by the river, where land and views and convenience were available, rather than knocking down another neighborhood or developing a satellite campus on the outskirts.
Buy why in the world would you build what appears to be an expensive community of townhomes and condos and a megachurch down there? I’ll stick to higher ground, than you very much.
I left Mason City about dawn Sunday anticipating a detour in Des Moines (I knew the Highway 65 loop around the east side was closed). But cruised straight through on Southeast Fourteenth, crossing the river down in the bottoms --- looking mean but confined by its levees.
Came back north Monday morning following the Red Rock Line (I’ll explain that another time) and crossed the long bridge that spans the Red Rock Reservoir between Knoxville and Monroe. The water was closer to the deck of that long, long bridge than I’ve ever seen it , and that’s not surprising since all the water released upstream above Des Moines at Saylorville, plus everything that comes down the Raccoon and a few other rivers, ends up here.
It does look like, though, that my favorite Des Moines downriver towns --- Eddyville, Chillicothe, Ottumwa, Eldon, Selma, Iowaville (were the original version still there), Douds-Leando, Keosauqua, Bentonspot, Bonaparte and Farmington --- won’t have too much trouble this time around. And for that, I’m grateful.