Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Blogs and bathrooms

Iowa's palatial toilet along eastbound I-80 near Iowa City.

The post counter attached to this blog clicked over the 1,000 mark the other day, something that may be worth noting --- only because I'm not very consistent and the fact this has been going on with varying degrees of regularity since May of 2005 is a source of personal amazement.

The count is a little misleading because I go back into the archives sometimes to combine posts written in installments or accompanied by multiple photographs. Back in 2005, multiple photographs could not be posted with text and had to be posted independently.

A surprising number of people are interested in earlier posts related to local history and genealogy, so I want related text and photos to come up together when someone does a Google or other search and the only way to insure that is to manually reconfigure the archives, incorporating photos into the posts where they belong and killing off the originals.

One of these days I'll go back in and do more of this, probably knocking the count under a thousand again. But for the time being, there it is.


Just as I'm not very consistent, neither am I overly sentimental --- so it was a little disconcerting to be flooded with rest-stop recollections after reading in this morning's Register that the death sentences imposed by highway designers on four roadside toilets will not be rescinded. These are the north- and south-bound rest stops along Interstate 35 just north of Des Moines at Ankeny; and their east- and west-bound counterparts along Interstate 80 just west of Des Moines.

All four have been doomed by the need for new interchanges. There are vague plans to replace the I-35 stops, but apparently no one's considered the I-80 alternative. reinforcing the thought that engineers who design highways never travel on them.

All four are vintage rest stops (eligible for the National Register of Historic Toilets) dating from the earliest days of Iowa's Interstate system when the point was to offer travelers basic stools, urinals and sinks in simple buildings with picnic tables scattered on the grounds outside.

Iowa's newer rest stops are potty palaces, themed to convince travelers from out of state that a longer stay in Iowa has the potential to be as rewarding as use of  our toilets --- Prairie School architecture near the Iowa-Missouri line; Civil War nostalgia up north; literary accomplishments (the photo up top here) over near Iowa City, and so on.

The I-35 southbound facility at Ankeny always was the place for those of us from up north to gather our thoughts, comb our hair and the like before meetings or social engagements in Des Moines. Once, many years ago, a carload of us actually got dressed at south-bound Ankeny for an elaborate wedding downtown at St. Paul's when it became clear there wasn't going to be time to check into the hotel first, as had been the plan.

I became most itimately involved with the I-35 rest stops during those years when, driving a new vehicle, I passed no-smoking rules and therefore had to stop at each for a cigarette.

The most interesting enounter occurred at Ankeny one south-bound Sunday afternoon (I was headed for church, honest) after smoke stops at Dows and Story City when I was confronted by a gentleman with Story County plates whose hobby it turned out was to cruise truck drivers for sex of an afternoon, commencing at Dows and then, depending upon what sort of luck he was having, continuing down to Ankeny, then back to Story City. Having spotted me (I was driving a distinctive two-door black Blazer at the time) at both Dows and Story City he concluded I was either an undercover cop or in the market, neither of which was the case --- but it was an interesting conversation.

I'll save it for my memoirs, however.


Ed said...

It's been a long time ago when this happened but I believe it was the southbound rest area by Ankeny that I pulled into it a few minutes behind an airplane back in the mid 90's. It was quite the stir back then and the plane had to be removed by truck. If memory serves me correctly, it had engine failure.

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