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8 July 2006: Omaha, NE to (almost) Coralville, IA

First, before we begin, we have a wedding today (the "real" today, 8 July)! Please extend your congratulations and blessings to Cyndil and Tony as they turn towards their new lives together. The very best!

Back to the road. Unfortunately, I couldn't finish photography today before twilight due to a couple of detours I took (one for a well-marked old alignment of US 6 and another because Dad would never forgive me if I missed this ... read on), so this doesn't get quite all the way to Coralville. I'll do it in the morning early after first light.

Today's odometer start was 95902 with 177 pictures taken.

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Picking back up on the US 6 freeway in Omaha, which is not quite finished and breaks back down into expressway at this (I think) rather arresting point with the new bridgework snaking overhead.

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Welcome to Mutual of Omaha's Wild Kingdom! I'm Marlin Perkins. Let's see what Jim has found for us today.

Well, Marlin, I'm here with a fascinating species, the male Roadgeeka ushighwayus. Now, Marlin, these strange creatures are tool users and habitually carry devices to capture their surroundings. Ah, yes, there's a GPS in his burrow and a Palm Pilot, and typical of the genus, this one also has a camera. Let's take it from him and ... er, ... oh my ... he seems to be a bit perturbed.

Jim, I don't think that was such a good idea.

Well, Marlin, I think he'll get used to it soo ... no, that's just him smiling. He does have pretty big teeth though, but we'll show the viewers what pictures he's shoOOW! That was my hand! grRRRRRR RRRRRRRRR Get off of me! Get him OFF! RRRROAAAAAAAARRRR AGHRAGHRPAHTPTHTH! Help me! RRRRRRRRRRRRR RRRRRRR!!!

Thanks for that, Jim. Let's take a commercial break.

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While I wipe zoologist blood off my lips, US 6 joins I-480 very, very quickly to cross over the Missouri River into Iowa. I-480 then immediately ends and US 6 downgrades again into expressway through Council Bluffs.

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Iowa signs US 6 very well with these Grand Army of the Republic markers. These are actually quite handy for tracing old alignments because they turn up on at least a couple even though the US shields aren't up anymore.

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The Interstate torchbearer for US 6 in Iowa is I-80. Unlike Colorado, where US 6 hitches rides unheralded, US 6 and I-80 are invariably signed together and often on the same pole.

This rest area along Interstate 80/US 6 seems more plush than the hotels I've been staying at. Maybe I should just sleep in the car?

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There are a lot of little old pieces of US 6 [for one nice page on this, see The White Pole Road] and tracing a few cost me quite a bit of time. One of the better marked ones is county route F60 from I-80 to Adel through Redfield, which even has GAR signs on it. This was one of the very last portions of US 6 to be realigned in Iowa, which was shifted down to I-80 and up along US 169 in 2003. Another well-marked one is F48 between Altoona and Newton. Iowa is just crawling with county roads, and just about all of them are fully shielded.

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This is that multiplex (US 169/US 6). It's included here as a transition to my other detours below, because at the end of this exit are two little points of interest (leading to a 30+ mile diversion): the birthplace of John Wayne in Winterport, and the Bridges of Madison County.

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Dad would have never forgiven me if I hadn't paid some homage to the Duke, so you can blame Dad for the delay. You hear that, Dad? You made millions of readers have to wait for my portion to Coralville. They'll be burning down the house now, you just wait. (Just kidding.)

John Wayne was born Marion Robert Morrison in this house in Winterset, on 26 May 1907. His family moved to Glendale, CA in 1911 where his neighbours christened him "Duke" for his size, a nickname he preferred much over Marion. Though his early life was impoverished, he was able to get a football scholarship to USC which fell apart when he was injured in an accident. By then, however, he had already built a relationship with some of the local studios and started appearing in bit parts and as a prop man. Making his lead debut in "The Big Trail" (1930), it was director Raoul Walsh who christened him John Wayne. Though this film was a flop, he went on to others, notably John Ford's "Stagecoach" (1939) which was his first breakout role. Ford and Wayne, of course, had a prolific relationship and Wayne started in over twenty of his films over a 35-year period. The star of literally hundreds of films, commercial success and artistic recognition never seemed to occur together for him. Nevertheless, he was beloved by millions of fans, and his death of stomach cancer in 1979 left a great hole in the hearts of his admirers.

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And now something for Mom. Madison County is also well known for its covered bridges, immortalized in (what else?) "The Bridges of Madison County" (novel; movie 1995). This one is the Hogback, built 1884. The others include the Cedar, Cutler-Donahoe, Holliwell, Imes and Roseman, but the Hogback is the easiest to access from US 169.

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US 6 then crosses through the heart of downtown Des Moines, Iowa's largest city at 194,163 [2005 est.] and its capital. Alas, I had no time to cover its capital building as I did with Nebraska, especially since US 6 doesn't go very near to it (a number of miles away at closest). The origin of the name is disputed but one plausible explanation is from the French de moyen "the middle" -- makes sense geographically. Although we saw the Mutual of Omaha in Nebraska, Des Moines is a much larger insurance market, including the Principle, ARAG, Allied Insurance and American Republic.

The Des Moines River, a tributary of the mighty Mississippi, flows through the city. This is from the US 6 bridge as it crosses it.

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You can tell the other alignment is recent due to the tacked-on US 6 shield. This one travels from Altoona to Iowa City.

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Along the way it passes through Grinnell (9,105 [2000]) and the home of Grinnell College, both named for Josiah Bushnell Grinnell, town founder (at the suggestion of Horace Greeley, who told him to "go west, young man"), US Congressman, and Presbyterian minister. The college was founded in 1846 and ranks as one of the great liberal arts colleges in the country.

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As twilight fell, I had to cut it off here at IA 21. We'll pick up here tomorrow.

Next: Coralville to Portage, IN! I have also been ordered to make someone famous. We'll see about that.

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