This report is from Day 1 of my return trip back east on June 28, 2004, during my 2004 summer vacation.

Froggie's 2004 Summer Vacation, Return Day 1:  Not Exactly East

Monday, 6/28 is the day Meaghan and I packed up the car and started on our return trip back East, though we didn't exactly start by heading east...

- Stopped for gas at a Holiday station at I-35/Dakota CSAH 46 before heading south on I-35. MnDOT is installing traffic signals at the ramp termini at the CSAH 46 interchange. We also ran into the single-lane traffic at CSAH 60 that Matt Salek previously reported on. This closure is so that the I-35 bridges over CSAH 60 can be rebuilt. Further south, I-35 traffic is 2-lane/2-way in the northbound lanes at MN 19, to facilitate replacement of the SB I-35 bridge over MN 19. A week after we went through, that 2-lane/2-way traffic was extended further north, to just north of Scott CSAH 2, in order to resurface the southbound lanes between CSAH 2 and MN 19.

As a side note, for those of you who have the book "The Roads That Built America" by Dan McNichol, the picture on the inside front cover is of I-35 just south of MN 19, looking north. The bridge being replaced is the southbound bridge in that photo. You can just barely see the Minneapolis skyline in the far right background.

- Stayed on I-35 down to Owatonna...a route I've traveled countless times.  Took US 14 West to Waseca. Just west of I-35, MnDOT has added a traffic signal at 21st Ave NW. For those not familiar with the area, US 14 is 4-lanes for about 2.5 miles west of I-35, then narrows down to a very busy 2-lane roadway.  The long-range plan is to replace US 14 with a 4-lane expressway on new alignment between Owatonna and the existing 4-lane near Eagle Lake...part of this was mentioned in my previous roadtrip report. Given current funding, it'll be another 10-12 years before the project is completed, though.

- From Waseca, we took CSAH 4 southwest CSAH 3 and into Waldorf, the town which my mother grew up nearby. Took MN 83 south out of Waldorf, then a brief stint on MN 30. Reason for this was to investigate and see if the driveway stub to the farm my mother grew up on still existed. MN 30 was recently rehabbed in this area, and I wanted to see if the driveway was still there or taken out, as that driveway stub is the only part remaining of the farm she grew up on. To my surprise, it still exists. I'd have figured the rehab would have taken out all of it.

- Dropped south on some gravel roads to nip the northeast corner of Faribault County for Meaghan...found ourselves in the "Land of Yield" (mentioned last report) in the process. Eventually got back onto Waseca CSAH 28, which turns into Freeborn CSAH 6, and took that south to CSAH 33 to head east to Hartland.  Unfortunately, I forgot that CSAH 33 was gravel between CSAH 6 and CSAH 10, so we weren't quite done with the gravel roads yet.

- Stopped in Hartland to visit my grandmother, then continued east via Freeborn CSAH 35, a route I'm very familiar with. The RR crossing 1.5 miles west of I-35 is still just a crossbuck and stop sign. I figured it would've been upgraded to at least signals by now. For the first time, I stayed on CSAH 35 east of I-35 and went through the city of Geneva, where the Geneva Meats building has a large cow on top of the roof.

- Took CSAH 35 east, then turned onto CSAH 34 (which becomes Steele CSAH 15) in order to get gas in Blooming Prairie. From there, we took US 218 south to Austin, which becomes 4-lane divided about 2 miles north of I-90. While in Austin we stopped at the SPAM Museum (Meaghan's idea...not mine) and wallowed around in the "land 'o' SPAM" for a while before getting back on I-90 and heading east.

- Didn't stay on I-90 long. Turned off and took MN 56 between I-90 and US 63.  Saw a neat-looking church in Adams. Also noted a paved bicycle trail along MN 56 from near Taopi eastward to near Lake Louise State Park.

- Said goodbye to Minnesota via US 63, and took US 63 south to Waterloo. Noted that IA 157 no longer exists (as the Iowa-types have discussed) and is now CR A23. Noted the new New Hampton bypass, which was a good stretch of 4-lane, but in the process could not point out to Meaghan where I had my very first run-in with a snowbank and ditch (at a gas station on the north end of New Hampton).  The New Hampton bypass has been discussed often on MTR, so I won't go into details here, though I do have to ask if IaDOT has plans to bridge the 4-lane gap on US 63 between US 18 and IA 3...

- US 63 was briefly down to 1 lane and 55 MPH on the Denver bypass for some sort of bridge project.

- IaDOT Stupidity: Northbound US 63 was down to a single lane from CR C66 almost to the Cedar River (over 4 miles) for NO APPARENT REASON! I could see no reason whatsoever why a lane had to be closed.

- Took US 63 to US 218 south, and after a brief food stop, took US 20 west.  Have often noted that it wouldn't be too difficult to build some sort of elevated (or even below-grade) freeway to bridge the gap between the US 218 freeway and the beginning of I-380.

- Took US 20 west out to Dike. Last time I was on here, the freeway was still under construction west of the Grundy/Black Hawk County line. Has since been finished, though STILL with the gravel shoulders that Iowa is infamous for.

- Former US 20, which is now CR D19, is closed west of Dike for some sort of reconstruction work.

- Noticed this in Iowa: 89 octane gas would often be 2-3 cents CHEAPER than 87 octane. Iowa being a major corn state and 89 octane being an ethanol blend are the two things I conjectured as being the reason why.

- Took CR T55 south from Dike all the way to IA 96, then a short hop on that to US 63 south. IA 96 ends at a T-intersection with US 63, but the intersection is configured to where IA 96 West and US 63 North are the "through route". Traffic to/from US 63 South must turn.

- Took US 63 through Toledo and Tama, and the lone traffic signal at US 30 in between. US 63 turns twice in Tama. Further south, at US 6, traffic "TO I-80 WEST" is directed to take US 6 West, while traffic "TO I-80 EAST" is directed to stay on US 6/US 63.

- US 63 has a very narrow section through Malcom. At the south end of town, the RR crossing is unusual in that there are signals both in the regular RR signal location, but also a second set above the crossbuck. Very weird. The I-80 interchange is just to the south, but we stayed on US 63.

- There's a "TO IA 85" trailblazer in Montezuma. Further south, instead of continuing on US 63, we opted to take CR V13 between Montezuma and IA 23/OLD US 63, in order to nip Keokuk County. IA 23 ends at IA 149, which in turn ends at the half-dimaond where US 63 rejoins its old route. Are there any plans to extend this new US 63 route further to the east/southeast?

- Took US 63 into Ottumwa, where we ran into IADOT Stupidity #2: as with Waterloo, there was one lane closed between the RR bridge on the north end of Ottumwa and the Des Moines River bridge, only this time the lanes were closed in BOTH directions. Again, I could see no reason behind why the lane closures existed.

- The US 63 bridge across the Des Moines is narrow for a 4-lane bridge and in rather poor condition. On the other side, took the US 34/63 duplex, which has a couple of interchanges along it, as opposed to the at-grades on either end of the duplex.

- The southeastern US 34/63 junction is interesting. There are "free rights" for all 3 legs, and the "left turns" for all 3 legs meet at a single intersection that has stop signs.

- At the east end of the US 34 "Ottumwa bypass" (so to speak), US 34 turns onto itself.

- East of Ottumwa, but before Agency, there was a stretch where there was A LOT of construction on the south side of the road. Looked like a relocation project for US 34. Appeared to be a stand-alone project, but the termini left me wondering why they picked that section. Is this part of something larger?

- Stayed on US 34 to IA 16, where we turned south. IA 16 goes through the town of Eldon, where the American Gothic House is located. This house is known for being in the famous painting of the stern-faced farmer couple holding the pitchfork. According to a sign at the house, the house was built in 1881-82, was put on the National Register of Historic Places in 1974, and was donated to the state as a historic site in 1991.

- Southeast of Eldon, a slight detour on backcountry gravel roads netted us the location where Wapelo, Jefferson, Davis, and Van Buren Counties all come together. Back on IA 16, we turned onto IA 98 south (which still exists) for the short hop across the Des Moines River. IA 98 ends in Leando (I'm surprised they didn't decommission this route), with the roadway continuing as CR V64.  Took that route, CR J40, and CR V56 to Milton, where IA 15 *WAS* decommissioned.  Stayed on CR V56, which became MO 15.

- We followed MO 15 for a considerable ways...all the way down to US 54 south of Mexico. As a general rule, MO 15 was fairly narrow...maybe 11' wide lanes on average, with minimal shoulder. Some bridges have been replaced with full shoulders...some bridges look like they haven't been touched in 60 years.

- MO 15 briefly duplexes with BUSINESS US 136 in Memphis, then briefly duplexes with US 136 itself. Need steel overhead truss bridge over the North Fork of the South Fabius River, just north of Edina. Within Edina, MO 15 briefly duplexes with MO 6.

- MO 15 has been somewhat upgraded between Shelbyville and Shelbina, though the upgrades look a bit aged. The roadway was probably reconstructed 20-30 years ago, with the lanes redone in concrete, and full gravel shoulders (occasionally paved).

- US 36 has a diamond interchange with MO 15 on the north edge of Shelbina. US 36 is 2 lanes here, though the bridge is long enough to accommodate a 4-lane section on US 36 (the existing lanes would be the future EB lanes). Control cities are Macon and Monroe City. Further south, a SPUR MO 15 was noted a few miles north of US 24. BUSINESS US 24 duplexes with MO 15 into and through Paris.

- Going into and through Mexico, MO 15 first picks up MO 22, then after a couple of turns onto and off of a street called "Boulevard", picks up BUSINESS US 54.  The three routes then head south out of town before picking up US 54 where all three end. The interchange with US 54 is a standard diamond. Noted in the distance was US 54 narrowing down to 2 lanes northeast of the interchange.

- Took US 54 south to I-70. A sign just south of MO 15/22 calls the route the "Exercise Tiger Expressway". Was surprised to see most of the stretch signed at 70 MPH, especially given the age and side-roads along parts of the expressway.

- Just south of the Audrain/Callaway County line, the southbound lanes follow a classic Missouri expressway lane shift...a few of these used to exist on US 61 between Wentzville and Hannibal (dunno if they still do).

- Just before approaching I-70, US 54 slows down considerably (45 or 55 MPH, don't remember which) and runs into a major commercial/truck stop area in the vicinity of the I-70 interchange, with 3 or 4 traffic signals in a row (including signals at the I-70 ramps). The left turn lane to the EB I-70 onramp almost doesn't's VERY short.

- Hopped on I-70 and took it east into St. Louis. Somewhere east of US 54, noticed a series of billboards with one letter each of the following:  M-I-Z-Z-O-U. Also got a somewhat blurred photo of the MN-style gore sign at Exit 170.

- Noted construction in the vicinity of and east of the US 61 interchange at Wentzville. Looked like some sort of partial widening project on I-70.  Westbound traffic was down to one lane in one location, and this had westbound traffic backed up a few times (this was about 7:30pm on a Monday).

- The twin bridges on I-70 at the Missouri River are quite impressive. And wide too...5 lanes each...

- Billboard noted on EB I-70 near I-170: "Got Tires?"

- Was dark by this time, so didn't get any good photos...made an attempt to get photos of the Gateway Arch, but they didn't turn out. Nearby, the ramp from EB I-70 to the Poplar St Bridge was closed, with traffic directed to exit at 7th St.

- Not sure what's so ugly about the BGS on SB I-55 at I-255/I-270. Didn't look significantly different to me.

- Further south, a segment of I-55 south of MO 141 has been widened since my last time through here (1999 or 2000, so it's been a little while). An 8-lane stretch extends down to Route "M" at Exit 185 now...much better than last time, but even with late evening traffic, I-55 could use at least 6 lanes down to US 67 at Exit 174.

- Was well dark by this time...we stopped for the night in Perryville (a place I've stopped before).

Next up: Roadtrippin'...Suthern-Style...

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