Texas Express – Day 19

One big Slab blast across Nebraska and Iowa, with some motel weirdness at the end.

Before the Ride

Today was supposed to be a long day; the day I cover most of the ground from Ogallala, Nebraska to home in Michigan. The target was Davenport, Iowa, which is just west of the Iowa/Illinois border. It also happens to be the location of The Machine Shed restaurant, which does excellent dead animal pieces.

With a long ride ahead of me, I didn’t linger at the motel. I basically dressed, pack, loaded, and rode.

The Ride

In the first five minutes, I could tell that it wasn’t going to be a total walk in the park. There was a significant wind blowing from the south, which means it’s a cross wind for travelers on east/west route like I80. The gusty crosswinds provided one level of challenge. Level two was the slipstream of turbulence coming off the nose of the tractor trailers on the slab. This is I80 after all, so the trucks out numbered the other vehicles. After today, I can safely say that the new more aerodynamic bodies on the recent trucks make a big difference when compared to the old-school massive front ends on some of the units. At 80+ miles per hour, and a slight headwind from the gusty south-south-east wind, the turbulence was almost strong enough to push you onto the shoulder.

With the winds and the pace, the Nightowl wasn’t exactly setting any miles-per-gallon records. I got 205 miles on the first tank of gas, filling up outside of Aurora, Nebraska. I hit Omaha, Nebraska in the early afternoon, so the traffic wasn’t bad at all. The second gas stop, in Stuart, Iowa, came after only another 215 miles. I was pretty confident that I’d reach Davenport by the end of the day, so I went ahead and made a reservation at my usual motel right next to The Machine Shed. The price was heavily discounted, probably because it’s a last minute reservation… or so I thought (cue the foreboding music).

The wind wasn’t in strong in Iowa, probably because the landscape has more roll to it. It was, however, more in my face, rotating around the compass a bit to be out of the east-south-east.

The timing of my arrival in Des Moines, Iowa was pretty good, just after 4pm. I was able to get through the city before the meat of rush hour began.

I eventually rolled onto my exit in Davenport at 6:20pm.

After the Ride

The last time I stayed at this hotel, it was a Travelodge… I think. It any case, it was a NAS motel and that’s fine with me. I met the desk clerk and after she wrestled with my reservation for a moment, she give me a key to a room and off I went.

It took me a moment to find it, and rolling through the parking lot a few times revealed a few abandoned (or should be) vehicles, two pit bulls sited to a picnic table, and some clientele that looked like they paid weekly (or hourly).

I eventually located my room between wings in this little dungeon of a hallway; at least it should be quiet. My first serious concern came when I saw that one of the two windows on the room was shattered. There was still a storm window behind it, but this didn’t bode well. I used my key to enter and found:

  • A standard looking room with two beds…
  • But no pillows on the beds.
  • No towels in the bathroom,
  • The lid on the toilet tank was broken into three pieces.
  • The toilet tank was empty, but started to fill when I turned on the valve.

I was beginning to comprehend why the room had cost so little. I was weighing in my mind whether I could actually get a good night’s sleep here. At least the air conditioner was working well.

It was about this time that I noticed that the floor in the bathroom was getting wet. The toilet tank had a crack in it and was slowly leaking onto the floor.

Time to ask for another room.

I returned to the front desk and relaxed my room’s condition, asking if this is what I should expect for the bargain price I paid. The desk clerk looked embarrassed and set about getting me another room. Luckily, one of the housekeepers was nearby and between the two of them, they determined that there was a room that should work. The only caveat (so far) was that this room’s door only works with the master key. In other words, I’d need to coordinate with the front desk to get let into the room.

We went up and inspected the room. It was in better shape than the first one, so I moved my gear. Upon further inspection, I noted that there still were no towels. I also noted that one bed had a bottom sheet only and the other bed had the top sheet only. I combined the bedding on the two beds to make one usable bed. Confident that I could endure this for one night without having to eat my non-refundable room fee, I walked across the parking lot to The Machine Shed.

Dinner worked out much better than the room. Like most places these days, The Machine Shop was understaffed, so service was slow. The food, however, was as expected; quite tasty.

I started with my traditional Bacon Bloody Mary.

Another edition of the Bacon Bloody Mary at the Machine Shed in Davenport, Iowa.
Another edition of the Bacon Bloody Mary at the Machine Shed in Davenport, Iowa.

Dinner was a combination plate of three different preparations of pork. Naturally, the entree was accompanied by sides of cole slaw, baked apples, and a dinner roll. I couldn’t finish it all.

I paid my poor harried waitress (spread across way too many tables), and walked back to my room.

We’ll see how well I sleep tonight. My neighbors are obviously semi-permanent residents and are treating this entire upstairs hallway like it’s their front porch; it’s after 11pm.


Here’s today’s map thumbnail. Click on it to open an interactive page with more metadata.


A slab blast like today, but with home at the end of it.

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