June 19, 2007
Des Moines, IA to Chicago, IL
After three weeks on the road, we were anxious to get home. We showered quickly and checked out of the Motel 6. We drove past Perkins without a single thought of breakfast there, kielbasa still lingering in my throat. Besides, I knew a great place up the road. I like the Country Kitchen chain, and the Des Moines location at I-35/80 and U.S. 69 (NE 14th Street) has always stood above the others. They offer a breakfast buffet seven days a week, and it's one of the best I've ever had. Everything is hot, and the scrambled eggs look and taste like real eggs, which is rare for buffets. Plus their "best pancakes in town" really are. Today was no exception, and it was our last pig-out meal on a vacation full of big breakfasts.
Traffic moved quickly on I-80 and the miles ticked by. I was annoyed with several drivers who couldn't maintain a steady speed, but I guess that's par for the course in most places. This was the first time since California when I had to deal with enough traffic for that to matter.
Our final stop in Iowa, and indeed on our vacation, was at the Iowa 80 Truckstop in Walcott. As far as truckstops go, it was pretty impressive. They claim to be the world's largest. They never say by what measure, but their lot has spaces for over 800 trucks.
In addition to a huge gift shop and a large selection of big rig accessories, they have a restaurant (Iowa 80 Kitchen) plus a name-brand food court including Dairy Queen, Pizza Hut, Taco Bell, and Wendy's. There is a convenience store up front, and upstairs drivers will find a dentist, a barber shop, and 24 private showers.
I was impressed with the tractor-trailer inside decorated with a mural of I-80 from San Francisco to New York.
Walcott was a good place to fuel up with cheaper Iowa gas before crossing the Mississippi into Illinois. Gas prices had been falling for the past few days, and this was our cheapest fill-up at $2.83/gallon.
Finally back in Illinois, we decided to take the slightly faster I-88 instead of I-80 to my parents' house even though we had to pay tolls (the miles are about the same, but the I-80 route has more miles off the interstate). We ran into some trouble in Sugar Grove. Westbound U.S. 30 was blocked by police so all traffic was routed onto IL 47. It took us 15 minutes to drive the next three miles, which probably wiped out whatever time we had saved on I-88.
We got to my parents' house and transferred all our stuff to our own car. It took a little work to make it all fit since we had so many bags of books and clothing from our shopping adventures. When I returned the rental car, the clerk's jaw dropped at our odometer reading: we had covered 7,315 miles!
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