This Does Not Compute

Technology, gaming, music and things that just don't compute

Nebraska and Iowa sucks, and other thoughts from the weekend

Somewhere along I-80 west of Des Moines.

So I had the privilege of driving to Lincoln, NE on Friday for my sister’s college graduation from UNL. I learned a few things along the way.

  • The speed limit is 70 the whole way from the Twin Cities through Des Moines and over to Omaha, and 75 from Omaha to Lincoln. There are two types of drivers on these stretches of highway: Trucks and old farts going 60 in the right lane, and dudes in jacked-up pickups doing 90 in the left. I set the cruise to 75 and did a LOT of lane changing.
  • Despite the fact that everyone knows Iowa is flat, the southern half of the state actually has some contour to it. Strangely, all of the wind farms are in this part, where logic dictates that the wind would be less than the flat-as-a-board northern half.
  • There is exactly one Costco in the entire state of Iowa, in Des Moines, and yes, we stopped there for gas and yummy hot dogs.
  • The highway rest stops in Iowa are modern, clean, and even offer free Wi-Fi. The stall walls in the bathrooms are also only about 5 feet high. I chose to just hold it.
  • The SuperTarget in Lincoln is identical internally to the Roseville T1 store. Comforting, but kinda creepy at the same time.
  • Driving behind a cattle truck is BAD.

Otherwise, the trip was perfectly and completely boring. My butt got sore about 2 hours into the drive and ended up numb by the end of the 7-hour trip each way. We drove back Saturday afternoon, leaving Lincoln at 3 and getting back to the Twin Cities around 10. Averaged 30mpg for the whole 880+ miles round-trip, which I’m not going to complain about.

I experimented to see if we could have Pandora providing music for the whole trip, since AT&T’s site said there was coverage for our entire route. While it has always worked great in the Twin Cities, by the time we got outside Lakeville the phone switched to EDGE and the audio quality just sucked. Then Pandora started pausing every song about 10 seconds before it was over, requiring one of us to tap the Play button again to get it to finish and move on to the next song.

The hotel we stayed at in Lincoln was nice, but its “free” Wi-Fi was annoying. While it had decent signal strength in our room (something that the Comfort Suites in Duluth lacks), Mariott’s MAC registration system ages your machine out after only 2 hours, requiring you to go through the same sign-your-life-away forms and close the 15 browser windows (all of them ads for staying in Mariott hotels — aren’t I already staying in one?) pretty much every time you want to surf the Web. They also artificially limit the bandwidth to 3Mbps down/500kbps up unless you pony up some cash to “unlock faster access”, and then Google wants to install a toolbar or plugin or something. Safari on the iPad could handle this process, but Netflix couldn’t get online at all, and the Mail app timed out. Why can’t they just run an open network? Who’s going to leech Wi-Fi from them, the corn in the field next door?


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