Column: A roadtrip to Iowa City

I drove a combined 10 hours this weekend to Iowa City to watch Eastern lose a three-hour game to the Iowa Hawkeyes.

Vegas just posted 200-to-1 odds that I had fun this weekend. Photographers Danny Damiani and Jordan Boner were my travel buddies, as we left on Friday in my grayish Toyota Corolla.

We had a five-hour trip in front of us, but we found ways to pass the time.

It all began when we started seeing many different state license plates on I-57. Wisconsin, Louisiana, Tennessee. OK, let’s start counting.

Danny and Jordan were armed with cameras. I was armed with hawk eyes (ironic). But even though I could see pretty far away, Danny and Jordan had zoom.

“What if my eyes could zoom,” I asked my cellmates.

It’s a cool idea. Think about it – you could see the U of I campus from Lincoln Avenue.

And so we traveled, while many license plates passed us by: Kentucky, Texas, Florida, Iowa, Michigan and ALBERTA!

Yeah, we saw an Alberta plate. That’s Canada!

This wouldn’t be the last Canada plate we’d see, but we soon realized that semis were like gold mines for license plates.

Before entering Iowa, we stopped in Woodhull – a place with a gas station and a lot of grass. Here, we saw a miracle occur.

I believe the bet was 10 dollars per person to the man who spotted a Hawaii or Alaska plate. Jordan and I owe Danny.

“Holy shit, it’s Alaska,” Danny said as we pulled out of the gas station, stopped at a stop sign. “Don’t move! I don’t care if someone is honking at you.”

Danny snapped a couple pictures and the Moment of the Trip Award was given to the old Jeep with an Alaska plate. Once we entered Iowa, the variety of license plates greatly decreased – we’re talking only Iowa and Illinois.

So, we found enjoyment from how hilly the state was. We went from Illinois – flat land – to Iowa – great rolling-down-a-hill potential.

On our way to the Iowa City Travelodge, we passed a Kum & Go gas station and the world’s largest truck stop. Also, we had to battle an Iowa sunset.

When you’re on I-80 West, you are very literally heading west, where the sun sets. Instead of seeing cars in front of us on the interstate, we saw a setting sun directly above the road. Finally, we made it to the Travelodge. We went to Bob’s Your Uncle, a restaurant that makes you wish Bob were really your uncle.

Danny and I had remade the movie The Greatest Game Ever Played – I played the part of Shia LaBeouf and Danny played the part of Stephen Dillane. We played miniature golf on Addictinggames.com.

The next day, we almost missed going to the Iowa game. The streets outside of Kinnick Stadium are filled with macaroni and cheese, a sea of people in yellow shirts packing the streets. We could barely move our car. We made it to the game. We witnessed it. Then, we started the trip home.

At some point, I had to make a very abrupt stop. Danny’s phone flew about three feet in front of him, underneath my seat. It was lost. Worse: it was on vibrate. calling it wasn’t an option.

We stopped in Bloomington to eat some Chili’s. When we came back to the car, we searched for about ten minutes. Finally, I found it and Danny’s heart rate returned to normal.

We got home that night, and fell asleep knowing that the trip was totally worth it.

Alex McNamee can be reached at

581-7944 or [email protected]