I drove to Walcott, Iowa, today to attend the Truckers Jamboree at the Iowa 80 for the first time in years.
I went to one several years ago, but since then, I have had one crisis after another that prevented me from going. Sickness, a death in the family, some type of emergency that came first. And well, obviously, since priorities dictate that you do what you need to do, I have missed going to the World's Largest Truck Stop and the show that takes place there every year.
For most people going from Kansas City to Walcott, the route would be Interstate 35 up to Interstate 80 and then straight across to the east. But I'm traveling a different route. The reason? I got advice from some truckers.
The first year I went to the Walcott Truckers Jamboree, I ran into all kinds of horrific traffic on 35 and 80. That plus construction zones across two states. It was a difficult and exhausting drive.
You expect that going through big cities and highly congested areas. You don't expect it going through rural northern Missouri and Iowa, which has a reputation of being overwhelmingly rural and not very densely populated.
When I was in Walcott that first time, I talked with several truckers about that terrible drive and expressed my sympathy that they had to go through that all the time just to do their jobs.
One of the truckers asked me, well, why don't you use Avenue of the Saints?
Being who I am, I immediately asked him, what is this Avenue of the Saints you speak of? Frankly, I had never heard of such a thing, and if it made that drive easier I was going to be interested.
The Avenue of the Saints is nothing new. It was developed many years ago as a solution to a very basic problem. No four-lane interstate highway existed between St Louis and the Minneapolis-Saint Paul metropolitan area.
So planners decided to create one.
However, interstates are far more expensive than other highways. So they explored a solution that would give them mostly what they wanted, but would cost less. And that is a lower federal standard called an expressway.
The traditional interstate in the federal standards is referred to as a freeway. There are no cross streets as we all know. You have to use an interstate exit or entrance in order to get on the highway or return to regular streets.
However, the expressway has a combination of Interstate style exits and crossroads. Because of that they can give locals in rural areas access to the highway without creating expensive exits on a frequent basis.
So they traced a group of two lane highways that went from St. Louis up to St. Paul, including U.S. 61 in Missouri and some state highways in Iowa.
At first, it was a little hard for me to tell when I was still on the Avenue of the Saints or if I was on some highway divided off of it. Now, they all use a common numerical designation of Highway 27 so it’s much clearer when you are on the Avenue.
The same thing has been done to U.S. 36 across all of Missouri. It is also an expressway, but it has a number of advantages as does the Avenue of the Saints.
For truckers, if you’re someone who is watching their fuel economy carefully, you probably don’t want to go at top interstate speeds. And many places now, that is 75 miles per hour or above. However, both U.S. 36 and the Avenue of the Saints have a 65 mile-an-hour speed limit, so you can move at a more reasonable speed for fuel economy without getting run over.
For both truckers and four wheelers, another advantage is the relative lack of traffic. Let’s face it, I-35 is crowded and I-80 is worse. Having the highway at times pretty much to yourself and not having to share broadly at other times is awfully nice in this day and age.
When I first learned how to drive, my father told me that if I was ever in trouble or needed advice to ask a truck driver. He always regarded them as people you can trust, even to the point he was willing to trust his own children to them when they were in need.
Many people these days are simply afraid to do that. It’s nice to know that even in this day and age, when I need some advice about how to get from point A to B in the easiest way possible, if I need help at roadside, or if I’m in an emergency situation, I can still count on truck drivers.