Reflections of Hwy 169: The road giveth, and the road taketh away

Flaunting the law, bicyclists on U.S. Highway 169 made their way Tuesday until an Iowa DOT worker directed them to vacate the roadway.

Something is just not right. The more I think about it, the one thing that has always been constant in my life is not there.

This year has been a year of loss for me, but this thing is really odd. There is no traffic going past my house. I live on U.S. Highway 169, and it has been completely closed, so there are no semis, no vehicles, nothing except the occasional road maintenance vehicle driving by.

Let me rephrase that. There are not vehicles legally traveling on the road. It seems to be a challenge with motorists to see if they can make it through the closed road. Today I actually saw two teams of RAGBRAI riders sneaking by, only to be ousted by the man in the big orange truck warning them to get out of the way as he laid on the horn.

U.S. Highway 169 was my escape as a child. It was my gateway to my grandparents home. I was a little girl and would sit out on the stoop to the porch and wave at the semi drivers to see if they would honk at me. They usually did.

When I would stay all night with grandma and grandpa, the traffic would keep me up all night it seemed. Living in their house now as an adult, the traffic actually gives me a calming effect. I can tell weather traveling conditions by how often the DOT truck goes past and by traffic volume and at what speed they are traveling.

Doing field and yard work next to the highway has always been a challenge. You feel as though you are on display. I will say one day last week I weeded one entire flower garden in my pjs. It was liberating.

The highway aided us in a long bus ride from People’s Township in Boone County to Perry Schools and a super journey the year I attended fifth grade in Dawson.

Even when I lived away from the the area, it was U.S. Highway 169 that led the way home, something you take for granted until it all is gone.

Many may not remember that there was a gas station located eight miles south of Ogden on the west side of the road years ago. It was a convenient place for people to stop and get just enough gas to get to their next location. There was an elderly man who ran the station, and my mom’s cousin actually was there a lot because she dated him.

On the down side, the highway is a murderer. When I was about 5 or 6, there was a terrible accident near that gas station, and in the ditch sat a car that was upside down with at least two if not four people hanging upside down.

My dad was a warrior and wanted to roll the car over to get the people out, but the powers that be refused to allow it. All perished after being trapped in the vehicle until emergency personnel appeared. That was a very difficult event for my dad to handle.

I’ve had one dog hit who recuperated, and one did not make it. But worse than that, there have been human lives lost at the corner north and south at County Road E57 since we’ve lived here nearly the last 30 years.

I’ve seen the highway used as a landing pad for Life Flight. I’ve searched my dad’s field with others looking for a baby that might have been in the car seat of a car whose driver — the infant’s father — was killed. We all gave a sigh of relief when we finally received word that the baby was with its mother.

I even remember the morning I thought the cats were in the garbage can in the garage, and it was actually a vehicle sliding down the highway on its hood after the motorist hit a deer.

The highway is a good place to live along. It saves your vehicle from rock chips. You usually always get your mail and as long as you are willing to live under the scrutiny of its travelers while working on your show place, you will enjoy it.

I try to instill into my grandson Jett a love for just sitting and watching the traffic. Hopefully, he will learn that U.S. Highway 169 is the road that leads back home to grandma and grandpa’s in the future, just as I did in the past.

I love this highway, and I beg motorists to please respect the road-closed status. Accidents happen. Let the workers own the highway and when they are done, just enjoy the gift you have been given.


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