Storm Chastened

Storm Iowa Booker Reps Note 05.26
I have been known to lose, drop, and break equipment. I confess: microphones, cell phones, digital audio recorders, you name it, I’ve misplaced or broken it. It’s been a while, though, since I’ve damaged or misplaced any company equipment. But yesterday proved that I can still pull some bone-headed plays.

Historic downtown Burlington, Iowa was buzzing with the excitement of the annual Snake Alley Criterium, a physically demanding bike race that includes multiple trips up Snake Alley, a crooked 200-foot-elevation stretch of street that gives the race its name.

Exhausted by the three-block walk through this excitement we quickly found the Bent River Brewing Company — a former JC Penney with soaring ceilings, wood detail everywhere, a mezzanine and balcony that’s been converted into a craft beer pub. After a delicious lunch, we hit the road to Muscatine, roughly 50 miles north, where Sen. Cory Booker was scheduled to tour areas affected by recent flooding. (Muscatine sits on the banks of the Mississippi River.)

The event was a bit of a dud, in terms of visible flood damage and, for us, did not last very long. It was after dinner when I realized that my credit card, which gets a workout on the road, was not in my wallet. Thankfully, the folks at the Bent River Brewing Company still had it. We were five minutes from our hotel in Muscatine but, facing a long drive the following morning, we decided another hour-long drive at the end of the day beat an hour-long drive to begin the following day.

As we headed south to Burlington, a huge electrical storm was bearing east. Our crude calculations suggested we’d meet the storm in Burlington. We were slightly off. By the time we reached Burlington, grabbed my card and began our trek back, night had fallen.

With the NBA Eastern Conference Finals as our musical backdrop we (I say “we” but mean Brendan Smyth, our photographer/editor) drove for an hour under relentlessly volatile skies, mostly in silence punctuated by an occasional “Holy crap!” (and worse). We don’t usually get this kind of fireworks display with our storms back home. Then the rain came. Big drops, falling hard, followed by gusty winds that pushed and pulled on our vehicle. (I’m told these are not optimum driving conditions.)

Then, as we entered the Muscatine city limits, quiet. Streets, bone dry. Skies, only partly cloudy. It was as if the crazy storm we had just driven through had never happened. Even the car was dry. At the front desk of the AmericInn, off US-61, the front desk clerk was surprised when I recounted our harrowing drive.

“Was there a storm?” she asked absently as she checked me in. “We didn’t get any rain or anything.”

“It was a little hairy,” I responded.

“It couldn’t have been that bad. Just a little lightning,” she said. “We just missed a tornado yesterday. It’s just summer.”

As I dropped my bags in my room and plopped down on my bed, exhausted, I asked myself “Was it all a dream?”

Nah, just the start of summer in Iowa. — David Cruz