Driving through Iowa sucks. It sucks because it’s flat, monotonous, rolling, repetition doesn’t give you an easy reason to like it. Which just means it’s an easy kind of suckiness. I just made a trip to Council Bluffs, Iowa from my home turf of Minneapolis and the bulk of it was spent driving straight south with a dollop of straight west tagged on the end, and then, like a bad meal, doing the whole thing in reverse.
That’s about all there is to say about hating the drive through Iowa. If it was a complex disdain I would have more to rant about. Political systems are complex. Moral value systems are complex. History, family, and love, these things are complex and that’s why so much of the recorded history of culture revolves around these topics. But driving through Iowa? All I have to say is that “It’s boring” and from my experience that’s all anybody says.
For the record, I have very low opinions of boredom. To be honest, I’m probably a bit of a snoot about boredom. I see it as an emotional state of the passive; a nearsighted fixation on valuelessness initiated and fueled by the observer. In other words, you’ve got a brain, choose to think about something else. Anything else. The phrase “I’m bored” is synonymous with “I give up” which I would understand if you were trying to climb Mt. Everest, or were undergoing the Ludovico Technique, but that’s not when this phrase comes up. It comes up when someone is in a place of privilege. It trickles out of mouths that are at concerts and lectures and plays and classrooms and on couches in the presence of other people who are doing nothing, as if every individual has become some kind of semi-demi-hemi-god on Olympus and are no longer pleased with their gold, and banquets, and courtesans, and video games. If you are starving to death, or withdrawing, or working a 12 hour shift in a factory, or being a single parent, or any kind of parent for that matter, chances are “boredom” is not high on your list of recent emotions. It is a mental state and observation of the enabled that says “I’ve had better and it isn’t here.”
But who am I to judge other people’s feelings. Let’s get back to Iowa.
I was talking about how easy it is to complain about driving Iowa. It’s like complaining about winter in Minnesota except that Iowa stays flat year round, though some would say Minnesota winter does too. (see how easy that is?) Here’s the thing about boring things though, generally, what they point to is a lack of stimuli, or in this case a lack of differentiation of stimuli. Iowa is not all the same, it’s just that the big features are really consistent. Once you absorb the big gestures you’ve essentially just read the book jacket of Iowa but now you need to dig in and read, and you need to pay attention. This is what Iowa has; Iowa has rolling meadows that come in tints, shades and tones of gold that would make Cleopatra embalm her grandchildren, widescreen skies that make IMAX look like a Tamagotchi in Time Square, and slowly undulating roads that would echo the deepest bass line frequencies you wish you could hear, so you just to have relegate yourself to paying attention and feeling them. That’s the easy stuff blending into the hard stuff.
Now, if you aren’t interested in looking for details or subtly you might find yourself in the other side of the boredom like I was. I went somewhere else. I gorged on podcasts of other places and other people but I also dug into my own curiosity and wondered what my perception of “no change” looks like when presented at a pace that helps me be entertained but with less thinking. So I time lapsed my drive. And all of this poking around about what’s interesting and not, really I’m just trying to show how one can find fascination in any situation if you either apply Sherlockian attention or, in my case, Einsteinian curiosity. What does it look like to drive really fast? And I’m not talking about arbitrary fastness (speed that video up!) I’m talking about watching a video of my own experience and calculating an experience I will likely never have. In this example that experience is traveling at Mach 3 over land which looks something like this.
Here’s how I came to this.
I’m driving 75 mph snapping one picture per second. That means the distance covered between each picture is 110 feet. After I finish shooting the pictures, if I speed the frame rate up from 1fps to 30 fps then the resulting video will show the terrain going by at 30 times my actual speed. That works out to be 2,250 mph, or just shy of Mach 3.
Not bad for a 2004 Volkswagen Passat.
And that’s one way I enjoy driving through Iowa.