Meet me in Altoona

We all know Iowa is widely considered a flyover state, but I’m beginning to think we are a drive-through state as well. Last weekend, I met a college friend traveling through the state with his family, which is becoming more and more common to do for us to do lately.

We met at an Iowa landmark – a place many people driving through stop to soak in the best the state has to offer.

Of course I’m talking about the McDonald’s in Altoona.

Why there?

Well, for a family with young children traveling all day they don’t want to venture too far from Interstate 80. It also has a play area for kids, a piano and an aquarium. Plus, the landmarks in the area make it an ideal meeting place for non-Iowans.

If I tell my family or a friend to meet me at the McDonald’s next to an amusement park or near a big ol’ casino that makes it pretty easy – even for a weary, all-day I-80 traveler.

This latest meet up was with a family moving from Salt Lake City to Chicago. I was amazed that they started that day of driving in Cheyenne, Wyo. and got to Altoona for dinner, then stayed the night in Davenport.

Their road warrior mentality didn’t stop there as the family was able to make it to Chicago by 8:30 a.m. the following morning.

Now that’s impressive.

This is not my first time meeting travelers zooming through Iowa at the Altoona eatery. When my parents were scooting across the Midwest on the way to a Colorado vacation, we were able to meet up and have some fries there as well.

Of course we never get disagreement from our two young children when it comes to stopping at a place where they can stuff their face with fries and play at the same time.

When I lived in Newton this I-80 swing through was much easier – people could just meet me at my apartment. If they didn’t have time to stop I joked with some relatives that I would wave from the overpass as they rode through town on the interstate.

I don’t recall ever following through on that offer – but that would have been neat.

It’s enjoyable to be able to spend time with friends or family we wouldn’t see otherwise on these little pit stop breaks. And some people you only need to see an hour to catch up, share a few laughs and go your separate ways.

Reporter Andrew Potter is a Tuesday columnist for the Times-Republican. The views expressed in this column are personal views of the writer and don’t necessarily reflect the views of the T-R. Contact Andrew Potter at 641-753-6611 or