Traveling with the Wind

John Davis

This past long weekend, I had the chance to travel back home to Iowa to one of my favorite fishing spots in the entire world: Spirit Lake. This natural lake is up in the northwest corner of the state, and it takes nearly 10 hours to get there from my home in Missouri. Full of walleyes, it is a destination I gladly load up the family car with the wife, the kids, and the dogs, and hit the road for a butt-wearing 10 hours behind the wheel.

Windmills #2As I was in the homestretch of my 500-plus mile trip, burning plenty of $3.25/gallon gas, I noticed an alternative fuel source turning above the farm fields just a few miles off Highway 71… windmills.

Windmills #3For years, I’ve seen the turbines in the distance. Now that I’m reporting on this type of energy source, I decided to get a closer look. Turning at a corner where many times my family and I have stopped for gas and snacks, we made our way to where the white turbines turn in the constant breeze of an area known as Buffalo Ridge… a high spot of land that seems to catch every breeze… and a natural for the approximately 260 turbines along its flat plateau. Locals say it is one of the largest wind farms in the world. It’s no wonder nearby Storm Lake earned its name and reputation of constantly have a significant chop on its shallow waters.

The turbines are spectacular to see… looming over the farm fields, whooshing as the wind turns their huge blades, generating power that will be available for many years to come… possibly forever.

DinosaurIn the meantime, I thought about the gas station back on the corner of Highway 71 where I turned. In front of the pumps is a concrete statue of a dinosaur, symbolic of the fossil fuel that flows from those pumps. I thought how fitting a symbol for that type of fuel. Dinosaurs are extinct and won’t be coming back. Much like the concrete in the statue, the oil industry in many ways is immovable – stuck in a dwindling supply that will become extinct in its own time, maybe sooner than we think. Contrast that with the constant motion of the turbines. If the wind supply is ever exhausted, we’ll have more problems than how to light our homes. Even the more stationary corn and soybean fields below the wind generators hold the promise of renewable fuel in the form of ethanol and biodiesel.

Dinosaur #2The wind did have some drawbacks. When we finally arrived at our destination of Spirit Lake, the wind was fueling some good-sized waves… too big to let me chase the much-desired walleyes and northern pike like I would like to. At least for a while. The next day the winds calmed, and we picked up plenty of walleyes… and the biggest pike my Dad has got in more than 70 years of fishing – 37″ long, weighing 10 pounds. That’s big enough to make even a concrete dinosaur smile.