I have a new favorite ride at the Iowa State Fair, and it wasn't found in the Thrill Zone. In fact, it wasn't even on the fairgrounds.
And, to be fair, it wasn't completely new, either: It's the extension of Martin Luther King Jr. Drive from SE 15th Street out to SE 30th.
The road -- also known as the Southeast Connector, opened in 2016. And I've even driven it before. But I've never taken it before as a route to the fair, and it really saved my bacon this year.
As you may be aware, there are railroad tracks that cut off a bunch of the main arteries headed into the fairgrounds from the west. That includes Grand, Hubbell, and Dean. And boy, oh boy, did I ever get stuck on the road this year. Both Saturdays, in fact: Once on my way out of the fair (when I had a deadline to get home), and once on my way in (when it was my turn to make the needles move from the Crystal Studios).
Fortunately, I remembered that the new-ish ML King (it opened in 2016, but the pavement still looks like new) goes over the railroad out between Kemin Industries and Titan Tire. So as I started to sweat bullets about making it to the studio in time for my show with time to spare for some pre-broadcasting lemonade, I figured out that I could backtrack and connect with the Southeast Connector and venture into the fairgrounds area from the south.
At the risk of giving away a secret and creating a self-defeating traffic jam next year: It was marvelous. The City of Des Moines deserves credit for putting a high-quality express route into place. It's a great way to get around those trains that stop and block the conventional arteries to the Fair, and it provides a great alternative to adding more traffic to University Avenue during peak hours. And the real benefit, of course, is that the existing road and its planned (but yet-to-be-funded) extensions ought to do a great job of boosting the connection between the southeast parts of the city to the rest of the metro.
The Sky Glider may have a better view, but for now, the extended MLK is my new favorite ride around the Fair.