Let me preface this by saying I have not driven down every road in Iowa. I've driven down many, especially for being in the state for just a tick over two years. I've been everywhere like Hank Snow, from Clear Lake to Dubuque, Clinton to the Quad Cities, Ottumwa to Marquette. I have enough Hawkeye driving experience to make this declaration:

Scarlet Avenue is the worst road in Iowa, and the worst I've ever had the displeasure of driving down.

Located in Davis County, stretching from Bloomfield through Floris, Scarlet Avenue is a dirt road that sees very little traffic that isn't local or farm equipment. My girlfriend is from the area, and I'll never forget my first visit to her house. Let me paint the picture:

It's about 5pm on New Year's Eve weekend, which means the sun ostensibly sets at like 1:30pm. It's past dusk, but not fully dark, but dark enough that I'm mentally crossing my fingers that my Honda Accord doesn't decide to fail me now. There's slushy snow on the ground too, making the trip more fun. I have a goofy hyphy hip-hop song playing to ease my nerves as I pull onto Scarlet Avenue, after navigating one gravel road after another.

Photo Credit: Google Maps
Photo Credit: Google Maps
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Scarlet Avenue is a dirt road that's as hilly and as uneasy to drive as the worst hills in Dubuque. It's allegedly a two-lane, but thankfully, I've never seen a car coming in the opposite direction whilst I'm driving it. If so, it's quite possible I'd inadvertently veer my car into the grassy plains.

The street simply isn't wide enough to comfortably accommodate two vehicles going opposite directions, especially given the fact that so many vehicles in this neck of the woods are F150s, other large trucks, dozers, and farm equipment.

About halfway up this miserable road is a plank bridge that provides a driver with just a momentary relief of flat, stable ground. But you've driven over it as fast as you can process the vehicular oasis. If it rains more than a half an inch, your car is going to get drenched in mud. If it rains over an inch, you're better off putting on swim trunks and mud-sliding across the damn thing.

Scarlet Avenue in Davis County, IA. Photo Credit: Steve Pulaski
Scarlet Avenue in Davis County, IA. Photo Credit: Steve Pulaski
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I grew up just outside of Chicago, where paved roads were standard; the occasional cobblestone side-street sucked to navigate, but in retrospect, felt like the Yellow Brick Road compared to whatever the hell you call Scarlet Avenue. I've heard of "Level B roads" in the state of Iowa, which, per IowaRoadTrip.Net, are:

[....] roads [that] typically do not lead to family homes, but they may provide access between other gravel roads or to farm fields. Level B roads receive minimal maintenance and are not plowed in the winter – however, level B roads are still open for the public to travel. - per IowaRoadTrip.Net

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That being said and understood, Scarlet Avenue is a "Level F" in my book. If you find yourself in Davis County, with a GPS urging you to take the road, trust me when I say you'd rather try your luck with the gravel roads than a stretch that's begging to be "closed to the public until further notice."

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