Into the iStates...
The last few days have been in the first of my iState crossings - Iowa. Rather than having any specific story to tell, for me, Iowa has been more of a series of images without a common theme.
- Along the Mississippi, eastern Iowa doesn't look anything like I imagined. It's forested, has lots of rolling hills and the Mighty Mississippi has more marshes and wetlands than flowing water. The rivers running into the Mississippi cut a deep path into the farm land. The river valleys are often 400-500 feet lower than the plateaus where the crops grow. This makes for hilly cycling and tired legs.
- In the 1850's, if you were fast, you could get a mountain named after you. In Lansing, I walked to the top of Mt. Hosmer for a stunning view over the Mississippi. The mountain got it's name in 1851 when a steamboat stopped to refuel and the passengers decided to have a foot race to the top. I wonder what they were drinking when they cooked up that idea? The winner was a woman named Harriet Hosmer. I could use a little bit of whatever she was drinking to fuel my bike trip!
- Eastern Iowa is home to the meanest birds in the midwest. Over the course of the trip, I've had many birds fly above me scolding me for being in their territory. But here, several times, I've had birds strafing the top of my helmet. They drop down right over me and give a screech that scared the crap out of me the first time it happened. Luckily bike helmets also serve as good bird talon protection. So as long as they don't drop any 'bombs', I think I'll be OK.
- What's a huge Roman Catholic basilica doing out in the middle of farm country? Dyersville is home to the Basilica of St. Francis Xavier, one of only 3 rural basilicas in the US. It was built in 1888 and raised to basilica status (meaning Pope's church) by Pius XII in 1956. The place is big enough to hold 1200 people. That's almost as many people as live in Dyersville today!
- 20 years after the movie release of "Field of Dreams", people are still coming to a corn field near Dyersville to see a baseball diamond and a farm house. They bring their bats, balls and gloves to play a bit and look toward the cornstalks to see if Shoeless Joe Jackson might be looking for a game.
- The most popular flag flying in this part of the state is the University of Iowa Hawkeye flag. The second most popular is the French flag. OK, it's actually the Iowa state flag, but they just took the French flag and added an eagle in the middle, so you'll pardon my confusion.
- Sheriffs in this neck of the woods have a low budget and a sense of humor. As I passed through a small town, I saw a sheriff's car parked along the side of the road. I could vaguely see someone behind the steering wheel. A speed trap? As I passed the car, I found a mannequin with sunglasses in the driver's seat. Whatever it takes to get people to slow down, I guess! But the ironic part was the name of the town - Onslow.
- The Cornhuskers may be from Nebraska, but the corn growers are definitely in Iowa. You hardly see anything else planted in the fields here. The state is our #1 corn producer, so raise a cup of high fructose corn syrup in toast to Iowa!