I’ve driven back and forth from the Twin Cities to either Kansas City or Omaha at least a half dozen times over the past year. Always the same route. The stretch of I-35 from Des Moines to the northern border of Iowa is just miserable. It smells like pig farms. Other than a few wind farms that the kids get excited about, there is nothing to see.
So today after saying goodbyes to the kids who were off to Grandma and Grandpa’s house for the week, I decided to shake things up a bit on the way back, bypassed Des Moines, and headed north on Highway 169. In terms of miles, this is in fact a shorter route since I live on the southwestern side of the Cities. But the speed limit is lower and there are towns to pass through. And since I goofed around so much taking pictures this afternoon I really don’t know if I made better time or not.
I turned north from I-80 at the exit for Adel, Iowa. Adel (pop. 3,435) is a quiet and pretty little town. And it has a very grand courthouse. This made me think of the courthouse in Colby, Kansas, where I grew up. It had roughly the same layout, other than the rounded corners, and it was built with reddish-brown brick instead of limestone. These used to be buildings with such great character. Now most modern court facilities resemble more of a strip mall. Can you imagine the scene in To Kill a Mockingbird when Atticus Finch walks out of the courtroom, and the friends and family of Tom Robinson are respectfully standing in an air-conditioned, carpeted, flourescent-lighted, wood veneer-paneled room? It doesn’t have quite the same dramatic impact.
Lots of Iowa corn. Hopefully the farmer near Harcourt won’t miss the few ears I picked.
Geology lab was one of my favorite college classes. Geology lecture was not. Probably because my professor always got all bitchy when my friend and I snickered at the way she pronounced pahoehoe and other volcanic terms. I wish I knew what kind of rock these northern Iowa country roads consist of. I’m thinking maybe gypsum or alabastrine. Very similar to the white limestone roads in parts of western Kansas, though much brighter.
Lots of wind farms in Iowa. The difference between seeing them on the interstate versus a back road is that you can get out and reach out and touch them if you want.
Another advantage to going off the beaten path is that when you see a hawk perched just picture perfect on a fencepost, you can turn around right there and check him out.
Old water towers like this one in Vernon Center, Minnesota kind of creep me out. They remind me of In Cold Blood, Truman Capote’s true crime story set in Holcomb, Kansas. This train track is near Mankato, Minnesota. Remember on Little House on the Prairie when Mankato was like the big metropolis? Are you noticing how everything I’m alluding to in this post makes me seem really old and not very hip?
And there are lovely boulevards lined with American flags, like this one in Saint Peter, Minnesota, where a few blocks away you can stop in for a quick trim at the barbershop. Anytown, U.S.A.
© Jennifer Alys Windholz, 2011