The rolling plains of Iowa are covered in cornfields, just like a scene out of Field of Dreams, broken up by the occasional silo or windmill. It is beautiful, if redundant after the first 30 or 40 miles. But it’s not the reason I’m in Iowa.
Welcome to Iowa!
In Des Moines, I visit the beautiful golden-domed capital building, and the nearby state museum. I learn that Iowa was once home to vast wetlands, and that these are returning thanks to the work of local environmentalists. I learn that the monicker “Hawkeye” comes from James Fenimore Cooper’s iconic hero, and that the state once had 100 counties but one absorbed a neighbor and so there are 99. It again, this isn’t the reason I am in Iowa.
The Iowa capital in Des Moines is stunning!
In choosing my route cross-country to help my father move from Cincinnati to the Bay Area, I chose to come through Iowa not for these things, or the political fun of the upcoming caucuses, or even the World’s Largest Truck Stop – a sign tells me – a remnant of eras past when Americans sought out interesting roadside attractions like this. I am in Iowa because it is the last state I had not before seen.
I didn’t stop, but these things make me smile.
That’s right, I am now a member of the 50-State Club! (Is this a thing? If not, it should be.)
Like so many others who love to travel, I have long kept a bucket list. It’s filled with places I want to go, things I want to see, experiences I want to have. But at the top, item number one reads “visit all fifty states,” and has since the early days of my travel. This week, that one got to be crossed off!
So many people are focused on country count, on journeying to places far-off and exotic. I love those, but I also never cease to marvel at the diversity and wonder of my home country. From cultural hubs like New York and Chicago to the natural beauty of Yosemite and Zion, and yes, to the subdued loneliness of Iowa cornfields, the US is both immense and incredible, and worth as much exploration as are those distant shores we all dream of.
I am grateful to be able to tick this item off the list, and there are some specific things my gratitude focuses on. First, for my parents for instilling in me both a love of travel but also of long road trips, since without those many hours in the car I’d probably never see many of these places. (Seriously, the country is too spread out to see easily otherwise.) Second, for the interstate highway system. It is old, and in need of some upkeep, but efficient and easy to drive, largely making for semi-direct routes between places, and certainly allowing for cross-country travel by car to be possible. Finally, I am grateful for the tools allowing this drive to happen solo without me becoming either muderous or suicidal: coffee, cruise control, Pandora, Google maps, air conditioning, and solid cellular reception. Without any of those things, I’d be a much more miserable 50-Stater (50-Statian? 50-Statist?) than I am right now.
I know so many others have this as one of their bucket-list items. How many more do you have to go?