I grew up in Michigan, planted my young adult flag in Illinois, and adopted my husband's native state of Ohio. Accordingly, the Great Lakes states all feel like home to me.
So when we left Cleveland yesterday morning to kick off the westbound leg of this road trip, it was not until we passed through the Great Eastern Hardwood Forest and sailed across the prairies of Illinois that our journey took on a true spirit of adventure.
Oh, what's that you say? You've heard - or maybe convinced your own eyes to believe - that Iowa is boring? Well. If you think that endless rolling hills covered with green ribbons of corn under perfect puffy clouds through pale blue skies lack poetry, I can't help you. And if you find the endless waves of corn that will feed our nation's great livestock herds and bring steaks and bacon to our tables uninteresting, alas.
But I love Iowa. And in one short afternoon, I was reminded why.
^ Crossing the Mighty Mississipp is, in my opinion, the threshold to adventure in the American West. (Pretty sure my heroes Thomas Jefferson and Lewis and Clark would agree.) We passed over this grand lady at the Quad Cities - Rock Island and Moline on the Illinois side; Davenport and Bettendorf in the Iowa bank. The deep, rolling waters reflected the grey skies and the whole effect looked shockingly Pacific Northwestian. But my heart raced with excitement all the same.
^ For the last two years, I've been dreaming about Thunder Bay Grille. We stopped there serendipitously on our 2015 road trip , and while we all enjoyed the ambiance and good service - they invited Ranger to come join us as we ate on the porch - it was my husband's bison meatloaf and my fourth-born's drunken sirloin that drove the needle from good to great. So with much anticipation, we ordered two plates of the same and held our breath as they were finally delivered to our table. Yes. Definitely as good as we remembered.
^ Sunset at our hotel in Newton. No words can describe the glory of glorious puff heartland clouds alit with clear golden light from a fiery sun sinking behind the rolling hills.
And really, no words can accurately capture the slowly mounting excitement that comes from passing through this sweet pastoral landscape on a journey toward the rugged West. There's nothing like an afternoon in Iowa.
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A summer road trip across America - read more: