Iowa United States

Iowa: Much More than Corn, Hogs and Caucuses

Iowa is known for its corn and pork products. Hogs outnumber people 4 to 1 and, of course, US political junkies know Iowa for its early caucuses and role in choosing party nominees for U.S. President. But in our spring 2023 trek across the country, we found it offered so much more.

Across the early-spring rolling hills, among fields with the corpses of last season’s corn stalks and the early-plowed fields being prepared for planting and modern windmills which align Interstate 80, we continued the current installment of our midwest college town tour with a stop in Iowa City, Iowa.

The Iowa river runs through town, splitting the campus, with pedestrian and car traffic bridges spanning its width and connecting its banks. Much like in Lincoln, spring had arrived as had graduation fever. Cap and gown photo shoots were as commonplace as games of cornhole, nappers with textbooks splayed open and the energy and vigor of a college town nearing the end of an academic year.

A college town is a fun place to be in springtime. As snow melts away and the hope of summer blooms along with the dreams of graduates preparing to leave all they know for a new life much as they did several years earlier when they first landed on campus.

We’d arrived in time to take a long walk along the river, stretch our car-weary legs and get some well needed exercise. Crew teams rowed between bridges in practice drills, newly hatched goslings protected by mama and papa geese dined riverside and bikers and runners exercised, passing us, along the riverfront path.

Iowa City is a great college town with lots of restaurants and bars, coffee and book shops. We ate at St. Burch Tavern, which was quite good and stayed at the Graduate Hotel, which became a new favorite chain of ours.

We’d hoped to visit the Grant Wood studio in Cedar Rapids, but it was only open on weekends so visiting his American Gothic in Chicago will have to do for this time.

With the Grant Wood fail, we headed east instead of north to West Branch to check out the Herbert Hoover Library and Museum. President Hoover is best known for presiding over the onset of the Great Depression, but he also led campaigns to feed the Belgians (WW I) and other Europeans during and following the Second World War, had the original idea for the foundation of UNICEF, had a successful career traveling the world working in mining, and was a successful Commerce Secretary to whom many problems were delegated during the Harding and Coolidge administrations. But Hoover experienced a stunning and swift fall from popularity to pariah following the economic crash which led to the Great Depression.

At the park, you can visit his boyhood home, one room schoolhouse, Quaker Meeting House and the village of his childhood where he lived until he was orphaned at age 10 and ultimately made his way west for school in Oregon and college as part of the inaugural class at Stanford. It’s well worth a visit if you’re passing through or staying in nearby Iowa City. And if you do go, the videos both in the national park office and the museum are worth seeing to fulfill your visit. For more fun facts about Hoover click here.

In the language of the Ioway tribe, Iowa means beautiful and after several gorgeous spring days here, it’s hard to disagree.

2 comments on “Iowa: Much More than Corn, Hogs and Caucuses

  1. My home state. I grew up in SW Iowa, a small town called Shenandoah. Yes, we think the song Shenandoah is about us though it’s really about Shendandoah Valley in VA. Our call to fame is the Everly Brothers are from Shenandoah. One of the highlights of Iowa is the annual RAGBRAI (Register’s Annual Bike Ride Across Iowa). The Des Moines Register sponsors it. The ride is always west to east and the route changes every year. It’s a 7 day, approx 500 bike ride across the state with a party every night. Link:
    We used to do it when our kids were in HS and college. Super fun and great way to meet Iowa people.
    Speaking of the corn fields…one year I rode to the top of the hill to see this guy with a New York Bike Jersey on staring off across the corn fields. I stopped to talk and he said it was the most beautiful view he had ever seen — he grew up in NYC and really had never been to the country before.


  2. I should also point out how the Children’s Hospital overlooks the Iowa’s Football field, and they recognize the patients during some games:
    Super Cool!


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