Sunday, August 22, 2010

Iowa - Summer 2010

After my wonderful experience in Iowa in the winter of 2008 for the Iowa Caucuses I fell in love with the state. Long open spaces, quaint old barns, gigantic grain storage units, nice people, cows… Then the ground was all covered with snow and I had to rush in and out of the car shielding myself from cold winds. The icy white was beautiful, but I knew Iowa was known for another season and another ground covering, so I decided to go back during corn and soybean season to drive through the rolling hills of green and gold and to attend the famous Iowa State Fair this summer.

I’m pleased to say this trip was as good as the first. Coming from New York, at times my eyes crave wide open spaces, full open blue skies, puffy white clouds and the friendlier slower pace of a non-urban place. Iowa has all that in spades along with swaths of wind energy turbines whose slow rotations can calm even the most stressed out soul.

It’s funny to think that miles and miles of corn stalks can be so soothing and endlessly mesmerizing, but at least for me it’s true. I spent days with my forehead right up to the window staring at the deep greens and shimmering gold. Then just when I needed a break an old barn would appear and show the glorious farming history in its weather worn exterior.

I know nothing about farming but am always curious so I look at tractors, grain sheds and gigantic irrigation rigs with immense curiosity. I even made Rick, my host and tour guide, pull off the road so I could check out a hog confinement, where they were fattening up 1000s of pigs. Iowans can’t believe I’d want to stop, but I needed to see what it looked like and say a few hellos to the pigs who seemed very happy to have a visitor.

Photos from the Iowa State Fair

For more commentary, check out my Facebook photo slide show.

Iowa State Fair

So perhaps you are wondering why I chose to spend my summer vacation in Iowa. First and foremost, its Iowa State Fair season. And why did I want to go to the fair, you ask? Well did you know that it’s the only US state fair to make the list “1000 Things to do Before You Die.” It’s so great that Rodgers and Hammerstein's wrote "State Fair", the musical about it. They claim to have 50 foods on sticks and discovering them is the kind of travel challenge I like. Oh and yes, I have two friends there who I wanted to visit and this seemed like the perfect time to come.

Visiting the fair meant plenty of time to see prize livestock. There were enormous bulls (the biggest is the size of a small minivan and 3500 lbs!!!) and hogs (the largest is 1500lbs - lots of bacon there!); Aisles of cows, sheep, goats and horses; Chickens with wild tufts of feathers that made them look more like lions than birds. I particularly decided to focus on pigs since I’ve always been partial to them and wasn’t able to find their barn at the New York State Fair a few years ago and have wanted to see them since. Also Iowa is a proud pork producing state so as the saying goes... when in Rome...

(Did you know that pigs are smart and interactive? Did you know they wag their tails and love to be scratched between their ears and quickly close their eyes in complete happiness when given a little attention?)

It also meant wandering through rows of huge farm equipment and being able to get the feel of sitting behind the wheel on big tractors. It meant rows of 4-H winners in sewing, baking, science and design. It meant learning about breeding in the baby animal building where chicks are hatched and baby pigs, sheep, goats and cows all cozily sat with their moms. It meant taking big rides and eating fried food on sticks. My favorites were pork chop on a stick, salad on a stick and deep fried Twinkie on a stick. My goal was to eat as many things as possible and I made it through 16 items. Unfortunately I missed deep friend cheesecake and chocolate covered cheesecake, fried bologna, pickles on a stick and many more. I guess it means I have to back next year! All in all, it was just that fun that it warrants a trip back some time!

Thanks Iowa for the good times.

If you are interested in my previous musings about Iowa from my trip in the winter of 2007-08 click below to reach the post.

Cordelia Hits the Heartland