When I was growing up, living in Michigan, I was often of the impression that Iowa, in it’s entirety, was a great land of flatness. What I didn’t realize, is that in our semi annual trips to Mason City (of which we always drove), I was often asleep as we traveled across the Mississippi River, and mostly remember the back highways and rows of corn that would be outside my window for what seemed like an eternity along the I-80 corridor, followed by a maze of 2 lane roads snaking up through dozens of small towns eventually finding ourselves in the area we would be visiting (basically a few miles short of Minnesota). This, of course, was before the Avenue of the Saints decreased our drive time by several hours, simultaneously allowing us to “skip” all the small towns, much like the railroads of the past. As much as I liked the shorter drive, I kind of missed the little towns.
In 2002 I moved to Iowa and lived in the Mason City area for a few years. What I soon started discovering is that the Northeast corner of Iowa is rich with beauty, intrigue and unlimited potential for exploring, if you have the time and the means. I have, since 2007, found myself living in Nashua (you know, the one with that “Little Brown Church”), from which I have explored this part of the State, in several capacities.
I have spent a great many hours kayaking the Cedar and Little Cedar Rivers, and more than that, hiking the trails in the northeast at Effigy Mounds, Pikes Peak and Strawberry Point. As great as all those places are and great quality of people I meet, I find greater passion in exploring this corner of Iowa on my bicycle. In the summer, I ride about 150 miles a week on average, pedaling through small towns, meeting people, checking out the little unique things of each of these places that many people would otherwise pass by unless they were specifically looking for it. It’s kind of like RAGBRAI, but all the time.
As for my childhood memories of Iowa being the “great flat land”, I was clearly uneducated and confused (and at that point had never been to Nebraska*). For the visitor you can expect that as you leave Nashua you will already begin to see the land changing, getting higher and hillier, and by the time you leave West Union the hills become greater, the views become as spectacular as the Rocky Mountains, and the culture is that of one welcoming community after another. My hope is that I can share with you some of these stories, the experiences both good and bad, but most importantly; I want to show you as least one part of Iowa that you never expected. I will sometimes have pictures, but when I ride, I usually don’t take a camera. I will do my best to paint a picture of words and leave the rest to your imagination.
*For any Nebraskan’s that take offense, I acknowledge that your state has many great naturally beautiful places and certainly worthy of a visit, however most of my travels through your state are on I-80 which is very flat.