Archive for the ‘Sunsets’ Category

A nostalgic meander through northeast Iowa is my idea of a great road trip. The countryside is so lush, hilly and peaceful it almost feels like I’m in Ireland, the Smokey Mountains or northern Wisconsin. The farmland is not planted from road-to-road like it seems to be in Illinois but instead has graceful stands of timber and contour crop plantings.

When we drove down the very first gravel road that we lived on right out of college, we were kind of stunned at how really rural it is. Jim’s first job right after graduation from UNI in Cedar Falls was at the small school district of Elkader, IA, with the fifth grade located all by itself in a teeny, tiny town called Littleport that has since been taken away in a Turkey River flood. I didn’t see a single new house along the road that is 14 miles outside of Elkader, the county seat of Clayton County.

We had two little girls and only one car so most days the three of us were at home finding ways to amuse ourselves. The home was part of a group of three and also part of a large dairy operation. After applying fresh paint in fruity colors to every single room, we were just thrilled to have much more room than we had in married student housing in college. Jim and I did this work on the first warm, summer evenings with our lights beckoning the gnats to fly in and get stuck in our fresh paint. He came home from his summer job surveying new roads for the county, ate supper and then helped me paint.

Our time in Elkader, while short, seemed to have a big impact on our lives. There I learned to plant a vegetable garden, took a pottery class and became involved with the wonderful group that have kept the historic Opera House alive and beautiful. We learned how dairy farms operate and had four litters of little kitties (in just one year) to give away to Jim’s students.

Our road-trip plans included a stay at the Country Inn and Suites in Prairie du Chien but made a spontaneous switch when we came across the Landing, a newly-remodeled inn right on the Mississippi in historic Guttenberg. There we sat on the patio glider and watched orioles, a bald eagle, a river otter and a plethora of boats and barges coming through lock and dam number 10. It was infinitely more interesting than our first choice.

I added another sixteen miles last night to watch a frequently-changing sky. I knew I needed to be home by the end of the Blackhawks game, though. I’ve had my eye on these old trucks as we fly through Eleroy on hiway 20 and had a vision on how to use them to create an image. Unfortunately, I just don’t have access to any others. I try to take new roads while looking for these shots so I turned right on Salem Rd, north out of Eleroy. This road turns into something that almost parallels highway 20 and I’ve never been down it before. I discovered this beautiful little church with the steeple rising into the western sky and perched on the top is a lighted cross. So pretty! Then, across from the church is a cornfield, of course, but also one of those historic wood buildings with peeling paint that are becoming increasingly difficult to find. The windows aren’t all boarded up (frequently a disappointment with old buildings) and it appears to have the original paned windows AND doors – what a sweet surprise.

Had a really hard time making myself stay within my one-hour time limit tonight. Golden sun, 72 perfect degrees with both windows rolled down, driving back and forth on Lily Creek Road so I could get the Twins shot. Most of the rest of my 12 miles was spent on Van Brocklyn and Bolton. I think these are my favorites. Sunset tonight was at 8:31.