Minnesota Prairie Roots

Writing and photography by Audrey Kletscher Helbling

Scenes from the road in Iowa June 8, 2017

Filed under: Uncategorized — Audrey Kletscher Helbling @ 5:00 AM
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Westbound from Illinois into Iowa along Interstate 80. Minnesota Prairie Roots file photo May 2016.


IN IOWA EXISTS a comfortable familiarity for me. It’s not that I’ve explored much of this state, except the northern fringes. But Iowa feels like a friendly next door neighbor or cousin, the ruralness of this land creating an instant bond.







For in Iowa—the Iowa I’ve seen—the lay of the land, the length of the sky, the scenes of barns and fields and small towns connect to my rural southwestern Minnesota roots.



I feel at home in Iowa, the place that is often the butt of Minnesota jokes. Outside the Twin Cities metro and the lakes and woods of northern Minnesota, our landscape mostly duplicates that of our southern neighbor.


The world’s largest truck stop, with eight restaurants, a movie theater, dentist and much more, has been open near Walcott off I-80 in eastern Iowa since 1964.


It’s OK to admit you like Iowa. Some of my favorite trips have been to Iowa communities—Clear Lake, Mason City, Decorah, McGregor, Marquette and Dubuque. These towns possess character and hold natural and historic interest for me.


Iowa 80, the world's largest truck stop.

Iowa 80, the world’s largest truck stop.


You know you’re in America’s agricultural heartland when you see a billboard advertising Pioneer seed.



Sometimes we need to step outside our boxes of preconceived ideas about a place and simply explore. Leave the metro and drive a gravel road, stop in a small town, delight in the simplicity of a rural landscape. Iowa and many parts of Minnesota are more than the middle of nowhere. If we choose to slow down, we begin to notice the nuances that define a place, that make it worth our time to visit and to appreciate.


TELL ME: If you’ve traveled to Iowa, what community would you suggest visiting and why? Or, if you haven’t been there, tell me what a visitor should see in your state or country?

© Copyright 2017 Audrey Kletscher Helbling

NOTE: All images were taken in late May 2016 on a return trip from Minnesota to Boston.


27 Responses to “Scenes from the road in Iowa”

  1. Beth Ann Says:

    Definitely a visit to Mason City is in order. With all of the Frank Lloyd Wright architecture, sculpture walks, Music Man Square and more there is more than enough to spend time seeing.

  2. shalini Says:

    Learning new things from your post…

  3. treadlemusic Says:

    Iowa is always a destination for me/us! No surprise. But it usually involves a quilt shop/restaurant focus….that narrows the driving “purpose” a tad! Each town has its personality and most could fall into the category of “cozy” (regardless of size, although I really must exclude Des Moines on this one!). Even the larger towns/cities seem to bring to the fore the genuineness, friendly traits so often thought of when thinking of the Midwest. Such towns as Pella, Cresco, Independance, Waverly, Oelwein, Estherville, Forest City, etc, etc, all have something that distinguishes them…even in a small subtle way.

  4. Your photos tug on my heart to live where there are miles and miles of rural living and room to breathe. Although we live in a small rural area, the norm is shopping centers, buildings and traffic, traffic, traffic. Thanks for sharing your scenes from Iowa.

  5. Don Says:

    Oh Audrey, you’ve done it again……………..HOMESICK affliction……………………

    Iowa places to visit, Spirit Lake/Okoboji area.

  6. therandomblogofirreverentthoughts Says:

    Australian, living in Canada here (actually Canadian now). I’ve been to Iowa a few times. Rows of corn, run down barns, dirt roads. I like it. Lots of good scenery. Check out Des Moines for a modern funky kind of city in the mid-west.

  7. Missy's Crafty Mess Says:

    I haven’t spent a lot of time in Iowa but those farms remind me of home.

  8. ljhlaura Says:

    I live in Texas, and even I know what you mean about the “comfortable familiarity” of Iowa. Both sides of my family are from Iowa, so I made a lot of summer visits as a child. Researching the family history has allowed me to explore still further. Northeast Iowa is beautiful, and I enjoy Decorah. Have you ever tried the Tulip Festivals in Orange City (northwest) or Pella (east of Des Moines)? I’ve never been to the Amana Colonies, but perhaps that’s another option.

  9. Iowa looks so serene and beautiful. These photos definitely make me want to visit! Thanks for sharing 🙂

  10. mamaboss9091 Says:

    Not only have I been there but I lived there for 7 years. I still have can’t there and am visiting in December for Christmas. I highly suggest going to Mt. Pleasant during Old Threasurs time. It’s amazing. A great childhood memory of mine.

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