Recently, I read a friend’s blog post and was reminded of how entirely different my day to day life is from many of my friends who live in the city. It got me thinking back to when I first moved to Northeast Iowa and of my first impressions.
I grew up in Rice Lake, WI which had a population of 8,000 during my childhood years. There were lakes, plenty of trees, fishing, wooded resorts, dairy farms, and supper clubs. I grew up going to family fish fries, camping (real camping-in a tent in the woods) swimming in the lake, and watching the Packers play at family gatherings (or rather, watching all of my male relatives watch the Packers play). Our family had a long gravel driveway and our ranch house was surrounded by trees. We had a bear and a squirrel in our house on separate occasions if that paints a clearer picture of just how wooded our surroundings were.
We loved to ride our bikes down the country roads and build forts outside. Picking up sticks in the yard and raking piles of leaves were not so much favorites. We did however, take the family cat on a thrilling sled ride down a giant pile of leaves we used to dump over a hillside into the woods.
My dad would get drawn to hunt in Northeast Iowa from time to time. I heard once that this area of the midwest is supposed to be some of the best hunting in America. He used to joke that we would move to Iowa someday. I didn’t think that we actually would.
I was 14 when my dad got a job in Postville, IA. I pictured myself as Laura Ingalls Wilder travelling across the flat prairie of what I pictured would be my new terrain. I was pleasantly surprised to discover that this was not the case, at least in the part of Iowa we would be settling in.
I did, however come across a few interesting landmarks and businesses:
This cowboy statue in Waukon, IA, which was my home for all of high school. Waukon also has the only traffic light in all of Allamakee county.
I couldn’t find any other photos, but if you look really closely, the name of this gas station is “Hubba Hubba.” Also in Waukon, IA.
The Whippy Dip-similar to DQ, located in Decorah, IA, a neighboring town.
My husband and I both lived in Ames, IA for a few years before getting married. Matt had moved to Ames to go to DMACC in nearby Ankeny and I had transferred to Iowa State University located in Ames my sophomore year of college.
It was nearing the end of the summer of my junior year of college and Matt decided to take a job back home in Northeast Iowa in West Union working for his friend’s father at a water softening and conditioning business. After we were engaged and I finished my senior year at ISU, I moved back as well. We were married in September 2012 and decided to plant our roots in Elgin, IA.
Elgin has a population of about 700 people. Downtown there is a library, post office (open for 1 hour on Saturdays), grocery store, hardware store, bank, hair salon, one restaurant, a bar, a consignment store, a car dealership, an auto shop, an energy resources business, a few historical preservation type shops, and a few unoccupied buildings. Realistically, what more could you really need?
I see the following on a regular basis on my way to work:
Shopping, music, restaurants, and entertainment all look very different here compared to more populated areas. Even the most basic of stores, i.e. Wal-Mart, is an hour’s drive away. It is not uncommon for a friend to ask, “I’m going to Wal-Mart, do you need anything?”
Our latest music scene involved a town wide musical performed in our town square of sorts.Star’s Hollow anyone? Sometimes music can be heard playing from the tower:
We have one restaurant downtown and a few others in neighboring towns. My husband loves ordering take out from West Union’s China Kitchen. Once a year our church holds an apple fritter fry for pastor appreciation…it doesn’t get much more country than that 😉
As far as entertainment, we go to the movies from time to time. There is a main feature movie theatre in downtown Elkader or a theatre with a larger selection in Decorah, home to Luther College.
Recreation for us may mean a walk, run, or bike ride on the beautiful trail laid out between Elgin and Clermont. When I get a chance, I like to take our daughter Taya on stroller rides around town or on the trail. We are surrounded by God’s beautiful creation!
Here are a few pictures I took on the trail a couple summers ago:
Otherwise, we pretty much just share meals and hang out with friends and their kids in each other’s homes. One of the first things I noticed when moving to Iowa were the deep, genuine relationships people have with each other here. Hospitality is not in short order and there is an all around slower pace to life. People don’t seem to be as consumed with having it all.
My husband spent the first five years of his life in Fort Worth, Texas. I asked him one day not long ago, “What would it be like as a kid, to grow up in Northeast Iowa?” At the time I was picturing a childhood void of much other than playing outside near a corn field. I don’t think we have much to worry about though. Here’s a URL link (my current blog plan does not allow me to post videos) to a recent video of our daughter, Taya swinging in the neighborhood park across from her nana’s house and LOVING it 🙂