Most New Englanders have a poor sense of geography. We have always had difficulty distinguishing between the states west of the Connecticut River (technically, Vermont is a New England state, but it is inhabited chiefly by New Yorkers and people who pronounce the letter “r” oddly). We New Englanders know vaguely that there are Appalachian mountains, then a big flat place where they grow corn and soybeans and all the states have names that begin with vowels, and then west of that there are mountains and deserts and big square states. We pity those New Englanders who have to go live in California, because they will be so very far from the ocean.
Corn and soybeans along Interstate 80 in Illinois
Today, Carol and I drove through flat states whose names begin with vowels. We started driving this morning in Ohio, drove through northern Indiana, across midstate Illinois, and then across the Mississippi River into Iowa.
Crossing the Mississippi River along Interstate 80
The landscape was fairly flat in Ohio, sloping gently down towards Lake Erie; it was heavily developed south of Chicago, covered with industrial buildings, big box stores, and housing developments; it was fairly flat through midstate Illinois but even here it rolled gently; and here in Iowa, the landscape consists of low, rolling hills with winding creeks in the valleys between the hills. In short, the landscape is far more diverse than New Englanders think it is.
We are spending the night just south of the Amana Colonies in Iowa. We had some Schild Brau Amber lager beer at dinner, brewed locally by the Millstream Brewing Company. Carol comes from Iowa, and as we walked around, she said it felt somehow familiar: the cicadas, the fireflies, the silos half hidden behind the low hills, the fields of corn. And tomorrow we will continue driving across the flat states, getting farther and farther from the ocean.