On the face of it, one does not necessarily have to take a lot of time getting from Iowa to Minnesota. The two states are right next to each other, after all, and one can simply fly through Iowa, by no means a large state, in only a few hours. But why do that when you can explore the state a little, and so that is what I did today. As I write this, I am in Mankato, Minnesota, a small town of a bit more than 50,000 people that is famous for one thing, and that is its role in the Sioux War where 38 Dakota were put to death for their role in the Sioux War of 1862-1863. The city has a reconciliation park where poems seek for forgiveness for all and seek to honor the war dead who were in fact war criminals. That is the sort of thing that piques my interest as a traveler, to see a place and to ponder why it is there and what it has to say about itself.
So how was it that I made it from Sioux City, Iowa, to Mankato, Minnesota, and why? It might seem surprising, but there were quite a few stops today, though most of them were not for very long at all. After leaving the hotel in Sioux City the first stop I made was to the Mid-America Aviation Museum near the airport there, but it was closed as it was only open from noon to four on Fridays and Saturdays, and so I talked a bit outside the closed gate and went on my merry way to lunch. After lunch we ended up stopping at a few places in Des Moines, the capital of Iowa. We saw the hospital near the Quaker church where HWA attended services for the first part of his life, and then went to his high school, as it was on the way to the capital grounds. On those grounds there were a great deal of monuments of considerable historical interest, besides a beautiful view of the skyscrapers downtown.
On the way to Minnesota we stopped at Clear Lake, a small town along the way, and while my mom rested I looked at a monument to Iowans who fought in the Battle of Pleasant Hill and then went to a lovely but small community garden that had butterflies as well as a wide variety of local Iowa flora. Though the stops were quirky they were quick and also lovely. After that it was on the way to Minnesota, staying to the south so far and avoiding the more problematic areas in the cities. Minnesota’s countryside, like that of the Great Plains and Upper Midwest in general, is beautiful, although so far each of the states has been beautiful in its own way. And though I must say I found Mankato’s memorial rather off-putting, I was definitely intrigued by the beauty of the city and the way it reminded me of Oregon City’s combination of a city by a river and later construction on the bluffs above.
Perhaps the weirdest observation I made today was something that was not planned at all, but something I just happened to repeatedly notice. Both about ninety miles or so west of Des Moines and then about thirty minutes or so north of the city, I was driving on freeways where I was buzzed by low-flying Cessnas that were flying fast, nearly at the highway level, and making sharply banked turns. This seemed rather reckless to me and I was wondering what was going on, as it seemed to be happening often enough that it could not have been accidental. What were these pilots trying to do? I love solving a good mystery, after all.