Friday, August 26, 2011

the hills of Iowa make me wish that I could

Rock Branch Farm - 1880
(Photo taken by TumblingRun on Flickr)

We just returned from a family trip to Iowa.   I'll admit that Iowa is a state I hadn't given much thought to.  I've never driven through it on any of my cross country trips, nor have I ever had even an airport layover there.  I figured it would be hot, flat, and full of corn.  Friends of mine moved there several years ago from Seattle, and I didn't really understand it.

But now I get it.  It's a really pretty state.  We drove from Des Moines to Cedar Rapids and saw a lot of corn, of course, but the land was so pretty and green  It's not like Seattle where buildings and streets and new subdivisions are crammed into tiny spaces.  There are lots of trees and hills, so not nearly as flat as I expected.

I will admit that our restaurant experiences were not so great - a lot of pan-fried, deep-fried and more fried stuff made me CRAVE fresh vegetables by the end of our trip.  Though I did learn that a 'tenderloin' there is a battered, deep-fried piece of pork on a bun.

But the rundown looking Hy-Vee grocery store near our hotel had a HUGE organic/natural foods section rivaling any respectable Seattle grocery and had several different brands of soy milk including T's favorite Soy Dream.  In fact, they had the soy yogurt and soy cheese I have to go to Whole Foods to get here in Redmond.  And even more shocking were the prices.  A 1 pound box of Barilla pasta was $1.50.  I'm pretty sure we pay close to $3 for it in Seattle.   A pound of *organic* grapes was $2 (!).  Zoiks.

And I figured that I'd get a lot of leery looks of the "you ain't from around here" type that were pretty frequent when I was working in Butte, MT.   But no!  There were brown people everywhere and more than a few mixed-race couples with kids.  There were other Asians, too.  Not *quite* as diverse as Seattle, but not nearly as far off as I expected.

So, if I were performance reviewing our trip, I'd say it "exceeded expectations".  We had fun with family, T got some grandparent and auntie-time, and my misconceptions about the state of Iowa melted away quicker than soy cheese in a quesadilla.  We could have done without T's vomiting incident on the plane, likely brought on by the Denver airport Mesa Verde Grill totally disregarding our allergy questions/instructions.  (Another time I was glad T's reaction to dairy is likely not anaphylactic.)

It also turns out I have a bunch of people in my Facebook friends list that have some connection to Iowa - family is from there, they were born there, used to live there, etc.  Who knew?

Our friends in Des Moines live close to a brand new huge shopping area that reminds me a lot of the ones you see in Phoenix.  It has a Trader Joe's and I'm pretty sure I saw a Starbucks.  And it turns out Microsoft is building a datacenter nearby.  Us living in Iowa?  Never say never...


  1. David and I never thought we could leave CA until, uh, we left. Turns out there are lots of nice places to live that don't feature super high costs of living. Who knew? The house we moved into has twice as much space as our house in Northern CA had, on a half-acre lot, is 15 minutes from where David works (not 1hr+), and cost half as much.

    I was a little afraid of snow and seasons, but it turns out that the kids love to ski (and when you're not spending all your money on the mortgage, you have some left over for skiing!). Groceries and the like were the surprise for me, too - *everything* is a bit cheaper.

    We were moving away from family, though. It sucks a little to be far from grandparents, but overall moving to UT has been a fabulous choice for our family.

  2. PS - importing a salary from a high cost of living area to a place with lower cost of living is great, too.

  3. @Stephanie - I didn't realize you weren't from UT! What made you pick it specifically? D's job?

  4. David and I both grew up in Southern California, most of the family is there but I have a sister in Northern California and a brother who's moved to Houston.

    We picked UT for David's job and the housing market. Our house in CA had gone up in value and homes in our neighborhood that were selling were getting rented out - that felt a little "bubbly" to us, with owners hoping for further appreciation (rents wouldn't cover mortgages). I can't say we saw the housing meltdown coming (we briefly considered renting our CA house, but that would have been really hard from out of state), but between thinking that our house was probably overvalued, looking at what houses cost in UT where David's company had another office, and David's commute, we decided to move.

    It was a little scary, but I found the other homeschooling moms quickly (they're online!) and our neighborhood is awesome. That was a bit of luck, but also I think most people are nice.

  5. There are over 20 Starbucks in the metro area (including the ones at Hy-Vee!) If you ever make it out again I'd be happy to show you any and all of them. :-)

    So nice to see you and the family when you were here. Take good care.

  6. @Shannon, I look forward to that. I'm so glad I got to see you guys *and* the kiddos. You guys look like you're having a lot of fun!

  7. My brother went to college in Iowa and I went to grad school there (kind of, long story)'s very different than Seattle, but it can be really wonderful.

  8. Wow, had no idea Iowa had so much to offer. My husband had a case there and was living there for months. I used to fly back and forth on weekends. We were apparently in the uncool city in Iowa (I want to say DesMoines <<< Iowa City, but I may have that backwards, it's been years). Glad you had a fun trip there, but please keep Austin at the top of your move-to list ;)


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