A few years ago we were looking for something different in our search for 4-H calves – not necessarily the style and type of calf, but a different "shopping" experience. After finding an ad for a producer group holding individual sales near Manning, Iowa, taking a little trip to see the selection seemed like a great idea.
After a 9-hour drive, my husband turned to me and said: "That might have been about 4 hours longer drive than I was thinking!" Yet every year we return to western Iowa, at least twice, to select calves, pick up calves and sometimes just for fun!
Beginning this year we will travel to visit our oldest daughter, a freshman at Iowa State University! We could not be more pleased and I could not be more excited for more trips out there!
In our road trips I have learned we aren't your normal tourists and what we designate as landmarks during our journey sometimes makes people Google it to figure out exactly where we are. Who knew that not everyone uses Kinze Manufacturing as landmark?
Here's how we find our way to the middle of Iowa:
Jump on 74 West and put the hammer down. Once you see the first billboard for The Beef House you get a craving for a good steak. Now you know you are close to the Illinois-Indiana state line. The fields start to open up, and you better have your radio tuned to 99.1 FM WIXY classic country. This combination lets you know you are on the right track.
Once you hit the Illinois state line you take a deep sigh. At this point, things start out positive with comments like, "isn't it pretty?" or "can you imagine working in fields this big?" and "look how tall and green the corn is!"
This remark - and being about half way across the state of Illinois - will turn to the realization, "the grass (or corn in this case) is always greener on the other side of the fence (or state line in this case)."
If you hear the ever-popular remark, "If my ancestors' wagon wheels would have just lasted a week longer we might be farming here instead of in Indiana," that signifies that you are almost three-quarters of the way across Illinois.
You know you are really on the right track when every mile or so someone in the truck points out a new piece of John Deere equipment being hauled the opposite direction. As long you are catching glimpses of large John Deere dealerships, Pioneer and Dekalb seed plants, you're good to go!
We take note of the Illinois-Iowa border but our true landmark is the world's largest truck stop. It doesn't matter who you are – it piques your interest. Admit it!
Keep your truck pointed west and when you see the stack of grain carts and the folding planter you will know you have reached the next landmark – Kinze Manufacturing. Watching the planter fold fascinates kids and farmers of all ages!
Des Moines lets you know you are only miles from ISU and an hour and a half from Manning. Once to this point if headed to Manning you can enjoy two-lane and gravel roads and ditch the interstate!
When our time to return home is at hand, we follow the same directions in reverse, counting down the days until our next trip. I am a Hoosier in heart and soul, but open farm ground will always be near and dear to my heart no matter where it is.