Observations from a trip out East


Another time I realized I wasn’t in Iowa any more while I was traveling out East early this month was when we were driving in six lanes of pretty solid traffic in the Boston area. I was thankful not to be behind the wheel of our rental car. My traveling companion lives in Atlanta and deals with serious traffic on a daily basis, so she was calm and collected that day.

We were driving into Boston for brunch. The road signs were posted at regular intervals telling us how much farther to the city. Not the same as Iowa, these signs gave mileage and as well as minutes. When I noticed the sign that read “15 minutes, 36 miles to Boston,” I knew for sure that this wasn’t Iowa.

Here, generally the number of miles to somewhere is the same as the minutes it takes to get there. We know that a 30-mile trip takes about a half-hour, for instance. Of course that’s different when you’re driving in a more populated, congested area.

When I was growing up, it seems to me that I always heard the adults talking about distance in miles, not minutes or hours. But that has changed, and now we describe a trip in terms of the time it takes to make it, as in “I commute a half-hour each way for my job.” Even though it’s unsaid, we know that such a commute is about thirty miles in most places in Iowa.

Another thing I noticed again on my trip is just how young our state really is. When you drive through a town out East with a sign along the highway that reads: “Stillwater, incorporated 1816,” you understand better that Iowa really is quite new to things.

The same with cemeteries. I saw many cemeteries with old, faded stones, many of them listing to one side from the ravages of time and weather. The cemeteries I noticed on this trip didn’t always have signage and dates, but I remember one with this sign at the gate: “Island Hill Cemetery. Established 1806.”

Other signs I took note of on my driving tour included: “Fourth Lake.” (I wonder where lakes one through three are?)

“Half-Mile Lake.” (Does that refer to the distance to get there, or the length of the lake?)

“Peaceful Valley” is one sign I really liked because it just sounded like such a welcoming, peaceful place. What a nice name for a town. I wonder if it really is peaceful there.

All of this got me thinking about what St. Augustine wrote: “The world is a book, and those who do not travel read only a page.”