Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Another Road Trip

I love road trips. I'll pinpoint a destination, but tend not to map out the route on these journeys. Once I get my bearings, I'll head in that general direction, exploring as I go along. The beautiful thing about traveling Iowa is the Jeffersonian grid which lays out our roads in a north/south and east/west orientation every mile. These farm-to-market roads are a great way to see the landscape up close and personal. The interstate roadway system is convenient for fast passage, but the road less traveled never disappoints, and more often, reveals incredible moments of being.

The header for my blog was snapped on St. Patrick's Day of this year. I had traveled to Iowa City during Spring Break to have lunch with my son, then take him to the airport to catch a flight to Washington D.C. (And yes, the interstate was my choice for this leg of the trip because of the time crunch with his flight!) His sister was in Orlando on a high school band trip and, in fairness, his father bought him a ticket to D.C. for his Spring Break to visit friends going to school on the east coast.

As I headed back home later that afternoon, I purposefully avoided the interstate for this leg of the journey. It was an incredibly warm day for March 17th, a truly memorable day, in fact. The windows were down and the music was cranked; Adele was singing me home. I was heading north-northwest when I glanced out the window and caught sight of the shadow MINI tooling along beside me. I picked up the camera and started snapping pics. This one popped up on the screen as I was downloading pics later in the week. No question, this would be my new header foto. Does anyone out there recognize this landscape, or one similar???? It is an agricultural field. This is the Midwest! But more importantly, this is an ag field in a vast flood plain of a large river system.

I am currently a student at Iowa Lakeside Lab, a field study lab, taking a course in hydrology and surficial processes. Our prof is a soils scientist, who also lectures in geology and glacial processes. Classes begin at 8 AM - Monday through Friday. We break for a one-hour lunch, then head out for 4 hours of road trip! studying those theories, processes, and landforms talked about in that morning's lecture. What a blast! We rarely take the main road. Back roads at slow speed with an incredibly knowledgeable person as our tour guide. All learning should be conducted this way. Understand that this is complicated stuff and most of what is happening takes place under the surface of the landscape. We search for clues as to what is going on; we study maps of soil series and topography that reveal watershed basins. We discuss the possibilities and explore further until we figure out the processes and materials both before us and under our feet.

Prof says that we see what we know; everyday I see more and more. I am truly grateful for the opportunity to study with this professor here at Iowa Lakeside Lab. As a grad student in Landscape Architecture, this is important stuff and my department does not teach this, so I have taken the road less traveled and am experiencing some incredible moments of being here on the landscape.


  1. Your descriptive road trips bring to mind a book I read some 25 years ago. Blue Highways by William Least Heat-Moon. With your love of the earth you might also be interested in Prairie Earth, by the same author. It's a large, slow reading, but wonderful, book about the history of 1 small tract of land in Kansas.

  2. Thanks, Gigi, I'll follow up with the book suggestions.

    Yes, Mary, this is my new mantra-it makes all the sense in the world. And, yes, I will update on this blog for all interested in my adventures at Lakeside Labs, here at the IA Great Lakes!