A Kernel of Industry

Wednesday, October 19, 2011 Road Junkies 0 Comments

Boxing in the Heartland, Day 6

DUBUQUE, Iowa —  It's impossible to drive through the state of Iowa and not develop an interest in corn.  You're surrounded by it.  And we're not talking about the Republican Presidential candidates' slogans and promises.  Driving along some Iowa roads, all you can see are huge corn fields.  Corn on the right, corn on the left.  Everywhere, corn.

With a projected crop of more than two billion bushels this year, Iowa is the top corn-producing state in the U.S. with Illinois coming in second and Nebraska, the cornhusker state, a distant third.  Iowa alone grows more than 17% of the U.S. corn crop.  In an average year, Iowa grows more corn than most nations.

Ethanol production consumes more than a third of Iowa's corn crop, with the remainder used mostly for feeding livestock and a small portion for human consumption.  Most of the harvesting is taking place this month.  As the large combines go through the fields, they strip the husks off each cob, remove the kernels from the ear, and return the husks and cobs to the field to enrich the soil.

Corn has been the dominant crop in Iowa for more than 150 years.  The state has just the right climate and soil to make it the perfect environment for corn production.  Due to improvements in agricultural techniques, Iowa farmers grow twice as much corn as they did 100 years ago.  With modern technology and methods, today's farmers are using only one-third of the acreage of those farmers in the early 1900s.

No doubt about it, we're seeing a bumper crop of corn being harvested in Iowa — everywhere we look.

ROAD NOISE:
  • What does today's drive-in theater owner do to bring in customers?  Have a tent night, as the Grand View Drive-In had earlier this month, according to the sign we passed today.
  • I have met the enemy and its name is pasta.  For the past two days, we had our main meal at lunch time.  Both days we were in smallish cities and the highest rated restaurants we found on Yelp were local Italian places.  On each day, I ate a pasta dish.  And on both days, I spent the afternoon fighting sleep like someone under heavy sedation.  Finally today I discovered that pasta contains a heavy dose of tryptophan, nature's sedating amino acid.  Lesson learned.
  • Ken has come up with a great way to obtain authentic tourist information and meet some locals at the same time.  At a restaurant, on the street, wherever and whenever the opportunity presents itself, he will ask a local resident to recommend the one place in town we should be certain to visit.  It has led to some interesting conversations and some helpful information.
  • Though we probably had a mild case of taphophilia before we started letterboxing, we have certainly become more affected.  Today we letterboxed in Aspen Grove Cemetery in Burlington where we learned about some interesting Iowans who are buried there.  A wise tradition we saw there was the practice of employing one large family name monument surrounded by a circle of small headstones for individual family members.  Doesn't that just look so cozy and friendly?

DAILY STATS:
  • Started in Burlington, IA; ended in Dubuque, IA
  • Miles driven:  172
  • States:  1 (IA )
  • Letterboxes:  9 found
  • Population of Aspen Grove Cemetery:  5,542
  • Tombstones in Aspen Grove featuring dog:  1
More Photos from Today

Corn
More corn
Still more corn
And more corn
Corn as far as the eye can see

Another Burlington church for sale
Great River Bridge, Burlington, IA
Faithful Companion at his master's grave

Aspen Grove Cemetery
Waiting to be harvested

Old Lime Kilns, Hurstville