>South to Iowa City


This is the first time on this tour we have actually backtracked, right down the same track, I-35. And I find I don’t mind.The town of Albert Lea stuck in my head anyway, or actually the Albert Lea rest stop on I-35 N, and I am happy to pass by it again. When did you last learn something at a rest stop? Well, at Albert Lea rest stop I learned that all this part of the prairie was Dry Oak Savanna. Now I what I see out the window I look at differently.

This name, Blooming Prairie? It’s a misnomer. This cleared land, whatever is grown on it and god bless the work, is a replacement for a magnificent oak forest that bloomed across the prairie as far as the eye could see.

I have always been intrigued by these little islands of domesticity in these vast fields. In the Winter they are even more touching. Thanks to Albert Lea rest stop, I am seeing something new.

These are islands of original prairie, with their Dry Oak forests. Think about that. Original prairie. And the are marked with little dots on a map at the Albert Lea rest stop.

We cross the Cedar River into Cedar Rapids, en route to Mount Vernon.

Why Mount Vernon? Because the Lincoln Cafe has such a great reputation? No, because my nephew Marco is entering Cornell College, Mount Vernon Iowa this Fall. Stay for a short tour of the campus.

Could we have visited on a more beautiful day? We took a back road from Mount Vernon to Iowa City, through Solon, and the area reminded John and me so much of upstate New York. It makes sense since New York State’s heyday was the 1850’s when Cornell was started. Now I’ll be able to picture you, Marco!

How’s this for fancy? Iowa City!? Hotel Vetro. Fabulous decor, huge bathtub, lackluster Reception. A short walk around the block in the third city to be designated a City of Literature by UNESCO. (the other three?http://news-releases.uiowa.edu/2008/november/112008unesco.html). Prairie Lights shines in this context. a beautiful store that managed to turn out a lot of Sayles fans even after the Exodus: Iowa University just went on vacation.

They only have that one Prairie Lights sign in the window.

I always feel bad for the worker who has to man the cash register when the reading is going on in another part of the store.

The reading space is in a bright upstairs room and Paul does a passionate, funny introduction. He is a great John Sayles fan and is not afraid one little bit of John’s politics. John reads “Wild Ride” which about Hogan’s Army, the Western arm of Coxey’s Army. Lost? Read the book!

It was sweet-bittersweet to meet Mary, sister of Cora Bennett who was our pal Adam Lefevre’s wife.

And this lady (Barbara?) has been reading my blog, this blog, so of course I include her picture.

Nick from the Iowa Review wants to publish something of John’s. Paul and John are being funny. At dinner after I wished I was back at Lucia’s. I am starting to remember how well-and healthily- we eat at home.

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