*1952 Iowa liscense plate from www.deerrunmercantile.com
For those who live either on the East or West Coasts, still believing that we Iowans only live on farms surrounded by huge fields of corn, I have some news for you. We don't. I have lived in Iowa since 1992 and have yet to walk a corn field!
I have some further news. If, by chance, you thought the Mississippi River ran in a straight line North and South, launching from Western Minnesota then slicing a trail through the middle of the country to the Gulf of Mexico, I am about to re-educate you.
Here in Davenport, Iowa, the Mighty Mississippi runs East and West!
As you can see, this is the only place where that Ol' Man River takes such a surprising turn. And let me tell you, when you are new to what is called the Quad-Cities, this can play havoc with one's sense of direction!
For instance, I live in Davenport, which is north of Rock Island. So, if one is driving along the river say toward Davenport, one feels like they are going north, when in fact, the direction one is traveling is west!
Upon first moving in the QCA (as we affectionately call this place), I had a terrible time figuring directions. Told that a certain place was "west of here," I would invariably drive North. Of course, this meant driving some distance before realizing this, then, trying to negotiate the one-ways in order to turn around. (Remind me to write about what I really think of the city planners who turned perfectly good two-way streets into one-ways!)
One can tell the Quad-Cities newbies by their drive times.
However, over the years, I have come to learn both how to get around, as well as, the wonderful surprise presented by this Ol' River of ours. For, to me, the Mississippi has become a metaphor for my life here.
How and why the river flows as it does here is, to me, a mystery. And I, like so many others, lived with the perception that the "great river" traversed only north and south. Just as I lived with the perception that Iowans were hayseed corn farmers.
Little did I know that I would live in an area that boasts a rich music history that features legendary jazz greats such as Bix Beiderbecke, or that houses the wonderful Figge Art Museum. Nor did I realize that every year on the last weekend in July, some of the finest runners in the world come to compete in the Bix 7 race. A race that, this year, featured over 18 thousand participants.
We are home to some pretty progressive stuff. Included in this list is our River Music Experience which is home to a steady stream of world-class musicians and artists from around the world. There is so much more here than meets the eye.
*photo courtesy of flicker
Turns out that for me, living in the Quad-Cities has been full of unimagined twists and turns.
Life will surprise us. Rivers take journeys that one could never have imagined. Places are not at all what they are perceived to be. People don't fall into some neatly tied up bundle of categories and myths.
Sitting by the Ol' River and watching it flow from east to west always serves as a pleasant reminder.
Come. Sit with me. Let's see what surprises await us.