Is this Heaven? No, it’s Iowa

iowa wind.jpgAndrew Huff via Flickr

One of the early answers to Today’s Question echoes a theme that we’ll probably see more of as the shutdown drags on:

“I am going to need a new job come November,” writes Maria Swora. “I was getting help through a workforce center. Now my career counselor is out of work. My need for a job is such that I am willing to relocate. If this drags on, I may have to.”

I never wanted to live anywhere except Minnesota. But last weekend I drove to Iowa and discovered a few features of life there that seemed suddenly … appealing. This may seem a mite premature, but just in case Minnesota never gets its groove back, shouldn’t we have a Plan B? Mine might be Iowa. Here are a few reasons that living there might not be so bad.

1. Wind energy. Almost as soon as you cross the state line, you get a glimpse of what turbines look like in a state that does wind power whole hog. Vast wind farms seem to stretch from one horizon to the other. Smaller turbines power individual homes and businesses here and there, and altogether the graceful machines produce as much as 20 percent of the state’s electricity.

2. A state budget surplus. Did you get that? A state budget surplus. (For the Minnesota reader, a state budget surplus occurs when the state government’s revenue exceeds its expenses – in other words, when it has enough money to meet all of its financial obligations and even has a bit left over.) Today’s commentary is an editorial from the Ames Tribune. Money quote, so to speak:

In fact, the Cyclone State is now sitting on a $480 million surplus. … the approved budget will use roughly half of that total, leaving about $265 million sitting in the bank at the end of fiscal year 2012. It’s important to note that this surplus is in addition to the state’s rainy day fund, which has a healthy $430 million in it.

3. The Decorah Eagles. If you spent the second quarter of 2011 watching the Raptor Resource Project’s webcam, you know what I mean. If not, start watching the project’s Facebook page now so you’ll have a comfortable perch when the next nesting season starts in the fall. You’ll never want to watch another reality show.

4. The Iowa caucuses. Voters in Iowa get first crack at the presidential contenders every four years. More often than that, actually; Jimmy Carter basically lived there for a year. The preliminary event, the Ames straw poll, is just a month away. In short, Iowa voters get all the attention from the national candidates that they could possibly want, and then some. Minnesota mostly gets ignored, except when a national political convention comes to town. But by then everybody’s mind is made up, anyway.

5. Grant Wood. If you Google “Iowa painter,” he pops right up in the first or second spot. If you Google “Minnesota painter,” you get a series of listings for house painters.

6. The Bridges of Madison County. There used to be 19 of them; today there are six. I haven’t seen them, but they must be pretty nice to be so famous.

This is a partial list. I didn’t even mention John Wayne’s birthplace, the Coralville Reservoir or the Iowa Writer’s Workshop. Let alone Nordic Fest at Luther College. And no, none of that is the equal of Minnesota, when Minnesota has its head screwed on straight. As it will, once again. Any day now.

  • 7. My best friends moved to Cedar Rapids a few months ago. They want me to move down there to join them.

  • Also, prohibition era whiskey (Templeton Rye) and legalized gay marriage.

    My mom’s family is Iowan, and my grandparents grew up around Carroll. I still have second-cousins there to this day. Trips there are always FUN.

    It’s certainly something to consider, ‘specially since Mason City isn’t too far away from the Cities.

  • And same sex unions…let’s not forget how progressive those Iowans can be when they see common sense.

  • Drae

    Someone should send this list to Californians. Now there is a state worth fleeing.

  • Heather

    If you end up in Mason City, may I suggest dinner at the Northwest Steakhouse? Get there early…

  • John P.

    I suppose, if I can still get a passport.

  • Cara

    But much of Iowa is flat and covered in corn. There are fewer National and State Parks than any other state.

  • lisa b (kruse-robles)

    OK – love the title.

    ….Considering the fact that I left California and moved here, well, I think we must have me to blame for this. There must be something in me that refuses to allow a state to flourish. Therefore, Iowan’s – I will spare you and not move there.

    Now, Sweden, on the other hand……..

  • Jess H

    I love Iowa City! So progressive! Lively arts community! And they get a decent amount of touring bands and exhibits.

    The personal finance blog The Simple Dollar ( frequently mentions how moving to cities and states with lower costs of living can save you lots of money. He’s based in Des Moines.

  • Tyler
  • Siri Erickson

    I was just in Iowa. Des Moines is a wonderful city. The State Parks are in terrible shape, though. The one we went to was really nasty. We could swim because there was so much goose poop on the beach and the bathrooms were closed. The DNR’s budget in Iowa has been significantly cut.

  • Siri Erickson

    That should be COULDN’T swim, in my previous post.

  • Mervin Williams

    Iowa is lame. Its totally flat, and covered in beef cattle lots and corn fields. Minnesota is naturally gorgeous by comparison. The shut-down will be over soon, because if its not, there will be rioting in the streets over it. I

  • TheMole179

    Regarding gay marriage in Iowa, it is worth noting that it was the supreme court that made equal marriage rights possible. And the judges who ruled in favor? They were voted out in the next election cycle by the “common sense” populace…

    …and let’s not forget how popular Michele Bachman is down there. Just saying.

  • Beth Gauper

    Oh, my goodness. Really, Iowa?

    Politically, this state is just as schizophrenic as Minnesota, electing both Tom Harkin and Chuck Grassley (and fawning over Michele Bachmann).

    It’s the state where a young woman was arrested last year for thinking about abortion (Burlington,

    It was progressive when I was growing up there in the ’60s and ’70s, but now it’s in thrall to the same extremists who are dragging down this state. And it’s true that the people don’t seem to value their state parks (maybe because admission is free).

    But anyone who says Iowa is flat (and boy am I tired of hearing that) never has been there, especially to the Mississippi River Valley or bluffs of northeast Iowa. It’s actually quite a lovely state — ask any of the thousands of people who come from around the world each July to ride across it on RAGBRAI.

  • Matt

    “Cyclone State”? Nice try Ames Tribune.

    Iowa’s hardly in love with Bachmann. She’s doing well in polls of likely Republican caucus voters, not the state at large. Iowa went blue in 08, just barely Red in 04, and had a Dem governor from 98-2010.

    All of Minnesota south of I-94 is pretty indistinguishable from Iowa.

    Also we expect Floyd to be clean and in good condition when we return for him on 10/29.

  • cynthia

    I’d like to move out of this country…Canada or the Czech Republic….just so I don’t have to be submitted to the stupid Republican banter and policies that are ruining our country. Maybe no country is perfect but a new country would at least be more fun than living in this god forsaken political quagmire.

  • Drae

    @ cynthia – yes, I’m sure the Czech Republic would be much better than staying in Minnesota. Instead of dealing with Christian fundamentalist “banter” you could deal with the “banter” of European Nationalists and other fascists. That certainly sounds like “more fun” to me. Please drop us a line and let us know how it goes.

  • gardengurl

    Um, as a native Iowan, I can assure you that Iowa is the Hawkeye State, not the Cyclone State.

  • angela

    I’m from Iowa City and love Iowa! I have lived in MN for 16+ years now and I love this state, but I love Iowa even more.

    And gardengurl is right — it’s the Hawkeye State (even though I went to ISU before I went to UI).

    Southside of Cedar Rapids is home to a large Czech community where you can get REAL kolaches — not the crappy iced danishes you find in Minnesota.

  • Tracey Nagel

    First of all, Iowa is the Hawkeye state, not the Cyclone state. I have lived in Minnesota for the last 10 years and miss my home state of Iowa every day. There are lots of cornfields and farms but that’s part of Iowa’s charm. Iowa has classic places like the Surf Ballroom in Clear Lake(think Buddy Holly and Ritchie Valens) and Amish communities in Kalona, right outside Iowa City. Okoboji, in NW Iowa, is the ‘up-north’ of Minnesota. Iowa is a wonderful place to live. I will most likely move back to my hometown when I have children.

  • Shirley Phillips

    You should try Iowa – we have jobs here – as well as attractions and events worth visiting. And we certainly aren’t flat – apparently people have never visited the Loess Hills in Western Iowa or the Mississippi River area. With the hot weather our lakes are suffering just like yours – however we do have lakes for more recreation than just fishing. We have recreation trails, river trails, all kinds of attractions, wineries, campgrounds, and all types of parks. Give us a try!