Iowa Myths: Fact or Fiction?

Before moving to Iowa, I had many preconceived notions about what it would be like.  I have found many of these notions to be false, and some to be true.  In an effort to set the record straight, I have listed several statements regarding Iowa.  Do you know the fact from the fiction?

The Myth:  Iowa is flat

Friends and family have always spoken of Iowa as some perfectly level landscape beset by endless fields of corn.  Field of Dreams didn’t help with this stereotype.  However, when push comes to shove and you find yourself driving about the Hawkeye state, is it actually as flat as we think?

Patrick’s Observation: If Iowa is flat, Dolly Parton wears an A cup

Even more distressing than Dolly Parton being the first large-breasted women to come to mind is the Iowa landscape: it is fucking hilly!  While I can’t speak for the entire state, I can safely say the area around Des Moines is not lacking in elevation.  Steep hills are the norm around the Des Moines River, much to the displeasure of my 4-cylinder engine.  Come to think of it, driving down to Des Moines had its fair share of hills as well.  I remember, because each time I reached the peak or valley of one, my car was hurled five feet from the median (see the next myth).

The Verdict:  Fiction

While Iowa’s overall elevation may be low, I can say from experience it is far from flat.  Hills abound, and anyone brave enough to travel by bike would earn Beyoncé buns.

The Myth:  Nothing happens in Iowa

The most common thing I heard when telling people I got a job in Iowa was some variation of, “Oh, Iowa wouldn’t have been my first choice.  Or second.  Or third.”  While I can’t speak for every naysayer, I can confidently say these reactions stemmed from a belief that Iowa is a fucking dull place.  Is there any truth to this?

Patrick’s Observations:  Des Moines is surprisingly hopping

Again, I can’t speak for the whole state, but Des Moines for sure is far from boring.  At nearly a quarter of a million people, it is far from the sleepy little town we imagine it to be.  Major sporting events, weekend concerts, and seasonal festivals are just a few of the big city occasions regularly happening.  And while I look forward to exploring these venues in the future, there is one thing I can for sure say constantly happens in Iowa: gale-force winds.

For those unfamiliar, “gale force wind” is a phrase I learned the last time I was abroad in New Zealand.  While I don’t recall the specific measurements for determining a gale-force wind, you know you’re experiencing one when large, heavy objects behave like kites.  My car is an excellent example.  At every high or low along the road, physics rears its ugly head and bitch-slaps my Cobalt into the adjacent lane.  Need a wake-up call?  Try the pit-staining fear of hurling into the oncoming cab of some southbound shitwagon.  If the last noise I hear is Garth Brooks’ greatest hits, I will haunt you all, Iowa.

The Verdict:  Fiction

In spite of mounds of stereotypes, Des Moines is actually a fairly bustling city (for the Midwest), offering a range of attractions I hope to write about in the future.  And if anything, hellish winds are one thing that seem to be a constant in Iowa.  So it isn’t exactly fair to say “nothing” ever happens.

The Myth:  Iowa is full of white people

A family friend mentioned that Iowa was full of “white people.”  While I’m not sure if they saw this as a positive or negative, it does raise the question: Is Iowa a diverse state?

Patrick’s Observations:  At first glance, maybe… but not entirely true

Okay, as someone who specializes in environmental education for diverse audiences, I’m taking this myth seriously.  Let’s take a look at the U.S. Census’ race statistics for Iowa and Minnesota.  I’ll also add the country as a whole and D.C. as a control:

United States

White alone, percent, April 1, 2010:  72.4%

Washington D.C.

White alone, percent, April 1, 2010:  38.5%

 

Iowa

White alone, percent, April 1, 2010:  91.3%

Des Moines

White alone, percent, April 1, 2010:  76.4%

 

Minnesota

White alone, percent, April 1, 2010:  85.3%

St. Paul

White alone, percent, April 1, 2010:  60.1%

The Verdict:  Fiction (sort of)

Okay, so Iowa isn’t a bastion of racial diversity.  But in the grand scheme of things, it isn’t terribly more diverse than Minnesota, differing by only 6% in those who identify as white alone.  St. Paul is definitely more diverse, but again, these are not night and day differences.  Also keep in mind that these numbers are now six years out of date.  Statistically, it is safe to bet these locations are becoming more diverse over time.  So while Iowa and Des Moines are as a whole Caucasian, they are likely trending away from this.

 

The Myth:  Iowa beer sucks

Probably my biggest worry, several people informed me the beer selection in Iowa would pale in comparison to Minnesota.  As someone accustomed to the plethora of breweries nearby in Northeast Minneapolis, I was horrified at the thought of Busch Light being the most readily available beer.  So were my fears correct?

Patrick’s Observations:  The craft is strong with this one

Believe it or not, Des Moines actually sports a healthy craft brewery scene.  While it doesn’t quite match the variety in Minnesota, I have at least 5 breweries on my list I hope to visit in the coming weeks (I visited one on Saturday: Confluence Brewery-stay tuned for the review!)  And far from being “one note” breweries, these establishments offer a wide variety of seasonal and standby brews for the discerning beer snob.

The Verdict: Fiction

While no Northeast, Iowa has a healthy selection of local craft beer available.  Even better, the styles range from the tried-and-true (IPAs, stouts, etc.) to the experimental (black IPAs, unclassified, and more).  Thank God, I will be spared the horror of consuming Busch Light and exclaiming how smooth it is.  Buuuuh….

 

The Myth:  Busch Light is so named because it tastes of dirty shower water mixed with the sheddings of one’s nether region.

Patrick’s Observations:  I’ve had Busch Light once.

Saying it had flavor would be polite.  Saying it was tasteless would be too polite.

The Verdict:  Plausible

Even if it isn’t, is it really that much better?  If you are an avid Busch Light drinker and I have offended you, please let me know.  I have a case of Ballast Point and a backhand with your name on it.

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