Explore Iowa: Independence/Monticello/Anamosa

One goal I had last fall was to get out and see places I’d never been to before. My main focus was on Eastern Iowa. I’ve lived in Iowa for about 15 years, but I’ve never really explored much of the eastern side of the state.

My first stop was Independence. I was really excited to stop at the old mill. The building was closed the day I was there, but I was able to stroll around the water and snap some shots of the water.

From there I walked up and down the main shopping district. I spotted a really neat mural on the side of one of the old buildings that depicted the “Wallace & Co’s Great Railroad Shows.” I also stopped to snap the patriotic mural on the side of the VFW building, as well as the flag flying proudly above it.

Independence Mill 1 watermarkedIndependence Mill 2 watermarkedIndependence Mill 5 watermarkedIndependence circus mural watermarkedAmericana mural on Indp VFW watermarkedFlag 1 color reveal watermarked

After a quick break for more water (yes, it was another 90+ day in Iowa), I headed for Monticello. I didn’t do any photography here, but I did stop and have lunch at a cute little wine bar, called the Jitney. The exposed brick walls, tables made from slices of large logs, and the sophisticated menu made this a unique experience I didn’t expect from such a small town. I had the truffled mushroom naan pizza with a house salad and it was heavenly. The combination of the mushrooms, caramelized onions, goat cheese, and truffle sauce was bold, rich, and satisfying.

Full and finally cooled off, I hopped back in the car and headed toward Anamosa. My first stop along the way was a roadside attraction that I would love to know the story behind: the hula hoop tree. It is an old, dead tree sitting in a fence line with hula hoops of various colors and sizes hanging from nearly every branch. It’s quite the unique site to see when you drive by.

hula hoop tree 2 watermarkedhula hoop tree 3 watermarkedhula hoop tree 4 watermarkedhula hoop tree 6 watermarkedhula hoop tree 7 watermarked

Anamosa was such a surprise to me. I had no idea how much I’d enjoy this town. I didn’t expect to spend as much time here as I did. Going into it, the only thing I really knew about Anamosa was that it was where the state penitentiary was located. Since I wasn’t sure what the requirements were for photographing around the penitentiary, and I wasn’t sure I wanted to go there alone, I only allowed myself to crane my neck as I drove by on my way out of town. Instead of just driving through and scoping the area out, I ended up parking and walking around the downtown area. There were a couple interesting old buildings, an old Ford Tractor sign, and some other eye-catching finds.

Old theatre building Adv ansel watermarkedAF & AM building Adv watermarkedClock in downtown Anamosa watermarkedFord Tractor sign watermarkedrusty fire escape with shadow watermarked

On my way back home, I took in the rural landscape and pulled over in a few spots that caught my attention. First was an old brick silo that looked like it was being swallowed by small trees and vines. Next was a beautiful Iowa corn field that had alternating strips of green terrace peeking through. I immediately thought of the line “amber waves of grain” when I took this photo. And lastly, a quick cruise around State Center afforded me an unexpected mural that depicted a very accurate glimpse of Iowa’s farming and rail history.

I really enjoyed my day trip to the eastern side of the state. I uncovered many unique spots and enjoyed a beautiful, sunny drive across the Eastern Iowa countryside. I look forward to heading back to the east side of the state this summer/fall to check out some more of Iowa’s hidden gems.

abandoned brick silo watermarkedAmber waves of grain 1 watermarkedIowa mural watermarked


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