Traveling on I-29 between Sioux City and Omaha can be a beautiful drive. Obviously, especially during warmer months, you see a lot of corn and soybean fields. However, that drive offers an occasional glimpse of the Missouri River and a steady viewing of the stunningly beautiful (and rare!) Loess Hills. There are many roads that you can take in order to find your way into the Loess Hills. There's even a National Scenic Byway that weaves and winds and makes for a memorable road trip.
Yet, there's one town that has laid claim to being the "gateway" to those famous hills and that town is Mondamin in Harrison County.
My visit to Mondamin actually happened last summer when things were warmer and greener. I had pulled off the Interstate in search of fuel for my vehicle and found myself at the only fuel option in town: the Jiffy Mart.
Obviously, I found the fuel I was looking for but discovered that this place is more than just a convenience store. It is a mini-grocery store where you can not only find fresh meat in a cooler next to live bait but also gather with your friend for a hot cup of coffee and the latest gossip.
It's not a huge place but they do have a few aisles full of the staples.
But yet, it's got soda and coffee machines, coolers of beverages, racks of candy bars, shelves of Blue Bunny, and a bulletin board of announcements that remind you more of a traditional convenience store.
Since I was already in town and not on a particularly tight schedule, I decided to see what else I could find. In the 1940s, the population peaked at just over 600 people. Today, it's probably closer to 400. The name "Mondamin" is derived from a Native American deity of maize or corn. Like a lot of towns in Iowa, Mondamin found itself on the map as a result of the expansion of the railroad. There are still active tracks running through town.
Head down the road a little further and you find a town with a variety of amenities.
Of course, as is the case with much of rural Iowa, agriculture is the main economic driver. I found a large grain cooperative here.
West Harrison Community School District, home of the Hawkeyes, is located in town. There's a school building and some athletic facilities.
I also found a few churches.
I'm always on the look out for interesting signs that might point me to something cool or old. I found both here in Mondamin.
An old blue house, known as the Spooner - Holton House, with an iron fence and a cobblestone sidewalk surrounding it caught my attention. The sign in the yard gives some nice history about this. I did a little more research online and found a few other resources. It's now a museum and maybe sometime I can get back when its open.
The downtown area also includes a building or two that have signs on them alluding to their preservation and restoration. There's a nice article online about Larry Stevens, the man behind this effort.
I found a few of other buildings that are in various stages of use and condition.
Several of the light poles have town flags on them.
There's a post office, community center, public library, and a bank.
The Sandbar looks like it would be a fun place to visit. They advertise 'good food fun times' on their Facebook page.
I found a disc sharpening business.
A small brick building has a monument out front dedicated to area veterans.
Of course, there's also a city hall.
A cell phone tour and a water tower join the elevator in making up the skyline of Mondamin.
I found a nice city park with a shelter, playground equipment, and a gorgeous stump carving. It looks like an eagle but since we are in the town that is 'home of the Hawkeyes'...maybe it is a hawkeye?
I found that there is a nice mix of modest single family homes along pretty tree-lined streets.
Sometimes, when you are getting fuel, you need to look around and find what other adventures are out there. I obviously need to get back to Mondamin again and spend more time checking out a few of the sights as well as the local restaurant. Perhaps then, I'll learn if the carved bird is actually an eagle or a hawkeye?