As one comes closer to the Mississippi River the landscape changes; well, it changes noticeably if you're rolling at thirty miles an hour anyway; I don't know that you would notice it or not if you were driving on the interstate. There's occasional tall hills and even some wooded space along with the corn, and it has a lovely stark effect on a cloudy day; but like I said, you've got to be going damned slow to notice.
Burlington Iowa is a very pretty town, with the richest families living in the best houses on the ridges just above the river. The line meanders through all sections of the town in some sort of eight hundred degree loop, so you actually get to see the nice parts of town in addition to the rear-ends of lumber yards and the potholes that had combined into a single creek leading from the industrial section of town to the river; but than I'm sure you already know about the dead zone in the Mississippi delta.
The river is truly sublime, even before it takes in the Missouri and Ohio it's still wide enough to envelop your vision, and with the spitting rain falling all over the Midwest that week it was very much like being underwater.
Heavy rain and snowmelt raised the river past flood stage last week and a barge going up the elevated river ended up hitting the Santa Fe/Amtrak bridge. I must say that I wish I had taken my trip than; the extra eight hours of detour though St. Louis or wherever the trains went would have been worth it for the sake of being part of a minor disaster; and oh what a thrill it must have been for the pubescent boys of Burlington; to see a destructive event whose lack of carnage was more than made up for by the scale. It is easy to imagine the drunken teenagers drowning themselves trying to reach the wreck on some wretched home-made canoe, and it warms the heart like Christmas.
I chatted with a couple of the people whjo live in the area; a woman from Mt. Pleasant Iowa and a middle-aged grease monkey from Galesburg Illinois, and I noticed that they both had this sort of breathy, nasal accent similar to what you hear from a very old Nebraska farmer. It's certainly distinguishable from the "generic American" that is, urban Midwestern accent, which is much the same in Chicago or Omaha r Kansas City. The sample size is, technically, far too small for a mere Bachelor of English to pronounce the existence of an upper-Mississippi Valley accent, but I talked to a couple of people about it; this guy I met in the city who used to be from Moline and this very lovely girl on her way home to Iowa farm country from DePaul, and they both said, "sure, why not." So I do declare it. Perhaps someday I'll actually look it up on the internet just to make sure that no one has claimed to discover the upper-Mississippi accent before I did.
Illinois consisted of more corn; and villages that were even smaller and more ragged than those in Iowa; I was starting to see "Old Style" placards hanging from the main street pubs. Finally, at about four in the afternoon, we rolled into a place called Samonauk, and the sight of a "Kohl's" "Supertarget", and "Bennigan's" assured me that we were only seventy miles or so from getting somewhere.