As I drove down Interstate 35 last weekend from the Twin Cities to Des Moines, my spirits lifted. Each passing mile brought me closer to spring.

In Lakeville, the dusty residue of a harsh winter blew up from the road. Trees stood bare. As the freeway crossed Lake Marion, the water sparkled with a dark, delayed promise; it had iced out just days before, on May 1, according to the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources.

About an hour later, I passed over Albert Lea Lake and marveled, in a 65-miles-per-hour way, at large white birds dotting the water. Could they be American white pelicans? Among brittle brown grasses, green sprouts shot up.

By early afternoon, below the Iowa-Minnesota border, spring was full-throttle. I zipped past a wide-load semi topped by giant John Deere tractors. Its shining distinctive green fit right in with the landscape, a beautiful sight.

But in Des Moines, I got the best feel of the season. White and pink blooms popped from trees. The lime green of new leaves painted the landscape.

It’s odd now to recall that my trip to Iowa began with a sense of obligation, not pleasure. I went for a soccer tournament. But I soon began to feel like I was on vacation.

The sun shone strong. The grass of the soccer fields grew lush, like it had been there all year long. Summer seemed imminent, especially when I took off my shoes and felt the freshness beneath my feet.

I wish I could tell you more about Des Moines. Soccer drew me away from its Capitol building with its gleaming gold dome, the Science Center of Iowa, the Greater Des Moines Botanical Garden. But this time of year, springtime was the best show in town.

After checking into the Element hotel, a friend and I grabbed guest bikes. We wheeled with joy on the city’s extensive trail system. The scent of summer, enhanced when we passed a man mowing his lawn, made us giddy.

 

Send your questions or tips to Travel Editor Kerri Westenberg at travel@startribune.com, and follow her on Twitter: @kerriwestenberg.