Iowa – 75% Vowels, 100% Awesome

Hello friends and readers! It’s been too long since I sat down and wrote one of these things. Let’s do this…

This episode covers a lot of ground…Iowa City to Des Moines to Sioux City, and many points in between. We had to get off, and then back on, Highway 61. One might say it was revisited. We’ve driven about 451 miles since we last wrote, during which time Black Betty crossed the 50,000 mile threshold. Sadly, we were distracted and didn’t take a picture of the odometer as it was happening. But, we have plenty of other cool pictures to show ya. I’m going to keep it short and let the pictures do most of the talking.

We are most fortunate to have great friends in Nashville and indeed now all over the world. We have enjoyed spending time with some of our wondefrful friends over the last few days in Iowa.

IMG_2605.JPGBeaker the cat.

Our first overnight stop after the Missouri break was Iowa City, Iowa. We hung out for a couple of nights with Becci’s old and my new friends Boann and Jason. Boann and Bex worked together at Tessitura, and Jason is a writer studying at the U of Iowa. We had a great time with them and their master, a big Russian blue cat named Beaker. We were pretty worn out upon arrival, but Boann and Jason revived us with some lasagna soup. If you have never heard of lasagna soup, look up the recipe and get on it. It is super tasty. We ate, we drank, we slept.

The morning offered us sunny skies and frozen tundra. We decided to make a run over to nearby Riverside, Iowa, the future birthplace of Admiral James Tiberius Kirk. Riverside doesn’t play when it comes to preserving the legacy of this important fictional future historical figure. The town features a museum dedicated to the past and fictional future of the town…this might be the only past and future museum anywhere. They have historical markers. They have plaques. They have old signs and farm tools. They also have Star Trek t-shirts, collectible plates, and toy figurines. They even have a time capsule that is to be opened on March 22, 2233. Guess what happens on that date (er, besides opening the time capsule)?

IMG_2595.JPGHangin’ with my homies in Riverside.

IMG_2602.JPGThey didn’t have room for “Tiberius”.

IMG_2600.JPGAwesome replica of the Millennium Falcon.

They really have a nice collection of Star Trek stuff in Riverside, but even our thirst for that was eventually slaked. We climbed into Black Betty and headed back to Iowa City. A WORLD FAMOUS BEEF JERKY sign along Highway 22 caught our eyes, and we made a screeching-brakes stop. We entered Bud’s Custom Meats, a veritable candy store for those with a grill and the will to use it. They had it all in there, and we even got a quick tour from Doug the manager and owner (the just call it Bud’s to keep everyone on their toes). The place was awesome. We left with a bunch of beef jerky and some meat sticks. We are the road crew!

We met up again with Boann and hit the Hamburg Inn in downtown Iowa City. This joint specializes in a nearly irresistible menu item called the pie shake, which is exactly what it sounds like it is. Bex and I split a “Pecan Pie-with-chocolate-and-bourbon” (Tennesseans will recognize this as Kentucky Derby) pie shake. We played nice for most of that shake, but fought a little over the last couple of pie chunks that were floating around in there. If you do only one thing in Iowa City: pie shake. I think that’s the town motto. Should be, anyway.

Then it was off the U of I Museum of Natural History, where we saw a lot of cool taxidermied things and skeletons, and where we encountered the adorable and regionally-famous Rusty the (Giant) Sloth. Alas, Rusty’s kin once roamed North America, but went extinct about 10,000 years ago.

Drinks and board games ensued. We visited the Sanctuary Pub, formerly frequented by Iowegian Kurt Vonnegut, and then headed back to Boann and Jason’s place. We had a fantastic time with these two. Thanks Beaker for letting us stay with your pets.

IMG_2610.JPGRusty the sloth.

IMG_2614.JPGMe, Bex, Boann, and Jason.

More sleep, awesome breakfast from our hosts, and then back on the road! We thawed out the iPod and then fired up our custom Road Songs playlist. On to Des Moines, via every backroad we could find (we are eschewing interstates for this journey).

Many things were seen. We literally got off the roads and drove through some mud in order better to see a frozen river. We went through lots of little towns, including Brooklyn, which had a display of all 50 state flags. That was surprisingly cool. There are some great state flags that I had either forgotten about or didn’t know about. The Alaska flag is a long time favorite. Arizona has an amazing flag. Iowa has a cool flag. Hawaii’s flag has a Union Jack on it, which I did not know. What the hell? I looked around and commented to Becci that no flags still feature the stars and bars (Confederate flag), and she looked up and said “except for that one”.

Come on, Mississippi. Good grief.

IMG_2607.JPGAuto maintenance is important on any road trip, and especially on one where it’s 20 degrees outside.

IMG_2615.JPGFrozen Iowa River, somewhere off of Route 6 outside Iowa City. We had to cruise through the mud in 4 wheel low drive to get this shot!

IMG_2611.JPGThe Community of Flags, in Brooklyn, Iowa. All 50 state flags…even Mississippi’s “South’s-Gonna-Do-It-Again” one.

Eventually we got to Des Moines, and met up with my old buddy Fred Flippen, and his wonderful family. Fred is an old friend who literally grew up down the street from me when I was a kid. My mom still lives in the house where I grew up and two blocks away from where Fred grew up. He now lives in Des Moines with his wife Katie and their teenage offspring Charlie and Sarah. Charlie was gracious enough to give up his room during our stay (thanks for that!), and we rested, well-fed, in warmth and comfort.

Katie, Fred, and Charlie gave us a quick tour of Des Moines the next day (Sarah somehow stayed in bed until 1500!) which included a killer lunch at Zombie Burger and a spin through several salvage stores, including the incredible, five story West End Architectural Salvage. We also cruised by American Dream Machines, where I lusted after a ’69 Z/28. It was a numbers-matching affair that is going for $70k. After some consideration, I decided against this purchase.

IMG_2621.JPGBex enjoying a rice krispy shake at Zombie Burger.

IMG_2620.JPGState Capitol building in Des Moines. Gold leaf and everything!

IMG_2623.JPGInside West End Architectural Salvage in Des Moines. Five stories of awesome old stuff for your house, most of which is cool, all of which is overpriced.

IMG_2628.JPGHuggin’ it out in front of some cool light wall in Des Moines. It’s even cooler looking at night.

IMG_2624.JPGBoo, one of the Flippen cats, in his box. Shortly after this, he was dosed with catnip and went berserk.

IMG_2625.JPGEnjoying the sublime environs of Zombie Burger in Des Moines. Charlie defends Bex against zombie attack. C.H.O.M.P.

IMG_2629.JPGRe-enacting an iconic image from my childhood. Everyone knows this pose, right?


Some sorta weird electrical contraption that was found at West End Architectural Salvage. I just like the way it looks.

IMG_2634.JPGThe Flippens have 8 or 9 chickens strutting around the yard, owned by their lovely daughter Sarah, who enjoyed a special time cleaning out her charges’ coop while we were there.

This morning we bid adieu to our wonderful hosts and set off toward Sioux City. Along the way we encountered an old Danish windmill that was moved to Iowa in pieces from Denmark in 1848. We also visited Onawa, Iowa where the Eskimo Pie was born. The Eskimo Pie, folks. When I learned this, I got all excited thinking about eating an Eskimo Pie while wearing the brand new Eskimo Pie t-shirt that I was gonna buy and wear proudly ever after.

Alas, it was not to be. The folks of Onawa do not celebrate their frosty delicious legacy as they should. Neither the t-shirt nor the magnificent frozen treat could be found. Onawa, you have a lot going for you, but I can’t watch you squander your God-given gifts any longer. I’m outta here. Call me when you get yourselves together!

IMG_2635.JPGDanish windmill in Elk Horn, Iowa.

IMG_2636.JPGMain Street in Onawa, Iowa. They claim this is the widest Main Street in the U.S.

IMG_2637.JPGChristmas decoration in Onawa. This is a placeholder for some pictures of Eskimo Pies, which sadly, they DON’T HAVE in this town!

IMG_2641.JPGOld-school Eskimo Pie ad…when they were still proud of this delightful foodstuff.

One more thing…and this was the most awesome thing that happened today. Bex was driving down yet another deserted stretch of road (old US Highway 141, I think), when we spotted a large bird in flight off to our left. I looked up, and saw that it was a bald eagle. We parked and ran through a field to get a better view of the tree where it had perched. After a few minutes it flew away, and we chased along in the Jeep down several paved and unpaved roads until we lost sight of him.

For once, the pictures don’t do justice to the subject. The eagle was magnificent. Seeing him was a wonderful surprise. He flew quickly and gracefully, and then would just glide in place for long stretches of time. This bird can hover in place and then suddenly tear off down the highway faster than we can drive. He was / is an absolutely beautiful, majestic, moving creature. Seeing this eagle was the perfect way to end a great day.

Of course, this isn’t the end. We are in Sioux City, and the Hard Rock Casino is right down the street! I believe that there are some slot machines and blackjack tables in our future.

We’ll let ya know how much we win in the next post.

IMG_2639.JPGWe just happened to see a BALD EAGLE today while we were driving down the road. A freaking BALD EAGLE YA’LL!!


IMG_2640.JPGNext stop, Correctionville.

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