Lazy Sunday in Iowa


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North America » United States » Iowa » Amana
October 18th 2015
Published: October 20th 2015
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Now that I’m at the hotel, I can certainly say that I’m pretty glad that today is over. I guess the excitement from yesterday turned into a bit of a crash today. I’ve had a really hard time staying awake at times, but needless to say, I made it to my destination for the evening safely.

The hotel I stayed at last night in Des Moines had little in the way of food, but I had wanted to try one of those breakfast pizzas at Casey’s, which Beth had told me about. My first stop after leaving the hotel was Casey’s for gas and breakfast. Unfortunately, they didn’t have any breakfast pizzas. Bummer. And while we’re talking about gas stations, I gotta say: Iowa, get it together. I get that you have corn in your gas, and you’re proud of that. But calling something “super unleaded” and making it less expensive than “regular unleaded” while “premium unleaded” costs more than that is a nightmare for a foreigner (i.e., me). And when you advertise on the big signs that unleaded costs X and then it turns out to be “super unleaded,” I’m a bit perturbed. I tried to find out if there were any risks to it, but I couldn’t really get anyone to come to a consensus on what exactly “super unleaded” was – how much ethanol, its effects on my car, etc. I filled up with it, since I couldn’t see anyone saying that it was harmful, but I really don’t know if there’ll be any long-term (or short-term) effects on my engine. I hope not.

I went to downtown Des Moines to see an art deco building, and it was cool. Of course, there were tons of one-way streets and several blocked off for road work, which my GPS had fits with. But I got out of town and headed to the Amana Colonies, a small area of towns settled by German immigrants in the 1800s. They reportedly had great food, and after eating lunch at the Ox Yoke Inn, I can vouch for it, too. I didn’t realize it would be so packed – the main town itself didn’t seem to have many visitors; maybe they were all in the restaurants? I put my name on the list and waited for about 30 minutes to be seated. I didn’t know you could make reservations. But really, a party of one? The food came out quickly – I had a chicken schnitzel with Westphalian ham and Swiss cheese on it, with some mashed potatoes. Extraordinary. My waitress, probably about 60 years old, was very concerned that I like the food, and there was little need for that. I also ordered a cream soda from a local brewery. A great way to wash down the food.

Outside, there were several shops, primarily for tourists wanting to take back some of the local products with them. I was sort of surprised that it was open on Sunday, but then I guess that’s when they get most of their business, on the weekends. It was quaint, a kind of hybrid between 19th and 21st century life. I wish I had had more time to do some food shopping.

My next stop was the University of Iowa in Iowa City. Guess which state. But seriously, their football stadium was pretty big, and they’re doing pretty well this season. I walked a little around campus, but it was not really conducive to walking for very far. Plus, I had limited time since I had a parking meter to contest with.

My last stop of the day was the Herbert Hoover National Historic Site in West Branch, Iowa. Hoover was the first president born west of the Mississippi River, and as the only native Iowan as president, he’s made a big deal of around that area (despite often being blamed for not helping at the start of the Great Depression). They have a visitor’s center with a short film about his early years along with a small gift shop and a single exhibit about the development of the site. If you want to see the real exhibits in the museum, along with the library, you have to pay $10. And that annual National Parks pass I bought out west? No good here. Unbelievable. I’m not that big a fan of Hoover for that. After all, I got to see the film, and then stroll down the restored street and see a few homes, including the one in which Hoover was born, for free. And you can go up and see the gravesite for Hoover and his wife, also for free. And don’t neglect the weird Isis statue given to Hoover as a thank-you present by the Belgians for his help during World War 1. It’s out on the grounds, for free. I probably spent over an hour seeing these things and walking between them. The site isn’t that big, though they have small parking lots that hold 6 or 7 cars scattered throughout most of the site. There were professional photographers there, too, getting family photos. It was a beautiful place for pictures. As I was walking past one of the photographers, I took out my phone and got a picture of the great foliage and sunlight, with the period houses in the background. The guy just looked and said, “Yeah, with views like this, you don’t even need Photoshop. It’s all real!” I don’t ever use Photoshop, so it’s always real for me. I’ve included that picture for you to see.

The remaining 2+ hour drive to DeKalb, Illinois, was uneventful. I did have to make a last-minute course change to avoid toll roads again. And there were some pretty aggressive drivers on those backroads. Along the way, my left hand started hurting, and after feeling it out and inspecting, I think I may have broken a carpal, or a metacarpal. Which makes typing a fun exercise. No idea what caused it. I don’t even know what I would do if it actually is broken – do they put it in a cast? I’m sure you have to immobilize it. I guess that’ll be something to get checked out when I get home, which looks like will happen late Wednesday. That’s the plan anyway. And I think it’ll be fine until then. I guess I’ll find out in the morning, and see whether it’s worse or the same. I’m just glad it’s my left hand, since I’m right handed.


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