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An Iowa Odyssey

10/01/2012 @ 2:19pm

My wife and I recently journeyed to Des Moines to visit old friends who work at a farm magazine. Emails and phone calls are OK, but you have to connect in person if you really want to feel the connection.                        

We took the back roads, the type of byways described by William Least Heat-Moon in “Blue Highways.” Taking the roads less traveled taught us that there’s a lot of Iowa in Iowa.

There appears to be no end to the perfectly manicured farmsteads and impeccably farmed fields. One gets the impression that you could randomly parachute into any rural area of the Hawkeye State, shoot a random photo and make it into a calendar.

Happy surprises happen when you wander haphazardly. For instance, we stopped for gas in the tiny hamlet of Livermore. Chatting with the lady proprietor, we learned that Livermore is where Dallas Clark grew up. Clark did pretty well for himself and is currently employed as a tight end for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. Clark hasn’t forgotten his roots, though. He’s fixed up his parents’ old house at the edge of town and often spends his off-season there.    

We decided to see if a winery might be in the vicinity, so I asked our wacky travel advisor, Mrs. Garmin, to guide us. I was trying to manage her while bringing up a map on my wife’s so-called “smart” phone. And as I was doing all this virtual stuff, the real world was passing by outside the window.

“Thor!” said my wife as we drove through a small town bearing that name.

“The Norse god of thunder,” I replied absentmindedly, not glancing up from the electronic gizmos that had enslaved me.    

Mrs. Garmin got us to a winery -- eventually. She first directed us to a remote gravel road and informed us that the winery was located out in the middle of a corn field. We told her to try again and she took us on a circuitous route that finally brought us to a vineyard.

She did better in Des Moines, steering us directly to our friends’ office building. Next came the most difficult part of our Iowa odyssey, namely, enjoying a very pleasant lunch with Dan and Paula while striving to accomplish nearly a decade’s worth of catching up.

After lunch my wife and I opted to do some sightseeing, so we visited an infamous government boondoggle.

The golden dome of the Iowa Capitol shimmered in the autumn sun. The building, with its five domes and magnificent stone edifice, looked as if it belonged in a fairytale. But the exterior proved to be only an appetizer for the sumptuous interior.

Wonderfully wrought stone and wood and metal decorate every square inch of the interior of the Capitol. Hallway ceilings soar to a height that could easily accommodate the tallest giraffe.

We signed up for a tour of the premises. It was free, so the price was right. Kae, our tour guide, was a very pleasant woman, a retired teacher and a lifelong Iowegian. She was also a fount of knowledge of all things regarding the Capitol.

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