48 Hours in Iowa…6.2017

I’m on my way to visit a good friend, Sara, that lives in Ames, IA.  I’ve missed hiking & visiting with her so much since she made the move north over a year ago.  I’m a big ‘geographic snob’ when it comes to the midwest…I love the big scenery of West’s mountains & clean rivers; the beautiful beaches & oceans of the West & East coast.  But, I try to make any new place an adventure, a learning experience & find things to explore.  

day 1 
I left in the morning knocking off the 3.5 hour drive with good music & part of an audio book.  There isn
t much between my place near Lawrence & Des Moines, IAlots of green fields & too many billboardsmostly just straight highway going directly north.  I didnt need to be in Ames until 4pm, so I planned to take a afternoon tour of downtown Des Moines.  My first stop was for an early lunch to a place the bar manager of my hometown Burger Stand recommendedFongs Pizza.  What a hoot this place is!  I sat at the bar & ordered a Crab Rangoon pizza & water.  The bartender was super friendly & ask where I was from then we both discovered her Mom doesnt live very far from me…sometimes it’s a small world.  I was admiring all their cool Tiki glasses, when she told me they were a ‘certified Tiki Bar’….which I thought was both funny & sad…sad because I wouldn’t have time to try even one of their Tiki drinks!

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After lunch, I strolled around downtown, which seems like it’s mostly restaurants & bars.  I walked the few blocks to El Bait Shop…home to over 100 beers on tap!  I’ve been trying for a couple of years to get Danny to drive up here for a weekend trip to visit Des Moines famous bar & several breweries they have…but I doubt he’d really ever make the trip & I was here now.  Time to see what the place is like.  It’s quirky but pretty cool just to see so many tap handles in one place!  So many, I took a pano pic.  

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I tried three samples & bought a couple of small pours…so many to choose from & they have a bottle list too.  I’d asked about where I could buy some good craft beer, & they told me the HyVee around the corner.  So, two things I learned:  Iowa can sell liquor in their grocery stores, & HyVee is an Iowan company & has a huge presence in the state…& I wouldn’t even have to move my car to get there…it was only about two blocks away.  I found some beer the BS bar manager told me was a ‘must’ to buy & a yummy barrel aged pear cider to take to Sara’s house. 

My next stop was Pappajohn’s Sculpture Park.  It’s not very big, but a nice open space near downtown to walk around & check out the art… that’s what I did, enjoying the sunny, but warmer than expected, day.

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I had a little time left to explore, so I drove to East Village…a few block area across the river with some little shops.  Wow…it was getting hot…in the upper 80’s which surprised me for this time of year.  I walked around checking out the windows & strolled inside a Stick’s store & a local artist gallery.  There are random piano’s on the corners in Des Moines…anyone can stop & play a tune…pretty cool.  Soon it was time to head north to see Sara! 

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I drove up to her awesome 1930’s house in a sweet neighborhood near the historic downtown.  I was greeted with a big hug & wonderful weekend began!  She’s looks fabulous & her house is so great!  Sara is one of the ‘cleanest’ eater’s I know & a big gardner.  The front & back yard are filled with raised beds & filled with plants.  The house had a fantastic aroma as Sara was cooking dinner for later in the evening.  I met Jim, her husband & then Sara & I took off walking through the tree lined neighborhood to downtown for the Summer Art Walk. Wow…I’d love to have this “chime-art” in my yard (downtown Ames).

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We walked all around, looking at the art, but doing tons of chatting & catching up.  Sara & I aren’t long time friends, but fast friends. We’d both attended an REI event for women only about three years ago.  While we were both in the ‘backpacking’ clinic, we noticed each other, then when that session ended, we just gravitated towards each other & introduced ourselves….& it was instant friendship.  When Sara lived in Kansas City, we’d go to meditation at Unity together, but many more times went out to Swope Park to hike.  I miss her so much!  After the artwork & walk back to her place, we had a wonderful dinner, drank some cider & stayed up chatting.  Perfect!

day 2 
We jumped on our bikes first thing in the morning & went back downtown to the Farmers Market; Sara checking out the plants & all the freshies to cook with
I was just taking in the sights, aromas & people.  

Sara wanted to take me on the High Trestle Bridge trail; a 20 mile RT bike ride.  She knew I was wondering if I would die or not on this rideIve only ridden 20 miles on my mountain bike one other time & Sara is seasoned road biker.  But I said YES! & so we went…albeit a little slower than Sara’s speed, but it was great!  The bridge is pedestrian only, which is always so fantastic.  I’m always amazed at cities that are willing to invest this kind of money & commitment to their community…so awesome!  The bridge is 13 stories up from the river below, with wonderful views of the plains.

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After making it back to the trailhead (I survived & had fun!), we drove to the campus of Iowa State University, where both Sara & her husband work.  She has a long history with this college…they are both ISU graduates & her father was a long time University Professor here.  We parked the car in a nearly empty lot—it’s summer & a Saturday, a great time for a walking tour.  I’d noticed a small cemetery as we drove in & asked about if it was on University property.  As we walked over to it, Sara told me this was where her Mom was buried. 

Iowa State has a huge campus, & my walking tour only included a small portion of it.  It’s got a lot of history, including being one of the first Engineering, Vet Medicine & Agricultural Universities to allow blacks & women.  We went into the library & looked at the Grant Wood murals lining the walls.  As we walked, Sara would tell me about some of the buildings & their history.  We took a few minutes to locate a brick donated & carved with her name, by her parents, as a fund raiser to save one of the old buildings…I’m glad they did!  It was beautiful.  It was a quiet, peaceful & interesting place to intermix our chatting about everything ‘life’ & the history of the campus & Ames.  We ended up at a small bar on the edge of campus & enjoyed a drink outside in the shade.

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Once back at the house, cleaned up & ready to go again, Jim joined us & we took their electric car outside of town to the Alluvial brewery.  Sara, who has not had a beer in ages (she’s gluten free) was excited as she was going to ‘cheat’ tonight…the first in a very, very long time, & have a good beer.  Jim & I both enjoyed double IPA’s, Sara went with the Porter, & we all enjoyed the conversation & outdoor space of the brewery (& lots more beer).  We blew off the late afternoon & early evening at the brewery…my body was tired but in the very best way & my soul was filled with time spent with an old friend & a new one.  Friends…what would I do without mine?  Treasures…each one of them!

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Sara & Jim together, made a yummy pasta dinner & we sat out in the back yard enjoying the late evening temps.  Jim said goodnight & Sara & I stayed up a couple of more hours just talking & discussing some big life questions & trying to figure out the answers….super wonderful!

day 3
It was Sara’s plan to go to Legends State Park & go hiking…she’d not been there since she was a teenager & we both LOVE to hike.  The night before when we’d first gotten back to the house, I’d noticed a bunny INSIDE Sara’s garden fence, enjoying his own dinner of “her plants”.  So, this morning, as I took my backpack outside to wait for Sara, I noticed TWO bunnies back for breakfast!  OH NO!  We both inspected the mesh fence they had previously & tediously attached early in the season, & saw that the bunnies had chewed several big holes creating a doorway to their buffet.  I know how important her garden is her, & as a FORMER gardner, I know how much back breaking work they are.  I knew she had a busy afternoon today (I was leaving at noon) & she had to go back to work tomorrow.  So, I suggested we scrap the hike, go get metal fencing & a zillion zip ties & get to work.  We both had been looking forward to the hike, but saving the garden seemed like a better idea.  So, that’s what we did.  As soon as Jim got back from his cycling, he joined in the effort & by noon, all but about 5’ of the fence was done.  Jim agreed to stay & finish it, while I was heading back south & Sara had her own afternoon obligations.  

We vowed to set a date this fall to go on that hike
& Im already looking forward to it!  I loaded up my bag, we all hugged & said good bye.  The best comment of the weekend was from Sara…”its like we never left offno time or space between us!  I agreeso great to see her, meet her spouse & see her new place & life shes created.

Thirty fast highway miles & I was back in Des Moines.  Danny was out of town this weekend at his Mother’s house, so I wasn’t in any hurry to get home (more mowing needs done).  I wanted to stop & pick up a couple six packs…another of the barrel aged pear cider & one of  the Peace Tree Blonde Fatal…a Belgian strong ale.  So, I practically retraced my steps back to downtown…parking only a few places different than I had on Friday afternoon.  Since I’d missed the hike, I decided I’d walk the mile to my first stop…Zombie Burger & Drink Lab…sounds fun, right?  I ordered the above mentioned strong ale & a Trailer Trash burger…single patty with American cheese, chicken fried bacon, fried pickles & cheese curds.  The bartender said it was one of the two most popular burgers on the menu…the other?  If you think this one sounds like a heart attack on a plate, you should see what’s on the other one!

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 It’s like 90 degrees today!  Yikes it feels super hot in the sun!  I took the river walk path over the river & back near my car.  Filled my water bottle with the ice water I’d brought from the restaurant, then walked a few blocks in the other direction to the same Hy-Vee to find my beer.  I walked by this cool mural on one of the buildings as I passed…I do love these kind of murals!  

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I popped on my long play list & hit the road…south ….just south…not much to see, just get the miles behind me & then I was home.  The Kitties were glad to see me!  Danny made it home a couple of hours later.  

What a nice weekend & wonderful to spend time with a good friend!


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