We moved from Iowa 3 decades ago. That’s 30 year’s worth of trips back & forth from Michigan to Iowa. I wonder how many times I’ve made that trek? Many more between 1987 and 2005 than since. Because my folks were alive and starting their slow health decline. Often I’d go 3 or 4 times a year, setting them up with a freezer full of meals, lugging heavy change to the bank for the grandkid’s bank accounts, getting chores done they deemed difficult. Always playing catch up.
|About the time we moved to Davenport, Adam, me & Josh, 1982…|
The trip’s been a migration of sorts. Steeped deep in it’s own traditions. Like caribou who leg out thousands of miles on life’s journey, their young are born with a sense of where to go, what to do, how to find food and water. Just like me. After 30 odd years of traveling mostly the same roads, I often have this weird innate ability to find what I want or need. Although my wants and needs have changed somewhat over the years.
|Kinda crowded with Blue Delft…|
The first big leg of the trip back remains Davenport. About 6 hours away, our whole family has a soft spot in our hearts (and tummies) for the Quad Cities. It’s unusual if I can’t find something I like at North Park Mall. Or Isabel Bloom’s store. Some of my best friends and double deck euchre buddies still look forward to my stop for a night of wild cards which now often lasts past 9!! After 30 years, there might be an inadvertent renege once in a while, but we’re still sharp enough to catch most of them. Because it’s a ‘quarter a game, dime a bump,’ type of night. Many of our favorite restaurants, The Mandarin, Rudy’s Tacos, Jumer’s, Old Oaks, and Yen Ching are either closed or not like we remember. But Happy Joe’s, Harris Pizza, Whitey’s Ice Cream and Iowa Machine Shed are still well worth a stop when we stay a night or just zipping through.
Since I went to Italy last summer I’ve had the hots for all things Assisi. The hilltop fortress town, incredible churches, and the history surrounding Saint Francis and Saint Clare have fascinated me. Perusing eBay this spring I spotted an Isabel Bloom statue (she’s quite a famous artist from Davenport, died several years ago) of Saint Francis for sale. I was intrigued and not surprised when the small print stated, ‘no shipping.’ Duh, little snot weighs a ton, most Isabel’s do, they’re concrete. But Franny was less than half price of what he costs new in the stores. So I contacted Cherie the seller, (who conveniently lives near the Quad Cities), asking if I paid for him, would she hold him for 3 long months until I started my yearly migration? She said sure. She works in Davenport and would lug the Saint along where we could meet her and pick him up.
|Welcome home Saint Francis…|
It wasn’t long after I started these numerous 750 mile trips when I discovered there are products, meats, baked goods I treasure from Iowa which are not readily available in Michigan. Who knew? And who’s ever heard of Vernor’s? For the first 15 years I made a point of buying a piece of Blue Delft in Orange City every time I ventured to Iowa. When my china closet started looking cluttered I put a halt on buying more pieces. My trip still includes a run to Orange City however, for dried beef from Woudstra’s Meat Market. There is a store we discovered a couple years ago in Grand Rapids that carries dried beef, but it’s not the same. Too dry and crumbly. So we wait until we’re in Iowa and buy the best. My sister-in-law Mary Jane freezes it for me, we plop it in zip lock bags in a cooler of ice for the trip back to Michigan.
|A real treat-dried beef sandwich…|
Side note, I can do more wandering around, stopping at antique malls, points of interest, take pictures of Iowa’s beautiful black earth, corn crops, small pink rocks on the road’s shoulders, shopping malls, outlet malls, inlet malls ON THE WAY TO NORTHWEST IOWA. But once we’re homeward (Michigan) bound, unless you’ve got severe stomach cramps, hurling green chunks like Linda Blair in the Exorcist, a tornado is in my path, or-the-2-cups-of-coffee-one-bottle-of-water-and-giant-Diet-Pepsi is making me extremely uncomfortable, getting home is my ONLY priority. I stop for NOTHING.
There are places we stop every time we hit northwest Iowa. Archie’s Waeside in Le Mars is a must. Not the fanciest steak joint, but they just keep winning awards for great food for 70 years and counting. Hitting Southern Hills Mall in Sioux City is high on my list (Scheels) because I need a new Iowa T-shirt every year. Go Hawks! Same goes for The Three Sons in Milford, there’s just this strange urge compelling me to buy something that says Okoboji. But every year? Yup.
|This one captivated me, Iowa, my home state-forever…|
Then there’s this whole canning fiasco. There’s barely room for our suitcases in the Jeep because of the canned goods I haul back to Iowa? Why, I haven’t a clue. Must I push my canned goods on every Tom, Dick & Harry in the state? I would have to say yes. My guess is it won’t be too many more years when my canning days are over, so I enjoy this passion/obsession/hobby while I’m able.
|Stop with the canned goods, please….|
Two things have changed in my travel trips to Iowa. One is something I’ve been addicted to for over 25 years. It’s my dumb lip balm. (Sorry Mentholatum Natural Ice, you’re not dumb). About a decade ago my favorite all around shopping store-Meijer stopped selling Mentholatum. (Yet why they carry a dozen variations of ChapStick and Burt Bees remains a mystery-kickbacks perhaps for purchasing agents)? Not long after so did Walmart, then Walgreens. WTH? Luckily, a big food chain in Iowa, Hy-Vee still carried it. From the time I cross the Mississippi, every Hy-Vee store sign I spot meant a mandatory stop. And I bought all the tubes they had. Every time. I mean, what if there’s an apocalypse? If that little factory shuts down and I live for another 20 years, well, now you see my dilemma. This year no Mentholatum Natural Ice at any Hy-Vee’s. I still have some tubes in various vaults from coast to coast but now I’ve got to find a new supplier on the black market. My world is literally upside down!
The other important top stop in Iowa is my ice cream. This too is rather perplexing as I really have never considered myself an ice cream nut. Heck, I put cotton candy, cinnamon/sugar soft pretzels, popcorn (small amount of real butter and light dusting of salt-mandatory-and for heaven’s sake no microwave popcorn), Diet Pepsi, and fresh tomatoes far ahead of my love for ice cream. Except where Well’s Blue Bunny Cherry Nut Ice Cream is involved. I make it my mission in life to eat it everyday while I’m in the state of Iowa. For awhile my hopes soared when Michigan Walmart’s started carrying Well’s Blue Bunny a few years ago. I thought the constant craving would eventually subside so I might return to normal. Ha! Walmart offered Cherry Nut-for the first few months. You know how limited space is when you only have a couple hundred thousand square feet to work with in those big box stores. Vendors pushing, bribing, coaxing, handing out favors to get their products on the shelves. Freezer space is even more limited. Well’s Blue Bunny Cherry Nut Ice Cream lost out in Michigan, thus making me this crazed beast when I’m in the great corn/soybeans/hogs/cattle filled state. I’m constantly fixated on where my next Cherry Nut bowl of ice cream is coming from? Would if I’m not close to a store or ice cream shop that carries Cherry Nut? Last year, in a fit of desperation, I bought a half gallon (it’s not even 64 ounces anymore, the carton is several ounces shy, yeah I noticed) and plastic spoons and devoured a hefty share. IN THE CAR. This year, determined to be more sane about my goofy Iowa ice cream habits, I brought real spoons and napkins in my purse for such an occasion. Yes, I can be civilized.
|Wells Blue Bunny Cherry Nut Ice Cream. A rather scrawny bowl MJ…|
Did that little stunt help me at all? No siree. Just over the Mississippi River on our way back to Michigan, I took an exit because I spotted a Walmart. Hell’s bells, they carried about 4 Blue Bunny flavors, none of them resembling Cherry Nut, so my spoons came home spic & span. And here I sit, typing, breathing like life is splendid. What a crock!
There was a wonderful high point to my trip home this year. A couple of weeks before I left, I messaged several classmates asking if a lunch date was possible? I always stop and visit Char, one of my best friends through school. I thought she’d get a kick out of seeing some of the girls. We chose a date where most of us were free, meeting at Cedar Rock Grill in Rock Valley. We had such a good time. We talked and hugged for 3 hours. And ate. Catching up with each other’s lives, reminiscing, encouraging, comforting. No longer one-upping anybody, we were just happy we’re still alive and kicking. No one to impress, just friends. Good friends. Getting together when chance brings us together. Thanks for that opportunity God. Girls, let’s not wait too long before we do this again. Life is a bowl of Cherry Nut(s). Indeed…
|Burgers, Schelhaas, Wynia, Gayer, Plueger, Gerritson & Ymker. We rock…|