Extract Junk, Inject Living
I once saw a meme of a welcome sign for Iowa that read: "Welcome to Iowa...hope you brought something to do." While awfully funny and admittedly true to some degree, it is not at all an accurate statement for us. With two daughters and son-in-laws based in Des Moines, and two grandsons—a four-year-old and a one-year-old—we have a hard time carving out time to do much beyond family-oriented activities, particularly once we subtract rain days from the time available for doing anything outdoors.
We have been in the state for a month so far this Spring, and it has rained almost every single day of that time. While sometimes that has been little more than a passing storm overnight, it has—more often than not—been hours of heavy, relentless, soaking, rain with tornado warnings, violent thunderstorms, driving winds, and potentially-damaging hail thrown in just for fun. Oh...and it has often been bitterly cold on some of the days that it managed to not rain, making outdoor activities unpleasant during those periods as well. Does it sound like I'm complaining? I am. It's been miserable enough that Margaret and I are in agreement that we're going to try to avoid coming here in May in future years if we can. With our house sold, there is no particular need for us to be in any particular place at any particular time, so why do this to ourselves again since Iowa can be delightful, otherwise.
First, there's good food. We might not have used the words "good food" in the same sentence with Iowa fifteen years ago when we first began visiting the state together with any regularity. When we delivered Margaret's oldest daughter to her college dorm in Iowa City all those years ago, the only restaurants we seemed to find were either chains or typical college fare, but chef-owned, high-quality dining options now dot the landscape, and Des Moines, in particular, sports more than its share. Our personal favorite is Barntown Brewery, which—as the name no doubt gives away—combines great beer with some of the most flavorful dishes we've eaten in any kind of restaurant, anywhere in the country. Though it is itself a chain, of sorts, we also got to experience our first Wahlburger and found the burgers to be quite good.
Anyone who follows us closely also know we're also suckers for a great bar. Our definition of a great bar, however, is not in any way connected to an establishment's willingness to serve a pint of Busch Light at Happy Hour prices. We gravitate toward good whiskey's (for me), fine wines (for Margaret), and innovative cocktails when we're in the mood for something special or different, and Des Moines sports a hand full of places that can deliver what we desire, in spades. One of the funkiest of these is The Continental in the city's East Village district. Not fancy and certainly not pretentious, but this tiny little establishment turns out unique cocktails and some great small plates.
When we're not eating and drinking, or with friends or family (where we're probably also eating and drinking), we might just be hanging out at the motorhome where we found ourselves parked next to Golfer, John Daly's Prevost recently. Nothing like hanging with the rich and famous, even if we are anything but! I also brewed a batch of beer—a Warrior Double IPA from Brooklyn Brew Shop—on one of the few nice days the first part of the month so that I could get it through primary and secondary fermentation and bottled before we get back on the road. I'll do a blog post detailing how I've managed to do this while traveling in an RV, but it's absolutely "doable." Sandwiched between the fun was a list of chores to prepare the coach, and us, for the next leg of our summer trip that will take us to Glacier National Park for the first time. We're pumped to see it, particularly since it appears we'll be there early enough in the year for the sky to be clear of smoke from the fires that inevitably seem to plague the region every summer.