Saturday, August 16, 2008

Crossing Iowa

To get from Chicago to Kansas City, by car, you can either drive through Iowa or south through St. Louis. We usually chose Iowa and we always wonder why. It's not that Iowa is a bad place, it's just that there is not much to see from a car window. I can only yell "COW" about nine times before Mary and Kate completely ignore me. After that I moo, which entertains them once, and then they tire of me and my cow antics.

I spend the first hour or so pointing out the Big Red Barns, quoting from the wonderful Margaret Wise Brown book, "and they all lived together in the big red barn". At every corn field I point and ask "do you think a field mouse is being born in this field of corn?". Around Iowa City I get a kindly pat on the knee from the husband who is pointing out that the children are in the backseat reading Frog and Toad or George and Martha and have not listened to me or Margaret Wise Brown for the last thirty minutes. I move on to agriculture. The children live in the city so I think this is an important opportunity to learn about the origins of food. In Iowa you see corn and soybeans. Look children, edamame!

We spent the night at a really horrid hotel, a Bavarian lodge'ish spot that appeared to be the place all plastic wood came to die. I spotted my grandparents console television cabinet in the lobby. I counted nine floral patterns in our room alone. The beds were clearly bags of cotton balls, large ziploc bags full of cotton balls covered with sheets. I was up at 5:30 am, left to wander around Bavaria all by myself, the family not as bothered by the really bad bedding. I went to find a cup of tea. In the breakfast room I was given a styrofoam cup of hot water and offered the large wooden box housing the tea collection. Wonderful, I'm a bit of a tea snob...Liptons. Four rows of Lipton tea. Given that the large wooden box usually implies a choice, was it necessary to remove the Liptons to the box?

The waitress at breakfast, one of three women working named Amber, was impressed with how well Mary and Kate speak. "I can really understand them" said Amber. "Thank you, I do think they enunciate very well". "OH, you're teaching them the really big words", said Amber. Amber was very kind, although the breakfast was really bad. Kate's eggs had a nice grit, a fine powdered texture; in Chicago I buy eggs from Iowa, they are fresh and very good. In Iowa, I am served powdered eggs. Mary was served canned fruit at dinner. In all of Iowa, in August, the best they could come up with was canned peaches? Here's another thing I learned, breakfast is $9.62. If you'd like juice, that's an extra $2.13. Thankfully my husband, who grew up just across the border, was able to explain that Amber was quoting prices, tax included. Saves on the shock later on, best to know upfront just how much that Tang and powdered eggs might set you back.

We always meet lovely people in our trek across Iowa. Kate stopped a man in the hotel who was wearing a backpack and had this conversation:
K: I see you have a backpack, so do I, but I wear mine with both straps, you only have on one strap.
Man: Yes, one strap (he looked a bit confused at this three year old rambling).
K: And you have a cup and I have a cup. What do you have in your cup? I have water.
Man: Um...Pepsi. Water is better for you, good for you for having water.
K: See we are the same but different. You have a backpack, I have a backpack, you have a cup, I have a cup, the same but different. We're all different, even though we are the same, we are different. Good bye!

We meet some very nice people in Iowa.

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