We left Milwaukee and made our way west to Iowa City. We arrived at Sugar Bottom Campground to find the office closed, only open a few hours in the AM and a few hours in the late afternoon. We did not have a reservation here, and as many of you who know Traci, this can make her a bit uneasy not having a plan. We had spoken with the office weeks back, trying to make a reservation at one of the full hook-up sites, but nothing was available. But, they did have lots of first come, first serve sites that we could choose from when we arrived. So based on that conversation, we decided to just go for it and see what we could find when we arrived. We headed into the park, and it was big, tons of sites to choose from, but most of them already had a reservation tag on the numbering post. (It was Labor Day and a Hawkeye Football weekend so a bit busy). I did know that certain sites were 50 AMP, so I headed to that area of the park, and after circling a bit, found a site that we could fit into and get satellite, along with a little view of the lake. (I had loaded up the water tank prior to leaving Milwaukee, so we could make it for several days without any additional water, or a sewer.) We got set up, including the flagpole, and were really glad we had the 50 AMP service to run both the air conditioners; it was hot and humid. We then headed to downtown and the Taste of Iowa City. We had read that they were having a food festival to introduce all the students to the local restaurants and you could get some great samples of the cuisine for only a few bucks. Again, one of those lucky timing things and we were able to hit several different places and it was very good food. Along with the festival, this was to be our meeting place with one of Traci’s former co-workers, Steve Bird and his wife and family. We found Steve as we were walking around, small city, and met up a bit later for a beverage and some conversation at a market/wine bar in the city center. We eventually headed home to the MoHo, a long days drive and full bellies finally caught up to us.
Our second day brought some poor weather, and it turned into an errands day. We had a lazy morning and finally ventured out to the local mall, I needed a new wallet and both needed a few other items. In our driving around, we were very impressed with the community, they had everything you need in a town of 75,000 or so; the mall, a Costco, home improvement stores, etc. We had planned on making a drive to see some local attractions, but with the rain we decided to put it off a day and just made our way back to the MoHo. It was Thursday night and the first real day of the college football season! We did have plans to meet up with Steve at a local bar just northeast of town in Solon at the Big Grove Brewery. We sat in the bar, Traci and Steve caught up and we enjoyed a nice evening. The highlight of the night for me was the food. I ordered my usual wings, which were very good. But I also ordered the Tater-Tot casserole. This is something that my mom used to make all the time, so I was curious to give it a try and it was awesome! Very simple; ground beef, mushroom soup, cheese and Tater-Tots on top, so good! We finished our meals and Traci and I headed to the MoHo, the Cougs were on TV at 9:00PM and she was excited to watch. I made it through the first half and then headed to bed, Traci stayed up and watched to the bitter end.
Friday brought some much better weather, but another late start. We finally headed out about noon, wanting to take in some of the local sites we had heard so much about. We headed northeast, our first destination, The Field of Dreams in Dyersville. Along the way, through the rolling hills of Iowa, we both were amazed with just how much corn is grown here. Again this is one of those things you just have to drive and see, but everywhere we could see were hundreds of acres of cornfields, and a few soybean patches intermixed. Every plat of land that could be farmed was, truly amazing to see it all in person. We made our way to the movie setting, and there it was, The Field of Dreams, just as it was 25 years ago! Everyone has probably seen the movie, but to actually see the exact place was very special. The family that owns the farm that the field was built on has kept it open, not without difficulties, and actually has to pay Universal for the rights to sell merchandise. There were about 15 others there, some having picnics, others tossing a ball around, and a group even taking infield practice on the diamond. We walked to the outfield, headed into the cornfields, just as in the movie, and took it all in. I was a bit hesitant about the 90-minute drive, but it was so worth it, so glad we made the trip! After about 30 minutes and dozens of pictures, we headed out; our next stop was Le Claire, Iowa about 80 miles southeast. Again, corn and soybeans everywhere, but nice weather for a drive. We arrived in Le Claire, and made our way to the original location of Antique Archaeology, and the home of one of my favorite shows, American Pickers. The place was packed; tons of people also had the same idea, even a huge group of bikers, with some 20 motorcycles or so in the driveway. We were hoping to see Mike, Frank or Danni, but they were not around. We took some pictures, bought a hat, and wandered around the store for awhile, seeing some items we had recently seen them find in their travels on the show. (We also visited their other store in Nashville.) Time to head back to Iowa City, we had dinner plans with the Bird family. We made our way to their home, and had a great meal out on the deck and good conversation. We have said it before, but it is so nice to be welcomed into someone’s house for a home cooked meal, we really appreciated it!
Click here for my Shoeless Joe Jackson imitation: MAH01646
Saturday had arrived and it was game day in Iowa City, home of the Iowa Hawkeyes. Steve and Nancy had season tickets, but Traci and I decided to just find some off the street. It was not a sellout as they were playing a smaller school, Northern Iowa Univ. We got to town and parked in a huge garage, having to spend the $1 per hour, after the first hour free, bargain! Traci and I walked into the central square area we had been a few nights before, looking for a beverage to start our morning; kickoff was set for 11:00AM local time. We bellied up to a bar for a beer and bloody mary, and just as we were about to leave, Traci ran into Steve and Nancy at the other end of the place, total coincidence. We all walked to the stadium together, and Traci and I found a guy with extra tickets and made our purchase. We said our goodbyes to the Bird’s and made our way to the seats, 50-yard line, halfway up on the visitor’s side of the field, awesome! Kinnick Stadium holds about 70,000, but feels much smaller. It is very tight to the field and it quickly became one of my favorite college football venues I have been fortunate to witness a game. The weather was partly cloudy, but when the sun came out, it was a cooker. The game was a lot closer than the home team expected, but eventually they pulled it out. We made our way back to town for a meal, the center of town was packed with college students, and we stopped in at Quinton’s, thanks for the recommendation Nik Pflu. We found a booth and ordered our beers, looked up and there were Steve and Nancy, again a total coincidence! We had some great food and drinks, said our final goodbye, then it was time to head back to the MoHo. It was a nice night; we enjoyed a campfire before the Huskies game, set to start at 9:30PM, live from Hawaii. Traci watched a little, but not her team, so headed to bed early. I stayed up to watch them hang on for a lackluster win, and went to bed late.
Another great stop and we have to thank Steve and Nancy for all of their hospitality. It was great for Traci to spend time with someone she worked with for years. On to the Twin Cities and Minnesota next, only about 7 more states to visit!