Adventure #9: You Can Take the Girl Out of the Midwest . . .

. . . but you can’t take the Midwest out of the girl.

*This is Adventure #9 of my Top 10 Adventures (of the past year and a half) Countdown*

I moved to Phoenix 8 years ago, and I love my adopted home. I don’t think I’ll ever move back to the Midwest, but that doesn’t mean I haven’t taken it with me in some ways. There are some things so quintessentially “Midwest” in my tastes, habits, and attitudes. For instance, I’m friendly toward and trusting of strangers, I pronounce my As like a Chicagoan, and there are few things as delicious as corn on the cob on a late summer evening.

Since my immediate family and much of my (and Mike’s) extended family still live in the Midwest, I get to experience a homecoming fairly often. In summer 2012, Mike and I hit the road for an extended visit. Here are the highlights of that trip:

Nothing Special

My brother-in-law, Josh, is the lead singer in a (mostly) ’90s cover band called Nothing Special. I got to see them play for the first time, which was pretty fun. His rendition of Cee-lo’s “Fuck You” is always a crowd-pleaser, but I liked a lot of the ’90s grunge rock, too.

Josh rocking out

Josh rocking out

My sister and niece, Miss Millie, enjoying the tunes

My sister and niece, Miss Millie, enjoying the tunes

After the show, Mom, Dad, Mike, and I hopped in the car and drove several hours to northwest Iowa for the start of RAGBRAI (which was covered in my last post). We didn’t get there until about 4 am, so our first day of riding was a sleep-deprived one. After the week-long ride, Mike and I spent some family time in Iowa City. Usually “family time” means lots of games and yummy foods.

Chicago

Feeling restless, we decided to take a short side trip to Chicago for a few days. My cousin Dave and his wife Kelly let us crash at their place while we toured the city. We went to Navy Pier and the Museum of Science and Industry, and — best of all — went on a river architecture tour. When we weren’t galavanting about, we were playing more games with my cousin and his friends.

This wasn't on the architecture tour, it was just on the way to my cousin's house. According to Mike, crazy fire escape are the essence of any "real" city.

This wasn’t on the architecture tour, it was just on the way to my cousin’s house. According to Mike, crazy fire escapes are the essence of any “real” city.

We also made a special visit to the train station just to check it out

We also made a special visit to the train station just to check it out

The architecture tour

The architecture tour

Beautiful Chicago

Beautiful Chicago

Reflections

Reflections

Trump Tower, I believe

Trump Tower, I believe

Crazy bridge

Crazy bridge

Crazy building

Crazy building

Sears Tower -- uh, I mean Willis Tower

Sears Tower — uh, I mean Willis Tower

Olbrich Botanical Gardens

On our way back to Iowa we made a random stop at the Olbrich Botanical Gardens in Madison. Midwest botanical gardens are quite different from desert botanical gardens, as you might imagine. The most unexpected part of the Olbrich gardens was its Thai pavilion, though.

The Olbrich Botanical Gardens were pretty and lush

The Olbrich Botanical Gardens were pretty and lush

An authentic Thai pavilion, brought over from Thailand and built by Thai workers

An authentic Thai pavilion, brought over from Thailand and built by Thai workers

So ornate!

So ornate!

Plant bears having a picnic!

Plant bears having a picnic!

Living History Farms & the Iowa State Fair

Back in Iowa once more, we moved on to the Des Moines area to stay with my sister and consort with Mike’s extended family. We went to a wedding reception for Mike’s cousin Suzanne and her hubby Steve. We also participated in a few fun family events: visits to the Iowa Living History Farms and the infamous Iowa State Fair.

This Living History Farms drugstore was full of all kinds of powders and potions. It even had leeches!

This Living History Farms drugstore was full of all kinds of powders and potions. It even had leeches!

Smithing

Smithing

Old machines

Old machines

There were so many crazy, fun things to see at the Iowa State Fair, and we didn’t even get a picture of the butter sculpture of Snow White & the Seven Dwarfs!

There were lots of baby animals since the fair has a whole birthing building where you can watch the "miracle of life"

There were lots of baby animals since the fair has a whole birthing building where you can watch the “miracle of life”

Dan decided that bee farming is not for him

Dan decided that bee farming is not for him

Deb took a picture with the Iowa Honey Princess

Deb took a picture with the Iowa Honey Princess

The fair had great people watching

The fair had great people-watching

Elliot enjoyed the rides

Elliot enjoyed the rides

There are so few minorities in Iowa that the fair needs a special "Asian Outreach" vehicle -- what?!?!

There are so few minorities in Iowa that the fair needs a special “Asian Outreach” vehicle — what?!?!

Elliot also really liked the tractors . . .

Elliot also really liked the tractors . . .

. . . but Deb was more interested in the horrifying foods like Deep Fried Butter . . .

. . . but Deb was more interested in the horrifying foods like Deep Fried Butter . . .

. . . which we had to try in order to get the full fair experience

. . . which we had to try in order to get the full fair experience

All in all, our Midwest trip was a success. I have one piece of advice to leave you with, however: no matter how boring you find the Nebraska landscape on your road trip, no matter how badly you want to leave that sorry-excuse-for-a-state behind, try not to inch above the speed limit unless you want to deal with equally bored cops.

Cheers!

Comments
2 Responses to “Adventure #9: You Can Take the Girl Out of the Midwest . . .”
  1. Katie M. says:

    I really loved reading this, Jacque. You have a knack for words and I LOVE all of the pictures. I can’t wait to make a trip down to Iowa, even though I am already in the mid-west, and get the family out to Living History Farms. I haven’t been there since grade school; we went every year starting in Kindergarten, I loved every minute, and I know Josh would love it too!

    I can’t wait to read about more of your adventures. Hope all of your travels and adventures are safe, rewarding, and lots of fun. Take care. Our love to you and Mike.

    Katie Mott & family (Josh and Avery).

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