Category Archives: Iowa

NYC Ballet at Iowa City’s new Hancher

What a treat to see the NYC Ballet for the first time in ages – and the first time in Iowa. Apparently, this was the company’s first visit to Iowa City, so I’m guessing it’s the first visit to Iowa since Iowa City hosts the state’s best dance performances (although Des Moines is improving!). The company was superb, as always, and it was a particular treat to see Iowa City native Miriam Miller dance – including in a sensational, sensual duet choreographed by Christopher Wheeldon (who choreographed The Joffrey’s new nutcracker, which we saw last year during our first visit to the new Hancher.) Speaking of which, the new Hancher is stunning —  I like it better than the old one. It feels smaller, more intimate, more vertical than horizontal, more peaceful with calming colors (seafoam green, grey, tan wood) and plush upholstered seats. Having sat in the balcony and on the floor, close to the stage, I’m not sure there is a seat with a bad view. (Our floor seats were way off to the side but we saw the vast majority of the stage.).
Dinner was a Takanami– for sushi and tempura, which was a nice change from all the heavy food we ate in the Deep South. We couldn’t deal with more burgers, ribs or fried chicken. We were tempted to try the new (or new to us) Szechuan Chinese restaurant, Bashu, that opened where the Linn Street Cafe used to be but it looked a little too authentic for a before-theater/meal. Didn’t want to get an upset stomach.  Locals seem to be loyal to Szechuan House.

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Filed under dance, Iowa, Iowa city

Burger of my dreams – The Cider House, Fairfield, Iowa

You know the burger is going to be good when your server asks “Medium rare okay?” And she doesn’t balk when you say “Maybe rare?” As promised, The Cider House burger was not only Iowa’s best ( the Iowa Cattleman’s Association said so a few years ago). It’s the best I’ve had anywhere. Finally a $12 burger worth $12. The beef was melt in your mouth fresh and juicy and flavorful, with a crunch on the outside, pink inside — produced by a local farmer Dirck knows. The hard cider, also locally made, was also among the best I’ve had, Fishback  & Stephenson green apple verde, sweet but not too, ice cold, hardly tastes like alcohol. Now I have to figure out a way to get back to Fairfield. For now we are heading in the other direction and staying a little east in Mount Pleasant at a decent (so far) comfort inn. (The only non-Airbnb stay, in part because we were pulling in late.)

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Gorgeous fall day for a “Farm Crawl” in Southern Iowa

We drove an hour south of Des Moines on what turned out to be a lovely fall day (after a few initial sprinkles) for the 11th annual Farm Crawl — a driving (not crawling) tour rural in Marion, Lucas and Warren counties of five farms plus a local pottery place and a sale on the grounds of an 1850’s country church, where FFA (Future Farmers of America) kids set up shop, selling their iron works and meat from their “Cattle Project.”

Such a great way to see the Iowa count side and out-of-the-way small family farms, driving up and down hilly gravel roads, tire wheels kicking up dust, flocks of birds suddenly flying in formation from a telephone line, lots of open land and then suddenly, a rare round barn or a tidy red barn or a ramshackle farmstead or the sun-dappled  lawn of an old country church at a rural crossroads.

The Iowa we love.

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Check out my story in Rails-to-Trails Conservancy’s magazine: the Raccoon River Valley Trail

Here it is!  Click here! (This is the photo taken by my friend Denise…that was used below. And yes, that’s me riding….)

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Filed under bike trails, biking, Des Moines, Iowa

Iowa State Fair 2017 – gorgeous weather brings lots of people but doesn’t feel crowded

The weather was so perfect (sunny and almost cool, not hot or humid) last Saturday that I feared the fairgrounds would be uncomfortably crowded. There were tons of people but the fair didn’t feel any more crowded than usual for a Saturday. There was a long line at the Dairy Barn, which is to be expected, and it remains the one place where I always feel sweaty, even in relatively cool temps, because there’s no shade.

But there was hardly any wait to get an egg-on-a-stick from the Iowa Egg Council inthe Ag Building or to get a ticket for the Sky Glider. We sailed right into the Pork Producer’s tent for dinner – maybe because it was relatively late? (about 7 p.m.)


The Midway did look cleaner, brighter and less seedy – as promised with the rebranding as Thrill Park. And I did overhear someone actually ordering a cheesy fried enchilada funnel cake – one of the “new foods” at the fair. No thank you. Other than that, just enjoyed the usual highlights, with the added bonus of having two of our grown kids and their significant others with us!

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Filed under agritourism, Des Moines, Iowa

Iowa State Fair tips – in a travel story I wrote for the Minneapolis Star Tribune

 

Here’s a travel story I wrote about the Iowa State Fair in this weekend’s Minneapolis Star Tribune.

Iowa State Fair has much in common with Minnesota’s

Iowa State Fair has much in common with Minnesota's
Iowa’s fair is a more “classic” counterpart to Minnesota’s get-together.
1:04PM

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Filed under Des Moines, Iowa

Riding from Perry to Jamaica (Iowa) on the Raccoon River Valley Trail

We explored a new section (for us) of the Raccoon River Valley Trail in central Iowa yesterday — about  a 20-mile ride round trip between Perry and the tiny town of Jamaica (via another small town, Dawson) and really enjoyed. If only the temperature hadn’t been hovering around 95 degrees. This is the newer section of the trail so very smooth and in great shape. The stretch is very flat, leading through classic Iowa farm country and often tree-lined so shady in parts (which we appreciated on a very hot sunny day). 

We stopped in Dawson at the beautifully restored depot, which has a recreated freight area, nice bathrooms, an indoor water faucet and old historical photos and a mural of an old train.

In the town of Jamaica (must find out how an Iowa town ended up with this name), we stumbled upon the bar Just One More, that had much-appreciated AC in its dark back room. A woman was grilling brats and burgers outside so we had a late lunch —  two brats, a Fat Tire and lemonade – plus free popcorn – for $8 total. After chatting with some guys in the bar (one told us he was fixing his “first ex-wife’s” old farm), we ate in the screened-in porch at a high top table overlooking a small town rural scene (fields, an old ballpark etc.). The place seemed to cater to both kinds of bikers (motorcycles and bicycles.)

In Perry, we dropped by the bike shop next to the Hotel Pattee, which was having a 40 percent off sale on bike clothes – and also at Stitches in Time, an antique/junk shop, where I found a very nice quilt for $40. We also stopped at the ice cream shop along the trail in Dallas County.

 

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