I like to use humor when talking about Iowa. I-O-W-A. It’s the acronym for Idiots Out Wandering Around. The best thing to come out of Iowa is Interstate 35. Iowa is always too hot or too cold or too muggy. And there are certainly a lot of dead deer on the roadsides and dead bugs on my windshield whenever I am there. I even laughed at the most recent Rose Bowl game when someone held up a sign that said “Hawkeye Is The Least Favorite Avenger” in a game where the Hawkeyes were trounced by Stanford.
But the truth is I AM a native of the Hawkeye State. Born in Des Moines. A few years in Waterloo. A lot of years in Grundy Center, where I graduated high school. A couple of years in Marshalltown for my Associate of Arts degree. A few more at the University of Northern Iowa in Cedar Falls obtaining a Bachelor’s degree.
I lived in Iowa the first 23 years (exactly one half) of my life.
My family still lives in Iowa. My father and one sister in have homes in Grundy Center. My only brother and his family reside in Dike. My youngest sister and her family live in Hudson.
Even as I have moved on to Kansas City and now Las Vegas, Iowa will always be home.
I spent a few days in Iowa last week. It was a chance to see friends and family, and attend the graduation of my niece Brynn, who was one of the three valedictorians at Dike-New Hartford High School for 2016.
Those days reaffirmed to me the fabulousness that is Iowa.
With my 22-month old son Jace in tow, we enjoyed staying in a hotel not far from the Des Moines International airport. When Jace needed something that I failed to pack, he got in the stroller and we walked the 1 1/2 blocks to an older model Hy-Vee Food Store. Before we even left the hotel parking lot, the hotel’s valet driver commented, “You guys look like you are out enjoying the day.” He told us to “be safe” on our walk. Iowans are exceedingly nice people.
Although Hy-Vee has updated their stores throughout Iowa and Kansas City, this one was straight out of the 1970s. It had an old school meat counter, retro freezer doors in the frozen food aisles and angular aisles by the pharmacy. It was super cool.
At the hotel the young woman who cleaned the rooms chatted up Jace as we walked by every single day. She could not have been more pleasant working a thankless and demanding job.
At dinner, perfect strangers would say hello to Jace and ask him for high fives.
We spent a day with friends and a day with family, traveling from Des Moines to Grundy Center to Dike back to Grundy Center and back to Des Moines in one day.
On our final day we were scheduled to fly back to Las Vegas at 11:30AM. After dropping off the rental car, I had to walk across two streets with my suitcase, a stroller/car seat in a travel bag, a backpack and most importantly, Jace. My son was walking somewhat beside me, though he was drinking from his sippy cup and surveying the surroundings. Even at Jace’s pace, we made it across the first street easily as there was no traffic. The second street, however, was the one with all the passenger drop-offs and pick-ups. As we approached it a security guard in a safety vest saw us and quickly walked into the street. I don’t even think it was his station. There was no reason for a security guard to even be there. But he was there, holding up traffic so we could safely get into the airport.
What should have been a quick and painless flight home failed to materialize. Our plane had a mechanical problem that Southwest Airlines could not quickly fix. After boarding us and de-boarding us, the decided to fly an empty plane from Chicago to Des Moines to pick us up and take us to Las Vegas. The flight would be delayed 4 1/2 hours. We made the most of the time by visiting the gift shops, getting some lunch and Jace taking a nap in my lap in the gate area.
As it was getting closer to time to board, Jace and I sat on a bench and ate mini-muffins while waiting for the plane. During this time, four different complete strangers came up to us to commend Jace on how well-behaved he had been during the long delay. Jace never cried all day. He didn’t throw a fit. He didn’t even scream. He just hung out with his Daddy and waited for the next adventure to start.
It was nice of so many Iowans to notice us.
We don’t get back much to Iowa anymore. This trip was the second time in two years. For a single father of a toddler the trip is a daunting task. But it is nice to know when we go back we can always get a refresher on the greatness of Iowa.
And I can still make jokes. You know what University of Northern Iowa fans and University of Iowa fans have in common? None of them went to the Iowa.