Trans Iowa trip

Julie and I returned from nearly a week in Iowa.  All the way across Iowa.  Nearly to South Dakota.  Weeeee!!!!

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Easily, the busiest coffee cup I’ve ever gotten from a restaurant or gas station.  Since we were in Iowa, I determined that it carried a picture of a cow in a snowstorm.

Day one: Thursday

We learned, last September, that US20 across Iowa is mighty spare of handy gas stations.  This time, we plotted our trip perfectly so that we neither ran low on gas nor full on bladders.

Webster City, Iowa, proved the ideal spot for our third and final stop on our eleven hour, 680 mile drive.  We spied the Phillips 66 station, with the attached Made Rites restaurant.  It was afternoon, so my coffee needed to be decaf.  “You have to get decaf from Made Rite,” informed Annie from behind the counter.  Julie volunteered to grab that as I shopped for a snack.

Selections made, I went to the counter.  Annie, I suspect in her twenties, was accompanied by a lady who turned out to be her supervisor.  We began to make small-talk.  Both women were very friendly, laughed easily, and were in no hurry since the store was empty save for me.  I really appreciate folks who talk with me as if I am just another regular person, so I milked the moment.

By the time Julie returned with the stark white cup and its black cover, I felt like I had two new friends.  What a nice start to our trip!

Day two: Friday

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The road south from Julie’s folks’ place.  The picture does not do justice to how imposing this hill is.  Every direction I run is hilly, so I have no choice but to scale them.

I love jogging wherever I go.  I am always inspired to run, to learn the area by foot, and to enjoy the scenery.  When at Julie’s folks’, I have lots of free time, so I go running every morning.  I am pleased to report that in six days I covered more than thirty miles, averaging five miles a day, but not pleased that all but one day was terribly windy.

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Windblown Gina.  This is not a look that I intend to adopt.

Day three: Saturday

The reason for the May trip was Julie’s mother’s mother’s 100th birthday, which was this day, May 21.

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Grandma Morrison, flanked by my Julie and her sister, Sheri.

We gathered at Grandma’s place, the assisted living center in Worthington, Minnesota, about a half-hour north of Julie’s folks’.  The turn-out was wonderful.  Julie’s mom, Vonna, planned a dandy party.  Vonna is one of two children of the birthday girl, Alva, but, sadly, brother Glenn passed on a couple of years ago.

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Alva’s Ark.  Everyone is there, from Alva’s children to her right and left, followed by her grandchildren, and then every great-grandchild.

Day four: Sunday

Graduation day!  Ally, daughter of Julie’s only brother, Mark, flanked by my sweetie and the equally lovely Amber, the youngest of the Leckband kids.

Ally is the second grandchild to graduate from high school.  We enjoyed the afternoon at her open house, an ice cream social.  I didn’t protest the lack of ham sandwiches and potato salad.

This was a weird experience, the day after a few weird experiences.  Julie and I are in this new stage: how are we introduced to those who had never met Greg and Julie?  There were a couple of awkward moments both days, but everyone was very kind.

At the birthday party, I was kept busy with someone to talk with the entire time.  At Ally’s, it didn’t happen.  When the influx of folks created a very busy house, and Julie was happily chatting with those whom she hasn’t seen in years, I got stuck.  I was sitting by myself, looking across the living room, kitchen, and dining room, and seeing a whole lot of people of every age, none of whom I knew.

I said to myself, “I can’t begin to remember the last time I felt overmatched in a situation.  I feel completely out of place.”  Greg would have walked up to Julie as she chatted with friends, gently broke into the conversation, and introduced himself.  Gina did not feel comfortable doing that, and did not want to put Julie on the spot.

I wanted to leave.  I wanted to walk the 2/3 of a mile back to Julie’s folks, but I did not want to squeeze between the crowd of people.  I sat and stared at the floor.

After thirty or so minutes, someone came over, I was introduced, and I wound up busy with conversation the rest of the day.  The party was a grand success for Ally.  A great time was had by all.  And, in the end, I met a bunch of very nice relatives and friends of Julie, all who received me beautifully.

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You might recall Brianna, from last September’s video, “Bree and me.”  She slept over, Saturday night, and needed my assistance making a smoothie Sunday morning.  No help was required with the fruity ‘stashe.

Day five: Monday

And then the rains came.  In the morning, we easily received an inch of water.  It cleared long enough for me to go running, then returned mid-afternoon.

Two more inches came.  Fast.  So fast that for only the second time in the twenty-five years they have lived in this spot, debris from the fields to the north and east washed into Leckband’s pond.

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Comprised largely of the corn stalks left from last autumn’s harvest, the pond would need to be cleaned.

In the evening, Dad, with two grandsons, Tommy and Griffin, got into a boat and began the work of clearing the exit so that the debris can be sent away, into the creek that winds its way into the Ocheyedan River.

Day six: Tuesday

As Julie enjoyed another morning out running errands and having breakfast with her dad, I headed out for my final run, and an ongoing survey of the effects of Monday’s rain.

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Remember how I said how hilly the land is?  Where it’s flat, there’s the problem of standing water, but where it’s hilly there’s a lot of runoff.
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Green rows arise.  This picture does not do justice to the beauty of the corn rows striping the lush brown fields.

In Port Hope, we lived on the edge of the village, so I saw farmland every day.  In Indianapolis, I can go weeks between seeing growing crops.  Oh, how I miss it.  I treasure the chance to run the country roads, with their endless acres of growing crops.

Day seven: Wednesday

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With the entire family at Grandma’s party, the required album-full of pictures were taken.  Now, it was time to say so-long one more time.

At 6:30 a.m., Julie and I were on the road for Indy.  Rain visited us for the first two hours, then it cleared.  The way home was smooth.  We cut ten minutes off last week’s time.  We arrived home pooped but pleased.  It was a good week.

Making the usual three stops on the way, the first was to turn off at Webster City and the Phillips 66 station.  I gassed up, so Julie had entered the store ahead of me.  When I came in, there were a few people near the counter.  I headed for the restroom.  From behind, I heard a loud, “Hi there!”  I turned.  It was Annie, waving hand high above her, big smile greeting me.  I smiled wide and enthusiastically waved back.

Goodness!  How wonderful Annie made me feel!

We had another friendly chat, filled with laughter.  Sadly, the store got busy, so we had to let her get to work.  I asked if the store has email.  She didn’t know.  If I had been thinking, I would have gotten her last name.  So far, I’ve not been able to track her down via the Internet.

If I don’t find her now, you can bet that we will be stopping in on our next trans Iowa trip.  I value every person who is kind to me, and I love to show the same friendship to them as they are kind enough to show me.

It’s exactly what Julie’s family has given to me, and I cherish them all.

Thank you, Mom and Dad, for taking good care of us.  Thank you, Leckband clan, for your love and affection, and never-ending chatter and laughter.


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