Letter #114: Who Knew I Was Gothic?!

Dear adventures,

By my 9th week of travel, I have become known as quite the “gamer.’ I’m always up for an experience. New cities, new states and new campuses instantly equate to fun memories in my mind. The experience is always what I’m looking for, so chain restaurants and sitting in hotel rooms are bottom on my list of activities to do in a new place. Part of this is because I’m 23 and simply look for you at all times as well as this being my first time to travel the country. I think the biggest reason is I just like to have fun!

I’ve had some great moments in the past few months, but this week all stops were pulled. Touring Memorial Stadium and Husker football: epic. Visiting an old kamp guy at the art shop where Golden Globe trophies are made: random. Stumbling upon the American Gothic Museum in Eldon, Iowa: priceless.

You see, I offered to drive from Des Moines to Quincy, IL. There’s no good way to get there, so after nearly being run off the road into an abyss of ice and snow by an idiot who was texting while driving, we came across a sign declaring “American Gothic Museum’ 50 miles. Jokingly, I asked Kara (K-Kountry intern and dear Branson friend) if she wanted to stop. We laughed and didn’t think twice about it. Then, we entered Eldon and saw the same sign pointing us to one mile away. We happened to be way ahead of schedule, and Kara could tell I was up for you. Without Allen’s (the other K-Kountry intern; yes, they sent us on trail together!) knowledge as he was napping in the back of the 15 passenger, we turn in.

Driving up to this, I still have no idea what we are getting ourselves into.

Kara and I walk in, and this is hanging front and center.

Still no idea what I’m entering. My initial connotation was a bunch of teens dressed in black. Kara anticipated the gothic art era. She was WAY closer than me. The museum employee comes around the corner and finally informs us we have stumbled upon THE house that inspired the painting, American Gothic. Into art or not, everyone’s seen this piece.

Grant Wood happened to pass through Eldon, saw and painted the house, then returned to his studio in Cedar Rapids.

There, he had his sister and dentist pose. They never stood in front of the house nor posed together.

This painting is probably the most parodied and familiar painting from the 20th century, and we got to dress up and pose in front of the actual house!

Of all things to stumble across, this was awesome. I feel more cultured and educated, and it’s just another ridiculous story to add to the books. Thursday, I was reminded to make time for random stops, conversations, meals, experiences and you. Thanks for the reminder.

Looking forward to many, many more of you,

American Gothic poser


Letter #113: The Corn Fed State

Dear Iowa,

You have been an adventure. You are now the second state I’ve been able to knock off my never been to list this week, but good night, we could have picked a better week for my introduction. You are cold. I’m not sure I’ll ever claim Oklahoma to be cold again. On a normal basis, you are single digit temperatures. I experienced this, but with the wind chill you were in the negatives. I’m not sure I was able to feel my feet the entire time we crossed paths. The good news is I survived.

Upon introduction, I knew nothing about you. Now that we’ve built some credibility, I’ve decided you’re known for a few things. HyVee. I’ve heard stories about this place from my “northern’ friends, which meant I had to stop to see the greatness for myself. The South has Publix, the rich have Whole Foods and the North has HyVee for grocery shopping.

Cold and snow. I expected you to be cold, but I never expected -20 degrees like you were last night. The difference is your people know how to handle this stuff. Kids still get recess. They just wear their snowsuits to school. People can feel their feet because they wear appropriate shoes and socks unlike me. Roads are cleared efficiently and your people actually know how to drive unlike Oklahoma where all hell breaks loose if there is even talk of possible snow. Also, if it snows in Branson or Oklahoma, it melts after a few days to a week. This is not the case here. It never warms up enough.

Politics. Who knew you were such an important state for this? You are the state where the second political caucus occurs. Therefore, political candidates, specifically presidential, visit you often. Whether this is good or bad is personal preference I guess, but you seem to be a far bigger deal than I anticipated.

Bucket list: to try all cheesecakes at The Cheesecake Factory...another one bites the dust with my friend Jess!

Good people. Man, I can’t explain how many neat families we met along the way. I even got to spend good time with an old kamp friend! They all have positive attitudes about the cold and have the ability to instantly make you feel at home. I didn’t expect them to be rude, but I didn’t expect them to have quite as much of a good “ole boy feel either. I guess that’s what happens when you’re corn fed…this also seemed to result in good basketball players.

You definitely weren’t at the top of my choice of trail lists, but you were a pleasant surprise. I don’t think I could ever handle the cold…well, if push came to shove I’d adapt and be just fine. I’d also buy wool socks. If I was going to check you off my list of states to visit, it only seemed fitting to experience you at the peak of winter…next time, I choose fall or spring!

Appreciating the “cold’ of Branson and Oklahoma more than ever,

Fan of Iowa