Friday, September 4, 2015

Road Trip 2015: Canadian Detour, Iowa Hospitality, and Road Food

While at the Alto rally, Andy from Can Am, where we purchased our Alto, suggested we come in for a new fridge since we'd been having trouble with ours. It meant postponing our trip to the Ingalls Homestead and losing one night in the Badlands, but we figured we weren't going to be any closer to Ontario in the near future. Thankfully, we had our passports and registration for the Alto with us which made border crossings pretty straightforward.

Can Am is in London, Ontario and the drive there is very beautiful and pastoral with lots and lots of windmills.

Windmills as far as the eye can see.

Unless you're interested in all-things RV feel free to skip this paragraph. We have had problems with our dometic two-way (propane and electric) fridge from the get-go. I won't go through all the work we've had done on it, but suffice it to say, it has never cooled correctly. So we spent a night camped in the Can Am parking lot, and got to become recquainted with several of the great folks we'd met last summer when picking up the Alto. We headed out with a new fridge later that day, but not before purchasing one of these stovetop toasters. Sadly we've had issues with the new fridge too, but I won't bore you with the details.

After passing back into the US we wanted to drive as far as we could and find a quick place to overnight. I heard that Cracker Barrels will let RVers overnight in their parking lots so I called ahead to check. I called 3 stores and 2 of the 3 were happy to have us stay, while the third does not allow it. So we made our way to Kalamazoo and spent a mostly uneventful night there. It did get a little stormy, but everthing had passed us by by about midnight and we were able to have a pretty restful night. We felt we owed Cracker Barrel some of our cash for the free lodging so we ate breakfast there and then headed out.

I bought Jane and Michael Stern's book Road Food several months back, hoping we could catch some of the recommended restaurants on our route. I'd forgotten I even had it until a friend mentioned stopping at several of their recommendations when on a road trip as a child. I had the Kindle copy so it was easy to search and I found a spot on our route that day that promised a beloved decades old hot fudge recipe. Barry is not one for sweets but Nella and I outnumber him, so we took a 15 minute detour to Lagomarcino's in Moline, Iowa.

I called ahead to check on parking options and we were able to find an easy parallel spot a couple of blocks away. I learned on this trip that Google Earth is your friend when you want to find somewhere with trailer-friendly parking.

The hot fudge was a little on the sweet side for me, but Nella and I both liked being able to add it ourselves so we could make the ratio of ice cream to hot fudge just right. The whole place was remarkably preserved and had that great old-fashioned soda fountain feel.They also had a beautiful selection of handmade candy so we picked some up for our friends who we were meeting up with that night.

We didn't decide on our route to South Dakota until that day, but when we realized we'd be heading through Grinnell, Iowa I wanted to get in touch with our friends Nicole and Russ. I first met Nicole when we lived in Iowa and she and I worked on a housing grant together. She later game to Austin to get her Ed.D at UT when Barry and I were there for his law degree so we got to overlap for a year or two there. We were still in touch via Facebook but hadn't seen each other since probably 2002, so when I messaged her on Facebook to say we were coming through and would love to meet up, she graciously invited us to stay at her house. I hesitated, explaining that we had loads of laundry to do but they welcomed us and our piles of laundry. In case you haven't had the pleasure of knowing many Iowans, they're about as nice as people come--at least these Iowans are. So we got to catch up, meet their two beautiful daughters and nieces who were visiting, and Nella got an unexpected playdate and sleepover.

Nella and Claire after walking their dog. I regret not getting a photo of the whole crew!
We headed out the next morning after a great visit. Come see us soon Behrens!

I had forgotten how beautiful the wide open spaces of Iowa can be.
There's something mesmerizing about all those cornfields.

We decided to try another of the Stern's recommendations for a late lunch. Althogh Barry and I lived in Northwest  Iowa for two years, we somehow missed the phenomenon that is loose meat. We decided to rectify that by going to the Tastee Inn & Out in Sioux City.

It's one of those places that has been around for decades. I'd try loose meat again, but we didn't think this spot lived up to the hype.

Next stop, a childhood dream come true for me, the Ingalls' Homestead in DeSmet, South Dakota.