Long time, no van travels! As I alluded to previously, once the Covid crazies hit I took a week to regroup and self-isolate in El Paso, then booked it to the closest person I felt comfortable shoving myself on for who knows how long, which happened to be my friend Kevin just outside Denver. More to come on Colorado adventures, but after a couple of weeks in his neck of the woods we took off to spend a little time at his mom’s house in Iowa to help out with some yard work, cleaning out some things, all that fun that comes with starting to prep for putting a house on the market in the future. We’d planned to stay for about 2 weeks, which ended up turning into almost 6. Crazy! The van stayed in CO so I didn’t actually get to scratch any new states off on my van travels map, but it was new ground for me.

We arrived for the Easter holiday and a spring snow, but most of the time there was mild weather with some nice sunny days thrown in. While pretty much everything local was closed as was the case nationwide, we were able to pop out for take out a few times into Sioux City, get to shops as needed, and even see some of the outdoor sights. One sunny day we went for a walk by the Missouri river and hung out, had had a picnic snack, did some outdoor yoga, and were serenaded by a weird dude singing Journey and Whitney Houston at the top of his lungs in a pavilion across the way. Another day we went and got some takeout coffee from a cute spot just across the river in Nebraska where the owners have built a serene garden seating area we were able to sit in and enjoy the sunshine, and check out the cool treehouse they rent out- I will be back one day to stay here, because tree house and coffee? Amazing.

Most days were filled with some projects around the house, aside from the cold, windy and rainy days that were better suited to binge watching the Mandalorian, Ozark, reading, and lazing. My minor contributions included painting an Adirondack chair, a table, and a mailbox post, digging out buckets of dandelions, helping spread mulch, and making some food here and there, including some birthday muffins for Kevin’s mom and a Mother’s Day brunch (wish I could have been with my own Mama but nice to celebrate regardless). There was lots of gardening, planting (even a few rows of okra, their family favorite), mowing, and other stuff I mainly watched from afar.

One weekend Kevin’s brother and his family came to visit, and they left the kids for a few extra days, so that was really fun to get my fill of playing with kiddos time. We discovered that the 8-year-old and I have the same size feet, and the 5-year-old and I have the same size hands, and in a game of tag the 8-year-old totally smoked me and I could barely keep up with the younger one, so that was a major self-esteem boost. Ha! They did attempt to teach me how to ride one of their tiny bikes with training wheels but my knees kept hitting the handlebars. Kids around meant making cookies, cinnamon rolls, getting donuts, basically treats galore, but on the flip side I successfully got one of the boys to try radishes, red peppers, green onions, and some other veggies that are usually untouched- success! We also managed to frighten the pants off them by showing them Jurassic Park… watching their faces and reactions was priceless.

When it was time to take the boys back to their other grandma’s house about 2 1/2 hours east, we made a road trip day of it and hit up a bunch of roadside attractions that could be viewed despite closures. We stopped by a cow statue at a fairgrounds, a theater dedicated to Donna Reed in her hometown, sighted Albert the Bull (largest bull in the country!), places Jesse James and Bonnie and Clyde pulled off heists, a tree in the middle of the road (nature’s traffic circle?), and stopped by a rest stop with a windmill theme. After dropping off the kids we did a tour of the bridges of Madison County, stopped by the super cute town of Winterset, home of John Wayne, and chatted with a man who paints Freedom Rocks with military themes- he’s aiming for one in each of the 99 counties and has 12 to go, and he wants to do one in each state eventually. He was at the original rock repainting for Memorial Day, so that was pretty cool to witness. We spotted another of the rocks in Winterset next to John Wayne’s birth home.

So while I did get to see my fair share of flat farmland and herds of cows, I discovered that there’s a lot more beauty in these scenes than I’d imagined. Also I discovered that they sell baby chicks in the hardware store there, so that was spectacular. Thanks for the extended hospitality, Iowa! One day when the world isn’t on lockdown I will be back to take part in the state fair and see a butter cow! Until then, back to the mountains.

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