I’d driven across Nebraska twice and popped over for a coffee brunch once and to visit Kevin’s mom’s new house in progress, but hadn’t stayed overnight there and was so close I had to veer over the border from SD for a night to check it out. I was told that the Niobrara River was pretty so I made that my intended destination for the night, but first I decided to stop at the smallest town in America. Monowi is a teensy patch of town, population 1. The lone resident is an older woman named Elsie who serves at town mayor, librarian, bartended, pretty much everything. For many years it was population 2 but her husband passed and now it’s all Elsie. She’s been highlighted in many features so you can learn more about her, the exodus that left the town dwindling to its current state, etc. She’s even been in a few commercials- one for Arby’s (which is pretty funny), and one for Prudential insurance that hits more on having it all on her shoulders. I stopped in the cafe/bar and had a drink while chatting with her and the other guy working, and soon a few semi-locals came by so I could see the ‘town living room’ in action before taking off down the road.

The spot on the Niobrara I was aiming for had a lot of standing water on the road so I went to plan B and found a spot on the Missouri instead.

A little later on I ended up going back to Iowa where I’d spent 6 weeks this spring, taking advantage of being close by to impose myself on my friend’s mother’s hospitality again to do laundry, prep some food in an actual oven, shower, and all that good stuff. She wasn’t there so I had the place to myself and it was nice to have a little downtime I didn’t realize I needed. While I was back in Sioux City I took a walk past the oh so picturesque industrial area along the Floyd river into the downtown area and back, I checked out a church garden with lots of sculptures where my host family has a connection, and rode out some crazy lightning storms over a few days. I had fun seeing this place in one more season and observe the garden in full bloom, the okra seeds sprouting like mad, the neighbor’s fields I watched be planted now in their green glory, and sit out and watch the always lovely sunset.

When I was finally ready to take off I made sure to stop at the Blue Bunny ice cream center in its hometown of Le Mars which I’m sure was closed when we last were here. I tried more samples than I’d like to admit and was finally handed this enormous “small” which was so so delicious and worth finishing, but a reminder that my belly doesn’t eat this much milk often. My sugar rush lunch sustained me for my drive north to the ‘Lake District’ of Iowa.

I spent that evening and the next day in the Okoboji area, hanging out by the lake at the various waterfront restaurants and bars, out for a morning walk with the birds and froggies through the marshy lakeside, laying on the little beach, and watching the families enjoy themselves and boat around. My friend described this area as ‘the Hamptons of Iowa’ which was pretty funny. This would be a great spot to come for a few days with a group or family, and a lovely second goodbye to the Hawkeye state.

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