The faint sunburn I got in Oak Park is fading quickly. Last week it seemed as though winter weather had finally come to an end, that coats could be retired, and that sunglasses would become the new necessity in lieu of hats and gloves. Boy, was that wishful thinking. The plethora of freckles on my face serves as a reminder of that fleeting, beautiful spring-like weather that we experienced last week. The constant rain, wind, and cold is a reminder that the Midwest is full of weather surprises and “you thought wrong” moments.
If we were camping right now the weather would really put a damper on things (no pun intended). But as luck would have it, this week we are staying with our friends Dylan and Katie just outside of Decorah, Iowa.
We began our journey on Monday in the mid-afternoon… a bit later than we had originally intended. The drive was a race against the darkness. I thought that I would let Kevin drive as we left Oak Park and navigated through Chicago and busy highways, and then I could take over when we got closer to Iowa. I figured that small town Illinois and Iowa driving would be a piece of cake. I could not have been more wrong.
It turns out that Northwest Illinois and Northeast Iowa are home to the Driftless region. I could give a complicated, geological definition of the Driftless region, but I won’t. The part that mattered to me while driving was the fact that it meant annoyingly windy roads. For a seasoned driver, these twisting highways may not have been too much of an impediment. But for someone who has just started driving regularly over the past couple of months, they were reason to panic.
Somehow I managed to keep my cool (to some extent) long enough to make it over the Mississippi river and through Dubuque. Shortly thereafter, the height difference between the hills and the valleys, the increased number of twists and turns in the road, and the three or four semis tailing me, were enough reason to turn off onto a dirt road and hand the reins back over to my trusted copilot, Kevin.
Kevin made a fine effort to make it to Decorah while we still had the light on our side, but we lost to darkness by a hair. As we pulled up to Dylan and Katie’s house, we could smell the grill before we even opened ourcar doors. Along with their roommate Joey, they prepared us a wonderful meal of burgers and veggies.
The next day… Tuesday… yesterday… while Dylan and Katie were working, Kevin and I headed into downtown Decorah to explore. Guess where we ended up!!?? That’s right, you guessed it: a coffee shop! If you are ever in Decorah, I highly recommend stopping by Magpie Coffeehouse. I had an excellent dark roast by Kickapoo Coffee from nearby Viroqua, Wisconsin and Kevin had some crazy tea!
After doing some reading and caffeinating, Joey met up with us and brought us to lunch at the co-op where he works, and later to a bar called T-Bocks where Dylan joined us. The boys enjoyed local beer by Toppling Goliath, while I tried a new gluten free beer called Omission. It was crazy… it tasted like real beer! It is closer to real beer than any other gluten free beer I’ve had because it is actually made with malted barley. The brewery does something fancy that removes most of the gluten from the beer to under 20ppm. I was somewhat skeptical… which may have turned out to be rightfully so, based on the state of my stomach last night and today. Though to be fair… it may have been that super indulgent gluten free brownie I had yesterday. At least they were both tasty!
After our afternoon beers, the boys headed out on a rainy hike in Coon Creek while I stuck around the house and read the newest Chuck Klosterman novel, The Visible Man, that Katie highly recommended. So far I am really enjoying it! Chuck Klosterman is one of my favorite modern authors, though I prefer his nonfiction to his fiction writing. The boys came back damp and tired… and with a skull of some sort of woodland creature. I believe that there will be poker, ping-pong, and beer die in our near future… some other good rainy day activities!
That’s it for now! I smell bacon and I’m getting hungry!