The Iowa State Fair Ends

Saturday, August 17 – Monday August 19, 2019

Given our busy Thursday, we expected the final weekend of the fair to be even busier. But it was more like earlier in the week. We’d have busy times, then slower times.

We were visited by a local television station Saturday morning and I gave a tour to the reporter and his cameraman. In a bit of poetic irony, the privately contracted sound-man IMG_2706who’d followed me around earlier in the week with a different cameraman for publicity videos, happened to be at the trailer so his wife could tour it. He tried giving sotto voce suggestions (“Turn around so the trailer is in the background!”) to no avail. But because Dave was giving his wife a tour when the news guys arrived, she ended up being the “random parent” interviewed during the news story. And really, the news guys had no idea she had any connection to the trailer at all. Which she really didn’t, except for her husband working there for a few hours earlier in the week, but it just all seemed to come full circle.

A storm blew through Saturday night, so we arrived Sunday morning to find one of our IMG_2714pop-up shade covers mangled and destroyed, despite having been lowered and secured. At least we weren’t the only casualty. There was a “graveyard” of twisted aluminum by a dumpster.

Sunday passed in a blur of busy and slow. Busy and slow. We packed up everything around 7:30, and headed to our hotel around 8. We were absolutely exhausted. We’d put in 9 days of 12 hours. Our friend Steve did 11 days. Everyone was dragging, not thinking clearly, snappish. We’re 68, 63, and 60 years old. I’m not saying who’s which age, by the way, LOL. We need more recovery time than we used to. But–we survived!

Steve’s flight home was at 6:00 AM Monday morning, so Dave drove him to the airport at 4 AM, then came back to the hotel and slept a few more hours. When we woke up at a sensible time for an August Monday, we had our Holiday Inn Express breakfast of sausage, bacon (yay!! Thank you for bacon!), folded/manufactured omelets, and coffee. Dave headed out to buy some supplies for the new trailer and truck. This was that combo’s maiden voyage. It needed spare tires and a few other things.

I’d been saying my reward after all this was going to be a pedicure. I normally get one every 3-4 weeks. But we’ve been so busy, I haven’t had one since the first of May. Yes. May. Three months, not three weeks, ago. David left for his errands and I worked for a bit, then did a quick search for salons/spas in Des Moines. Found a highly rated place. Poked around their website. They had an opening for a pedicure at noon … My finger hovered over the mouse … I clicked Book Now.

I finished packing, summoned an Uber and enjoyed a wonderful pedicure with Rian at Salon W Spa in downtown Des Moines. If you’re ever in the area, I highly recommend it! Dave picked me up after and we headed back to the fairgrounds to hook-up to the trailer and head out.

This is a new and different trailer than what we pulled in Indiana, so we weren’t sure what to expect. Hooking up was definitely a bit different. The hitch seemed to be lower and everything seemed to be just a tiny bit … off from what we had with the first trailer.

But we got it all hooked up. (A big thanks to the young guy from the Jeep/Dodge corporate site nearby who helped/advised/hydrated us.) We said good-bye to Bryan from Farm Boy Garage whose booth was across from ours. I got to give his dog, Cuda, a last cuddle and scratch and get a little doggie-love from her. Anyone who thinks Pit Bulls are vicious has to spend 30 seconds with Cuda. She’s a love.

Finally, we hit the road. We stopped at an RV place that also had a booth at the fair. Dave bought a few more supplies. We hadn’t eaten since the fake eggs at breakfast and it was after 3:00, so I searched for restaurants. We found Kue’d Smokehouse and even though it was a bit out of our way and we had to backtrack, we went there. It was wonderful, worth every extra minute and mile.

We pulled into Lincoln, Nebraska a bit before 8:00. Tomorrow, our destination is Ogallala, Nebraska. Wednesday, we have an event in Julesburg, Colorado, which is about 30 minutes from Ogallala, just across the Nebraska/Colorado border.

I’ve written way too much and still haven’t talked about the most important things: the fair food! Iowa! the people!

Tomorrow …

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Iowa! They love Corn, Butter, and the Fair!

Monday, August 12 — Friday, August 16, 2019

I feel like a skipping record. It’s been crazy here.

The weekend was pretty busy. Monday was kind of quiet, as was (in hindsight) Tuesday. Dave and our friend and colleague, Steve, gave me Tuesday morning off, so I didn’t get up with Dave at 6 am. I slept until a little after 7, waved goodbye to him at 7:30, and worked in the hotel room until about noon when I headed to the diner next door for a salad for lunch.

I do like Fair Fare, but it’s mostly all fried and I was craving a salad and vegetables. After a healthy lunch, I Ubered to the fairgrounds, and we worked all afternoon.

Wednesday started normally. It was “Older Iowans Day” at the Fair. Steve, our friend and co-worker, was planning to take a few hours off that afternoon for a break and to do laundry. He’s been at the fair since the beginning. He did get his time off, but …

We drive into the fair, set up the trailer. There’s not a lot of set up since the trailer stays in place, but the awning has to be lifted, (Thanks, YouTube!) the stairs/platform put in IMG_2673place, the stanchions with adjustable entrance barriers placed, the generator hooked up so we have lights and AC inside. Once that’s done, one of the guys drives the pickup to a far, far away parking lot and hikes back. As we drove to the fair Wednesday morning, Dave realized he’d left his phone plugged in and charging at the hotel. So after the setup, he went to get his phone, parked, and hiked in.

It was a warm day. He was walking fast. He has A-Fib, kinda-sorta-not-really controlled by medication. (He and his cardiologist are planning a cardioversion procedure to correct it as soon as we’re off the road.) As he was walking, he felt the A-Fib kick in. His heart started fluttering.

When he got to the trailer, he sat for a few minutes. The fluttering didn’t go away, so while Steve gave a tour, Dave and I walked (slowly) to the First Aid tent for a BP check. (I tell you–it’s always something with us! But spoiler alert–everything is fine!!) The paramedics at the tent did a BP check. It was high. We discussed his options. He decided to go to the ER. Just to be safe. The concern with A-Fib is a stroke. The fluttering and uneven heart beat can make blood clots that travel along and cause strokes.

So he stayed at the First Aid room while a very nice fireman gave me a ride in a golf cart back to the trailer. Steve was in the middle of another tour, so I traded places with him. (Dave needed to talk to him before he left in an ambulance for the ER.) The fireman took Steve back to First Aid. The plan was I’d finish the tour, grab my purse, walk to First Aid and go to the ER with Dave while Steve came back to handle the trailer tours.

Except the ambulance arrived before I finished the tour. (Kudos to Des Moines EMS! They are on it!!) It looked like Dave was going to be long gone before I got back to First Aid.

But … the ambulance personnel, the First Aid paramedics, and Dave (who was an EMT when he was on the job) talked. By then, some time had passed, he’d cooled off (it was another hot and humid day–don’t forget we’re Californians! We’re not used to this humidity!) He felt better. So he decided to skip the hospital. He came back to the trailer. He sat in the shade. Took it easy. Within another hour or so, he felt normal again. Steve took his afternoon off. Whew! So that was our Wednesday. And it was pretty busy. Lots of Older Iowans came to the Fair!

Thursday was our busiest day yet! But when it started, we didn’t know it would be. We knew it was Legislator Day. So we expected a few state politicians and the filming/media crew. Side note: After our first day on Saturday, Dave had me order some counter/clickers so we could track numbers. The people in front of the trailer who are giving away tote bags and drug deactivation/disposal kits were estimating the number of people they contacted. We made hash marks on a note pad. As crew “boss” Dave decided we needed more than estimates, so I ordered clickers on Amazon and had them delivered to us at the hotel. Tuesday and Wednesday we gave tours to between 50 and 60 people. The RALI people contacted several hundred people and gave away that many tote bags and drug neutralizing kits.

The plan for Thursday was that after our morning set up, Dave would leave, come back to the hotel, do laundry and have his morning off. Which is what happened. For him.

For Steve and me … a totally different story.

We worked non-stop. By the end of the day, we’d given tours to double the number of people the other days. 110. Those other days, there were three of us giving tours. The majority of Thursday, it was two of us. It wasn’t Dave’s fault he was gone. We had no idea it would be so busy.

Several state legislators came through. I gave a tour to Ann Meyer. She was very attentive and definitely sees the value and importance of what we’re doing. Once David got there, he was all in. He did a lot of the tours and let me rest.

I’m writing this Friday evening. We thought today would be busy, because the fair ends Sunday. We’re into the final weekend. But today was like Monday or Tuesday. We may not have even reached 50 people touring the trailer. Like I said–Crazy!!

Since I was exhausted last night, Dave let me sleep again this morning. I woke before he left, then worked a few hours. Yesterday was the 15th and I have some mid-month stuff to do, so I took care of that this morning, and summoned an Uber ride. I told my driver

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Cuda, the dog who belongs to the booth across the walkway from us. She’s a sweetheart and when I need a doggie-fix and a break from the drug stuff, I go rub her nose and give her some love. But she gives me back even more.

what I was doing at the fair, and–I heard it in her voice–she connected immediately. She said her mom was always straight edge, a non-drinker, no drugs. Until she had hip surgery and was prescribed OxyContin. She got hooked and now she’s an addict. My driver said because of that she personally won’t take anything stronger than Tylenol.

There’s another drug education trailer at the fair and Dave visited it earlier this week. It’s put on by Iowa narcotics enforcement people. When I arrived this morning, I went to the other trailer for their tour. It’s similar to ours, in that it’s a mock teenager’s bedroom. It’s different from ours in that it’s messy (so more realistic, LOL). It also shows secret “codes” that signal drug use between users. That was interesting to learn. There’s some overlap, for sure. The officer giving me the tour handed me a personal safe, thinking he’d “teach” me something, but I twisted it apart because I knew what it was and showed him what it concealed instead of vice versa.

The rest of the day passed pretty quickly. We traded off giving tours. We’re still astounded how quiet it was for a Friday. But we’re also grateful. We were back in the hotel by 8:00, looking forward to a good night’s sleep so we’re ready for the last two days.

Next up when I have a few minutes: Fair Fare (the food!) and other impressions of Iowa: the fair, the people, the weather, etc. And the people who come through the trailers.

One of the tour “points” we make is that addicts use spoons to heat/liquify their drug. A mom today said she’s missing spoons in her kitchen …

This. Is. Real.

 

Iowa!

Saturday – Tuesday, August 10 – 13, 2019

It’s been a wonderful, busy, energizing, exhausting, crazy, full few days in Iowa.

After our recovery day on Friday, we hit it hard Saturday morning. We met our friend and colleague Steve for breakfast then headed to the fairgrounds. We stopped for gas for the generator that powers the trailer lights and air conditioners, bottled water, ice, an ice chest, snacks, and a few other supplies.

IMG_2653We were at the trailer by a few minutes after 8:00 and began the setup. People trickled in and I gave my first tour at about 8:30, to a couple who were working the booth across from us. They’d been told about us and wanted to get a tour before they started work.

Everyone who has been through the trailer is deeply impacted by what they see and learn. There are definite “categories” of visitors.

The “Professional.” This is an educator, or medical, or social worker, or law enforcement professional who believes they’ve seen and already know it all. They often decline a tour, so we say, “Why don’t you come on in and tell us if there’s something we’ve missed or something we can do better? Give us your opinion.” If they come in, by the end of the 15 minute tour, they’re amazed that they’ve learned something and they ask how can they get the trailer to their town/workplace for others to visit.

The “Reformed.” A former recreational drug/pot user who knows all the tricks. Again, we say, “Come on in and tell us what we can do better.” They listen, nod, and by the end, shrug, and say, “You’re doing a great job here.”

Parents who are “In It.” The first day I had two moms on two different tours react with visible emotion. They hid it very well, and I’m sure I was the only one who noticed, because I was the only one making direct eye contact. But they both had a finger hooked over their lips, and their eyes were tearing up.

Parents in “Denial.” A dad told us about his son, who he’s pretty sure isn’t using drugs even though the son has gone through a big personality change, has all new friends, and his girlfriend appears to be stoned a lot of the time. In this case, we hope that what he learned will come together with what he’s observing in his son in the next few weeks.

Parents who are “Open.” Many parents, as soon as they hear the premise of the trailer, hurry to the front door. They listen eagerly. They soak in everything. We had one such family yesterday. I gave the tour to the parents while Dave stayed outside with the four teenage boys. (We don’t allow anyone younger than 21 inside–don’t want to give them ideas! Though we do make an occasional exception.) After the tour, we visited with the parents and the sons for another twenty minutes. This is a family that’s aware of the opioid crisis and is staying educated, and isn’t thinking it couldn’t happen to them.

The “Unaware and Curious.” These people have heard about the trailer, or have a few minutes to kill. Five minutes into the tour their eyes widen and they are giving me their full attention. Sunday morning, one woman at the end of the tour said, “This is terrifying.” Because she had no clue about the extent of the opioid crisis in our country.

Without exception, every single person who exits the trailer has left it deeply impacted by what they learned.

We’re honored and humbled to be here and be a part of this.

In the next few days I’ll continue to share impressions of the Iowa State Fair (Fair Food!), and the people we meet. Thanks for reading!

 

The Adventure: Day 16

Tuesday, July 30, 2019

Happy Birthday, Amber!

We got up early in Minneapolis, and made it to the airport and through security with just about fifteen minutes to spare before our first flight. Our layover in Salt Lake City was just enough time to run from Terminal C to Terminal E and catch our flight to Fresno.

Unfortunately, it wasn’t enough time for Dave’s suitcase to make the flight. Mine did. We hope his caught the afternoon flight and will be here this evening sometime.

We will spend the next few days catching up on work and house and yard chores and laundry. We’ll see family and friends and celebrate a birthday or two.

We’ll leave again Sunday for a few days in San Francisco with friends. The Great Adventure blog will resume when we fly from San Francisco to Des Moines on Thursday, August 8th. First stop: The Iowa State Fair! Fair fare!

Thank you so much for reading and commenting and being encouraging!

The Adventure: Day 15

Monday, July 29, 2019

Another crazy, exhilarating, exhausting day. We left our hotel in Austin, MN and hightailed it to the SPAM museum ASAP as we could. The museum opened at 9 AM and IMG_2469we got there about 9:30.

True confession: I thought we’d be the only ones there, wandering a cavernous building all alone.

David, of course, thought the opposite. We’d be crowded, shoulder to shoulder, shuffled along, already too late to see anything of interest and having to hurry past the exhibits.

Thankfully, the truth was somewhere in between. There were people in the museum, but it wasn’t crowded. And it was more interesting than I expected.

There was lots of history about the Hormel family, how the patriarch started as a butcher and entrepreneur and meat processor and the “empire” started with the Hormel sealed/packaged ham. And then it expanded to the Dinty Moore canned stews, then Jay Hormel wanted to bring chili to the northern states.

SPAM was actually a late comer to the Hormel family (kinda-sorta). IMG_2472I was really impressed how Hormel is still actively seeking to keep their brand relevant and meaningful.

In the last two weeks we’ve been in Indiana, Illinois, Iowa, and Minnesota. Dave and I have quizzed each other about what’s unusual in each state. What do we see that’s different? What do we not see that we’re used to seeing at home? One of my comments was the ubiquitous array of trash containers for “Trash,” “Plastic Recyclable,” “Glass Recyclable,” and “Paper/Cardboard Recyclable.” I’ve seen signs reminding me to recycle, but there haven’t been a lot of different containers. Except at the SPAM Museum. They had them all!

Dave had been talking to the staff at the Minnesota Farm Fest about when and where we could drop off the trailer for the event there. While we were wandering the SPAM Museum, he got a call. The woman on the other end of the phone, over 100 miles away, told us we had  to go to the Tendermaid Cafe for lunch and get a hamburger. But it’s not a usual hamburger. It’s a loose meat burger.

Well … when someone, two hours away, calls to make a restaurant recommendation, we listen!

The Tendermaid was less than a block from the SPAM Museum and it opened at 11 AM. We arrived a few minutes after opening and scored a couple of seats at the counter. We IMG_2474had no clue what we were doing or ordering, but we managed to order a “hamburger,” to share and a malt (which we were also told we “had” to order).

When I had researched food in Iowa, the loose meat sandwich popped up, but I didn’t know it was also a thing in Minnesota.  It’s kind of like a Sloppy Joe, but without the sloppy sauce.

The Tendermaid has been serving loose meat burgers for 81 years. Of course Dave wondered why they didn’t have a SPAM burger (insert rolling eye emoji), but I didn’t. They’ve been in business nearly as long as SPAM has been around. Who knew SPAM was going to be a thing 80 years later? The Tendermaid found their wheelhouse and stuck with it.

The diner is super small. The steamer/cooker is the original (i.e. 81 years old!).IMG_2477 The staff  comes in at about 9 am and start cooking/steaming the meat and breaking it up. We ordered a hamburger. Dave watched when an order for a cheeseburger came in. The waitress/cook scraped together a bunch of meat, laid down a slice of cheese, pulled more meat on topIMG_2479 … let it sit a minute, then pulled it all onto a bun.

Made me wish we’d ordered a cheeseburger! Actually, we did. We ordered a Western Bacon Cheeseburger to-go for the guy we were meeting at the Minnesota Farm Fest to drop off the trailer. Someone who called and made the recommendation might have agreed with a question about should we bring a loose meat burger from the Tendermaid.

🙂

IMG_2480By noon-ish, we were headed to the Farm Fest site to drop off the trailer. And, once again, the winds were in full force. If we could just drive a truck and pull a trailer, everything would be great, but the winds! I can’t post videos on this blog (I’m cheap and haven’t upgraded yet), so check out my Facebook page for the 60 second video I took of Dave wrestling with the steering wheel, wind, and drafting vehicles.

We dropped off the trailer (and a gift of SPAM and a loose meat burger) at the Farm Fest venue and headed to our hotel near the Minneapolis-St.Paul airport. Surprisingly, for two Californians, we’ve actually been to this part of Minnesota before. We both came for the American Christian Fiction Writers conference in 2009 and I came for a deep/intensive/OMWord-I-can’teven-writers-conference a year or two later. But for both of those events, we/I saw: the Minneapolis-St.Paul Airport/The Mall of America/the venue hotel. And, sadly, this visit to Minneapolis doesn’t seem to be shaping up to be much different. We checked into our hotel a little after 6 pm.

Dave cleaned up the truck. We’re across the street from a strip mall, so he asked the front desk staff for a recommendation. He told them we were Californians, so they steered us away from the Mexican restaurant. We went to the “bar and grill.” While we were there, I researched the parking options at the airport. I’d assumed we’d leave the truck at the Long-term parking for our boss to pick up when he got into town in about a week.

That made sense. Until … the regular “Long Term” parking said the clearance is 6 foot …something. Given our experience last week,  we’re not willing to park there. So we (I) went looking for other options. There is another choice for long-term parking, And! they offer a 7′ clearance … but … you have to use the same credit card for entry and exit. Well  … that won’t work since we’re leaving the truck and someone else is picking it up.. 

Sigh …

We went to front desk and asked if they offered a “Park and Fly” option. They do. With shuttles to and from the airport. For the time we need … $60. The other options at the airport were going to be double that. At least.

We called our boss. He agreed to go with the Park and Fly. So … we’re in our room. We’ve got to get up earlier than we’d expected to get the shuttle to the airport.

We’ll be home around noon tomorrow. Probably stinking. Unshaven (both of us — no judging, okay!?!?).

We have some family and work and medical appointments to take care of the rest of the week. Sunday, we leave for an already planned vacation with friends. We’ll fly out of San Francisco (we think) to Des Moines for the Iowa State Fair (Deep-Fried Butter? More Loose Meat Sandwiches?) on August 8th. After the fair, we’re scheduled to move the trailer to Colorado.

But … as we’ve learned … stay tuned … who knows what’s next?? We don’t … only God …

 

The Adventure: Day 14

Sunday, July 28, 2019

Going to bed early last night helped (as did changing from Eastern to Central time). We woke before 7 AM, and were ready for breakfast when the hotel served it at 7:30. We checked out, hooked up, and hit the road at 8:45 AM.

IMG_2458Our destination was Austin, Minnesota, home of the SPAM Museum. So we could visit Monday morning before we head to Morgan, MN, home of the Farm Fest, to deliver the RALICares Trailer to its next venue.

I know. We were in Springfield, Illinois. Birthplace of Abraham Lincoln for 18 hours and couldn’t fit in a museum or historically significant site. (Although we ate a Horseshoe!) But we made it a point to be in Austin with time to visit the museum that pays homage to pickled/preserved/processed meat products. Believe me, I’m shaking my head in disbelief too.

Anyway … the journey started off easier. There was no cross wind, so we stayed in our lane without much effort.

Illinois is full of corn and soybeans and it’s green and beautiful.

After a few hours, we moved into Iowa.

Iowa is full of corn and soybeans and it’s green and beautiful.

I downloaded a Love’s Travel Center App and a Pilot/Flying J App so we could find gas IMG_2460easily on the road. We stopped for gas at a Flying J that had a Denny’s attached so we had lunch there. We’ve done enough road trips that we know when we need to take a break. We can’t do ten hour days without getting cranky with each other.

After lunch we changed from a generally northerly direction to a generally westerly direction. And the winds picked up. And staying in our own lane got progressively more challenging. I didn’t think of it until it was too late, but I will be taking pictures and video of Dave wrestling with the steering wheel to keep us going straight and in our own lane.

We crossed the Illinois River and the Mississippi River. We crossed several other rivers, many creeks and lakes. There are fewer animals/livestock than we’d expected. We’ve seen a few horses. One or two herds of cows. A few sheep. But honestly, I think I see more livestock between our house in Madera Ranchos and Fresno than I’ve seen here in the last week in Indiana, Illinois, Iowa, and Minnesota combined. And I’m not exaggerating.

IMG_2463Last night, Dave looked at my Google maps app route to Austin and decreed it unacceptable. The last hour or so appeared to be on a county highway. He decided he’d rather take a longer route and stick to state highways/freeways. Which is fine. After our experience last Sunday, I get it. 

But … today, as we drove, I continually cross-checked our route with Google maps and the CoPilot app, comparing the times, making sure we were okay with the length and weight of the trailer. And the biggest factor, to me … David’s favored state highway route added an hour to our day. And it was a more westerly route. We’d been fighting those cross-winds for a couple of hours already and we were both exhausted. He felt like he’d been arm-wrestling Lurch and I was the nervous passenger, afraid we were about to be blown off the road and only maimed, not immediately killed. (I’d rather go quickly, not linger.)

I brought up the two different routes on my phone, pointed out the differences to the driver. One was shorter and more northerly (meaning less cross winds). He agreed to IMG_2464change his previously decided route. Whew.

It worked out perfectly. The Google suggested route was definitely more rural, county highway-ish, but it was beautifully scenic, very little wind, and so much easier than the longer route someone wanted to take.

We arrived at our Austin hotel as rain started to fall. We got inside and check in before it turned into a full tornado warning. We ate our leftovers from last night and from lunch, then Dave turned on the television. Yep. A tornado warning for real. He went to the front desk, confessed to being a Californian. “We know what to do in an earthquake. What do we do in a tornado?” The front desk clerk did a good job hiding her grin, but basically said, “You’ll feel it coming. Just go into the center hallway and hunker down. But we don’t expect anything.” Sure. Until you do.

We’re in for the night. The SPAM Museum opens at 9 AM. I guess we’ll be there. Then we’ll head to the venue for the Farm Fest, in Morgan, MN to deliver the trailer. It’s a little over two hours away.

Then Dave and I go on to Minneapolis. We’ll fly home in the next day or two. We’ll be home for a week or so (for a previously scheduled vacation). We’ll be back with the RALICares trailer in Des Moines for the Iowa State Fair on August 9th.

Hmmm … Fair Fare …

Apparently the regional food of Iowa is a Maid Rite sandwich. We’ll definitely look up that one!

The Adventure: Day 13

Saturday, July 27, 2019

We left Indy about 9:30, a little later than we’d planned, but I wanted to take our time loading up, making sure we didn’t forget anything, and had our bearings. We said a sad farewell to the Holiday Inn Express – Westfield staff. TJ at the front desk, Kym and Leslie in the dining room. They were great and helpful and kind and gracious.

We stopped to fuel up after about half an hour, at a gas station we’d visited last Saturday,

IMG_2450
Illinois

near the truck wash and Steak ‘n Shake. Then we were officially on new and unproven roads.

Pulling this huge trailer is no joke. It’s a giant wind sail. Every gust pulls or pushes us. Trucks that pass us create a draw that feels like an earthquake shaking us.

After an hour and a half, we entered Illinois and gained an hour as we went from Eastern time to Central. The trailer seemed to be swaying a lot so we pulled over at a rest stop (staffed with real people for giving information) and David made a call to an acquaintance for some advice. He left a message and I searched for a hotel on the outskirts of Springfield. I called to be sure they could accommodate the trailer. Then we continued on. 

I passed the time by posting this morning’s entry about yesterday, reading a little, looking at the new scenery, and making sure David didn’t miss any freeway navigation changes.

We needed gas shortly after we passed the last Pilot Travel stop. Of course. I didn’t realize we were that close to empty, until the low fuel warning popped up on the navigation screen. Dave didn’t realize how quickly the truck sucked up fuel, either, since this was our first long distance trip with the trailer.

IMG_2448
Rolls of hay

We still had 50 miles of fuel, and we were about 30 miles from our destination in Springfield, so we were fine, but Dave said to go ahead and find a gas station.

Which I did, in Mechanicsville, about 2 miles off the freeway. I cross-checked the route with our CoPilot app (of course! Lesson learned!) and looked at the gas station from a satellite view. I was pretty sure we could pull in, but not 100%.

We found it and it was close, but we were able to pull in and through. It had high roofs over the pumps, so we were okay. But they didn’t have “Premium,” which the truck needs, so we ended up getting only $10 of gas. We also bought beef jerky for our lunch, and headed back to the freeway.

We planned to find our hotel, drop off the trailer, and go to a Lincoln museum. We found the hotel, which was next to a Tractor Supply Company. Dave went in to ask the manager if we could park there. He brought her out a minute later and introduced me to Kimberly. Her son is an addict and she was very interested in the trailer. We opened it up and while Dave unhooked (she gave enthusiastic permission for us to park there), I showed her the highlights in the trailer. She got a little teary a few times as she recognized and remembered some of the things I pointed out as “red flag indicators.”

While Dave was unhooking, a part of the winch (?? I think that’s what it’s called??) that is used to raise and lower the trailer as it’s hooked and unhooked from the truck, broke. It had broken partway on Thursday, at the farmer’s market, but it broke the rest of the way today. We looked at the TSC store, but they didn’t have a replacement. The part that broke is what made it possible for Dave to use an impact drill to raise and lower the trailer quickly and easily. Luckily (??), we still had the original part for raising and lowering the trailer manually. So he put that part back on. But by then, it was nearly 4:00. Too late to do any sight seeing or museum visiting. We went ahead and checked in.

And I was out of steam. Remember, beef jerky for lunch? It caught up with me. We checked in, went to our room and it was hot in there. The AC wouldn’t come on. So back to the front desk to get a different room.

We finally got a cool room, got our bags in, and collapsed. I did a bit of Googling on “Illinois regional cuisine.” And discovered that a Springfield specialty is the Horseshoe. I found two nearby places that had it on their menus. One was called the Trade Winds Pub

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The Trade Winds–good thing a review said to ignore the outside appearance!

& Eatery. The other was the Engrained Brew Pub. David asked the front desk staff for a recommendation. They hadn’t heard of either one at first. They thought for a minute, then one guy said, “Oh, yeah, that’s a bar!” referring to the Trade Winds, about 3/4s of a mile away.

We headed there, to the Trade Winds first, since it was close, thinking to check it out, then go to Engrained if the Trade Winds didn’t make the cut. We followed my trusty Google Maps and found a deserted-looking hut in the middle of a dusty parking lot. With trepidation, we headed in. One of the reviews I’d seen said, “Don’t be put off by the exterior.” Good thing I’d read that.

Inside it was definitely a bar. Some would call it a dive bar. But it looked clean and the staff was friendly and quick. We didn’t even look at a menu, just asked about the Horseshoe.

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Basically it’s a piece (or two) of Texas toast, with meat, topped with french fries, topped with cheese sauce. The original has hamburger. Now they offer a choice of meats. The waiter said their most popular is the breaded pork tenderloin so that’s what we ordered. He said, “It’s big,” so we knew to order just one and share it.

Big is an understatement. We both ate until we were full, brought some back to the hotel (I think Dave’s planning to have it for breakfast), and we still left quite a bit behind.

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The Horseshoe, after we were both full!

We waddled to the truck, then made it back to the hotel. It’s early to bed for us. Our plan is to hit the road again early tomorrow. Our destination is Austin, Minnesota. It’s six hours and twenty minutes away. Today’s journey was not quite three and a half. So we’re adding another three hours to tomorrow.

No Mr. Lincoln for us. No Springfield sights.

But … we’re scheduled to be back in Illinois in late September/early October. So I know where I want to go! And maybe what to eat.