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.

 

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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 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,

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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.

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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.

The Adventure: Day 11

I think I should be dating these … Hmmm … I need to go back and edit them.

Thursday, July 25th, turned out to be another crazy, roller coaster day.

It started out fine. The usual breakfast at the hotel. I’m already over the egg choices. The first few days I was fine with the omelets. Most people who know me at all, know I don’t IMG_2395do scrambled eggs. At all. Ever. But I can handle omelets with lots of cheese and other ingredients. But the packaged ones here lost their appeal pretty quickly. I can’t eat sugar on an empty stomach (I get nauseated, clammy, and shaky), so no cinnamon rolls , pancakes with syrup, or sugary cereals. Like most of the country, I avoid carbs (toast/muffins/bagels). Which leaves sausage. Good thing I like sausage and they usually offer both pork and turkey. Sometimes there’s bacon. Sometimes I do have half a biscuit with gravy. One day I did half a bagel with cream cheese. There are enough options that I don’t leave hungry.

Anyway, after breakfast, I did a little work while Dave readied the trailer for our event in the afternoon. We headed out about 11:00 for Lawrence, which is about 25 minutes away. Our venue was a farmer’s market, on the grounds of the former army base, Fort Benjamin Harrison. It’s been converted to other uses. There are restaurants and housing now. A central greenspace hosts a weekly farmer’s market. We arrived, got the directions of where to set up, which involved pulling the trailer up a curb, over a sidewalk and down the grass to the other end of the area. We did that okay, with minimal adjusting. (Meaning Dave only had to back up and pull forward two or three times to get the trailer mostly straight and even with the sidewalk.)

We unhooked, and I ordered lunch from Panera across the street from my app. We grabbed it to go and headed to downtown Indy to meet our consultants/event schedulers to view a venue and decide on its viability for the trailer. It took us a while to find parking. The parking garage we found had a sign that said 6’8″ clearance. It felt like we couldn’t make it, but the attendant at the front watched us enter. He said only the antenna scraped and we’d be okay. So we went in. We parked without mishap and walked to meet the consultants.

From their office, we walked to the nearby venue, City Market. It’s very similar to the Oxbow Market in Napa. Or Chelsea Market in New York. A collection of independent IMG_2398shops under one roof in an older, converted building. We walked quickly through and out, to see their outside area, called a rain garden. There is a lovely plaza with bistro tables, trees, bocce ball courts. And an open area not nearly big enough for our 32′ trailer plus a pickup truck to pull it in. The director told us that they recently hosted a Cirque du Soleil team with their trailer. Except it was only 20′ and took a whole team to position and make 5-point turns. The only other option would be to get a permit from the city to block off a portion of the street and that could take up to a month. We only have a few days.

So we walked back to the consultants’ office, which is on Monument Circle, which circles a monument. Convenient, right? At the center is the Soldiers and Sailors Monument, which was built to honor those who fought in the Civil War and two other previous skirmishes. There is a possibility of getting a permit to park along the circle for a few hours. The consultants will work on that, and hopefully let us know by the end of the day.

IMG_2397They returned to work and we walked over to look at the monument. We paid $2 each to ride the elevator to the top for some amazing 360 degree views of downtown Indianapolis. Then we returned to the parking garage.

This is where the day fell apart. Because contrary to the sign and the attendant, we did not make it out of the garage unscathed. The top of the truck scraped a concrete beam. As soon as we heard the contact, Dave stopped and backed up and attempted a different angle, but a parked car was sticking out pretty far which hindered how he could take that corner. We ended up scrapping pretty significantly. After we exited, he went to find the attendant, who, of course, was on a break. I took pictures. Dave made notes. And we saw another garage across the street with a sign that said 7’3″ clearance. Another @#*%^$#&*@ moment. Why hadn’t we seen that place first??

By the time the attendant came back, we were pressed for time to make it back to Lawrence for the farmer’s market. But he gave us the owner’s name and number, and said he would pass on our information. And we hurried to the freeway.

IMG_2406We got to Lawrence just in time to meet up with the consultants again and to set up. They helped us unload all the boxes (mostly dried out from Monday’s rain) and set up.

We gave lots of tours. We think about 50-60 people went through the trailer. Dave gave a tour to the Lawrence police chief. I gave a tour to the adult sponsor and student captain of their Explorer post. And there were lots of other people. The consultants said they talked to about 150 people. About half of those said they’d seen the trailer on TV. So the media coverage Monday definitely got the word out.

Everyone I took through the trailer was very impressed and thankful and also surprised at how much they learned. And disappointed that this was likely our last Indiana event. They urged us to come back soon. We assured them we want to!

At 7:15, the last tour was over. The market ends at 7. We loaded the boxes back into the trailer, told the consultants goodbye. They promised to have a final answer about another event by the end of business today. IMG_2409

We hooked up again, pulled off the sidewalk and into the road and headed back to the hotel. Got here about 8:30, exhausted. Dave felt like White Castle, so after we unhooked, I collapsed in the room and he made a dinner run.

Then he called our boss to share the trailer news. Not a fun moment. And the fact that the consultants still don’t know if we’re done in Indiana didn’t help. If we’re done, we’re going to move the trailer to its next venue in Minnesota. But if we have to stay for another event, our boss has to get someone else to drive the trailer to Minnesota. We took this job with the understanding that we had two previously scheduled trips we would be going home for. We need to be home August 1. At this point, we don’t know if we’re flying out of Indianapolis or Minneapolis. For people who like a plan, we’re learning to be flexible!

It’s Friday morning now, technically day 12. Dave’s doing laundry again, I’m working. He found a Ford dealer nearby. He’ll go see them soon, to see about getting touchup paint to cover the scratches so they don’t rust, until we can get them repaired. Hopefully the garage owner will agree to have his insurance take care of it. Prayers for that, please! Also on today’s agenda: finding the Indiana culinary specialty–the fried pork tenderloin sandwich.