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

IMG_2680
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!