Fields of Dreams

PART II

For context to this post, please refer to Part I: When Sailors Come South. I’m not trying to tell you what to do, but I’m also not trying to bore people with a recap.

This year’s reunion with my study abroad friends took me to the *cornfields of the midwest. It was wonderful to see the beautiful *corn and more *corn. I loved when we drove through *corn on the way to *corn. If fact, *corn was the highlight of the trip, despite having to drive through fields of *corn. If you haven’t been to the midwest and seen the *corn, let me paint you a picture: *corn.

OK. I’m sorry I had to get that out of the way. You see, my friends—especially Carrie—like to make fun of my southernness. So when we ventured to her neck of the woods in Iowa, I seized the opportunities to make some *corny jokes at her expense (I’m sorry that statement in itself was *corny). Please be advised that there will be several more *corn references in this narrative.

Since Carrie lives in Iowa, we decided to do a little tour around its nearby states this year. Bree, Conor, and I flew into Kansas City, Missouri to begin the adventure. Unfortunately our friend, Nikolai, couldn’t join us since he is currently living in Singapore. Casual.

Conor, Carrie, Bree, and I circa the midwest heat.

We did some mural-hopping in KC, and we of course partook in some famous Kansas City barbecue. While I’m used to meat being loaded with barbecue sauce in the south, KC is all about a bbq rub. Delicious. I don’t really have much to say to describe the area. However, I think if Cincinnati and Nashville were to somehow conceive an illegitimate child, but Washington DC could questionably be the father, I think that child would be Kansas City.

***

We drove a little and ended up in Lawrence, Kansas for a day. Lawrence is an extremely hipster town, which I most definitely did not see coming. Lots of overalls. Lots of man-buns. While walking down the main street, I lost count of the number of coffee shops and bookstores. There were several earthy places with air plants and incenses. Rock carvings and Buddha statues. Peace man.

“Why does this whole town smell like an Earthbound?” I asked.

The highlight of the day was stopping by a specialty soda shop where I found a hometown favorite.

Ale-8 is a Kentucky soda that I enjoy from time to time. It’s beginning to become more widespread, so I love seeing it outside KY.

***

We then traveled to Carrie’s home in *Middle Of Cornfields, Iowa.

I can get away with saying that because I’m from a town that’s just as small as hers. So no hate.

We enjoyed home cooking, scrapbook-looking, and wonderful hospitality by Carrie and her boyfriend, Scott, as well as their families. Scott has a pig farm. So obviously we had to visit these little guys…

***

There is a bike trail that runs through Iowa—*cornfields and all—and apparently the locals like to bike several miles of it on weekend evenings. Why? Who knows. But when in Iowa…

Our crew borrowed some bicycles and completed 10 miles of the trail. One of the bikes was a child bike with a lopsided seat, so we switched it out with drivers each mile. My behind will never be the same. It was a hilarious and fun ride though, and it was great to see the *corntryside that way.

***

We spent one day in Des Moines for the Iowa State Fair. For those of you who didn’t know, the Iowa State Fair, is THE state fair. It made the one I grew up seeing look like a trip to the local farmer’s market. There were people on people on people and we barely scratched the surface of all the attractions.

Pretending there’s not an inch-thick layer of sweat, sunscreen, and dirt on me.

We DID eat an abundance of fried food and we saw a life-size cow made entirely out of butter. We also cast *corn kernels—yes, *corn kernels—into mason jars with candidates on them for the upcoming presidential election. It’s a traditional element of the fair during election time to try and gauge who will win the real thing. Want to know the interesting part? This mock system is extremely accurate and almost always predicts the real winner. I haven’t decided who I’m actually voting for so the process of picking a *kernel candidate gave me anxiety.

But just when you thought the day couldn’t get any more bizarre, our group decided to compete in a grape-stomping competition. Conor, Bree, and I actually took our shoes off and smushed grapes with our feet medieval-style in a barrel while Carrie primed the juice into a bucket. It was legit. We came in second. Be impressed.

The fair ended with a huge concert by Pentatonix, and their version of “Bohemian Rhapsody” is still stuck in my head as I’m writing this.

***

We ended the trip with a visit to Omaha, Nebraska. We didn’t spend a lot of time seeing sights there (although I did sit at a piano that Lady Gaga used in one of her music videos), but we spent most of our time locked in rooms.

Several reunions ago, my friends and I discovered that we are exceptionally good at escape rooms. We actually break records and we’ve never not escaped. So we always do at least one escape room when we get together. Well, we found this escape room company in Omaha that has incredibly high-tech escape rooms with incredibly low prices. We did four of them. We shattered records in two of them. We probably would have shattered another record if I didn’t slice my head open mid-process.

While pillaging through an enemy camp where we were being held captive in the Civil War (it was a very obscure themed escape room), we had to crawl through a small tunnel. There was a metal plate at the end of said tunnel and little ole graceful me raised up and became one with it. The gamemakers paused the game (which never happens) and asked if I needed an ambulance. Bree did a concussion test on me. Carrie felt guilty for calling me a baby when she saw the blood in my hair. I’m telling you all this solely because I’m probably the only person alive with an American Civil War injury.

***

Our last stop on our adventure was to a local gas station; there is a station chain called Casey’s that is basically in every small town in the midwest. It has some of the best iced coffee I have ever had in my life, and I literally had some every day of the trip.

My gas station coffee in hand, a few extra pounds on me from the food, and a sore butt from the bicycles, I said goodbye to my traveling comrades. Although I like to pester Carrie about the midwest, my trip there was pretty *a-maize-ing.

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