(This is REALLY long but I just wanted to put down for myself all that I did and experienced...you don't have to read it...but feel free)
There is a song sung by Counting Crows called Omaha. It talks about it being "Somewhere In Middle America" and that song (or at least that part) rang through my mind this weekend while I ventured to "Middle America". I flew from DFW to Minneapolis to Rochester and then drove 1 1/2 hours to Decorah, Iowa. Melissa picked me up at the airport and we headed south to Decorah (which is about 15 minutes from the Minnesota border). We made a stop at the "Kwik Mart" and got some refreshments. Melissa showed me the "Cheese Curds" which are famous there (from Wisconsin). I realized I was no longer in Texas (however, they did have Diet Dr. Pepper in the fountain drink selection)!
The country side was beautiful. The leaves were changing and the smell of cattle would waft through the car every once in a while. The corn had already been harvested and dried stalks remained. The rolling hills, barns, silos, and John Deere tractors were something out of a picture book...but the picture book was just starting to unfold. We drove into the valley where Decorah was. The rolling hills with trees of red, green, orange, and gold surrounded. It was breath taking.
I am from Texas and small towns that I drive through on my way to Dallas, Austin, or Colorado are...OLD. Time has forgotten them and they seem like ghost towns of yesterday. It is really sad. So, that is what in my mind I picture a small town...especially one with the population of 8,000 (10,500 if you count the students at Luther College).
Decorah is much different. A river runs through the town and the downtown is a strip of cute, well-maintained store fronts. (Yes...I felt like I was in Mayberry and Andy Griffith was going to pop up at any time!!!)
We went to Melissa's house first and stopped by to say "hi" to Robert & Ty. Then, we headed downtown to visit "Trendz" (her store which I've been dying to shop at for 3 1/2 years!). It was so cute. I couldn't get over it! After that, we headed back to their house to play baseball with Ty before the storm rolled in.
For dinner, we went to Melissa's parents' house. It was amazing! Full of all the bells and whistles with a gorgeous bird's eye view of the town. We ate pizza and fried cheese curds before heading to the high school homecoming football game. Mind you...I was not in Texas. The school has 120 in each graduating class so the stadium was as small as junior high field in Texas. There was a band and cheerleaders but no drill team (Melissa and I were both in drill team in high school). After half time, we headed back to Melissa's house.
The next morning, Melissa and I took a long walk around the town which included the campus, the river, and cool homes. After the walk, we went to the Farmer's Market to buy some bread, fresh whole wheat pasta, cookies, etc. These were the farmers who grew them! So neat! There was no fresh herbs because of the freeze they had had a few weeks prior. After the Farmer's Market, we walked next door to Bryson's tag football game. After the game, we showered and headed downtown for lunch (Delicious coffee shop with the best herb pasta and sandwich I had ever had!), shopping, and helping at the Parent's Weekend reception that Melissa's store had a booth.
We then went for a bike ride with Melissa's mom (Jolene). What a beautiful ride! It was so relaxing! Then, we got dressed to go to dinner at La Rana. Can I tell you how YUMMY that dinner was? We shared Hummus (Ok...that was my first time to eat it and it was delish), Bruchetta, and Fennel Salad w/Candied Walnuts. The flavor was incredible. Then, we split a pasta dish and the "special" which was Pork Loin with Brie cheese and chutney & brussel sprouts over couscous. Oh, my!!! The flavor! I've never had a meal that flavorful...and I live in Dallas and used to live in Houston! You can't get better cuisine than that! (Or maybe it has been a long time since I've gone to a really good restaurant...the chain restaurants around me have seen my family too much lately). We had a great meal!
The next day, we went to the store to get some goodies for our canoe ride. Before the canoe ride, we had brunch at the college. Beautiful campus! Then, got dressed and headed out for the canoe ride. So fun! I'll have pictures soon...those were taken with a disposable camera. That night, we had hamburgers and (of course) CORN! You can't be in Iowa w/o experiencing it!
On Monday, we went for a walk and then got dressed for an early lunch and then shopping at Trendz where I bought such cute things!!! After that, it was time for our drive to the airport. My flight was delayed in Rochester and in Minneapolis so it took longer to get home than expected. The kids were sad that I didn't make it home in time but we've spent quality time together today (I took them both out for lunch today).
So...what can I say? I understand why my friends live in Decorah (although there was no snow at the time). It is a great town...full of art, beauty, and peaceful living. I now understand why people rent RVs to drive around this country...there really are some amazing parts and I hope to one day see more of this great country (and less of the drive from Dallas to Raton, NM).