So we knew we wanted coffee and we didn’t want gas station coffee (The PNW has damn near ruined us!) so we looked up cafes on our route and saw “Beans On Butler” in Ackley, Iowa. Alright then, let’s go! GPS guided us right to. . . Casey’s Gas station. What? We JUST came from one of those! Now we’ve been driving an hour and the need for caffeine is real! We tried the “Beans on Butler” once more into GPS. A tiny dot on the map only 3 minutes away!! As we drove through the town we saw cute houses, nicely manicured lawns, children playing outside (something totally devoid in prior towns due to the oppressive heat), people walking, doing yard work, animals frolicking. . . was this paradise? Then we found the coffee place! We parked our car where we could see it (Rudy did not want to join us!).
A quaint coffee shop in the old “activity center” of the nursing home, Beans on Butler was a sweet mix of old pictures from the town’s history (which we found out the city switches them out for new ones every month) and modern accommodations, like comfortable seating areas and warm decor. I immediately noticed a board with names and monetary amounts posted on it at the front near the register. It was a “pay it forward” board with gifts on it from customers to other customers or service members of the city, like firefighters or policemen! It was so sweet. Something else that struck me was that the barista kindly acknowledged us, but didn’t rush through her time with the guest who was there before us. It demonstrated an ease and calm that doesn’t come with big city service industry workers (Which, please don’t get me wrong, I sincerely appreciate when I am in a hurry to be somewhere!), and J and I settled in at a high-top table and patiently waited our turn. After we got our orders, the barista, Sue, took a good 20 min or so to find out who we were, what we were up to, share a bit about the town, and just engage in some great conversation. She asked to get a picture of us, and we totally agreed, especially because we loved the motto of the coffee shop so much. “Stay Positive”. A good reminder any day of the year, but one we desperately needed to be reminded of. I believe that Sue, the coffee shop, and the message really helped turn our attitudes around. Plus, a great cup of coffee can do wonders!
As we were heading to our lunch destination about 2 hours away, we saw something that we all said, “Yes. That has to happen.”
In the middle of America, in a place where a little girl, barefoot in bathing suit, buying rainbow suckers for her 5 best friends, can hop on a motorcycle with her 6’4” burley, Harley-Santa-looking Grandpa, putting on NO HELMET, and then ride off with a buck-tooth grin. . . THAT, my friends is Sac, Iowa. And THAT is where we found the “World’s Largest Popcorn Ball”! Weighing in at 9,370 lbs and 12’ in diameter, this is a Christmas treat I could sink my teeth into! It was quite impressive, although, being a Sunday, the museum was closed so all we could surmise about its construction has yet to be fact checked, so you can just Google it yourself. However, I need to point out something — and I wonder if I’m alone in this. Upon hearing the words, “World’s Largest” anything, I immediately think Godzilla status. I mean, I wanted that popcorn ball to be hundreds of feet tall and wide, with the reputation of rolling over huge semi trucks and the nickname “Home Crusher”!! But, alas, there it was, all 12 feet of it squished into a gazebo in the middle of Sac town like a chubby bulldog in a baby’s swimsuit, but way crunchier, and less sad…and we all stared, snapped a picture, then headed on our way. I could almost hear a choir of 1950’s housewives singing the ball’s praises.
Something about me. I love cemeteries. Maybe it’s because no one I know personally or dearly is buried in one. Maybe it’s because of the sad, romantic, and creepy feeling that one can bring out in me. Or maybe it’s because, once in college, I successfully sang, “Send In The Clowns” before some sparklers burned down, while I was holding them…between my butt-cheeks…at midnight…in the middle of a cemetery. Was that too much? Whatever the reason, I love them and thought we should find a nice, old cemetery to have our lunch at.
I found Cory Grove Cemetery. Literally, down a little, winding, dirt road was a quaint, sweet, old resting place for peoples’ loved ones. We walked through it, commenting on names and dates, pointing out to Rudy the closer the dates, the shorter the life. He was fascinated by the ones that were kids. This little boy, so full of life and energy, not a care in the world, couldn’t imagine another such boy dead. The oldest one we found dates back to a death date of 1855 (I think. The date was pretty worn.)! I couldn’t believe how the headstones had held up and you could still read most of them. Then there were some that were just blocks. Just markers with no writing. Those were saddest to me, especially next to some that were intricately engraved and made out of marble with loving inscriptions and flowers and such. It was just small enough to walk around and through for about an hour. Then we found a beautiful tree next to Mr. and Mrs. Vale and I made lunch while Rudy rode his bike around the property*. It was a really special afternoon and we all were thankful for another day to be above ground.
Yankton was about 3 more hours away so we packed up, said our good-byes and made like the living out of there. After a few missed turns and detours, we finally made it to Yankton, where our friend, Paul, was waiting for us with a key to our very own apartment to stay in while we were there! It was located right above the bar where we were going to play, and right across the street from the river and a playground!!! Once our stuff was all brought inside, we hit that playground with a vengeance!! Rudy had friends to make!
After a couple hours of hard play, we all were hungry! But the whole town goes to bed at 8:00, it seemed. Especially kid-friendly places. Fortunately, one place was still open! “Czeckers”, a kid friendly sports and pool bar with ice cold beer, Mac n cheese, salads and wings. Oh my gosh…they also had buckets of big Legos for Rudy we o play with. Jackpot! Rudy made a castle with soldiers, guards, AND a “Christmas Dragon”. Not sure what that meant, other than its coloring was red and green, but Rudes was excited about it. Dad made a robot and the two had an epic slo-Mo battle to end the night.
After dinner, we walked around the sleepy town. We noticed all the trees were glowing blue! And we found a fountain lit up with color-changing lights. We also found a huge bridge with a giant moth on it that we walked about half way across, then, since it was almost midnight, decided to save it for another day and head to bed, full, happy, properly aquatinted with the town and tired!!
*Rudy: “I’m not going to wear my watch in case someone from the dead comes back alive and tears my arm off. I don’t want them to take my watch with it.”