Category Archives: Iowa

Travel Inn…Travel Out

I do apologize for the length of this post, but there is really no shorter way to paint you this picture.  So this past weekend me and my sister traveled from Connecticut to Iowa to visit our grandparents. Because the airport in Dubuque, where they live, is smaller than most town’s local Target Super Center, we decided to fly into Chicago and rent a car to finish out the trek. Our flight got in around 11pm so we thought it best to stay in a hotel along the way.  Though I do take full responsibility for the troubles outlined below, I just want to make it clear that I booked a hotel-with the mind frame of “ok we are going to get there after midnight and leave first thing to get to grandpas so let’s just go with whatever is the cheapest. Worst.Decision.Ever.  In fact, as a result of this hasty decision, I have lost all future booking privileges while traveling with my sister.

Ok, so let me start by saying that I’ve been known to stay in some sketchy establishments.  There was that time in Ireland where me and Stef stayed in the most sketchy “bed and breakfast” ever. Literally, I was nervous one of us (or both of us) were going to be kidnapped by the guys from New Castle in the room next to us. And then there was that time I was on a business trip in Santa Barbara and my flight got cancelled and instead of going back to the four-star hotel I was at originally, my at-the-time-boss thought it was fine if I bunked up at a motel in the ghetto right by the airport. Surprisingly, no one knocked on my door looking for crack.

Anyways, I degrees…this was much worse. Here we are in Rockland, IL, and things are looking pretty good. We see a Holiday Inn and Marriott, followed by a Kohls, Longhorn Steakhouse, and my personal fave-Starbucks.  There was tons of stores and I could tell we were on the main drag. Cool. A few miles go by and more and more space lies between stores, the lights are dimmer-clearly we are driving into the depths of hell. I should have know better since the main light to the hotel was barely on.  It was kind of flickering like a motel light would in a horror movie right before he main character gets murdered.  But hey, what were we going to do-we did have a $42 reservation. So we go in.

The guy at the front desk was nice enough, but let’s remember, you don’t have to be smart to be nice.  After standing at the front desk for approximately 15 minutes while he tried to figure out how run my credit card, we finally got our room key. Room 205, which ironically was in the basement.  This was an obvious sign that we were walking even deeper into the depths of hell.  This level smelled. It went from smoke, to mold, to another smell that I can’t really really describe, probably because my senses were being numbed at this point.  You know, part of the body’s defense when it begins going into shock-I’m pretty sure that’s what was happening here. Finally, after walking by numerous doors with dogs barking in a frigid hallway we made it to our room. Phew!

Just kidding. This too only added insult to injury. There was caked on mildew on the faucet sink. So bad, in fact, that I literally felt it was a better option to not wash my hands at all than touch the sink, or the water that may (or may not) come out of it. There was cigarette ash all around the bathroom (in our supposed non-smoking room), and literally shit stains in the toilet. All of that aside, all we wanted to do was go to sleep. With a Nalgene 3/4 full of water, we figured we had enough to get through the night for the two of us if we rationed properly.  So we slipped into pj’s and turned down the sheets. This is when shit got real. There was no sheet on the bed. Seriously. No.Sheet.On.The.Bed. OK, no that’s not completely fair.  There was a sheet…but we had the option to sleep between the sheet and the disease-ridden comforter, or the sheet and the disease ridden mattress.  Either way, I was not willing to take the risk.  I’m sorry…the second I left the hotel I thought “shit I should have taken pictures!”, but seriously, I was in survival mode and the only thing I could think about was getting out alive…so you’ll have to use your imagination here…even if you think you’re letting it go wild, you’re probably not far off from what we encountered.

We couldn’t stay there. So I did what anyone would do, we put on our shoes and my sister pulled around the car while I pulled a Jo Anne. If you’re unfamiliar what this means, Jo Anne is our mom, and in the right situation, gets really angry and does something magical that results in her getting her way. It all started in a nail salon circa year 2000, but we’ll leave that story for another time.  Anyways, I walked up to the front desk, rolling suitcase in hand and told the clerk we are leaving and never coming back. Though he looked extremely confused, he was nice about it, which didn’t give me the opportunity to get as angry as I wanted to, however, given the situation, you’ve gotta think this is not the first time this happened.

10 minutes later we ended up in a clean, newly renovated room at the Hilton, which we were very pleased with. Ironically, outside of our fourth floor window was a huge dumpster which we probably would have ended up in if we didn’t make the move.

Advice from the Midwest

This will conclude my Iowan posts, but it may be the most important as it is a list of practical, unsolicited advice I received from my gramps over my three day visit. He’s been around the block a few times and I thought I should share these valuable tidbits with the rest of you! Also,even if you choose not to follow advice, there’s not harm in hearing it!

Never order Orange Juice Ina restaurant. Drink a glass before you go out. It’s far to expensive in restaurants. You gotta conserve where ya can!

Remember to give to charities. Donating to charities repents for a multitude of sins,

That being said…

Don’t donate more than you can afford because those who give all their money to the poor will soon live among them.

Make your will.

I’m only 26 and have about. $150 to my name but I was instructed to create my will ASAP because in the unfortunate occurrence of my untimely death, that $150 will definitely create rifts among my surviving family. I think I’m gonna let that one marinate for a few years, but its definitely something to keep in mind!

Don’t drink too much, smoke,or do drugs.

Yes, this is pretty much common sense, but nonetheless, good advice!

Become a Republican.

This is coming from the man who now takes his hearing aide out while his priest gives sermons because when my grandfather asked if it was a sin to Vote Democratic, the priest said “no”. “I can still hear the sermon,” my grandfather claims, “I just do it to prove my point.” Touché. (I think I’ll leave this one on the burner,as I don’t care to talk politics. I just can’t get over how comical that story is!)

My Prince Charming

I not-so-recently broke it off with a long time bow, and while usually my grandpa gives me grief about not being married in my old age of 26. Assuring me that all the good men are taken by my age and I’m going to grow old as an old maid. For whatever reason he had a change of heart while I was visiting last weekend. On my last night in Iowa, my grandpa calls me into the back room where he’s listening to his right-wing radio program and playing solitaire. He tells me he has news for me. As we sat there talking, he told me he had a vision of me working my second job, waitressing, and this guy comes in “he’ll be 33 or 34 with dark hair, with some prematurely gray poking through. He has a thin mustache. You are going to see each other and…boom (makes a shooting arrow jester) that little guy will poke you both with the arrow at the same time”.

As I said goodbye the next morning he gave me a hug and kiss and ended his goodbye by saying “he might not have a mustache, I haven’t decided yet.” Hmm…I’m not sure how accurately that story will pan out, but I will tell you one thing, it makes me more excited to go to work tonight! Who knows, maybe the old man is right, and my next trip to Iowa won’t be alone 😉

83 and Counting

One thing that is very important to me is family. A couple things to know about my family. 1. My family isn’t very big compared to most; 2. That doesn’t make it any easier to see and keep in touch with everyone. My immediate family lives in CT, but my extended family ranges from Ohio, to New York, to Texas and Iowa. I try to see, talk to, and write letters to my family as much as possible because if you dont make the effort to get to know your family while they are around, when will you ever get to know them?! (Slid logic, right?) I was able to make it out to Iowa this past weekend for a long weekend to visit with my grandpa, grandma and uncles, and it was awesome because I also got to celebrate my grandpa’s 83rd Birthday!! My grandpa kept saying he was glad I was there to celebrate his last birthday, but he’s been saying that for about 10 years now. So at this point he’s really not foolin anyone.

When I arrived on his birthday-eve we celebrated with his first cake. Yes, there were multiple cakes. I ate more care this weekend than I have in the past couple years…huh? What diet!? Then,the next morning, on his birthday we got up and left for breakfast at Sunshine. Sunshine is his Cheers…but better. He walks in and everyone knows his name. No, not just his name, also his order, down to the the nitty details of his strict diet and the fact that he drinks cola, not coffee, even at 9AM. We met up with a couple of his friends for breakfast, but even had we gone alone, we wouldn’t be lonely. Just about every table in the joint got up and came over to say hello at some point during the meal. Seriously, the man is a small-town celeb!

After breakfast we came home, watched some old-timey black and white movies and later in the afternoon my uncles braved the ice storm happening outside to come over for a birthday pizza party and, you guessed it, more cake. Having everyone together is a riot. My grandpa brings up for the millionth time “ok just tell me, who stole my car”. He’s talking about something that happened about 45 years ago, FYI,…then cracks himself up while quoting Hillary “after all this time, what difference does it make??” It really is quite entertaining!


Starting at top left and going clockwise: Dubuque, IA monument in downtown, My Grandpa Joe, Grandma Rita and Me, My Grandpa with his birthday cards, Sunshine Restaurant, Me and My Uncle Mike (no he’s not really that short, he was scrunching down because my gram said his head wasn’t in the picture) hehe

New Friends in Unsuspected Places

One of the items on my 2013 Bucket List was to visit Iowa, and not for nothing either! My mom grew up in Dubuque, Iowa and my grandparents and uncles are still out here, so I try to make it out once a year to visit with the Fam. I flew out of Hartford on Saturday morning and flew into Chicago, which is about 3 hrs from Dubuque and rented a car to finish off the trip. (Dubuque does have their own airport, however it has about 2 terminals and it takes about 3 layovers and 10 extra hours to get there…so obviously, flying direct to Chicago and driving in is a MUCH better option!!) Along my ride I decided to stop off for lunch in Rockford, IL. My options were KFC, Denny’s, McDonalds, or Taco Bell…but since I don’t eat fast food and have a fascination with hole in the wall townie type places, I decided to make an adventure out of it. I was only about 1/2 a mile off the highway when a small brown building with nothing more than one sign saying “OPSAHL’S Home of the Big Kahuna” It caught my eye and immediately I was sold.

I pulled into the parking lot and started walking towards the building, but noticed there was no “open” or “enter” sign…in fact, the doors and the building were actually the same color, so I decided to just try one and hope for the best, while at the same time wondering if I was walking into a speakeasy or some other under the radar establishment. I walked in, and immediately felt out of place. It was about 2:30PM and the place was almost packed with middle aged hillbilly-looking folks, who I instantly pegged for “the regulars”. Everyone: the patrons, the cooks, and the bar tenders all seemed to know each other. When I walked up to the bar, the tender just stood there and after about 10 seconds of awkward silence I asked for a menu. I could see the shock in her face. I could tell, without her saying the words, that she thought I was lost and looking for directions.

I sat at the bar, ordered an Old Milwaukee and a Bacon Cheese Burger and some Onion Rings…hey I am on vacation after all! I made small talk with many of the regulars, as they we all vey interested as to how a young girl from Connecticut landed at a dive like Opsah’s in the middle of no where. Though everyone was MUCH different from the people i normally associate with, everyone was super nice and by the end of my lunch i had seen dozens of pictures of peoples wives, children and pets. I finished off my burger, beer, and rings and was on my merry way. This is one reason why traveling alone is fun…even by myself I’m never really alone because its all too easy to make new friends!!


Stay tuned for more Iowan adventures!

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