Iowa not as boring as you think

Today we took to the road for the second-to-last time, heading from Omaha to Chicago. We got a late start — the black-out curtains at the Omaha Hilton are no joke. Without Mother Nature to wake us up by 7, we accidentally slept until 10:30. I was freaking out until Kurt calmly informed me that our checkout time was noon, not 11 like it is at most places. Phew!

So we showered and packed, got some fruit and a muffin from the Starbucks in the lobby, and hit the road. I got so busy navigating our way out of Omaha that I missed the Iowa welcome sign. Thwarted again! I shook that off and, as soon as we were settled on I-80, I called my mom to wish her a happy birthday. And to schedule a time to visit soon after we return, since the Mini will need all of the assorted cleaning products and tools that my dad’s garage has to offer.

Our drive was fairly uneventful, although Iowa is a lovely state full of idyllic farmland with nice rolling hills. And wind farms. There were tons of those, and since I’m obsessed with them I took an excessive number of pictures of them. We also saw more motorcycles, so I did some research and discovered that this week is the 70th annual Motorcycle Rally held in Sturgis, SD. That explains all the bikers we’ve encountered lately. (Note that my aunt independently verified this fact in a comment she sent us today.)

Interesting fact: did you know that most of Harley Davidson’s women’s apparel is designed for women riding as passengers, not drivers? I overheard a female bike at the Yellowstone KOA lamenting this fact the other day. Apparently it’s tough to find good riding pants if you’re a woman who drives your own bike. Get with the times, Harley.

For gas and a late lunch, we stopped at a Kum & Go. Yes, that’s the name of an actual gas station/mini mart chain in the midwest. And they sell Tshirts. After Kurt ushered me away from the merchandise, we grabbed some protein bars, G2, and other snacks, and resumed our journey through scenic Iowa. During that journey, we had the pleasure of seeing the largest sculpture of a bull’s head in the world. Resisting the temptation to stop there was difficult, but I managed to keep it together.

After our double failure to get a picture of an Iowa welcome sign, we hatched a plot that couldn’t fail. I hope you’re ready for this, because it’s pure genius. To put this plan into action, I prepared to stick my head out of the Mini’s moon roof and snap both the Illinois welcome sign on our side of the highway and the Iowa welcome sign that would be facing the westbound drivers at the border. Brilliant, right? This plan would kill two birds with one stone — we’d get the shots, and I’d get to ride with my head through the roof, which has been a life dream of mine.

So as the border approached, I assumed the position and diligently scanned the shoulder of the road for the signs. Which never came. Because road construction crews are apparently intent on ruining my efforts to document our border crossings with photographs. Infuriating.

Most of Illinois was boring — flatter than Iowa, and just generally less pretty. We did, however, pass two exits that would have taken us to the birthplace of Ronald Reagan. We didn’t budget time for that, though, so I guess we’ll have to put that on the agenda for our next road trip.

As we neared Chicago, traffic got heavier, which we hadn’t really experienced since California. Eventually, the skyline of the city appeared through the haze, and we were both surprised by how substantial the skyline is. Pretty soon we arrived at the Hotel Conrad and, for the first time on this trip, we let the bellhop carry our bags for us. We’re really living it up!

Our room is awesome. We’re on the 6th floor, which is the hotel’s 2nd floor (the lobby is on the 5th floor, above a huge mall on the Magnificent Mile). Plus, there’s a 2 in the room number, so we think our streak is still alive. We even have robes and slippers. And we ordered fancy pillows from the Conrad’s pillow menu. For real.

After settling in, we headed to a restaurant I found using Yelp. It was called Bandera, and it was about a block from the hotel. They had a jazz trio, good wine, and awesome food. Especially the banana cream pie. After dinner, we stopped for a drink at our hotel before returning to our room. The Conrad has an outdoor bar called the Terrace, which is on the 5th floor and provides some cool views of the city. They show movies there on Sundays, so we caught the tail end of Eight Men Out while enjoying our overpriced drinks and taking pictures of Chicago’s skyline at night.

After drinks, we went to work getting the blog up to date. We know we’ve been leaving our readers hanging. We know this because several of our readers have not hesitated to remind us of that (namely, our moms). So we wanted to get caught up. It took until 2am, but we got it done. Kurt had the worst of it, since all of the stuff he does comes after my writing is done. Luckily, we’re here until Wednesday, so we can sleep in tomorrow.

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