After an adventurous drive involving being offered a jello shot by a random stranger during standstill construction traffic on the highway, I finally rolled into the Days Inn in Ankeny, IA around 3:15pm on Friday. It was a full half-hour later than I had originally intended to arrive, but it turned out to be okay. My friends arrived at the time we had initially aimed for and discovered the Days Inn to be pretty gross. I got there in the middle of figuring out a different hotel to stay in. Eventually, we settled for the nicer Fairfield Inn across the parking lot.
I was meeting some internet friends and sharing a hotel room with them for the weekend while we hung out with other internet friends around Ankeny and Des Moines. This was a new adventure for me. Of the five of us, Katie came from Florida, Jon from Chicago, I came from Wisconsin, and our hosts, Mara and Patrick, lived in Ankeny. I know these people from a website that I’ve been frequenting for the past four and a half years, though, so it wasn’t completely sketchy. We had been planning the event for a few months, and one person I had talking to frequently for several months, so I was filled with positive anticipation for what the weekend would hold.
Friday was interesting. Aside from the nervousness associated with meeting people from the internet, we had a lot of fun talking, playing musical instruments, opening a box containing a traveling eggroll (it’s like a flat Stanley, only it’s a creepy freaking eggroll) and signing it together, eating veggie lasagna, and drinking a bitter and really hoppy local IPA. There was much merriment, laughter, and good times.
Saturday, we went into Des Moines and ate lunch at Zombie Burger. To be honest, I was a little nervous about eating at a place with such a name, thinking the food might be overrated or overly hyped by the locals, but it surprised me. The restaurant seemed to be more of a novelty than quality in terms of pricing, but the food was pretty good. After that, walked over a couple blocks and explored the sculpture park, wandered around towntown, and played the piano that rests outside the public library. Then for dinner we all went to Jethro’s BBQ for what ended up being amazing food. Another friend from the internet, Zeb, also met us there with his wife.
Sunday was Fair day! After spending the morning in the hot tub and pool at the hotel (during which I was reminded of how unpleasant chlorine is), we all piled into Mara’s van and went out to the Iowa State Fair after getting lunch at Hyvee. Jon didn’t come but had to leave to drive back to Chicago. I’ve been to the Northern Wisconsin State fair before, but that had nothing on this. The Iowa State Fair is huge. Actually, huge would be an understatement. It’s basically a town all to itself. As far as attractions, there are the usual fair items like an endless supply of fried food, $6 beers, petting zoos, camels, farm implement, games, rides, and concerts. But this fair has something that no other fair (to my knowledge) has: the butter cow. After the fair, since it was already late, we just hung out at Mara’s apartment before going back to the hotel for the night.
Monday, Katie and I checked out of the hotel and went into Des Moines to meet Patrick for lunch and then explored more of the downtown area for a while. We checked out the public library, I played the outdoor piano again, and we went hunting atop a parking ramp for a geocache that we were unable to locate. I tried gaining access to the top floor of the tallest building downtown (over 40 stories tall), but was told that unless I had an appointment with the law firm there, I would be unable to access any level above the third floor. Around 2:30, we went back to Mara’s apartment to hang out and ended up making a Target run. Then, around 4:00, it was time for me to hit the gas station, add a little oil to my engine, clean my windshield, and be on my way.
The drive from Des Moines to Moberly was both pleasant and nostalgic. It was my first time taking US 63 into Missouri since April of 2013, and I had actually forgotten what much of it looked like. I got into Moberly a little before 8:30 and stayed the night with my friend Caleb and his wife, Sara. Now that it is Tuesday, I’m heading back to campus to help set up sound and tech equipment in the gym, talk with my new boss about work schedule, settle into the dorm, and see somebody very dear to me whom I miss very much. This last week has been pretty crazy, but I’m grateful for God’s constant grace. Even in my periods of doubt and disbelief, He holds me and calls me His child. That blows my mind in ways I could never hope to comprehend.
Right now, that’s enough to get me by.