I felt the need to clear my head, so I convinced Ernie to come along and wander some roads with me. He is simply the best creature in the world. We measure our days in Casey's. We hit a high of 13 Casey's in one day…so you know we were in a lot of small towns. By the third day Ernie insisted on counting turn arounds as well. I think he did 11 turn arounds as we drove home. He was game for them all, but eventually when I posited a different route he whimpered, and said, "We're never going to get home." I looked at the clock and caved…so we got on the highway and zoomed the last stretch home.
The first night we stayed in Muscatine. Iowa and a river town. It just doesn't get much better in my book. And I had NO IDEA that Muscatine was the pearl button capital of the world. Those things just delight me. I must admit that it was wickedly cold when we left in the morning so I don't have any great pictures of the old button factories. Next time Muscatine, next time.
We drove along the river, heading to a grist mill I wanted to see. The hill was covered with ice and my boots are not exactly ice ready so I fell and banged myself up before giving up. Another reason to return to Muscatine. We wandered on, stopping to take pictures and drive around the town squares of endless little towns. There's something about it that is good for my heart. I have such a soft heart for forgotten buildings. Sometimes they are too sad for me to photograph though. We stopped in one little town that just had a handful of buildings. We drove up to a storefront that was almost falling down. It somehow felt cruel to photograph it. Ernie understood. We drove around it to head back to the road, and as we passed the back of it, we saw a for sale sign. You could see through to the crumbling bricks and walls inside. They were asking $825. We averted our eyes and moved on.
We were only going to stay one night, but we stretched it to two. I found an old hotel in Centerville, Iowa. it was utterly lovely. Unfortunately the restaurant/bar at the hotel is closed on Sunday nights. They directed us to a restaurant across the square but we peeked in and it was awfully bright…we really just wanted to relax and have a drink. So mustered up our courage and went to a local bar off the square. It turned out to be a great choice. A lot of people with bicycles. I'm guessing DUI's but perhaps they're just an environmentally concerned crowd. The music was loud and John Prine was playing when we walked in. Prine segued to Hank Jr. to Lynyrd Skynyrd to Blondie. It sounded fucking great. They had no wine. I got a drink and asked for lemon. They found lemons! The second drink tasted nothing like the first but the bartender was so sweet and had a glorious graying mullet and all was right with my world. Oh, and cheap. And free popcorn. We went back to the bright restaurant and got some food to go and repaired to our lovely little room.
Look at those mysterious stairs on the left? Don't you want to go up them?