As I was finished up my big destinations out west, there was one place that I longed to visit and looked forward to with great anticipation: Iowa City. Although I only lived there for three years (another two up in Ames as I completed my doctorate), in that span I fell in love with that great small city and made some incredible long lasting friendships. Most of my friends within the music program had left and started lives elsewhere (and I visited Ab, Gretchen, Pat, and Veronica along the way!). However, several other friends were living there and I couldn’t wait to see them.
Jen and Dawn lived in Iowa City when I first met them back in 1992, subsequently left for several years and eventually returned. I’d last seen them YEARS ago when they lived in the San Francisco area while I participated in the GALA festival in San Jose with VOICES in 2000. At the time they had a young daughter McKinley who was around 2, and since then had also adopted another girl, Bree, whom I’d never met. So I could not WAIT to see them after all these years. Plus I was dying for some good company after being completely alone for the past month.
I made the long drive from Sioux Falls SD to Iowa City on a very foggy morning. I chose to take the scenic route and drove through southern Minnesota and entered Iowa from the north. It felt like home as I drove through my old stomping grounds – the countryside was beautiful with the corn growing high and green. I arrived at their house, knocked on the door, and was greeted by one large old friendly dog Riley and McKinley who at 16 was already way taller than I. After that, I saw the wonderful smiling face of my old friend Jen, whose face was unchanged by the years. We caught up for a bit before Dawn and Bree returned from a trip to the store. Dawn, like Jen, unchanged by the passage of time, and Bree, a delightful precocious twelve year old. There was one more member of the family, a dog Willow, who was at the vet but who would be returning that evening! We all had a wonderful time catching up and I had a great time getting to know the girls as we got things ready for dinner. And how wonderful was it to sit down to a home cooked meal, with dear friends, fantastic kids and friendly furry companions.
The next day, after I slept like a baby for the first time in a month, we had a wonderful breakfast prepared by Dawn and headed out for some fun. The first stop of the day was the Terry Trueblood Recreation Area, where we rented a paddleboat, paddleboard, and double kayak. Dawn and I manned the kayak, McKinley the paddleboard, and Bree and Jen hopped in the paddleboat. We paddled around the lovely little Sand Lake, talking about life and enjoying watching the girls have a good time in the lovely sunshine.
After that adventure, we dropped Bree and Jen off at home and Dawn, McKinley and I drove a short way to Wilson’s Orchard, where we spent a lovely hour and a half sampling and picking some yummy apples, and then enjoying a specialty of the house, a freshbaked apple turnover! I also spotted and grabbed up a bag of fresh, wonderful, squeeky cheese curds!
We headed back to the house, picked up Jen and Bree, and had a FANTASTIC dinner at Jimmy Jack’s Rib Shack, where we demolished some ribs, fries, and sandwiches!
The next morning Jen and Dawn had to return to work, but the girls and I planned one last hurrah. After telling my tale of disappointment at Voodoo Doughnuts in Portland, the girls took me to a local favorite within walking distance of their house, Daylight Donuts. We made the short walk, chose several yummy doughtnuts (Bree treated), and came back to the house.
While Bree and I enjoyed the doughnuts, McKinley started on her apple pie made with the recently picked apples. I must say for a 16 year old, she sure knows her way around a pie! It was delicious!
The girls had school appointments and I had things to do, so we said our goodbyes and I made a little tour of some old familiar spots:
My very first apartment in Iowa City, 416 Grandview Court. Still looks exactly the same.
908 Governor Street. Lived there for two years with Sue and then Veronica.
The old Sinclair Station on Dodge and I-80 with Dino the Dinosaur still there!
My old Hy-Vee grocery is still there. Had to stop and get a taste of the old days
A heartbreaking visit to the site of the School of Music, which was destroyed in the flood of 2008. Hancher Auditorium, Clapp Recital Hall and Voxman School of Music all gone…empty demolished nothingness left….
That evening, I met up with two other beloved old friends, Laurie and Julie. at Julie’s fantastic pet product store, Leash on Life.
Laurie (a Director at the U of Iowa Hospitals and Clinics) showed me around the store while we waited for Julie to finish up for the day. We then headed to a new restaurant in town, 30 Hop, where we enjoyed a wonderful variety of beers, yummy burgers and fries, and great conversation. After that, we headed back to their house on the outskirts of Iowa City, where I met their adorable bassett hound Cooper and two cats, Simon and Manchego. We grabbed a beer and sat under the stars in their back yard, reminiscing about old times, marveling in the revelations revealed in my summer adventure, and just enjoying a friendship that has lasted over 20 years. The next morning Laurie left for an early morning meeting, and Julie and I enjoyed a nice quiet breakfast together before I left for Naperville. A short but very sweet visit – but I’m bummed that I forgot to get a picture of us!