Well, today was quite the rollercoaster of lowbrow to highbrow experiences.
The Gateway Hotel, last night, was fair value for money. Nothing special but it served its purpose. I had a fine big, double queen room with a campus view. It is a bigger hotel, primarily there to service the Iowa State crowd.
Having seen signs all over for Kum & Go, I had to find out what type of service they provided. They are just gas stations. I bought a hat with a bottle opener built in.
My day started in The Stomping Ground Cafe, close by the Iowa State Campus. They had really good, made to order coffee and poached eggs served out on their bright and airy patio. I’d go back.
First order of my travel day was to find the gnome. Extensive research revealed it to be domiciled in the Reiman Gardens at Iowa State University. As well as the oversized sprite the gardens host a walkthrough butterfly enclosure and a Wind, Waves & Light exhibit of wind sculptures. I rushed through them all to find the gnome.
Dennis, in his stone magnificence, was everything I could have wished for – 13 plus feet of elfen manliness. Important to note, he’s they biggest stone gnome in the world. Some fiberglass giant gnome in some other gnome-land got bend out of shape at the biggest gnome claim, so they had to get specific. Stone.
Then it was onward to the campus itself.
Javier, originally from Houston and of Mexican descent, was generous enough to help me navigate the Iowa State Campus. He is specializing in food studies (and I know I got that course title wrong). He felt he would get a greater world view through studying away from home. He hopes to return to work in Houston when he graduates, where his family all are.
Good fortune and Javier brought me to the campus Art Gallery and Nancy Gebhart. Nancy is the Professor of Art and Visual Culture and Curator of Contemporary Art exhibits. Where Nancy is curating a number exhibits, the absorbing Unpacked – Refugee Baggage exhibit is featuring in the main gallery. The pieces are intricate and extraordinary and the audio accompaniments are heartbreaking. Each piece represents the real story of a surviving refugee.
You are invited, as you exit the exhibit, to write down those things you would pack, given only 30 minutes to flee your home. It’s not easy. If you ever have the chance to see this exhibit, please do. The pieces are beautiful.
Nancy was extremely generous with her time and walked me through each piece. It was a rare treat. We also had an extended discussion on art; books; concerts; films; Iowa & New York. Nancy’s five year old daughter is a dedicated Beatles fan, who recently threw over Paul in favor of Ringo when she started learning the drums. The childs got taste.
I only left because my car was on a meter off campus. I was loving the conversation.
As I departed the gallery, I pondered whether I was really juvenile enough to embark on the next stage of the trip. The answer was unequivocally YES. I was going to drive two hours cross country to see Albert, the world’s largest concrete Bull. My father’s name was Albert. How could I not?
Albert was everything I could have dreamed of. I was informed, by a local gas station employee , that Big Bull Al, was somehow featured during the Super Bowl this year so he drew multitudes in 2018.
So that you all have the full Bull history:
Albert, the World’s Largest Bull, has stood in Audubon Iowa since 1964. 30 feet tall and 33 feet long, he has a 15-foot span between horns. He also has baby blue eyes and giant concrete gonads, often whimsically repainted by folks celebrating various events.
There was nowhere I wanted to stay in Audubon so I checked in online to Boulders Inn and Suites in Manning, 23 miles away.
I had dinner in a Waspys Truck Stop Café, Templeton. Fried chicken with mash and coleslaw and it was surprisingly good. Also surprising, all the customers in there know one another. I learned that this Waspys is new to town.
Everyone remembers their first truck-stop dinner.
By coincidence, charming Danielle Hale, the receptionist at the hotel turned out to be an Ohio State student and had taken elective classes with Nancy Gebhart. Mine was a late check in and the front desk was quiet so we had a grand, long conversation.
21 year old Danielle is obviously very smart and definitely has it all together. She lives locally, as do her six sisters. I got the run down from her on Manning, which has an interesting looking main street and has a lot of employment in brewing and construction. I’ll take a walk around tomorrow.
Danielle works evenings at the hotel but is also a full time Ohio State Student, commuting back and forth an hour and forty minutes, each way, every day. She also works at a clinic weekends and is a sorority member, she already owns her own house in Manning and is extensively travelled internationally and domestically.
I was so in awe of this young woman. I think at 21 I was just drunk. All that and she has been employee of the month theses past two months. I think Danielle will be very successful in life.
The unexpected song that made me smirk today: Hit Me With Your Rhythm Stick – Ian Dury and the Blockheads.
On the Audio front, I finished American Kingpin. Where it’s an engrossing story, I would have preferred hear it in Podcast Format, interspersed with interviews. It is extremely well researched and I hope it gets turned into a mini-series, on a channel that doesn’t skimp on graphic representations.
The American Kingpin reader got on me nads again though, with his two intonations.
#1: His Own Voice, slightly breathless – this represented most men.
#2: The Prissy/Stick Stuck Firmly Up There Voice – this same voice represented Women; Irritated or Scared Men; Spanish; Asian; Children and a puppy.