Fourth of July in Des Moines

Elise and I made the long trek to the frozen tundra known as Des Moines over the long Fourth of July weekend. By frozen tundra, I mean 100 + degrees and more humid than Houston. Really. It was cooler in Austin when we left last Wednesday evening.

Elise and I stayed in Dallas with our friend Jenni. We woke up early and drove straight through to Des Moines. Texas. Oklahoma. Kansas. Missouri. Iowa. I-35 the whole way. We stopped and took pictures of yours truly by the state line signs. Another couple had the same idea. This other couple pulled in behind us at the Oklahoma sign, and then again at the Kansas sign. What are the odds of that happening? They were heading to Nebraska so we didn’t see them at the Missouri sign.

After stopping in northern Missouri to purchase bulk quantities of colorful explosives from the largest fireworks warehouse I’ve ever seen, we chugged on through to Des Moines. We exchanged quick hellos with Elise’s parents and then headed over to Lindsey’s house to meet her new son, Liam. After 12 + hours in the car, we were both ready for bed. We drove back to Steve and Joanne’s house to find that the air conditioning was not working. Steve and Joanne volunteered to be part of a program through the local utility company where their home’s air conditioner will be turned off (remotely by the utility company) for 20 minutes during peak hours. After a couple hours, we realized that something wasn’t right. Elise and I were so tired that we really didn’t have a hard time falling to sleep despite the hot and humid inside climate.

We woke up on Friday and went to the Fourth of July parade in Urbandale with Heather and her daughter Juliet and Jimmy and his two girls. After the parade Elise and I went to Mom and Dad B’s house where Steve and I painted the back deck with a primer. In the hot sun. I sweated. Profusely. Texas-sized beads of sweat, man.

After a cold shower (still no air conditioning), Elise and I went to Pat and Traci’s house in West Des Moines for a FOJ barbecue. That’s Fourth of July for you PWCFOAVW. That’s People Who Can’t Figure Out Acronyms Very Well. After a great bratwurst barbecue, Heather, Jimmy, Juliet, Elise and I drove to Grandma T’s house to sit in the Cold Day Sack and watch the Urbandale fireworks display. Oh yeah, that’s French for a street shaped not much unlike a thermometer.

The fireworks display was awesome. Plus, after five years of being with Elise and knowing most of her family, I was finally able to meet Uncle Mike. Uncle Mike is Joanne’s brother. He reminds me of one of my uncles. Everyone always ‘warned’ me of Uncle Mike. I actually enjoyed Uncle Mike’s company. My in-laws were keeping an eye on me and even extended an invitation to join in on their conversation just a few feet away, I guess to keep me from harm. See, Uncle Mike is approximately 6′ 7″ and, if I had to guess, approximately 375 lbs. and prone to giving loving, but vertebrae splintering bear hugs. He’s a very compassionate man who just doesn’t know his own strength. I was told that he once fractured a man’s humorous when engaging in a standard hi-five after a soft ball game.

I’m just joshin’. Uncle Mike is probably 5′ 8″ and a buck and a half. He’s the “black sheep”. I put that in quotes because that’s what I was told. He uses one of those microphone-shaped-voice-box-vibrator things to speak because he had his larynx removed due to cancer. After we warmed up to one another, I asked if I could try out his voice. He said no. I asked if he would be willing to Sumo wrestle for it. He said okay. I then decided that it would take me to long to find my diaper and I didn’t think I had another one to spare for him. So instead, we just watched the fireworks. Uncle Mike kept saying “zzzzzzzzBoomzzzzzzz”. and then we would both laugh.

After the fireworks display ended, Elise, Eric (Elise’s brother), Kari and I did the only patriotic thing we could think of: Drive into someone else’s corn field and ignite consumer-grade fireworks that just so happen to be illegal in the state of Iowa. I mention a corn field because there aren’t that many corn fields in Iowa. Believe me. Luckily I was traveling with natives of this Midwestern region and they were able to navigate to a remote location that contained a few stalks of corn. I couldn’t have done that on my own.

Our patriotism was cut short by near-tornadic winds and rain. We tracked four pounds of corn soil and a gallon of water into the Jeep, took Kari home, then Eric. Elise and I then went home.

We woke up on Saturday and went to the farmers’ market. Steve and Joanne bought some fresh greens, Iowa chops and some funny looking yellow vegetables. These vegetables have very small “kernels” growing in near-symmetric rows on something that I was told is called an “ear”. Elise and I bought a little over a pound of farm raised elk tenderloin filets from some very friendly locals. The marketing strategy that forced me into buying their product: Mr. Reitsma let us all sample an elk round steak. I’m really excited about cooking the filets we brought back with us.

We went to Autographs Rock ‘n’ Roll Sports Bar & Grill for lunch where Eric gave us the V.I.P. treatment. That meant sitting in the V.I.P. room and eating waaaay too much food. Eric is the Kitchen Manager at Autographs. I was lucky enough to be sitting in front of a glass encased Stratocaster, signed by all of the members of Metallica.

Later that evening Elise and I went over to Lindsey’s house to hang out with Lindsey, Liam, Heather, Juliet, Kari and Lindsey’s parents. Elise and I went back home and Steve and I sat on our primed porch and talked about life and motorcycles until the wee hours of the morning.

We woke up late on Sunday just in time for Iowa chops, mixed green salad and that weird cylindrical-shaped yellow “ear” vegetable. Elise and I then packed, loaded the Jeep, said our sad goodbyes and hit the road. We stopped in Kansas to visit Elise’s Grandpa. Unfortunately it wasn’t a face to face conversation. We looked down at Grandpa T’s grave which is nestled next to a nice shade tree. I didn’t say it out loud, but I thanked Grandpa T. for Joanne, and ultimately Elise.

Elise drove the entire nine hours to Norman, Oklahoma where we stopped and stayed at the Super 8. We had a couple of beers to relax and then went to bed.

I drove the last leg all the way back to Austin on Monday. We were exhausted when we finally made it back home. Coming home is always such a bummer. Although the trip was short, we had a really nice time. It was good to see Elise’s family, friends and friends’ new babies. And Nooooooo – before you ask – we’re not there yet – Baby-wise, I mean.

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