It was a classic Manhattan moment; I was having dinner at a friend’s place, a high-rise on the east side (cue music) with an indoor swimming pool on the 35th floor that has an amazing view of the Empire State Building. Prior to ordering dinner, because you can get takeout 24/7 in New York City, she did laps while I kept my head above water to take in the view; even though I see Manhattan every day, enjoying the Empire State Building all aglow at night (and from an indoor swimming pool) is special. After our swim, we’re in the sauna chatting about my impromptu summertime road trip, and she was asking about Iowa.
Not sure what Iowans think of New Yorkers, but I think for most people living in Manhattan, Iowa might as well be the third world with corn fields. What they don’t know is that the home state of actors Ashton Kutcher and Elijah Wood is picturesque, serene and a quirky tourist destination. Thirty-five floors above asphalt, Starbucks and guys furiously peddling Chinese takeout orders down Second Avenue, I told my friend that Iowa actually reminded me of Ireland, lots of rolling green farmland, and yes, lots of farms and corn. When I went home and emptied out my wallet to pay for garage parking, the thought of returning to Iowa sounded wonderful. Parking was free in Iowa.
Our second-to-last night on the road was spent in Avoca, Iowa,, population 1,550, where we savored an old-school, classic middle-American dinner at a nearby truck stop that cost all of $18 for a family of three (less than what I paid at a Manhattan parking garage). Little did we know that not too far down the road stands a sculpture worth pulling over and breaking out the camera. Avoca is home to this:
We learned about this spider bug when we were 1,000 miles east of Iowa, but if you’re passing through Avoca, order the meatloaf with mashed potatoes and head to Chestnut Street to check this out. These types of roadside attractions are the reason you choose schlepping miles in a car versus schlepping miles on a plane. There’s nothing quirky in the sky; it’s just you and 200 other irritated, cramped passengers disappointed in the movie you’re stuck watching for the next two hours.
Building giant spider sculptures out of old Volkswagon beetles isn’t a new concept; or maybe it was new in Avoca and others were inspired to see what they could do to an old car. Check out Web Urbanist and you’d think the Western Hemisphere was crawling with giant metallic spiders. Maybe that’s the theme for our next road trip? Driving around checking out car art.
Instead, we drove past cows and hills and saw a beautiful sunset as we digested a hearty meatloaf dinner. It wasn’t your mother’s meatloaf, unless you’re mom is the owner of a truck stop in Avoca off Interstate 80.