Sunday, September 2, 2012

Nothing Compares.

As you've probably come to learn, Tor-planned adventures make up a great deal of the ridiculously awesome things I do around Iowa and Minnesota. So when it came to going to the Iowa State Fair, Tor was charged with making it a great adventure for myself, Tor, Laura, and Steffen. And of course, he delivered.

We headed out of Decorah on Friday after work. Des Moines, where the State Fair is held, is about four hours away, and we were planning on camping at a lake about thirty minutes Northeast from Des Moines. Along the way we drove through Toledo, home to little Tor memories and the 'Butter Cow Lady'. Tor toured us around, showing us his old house and various other parts of town while sharing stories. While in town, we stopped to enjoy ice cream at the Butter Cow (a shop that took over the much-disliked DQ of Tor's childhood that put a better, local ice cream shop out of business). Since we were getting hungry and Tor's birthday was coming up (along with both Tor and Steffen getting promotions at work), we felt red meat was warrented and stopped at Rube's Steakhouse for dinner. This 'Grill-Your-Own' Steakhouse is exactly what it sounds like - you purchase a cut of meat and you grill it on a massive grill with friends. While waiting for the meat to cook, we made copious amounts of Wonderbread-delicious Texas Toast. They make extra thick slices just for Texas Toast. Potatoes came with the purchase of steak, and dinner ended up being delicious. Having little time after steak to actually make it to Des Moines, we stopped in Grinnell and camped at this gorgeous little lake outside of town. Making it just before sunset, we scrounged for firewood from neighbor campers and drank whiskey while attempting to wait for the meteor shower that we all ended up sleeping through.

The next morning we headed to Des Moines for the State Fair. We found parking in some guy's backyard for $5, which was quite awesome given his backyard ends at the fairgrounds. A quick walk to the gates and we were there - The Iowa State Fair, where "Nothing Compares".
An incredibly bizarre looking chicken.
Fastest sheep shearer!
First we saw various animals - chickens and various poultry. We said hello to dairy cows, and visited hogs. We saw some sheep, and watched a really awesome sheep shearing contest. We spent a lot of time with baby animals, and watched a baby goat being born. We toured the grounds, which are actually quite nice (and historic). We went into various Industry buildings, and saw the life-size butter cow and various agricultural pursuits. We saw the arts and handicrafts, and everyone much obliged to accompany me to the knits and amazing quilts. We rode Ye Old Mill, which turned out to be fantastic and completely worth $3. And best of all, we ate a lot of food. Afterall, a Christy blogpost wouldn't be complete without food, right?

We tried all the various fried items - deep fried oreoes, cupcake, and twinke. We shared Laura's delicious turkey leg. We had bacon dipped in chocolate. We ate various lamb items for lunch. We had ribbon-tates for dinner, and overall - ate fair food in delicious excess.

For our evening entertainment, we watched a horse pull. What is a horse pull, you ask? Well, funny enough - I didn't even know what a horse pull was before going either. A horse pulls is a contest in which a team of horses pull an increasingly heavier sled of blocks until one horse team rules them all in strength and ability. It was pretty entertaining and impressive, especially with our arbitrary picks for who would win.

The best part of the evening came after dark. Laura had wanted to win a fair fish. Earlier in the day we had found the carnival game where you could win fish accessories and purchase a fish for $1. So we played the game, got ourselves some points, and decided to come back later for the fish. Given the guy running the stand was young and entertaining, we played some more, got him to give us a deal, and put all of our points together to get a pretty sweet tank with glowing rocks with accessories and five fair fish. Laura was estatic, and two of the fish have survived to now live in a fancy filtered aquarium in her house. We walked away pretty stoaked that we had out-carnied a carnie.

We headed back to our campsite, and woke up the next morning ready to explore Grinnell. To our luck, some art students were giving away free bagels if you contributed to a painting, so I drew a mouse-looking unicorn with an accidentally-painted flesh-colored horn. After hob-nobbing with an old professor, Tor lead us around his campus. It was really pretty, with goregous old brick buildings and trees. We stopped at some swings that were located next to a perfectly climbable tree outside of the main student gathering place, and I realized that if there were accessible swings at UC Davis I would have never made it to class.

After Grinnell we headed back home. Of course, hunger hit, so we decided to try our luck in Waterloo. Our limited Sunday options were Chinese, Mexican, and Pizza ... since the Mexican place was a hole-in-the-wall next to a little grocery store, we thought it would be our best bet towards something authentic. A menu entirely in spanish got our hopes up, so I ordered myself an al pastor burrito.

This burrito was the best burrito I've had since leaving California. It tasted legit. I was full of all kinds of happy after realizing that there was a place, in Iowa, which could make delicious, legit, burritos. Suffice to say, I have no problems driving to Waterloo just for one of these burritos in the future. That's how much I miss Mexican food.

And that was the Iowa State Fair. Way better than the California State Fair. Truly, Nothing Compares.

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