Skip to main content

Staycation 2018

Topics/tags: Autobiographical, overcommitment, Iowa

People tell me that I work too hard and don’t take enough time off. That’s almost certainly true. It doesn’t help that I really like the work that I do and that I’m too fond of volunteering to do things [1]. But I do try.

I certainly overcommitted myself this summer. Running three code camps was more work than I had expected. Code camp weeks are busy; days generally start at 7:30 and end at 6:00 [2]. And preparing for those camps took full weeks.

Nonetheless, I was able to fit in some vacation time.

Readers may recall that I took a cruise with Michelle toward the beginning of summer. At the end of this summer, I took another vacation. This vacation was not quite as planned out as the last one; one might even say it was somewhat spur of the movement: Jon Strymish, one of my best friends from high school came to visit Grinnell and I took the week off to do thins with him. I had a bit of a staycation.

Jon’s as much of a workaholic as I am, so he was often content for the simple break of sitting and watching TV or reading a book. But I felt an obligation to expose him to the wonders of Iowa, so we also did a variety of day trips. It’s been a few weeks; let’s see if I can remember everything we did.

Jon’s wanted to see the state fair since we’ve moved to Iowa [3], so he intentionally scheduled his visit during Iowa State Fair week. Our first trip was therefore to the State Fair. I’ve already written about the livestock show and the food. We also followed up with an evening trip where we went on some the rides.

I thought he’d be amused by visiting the John Wayne birthplace. It’s changed a lot since the last time I was there about six years ago. I’m pretty sure that all that was there at the time was the house. Now there’s a full-fledged museum with a much-too-high admission fee [5]. But, hey, it’s a vacation, so we paid. It got us admission to a short movie, to a medium-sized exhibit room that included one of his cars and a carriage from The Quiet Man. I appreciated seeing that Maureen O’Hara had kept the carriage and her shawl from the movie, had used them throughout her life, and had told her family to donate them to the museum when she passed away.

After the museum, we went to a nearby park that I recalled from the previous visit to the house. It had a covered bridge [6]. I will admit that I was depressed to discover that the bridge was filled with graffiti. I suppose some of it was romantic; there were hearts with partner names that had followup notes of the form still together twenty years later. Still, I consider it inappropriate for people to deface a public object that everyone is supposed to enjoy.

One of the volunteers at the museum had told us about a watch tower that was about a mile up the road in the park. So we decided to walk out to it; you can drive, but we thought the walk would be nicer. Here’s a clue to other folks who might want to go: If you’re walking, and you hit a fork that tells you to go left, that’s an instruction for the cars. It’s much shorter and much flatter to go to the right. Look at the map on your phone, and you’ll be able to tell [7].

Another day trip took us down to Pella. We visited some bakeries. We visited the Cellar Peanut Pub. Jon doesn’t drink, but I wanted to see their new location [8]. I didn’t have the opportunity to try as many beers as I wanted, but I’ll be back another time [9]. After that, we went to Lake Red Rock to walk around in nature. On the way back, we stopped in the Maytag Cheese Factory [10].

I had hoped to bring him to one of the nearby races. But neither the Brooklyn Figure-Eight Races or the Knoxville Sprint-Car races were happening that week. I expect that people don’t want to compete with the state fair.

Finally, we visited Riverside, Iowa the self-proclaimed future birthplace of Captain James T. Kirk. I’d highly recommend the little museum there, it free, it’s friendly, and it’s certainly low-key. I will admit that I preferred the local history museum, which was attached.

I’m pretty sure that we got to a few other places, but I can’t recall what they were at the moment. The most important things are that I got time away from work [11] and that my family was able to join us on many of the trips.

I look forward to my next Staycation. And I hope more of my family can join me in the next one.

Postscript: We’ve been watching season two of The Good Place recently. In one episode, they identify Staycation as one of the worst words in the English language. I don’t care.

[1] When I’m smart, I ask my advisory board. But I’m not always smart.

[2] Sometimes they end at 5:30 sometimes they end after 6:30. I figure 6:00 p.m. is a reasonable compromise.

[3] I’m pretty sure that he’d also like to see Greg Brown in Iowa, but he does see Greg Brown elsewhere [4].

[4] I remember a great Greg Brown and Bill Morrissey concert he took me to in Vermont more than two decades ago.

[5] $15, if I recall correctly.

[6] The bridge did not start out in the park, but it was moved there a few decades ago.

[7] We didn’t take those precautions and went the other way. I’m convinced it was significantly longer.

[8] I think it’s the new location. I recall going to a Peanut Pub at an old railroad terminal like building somewhere south of Grinnell.

[9] I also didn’t get to try the various kinds of mules that I was surprised to discover they served.

[10] Yeah, I realize that that’s not quite on the way back. It was close enough.

[11] Perhaps too much; I fell way behind on my email.

Version 1.0 of 2018-09-03.