It’s time for the annual vacation and it’s been an interesting journey so far. This year we decided to head for Decorah for the 50th Annual Nordic Fest which in itself is something to witness because if you think the Irish have the market cornered on fun spend a weekend with thousands of your closest Norwegian friends.
We started out in the new ride and headed north towards Mason City. This year we decided that the trip up was a good time to be frugal and just as our forefathers did in the old days we packed a ham sandwich lunch and stopped by East Park in Mason City to have lunch. If you have ever seen the Music Man you will find the park similar to the Madison Park in the movie including a bandstand. A very well landscaped and informative display including a steam locomotive from the Minneapolis and St. Louis railroad sits close to a newer playground although the bathrooms were a bit sketchy but much easier to access than the one across the footbridge which is guarded by some sort of Canadian geese militia. It is also important to remember that when you pack the back end of the car so full that you can barely see out of the rear view mirror it probably means that when you open the hatch something will fall out. This was true in our case, and it really isn’t a vacation until something gets broken or you yell at some of your family so when the sun tea jar rolled out and smashed into a dozen pieces on the pavement I wasn’t too disappointed.
Traveling through northern Iowa can be fun if you try to stay off the main highways as much as possible but does sometimes mean that you lose time since you are usually running at a reduced speed just because you don’t know the road all that well. This, of course, also means that you tend to irritate every local who run over the hills and curves at breakneck speed. It also should be noted that I tend to not only inspect crops as I’m rolling down the road, but at every small town we came upon I tend to rubberneck a bit at the local architecture and entering Cresco I made a mental note to stop on the way home as their city square has a great railroad display, only snapping back into reality when I realized I was getting passed by farm equipment and some old woman on a three wheeled tricycle.
Entering Winneshiek County we were greeted by large signs telling us the fresh asphalt we were driving on was provided to us by the ten cent a gallon gasoline tax. I felt good knowing that the money had been wisely spend especially when we turned onto the road leading to the house we rented. Most of the road was good in the center but the edges were filled with potholes and washouts and obviously hadn’t seen any of the extra gas tax money yet. Up one last large hill we pulled into the Roundhouse Retreat and our home for the next few days. It is a barn red dome house planted on a hill surrounded by majestic oak trees. Entering the “dome” the stairs up lead to a large living room, good sized dining area and a small but efficient kitchen. On the main floor there is one bedroom and a bath and a spiral staircase leading up to the loft which sleeps five and contains more stuffed animals than a pre-teen daughters room.
On the lower level are three large bedrooms which sleep anywhere from four to six people each and another bathroom with a sauna, which honestly didn’t get used as I spend enough time in a hot grain bin at work that I didn’t feel the need to sweat on vacation. A large deck circles the back half of the home and overlooks the trees but is peaceful and a good place to sit and relax. A small shed, which may have once been a chicken house is home to a motley crew of cats who are well fed but used for rodent control and seem to be overly friendly when out around the fire ring.
It was everything we wanted, except for the lack of television reception and the sometimes slow or nonexistent cell service when trying to access the internet, but honestly I think it gave all of us a better chance just to decompress and spend time with each other. Our task this week is to explore the county, see a few sites and revel in everything Norsk and maybe if we are lucky we’ll even get a bit of lutefisk and a chance to win one of those coveted #ISU99 boxes….but that is a story for next week….Remember, we’re all in this together.