Below are photos I took for this past week. All pictures were taken with an iPhone.
In Hollywood, there’s a famous street called Sunset Boulevard. It is lined with tall palm trees, bright lights, commercial establishments, and is teeming with cars and people any time of the day. This is where the Star’s Walk of Fame is also located. I drove and walked in that road a couple of times.
Here’s our version of Sunset Boulevard here in Iowa, which I am more familiar with.
Just me, the road, and the sunset.
(*photos taken while on our way to my daughter’s university)
Since I live in the outskirt of the city of greater Des Moines, I travel some distance everyday for work. I drive close to 40 miles a day roundtrip. I don’t mind to drive though, as long as the traffic is moving fast. In reality it only takes me less than 25 minutes one way, which is less than the average time Americans spent going to their workplace. I know if I drive in Metro Manila, that distance I covered will take me an hour or two, plus a lot of cursing.
In addition, as I have written in the past, I go once a month to our satellite clinics (I go to 2 outreach clinics now) which is about an hour and a half drive from our main office. Even though it is about 80 miles away, the travel is easy with open highways that goes through scenic rural Iowa of rolling hills of farmlands and prairies. In fact I even consider the drive relaxing (read previous post “Zen Driving”).
For the past several years I have made this journey alone, except for my thoughts, the radio playing the music I picked for that day, and my trusted car. The other day, I made that same journey again. But somehow, something was different.
It was my last drive on this trip with my “old” car.
My car is getting old. Like dogs, 1 car year is probably comparable to 7 human years, especially if you drive it a lot. I have read in car reviews that the average life span of a car is about 10 – 13 years or about 150,000 miles. Though there are cars that still runs good even after 200,000 miles.
My car is 10 years old and approaching 150,000 miles. It may be considered already a grandma in car years, though it still runs well, however it’s getting expensive to maintain. Not too long ago, I have to change some parts that costs a hefty sum, that I wondered if its worth spending that amount. I surely would not like to spend more than its remaining trade value.
Thus I decided that its time for it to go.
But on our last trip together, I let it run wild. Instead of zen driving I transitioned to rallye driving. I shifted to sports gear all the way, and I let its engine revved as we climb hills and raced through open highways, bringing out its racing heritage. My car may be old, yet it still has lots of feistiness remaining in it.
As we were whizzing through open country roads and as I was listening to its engine growl, my car was singing to me its swan song.
(*photo with and iPhone)
Since we moved in Iowa several years ago, we have dined in different restaurants here in metro Des Moines area. From formal to casual, from fancy to rustic, from pricey to low-cost, and from long-sit-down meal to on-the-run fast food. This also encompassed several international cuisines, like American, Chinese, Mexican, Thai, Italian, French, Vietnamese, Laotian, Korean, Japanese, Mongolian, Indian, Greek, Ecuadorian, and Lebanese.
We also enjoy Filipino cuisine here, but it is not in a restaurant. It is my wife’s home cooking.
But when you’re in Iowa, I believe there’s a restaurant that embodies this state’s culture. The restaurant is the Iowa Machine Shed.
The ambience is farm-themed, and the dining experience is relaxed, warm and family oriented. The establishment prides itself as a restaurant that honors the American farmer.
Outside the restaurant are some old farming equipments that adds to its distinctive appeal.
They even have a complimentary tractor ride that takes you around the neighborhood of the restaurant, and let you catch a glimpse of the “Living History Farm*” next door, that the restaurant supports.
Since the state of Iowa is the number one producer of pork and corn in the US, and probably the whole world, so it is not surprising these are what greets you at the door.
Inside the place, they have a small store that you can browse through while you wait to be seated.
The dining area, the tables and chairs, gives you a feel of a farmer’s kitchen or even a barn.
The waiters and waitresses are in their denim overalls, that I wonder if they are dressed to harvest the corn and milk the cow, as well as to serve us our food.
Even the silverware and glassware are uniquely farm-like: sturdy and rustic. Here’s what my son did to the glass, knives and the water pitcher. Good balancing act!
I know that the most important part of the restaurant is the menu and the food it offers. Of course this restaurant serves lots of bacon and pork chops. But I assure you, they offer more than pork chops and corn on the cob.
I don’t have any photos of the food they serve on this post, for I intentionally left them out for you to come and visit, and personally see and try them for yourselves.
Lastly, when you dine here, appreciate all the farmers and all the people and their efforts that brought food to your table. And besides there is a sign near the counter that says, “complaining to the cook will be hazardous to your health.”
(*Living History Farm is an outdoor museum in Iowa that tells the story of how Iowans transformed the fertile prairies of the Midwest into the most productive farmland in the world.)
(**This is not a paid post. But on second thought, maybe they should give me a free meal on our next visit. Just wishful thinking.)
Recently we had guests again from out-of-state who came to visit us here in Iowa. And where did we take them? Bridges of Madison County? Iowa State Capitol? Wind turbines of Iowa? Lots and lots of Iowa cornfields? Seen that. Done that.
This time we brought them to the biggest Iowa attraction. No, not the Iowa Caucuses. But something similar with that flair of craziness. We brought them to the Iowa State Fair.
The Iowa State Fair is an 11-day event every August that attracts millions of visitors each year. There is something for all your fancies and interest in the fair.
Of course, since we are an agricultural state, it is hard to miss the sights and sounds of farming.
There’s also livestocks and produce that are showcased in the fair, like the heaviest pig or the biggest pumpkin. Below is the 1st price pumpkin.
If you want to experience to milk a cow, you can do it at the milking parlor. And speaking of cow, one of the most iconic piece of the Iowa State Fair is the sculpted butter cow.
That cow is 600 pounds of butter. That can butter 19,200 slices of toast!
Do you know that the first sculpted fair’s cow was done in 1911? Since then every year a new butter cow is sculpted and graces the fair.
But do you know that since 1911, only 5 persons so far have done the sculpting? The latest butter cow sculptor apprenticed for 15 years to the previous sculptor, before she became the official sculptor starting in 2006. What a tradition!
There are also different shows and contests. From hog calling contest, to yodeling contest, to rooster crowing contest, to beard growing contest. You name it, it’s here.
There’s even a contest trying to get your votes, as you can see political candidates – from presidential aspirants to local government candidates, especially if it is an election year – mingling with the crowds, among other clowns that can be seen in the fair. Did I just call them clowns?
There’s also concerts that are more “mainstream” if you will. The Goo Goo Dolls, Daughtry, Lady Antebellum, Foreigner, and Styx are some of the big names that are performing this year at the state fair.
If it is the thrill of rides that you’re looking for, we have it as well.
From sky glider which is like a riding a ski lift, to ziplines, to giant slides, to roller coasters, to several storey-high slingshot. We have it here.
Lastly, the food at the fair is a different class of its own. They have everything on a stick. Corn-on-the-cob on a stick or hotdog on a stick? That’s too common. How about pork chop on a stick? Or funnel cake on a stick? Yes, they do have it.
And everything deep-fried. Like deep-fried Twinkies, or deep-fried Milky Way, or even deep-fried butter! You read it right. Deep-fried stick of butter on a stick! They might as well call it heart attack on a stick!
For me though, the most interesting show in the fair, are the people themselves. With their different strangeness and idiosyncrasies, just watching the people is entertaining enough for me. I may be one of those bizarre ones. It’s way more than fun.
Come for a visit and see it for yourself. And bring your weirdness with you. It’s accepted here.
(*all photos taken with my iPhone)
Ten years ago, me and my wife made a decision that have changed our lives. We chose to live in Iowa.
Where? Iowa what? Why?
After residing in New Jersey, New York City, California, and Florida, we finally settled in the vicinity of Des Moines, Iowa. It was a decision that was questioned by friends and family, and we may have second guessed if it was the right decision at that time as well. But after 10 years here, we have never looked back.
When we are vacationing or visiting other states, we still get a ‘funny’ look if we tell them where we’re from. Ohio? Idaho? No. Iowa.
I am glad though that some experts are confirming what we and others who have moved here have discovered. Here’s a recent feature of Des Moines, Iowa, in Today show.
But I guess, I don’t need others’ opinion (expert or not) to tell me what I already knew. Moving to Iowa was the right decision all along.
Now excuse me, I got to go. I have to clear the snow in my driveway. And about the cold and the snow? It builds character, you know.
As I peek outside our window, my morning was greeted with freshly fallen snow that blanketed our surrounding all-white. Because of the numbing cold, I pulled up the thick blanket over myself and dreamed of a much warmer paradise…..
A paradise where the sun kisses the prancing ocean waves. Where the eternal summer breeze caresses the dancing palm trees. Where the proud mountains are always lush and green, and where mighty trees boast their broad and dense canopies. Where visitors are welcomed by hanging leis around their neck, while beautiful smiling women with flowers in their ears greet “Aloha”.
Not so long ago, my family were blessed to visit the island of Oahu, Hawaii. Here, we jaunted through the island and witnessed the enchanting places and scenery. Here we waded and played in its warm seawater. Here, we laid and unwind in its alluring beach. Truly this place is like a paradise, so it’s not a wonder it is one of the happiest places* on earth.
However this place is not totally free of its own problems and difficulties. The traffic jam can be terrible at times. There are beggars and homeless people who wanders around and sleep in the parks. And the local residents whine that the price of commodities are so high and the cost of living here is so expensive, that they say this place is only for tourists. Even on this “happy” place, there is no shortage of people who are forlorn in love.
If we would be familiar with its history, this paradise is the place of such vicious tragedy, a site of awful bloodshed, when the Pearl Harbor was attacked during World War II. Thousands of lives were lost, and some are still entombed in their watery grave up to this day.
My point only is that even in a paradise-like place, it has still its own troubles. In fact, even in a perfect paradise, the Garden of Eden, it still became a place of temptation, disobedience, and fall from grace. This has caused all of the misery of mankind.
Is there really a place of paradise? To me, a paradise is not a location. It is not a place that can be seen in a map. For me, it is a state or condition in life. A state in life where you are happy and contented. A state in life where your dreams are realized. A state in life where you are free to love and is freely loved. In paradise – love reigns.
I looked around where I am now. My wife and my kids were still fast asleep. They transcend happiness and peace in their faces. It is true that even in such a frigid place like this, a place buried in snow, can be a paradise.
(*According to the recent Gallup poll, Hawaii is the happiest state among the 50 states of USA. Iowa though, made it to the top 10 too.)
It seems like yesterday…….
When you arrived into our world and I held you for the first time, in a hospital room that overlooks the New York’s Central Park.
When I danced with you in the middle of the night, as you would not sleep, while the Number 7 train roars from a distant track.
When I pushed you on a swing, in a crowded playground in the middle of hustle and bustle of upper Manhattan.
Was it only yesterday…….
When you ran in your swimsuit on the grass, with the sprinkler on, as you gleefully soaked in water under Florida sun.
When you played and dug in the dirt beside our apartment, with the nearby fragrant orange groves in sight.
When I pushed your stroller as we walked in Downtown Disney, to watch the fireworks in the humid Orlando night.
It was like yesterday……
When you first stomped on the freshly fallen snow and scooped it up with your bare hands, in the dead of Des Moines winter.
When you roamed in our yard picking dandelions, while the distant fields of corn swayed in the breeze of Midwest summer.
When I held and steadied your bike as you first learn to ride, in the driveway of our home here in Iowa.
It was like yesterday, that you came into my life, and I became a father.
Where did time go? Now, I am a father of a teenager.
Yes, a teenager! But’s that’s not a bad thing, in fact, it is a wonderful thing.
My baby, is now a young lady. And I’m looking forward to more happiness you will bring.
I find it hard to believe that it has been 7 years since I moved here in Iowa. After leaving Manila, which had been the cradle of my childhood, and after short stints in New Jersey, New York, California and Florida, I now have settled here in Iowa and have accepted to call it home.
Truly, my world have changed from the one I was reared into. I transitioned from the congested streets of Manila to the wide open fields of Iowa. Our neighborhood in Sampaloc was so crowded that if I open my window and ask our neighbor to lend me some salt, they can literally hand it to me through the window. Now, where I live, if I open my window and shout to my neighbor to pass the salt, he should have a very good arm to throw it that strong so I can catch it. That is if he can hear me shouting for the salt first.
Consider this: the state of Iowa (145,000 sq. km.) is bigger than the total land area of Luzon (105,000 sq. km.). But the population of Iowa is only 3 million. Yes, 3 million! That’s only the population of Quezon City! Can you imagine scattering the people from Quezon City alone, throughout the whole island of Luzon, and that will still be more dense than Iowa.
You may be able to drive for miles after miles here without seeing people. But you cannot go very far without seeing the handiwork of people, as stretches of cornfields, soybean fields, cattle and hog farms are the constant scenery here. Only a very small portion of produced corn here is used for human consumption, as most of them are for processing ethanol for fuel and other industrial use. There’s so much corn, that it is just considered cattle and hog feeds. The cattle population (almost 4 million) is more than its people. And hogs? We have 20 million. There is plenty of steak and pork chop to go around.
(photo from here)
I remember when I told my friends that I will be moving from Florida to Iowa. Their first question was, “Where is Iowa?” The next question was, “Are you nuts?” And when I told my family in the Philippines that I will move to Iowa, their question was, “Is that still in the US?” Many people, even Americans cannot locate Iowa in the map. I admit that I had no idea where the heck Iowa was, or knew that it even exist, until a good friend of mine years ago invited me to consider moving here.
This friend is a classmate of mine from pre-med to medical school in Manila. Then we both did our post-graduate training in New York City. He moved to Iowa while I went to Florida, after our training. And for some reason he was very satisfied of the way of living and his practice in Iowa, while I was not in Florida. Besides, this is the man who was the best of our batch in medical school and was the top-notcher of the Philippines’ Medical Board of our time. If it was good enough for him, then there must be a very sound reason.
(photo from here)
As a matter of fact, Des Moines, Iowa is always in the top 10 cities in the US for raising family, for business and career, and a place to relocate. (No, I’m not making those up, but perhaps I need to hear those reports to convince myself that I made the right decision.) But what I like most here is its people. They are friendly, laid-back, simple and are family oriented. Moreover, people here still like their doctors, as the rate of medical malpractice lawsuits is not that high compared to other states. (The states where I lived before were among the high risk states for malpractice lawsuits.)
Seven years and counting. So far I have no regrets. Except when I am freezing while shoveling snow in my driveway, that moving somewhere warm (like the Bahamas) crosses my mind. But winter is almost gone now and spring is on its way. I will soon forget about the bone-chilling cold, at least until the next winter.
Will I stay here for good? Only time can tell. But for now, this wayfaring Pinoy transplant has found his home.
Last weekend we shared a lazy Sunday brunch with our neighbors (yes, the same one who borrowed Voltes V). They have just moved from Minnesota to Iowa last summer, and as good neighbors we befriended them. They did fit in quickly to our neighborhood, and have settled in pretty much in their lovely new home.
Trying to know people with very different background than us is always interesting. They were curious how we who grew up in another country ended up here in Iowa. We told them of our experiences and what it was like back home. We were happy to inform them that the Philippines have more than 7100 islands (and that some of them disappear during high tide), and that our country’s land area is only twice as big as Iowa, but our population is about 92 M, compared to 3 M here in Iowa.
Then we talked about the Philippines’ climate where the temperature varies between 70’s to 90’s F all year through, unlike the very wide range of -20 (below 0) to 100 F here in Iowa.
As we were sharing stories, they told us that their friends have called them earlier that day and told them that they should be thankful, for there was so much snow and it was so much colder there in St.Paul/Minneapolis (Twin Cities) where they use to lived, than what we were experiencing here in Des Moines.
This couple grew up in Minnesota and spent most of their lives there, and they are very accustomed to cold. They claimed that in Minnesota, they can have up to 6 months of snow in a year. (Half a year of snow?!!) They have learned to embrace the cold weather and enjoy activities in snow. To them, Iowa winter is considered mild. (What do you mean not cold? My ears are already frozen!)
I find it funny that we have such different perspective of what cold is. I guess, to each his own.
Should I be thankful then, for it is warmer here than in Minnesota? I went out and checked the temperature outside: 8 F. Yeah, right.