Thursday, June 2, 2011

A lazy trek across Southeast Iowa

On the first Saturday of this past month I found myself waking up on the couch of friends in Ottumwa. How I got there involved some self-made drama over sleeping accommodations. Fortunately the barbs of point-counterpoint passive-aggressivism dulled enough the next day to make peace over the fracas.

Seriously whacked out dreams overnight featuring a bare-chested, ballet-dancing mini-Mussolini prancing amid the chaos.

The night before was spent among friends, and friends of friends. The scene at the private speakeasy, known affectionately as the Sloth Club, revolved around two camps. One, the husbands standing around nursing mugs of tap beer; and two, the wives gathered around the bar, drinking assorted wines. I know enough of the guys to enjoy their company, but today I was feeling rather like the odd man out.

After shooting a lousy game of pool with the lone youth in the group, I made a silent retreat to Kuhly’s, a new restaurant/pub downstairs for an overpriced pour of Jameson.

Dinner back at the house was a cobbled-up affair of filling items, and of particular note Mezzetta® Cherry Peppers and Sweet Bell Pepper Relish on the side. The next day my pal Steve procured a jar of each for me to take home. I’ve been enjoying them on sandwiches ever since, and it surprisingly complements the salty, malty taste of Vegemite®.
Not my first choice for a visit.

Returning to the next morning, I felt the dual need for wanderlust and loose meat. Killing time I jot over to the train station to see if the eastbound train was late. It was, but I couldn’t order a last minute ticket online, nor had I the time on my cell phone to call Amtrak’s 800 number for an indeterminate wait for an agent.

At this point, Canteen Lunch in the Alley nearby would be opening up for the early lunch crowd [see blog review].

Sated, I make my way back to the station to find the Chicago-bound train still had not arrived. Figuring on luck to dictate my day, I waited for the Zephyr to pull into the station and asked if I could purchase a ticket from the conductor right on-the-spot. I could!

Being about ninety minutes late, a day trip over to Galesburg would have been out of the question, but there would have been plenty of time to enjoy Burlington.

The trip over went by quickly. I preoccupied my time with purchasing a return trip online. A daunting task with a crappy second generation iPod Touch. A little over an hour later I had arrived.

With a whole afternoon ahead of me, I took a walk along the river over by the Port of Burlington, gazed over the Mississippi from the Great River Bridge looming to my left, down to the rail bridge off in the distant south.

Down by the [Mississippi] river. I'd shoot my "baby" if I had one. ~ What Would Neil Young Do?

Next order of business was to make a pilgrimage to one of my favorite cheap hamburger joints, Steve’s Place [see blog review].

While chowing on a cheeseburger, I noticed a sign behind the bar touting a “Swiss Party Pizza,” made by a small company called Avanti Foods out of Walnut, Illinois. If I already had not just finished a cheeseburger, on top of a Canteen loose-meat sandwich and a chocolate malt eaten a few hours earlier, I would have investigated further.

Afterward I walked back towards the river to check out the famous Snake Alley, which competes with Lombard Street in San Francisco as the country’s most crookedest street. Crooked or not, the climb up the bluff winded me.

From the bottom of Snake Alley it’s a straight shot over to the other side of the valley to Tom’s Market & Meats, an independent grocery in Burlington which is surprisingly clean and bright on the inside, and carries a wider variety of items than what you would normally expect from a single-location grocer. Aside from carrying Shurfine products along with the usual national brands, Tom’s is also an excellent place to acquire to local snack favorites, Sterzing’s and Kitchen Cooked potato chips.

Today I was pleasantly surprised to find glass bottles of sugar-made Pepsi and Mountain Dew in one of the aisles. Although at room temperature, the Pepsi went down easy and refreshing.

Some peckerheads standing outside The Burlington Apartments, listening to a comedy/country mixtape blaring from a rusting pickup. I'd bust them for a noise violation. I'm a hater.

A quick perusal of vinyl and CDs at Weird Harold’s and a few drinks at the Beer Tent finished my afternoon before I returned to the mostly abandoned train station to while away the time in lazy contemplation.

Back in Ottumwa, I popped into the Tom-Tom Tap for a tall tower of Budweiser, a BLT with fried egg on marble rye, and a side of hot, crispy fries.

Back at the house I sample some Bulleit Bourbon neat, before heading down to the Ottumwa 8 Theater to see Thor. A fun flick. Blue raspberry ICEE: Bonus!

It was the one of the best days I had enjoyed in a long time.
Photos from the Picasa Web Album: A lazy trek across Southeast Iowa

No comments: