As Chris mentioned in his recent blog, we are finally out of Soy Bean & Corn country. The mid-west brought wide open spaces, light traffic and a whole bunch of great experiences, people and memories. After thinking about our time in the heartland, I realized that there was some random stuff I saw and observed along the way that I thought was interesting, funny or just a bit odd. Now that we are heading to the northeast, I thought I’d just share some of these odds and ends:
Utensil Presentation: I bet most of you didn’t realize just how important utensil presentation impacted your experience at a small town diner or local restaurant. In almost every restaurant we visited through out the midwest, utensils were always neatly wrapped in a paper napkin with a piece of paper that looked much like a sticky note . Most of the time the “sticky note thingy” was white but when I think the restaurant wanted a more formal feeling, they went with something bold like maroon or dark green. Because there is nothing the dresses up a table like a dark colored sticky thing on paper napkins. The odd thing was that this was done everywhere but some places just wrapped forks, some forks and spoons and some knives, forks and spoons. I could never figure out the pattern. I also realized that it was also someone’s job to wrap this stuff. At one restaurant in Custer, South Dakota, the restaurant was clearly short staffed and a number of customers were waiting patiently for help while one of the waitresses worked diligently on getting her utensils wrapped. I don’t know about you, but I do feel my dining experience is much diminished when I don’t get to unwrap my utensils. At any rate, when we got to a restaurant in Cedar Rapids, Iowa, I saw a table full of knives, forks, napkins and sticky things so I thought I should help these poor people out so the poor sots waiting for a table might get their meal a little faster!
Cemeteries: Now I don’t want to sound morbid or offend anyone’s sensibilities, but while on RAGBRAI, Scott Cross noticed that when we entered many of the small towns in Iowa, the first thing that greeted us was the cemetery. Now it makes sense that the cemetery was always on the outskirts of town but it was interesting that it was often on the route where we entered the town. It was almost a subtle message that said, welcome to our town, now don’t misbehave or this is where you’ll end up! Needless to say, we always behaved ourselves, Well at least most of the time. Scott’s observation stuck with me as we left Iowa. As we headed east I noticed an odd correlation, the cemeteries seemed to increase in size while the size of the corn and soy bean plants decreased in size. I can’t tell you why this correlation exists, it’s just something I noticed after Scott put the whole cemetery thing in my head.
Chris in front of an Ohio cemetery.
Lawns: Now being a northern California guy, I am used to a postage size lot for my house with a lawn so small that it could probably be trimmed with a pair of toenail clippers in under an hour. For those that know me, yard work is something that could get in the way of a Saturday bike ride and we just can’t have that! Now if you’re in the mid west, lawn care is a critical part of daily life. Lawn mowers are something you drive rather than push, fertilizing and watering strategies are discussed with great passion and actually mowing the lawn could take two months because they are so big. Now I’ve come to appreciate the beauty of midwestern lawns and the open space they provide but I still don’t want to trade in my Saturday bike ride for a Saturday lawn mower ride!
A typical country lawn – fire up the John Deer!
No dogs chasing: When thinking about our trip, one of the things I fully expected was to get chased by some dogs, particularly when we were going through farm country. So far, we haven’t been chased by a single dog. In the last 3 or four days we actually saw some dogs out on the lawns that had perfect opportunities to run us down and give us a good nip. Oddly, several of the dogs just looked at us with utter disinterest. I’m thinking the dogs must believe we just look to fast in our fancy spandex bike kits and riding our carbon fiber bikes. Maybe the dog grapevine has preceded us and local hounds have been told not to bother chasing us because we are just to fast . At any rate, I’ve been pleasantly surprised by this but still find it a bit odd.
Those are my random oddities for now. As we are heading toward the northeast, I’m sure I’ll find more. My wife Cindy, daughter Katie and my parents will be joining us in Nigara Falls in a couple of days. I can’t wait to see them and I’m sure they will help us find even more odds and ends.