At poster training, a friend of ours looked over our list of schools with envy when she saw that we'd be visiting her alma mater in Grinnell. She insisted that we would love it, and that they would love us there.
And she was right, sort of. Grinnell is a school of educated hippies. Their soy lattes come in cups made out of corn. Their bottled waters can be tossed into recycling bins around every corner. And (more often than not, and certainly more than most of the schools we went to) they actually knew what I meant when I yelled out that "All of our tapestries are Fair Trade!" They even had a menu item in their cafe called, "The Unusual Vegan". But, outside of the campus, there wasn't much going on. No record stores, no used book shops, no health food stores and no movie theatre. It turns out that Grinnell is a rather insular college, and what it hasn't swallowed up within its campus (Even touring bands, with the likes of Bon Iver and Jandek, have played on campus. kool keith and peter brotzmann are coming in like a month), have gone out of business. Except Phoenix Cafe. On the advice of a mustard cardigan wearing, nose pierced, female student of Grinnell, we went to check out the Phoenix Cafe after our first sale. It was closed, so we peered through the windows, and sat in the grass in front of it for a while. After Ted rolled down the hill of said grass a couple of times, a man peeked his head out and asked us if we needed anything. We explained our situation and ended up talking with him, the owner of the Phoenix, for quite some time. He had also lived in and loved Pilsen (Chicago, as opposed to the Czech Republic) back in the day, and he shared his thoughts on living in Grinnell. We returned the following evening and feasted ourselves his delicious middle eastern delicacies.
Then we headed to a school an hour away for an outdoor, one day sale.
Outdoor, one day sales rule.
We made tons of money and were off for a three (which turned out to be a five) day weekend.
So we took a trek (and what a trek it was. . . Iowa has long stretches of nothingness between small towns, and the towns are so small that if you blink you miss them and the stretches seem even longer) out to the Grotto of the Redemption.
The following are closeups I took of some of my favorite stones. This first one reminded me of a spacey desert landscape.
After leaving the grotto, we drove by this wall and Ted insisted on parking, photographing it, and then having me photograph him doing cartwheels in front of it:
Then we prepared for our dreaded sale at an "extremely conservative" school in Orange City, Iowa. But, it turned out that they were not so conservative after all, and hardly screened our books. They provided us with helpers to set up and break down the sale. Their students bought tons and tons of posters without us having to say "You know, that comes in a larger (id est: more expensive) size. . . " So the sale, all things considered, was one of our best.
Because of our unexpectedly lengthy weekend (We found out that one of our sales was canceled when we received a call back from our sponsor at the school saying that the sale previously scheduled for Monday was already taking place. Whoops! Looks like someone forgot to tell us. . .and so it goes.), we got to really explore Orange City. Which is a little Dutch haven, with windmills and a giant klompen in their town center. We went to a deli where Ted sampled various meats and cheeses and I purchased vegan, albeit hydrogenated, almond cookies. We spent a lot of time, but only a little money in an amazing volunteer run fair trade store. We had a picnic in said giant klompen and even had the chance to see a movie. (Inglourious Basterds, which we enjoyed for all of its Tarantinoness)
But the highlight of our lengthy weekend was a campfire cookout with Erin and Danny. They are our couchsurfing/real life friends from Omaha, and we met half way (well, it was more like 75/25 in Ted and my favor) at a campsite in Hinton, Iowa. We roasted asparagus with lemon and olive oil and red potatoes and garlic. And we had bocas with roasted peppers, red onions and slices of heirloom tomatoes, fresh from Erin and Danny's garden. It was the best meal we'd had in a long time, and even better to see Erin and Danny. Just the respite we needed to make it through the last leg of the poster tour.
From Orange City, we made way to Forest City, Iowa for our very last sale. We stopped along the way in Britt, after seeing a sign advertising for the Hobo Museum there. Alas, the museum was closed so we talked to the city clerk about getting in. She made a couple calls, but could not make any promises and told us to check in again before we leave. So, we killed time walking around a small farmers' market where I bought a bowl of raspberries, and Ted a small loaf of banana bread (which he consumed in its entirety on his own in one sitting). We went back to the city clerk, but she was still unable to get us access to the museum, so we left. before leaving, though, we looked in the windows and read exactly what a hobo is: "a transient worker." a little close to home. we should probably come up with some names like "farts trager" or "no meat sakal" or something else with a little more thought put into it. i guess i was gearing up for hobo-dom when i peed on the boxcar that they hold the yearly hobo fest in and around. continuing on....
forest city, even more isolated than orange before it, provided the last sale of the season. even in this small and out of the way of a town there were lovely people and interesting stories to be heard. the excitement of being done soon as well as the free food provided to us made the sale fly by. soon enough, we were loading our stuff up for the last time and driving into the night. dark night in the corn and unlit streets. as always, we didnt make it to the projected stop for the night, ending up somewhere on the iowa/illinois border.