Our next destination is Illinois to pay a much-needed visit to Chris’ grandmother and visit our old neighborhoods in Sycamore, Dekalb, Naperville, and Kankakee. A full itinerary, I’d say! From Kansas City, we traveled north on I-35 and as we approached Iowa, I took a look at the map to check out our route. Chris has a cousin in Middletown and we decided that rather than take the interstate to Middletown, we’d try Rt. 2, which runs along southern Iowa. While our plans to drive country roads through Kansas failed due to icy conditions, Iowa came through for us and not only produced blue skies, but some fabulous sights and unforgettable experiences.
Route 2 added to our total travel time, and at first we questioned whether we really wanted to add a few hours of driving. Our doubts quickly disappeared upon our discovery of The Dinky Diner, one of the first eating establishments on Route 2 after exiting from I-35. While we were not starving, how could we pass up an opportunity to eat at a place called the Dinky Diner in a town where many of the “city streets” are actually gravel roads? How, I ask? We simply couldn’t. So, we pulled our Airstream into town, catching a few looks from the locals, and practically skipped with delight to the Dinky Diner.
We generally eat healthy foods, or try too. But, in the Dinky Diner, all rules of healthy eating were set aside. Chris ordered a jumbo pork tenderloin sandwich and I ordered chicken strips and mashed potatoes. When the waitress brought our food out, I was shocked at the sight of Chris’ sandwich. It was massive. As she moved to hand me my plate, my toast tumbled to the ground. She chuckled at her clumsiness and as she returned to the kitchen, she stated to the cook in a low raspy voice, “My boob knocked the toast to the ground!” It being a “dinky diner,” all conversations were overheard. We giggled. Shortly after, a few locals came in for dinner, and the cook, waitress, and fellow diners caught up on the town gossip. We listened with pure enjoyment. Ah! Small town living! We finished off our unhealthy meal with a slice of homemade pumpkin pie and went on our merry way, already feeling ill from the greasy food we had consumed. It was totally worth it!
Nighttime quickly approached and our views of the Iowa countryside grew darker. We drove through the quaint town of Corydon [the sight of an 1871 bank robbery by Jesse James], where an old barn/museum was filled with string lights and people were gathered for what appeared to be a fun Friday night event. Chris desperately wanted to stop and crash the party, but we continued on down the country road, driving through a few more charming small towns. We finally stopped for the night at a Wal-Mart, parked with several semi-trucks, underneath the sign that read “No Overnight Semi-Truck Parking allowed.”
The following morning, we had a lovely but brief visit with Chris’ cousin and her husband in Middletown, Iowa. They gave us a tour of their beautiful home and we, in turn, gave them a tour of ours. It’s not too often that you can visit someone and exchange home tours in one visit! As we were leaving, they recommended checking out the crooked street in Burlington, Iowa. What a treat!
The crooked street, constructed in 1894 and known as Snake Alley, was given the title of the world’s crookedest street by Ripley’s Belive It or Not. It is, indeed, crooked. Obviously, we didn’t try to maneuver an Airstream down the winding road…although that could have made for a very interesting story! Instead, we ran down the road and then took a brief walk around the small town of Burlington, peeking inside the windows of the beautiful, empty, historic homes that were for sale. Burlington was a pleasant finish to our drive through Iowa. Now on to Illinois!