Midwest Trip, Or That Time We Shot Guns and Square Danced in America’s Heartland
I know, it’s been awhile, but we went on a wacky adventure cavorting through not just one, but TWO podunk towns in the Midwest, and I can’t wait to tell you all about it!
Both sets of friends are folks who’ve lived in all sorts of fun places but are finding themselves back at home in Small Town USA to be there for their families in rough times. So, as you can imagine, these are lovely people with good, good hearts. Even when a bunch of city folk showed up at their doors, they really wanted to show us a good time. I have to say, they were pretty darn successful.
First stop: Marion, Indiana
We pulled up in Marion only to be greeted by this little cutie:
Meet Alice! She’s exactly two days older than Miles, so you can imagine the fun these two had.
Here’s Miles trying to convince Alice to give him some of that cheesy Garrett popcorn (acquired in Chicago on an unexpectedly long layover).
And here’s Alice sweetly evading him.
… Yes, those are dino pajamas under his winter coat. Kid takes after his father.
Moving on from the babies … (don’t worry, they’ll be back)
This is the house where we stayed. As you can see, there was a whole lot of space, not just in it, but around it.
Now, I’m perfectly aware of all the politics surrounding guns. I’m not a fan of senseless violence or anything like that. But, I’ve come to understand that when you live in the middle of nowhere, sometimes guns are necessary for safety and maybe even for food. And I’ve also come to understand that if someone offers you the chance to shoot them at clay pigeons on their very large and isolated property, you pretty much don’t pass that up. Everyone needs a little training before the zombies come.
Do we look natural? We were trying to look natural.
Here’s Josh releasing a skeet (or clay pigeon), for Gary to shoot. All we were missing was the giggling dog.
We were also invited to ride their lawnmower. Now, it should be said that we originally thought we’d be helping them out, giving their grass a little trimmy trim. Turns out they made sure the actually mowing mechanism wasn’t engaged. I think that was a good call. I mean, anyone seen that episode of Mad Men? (spoiler alert)
That’s Kat. She was the lawnmower pioneer. Running behind her is her hubs, Gary. They’re the two who’ve made our move to New York possible, and they’re responsible for inviting us to Marion to meet the Leonards, our gracious Hoosier hosts.
Two more Midwestern activities:
1) Cornhole, which is basically tossing beanbags onto a wooden board and trying to get them into a hole. (So much of life is trying to get things into holes.)
2) And a couple bonfires in their fire pit. Under a mostly-full moon.
There was, of course, also the food.
Toasted pumpkin seeds.
Fried pork tenderloin sandwich at the famous Indiana institution, Ivanhoe’s. This was every bit as greasy and guilty as the photo looks. And the ice cream sundaes afterward were so good, we forgot to take pictures.
Our last meal was pulled pork smoked for 12 hours. Man, writing this post is making me hungry.
Thanks for hosting us, Alice!
Next (and Last) Stop: Mount Vernon, Ohio
Kat and Gary headed back to New York, but we continued on to see our friends in Ohio.
Here, we were hosted by these two boys, Jaden and Micah. We held Jaden when he was just a wee newborn in the hospital, and Micah and Miles are ten days apart. Again, more partners in crime for Miles. Three boys + a basement full of toys (particularly a clicky lawnmower that Miles was obsessed with) = controlled chaos. But it was so so cute watching them play!
We’ve known Jaden and Micah’s parents a long time, but most notably, they saw us through thick and thin in Beijing. They were basically our surrogate family away from family.
I know you can’t tell, but the photos above were taken when we let the boys out to play in the season’s first snowfall. Nothing stuck on the ground, but there were some legit snowflakes. Like so:
Our first order of business, besides seeing our friends, was to visit the Amish in Berlin, Ohio. Sadly, we didn’t take a whole lot of pictures … I was mildly shutter-shy after our friends warned us that they don’t take well to having their photos taken.
But I did take a picture of the food:
That my friends, is broasted chicken next to roasted chicken, along with ham, pot roast, stuffing, noodles, mashed potatoes and gravy and macaroni salad. It’s a little something I like to call Amish Paradise.
Apparently, Berlin, Ohio is also part of Holmes County, which National Geographic lists as one of the top ten places in the world to enjoy fall foliage. We made it a little late in the season, so most of the trees were bare, but there were still a few bright spots.
You know one of the more crazy things about America that I’m sure tourists to our country notice more than we do? How you can just wander into the most random, unknown places and be engulfed by natural beauty. Oh, and that little guy you spy is Newman. Minutes after this photo, he broke away, jumped into the lake in subzero temperatures, and then bolted off while his owner was trying to get him back into the car. Oh Newman.
Here’s more of that beauty, behind us. Clearly our kids are enjoying it too. Nothin’ like trying to look composed while holding a squirmy, 25-lb toddler in a puffy winter coat, huh? I think we’re doing pretty well, actually.
Like herding cats. Crying, top-heavy cats.
We got invited to a square dance! Well, technically it was called a contra dance, which is where instead of getting into little squares, you form two lines and dance your way down them. Kinda reminded me of a Soul Train line dance. But whiter. Much, much whiter.
It was held at Kenyon College, which is apparently one of the most beautiful college campuses in the Midwest. We didn’t see the campus in the daylight, but we drove by some gorgeous old buildings and plus, check out the ceiling on this puppy!
We fumbled our way through a few dances, and everyone was very kind and understanding. Even as I was holding Miles while trying to do-si-do. Not advised, in case you’re wondering.
And of course, we couldn’t leave Ohio without having several amazing meals by Cheryl, who manages to be a super mom and super cook while making it all look easy. That roast chicken, though. And those salt-baked potatoes. And that zucchini with the onions and tomatoes and cheese. And yep, there goes my stomach, growling again. (Note to self: Keep snacks nearby when blogging.)
Bye Jaden and Micah! Thanks for having us! Sorry we dragged you out into the cold, Micah …
Until next time, Indi-hio!
P.S. Much of this was an excuse for me to have fun with photos we took on our new camera, a Fujifilm X-E2. Wheee! Some of these were still taken on my iPhone 6, though. Can you spot the difference?