So, Justin Acri, Pat Brradley and I survived our Razorback road trip to Iowa and are now firmly implanted in our every day routines. After arriving home in the wee hours of Sunday morning, I’ve had some time to reflect on one of the more epic trips I’ve taken.
Iowans love vanity license plates
I hadn’t pondered much on this in the 24 years I lived in the state. After eyeing our 1,000th different vanity tag, Pat made the observation, and Justin I agreed that a lot of Iowans have personalized plates. Of course, Pat’s favorite was Justin’s father Frank’s plates that read ‘F ACRI.’ If you don’t know why that’s funny, drop me a line.
Thick-or thin-crust pizza, I’m in
On Wednesday night, Justin, Pat and I and Justin’s college-aged brother and roommate struggled to take down two large pizzas at Great Plains Sauce and Dough Co. in Ames. Nestled in downtown Ames, it is a tradition. The pizza comes on thick crust and is piled high with cheese and toppings. The cheese and toppings kept me from eating more than three, and I should have stopped at two.
Contrast that with Fong’s Pizza in Des Moines that features a light crust with an array of interesting toppings (We still want to taste the crab rangoon pizza that isn’t available by the slice.) that goes down easy after a night on the town.
Two different pizzas, two great meals.
There is no such thing as too much barbecue
When my wife, Sheena, brought home a huge pulled pork barbecue sandwich Sunday night for dinner, I should have wanted something else. After all, I had ribs and chicken from Hickory Park in Ames on Thursday night and more ribs and chicken from the Smokehouse in North Kansas City on Saturday afternoon on our way to visit my friends. However, I didn’t complain about having barbecue three out of four days, nor will I ever. When I got married our rehearsal dinner was catered by Corky’s. I ate left over pulled pork every day for two weeks.
And, unlike some people, I like most all of the regional favorites. If I had my way, it would be Hickory Park meat with Southern sauce.
‘Hilton Magic’ is better than ever
In the 1980s during the heyday of Iowa State coach Johnny Orr, Iowa State was dominant at its home venue, James H. Hilton Coliseum. I remember many a time when the Cyclones were heavy underdogs to the likes of Kansas and Oklahoma and pulled out victories thanks to a raucous crowd. Justin saw ISU beat KU twice when they were ranked No. 2 in the nation while he attended Iowa State.
No, that Iowa State has really taken off with coach Fred Hoiberg, the crowd is even louder. And like Pat noticed, the music and other marketing extras really set the game-day atmosphere apart. Pat played in a great atmosphere at Bud Walton Arena, so for him to be impressed says something.
Iowans are grumpy
Well, not all of them. But I had my share of pleasantries ignored coming and going from different places, and I was never once referred to as ‘honey,’ ‘darlin,’ or ‘sugar’ by any of the servers at the restaurants we ate at.
For the most part, Iowans are good people that will help you at the drop of the hat, but I’ve come to realize on return trips that they aren’t really interested in small talk or knowing how you are doing. I think it’s even worse during the winter. It’s definitely different than Arkansas.
Bobby Portis needs help
In the road loss to Iowa State, Portis started out 4 for 4 form the field as he dueled with Cyclones small forward Georges Niang. When he left the game at the 11:46 mark of the first half, Iowa State led 24-18. Portis returned three minutes later, only to see the Cyclones go on a 9-0 run and lead 35-20. Portis finished with 19 points. Alandise Harris, who recorded most of his points in the second half when the Hogs were playing from way behind, scored 15. Rashad Madden had 13 and Michael Qualls 10. Other starter, Anthlon Bell, wh0 for 6 from the 3-point line and only had four points. The Hogs also only got 16 points off the bench.
Arkansas needs more players scoring in double-figures, especially against quality teams like ISU, and they can’t afford a lapse when Portis leaves the game. It was a similar scenario in the overtime loss to Clemson Sunday.
Bleu Cheese on fries is awesome
We knew of the hype surrounding Zombie Burger (Justin and his family waited in a long line in the rain for a table before retreating). And we all loved our burgers (Double Zombie Burger with Zombie sauce for me), but what we really raved about was the basket of bleu cheese bacon fries that Justin ordered for the table. Unbelievable. If these are available around here, I haven’t seen them on a menu. The bleu cheese crumbles coupled with the hot fries was awesome, and the crunchy bacon topped things off.
I will also add that the duck fat fries we had at Django French restaurant in Des Moines were fantastic, too.
You have to love old friendships
On Tuesday night I met three of Justin’s fraternity brothers in Des Moines as we ate dinner together. Justin marveled at how all of us got along so well together after hanging out for one night. You could tell they were great people. We all had a lot in common, which was interesting.
Justin had already left Iowa when I had a chance to hang out with some of my childhood buddies and college friends in Des Moines. Pat enjoyed them, and the feeling was mutual. We also watched the SEC Championship game in Kansas City with one of my high school friends and another buddy. They loved talking college basketball with Pat while we were watching the game. We were ready to be home and sleep in our own beds, but both of us were tempted to watch more football on the comfortable couch and share more laughs.
I hate snow and ice
As we skated through the ISU campus on icy sidewalks I am reminded how much I hate winter. Fifteen years in Arkansas will do that to you. After braving 23 Iowa winters, I don’t think I ever want to do it again.
There’s nothing like a road trip
This was the first time in six or seven years I have driven to Iowa. We broke up the trip by stopping and doing the show in Fayetteville before making the over six-hour haul to Des Moines. I learned that Pat and Justin can suck down coffee and water and rarely need a bathroom break, while I was holding it for about 150 miles since we agreed only to stop for gas. Uggh. I also learned on the six-hour, late-night ride from Kansas City to Little Rock, that Pat and I both enjoy gas station sandwiches and Christmas music, especially tunes from Bing Crosby.