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  • Writer's pictureBenjamin Schilaty

Coast to Coast: Seattle to Iowa City

On June 30th my brother Jessen, his wife Laura (not to be confused with my friend fun Laura who will appear in later posts), their three kids, and I drove from Seattle to Iowa City. We’ve all done this drive together before, but the 30 hours in the car felt a little longer this time. They bring me along because I’m super-good at staying awake. Put me in the driver’s seat at 10:00 pm and I'll drive until 7:00 am no problem. All it takes is a Coke, peanut butter M&Ms, a bag of chips, and a good lineup of podcasts. They get to sleep while I drive and I get a free ride to Iowa. It's a win-win. This time I even got to enjoy a spectacular sunrise while driving through the rolling hills of South Dakota.

The best part of the drive was stopping at the Corn Palace in Mitchell, South Dakota. I mean, we had to stop there because it’s the world’s only Corn Palace. It’s basically the Tigger of random tourist stops (because it’s the only one). Fun Laura sent me a postcard from when she visited it last year which is the only reason I’d ever heard of it. And it was awesome! First of all, it’s totally free (that’ll earn any site a 10/10 in my book) and the façade is covered in murals made entirely of corn. Maybe it’s because it was super-rad, or maybe it’s because I’d only slept for about an hour, but I loved the Corn Palace because it was so randomly absurd. The inside was mostly just a huge gift shop with displays about corn. I bought a magnet and didn’t learn anything about corn.

As we were leaving I saw a sign that said that Cornelius, the Corn Palace mascot (talk about the big times!), would be coming out at 11:00 am (coming out to greet people, not coming out of the closet). I looked at my watch and it was almost 11:00 so we milled around for a bit waiting for Cornelius to emerge. Twice I asked a teenage employee when he’d be coming out, but at 11:10 he still hadn’t shown up so we left and I was disappointed, but only a little.

We stayed at Laura’s parents’ house on a farm outside of Iowa City. It’s in a beautiful setting and watching hundreds of fireflies at night was pretty magical. Laura’s parents are hilarious and they taught me all kinds of cool facts about Iowa. Did you know that Iowa has 99 counties, but 100 county courthouses? In one county the two biggest towns couldn’t decide which one of them would be the county seat so they both built courthouses. We also discussed some online schemes that are going around. For example, someone will pose as a wealthy man on a dating website, trick you into falling in love with him, and then say that he needs a few thousand dollars for a fake emergency. And because you’re a lonely woman who is so happy to finally feel the validation that comes from being loved you send him the money. Laura’s mom warned, “As soon as they tell you you’re beautiful you know they’re lying.” Solid advice, women of the internet.

While I was in Iowa City I visited Wyatt and his family. Wyatt (or Y@) was one of my colleagues at BYU. He didn’t have a cellphone back then so his wife would call him on our office phone and I’d inevitably always answer because no one else would want to. We all became good friends and it was so good to see them again and meet the new kid that had arrived since my last visit. Corn Palaces, fireflies, and sunrises are all pretty cool, but the best part of road trips is all the great people I get to see. 

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I’m still traveling and I’ll write about the rest of the trip later.

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