Sunday, July 12, 2009

4th of July in Iowa - Part 1

We spent the July 4th holiday in Iowa at my mom’s and in Nebraska at my friend Dawn’s house. We had a blast cooking on the grill, watching fireworks over the lake, hanging out with “babushka” and swimming in Iowa, and spending a couple days in Omaha visiting Dawn and her dogs and cat.

The day we flew in we landed in Minneapolis - - the airfare was much less expensive than flying into Omaha, and I figured on the 4-hour drive from the Twin Cities to Storm Lake we could stop for an hour or two at Lake Okoboji so Lola could swim.

Upon arriving at the lake, the water was COLD!! Lola was braver than I, and she jumped in excitedly. I soaked up some sun while she splashed and swam around. After about 30 minutes, she decided she had had enough and so we packed our stuff up to go. As I picked up my towel, the sand flies began attacking my feet and legs. I'm sure it was quite entertaining for those around us as I jumped, slapped my legs and danced around in pain from the bites. Once we got inside the car I counted five bites - - two on my foot, and the other three on my legs. Nasty little things drew blood, too! The ones on my foot began to swell almost immediately, and took many days to heal. Luckily my mom had an aloe vera plant and some hydrogen peroxide, and the combination of those did the trick to bring the swelling down and help keep them from itching. I'm quite thankful (and utterly amazed) that Lola never got even ONE bite!

We continued on to my mom's house and relaxed for the night and then the next morning we had planned to spend a couple days at Dawn's house in Omaha before returning to Mom's for the remainder of our visit.

The evening we got to Omaha we planned to meet Dawn at Surfside - - -one of my all-time favorite places to eat. It’s situated on the Missouri River north of the city and is famous for its chicken and catfish dinners. It’s quite informal - - jeans or shorts are allowed, but as the sign indicates absolutely no cut-offs or swimsuits, and one must be wearing shirt and shoes!

There are tables arranged on a long patio parallel to the river, and from what I hear it is not unusual for boaters to drive by and moon anyone enjoying their meal. For those who wish not to be mooned, there is an indoor dining room.

The highlight of the restaurant, aside from their to-die-for fried catfish and hush puppies, are the cute little raccoons who live in the tall grass by the outdoor dining area who come up for food. Lola was enamored by them, and took a fancy to the mama raccoon and her baby who came up to clean the chicken off the bones that were tossed over the railing. The mama would take the bones and disappear into the grass to the river, wash the bones, then eat the chicken from them, and return in a few minutes for more!

We visited the park at Standing Bear Lake, where there are several large metal tubes inserted upright in the ground on a small hill overlooking the park and lake. The tubes have holes placed in strategic locations, and with even just the slightest breath of wind, the tubes emit a beautiful but rather eerie harmonic moaning sound. I, personally, find it comforting and relaxing, but I do know some other people find it a bit disturbing. Unfortunately, there was absolutely NO wind that evening so we were not able to experience it this time around.

The next morning we went to the Henry Doorly Zoo (my personal favorite), checked in on most of the animals, went through the rain forest exhibit (Lola loved this), attended the Imax 3-D movie “Under the Sea” and rode on the aerial tram across the zoo complex. It was a total blast!

Dawn told Lola to choose a stuffed animal from the gift shop as her birthday present, so Lola came to the IMAX theater with a stuffed white tiger. She named it Scooter, after our dearly departed cat.

Scooter the stuffed white tiger made a trip to the Cat House, and Lola put him on the ledge outside the glass of the white tiger exhibit. A female tiger came up and pawed the glass as if to get to the little tiger - - we figured she thought it was a baby tiger!! It was amazing!

That evening we drove back to Iowa just in time for dinner and then down to the lake to see the 4th fireworks. Lola took her shoes off and sat on a dock with her feet dangling in the water while watching.

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