We landed in jail
…and reeled in a new columnist for the Iowa Writers' Collaborative
Richard and I took our new electric vehicle, Evie, on a trek to Elkader, a picturesque northeast Iowa town on the Turkey River. The mission was to meet Outdoor writer Larry Stone and his wife, Margaret, for the purpose of assisting the semi-retired journalist to launch his first column on Substack.
Long-time readers of The Des Moines Register will remember the conservationist’s writings tucked inside the Big Peach (sports section). It was packaged as a hunting and fishing column, but Larry Stone included posts about canoe trips, walks in the woods, and issues related to the outdoors life.
Stone began his career at The Des Moines Register over five decades ago.
“It was January 4, 1971,” said Stone. “There was a blizzard that day.”
The answer was pure Stone: detailed, with an awareness of the environment around him.
He ended his career when editors required him to move from the home he and his wife had built on 100 acres of northeast Iowa, to Des Moines.
It was a tough but easy decision; tough, because he felt he had had the ideal assignment traveling the state for a couple of decades, but easy, because he and his wife wouldn’t consider leaving the sanctuary they created. Their home is just where you’d expect a couple of nature-lovers to land after exploring the most beautiful rivers, streams and parks in the state.
Although semi-retired, Stone has written five books, does public speaking, and most recently has been involved in a lawsuit the Sierra Club is waging over the DNR’s approval of a plan for how to manage the manure from 11,600 cattle.
Bloody Run, and water quality
On Monday, May 8, our Zoom lunch session will feature Chris Jones, who recently left a position with the University of Iowa over pressure to change his public postings on the water quality testing he’s lead; and Robert Leonard, who broke the story behind why he left. To receive the Zoom link on Monday morning, be sure you are a subscriber to this column. You do not have to pay, but those who do are supporting scholarships for the Okoboji Writers’ Retreat, September 17-20.
So, what’s it like to drive an EV from Des Moines, to Clayton County to Dickinson County, Iowa?
This driver deemed it fun. My partner, however, was stressing over whether we could find a charging station in rural parts of the state.
Our relationship is 99% harmonious, with a small exception. If we were the XM radio lineup, he’s more of a Willie’s Roadhouse guy, whereas I’m a Coffee House, podcast listener. Another slight difference in our approach to life is found in the interpretation of ‘trusting the universe.’
When it comes to uncharted territory, he’s more of a what’s-the-worst-thing-that-can-happen kind of planner; where I am more of a hey-what’s-the-worst-thing-that-can-happen? kind of an adventurer. The key difference is the shrug, no problem, attitude. Road-tripping in an electric car brought those two distinct personality styles to the forefront.
Larry Stone quipped:
“The discussions you and Richard may have had about charging stations might compare to Margaret and my pondering which channel to take through the rapids in our canoe!”
In hindsight, we spent more time looking for charging stations than we needed to, but that obsession will ease up in time with practice. In addition to the navigation system in our KIA EV6, we plan ahead with various apps showing where chargers are located. From our limited experience so far, Kwik Star seems to be a step ahead of competitors in providing this service. As a result, the stores become a magnet for traveling customers with EVs.
Julie and Richard spend the night in an Elkader jailhouse
True. We spent the night in the Jailhouse Inn.
As far as rankings of unusual places we’ve stayed, this remodeled jail is either number one or two. Not just the physical space, but when I booked the room, instructions were e-mailed as to how to enter the facility with a keypad code, where the room was located, and the keypad code for the room.
No one was there. The entire time we were there.
The Jailhouse Inn was nicely renovated, and beautifully situated overlooking the town of Elkader, but it felt eerie to experience ‘hospitality’ in an almost ghostly way.
I don’t believe in ghosts. I don’t believe in ghosts. I don’t believe in ghosts.
But as I found myself later that night in a half-sleep state I saw a vision of a smokey blue/gray, darkened area, with hollowed faces staring out at me. The images changed, and were foreboding. Later, in a deep sleep-state, I had a nightmare where women were burning in hell.
There’s no such thing as ghosts, I said to myself.
In the middle of the night, Richard heard strange noises he thought indicated someone had entered the inn and was in the kitchen. He checked it out, but no one was there.
We don’t believe in ghosts. We don’t believe in ghosts.
As the sun came up, I heard the same noise, and we were baffled.
Turns out there were two glass doors hung behind the bed, so if we moved, it caused them to bump together and make the unusual sound.
We don’t believe in ghosts, so are grateful to have an explanation. We don’t believe in ghosts.
I discovered a podcast interviewing the owner, who describes himself as a ‘motivational speaker’ and real estate ‘titan.’ Check it out.
If you want to know more about the history of the Jailhouse Inn, here is a story by WHO-TV, Oct. 20, 2020.
Would I recommend an overnight stay at the Jailhouse Inn? The adventurer here says, sure, all things considered. However, If you look at the Trip Advisor recommendations, please note the majority were written under the former innkeeper’s ownership.
As for the Jailhouse Inn, if your idea of a charming bed and breakfast includes the personality of the innkeeper, you’ll be disappointed. And, there was a surprise $75 additional ‘cleaning fee’ added at the final step of the online booking process, in addition to a $99 room rate. As for ‘bed and breakfast,’ we only found coffee pods and a Keurig coffee maker. Plus, guests are given instructions to strip their beds, take out any garbage, and turn out the lights.
Hospitality without a host may be your jam, if so, consider this a good review.
Elkader and northeast Iowa are to be seen. Some of the prettiest towns in America can be found in Clayton, Dubuque, and Allamakee counties.
Hit the road. And, don’t be afraid to get an electric vehicle.
Grab a blue cheese and sauerkraut hamburger at the Franklin Inn in Strawberry Point, and be grateful for what we have here in the state. Which, by the way, is worth preserving.