Why, hello again, and welcome to my one year anniversary article spectacular.
I decided I needed a truly special bed and breakfast to visit for my one year anniversary and I certainly found it at River’s Bend Bed and Breakfast; owned by Dr. Rita Schoeneman and located in the rural town of Iowa Falls, IA.
The weather was certainly cooperating with me on this fine summer day. It had a rather springy feel to it with moderate temperatures, a sunny sky, singing birds, and clouds that were looking especially fluffy. I was so excited about this trip that I had awoken at 4am and could not get back to sleep. Shortly before 9am, I had hopped into my car and before I knew it I had reached Iowa Falls.
Iowa Falls is the biggest small town I have visited since I began this project. It seems to have quite a few things to do and, as I would later learn, is jam packed with history. It’s also the town where Kansas Jayhawks basketball legend and current NBA star, Nick Collison, began his rise to prominence. Fun fact: I attended school with Nick in elementary school (mind you, I was 4 years older and don’t know if we ever met) and was taught by his father, Dave, in junior high school.
As I drove around the city (yes, this city was big enough for me to drive around), I found a couple of nice scenic drives as well as a fairly impressive aquatic center that housed a decent looking miniature golf course. I silently lamented the fact that my good friend and perennial rival, Mat O’Donnell, was not present for a duel. Then again, the course was closed so it was a moot point.
Eventually, I parked in the town square and began to wander about the downtown area. One of the more spectacular sights was the Metropolitan Opera House. When first built, it was actually an opera house and had brought in some of the biggest names of the day like John Phillip Sousa. Now it was a movie theater and I really wish I had had an opportunity to get inside the place and look around.
About 2pm, I passed a boat club which had a riverboat moored on the Iowa River called the Scenic City Empress. I saw some people getting onto the ship and I immediately parked my car and asked if I could purchase a ticket. I would later discover that I had actually earned a free ticket for this cruise by booking at River’s Bend, but I was glad to make the $7 donation.
It was a very relaxing cruise on the Iowa River (which actually starts and ends in Iowa). The whole journey took about an hour and fifteen minutes and I learned quite a bit about the local history from how the town was founded, to some of the powerful families who had lived there, to a lot of significant events that had occurred in the town’s history. Once the cruise ended, I headed on over to River’s Bend.
For the first time since the project began, I actually had company for the trip. Originally, my best friend, Josh Kudron, and his wife, Malissa, were supposed to join me on the journey. Regrettably, complications arose which prevented them from making the trip. Luckily, my parents, Bob & Virginia, whom I’ve long tried to convince to try a bed and breakfast, said they would like to come along.
We were warmly greeted by Rita, a former national director of the US Forest Service, who gave us the grand tour.
This place is impressive. It’s a Greek Revival house and the biggest bed and breakfast I have visited. The rooms are incredibly spacious with the exception of the intimate Garden Suite. I was quite surprised that the place only had 4 guest bedrooms considering how much house existed. We had taken the Riverview Suite, which was a combination of the Riverview room and the Library which housed an eclectic amount of reading material from forestry to manga. I gladly took the Library because I wanted to be able to get out on the balcony in the morning and watch the sun rise.
After getting settled, we got into my car to travel to the nearby town of Eldora to attend worship services at St Mary’s parish. On the drive over, my pop had me turn on the radio so he could listen to the Iowa vs. Ball State football game. There are few things as entertaining as listening to my father watch or listen to an Iowa Hawkeyes sporting event. Dad isn’t the most demonstrative of people. . .unless he’s watching his beloved Hawkeyes. Then he’s the most animated person on the planet. And he had plenty to be animated about as the Hawkeyes looked like they would be upset by the Cardinals as they were leading 13-3 as we headed into the church.
Father Tony, a very energetic and animated man, attempted to set a land speed record in delivering the service. Apparently, he was suffering from post-concussion syndrome and was feeling a little ill, so he worked through the service as quickly as possible. All that I can say is, he must be unbelievable when he’s feeling great given how much energy he had feeling sick.
After services, Dad hesitantly asked me to turn the radio back on and he must have done some serious praying, for now the Hawkeyes were about to, and did, in fact, win by a score of 17-13. “They didn’t deserve to win,” said Dad, the relief evident in his voice. We headed back to Iowa Falls where, under Rita’s suggestion, we went to Porter’s on Main for supper.
The place was a little dim, but the food was excellent. I munched on a Diablo Chicken sandwich with a side of chicken gumbo. Dad supped on a terrific New York Strip (which looked bigger than the 10 oz it was supposed to be), a side of chicken gumbo, and a baked potato. And Mom enjoyed hamburger steak with some superior American fries (I know because I sampled some) and a salad.
After supper, we returned to the inn where I had to help my lovable Luddite of a father with the TV in the living room so he and Mom could watch the movie “Sneakers”. I went to the suite to post some pictures, have a long hot soak, and curl up with my latest Sherlock Holmes pastiche, “The Spirit Box”.
I grew drowsy as I read and soon fell asleep for the night. I awoke the next morning and did go out on the balcony to watch the sunrise, then immediately rushed back inside because it was darn chilly out there in my shorts. I grabbed my Kindle and headed down to the 2nd living room to listen to music and continue Mr. Holmes’ adventure. Dad had gotten up earlier to go buy a newspaper and he came back just as Mom was coming downstairs so we headed into the dining room for breakfast.
With all of the fancy, gourmet breakfasts I have eaten at bed and breakfasts, it was a nice change of pace to have a hearty, traditional breakfast. Beginning with a dish of mixed fruit, Rita brought out some wonderfully crisp bacon and a stack of small pancakes which were quite fluffy and delicious. Cups of coffee along with glasses of milk and OJ made for delicious breakfast beverages.
Rita came out partway through the meal and began to share with us some of the history of the house. Then she asked about my B & B project as well as my theatrical background. When I started talking about theatre, Rita shared this amazing tale of the time Hugh Jackman visited the house. She even had photographic proof of the encounter.
As the story went, the previous owner of the movie theater had to sell out because he couldn’t afford the new digital projectors that would be needed to stay in business. The new owner bought the needed projectors, but wanted to have a reopening worthy of the theater’s past as the Metropolitan Opera House. As it happened, the new owner’s son happened to be an entertainment lawyer in Los Angeles and was the agent for Hugh Jackman and Halle Berry. When the owner’s son told Hugh about his dad’s desire, Hugh readily volunteered to come to Iowa Falls to make it a red carpet event.
Hugh and his family stayed in the room that my family had stayed in and Rita said he was an absolutely perfect gentleman and down to earth guy, though his entourage was annoying. In between signing posters for the event, Hugh helped his son with his homework, played with his daughter, and even made his children carry the breakfast dishes into the kitchen for cleaning.
The time passed much too quickly and soon it was time to check out and head back to reality. It was truly a grand event and I easily rank this place in my top three bed and breakfasts that I have visited for this project. If you find yourself in Iowa Falls, take some time out there. Soak up the local culture. Take a ride on the Scenic City Empress. Most importantly, spend a night at River’s Bend. You’ll get a great meal and enjoy some great conversation from an excellent hostess. Heck, you’ll probably learn something, too.