A Holiday Excursion, Days 2-3: Mushing and Slushing to Dug Road Inn

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It was a gray and blustery day.

I’m still in shock that I am able to tell you this story.  The winter storm caught up to me with a seething ferocity.  The snow blew so hard that it was nearly a complete whiteout.  Then it happened.  Some nut in a red Corvette came roaring by in the other lane like a bat out of heck.  The unknown driver cut me off and clipped the front end of my car.  My car careened off the road and rolled over 4 times.  I have a vague realization of my seat belt coming loose and being thrown from my vehicle.

I awoke in a hospital somewhere around Dows, IA.  Both of my arms were broken and the nurse to whom I’m now dictating this story informed me that my gas line had ruptured and my car had exploded.  Its burning carcass was seen through the snowy haze by motorists who summoned help and I was found thirty feet from the smoldering remains of my Focus.

Wow!  That’s a great start to a fiction story.

But what really happened was that the drive was not too bad.  Des Moines was the worst of it so I took things very slowly until I reached I-35.  There wasn’t a lot of snow, but it was blowing around quite a bit due to the strong wind and would get whipped around pretty good when semi trucks drove by.  I kept things well under the speed limit to be extra safe unless I was on completely clear stretches of road.  I was aided by the fact that the roads were virtually empty and what few motorists were on the road also drove quite safely with one or two exceptions.

Due to my safety measures, an extra 90 minutes were tacked onto my drive, but I wasn’t in a rush in the first place.  About 2pm, I found myself in the Norwegian community of Decorah, IA.  Thankfully, the owner of my next inn, Dug Road Inn, had given me a call to check to see if I were still coming and he let me check in an hour early due to the weather.

Dug Road Inn is an Italianate style home originally built by Lt Colonel William T Baker back in the 1860s.  Its current owners are Doug and Shirleen Sturtz and the inn is touted as an eco-friendly B & B famed for its 3 course organic breakfasts.

I was greeted in the driveway by Doug who helped me get my luggage into the house.  He led me to the Duncan Room which would serve as my headquarters for the next 2 days.  After getting my stuff settled, I returned to the living room where Doug brought me a glass of wine and we spent a little time conversing about my project and Iowa football.

After our conversation, I returned to my room where I continued reading a new Nero Wolfe novel before the exhaustion of my long drive caused me to doze off for a brief nap.

When I awoke, I glanced out the window and was met by a night and day difference.  The storm had reached its peak and snow was falling steadily and the wind was howling.  I really did not want to go outside, but I needed to eat.  Luckily, the main drag was only 2 blocks away, so I donned my coat, hat, and gloves and headed outside.  I decided not to press my luck and just eat at the first available place I could find.

That would end up being the Old Armory BBQ which is one of the top 10 BBQ restaurants in Iowa.  When I entered the place, it seemed as if they were closing up and that fact was confirmed a few moments later by one of the employees.  They still had some food left out and said they could prepare something for me.

I settled for a hamburger with homemade pickles which was pretty good, though I couldn’t linger over it as I didn’t want to keep these people in here longer than necessary.  I’m grateful that Old Armory kept me from going hungry that night so I left a good tip for the sandwich before trudging back to Dug Road Inn.

I drew a hot bath after I returned to my room though the jets on the Jacuzzi tub didn’t seem to be working.  But I enjoyed the bath as it was just the right temperature.  Afterwards, I read myself to sleep with Rex Stout’s brilliant, if slothful, detective.

The next morning, I met Doug’s wife, Shirleen, who had prepared my breakfast.  The first course was a dish of mixed fruit (apples, grapes, and, I believe, pomegranate) in a dish of cream.  The second course was baked bacon with a small salad of greens and tomatoes, scrambled eggs with mushrooms, and a wonderful food item that I could best describe as a stuffed pancake.  The third course was a dessert course consisting of chocolate gelato and lefse.  This meal I did do justice to as I blissfully enjoyed every bite.  Regrettably, I had forgotten my camera upstairs so you’ll have to use your imaginations for this meal.

I wanted some exercise so I got into my winter accessories and wandered around the downtown area to work off the meal.  Downtown Decorah reminds me very much of my grandparents’ old hometown of Storm Lake, IA as it is mostly locally owned businesses.  There is even a small J.C. Penney on one of the corners just like the one in Storm Lake.

My meanderings brought me to GamesXP.  If you’re a vintage video game connoisseur like I am, then this is the store for you.  I was amazed by the classic games and systems this store had.  Odyssey, Intellivision, Atari, Super Famicom, this place had it all.  I was disappointed that I wasn’t able to continue building my Sega CD library as their selection was limited and didn’t have anything I wanted, but this is a store that I will surely visit again if my journeys bring me back.

I returned to the inn where I found Doug scraping the ice from my vehicle, a personal touch of hospitality which I very much appreciated.  I read a few more chapters before getting into my car and seeing what there was to see.

I had hoped to visit the Ice Cave, but when I reached the road leading to it, I found it covered with snow.  Remembering my misadventure back in Greenfield, I opted to turn back.  However, I did find Dunnings’ Spring which has a 200 foot waterfall.  I hiked up the steep hill through the new fallen snow and managed to grab some good pics of this natural beauty.

Afterwards, I drove back to the inn where I read for a while and dried out my clothes.  Around 4:30, I decided to take another hot bath to get the chill out of bones.  After soaking for nearly an hour, I headed back downtown in search of supper.

I ended up at Restauration in the famed Hotel Winneshiek.  This is a small fine dining establishment that is well worth a visit.  My meal began with a mixed green salad with a homemade ranch dressing with some homemade bread.  The main course was an Iowa specialty, pork chop, with garlic mashed potatoes and vegetables (broccoli, carrots, and red onions).

The salad was excellent, though I had hoped for hot bread.  The presentation of the main course was superior, especially the grill marks on the Iowa chop which was, mmm, cooked to perfection.  The vegetables were fresh and crisp, but the potatoes needed some more garlic.

After the satisfying meal, I went back to Dug Road Inn and called it a night.

I really didn’t want to get out of my comfortable bed the next morning, but the smell of fine cooking galvanized me to make the attempt.  The Inn’s regular chef was able to make it in today and the meal once again began with mixed fruit (orange, grapes, pomegranate) with cream and granola.  The main entrée was a tiny dish of cherry tomatoes in a dressing with Eggs Florentine cooked with parmesan cheese and spinach.  Also included were fried potatoes with feta cheese, oregano, and chili powder and sausage.  Each bite was heavenly.  For dessert was apple-cranberry crisp with whipped cream that melted in my mouth.

I was disappointed when my meal ended for I knew that my stay had come to a close.  Dug Road Inn is certainly well worth a visit and Decorah is a fine little city, though probably best visited in the warmer months when there is more to see and do.  If your travels brings you to Decorah, get a room at Dug Road Inn where you’ll enter as strangers and leave as friends.

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