WPX Road Trip ’13: Day One

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World Pork Expo 2013 doesn’t officially kick off until tomorrow morning, but we’re here in Iowa today. We played a game of highway leap frog with a few other, easily-recognizable WPX bound travelers most of the way here and managed to occupy ourselves with 90s music and various satellite radio comedy stations, but man, oh man I always forget how long and boring I-80 can be.

2013 Buick Encore

We stopped just once on the way out here to top off the gas tank (the Encore is rocking the gas mileage so far, we’re very pleased) and just so happened to pull into a little, independently owned station with an old, abandoned tractor trailer in the parking lot.

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I don’t know that I’ve written about it here before, but I have a bit of an obsession with photographing all things old and dilapidated and have a certain draw to tractor trailers in particular. It only seemed fitting, so I ignored the stares of bewildered locals as I walked over to snap a couple photos of her.

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Little did I know, just down the road from where we initially stopped was The World’s Largest Truck Stop. The Man, of course, didn’t let me forget it and when we started coming up on signs his inner ten-year-old boy emerged. I figured the least I could do was oblige him a walk through the place, given he’ll be spending the next three days eyebrow deep in swine for me.

It was huge and ridiculous and completely crazy, ya’ll.

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There was an entire case full of custom steering wheels. Steering wheels. On display. And a two-story tall wall of lights. Blue lights, orange lights, red lights, white lights. Flashing lights and even a whole bank of lights that looked like an American flag. Chrome, too. Lots of chrome, of course.

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He was like a kid in a candy store the whole time, which made it perfectly worth the stop.

We got into Des Moines late afternoon, checked into the hotel room and headed back out in search of dinner and recreation downtown.

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I’d turned up the Raccoon River Brewing Company in my searches before we set out, but forgotten about it until The Man saw them listed in a guide in the hotel room. It was even better than I expected.

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Good food, with plenty of pork on the menu, even if mostly as bacon.

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Good beer. (We were fans of the Vanilla Cream Ale and Waves of Amber Grain, though Tallgrass Light is actually pictured here with The Amber Grain brew.)

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And a whole loft full of pool tables on which The Man could cheat while I was busy taking pictures.

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Luckily it was also in close proximity to the downtown River Walk. This thing spans the river and is actually lit up at night. We’re going to try to make it back to get pictures of it all lit up in the dark, but I was glad to have the opportunity to walk it in the daylight, too. The Iowa state capitol building you can see in the distance there is gorgeous, truly. There are five domes, and that gold is just striking against the sky.

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The riverboat was docked and closed, which was probably a good thing. The Man would have tried to sucker me into going for a ride, I’m sure of it. He loves being a tourist. It’s just a good thing I love him.

*The good folks at GM and Drive the District have provided the 2013 Buick Encore we’re driving this week. Full review coming soon.

There’s also a little asian garden along the river with this big red pagoda, appropriately and hilariously called “The John Deere Pavilion” in the center of it.

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