A mysterious letter arrived at my mom’s house a few weeks ago. It was, she said, addressed to me, in my own handwriting. But the return address was of someone named Linda in Maine.
I told her it couldn’t possibly actually be from me, because I had no recollection of writing myself a letter and have lived in Des Moines for the past five years. My mom insisted the handwriting was my own, so I asked her to open it.
She was right. I wrote this letter to myself eight years ago, the summer after I graduated from high school, as a freshly minted 18-year old abroad on a European Adventure. I’d embarked on a transformative three week trip with Girl Scouts (when you’re 18, scouting becomes cool again) and our leader had held onto the letters until this summer. It was exciting and funny to see my advice to myself:
I posted about the letter on Facebook and tagged my best friends from the trip. Julia and Jenna. They’d also received letters and, to my surprise, Jenna wrote back to let me know she was traveling through Des Moines the following week on her way to Colorado. Eight years later, inspired by this letter, she was on my doorstep! We stayed up late crafting cards to send to Linda thanking her for the blast from the past and updating her on our lives.
Jenna is a traveling minstrel of sorts, living her dream as a singer/songwriter. Her optimism, enthusiasm and sense of adventure have only intensified in the years since we sat on the side of a mountain, me teaching her how to knit and sailed in the North sea, her leading us in singing sea shanties.
The whole experience was a lovely reminder to me of what remains important in this world.
I couldn’t help scanning in a page from my scrapbook of the trip.
This experience has such a special place in my heart that when Joe and I went on our honeymoon hike, we accidentally re-created it by visiting many of the same stops!
Does the thought of rifling through strangers’ things on a misty morning in the rural outskirts of Des Moines sound good to you?
Then we would probably be friends.
Last Saturday, I got up early, mad a trip to La Mie for coffee and perfectly flaky French pastries and joined my friend Gretchen and new garage-saleing friend Marcie for the Highway 141 sale, which is essentially a neighborhood garage sale on crack. Towns all along this ribbon of road are dotted with sales in garages, yards, alleys, barns, etc.
We learned that those who took Friday off to treasure hunt probably took most of the stuff that was worthwhile, but we had fun exploring and chatting and got a few nifty things out of the deal. (Note: Neon signs that advertise a “HUGE/AWESOME/WON’T BELIEVE IT” sale are not as good as the small white ones with old person handwriting.)
Some of the stops were busts, but the joy of the even for me was the chase.
I got some decent items for not spending more than $10 on a morning worth of entertainment (Madeline books via a “Mrs. Anderson” not pictured, nor is the guy who asked us if we wanted to make some money after telling us the banjo he had for sale was $450.)
If we come back next year, we’re going to create a garage sale bingo card to add to the fun. On it will have to be: creepy clown figurines, baked goods, T-shirt or sweatshirt with the name of the town and that town’s festival on it, things people got as freebies that they’re selling for a dime, etc.
(This weekend involved a bachelorette celebration, so no photos of THAT!)
Tuesday evening, I decided to hop on my bike and tag along with Joe and Andy on the taco ride from Des Moines to Cumming, Iowa. The weekly ride — in my mind, at least — was starting to reach a legendary status, with all the cool kids in town making the ritual trek. Now that the heat wave has broken, it made for a perfect post-work cruise down the Great Western trail. I’m not 100 percent sure of the history of the Des Moines taco ride, but I’m thinking it was inspired by the ride along the Wabash Trail on Thursday nights in Western Iowa.
Tacopocalypse: Worth the ride.
I love how the Great Western Trail is a rails to trails project, so it’s pretty flat, and that we saw a spindly legged, spotted fawn and two horses (one of which I’m still halfway convinced was a unicorn) in a meadow, but that in one strange segment riders wind through a golf course. The final destination for us was the Cumming Tap, where Tacopocalypse transforms a small town dive into a popup gourmet experience once a week (it’s only Tuesdays in summer, right, Sam?)
We grabbed a pitcher of Fat Tire and one of each: veggie chorizo, curried pork cheek, braised pork and one other scrumptious selection that I probably ate before I could save to my memory. In retrospect, the only thing I would change about the tacos would have been to order eight instead of four. They’re petite in the authentic way, and you can’t just have one. We shared a table with two random (pretty funny) guys, devoured the food and headed back to town.
Crossing my fingers it's a long, warm fall.
There’s something a little dreamlike about leaving the city limits and meeting up with plenty of people you know, in an alternate realm where the golden light makes everyone look more like a movie star, Spandex is a good choice for attire, you know the guy responsible for the creative food, there’s no fuss — and there just maybe a unicorn kneeling in a meadow.
*Yes, that post title was inspired by a mildly inappropriate 2008 Shawn Johnson Ortega commercial.