We find a Couchsurfing host in Des Moines, Iowa, and decide to cut Omaha short since it’s a little hard to get to know without much guidance. Sanjay is from India but is getting his Masters at the University of Iowa and doing an internship in Des Moines. He talks to us about being from a city of 20 million people and then moving to the Midwest, how at first all the silence scared him, and although he has very little in the way of recommendations for things to do in town, he says he likes it here, it’s a more peaceful life. The next morning we come up to the apartment early before he leaves for his internship, and cook in his kitchen in silence while his housemate snores on the living room floor, which appears to be a routine. We head to Grays Lake, at their recommendation, and as soon as we park climb into the back and fall back asleep.
Des Moines is cool and breezy, which is a relief. After our nap we walk into town and find an incredible little coffee shop called Ritual Cafe, with this wonderful warm red interior and an entirely vegetarian menu. As we sit and work, a woman starts carrying in and stacking boxes of produce and suddenly we realize she’s setting up her CSA pick up. Although we are eating neither the food on the café menu nor the local produce being sold, simply being in the presence of the CSA bustle fills us with happiness, the environment is familiar and reminds us of home.
When the bar closes, we make our way back to the van, parked conveniently near a the College Green, where we are able to have a picnic breakfast in the morning before meandering through downtown Iowa City and checking out the sidewalk sales and boutiques. We continue to be surprised by these little towns. The Midwest ain’t so bad.