Mark

10 Things I’ve Learned – January 2012

1. The business names in Okoboji are incredible. 

All over this great country of ours, small businesses are making our economy work. We often wonder how many of them got their name though, as they can sometimes be interesting, weird, or even head-scratching. Nowhere was that more evident than in Okoboji, Iowa. Nearly every business in that area was locally owned, and many of the business names caught our eye. Here’s a taste of some of our favorite Okoboji business names:

- Mrs. Lady’s Mexican Food (I hope that’s her last name, but I can’t help but think they couldn’t remember and just went with “the Mrs. Lady.”

- Sneaky*s Chicken (Yes with the * as an apostrophe. They also have a raccoon as their mascot. Cause nothing sells chicken like racoons, right?)

- Boyz N’ Bearies (OK, this one is awesome. A play on “Boyz N’ Da Hood”, but selling delicious boysenberry treats. I can get the “Boyz N’” part of this, but why does the second part need to be change to the animal name?)

- Kum & Go (It’s a gas station, and the only chain on the list. I’m not going any further with this one…)

- Koffee Kup Kafe (Or KKK for short… Why don’t people think of these things?)

2. The Highland Flinger sweats more than I do. 

During our time in the frozen parts of the country, we had our fair share of nights sleeping on the RV in at or below freezing temperatures. As we moved from state to state and city to city, the temperatures would fluctuate anywhere from -7 (thank you Ft. Collins, CO) to 45 degrees. After any particular frozen spell, we would notice that the RV would have damp spots on the floor, sides, and especially above the cab of the RV, where we store a good amount of stuff. We racked our brains trying to find a leak in the roof/sides of the Highland Flinger, until it finally occurred to us where the moisture was coming from. Not to turn this blog into a science class, but imagine the RV as one giant bottle of water. It would come close to freezing at times (there’s been frost on the inside of the walls at times!), and then the condensation would sweat as the temperatures got a little bit warmer. Oh the joys of RV living!

3. Green Bay Packers fans are unrelenting.

Packers fans don't let up.

We’ve encountered nearly every subset category of sports fans during our journey. There have been quiet and polite ones, drunk ones, mean ones, knowledgeable ones, fun ones, dumb ones, and grumbling ones. While I’m sure that most fan bases have each and every kind of fan that I just listed, one particular type usually dominates. During our time at Lambeau Field, one type of Packers fan was more prevalent than all of the others: The complaining fan. They were unwavering in what they could and would complain about. We went to the last game of the regular season, and they had lost ONE game prior to that. But every fan in sight and earshot both in our seats and walking around the stadium, found at least one thing to complain about. The players, coaches, referees, other fans, contract extensions, the food, and of course the other team.

While it’s tough to hear fans of good teams being so complaintative, I actually think that it helps in the long run. The front office, coaches, and players are held responsible by the fan base, and everyone understands what is expected from them. For good teams like the Packers and teams like them in other sports, the expectations are high and the fans won’t settle for anything less. Fan bases that become apathetic or expect less than the best often get just that.

4. Mid-grade gasoline is actually cheaper than regular gas in some parts of the country.

In gasoline, as in life, there is an order to things. Regular gas is the cheapest, then the next cheapest is mid-grade or “plus”, and then finally the most expensive “super” gasoline. It’s something that we all know and live by. By a few states in the middle of the country refuse to go by these naturally occurring rules. In Midwestern states like Nebraska, Iowa, South Dakota, and Missouri, the mid-grade gasoline was actually CHEAPER than regular gas. OK I’ll admit it, I actually learned this in November while driving through Nebraska, but I was reminded of this fact during January driving through those other states.

A little bit of research led me to find out that many states are now putting “E10″ (10% ethanol) into gasoline. Ethanol comes from corn, and as we all know corn is synonymous with the Midwest. So because corn subsidies are plentiful in the area, the higher grade gasoline becomes cheaper than the regular. Which also meant that the Highland Flinger was living the good life for a few weeks, enjoying the finer things in life with corn enhanced, cheaper gasoline. Now it’s back to Ramen noodles and regular gas.

5. I may have found the best burger in the country.

The best burger I've had.

It feels almost wrong in saying this, but I think I’ve found the best burger that I’ve ever had. I know, it’s as shocking to you as it was to me, but it’s true. Jackie and I (like all true Americans) love hamburgers, and since every city in the US is trying their best to create the best burger, we often like to sample what each city has to offer. In Milwaukee, we decided to try the Travel Channel’s Food Wars winning burger at AJ Bombers. The burger is aptly named “The Milwaukee Burger” and is a quarter pound burger with double Wisconsin colby cheese, double bacon, and topped with Schlitz (beer braised) onions. Wisconsin knows what’s up with cheese, so if you’ve never been here, the cheese is on a whole different level. It totally makes the burger, and is the best burger I’ve had thus far. Luckily for us, we’ve got about 26 more states (and at least that many burgers) to try!

6. The Red Wings love banners.

Superfluous banner usage.

While we were in Michigan for Christmas, we took in a Red Wings game with friends and saw them continue their home win streak. And this will no doubt anger the many Red Wings fans in our following (and even Jackie, who counts the Wings as her favorite hockey team), but the banners hanging in Joe Louis Arena are out of control. We get it. You’ve won a lot. And while that’s all well and good, it’s time to act like a team that wins a lot. Just put out the Stanley Cup banners, retired jerseys, and that’s it. As you can see in the picture, they’ve got nearly every division title, random NHL trophy, and seemingly every playoff round win up as a banner. When you’re a team like the Red Wings, one of the best and most storied NHL franchises, you just put up the important stuff. No need to overcompensate for something at this point. Great teams in other sports (NY Yankees, LA Lakers, UCLA basketball, etc.) don’t sweat the small stuff. Banners are for titles.

7. People LOVE fireworks.

And why are the fireworks always in a barn??

Every single time we cross a state border, we take a picture with the “Welcome to _______” sign, and put it on our playlist post for that state. The other thing we do when we cross a state border, is look for the gigantic fireworks store that is no doubt within a couple miles of any state border. What is up with the fireworks people? Do you really need fireworks that much that the first thing you need to buy when crossing into a state is explosives? They’re like America’s duty free shops between states, because I’m telling you they’re everywhere. I understand that some states outlaw them so you have to go to your nearest fireworks-loving state to get them, but why the FIRST thing across the border. Not a gas station, the welcome center, or even an awesome restaurant serving local food. Nope, fireworks.

8. Missouri is full of jaywalkers. 

The state of Missouri holds the unofficial record (according to our calculations) for least amount of crosswalks. Even in St. Louis, there are barely even lanes painted on the road, let alone lines at stop signs, any words at all, or even crosswalks. What that leads to of course is everyone crossing the streets like it’s a freaking game of Frogger. Because of this, cars also don’t really give pedestrians the right of way as they should, probably because it’s hard to tell when and where a pedestrian is going to cross the street.

9. This Mississippi River starts in Minnesota.

The Mississippi in Minneapolis? Who knew?

I love geography. Learning about their states and their shapes is part of the reason why we decided to set out on this adventure. Each state is shaped by history, money, politics, and more often than not, topography. It’s easy to know that the Mississippi River is a vital and important landmark that shapes many of our states, but after Louisiana, Mississippi, and Missouri, most people lose track of the flow of the mighty Missisippi River.

Crossing from St. Paul into Minneapolis, I was shocked to find out that the Mississippi River flows through the Twin Cities. Had I been the real geography buff that I purport to be I probably would’ve known that the Mississippi River starts in Minnesota and flows down to the Gulf. In any case, it’s been fun to learn these types of facts along the way.

10. You shouldn’t microwave a washcloth.

In case you were wondering, washclothes should not be microwaved. Jackie tested this bit of logic with a washcloth in Des Moines, Iowa. And while the actual picture of the burned washcloth has been lost for all eternity, pulling it out of the microwave essentially looked like this:

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  1. States #11-15 in Photos | Couple of Sports - March 7, 2012

    [...] even the entire counter! We sampled some of the cheesy offerings at Lambeau Field and atop  “the best burger in the United States” at AJ Bombers. Cheese aficionados, you must visit to Wisconsin…though January is not [...]

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