Everytime we meet someone new, this is pretty much how the conversation goes:
Inquiring Mind: So you're new to Iowa? Where did you move from?
Tim/Mary: The Virgin Islands
Inquiring Mind: (blank stare for a minute) What the hell made you move to IOWA?
Tim/Mary: The weather! It was 80 degrees in March when we got here and we decided to stay!
Inquiring Mind: Oh, um. Well. I see.
To be fair we used to answer with the real reaon - Tim's job offer - but then it got to be a lot like 'Do you live here' from the tourists on St. Thomas so we thought we'd have some fun. After we get past this opening the conversation usually turns to how long we were down there, why left and eventually to what we think about Iowa. The resounding answer is we LOVE it!
That's right- I love Iowa! I had no idea Des Moines had so much to offer. Outside of the things I was looking forward to (Target, Walmart, a real mall, real grocery stores, Taco Bell) I have been pleasantly suprised by so much. It reminds me a LOT of St. Louis and I loved growing up there so it's a great fit!
It has that great Midwestern feel that I missed on St. Thomas. Even in Chicago people weren't as friendly as they are here or St. Louis or Columbia. Everyone is friendly! We've made great friends across the board and have really enjoyed how quickly we were able to adapt. I credit that to the great people we both work with and the people we have met. We've been here less than 4 months and we've already been fortunate enough to make friends that are amazing. I thought it might be hard to break into circles of friends that were established but we have been welcomed with open arms and had so many enjoyable experiences already!
Another surprise? It's so active here! Des Moines has bike trails that criss cross the city. I can get from my house in West Des Moines all the way downtown without biking in traffic. Let me tell you, after biking in downtown Chicago, that is HUGE! Iowa is home to RAGBRAI where you bike across Iowa over 7 days. We didn't get to do it this year but plan on doing at least a day or two next year. There's the Des Moines Marathon, the Dam to Dam 1/2 Marathon and the Hy-vee Triathlon- all premier racing events. Gyms are top notch and dirt cheap. Well, compared to the gyms on STT, anything is an upgrade. You want to do Crossfit? You can find it. You want to do Kosama? Not a problem. Hot yoga? Got a place. Such a pleasant and much needed change! Somehow I think all this contributed to my crazy decision to sign us up for the Rock n Roll 1/2 Marathon in Vegas December 2nd...
There is a TON to do. If there's not a festival there's an event- Farmer's Market on Saturdays, Music in the Park, Live Music at Jasper Creek Winery on Thursdays, Zoo Brew, Trivia Nights, Young Professional Connection, iCubs Games (or any of the 3 other minor league teams we have)- the list goes on and on. We have more parks than I could have imagined and they have 'beaches'. I might not be able to see my hands two inches below the water but it's water! We have some great lakes and have even gotten to go out boating with friends.
Did I mention the wineries? We have quite a few around us including one in the heart of downtown. They have an Iowa Wine Passport which earns you stamps/discounts for each one you go to. Those of you that know me know I LOVE free stuff- shirts espeically- so this is right up my alley. Each of them have their own little niche and I can't wait to explore more of them and get more free stuff!
It so CLEAN. I think I may have mentioned this in a previous blog post so if I did I'm sorry but it's obviously still making an impression. Where we live everything is crisp and clean and new. We have the nicest looking Applebee's I have ever seen. In fact, Tim and I were discussing Applebee's and he didn't even realize that it was one- he thought it was a nice non-chain restaurant. Guess that's not doing wonders for them...
Here are a few fun facts I dug up:
* West Des Moines is #2 in large metro areas on the list of 'Secure Places to Live'. I guess this is why Tim has no problem not locking the door. If you're reading this honey, please still lock it!!
* The downtown buildings are connected by skywalk- nearly 4 miles of it to be exact- and is second only to Alberta, Canada in miles of skywalk per capita in North America
* Over 1 million people visit the State Fair every year (this will be my first fair, ever!)
* Remember when Ozzy Osbourne ate that bat? That was in Des Moines!
* We have one of the shortest commutes (19.1 minutes) for a city of our size (mine is 12 minutes. A blessing compared to my hour and half commute in Chicago)
So all of you that joked about us moving to the land of corn? We actually have a cornfield in our backyard. Right down the street from our Orange Leaf. So there.
PS- I learned, much to my dismay, that I cannot walk across the street and pick that corn for dinner. Not because it's stealing but because it's feed corn, not sweet corn. There's special fields for sweet corn! Who knew??