Just in case you might wonder why I like this scene from my neighborhood…

The Cellar Door

The Cellar Door

The building has been around a while and it isn’t in a strip mall. Look carefully for the date and the address. Good place for just wandering around.


We’ve got some great river towns here in Iowa, as you already know if you’ve spent much time along the Missouri or the Mississippi. One of my favorites is actually two river towns because they’re so close together on the Great River Road: McGregor and Marquette.



They’re close enough to share a website, a hyphen and a chamber of commerce, and close enough that it can be difficult to remember just which one of the two towns has the Pink Elephant (Marquette).

The Pink Elephant has been around here since the early ’60s. She was the symbol of the old Pink Elephant Motel and Supper Club. Yes, pink buildings.

Now Pinky is a mascot of sorts for the Lady Luck Casino. (She must have been quite a sight water skiing on the Mississippi River to entertain Jimmy Carter back in ’78.)

The old gal came to mind recently during some online research for this little portrait of Clayton County.

I just couldn’t figure out how to fit her in there.

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Updated again after being in more Iowa libraries.

On a recruiting mission lately, looking for census takers, I’ve seen a pretty sizeable chunk of Eastern Iowa and held meetings in lots of interesting places:

Flutterby Cove
Flutterby Cove

A church hall with a choir overhead singing “Onward, Christian Soldiers.” A room above a sanctuary where an organist was warming up to audition. A dingy basement and a chilly basement. I spent two days in a noisy mall disappointing little children.

And I’ve spent a lot of time in libraries. We have really nice libraries.

In many cases, nice is probably not a strong enough word.

Take the Independence Public Library. Its colorful Flutterby Cove with the butterflies overhead and the crazily angled windows and doorways (one big enough to let an adult inside) will make you want to be a kid again.

Maybe you can take a kid along as an excuse to get in there.

Some other terrific libraries I’ve visited lately, in no particular order:

Marion Public Library

Washington Public Library

Fairfax Public Library

Ely Public Library

Victor Public Library

Marengo Public Library

Waterloo Public Library

As they say, these are more than just places to check out books.

Thank you all for letting me use your space.

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Judging by the looks on the little kids’ faces when they see it is no longer there, the Disney Store at NorthPark Mall in Davenport must have been one heckuva fun place.

Even though it has been gone since mid-2008, child after child who visited the mall Friday and Saturday seemed distressed to find it empty except for some Census Bureau recruiters and people applying for part-time census-taking jobs.

Magic carpet lives on

Magic carpet lives on

The kids didn’t know what all that meant, of course.

“Awwwwwww, it’s gone!”

I lost count of how many times I heard that over the course of two long days.

Except for the empty shelves, some colorful carpeting and the children’s magical memories, not much remains.

No more Mickey.

This could be lots of places, but it’s only in Iowa.


It is one of those places that can make you stop along a lonesome highway and get out of your car on a cold, blustery February day and just look at the place and wonder.

From the east, it could be sleeping with one eye open.

From the west, it might have been painted on the land or drawn in charcoal, just under the tree.

Highway 92, Washington County.


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Write about your own favorite Iowa places and people. Just add a comment.


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Happy circumstance:

Not long ago, I had the opportunity to write about many of Iowa’s counties. As luck would have it, I’d lived in, pedaled through or otherwise visited many of them. Some, coincidentally, were already pretty high up on my list of favorite places.

A few of those stories have now been published, in the “soft launch” this week of iowa.com. If you click on that map, you’ll see that a lot of work still needs to be done. Then, I suppose, will come a “hard launch.”

I thought I’d point out three stories that are online now – followed by one or more reasons I’m singling them out today:

  • Scott County – because I lived there long ago and it has one of the prettiest recreation trails I’ve seen anywhere (maybe you read about it here).

There are other reasons, too.

As more of these county profiles are published, you’ll probably see why I have this urge to visit these places again and again.

Share your own story

Tell me about your own favorite Iowa places and people. Just add a comment.


Maybe some hunters helped pull your car from a snowy ditch. A good neighbor plowed your driveway or cut your grass for you. You lost your wallet and a stranger mailed it to you – cash, credit cards, everything still there. There’s a great place in Iowa that you like to visit or that brings back special memories.

Those are just a few examples of stories you are welcome to share here.

If you have stories that are better labeled Iowa Stubborn, Iowa Furious or Iowa Indignant, feel free to share those, too. We can be flexible here.

Just add a comment. Please use your real name.

Thank you.