And what brings you to Mason City?

Trip Start Aug 24, 2013
Trip End Aug 31, 2013

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Where I stayed
Historic Park Inn,

Flag of United States  , Iowa
Tuesday, August 27, 2013

When we told folks in Minnesota that we were headed to Iowa next, every single one of them asked why. Many suggested other places we might like better, all in Minnesota, of course. But after a fabulous breakfast on Grand Ave. in St. Paul and moments of imagining our lives there in that wonderful city, we headed south toward our destination: Mason City, Iowa. 

The reason we picked Mason City for this trip has its beginnings a few years ago, when I found a 1919 "Masonian," the yearbook from Mason City High School. Turns out, it was from the senior year of Meredith Willson, the man made most famous by his creation, The Music Man. The play takes place in River City, Iowa, a barely concealed fictional version of Willson's home town. In the yearbook, there are many small clues to the things Willson brought to stage and screen about his hometown: the school's boys' band, which traveled around the state drumming up business for Mason City, and mention of a controversy about the local Pleazol pool hall advertising in the yearbook. So we wanted to see the place where it all began.

But first things first… after our fabulous breakfast, we headed out of town, stopping at Granny's, a doughnut shop highly recommended by John Wilcox, not only for its delicious treats but for the friendly owners behind the counter. We were not disappointed by either.

Making our way south, we stopped in a cute little town called Northfield, Minnesota, which sounded familiar to Doug. We shopped in a little "juried" art and antique store and were sad to leave some good things behind that couldn't be brought home on the plane (*cough*lamps*cough*). Turns out Fairfield, Minnesota, was the end of the line for many of Jesse James' gang, which is why Doug knew the name.

Driving along, we saw a Wool Mill in Faribault (pronounced Faribo) and turned around when we realized they had a retail store. The Faribault Woolen Mill Co had some beautiful wool blankets and scarves, incredibly expensive, but I'm sure worth every penny (to someone else). We chatted with the young ladies working there, and headed back out on the road, eventually landing at Sakatah Lake State Park for a picnic lunch.

As the scenery got flatter, it also filled completely with corn and soybeans. Sometimes it was soybeans and corn. But as far as the eye could see. Sometimes, there would be huge areas full of gigantic wind turbines, gracefully turning in the slight wind. We could see them from miles away and it would seem forever before we were actually passing them by.

We finally made it to Mason City and to our hotel. Which is spectacular. The only hotel designed by Frank Lloyd Wright still in operation, it was completely renovated two years ago. And it's magnificent. A marvel of detail and beauty. In Mason City, Iowa.

Our room is large, with period-style furniture and lighting, and six arts-and-crafts style windows that look out onto the city park. Even the air vents in the room are made of beautiful wood.

Mason City used to be a pretty big town, but now it's very small and quite "sleepy." Every person we met here so far asked us, "And what brings you to Mason City?" but it sounds more like, "What the hell are you doing here?"

After a delicious dinner in the hotel dining room, we wandered around town and stopped for a drink at the Candy Bar Nite Club, a little divey bar in the location of the original Pleazol pool hall. A great way to end a travel day. We went back to our wonderful room and crashed, exhausted from seeing so much corn and soybeans.

Next up... the Buddy Holly and Meredith Willson Industrial Complexes, or what makes Northern Iowa famous.
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Trisha on

Beautiful hotel, lovely store, the wind machinery reminds me of Jodie Foster's "Contact." Did you put headphones on and lie on the hood of your convertible, listening for ET? Why doesn't the antique store ship?

Safe and happy travels. xo

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