MA Road Trip: America's Heartland

From the pavement of Madison, I headed west into the Wisconsin countryside, making a very important stop in to Mt. Horeb, a quaint little town that's got a thing for trolls. However, it was mustard not little figurines that brought me and my friend Jo Mt. Horeb, specifically the Mustard Museum, part mustard emporium (something like 800 mustards from 60-some countries), part exhibit hall, part one person's dream. It was weird yet wonderful, and after some time at the tasting bar, we bought a jar of Cuban-style mojo mustard, with plenty of lime and garlic. Yowza.

The saloon of the historic Hotel Boscobel in Boscobel, Wis. That's my friend Jo on the left, Val tending bar and Dave Kriers, editor of the Boscobel Dial. (Kim O'Donnel)

Fully mustarded out, Jo and I made our way to Wisconsin river country, in the southwestern part of the state; she owns about 40 acres in the town of Marietta, just outside the town of Boscobel, population 3,000. Although a very small town with spotty cell phone service, Boscobel has a few claims to fame, ladies and gents. It is the birthplace of the Gideon Bible and it is the wild turkey hunting capital of Wisconsin. As part of our tour of the area, Jo drove me through town, where we checked out the main drag and the Hotel Boscobel, a historic property that is waiting for a new owner to give it a facelift. The saloon, however, is still open for business, and that's where I found Dave Krier, editor of The Boscobel Dial, enjoying his Sunday afternoon. When Krier found out that I had driven from D.C. (there was a Brewers-Nationals game on the television), he pulled out his reporter's pad and starting taking notes.

Monday morning came too soon and I was back on the highway headed in the direction of Iowa. Upon arrival in Dubuque, I sought the counsel of the very nice women at the Dubuque Visitors' Center, who offered route suggestions for Des Moines.

Abandoned storefronts are common sight in downtown Cedar Rapids. (Kim O'Donnel)

I decided to make a stop in Cedar Rapids, which is still drying out from the historic June floods. The damage is worse than I had imagined. I parked my car in downtown Cedar Rapids, right by the courthouse and City Hall, which are both still closed until further notice. What was once a vibrant commercial and local government district is all but a ghost town. Bizarre and chilling. I regret not having set aside more time to stay and talk with residents, but here a few photos documenting the unfortunate state of the city, eight weeks since the floods.

One of the many water-logged blocks of downtown Cedar Rapids. (Kim O'Donnel)

And now I'm in Des Moines, where the gargantuan Iowa State Fair is underway. Before the sun went down last night, I strolled the grounds for a quick overview, and my goodness, it's overwhelming! If the rain subsides, I'll be heading back for a deeper look and of course, a sampler of the eats and drinks.

Kelly Grow, of Rippey, Iowa, enjoying a smoked turkey leg. (Kim O'Donnel)

Talk to me today at noon for a Heartland edition of What's Cooking.

By Kim ODonnel |  August 12, 2008; 10:40 AM ET MA on the Road , Travel
Previous: MA Road Trip: This Piggy Goes to (Madison) Market | Next: Iowa State Fair: Pickles, Pork Chops and Pink Cowboy Boots


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Following up on the corn ice cream from today's chat: Both Illinois and Brazil have green corn ice cream. It is surprisingly not bad! It tastes like exactly what is it, and once I got over that initial shock I enjoyed it.

I assume this can be done with yellow corn too, but for some reason I've never seen that.

Posted by: cdragisic | August 12, 2008 3:15 PM

Oh my goodness, a whole museum devoted to mustard? I simply have to take my husband there.

Posted by: Sally Parrott Ashbrook | August 12, 2008 3:18 PM

the person with too much corn can donate to a food bank. because the price of food is sky rocketing food banks are seeing the number of people they help increase and the number of donations go down. please consider donating your excess.

Posted by: quark | August 12, 2008 3:21 PM

The empty half of the glass is always at the top.
Speed Limit

Posted by: Speed Limit | August 12, 2008 10:34 PM

zomg! yes! you went to the mustard museum! the guy in charge of that place is very slightly off kilter and completely awesome!

this is a direct quote from him:

As Curator and CMO (Chief Mustard Officer) of the Mount Horeb Mustard Museum, I am pleased to hear of the great love for mustard that abounds across America. As for that other stuff, the red plague, that condiment-come-lately, I can only quote from this year’s Annual Report of the National Condiment Research Council: “…the evidence is overwhelming that ketchup is now the leading cause of childhood stupidity.”

Posted by: mustard | August 13, 2008 1:54 AM

Hi Kimberly -- I have been loving your tour of America -- it's just absolutely wonderful. Thank you!
PS -- I have a new blog :D

Posted by: Valerie/City Girl | August 13, 2008 9:01 AM

Another P.S. -- clearly I am not awake yet this morning -- Wednesdays on the new blog are recipe days.

Posted by: Valerie/City Girl | August 13, 2008 9:01 AM


I realize I'm jumping the gun a little, but when you get farther west you need to try an Idaho Spud, one of the best candy bars ever created. My husband was in Idaho on business a few months ago and brought back a case. They are one of the few sources of vegetarian marshmallow I have found (although not vegan - they do have egg whites).

I'm a former Iowa resident who has found not much to like in their cuisine since going vegetarian. But I love the idea of corn ice cream. I believe it exists in some regions of Mexico; I've seen it on the menu at high-end Mexican restaurants in New York.

Posted by: Chicago | August 13, 2008 10:12 AM

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