Memorial Day weekend is always such a treat. By the end of May I’m usually itching to get out after a horrific Midwestern winter spent trying to pry my frozen winter gear off the iced parking lot, and I’ve never been one to waste a free day off.

So this year I did what I normally do: crack open Iowa: An Explorer’s Guide, make a reservation at a small-town motel that hasn’t been reviewed since 2008 or photographed since 2006, and tell Doug to pack a bag. (I chose the right mate.)

It’s always such a relief to get there and see for sure that the motel does exist and isn’t completely decrepit. That moment is, like, half the fun of Iowa vacations.

When we arrived late Friday night, I knocked on the motel owner’s door (who, hands-down, has the best view of the Pizza Hut and the confederate flag trailer park in the whole town). A large, gregarious man in a wife-beater answered. “Oh brother!” he said when he saw me. “Am I in trouble? Usually when someone knocks I’m in trouble!”

Then his nine year old son ran out, followed by four large dogs.

“Wow,” I said. “Four dogs?”

“Only two are ours,” Wife Beater said. “We’re watching the other two for our daughterandherhusband.”

“Daddy!” 9-year-old said. “You just said you have a husband!”

“No I didn’t!” Wife Beater said. “I said our daughter and her husband!”

“No Daddy!” 9-year-old insisted. “You said your daughter and your husband! You have a husband! Hahahahahaha!!”

This debate continued as I ran my credit card. (Working credit card machine is always a good sign.)

Our room turned out to actually be quite charming and nautical-themed. Only drawbacks were no trash can liner, no working light, and no soap. I’ll take it.

The reason we chose this particular region of Iowa was for the Loess Hills, a geographical phenomenon that exists only two places in the world: China and Western Iowa.

We spent our first day exploring the hills by hiking through the Hitchcock Nature Center. Here are the pictures Doug took:

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Afterwards we took epic naps and then had dinner at a restaurant where we were the only people who weren’t either a million years old or bikers. I ordered salmon and mashed potatoes and Doug ordered a pizza. But we were so inexplicably full after the complimentary bread that we had to take our actual meals home to our hotel fridge.

Then Doug spent an hour photographing trains.

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The next day we waited out the rain by taking a drive on the Loess Hills National Scenic Byway and stopping at Murray Hill Scenic Overlook. Then we hiked through Preparation Canyon State Park, which is extremely secluded and primitive. I even wandered off to pee in the woods, which made me feel like a total hardcore badass like my idol Cheryl Strayed, until Doug informed me that I hadn’t been very well hidden and that–when he rounded the corner–he’d had a full view of my bare ass.

Here are some pics from Day 2:

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After another round of epic naps, we decided to drive back home rather than stay another night because, well, we missed our cats. We decided to have our leftovers for dinner, and I delayed everything by about an hour because I insisted on scouring the town for a plastic fork.

“Just use your fingers and eat it over the sink!” Doug kept saying.

“I can’t use my fingers, Doug! It’s salmon and mashed potatoes.

“Just pretend that we were in a plane crash and have no other choice,” he said. “You’d find a way.” (We had decided to just pretend we were camping when we realized our room had no soap or light).

“No, Doug! This isn’t The Hatchet!

I eventually found a fork at a gas station, and then we squandered another twenty minutes wondering if we’d get cancer if we heated up our leftovers in their Styrofoam boxes. Is that a thing? I didn’t want to look it up because I didn’t want to find out that we would in fact get cancer and thus not be able to enjoy my s&mp, which I ultimately decided was worth the risk.

Then we drove home in the most massive of rain storms.

Happy Memorial Day!!