Storm Lake writer Chuck Offenburger is going on a road trip of Iowa, and there's room for adventurers to ride shotgun.
Offenburger, who has been building a fan base with his own internet site featuring his own work and guest columns from around the U.S. and elsewhere in the world, has found advertising support for his venture from partners and patrons at interesting locations in Iowa.
"You know what you ought to do," Clark Smith, co-owner of the Butler House on Grand Bed and Breakfast in Des Moines, told Offenburger, "is organize a bus tour of all our places. Heck, I'd even like to go on it myself."
So last week, he announced the first "chuckoffenburger.com tour" of Iowa. He booked a 49-passenger travel coach from Windstar Bus Lines, of Carroll, and put together a fun itinerary for April 19-21.
Chuck and his wife Carla will escort the travelers as they leave from Des Moines at mid-morning on that Friday, April 19, bound for Audubon. There will be a catered lunch there and then a discussion session at Sam's Barber Shop, "where you get your ears lowered and your eyebrows raised."
The group will return to Des Moines for a wine-and-cheese reception at the Smiths' Butler House on Grand, and then an overnight stay at the Butler House, a couple of other nearby bed and breakfasts, and a hotel.
On Saturday, April 20, they will leave Des Moines about 10:30 a.m., heading for lunch at the renowned Stone's Restaurant in Marshalltown. It's the home of the famous "Mile High Lemon Chiffon Pie" and a lot of other delicious food that has helped it become the second oldest restaurant in Iowa.
After that leisurely stop, they move on to New Melleray Abbey, the Catholic Trappist monastery 12 miles southwest of Dubuque. Those who want to can attend the late afternoon vespers service, we'll all eat a catered dinner, have a conversation with several of the monks, attend the beautiful service of "compline" at 7:30 p.m., and then be off to a nearby motel or other accommodations.
Sunday morning, April 21, those who want to will go back to New Melleray for mass at 9 a.m., coffee and then a ride into Dubuque to see the "River of Dreams" tourism video at the Iowa Welcome Center. That video, narrated by Garrison Keillor, is "the best 15 minutes in Iowa," according to Offenburger, telling the colorful history of Dubuque and the Upper Mississippi River.
Then the tour moves on to beautiful little Balltown, overlooking the Mississippi northwest of Dubuque. They will have the Sunday midday buffet at Breitbach's Country Dining, the oldest restaurant and bar in the state.
Readers of Offenburger will note that the tour leaves out one of the six charter partners and patrons of his site, the law practice of his old college buddy Douglas T. Bates III in Centerville, Tenn.
"We just can't go all the way to Tennessee and back in this same weekend we're making the other stops, so we're going to do the next best thing - we're bringing Bates and his wife Molly up from Tennessee and he''ll serve as the tour's official storyteller and raconteur," Offenburger said.
Webmaster Andrew Offenburger, Chuck's son, a former Buena Vista University student and the writer of a memorable series of "Journey America" columns for the Pilot-Tribune, will join the tour from Arizona to assist as stories and photos are done throughout the weekend for posting on the site www.chuckoffenburger.com
The charge? For three days, two nights and five meals, a ride on the snazzy Windstar bus, all the arrangements and some surprises along the way, it's $250 per person based on double occupancy.
"I can't wait to introduce you to a lot of my favorite people across Iowa," Offenburger said.
"Heck, it's worth at least $200 just to hang out with the two of us," adds Bates, "and you can quote me on that."
Checks can be made payable and sent to:
211 College Avenue
Storm Lake, Iowa 50588
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