July 9, 2012

Roth and Ramberg say give a piece a chance


It all started yesterday when we met a great couple in Eldon, Iowa - Rosie and Allen. They had generously spent time with us and during that time suggested two people we had to photograph. Fast-forward to today. We drove down main street and there was Allen patiently waiting for us on a bench in front of an old brick building. We followed him inside where there was a huge thrift store. It was run by volunteers and its sole purpose is to raise money to restore the town’s Opera House.

A woman named Jo who was the major driving force behind the restoration. She led us back outside to a set of wooden doors. Inside was a dark staircase that led up to an old ticket booth. A few more sets of stairs on either side led to the Opera House. Wooden floors, incredibly high ceilings, metal chairs with floral cushions, in a word… spectacular! Jo figured it would be complete within two years. We think sooner given the amount of volunteers scurrying around. Oh, and they’re looking for window washers if you make it down this way any time soon.

If you remember Rosie and Allen from yesterday, then you know they volunteer at the American Gothic Centre. It’s a tourism centre located a few steps away from a tiny famous house. The house was the background for the American Gothic painting. 

Strangely, although the State owns the house, they actually rent it out. The logic behind it is that the exterior of the house is the heritage part, not the interior.

We followed Rosie and Allen, and were soon sitting inside the house talking with Beth, the current renter. Beth has a quite a story. We’re not going to go into it here, but she wrote a book worthwhile reading. 

It’s titled ‘Making Piece - A memoir of love, loss and pie’ by Beth Howard. “You will find my story is a lot like pie, a strawberry-rhubarb pie. It’s bitter. It’s messy. Its got some sweetness, too. Sometimes the ingredients get added in the wrong order. but it has substance, it will warm your insides. And even though it isn’t perfect, it still turns out okay in the end.”  

Every Friday and Saturday, she opens up her living room to tourists and has tables set up with pies for sale. It’s known as the Pitchfork Pie Stand. Unfortunately her oven was broken and of course she needed it fixed to make this week’s pies. In between telling us stories and posing for our photos, she was on the phone trying to resolve the oven issue.

As we were wrapping up, everyone there suggested we head to a place named Cantril. “You have to go see the Dutchman’s store!” Apparently it is run by the Mennonites and is supplied by the Amish? We’re weren’t quite sure of those facts but we went there anyway.

It was a cool old-fashioned store, with bulk spices and candy. Also a section with bolts and bolts of fabric. It was well worth the trip. We enjoyed a bit of a picnic on the porch. While we were there we struck up a conversation with a man named Mike. We told him about our trip and we mentioned the pork tenderloin sandwich we ate last night. His eyes lit up and he said the best tenderloin is in the town of Solon… and that was good enough for us. We were on our way.

Highway 1 was the route. The town of Solon was about two hours away. Unfortunately, the same issue happened today that was prevalent yesterday. No internet service to speak of, so we couldn’t tweet or facebook any of the details. We’ll try again tomorrow. Follow us on




 and we’ll ask you which direction to go or what town to visit. So far you’ve been bang on!

As we were driving, Michele spotted a great sky and photo opportunity. We pulled onto a dirt road with some farm buildings in the background high on a hill. Within two minutes a red truck pulled up (the owner). Within three minutes Michele had him convinced to take a photo.

His name was Wynton. He’s been living on and running a farm for 25 years. He gave us a great tour of his several properties, including the ultimate barn/mancave, complete with a vintage corvette, motorcycles, restored tractor, his kids old toys …. a picker’s dream!  We waved goodbye and headed out to find the Iowa’s best tenderloin!

We finally arrived in Solon and drove down main street. There was a building on the corner that had a sign claiming it had the biggest and best tenderloin in Iowa.  We knew we found the place – Joensy’s. 

Inside we met a woman named Lisa. Her husband practically grew up in the restaurant, as his father had owned it for many years. Now Lisa, her husband Brian and their five girls all run the show.

We sat down and ordered two tenderloin sandwiches, which of course we couldn’t finish… oh and some deep fried pickles. YUM. The interior was classic with leather benches and wood paneling. It looked as though it hadn’t changed in years - our kind of place. Tonight only Lisa and three of her kids were working and they kindly let us keep them a bit late in order to take their photos. The people here have been incredible for sure!!

We packed up and headed down the highway a few miles upstate to Mount Vernon. We checked into the hotel and at the front desk met a young woman who we will try to hook up with tomorrow. Right now we are all pretty tired from our day of shooting. We think we have 4 or 5 solid photos and need some more, but tonight we have to rest!

Follow our journey tomorrow on


. We will try to tweet a little more and be more interactive. If you’ve read this far, tell us the classic movie that was filmed here in Iowa. That’s where we’re heading tomorrow. Be the first and you win this shirt!