I recently came up with the crazy idea to start a blog about quirky little spots across Iowa. My goal is to travel across the state, immersing myself in all things bacon while paying homage to our great (albeit) under appreciated state. However my travels were hindered this week by “The Winter That Would Not Die” and helping at a post prom party. In retrospect, I am not sure which antagonist was more painful. Regardless, the show (or blog, in this case) must go on, provoking me to go all Julia Andrews and cite a few (or at least one) of “my favorite things” about my hometown of Hampton. I also thought it important that after last week, I showcase a destination that does not involve alcohol.

So this week’s stop is a cute little boutique operated by three gals that put the American Pickers to shame. First and Second Vintage, conveniently named for the cross streets it sits upon in rural Hampton, is a collection of fun vintage finds with inventory changing daily. It is my absolute drug of choice when it comes to retail therapy. Because what is not fun about my latest acquisitions…a metal lunch box in the shape of a barn and an old PE locker basket?

Now I must apologize to my husband who, prior to reading this, did not know about these great treasures. This is because I employ that super secret shopping trick tucked away in the Wife Handbook…when you buy something, hide it. Then when you finally bring it out and your husband asks if it is new, you can be totally truthful and say that you’ve had it for “awhile.” Also note that the term “awhile” is a bit vague and best not clarified with any specificity.

However despite the vague nature in my timetable of ownership, my husband will also say that we “don’t have room” for these special finds. This may or may not be true… due in part to his mid-life crisis which involved downsizing IN HALF our 3000 square foot home in town by purchasing an acreage and moving to the country. (I must interject that MY mid-life crisis involves a owning nice beach-front property, but my husband says that that dream may take “awhile” to fulfill.)

Anyway last year after purchasing the acreage, we wanted to do a “little” updating that involved ripping out some walls…and floors…and ceilings. While this demolition was underway, we needed a place to live. So some good friends offered to let us borrow their camper during this harrowsome process. Now I know some of you may be thinking…a camper. That’s not so bad. And it’s not…if it’s summer. Instead it was November. And December. In Iowa. The very time when most people have the good sense to winterize their campers and store them. Because camping is a SUMMER activity.

Also note that while living in the camper, we did not have its toilet hooked up. Therefore to use a bathroom, one needed to exit the camper, go outside in the cold, and then into the house. Kind of like a backwards outhouse. This bizarro lavatory scenario escalated one crisp pre-dawn December morning when I needed to use the bathroom. But when I attempted to open the camper door, it wouldn’t budge. The door had frozen shut! (Seriously. One cannot make this stuff up.) I envisioned with horror calling the fire department at 5 am to rescue me from being trapped in a camper. Because it was WINTER. And the door was FROZEN SHUT. Fortunately I was saved from calling our local emergency services when my husband awoke and, with his own sumo wrestler strength, managed to bust open the door so we could escape. (Side note: That very night, we moved out of the camper, and instead slept in the house on the floor in a room with no walls… but with immediate access to working indoor plumbing.)

Now I apologize for that terrifying diversion which detracted from our true Iowa Roadie adventure. So as we redirect, remember that my new home is HALF the size of my old one. Therefore my husband insists we take a minimalistic approach to home decor. Thanks to First and Second Vintage, I have totally ignored that silly outlook and have filled a chicken coop (yes, Chicken Coop!) with time-tested artifacts such as a planter in the shape of a sumo wrestler.

Actually the sumo wrestler planter is not in the chicken coop but in my house. Right next to the planter in the shape of a quail. I realize that you may be thinking..why does one need planters in the shape of a sumo wrestler and a quail? The answer…to hold succulents, of course.

You see, First and Second Vintage recently hosted a DIY Succulent Bar. Contrary to other bars previously written about by the Iowa Roadie, this one did not include alcohol. (Which means that my purchase of the sumo wrestler planter was not influenced by decision-altering beverages.) The succulent bar, instead, allowed participants of all ages to purchase small cacti and plant them either in containers brought from home or purchased there. The choices were endless, and succulents were planted in containers ranging from an antique sifter and recipe box to a coffee tin and glass chicken. (Not to be confused with my quail.) In fact, First and Second Vintage ran out of succulents and had to restock twice during their family-friendly three-day event.

So while this week’s Iowa Roadie stop was in my own community, it is still a destination worth visiting. And while you’re in Hampton, stop by the Rustic Brew for coffee and a Slobberknocker, or Willie’s Sports Bar & Grill for one of Iowa’s Best Tenderloins (as determined by a statewide contest). Also take time to browse one of several other unique shops on Main Street. Just don’t hide any purchases in a camper in the winter. You may need to wait “awhile,” or at least until it thaws, to retrieve them.

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