Can you keep a secret?

The Iowa Roadie can’t. Forget any pinkie swears or “cross my heart” promises. Simply put, no secret is safe with me.

So I apologize in advance for spilling the beans about the Cottontail, whose sign proclaims it Urbandale’s “best kept secret.”

To put the situation in context…The Iowa Roadie & husband had just finished a morning of furniture shopping. Tell me…is there an occasion that screams “I need a drink” more than selecting a couch within one’s color scene AND price range?

So when we drove past a sign for “The Cottontail,” we did not hesitate to pull our beat-up plow truck and dented trailer (carrying our new couch in a lovely neutral shade of gray) into its spacious parking lot. (Admittedly the ample parking space was part of this establishment’s initial lure. Try parallel parking a snowplow in downtown Des Moines’ East Village.)

Time for a little pop culture…Who remembers the tv show “Cheers?” The show is set in a bar named Cheers Beacon Hill in Boston, Massachusetts, where a group of locals meet to drink, relax, and socialize. The theme song refrain “Where Everybody Knows Your Name” became the show’s catchphrase.

This could also be the catchphrase of the Cottontail.

It is with a heavy heart that I report the Iowa Roadie was the ONLY name not called out when entering the bar. It seems that, like Cheers, the Cottontail is a local hangout where everyone really DOES know your name…unless you’re a sofa-seeking, dive-bar writing stranger with husband in tow.

I will not hold this against the loyal patrons of the Cottontail.

Because even though they did not know us and were therefore unable to shout a personalized greeting when we entered, the Cottontail offered us something better.

Free ham & bean soup.

And birthday cake.

After taking our customary spots at the bar, the Iowa Roadie & husband found themselves seated next to the birthday boy himself, a jovial gentleman named Ivan, almost nine decades young.

Ivan had celebrated his 89th birthday just two days prior by serving ham sandwiches to the Cottontail’s evening guests. He then took the leftover ham and repurposed it into our free lunch.

Happy birthday Ivan!

The heart of any Iowa Roadie adventure is the people we meet. These people–even more than my husband’s quest for cheap Blatz beer–is why we do what we do. (As if visiting dive bars needs any justification.)

However I would like to state that Ivan is one of the Most Incredible People the Iowa Roadie has ever had the honor of meeting.

You see…Besides making a tasty soup, Ivan is a Navy veteran who spent his time in the service primarily as an entertainer. In 1952, he appeared on the Ted Mack television show where he tap danced and jump roped.

At the same time.

This is a particularly impressive feat as the Iowa Roadie cannot do even ONE of those things on a stand alone basis. The idea of multi-tasking physical fitness on any level should be enough to drive anyone to drink.

Which MAY be why the Cottontail plays the black & white television clip of 20-year-old Ivan jumping and tap dancing away.

It drives their alcohol sales.

OR…and this is more likely the reason…the Cottontail is just darn proud of Ivan.

Even more admirable is Ivan’s dedication to his wife. Sadly she passed away, but Ivan visits the cemetery every day at 3 am (yes, 3 AM!) to pay respects to his beloved Mary Ann, and regularly brings her tulips.

You’ve heard the saying “there’s a tear in my beer?”

Well, when Ivan shared his story of wedded devotion, the Iowa Roadie basically BAWLED into her gin & tonic.

And elbowed the Iowa Roadie’s husband in the ribs for not exhibiting Ivan’s Extreme Standard of Commitment in his affection towards me.

(Furniture shopping during the NFL playoff games does not count.)

Besides New Favorite Ivan, we also had the opportunity to visit with bartender Steve and several other Cottontail patrons including truck driver Bob, retired HBA director Steve, and Bruce who complained about the carrots in his free ham soup.

Bruce, however, was preparing a prime rib feast for Cottontail patrons the following Monday evening. Ivan was making beef soup with the leftovers for Tuesday…preferably without carrots.

With promises of prime rib and more free soup, I thought it extremely tempting to camp out in our dented trailer on our neutral gray couch for the next two days so as not to miss any of the Cottontail action.

Plus this would give the Cottontail regulars additional time to get to know us…so they could shout out my name the next time I visited. (An experience now added to the Iowa Roadie’s bucket list.)

Unfortunately the Iowa Roadie’s husband said there was a blizzard coming, and that skipping work and sleeping in one’s vehicle defied conventional NORMS.

So… even though the Cottontail proclaims itself Urbandale’s best kept secret, make no secret about THIS…The Iowa Roadie will be back.

Until then, I lift a Blatz beer & toast the memorable Ivan & Cottontail crew. CHEERS!

The Cottontail…Urbandale’s Best Kept Secret. Otherwise known as “The Barn.”
Birthday Boy Ivan in front of the video of his 20-year-old self tap dancing & jump roping. At the same time!
The hand sanitizer at The Cottontail
The view in the ladies’ restroom
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