I believe chestnuts are underrated.

For example, if you were on Family Feud and asked to name a popular nut, what would you say? Peanut? Almonds? Maybe even a cashew? When the top answers are on the board, I doubt that Steve Harvey will award anyone money for answering “chestnut.” Somehow, the chestnut lacks the popularity of a nut wearing a monocle, and has yet to cross over to the candy bar market. Until now,  the chestnut has been relegated to a solo line in an old Nat King Cole Christmas carol.

However my husband believes that chestnuts are the new cash crop of Iowa. (I suggested hemp will be an even greater money maker.) Still we recently found ourselves at the Iowa Arborteum attending an eight-hour chestnut growers workshop. (The question is not so much WHY we were here. Remember CASH CROP? But rather HOW could such a workshop take EIGHT HOURS? This translated into an entire Saturday. When normal people do things for FUN.)

I would like to clarify…Just because I am unwilling to sacrifice my weekend for the sake of chestnut education, does not mean that the chestnut is a boring nut. Far be it. It has a very sweet taste, and actually looks like a little brain when cracked open. However, if I wanted to surround myself with nuts all day, I would attend a family reunion. Long story short… I was able to convince my husband to leave at lunch; and after a visit to the local indoor shooting range, we found ourselves in downtown Boone at a little dive bar by the name of Wilson’s Tap.

Let me interject that Boone is home to the Scenic Valley Railroad and in close vicinity to the High Trestle Trail, a popular 25-mile bicycle path connecting five towns, four counties, and multiple drinking establishments. (Even if it were summer, there will never be an Iowa Roadie adventure involving spandex shorts and transportation with seats half the size of my butt.) I propose, instead, that the TRAIN could establish a route between the High Trestle Trail bars. This train not only fulfills the responsibility of a designated driver, but boosts rural Iowa economy as well. Imagine how many people might prefer the experience of boarding a climate-controlled locomotive and disembarking solely for alcohol. (By the way, in case anyone from the Iowa Department of Tourism is reading this…you’re welcome.)

Anyway Wilson’s Tap is a very non-descript bar at the end of Main Street. Yet inside, the place is teaming with character (and characters)! You’ve heard of Johnny Cash and a Boy Named Sue? Here at Wilson’s Tap was a Man Named Kim, who was most delightful to visit with as he regaled stories of his younger days racing cars. Kim also shared how he and his wife Donna enjoyed traveling before her physical health restricted her mobility.

Next to Kim sat his good friend Darryl, who also happened to be Donna’s ex-husband. Let me rephrase…Darryl’s ex-wife is now married to his friend Kim. (Sort of like that Wife Swap tv show where the borrowed spouse wrecks havoc on her new family by forcing them outside their comfort zone. In my husband’s world, Wife Swap wife would protest the second amendment, make him eat tofu, and exchange his mug of PBR for celery juice. Also I bet she wouldn’t be gracious enough to learn about chestnut trees.) However there seemed to be no hard feelings between Kim and Darryl following the Donna Trade…which is an impressive illustration to the power of friendship. (Unity this intense would have Wife Swap wife holding hands with my husband as they meditate and celebrate the harmony of life.)

It was a good thing that the Donna Trade was amicable, because Darryl had with him a Giant Knife. He had purchased it for $30, and claimed he could make a phone call and sell it for three times his purchase price. (Incredibly, while we were sitting there, another patron offered him $50 for the knife. Despite my recommendation to sell, Darryl chose otherwise.) However Darryl is a veteran who did three tours in Vietnam and therefore has every right to make his own decisions regarding his Giant Knife. Darryl… the Iowa Roadie salutes you for your service.

Also seated at the bar was another veteran named Larry. Larry and his wife (not swapped) have been married 56 years. Larry did not graduate from high school, but joined the Army and then went on to make Lots Of Money in the construction field. Larry made so much money that he was able to retire at age 40. (This was somewhat disheartening as the Iowa Roadie has a masters degree, is over 40, and cannot begin to think of retiring.) However, once retired, Larry was bored and did things like buy little dive bars for fun…or tax deductions. Currently Larry does not own any dive bars (he sold them as they were making too much money), and instead enjoys a peaceful life in Boone with his wife and the other Wilson’s Tap patrons. (I would like to add that some of Larry’s construction feats were in Padre, Texas where it is WARM. If I were Wife Swap Larry’s wife, I would have insisted we live there instead of somewhere that was recently colder  than Antarctica.)

Seated at a long table behind the bar were Big Bob and Ben. Bob shared that he works from home for an electronic medical records company. Bob also shared that because he works from home, he can wear his pajamas or choose to be naked all day. Fortunately Bob realized that wearing a birthday suit in public is a social faux pas, and instead chose to wear a lovely Iowa State sweatshirt to his visit at Wilson’s Tap. Bob’s buddy Ben works at Waste Management, which means that he always wears clothes to work. Prayers to Ben as he will be starting chemo treatments shortly.

Wilson’s Tap serves Grainbelt (“the friendly beer”) on tap. (Personally I believe Grainbelt should reconsider its choice of an adjective. The definition of friendly is “kind and pleasant”…words more apt to describe a Girl Scout troop or a litter of puppies than an alcoholic beverage.)  Besides friendly Grainbelt beer, Wilson’s Tap also has fresh popcorn and a shuffleboard table in house. But best of all, they have a TOUCH TUNES machine.

TouchTunes is a modern jukebox that is affixed to the wall. One can put money in the actual machine, or like my husband, simply download the app on one’s phone and play music from there. I am not sure that the Wilson’s Tap crowd had witnessed this magical app before, and I basked in the glow of my newfound popularity as my new friends requested song after song from the Iowa Roadie DJ (courtesy of OUR Paypal account, my husband pointed out).

And what did we play? Let me assure you that the Wilson’s Tap crew is not into rap or bubble gum pop. (Although I confess I was tempted to sneak in a Katy Perry hit.) Instead we played 70’s country. Think old school George Strait, Loretta Lynn, The Statler Brothers…even a Boy Named Sue for a Man Named Kim. At one point, Big Knife Darryl and I may even have attempted a little two stepping. (I apologize Darryl if any of my steps landed on your toes.)

The festive nature at Wilson’s Tap that evening was as intoxicating as the friendly Grainbelt beer my husband was drinking. In fact, it was SO intoxicating that we decided it best to spend the night in Boone. As our original plan did not include spending the night (we were in town to learn about chestnuts!), we were without travel essentials. Fortunately we found a Walgreens and were able to stock up on some basic overnight necessities such as shampoo, deodorant and a giant box of junior mints.

When we checked into our hotel, it was with great surprise that the desk clerk decided to forego the “weary traveler” discount rate and give us an even greater deal…the funeral rate! Note that the bereavement rate is a secret in the hospitality industry and is typically administered only when someone dies…or walks in carrying a plastic bag full of hygiene products and movie theatre candy.

Yet who was I to turn down this extra savings when there are so many other things I could purchase…chestnut trees, TouchTunes music, and a ticket on the new High Trestle Tiki Train. Because that’s a tourist attraction people will be DYING to try. All aboard!

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