A Fantastic Madcap Road Trip to the Midwest for the Holidays

Road Trip Des Moines, Iowa


The Madcaps love a good road trip. With our trusty Subaru Outback, we adore exploring America and not just flying over. The pound-rescue pups also love getting into the car and setting out for an adventure. The dogs eventually move to the front seat and drape all over us and prevent us from getting any work done whatsoever, but that’s OK.

For Christmas, John and I piled into the car with the pups and headed to Des Moines, Iowa in Mr. Loecke’s home state to visit his family, and let’s just say that it was a bit like the circus rolled into town. It’s a good sixteen hours from High Point, North Carolina to Des Moines, so we made it a 3-day trip with overnights in Lexington, Kentucky and St. Louis, Missouri.

And we had a blast–even though the trip was very long. Before settling on High Point, John and I almost moved to Des Moines when we left New York City, so we are mad for the Iowa capital with its incredible cultural offerings, restaurants, and shopping. Yes, shopping. The city’s Mr. B men’s store is our most favorite–and most beautifully edited– haberdashery anywhere in the world. Truly.

Driving north from High Point, North Carolina carried us past iconic Pilot Mountain and through several tunnels as we crossed West Virginia. Fifteen minutes into the ride, Weenie had moved to the front seat and was serving as co-pilot. Thirty minutes into the road trip, and all four dogs were in the front seat where they had assumed all sorts of positions trying to get comfortable.

The first hotel

Road Trip Luggage

We spent the First Night at the very cool, dog-friendly Origin Lexington, a brand-new hotel housed within a chic and very walkable shopping district in Lexington, Kentucky (Bonobos, Warby Parker, J. McLaughlin, etc.). We rolled in from the car ride with the pups and heaps of L.L. Bean and Hervé Chapelier totes. Here is our luggage in the cozy lobby at the Origin.

Road Trip with Cecil

The pups love a good hotel that caters to dogs. Here, Cecil commandeers the bed at the Origin Lexington.

Meanwhile, George made an impression at the J. McLaughlin outpost where he lolled about the colorful carpet. We are mad for J. McLaughlin clothing and accessories and would love to create a co-branded opportunity between the two brands.

After we walked the dogs, John and I settled in for terrific BBQ at Edley’s Bar-B-Que, based in Nashville, Tennessee. John wore a thematic holiday sweater, and I drank gin-flavored vodka with my pulled chicken salad. We brought the dogs home a little treat.

Day Two of the road trip took us through Louisville, Kentucky and across Indiana, a rather bleak drive. We arrived in St. Louis and waved at the arch before checking into the throwback, English-style motor court lodge The Cheshire. We loved the English antiques everywhere at the hotel, but the hostelry really wasn’t geared to having pets. Even though the website extols its dog-friendly virtues–there weren’t any green space nearby. It was a bit of a haul through the parking garage and down a dark alley to give the pups a place to relieve themselves. Here, the absolutely mad and fabulous elevator lobby outside of our room. After walking the dogs, John and I headed to dinner with new friends in St. Louis who are hospitality consultants–such fun!

finally in Iowa

Day Three brought us into Iowa, and we stopped at the fabulous Canteen Lunch in the Alley in Ottumwa, Iowa (home to Radar on the classic TV show “Mash”). The choice was either “meat” or “meat with cheese,” so I did the “meat and cheese” (above, right) as we settled into the horseshoe-shaped counter. I rolled up the sleeves of my Samuelsohn sportcoat and dug in happily to the beef with, er, Velveeta upon a bun. The dogs waited patiently in the car for fifteen minutes and got a lovely treat in return. Factoid: The Canteen Lunch was the inspiration for the eatery on the TV show “Roseanne.”

Next up on our road trip Pella. Hello, Pella, Iowa! Pella was originally settled by the Dutch in the 19th century. The city boasts wonderful architecture inspired by Holland–along with Dutch bakeries and other charming, atmospheric shops. There’s even a mini canal downtown and windmills. Pella is also home to Pella, the windows and doors manufacturer which has its HQ and factory at the edge of town.

Road Trip with George

We finally arrived at John’s parents’ 1920s-era home in the historic Waterbury neighborhood of Des Moines, Iowa. George set up shop on the Manuel Canovas-covered sofa in the living room. John and I decorated his parents’ home almost 15 years ago, and the design feels as timeless today as it did in the early 2000s. George has good taste. The other pups hung out in the kitchen where they were hoping for treats.

Sight seeing in des moines

road trip

The weather in Iowa was sublime, we headed outdoors and wandered the exceptional John and Mary Pappajohn Sculpture Park in downtown Des Moines with the dogs. George peruses the “Back of Snowman (White)” and “Back of Snowman (Black)” by British sculptor Gary Hume. Downtown Des Moines is truly fabulous and beautifully planned for walking.

After dropping the dogs back at his parents’ home, John and I explored favorite Salisbury House & Gardens. An English-styled former home in Des Moines’ wonderful South of Grand neighborhood. The home boasts heaps of elements lifted from historic English structures and was beautifully decorated for the holidays. Here’s John at the home’s main entrance.

road trip

Here’s another exterior view of Salisbury House with its mix of Tudor and other architectural styles.

Once the home of the Weeks family (cosmetics barons of their day), Salisbury House boasts wonderful collections–including paintings by the likes of Anthony Van Dyck and Joseph Stella. Here, the home’s Grand Hall with its many architectural elements salvaged from English manor houses.

John and I are mad for the incredible Des Moines Art Center. It has various wings designed by Richard Meier, I.M. Pei, and Eliel Saarinen. The interior is equally wonderful and rich with a varied assortment of treasures. Here, John ponders a few colorful creations from the likes of Ellsworth Kelly and Gene Davis that are so very Madcap.

the fun never stops

road trip

Back at his parents’ home, John and Amy Petunia write notes on the back of the Minted cards that we created. Note that even the stamps are custom and based upon John’s original watercolors.

road trip

Inspired by Des Moines’ stunning cultural attractions, John busted out his watercolors and started painting illustrations for the children’s book that we are writing and illustrating. Stay tuned for more details on this book that will allow children to learn from the adventures of our pound-rescue posse. For now, another successful road trip is in the books.

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