It was my idea and itinerary.
I told Chris to keep his expectations low. The boys said I never mentioned it to them, but they told me they keep their expectations low on a regular basis.
The top moments of FARTNI:
Isaac brought his speech generating device and said approximately 453 times, “Noah jeans please yes.” He even hooked it up to the speakers in the van somehow so it was amplified in the back where Noah was sitting. Why he wants Noah to wear jeans is beyond me. Noah repeated approximately 453 times, “Noah shorts.” Isaac finds this exchange absolutely hilarious.
The Freedom Rock in Calmar is located near the intersection of N. Charles Street and W. Henry Street. (Henry’s middle name is Charles, which is a fun coincidence.) Isaac refused to get out of the van.
Mabe’s Pizza in Decorah was a dream come true! Isaac spelled out “Mabe’s Pizza” on his device. Noah had never eaten at Mabe’s, even though he’s spent time the last two summers at Luther College.
A handful of people in Decorah were outside trying to view the eclipse, but it was too cloudy to see much.
Chris said he asked the tour guide what initially inspired the two brothers to build the clocks. She said the two brothers had a third brother who had a disability and was unable to communicate. One day the two brothers were tinkering with a clock they had brought home, and when it went off, the brother with a disability responded with joy. That experience led them to create their own clocks. Isn't that cool?
From the Iowa DNR site: “Fort Atkinson was built to keep the Winnebago Indians on Neutral Ground (a 40-mile-wide strip of land established by the Treaty of 1830) after their removal from Wisconsin in 1840, and to provide protection for them from the Sioux, Sauk, Fox and from white intruders on Indian land.”
I could hear the voice of the young cashier at Bily Clocks: “You will love it. It’s really out of the way. It’s peaceful out there.”
At one point Isaac rolled down his window and told the cows to put on shorts.
Noah mentioned the radar looked ominous. Rain was coming.
“I can’t believe we’re driving this far on gravel!” Chris grumbled. “This road is so narrow it can only fit one vehicle. This has just been too much. Everyone wants to go home.”
I reminded him we were driving on Little Church Road, which might have been appropriately named because it was a little road.
Tension hung in the air.
“There’s the church over there,” I said, relieved.
“I’m surprised you can see it from here since it’s the smallest church in the world,” Henry said.
I didn’t know if I should strangle him or laugh.
We pulled into the paved parking lot. Nobody got out of the van except me. I went inside. Everyone followed minutes later. The tiny church had only four pews and a musty odor. The church seats eight. I signed our name in the guest book but should have written “Rouw Family, minus Isaac” because he refused to get out of the van.
The sign beside the church said “Little Church Park” but it didn’t look like a park to me. It was a cemetery with a bright green porta potty out front.
I said a little prayer. It went something like this:
“Let’s get the hell out of here safely . . . “
Everyone was grumbling.
I asked if anyone wanted a piece of leftover pizza. I offered to drive. Nobody said much, so I pulled out my notebook and asked about everyone’s favorites:
Henry – Dunning’s Spring Park
Noah – Mabe’s Pizza
Chris – Mabe’s Pizza and Bily Clocks
Isaac – Mabe’s Pizza and Dunning’s Spring Park
Least favorite for everyone: The little church in Festina formerly known as the world's smallest church (This was unanimous.)
I asked the crew if they wanted to participate in FARTNI next year, but the family had spoken. Nobody wants to go back again, even if we change the itinerary. Next year would be the second trip, SARTNI, which I guess doesn’t sound as fun or smelly as FARTNI.
As a mom, I like to believe everyone had a good time. Next year I'm sure someone will ask about the trip, and we'll figure something out. Maybe I'm too optimistic? After all, Henry said it wasn't as boring as he thought it would be. Noah said, "It was average." Isaac would like to go again if we stayed in a hotel, I'm sure.
Who am I kidding? Deep down I know FARTNI is probably a one and done. Oh well, we have a Bily Clocks Christmas ornament to forever remind us of the experience. And we have our memories . . .
Thirty minutes before we got home, rain poured from the heavens. The windshield wipers were working overtime. When we arrived home safely, I realized my prayers had been answered.
Now I don't have to wash the van.