Hello and welcome to the blog! It was a really fun day… and the weather is about 50 degrees warmer than it was just a week ago! Instead of -10 degrees we hit 40 above zero. Only in Iowa! With weather like this, a little road trip was called for. I’m feeling much better and managed to drop some weight over the last couple weeks (being sick isn’t the best way to do it though).
The ordinary fishing outing took kind of an unusual twist and I learned some interesting Iowa history along the way… and ate some camel meat. (Who would have thought?)
With the cold weather we had last week, the majority of trout streams are still mostly frozen. The Turkey River is always open and the fish are plentiful. Upon arriving at the hatchery at 7:30 AM, I caught 5 fish in 45 minutes using some bait received from Corey W, the “Secret Santa” at work. About halfway through fishing, hatchery mascot Woody suddenly bounded over the levy and started sniffing around the trout fishing bag. He was rewarded with a Hardee’s bacon / egg / cheese biscuit.
After fishing and playing with Woody, it was time to think about eating lunch. Thanks to Google, there was a new place to try, Schera’s Algerian American Restaurant and Bar. In reading about this fine dining establishment, I learned dignitaries and even a young Senator Barack Obama had dined here.
My sister was studying Islam this last year and I knew she would be intrigued. For those not familiar with its location, Algeria is a northern tier, African country located between Morocco (to the west) and Libya to the east (and Egypt farther east). 99% of its residents are Muslim.
The restaurant opened this morning at 11:00. I had arrived around 10:15 and went for a little walk to kill time. One of the landmarks in Elkader is this stone bridge built in 1890. In 1888, the old iron truss bridge was deemed unsafe. This new bridge, completed in 1889, is the longest stone bridge west of the Mississippi. It was made using a wooden form. The stones comprising the sides of the arch were lowered into place until there was a small gap at the top. The “capstone” pieces were wedged in the middle. Each side pushes the capstone. The whole downward thrust is supported by bedrock. Other than adding a sidewalk and driving surface, the bridge remains nearly the same as it did all those years ago! I read that this type of arch construction dates back to the Roman aqueducts. It still works just fine!
The Algerian restaurant was amazing. The environment is fairly dark with small lamps near all the tables. A sweet motherly lady assisted me and the service was terrific. There were quite a few Middle Eastern dishes on the menu. I chose the “Camel Burger” which really is ground camel meat. It is seasoned with “ras al hanout” which is a spice mix containing 15+ ingredients. Though flavorful and aromatic, the blend is delicate and not at all hot. The condiment on the bun was “harissa mayo” which added even more flavor and just a hint of heat. The burger had the wonderful char of a well-cooked hamburger but without the heaviness or greasiness of beef. The meal was phenomenal. For dessert I enjoyed a bit of baklava.
Elkader, Iowa shares history with Algeria starting from the naming of the village. The town’s first permanent residents arrived in 1836 and the community was platted in 1846. The early residents settled on the name Elkader after Emir Abdelkader, a young Algerian who led his people in resistance against French colonialism from 1830 to 1847. During uprisings in 1860, the Muslim Emir even sheltered Christians from those who sought to do them harm. It sounds as if he had a very compassionate heart.
The positive relationship with Algeria continues to this day. In 2017 a group of Algerian diplomats came to Elkader, Iowa. In late 2017 a group of Iowans visited Algeria, including farmers who helped teach the Algerians how to better farm their land. If the rest of the world could get along so well!
It was quite a memorable trip today. It’s just too bad Kitty Jesse James died last year. I would have surely brought him a little piece of that camel burger to try!
So long for now. It’s time to get the fish in the house, relax a bit, and think of where to go next. When the temps are this warm again, it’s likely the van will go out for an overnight trip. I miss sleeping in that thing!
Thanks for visiting today. Safe and happy travels!
Brad and Jenny
Jones County, Iowa