Iowa Men's Basketball

My winter of offramps covering Iowa men's basketball: Bob Seger, doughnuts and fish

Romanticism between Iowa and other Big Ten outposts is rare

It was
It was “Star Wars Day” at Crisler Center in Ann Arbor, Mich., last Dec. 4 when Iowa played Michigan in men’s basketball. Can you tell? (Mike Hlas/The Gazette)

OK, this will be silly. I can use some silly right now and you may feel the same.

Professionally, I spent the winter covering Iowa men’s basketball. I got pretty used to social distancing, since I drove nearly 9,000 miles to and from Hawkeyes home and away games, and press conferences in Iowa City.

The concept of the open road is supposed to be romantic, but you’ve never seen a movie about a freewheeling trip from Cedar Rapids to West Lafayette, Ind. Nearly every freeway exit with nearby businesses looks pretty much the same. When you just want to get from Point A to Point B, you’re not looking to stray much past the offramps.

However, here things I saw and heard while on the noble calling of reporting on … basketball games.

In Rosemount, Minn., I passed a restaurant called House of Coates that had a sign for world-famous hamburgers.

This troubled me, because I’d never heard of the place. A man of my magnitude needs to stay up to date on all global sensations.

Online reviews for the restaurant and its burgers are flattering. I went to the restaurant’s Facebook page and saw a photo of the menu. Included were the Big Canada Jack, Vito’s Italian Burger and the Australian Vegamite Burger. So a lot of the world is covered, yes.

If you’re really world-famous, though, do you have to tell people that? It’s not called World Famous McDonald’s. It seems safe to say no emcee ever told a crowd “Ladies and gentlemen, here on our stage, the world-famous Pope!”

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 On that same drive to Minnesota, I went through Denver, Iowa. A sign at the city limits calls it The Mile Wide City.

That’s pretty good, don’t you think? You work with what you’ve got.

 It’s probably been said before, but people love music.

I was in an I-74 rest stop restroom (washing my hands, I’ll have you know) near Galesburg, Ill., when someone came in, went into a stall, and immediately started blaring Bob Seger’s “Her Strut” from his phone as he went about his business.

I got out of there fast, and that’s all there is to that story. If you had been there, would you have had questions for that person?

I put a poll up on Twitter for 27 minutes Monday to ask that question. It got 126 votes in that time, and 70.6 percent said “No.”

So we’ll not speak of it again.

 Recreational marijuana sales became legal in Michigan last Dec. 1. The first stores in the state to sell recreational weed were in Ann Arbor. One was downtown. I was in downtown Ann Arbor on the afternoon of Dec. 5 because I got to town too early for the Iowa-Michigan game and had time to kill. So I walked to the dispensary out of curiosity, and only curiosity.

Question that if you must, but I was a driving a company car, it’s illegal to transport that product out of state, and I like my job.

It was a cold day, but the line of people stretched well out the door and moved extremely slowly. My conclusion: There is a market for that product. As well as Tim Hortons doughnuts, which is where I killed more time and did ingest something.

 OK, I was wrong. Not every freeway exit with businesses looks the same.

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Coming home from Bloomington, Ind., I pulled off in Mahomet, Ill., for gas. There in a small strip mall just a short hop from I-74 is Patricio’s Pizza. A little place. Not a chain place. It had pizza by the slice, which sounded good at that moment. Good, it was.

I ate, got back on the road, and didn’t give it much more thought. But as I started thinking about things with which to fill this piece, I wanted to see if there was anything interesting online about Patricio’s. I found a story from the Mahomet Citizen. An excerpt:

“I decided to rent this little spot. It was something that I was planning for a long time — to have my own shop,” said Lazaro Patricio, who owns and operates the establishment with his wife, Vianney.

It opened last December. Most towns have Lazaro and Vianney Patricios, bless their hearts. … Let’s go back to silly.

 Last Wednesday on my way to Indianapolis for a Big Ten tournament that was canceled the next morning, I wasn’t traveling alone for a change. Gazette photojournalist Liz Martin was with me, and the GPS on her phone recommended we stay on I-74 as we neared Peoria rather than take the I-465 bypass that usually is a little quicker.

Smart guy me said “No” to the technology. My blunder soon became apparent, as traffic came to virtual stop for a little while because of a few dozen fish on the road.

Yes, fish. Big fish. Not big enough to swallow Jonah, but big enough to put grins on the faces of fishermen and women when they post photos of such catches on social media.

Was there an earlier wreck? Did the fish fall off the back of a truck? Don’t know.

However, I refuse to see it as any sort of omen. Fish happen. Let’s try to move forward.

Comments: (319) 368-8840; mike.hlas@thegazette.com

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We value your trust and work hard to provide fair, accurate coverage. If you have found an error or omission in our reporting, tell us here.

Or if you have a story idea we should look into? Tell us here.