The opinions expressed in this article are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect the view of The Excelsior Springs Standard.

August 31, 2018—Iowa wants to hurt me. I’m not sure why I keep going there.

Living near Iowa, I see license plates from there all the time. In parking lots at restaurants, grocery stores and on the street, but mostly on cars trying to run me over. The car that almost hit me while I pushed my grocery cart to the corral? Iowa plates. The car that pulled out in front of me? Iowa plates. The limo Kim Jong-un’s chauffer drives probably has Iowa plates.

“Oh, come on, Jason. You’re just being paranoid,” people who claim to have common sense tell me. Well common sense can shut the hell up.

Jason Offutt

A few years ago, while walking across a half-empty lot at a Chick-fil-A in College Station, Texas, a car backed out of a spot and stopped where I’d been standing right before I jumped out of the way in terror. The car had Iowa plates. This guy drove 850 miles just to have a shot at me. I don’t know what I ever did to Iowa.

Maybe it’s because I say things like this:

Driving through Iowa is like driving backward in time. I don’t just mean the Amana Colonies where people still make their own furniture, I mean the whole state. It’s like getting into the WABAC machine with Mr. Peabody and Sherman. 

Example: They still have Maid-Rite restaurants in Iowa.

Maid-Rite, an Iowa restaurant started in 1926 and the first in the nation to feature “car hops,” hit its peak in 1995 with 138 locations throughout the Midwest. Today there are 34, 23 of those in Iowa.

Maid-Rite is the home of the “loose-meat sandwich,” called such because most of the meat falls out during the first few bites. It’s delicious if you don’t mind lap sandwiches.

Much like a Hardee’s, I hadn’t seen a Maid-Rite in decades. Speaking of Hardee’s, Iowa has Hardee’s, too. There are apparently lots of Hardee’s around, but some states have taken to hiding theirs like a dark family secret. Iowa puts signs on the Interstate.

As I drove east on Interstate 80 toward Iowa City, I found an Aaron Rents store. Aaron Rents opened in 1955 and became a place where people who couldn’t afford furniture, household appliances and consumer electronics could rent them. 

I remember seeing TV ads for the stores in the 1990s and even drove past one or two, then the stores disappeared from my frame of reference. I figured this was because people realized if they couldn’t afford to buy things they shouldn’t.

This is America. I should have known I was wrong.

There are also still Bennigan’s restaurants in Iowa. I got my first taste of deep-fried mozzarella sticks at a Bennigan’s. I legally bought my first adult beverage at a Bennigan’s. Then I never set foot in one again. The company went bankrupt in 2008 and I take no blame for it.

Before leaving Iowa, I ate breakfast at a Village Inn. Village Inn restaurants once dotted medium-sized towns when I was a kid; now they don’t. The meal I had was delicious and no one in Iowa City tried to kill me.

Iowa: the State that Time Forgot.

Jason’s newest novel, “Bad Day for a Road Trip,” is available at

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