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Essays by Karen Anderson: B&B Roundup

Illustration by Kacie Brown

“Can you recommend a restaurant?” I ask the woman behind the desk. “Someplace we can get a cold beer?” My husband and I stand in the lobby of a cheap motel at the western edge of Iowa—after a 500-mile drive in ninety-degree heat.

“The B&B Roundup, down Main Street, on your right,” she says.

We look for a bunch of cars out front but discover that the regulars are parked in back. The bartender looks about fifteen but knows her way around the drinks and the drinkers. The beer is very cold and I begin to think I might be able to do another 500 miles tomorrow.

Finally we order a couple of salads. “We make our own ranch dressing,” the bartender says. “With buttermilk, every day.” The dressing tastes fresher than the lettuce, but I don’t mind. There are hot biscuits in the plastic basket.

A pair of horns from a longhorn steer hangs above the bar—along with a drift of smoke from hamburgers on the grill. People are wrong when they say that places in America are losing their regional differences. Where I live, we tend to put moose heads on the wall—but it’s the same kind of place. One-of-a-kind place.

Nobody could franchise these local hang-outs. It makes travel worth the effort and home more like home. True, there’s fast food everywhere but there are B&B Roundups everywhere, too.

The locals know where they are and we park in the back.

Karen Anderson contributes "Essays by Karen Anderson" to Interlochen Public Radio.