Journey into the heartland: A detour, a wrong-way turn and finally, a big Thumbs Up!


Waterloo, Iowa, is 1,366.9 miles from Portland, Maine, if you’re driving. I’m not sure how far it is as the crow (or in this case, Delta) flies, but two 2-hour plane flights, and an hour’s drive in a rental car with Siri’s help (she pronounces it water-LOO) and we made it to our hotel tired and hungry but relatively unscathed.

Then we got lost on the tiny drive to the Heartland hog roast. I’d like to blame Siri, but who knows how we wound up meandering through the local neighborhoods looking for something, anything, that looked like the downtown or the riverfront.

At the kwik mart where we stopped for directions:

Clerk: “It’s near the “Waterloo Library. Do you know where that is?” No.

Helpful customer: “Isn’t it near the library?” So we’ve heard.

The good news is, we now know where the apparently ever-popular Waterloo library is.

This year is the 15th year of the annual VGM Heartland Conference and Van Miller’s absence appears keenly felt. His dog, Daisy—soon to be a working dog with veterans, children with autism, and, ahem, people with diabetes—made the rounds tonight, as did several other pups.

They’ll be around all week and if you can, check out this important cause, Retrieving Freedom, which trains the dogs and matches them with families.

Another theme I’ve already noticed at this year’s event: wine.

There’s been a couple of networking events centered on wine, including the women and wine event (or wine, women and song, as Jo-Ellen insists on calling it) that’s on my calendar for Wednesday afternoon. Shocking, I know!

While I didn’t see any wine at the hog roast tonight, there was a special beer on tap: It’s called Thumbs Up and it was brewed specially in honor of Van.

I also got a hot tip for a special announcement happening on Wednesday. I’m sworn to secrecy, but I can tell you, I approve!

I’ve got my new Heartland app downloaded and am ready to get started tomorrow.

Cheers from the Heartland!