Who knew Riverside would get so much milage out of adopting Capt. James T. Kirk as its future native son? On Oct. 10 the city’s Trekkie side was featured on the first segment of the premier episode …
Who knew Riverside would get so much milage out of adopting Capt. James T. Kirk as its future native son? On Oct. 10 the city’s Trekkie side was featured on the first segment of the premier episode of Iowa PBS’s new series, “Iowa Life.” You’ll also find Capt. Kirk in the pages of Megan Bannister’s new book, Secret Iowa: a guide to the weird, wonderful, and obscure, published last month by Reedy Press.
“I’m not really a Star Trek fan, but I am a fan of weird things,” Bannister said when we met up at the Capt. Kirk statue in Railroad Park. “This was actually one of the first weird Iowa spots that a friend and I took a road trip to.”
Bannister’s first visit to the captain’s birthplace must have been pre-2014, because she saw the plaque on the floor under the pool table at Murphy’s Bar and Grill that read, “Captain James T. Kirk conceived at this point on June 22, 2227.” The pool table has since been removed and the plaque relocated to a wall.
“It was before they had the statue,” she confirms. “I was like, Oh, this is just so fun.”
Secret Iowa is filled with 83 other weird and wonderful attractions throughout our state in addition to Capt. Kirk, each depicted with full color photos and accompanied by location data and well-researched historical information.
That Bannister should have done due diligence should come as no surprise as Bannister has a background in journalism and worked for newspapers for years. The Chicagoland native moved to Des Moines about 15 years ago to attend Drake University and “I just never left and adopted Iowa. Now I’m married to an Iowan,” she says.
Her curiosity and appetite for the weird has taken her all over the state from July 2022 to March 2023 as she conducted research for the book. She admits that Iowa contains so much weird, she could have written a second volume.
Whether you’re looking to drive for minutes or hours, Secret Iowa contains plenty of ideas for your next road trip. Nearby destinations you may already be familiar with include the World’s Largest Wooden Nickel (Iowa City), the Black Angel Statue in Oakland Cemetery (Iowa City), the National Pearl Button Museum (Muscatine), the Grant Wood Studio and Visitor Center (Cedar Rapids), and the Giant Dala Horse (Swedesburg).
Bannister’s personal favorite destinations include Albert the World’s Largest Bull (Audubon) and the World’s Largest Popcorn Ball (Sac City), because “I am partial to world’s largest things,” she says.
If you go to see Albert, you’ll be excited to know “they just added a couple of months ago a penny crusher machine,” Bannister says. “You get options like his front or his back, which I thought was really funny.” There’s also a button to push so you can hear him moo.
As for the popcorn ball, it is real popcorn, and curators have taken great pains to cover it with special glass “so that it doesn’t get too hot in there” or attract insects, Bannister reveals.
If you enjoy Secret Iowa and have an appetite for supper clubs, Bannister’s first book, Iowa Supper Clubs, is also available. Both titles can be purchased on Amazon.