The words “state” and “resort” don’t exactly fit together. Not like “state” and “penitentiary,” for instance.
But our state owns Honey Creek Resort on Rathbun Lake in south-central Iowa. And for a few days last week, it was our staycation destination.
The Legislature floated millions in bonds in 2005 to build the place. The long path to its opening in September was rocky. In January, state officials said complained that the resort was spending too much money and attracting too few guests.Oh, and there were reports of flying shower heads.
We found no airborne plumbing. But there were surprises, both pleasant and less so.
We stayed in one of the resort’s brand new cabins, a prairie-style, two-bedroom space that was, in many ways, nicer than our home. There were flat-screen TVs in the living room and master bedroom, a front porch and bunk beds for the kids. No one had scattered Franken Berry cereal across the floor. None of the dining room chairs were coated with a flypaperlike mix of apple juice and ketchup. It’s no place like home.
Maybe it’s too nice. When I think, “cabin,” I recall church camp, with humidity and bugs and a long walk for a cold shower. Now, my offspring will think Sponge Bob on satellite and air conditioning. There was a place to make an old-school campfire, salvaging a vestige of roughing it.
It was surprisingly posh, and why not at $259 to $309 per night? Honey Creek reports that the cabins have been 90 percent full this month.
You also get the run of the lodge, with its indoor Buccaneer Bay water park, restaurant, bar, rustic lobby and massive courtyard. Passes to the water park, The Preserve golf course and bike rentals are included.
The Lake Shore Grill served Tess and Ella “s’mores pancakes” stuffed with marshmallows and chocolate. Twenty minutes later, they were shooting around Buccaneer Bay at the speed of sugar, squealing at dog-whistle frequency.
But with any new spot, there were disappointments.
The resort map shows a beach, bike trail, playground and boat ramp. But none of those amenities is completed. The beach and boat ramp have been delayed by high water. The playground had yet to be assembled. Part of the bike trail is still under construction. And if you rent a bike, be choosy. Some had flat tires or missing chains.
There’s a small store in the lodge, with souvenirs, sunscreen, etc., but you have to drive five miles to get any real provisions. Seems like the state could make some decent coin by thinking more like an entrepreneur in this case.
Despite those bumps and delays, the place was crawling with visitors last weekend. Clearly, Honey Creek has a lot of potential — in a part of the state that really needs an economic boost.
We’ll be back, if we can get unstuck from our chairs.