Hot Air Balloons, Race Cars and the State Capitol - Des Moines IA


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North America » United States » Iowa » Des Moines
August 4th 2015
Published: September 11th 2015
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Talk About Some Wide Open Spaces!Talk About Some Wide Open Spaces!Talk About Some Wide Open Spaces!

Elk Rock State Park - Knoxville IA
I had retrieved the Pilgrim from the RV maintenance shop on Friday and had taken her to my sister-in-law’s brother who still tills the soil on the old family farm southeast of Rockford IL. Storing the Pilgrim at his place when I’m in town is pretty standard. He has an out of the way spot with an electric outlet so I can run the refrigerator off the electric service and not have to concern myself with propane tank levels. I left the trusty old gal out on the farm until I departed for the Elk Rock State Park in Knoxville IA on Wednesday July 22, 2015. My original plan had been to go to Dubuque IA from Rockford and then to Davenport IA (both of which are along the Mississippi River) for a week-long stop at each before heading for the Des Moines IA area for a one-week stop; however, I discovered that I would miss both the National Balloon Classic in Indianola IA and the NASCAR XFINITY Series Race at Iowa Speedway in Newton IA by a matter of days if I kept that schedule so Plan B went into effect, and I went directly from Rockford to the Des
Plenty Of Room For The Pilgrim And The RamPlenty Of Room For The Pilgrim And The RamPlenty Of Room For The Pilgrim And The Ram

Elk Rock State Park - Knoxville IA
Moines area for a two-week stop – consecutive weekend thing, you know. My original plan also had been to stay at the Iowa State Fairgrounds Campground in Des Moines but learned the campground would be closing two days after my arrival date to prepare the facility for the upcoming state fair. It’s a good thing my mind is more flexible than my body!

I was somewhat surprise to find that openings remained in Elk Rock State Park in Knoxville for the entire duration of my two-week stay. I selected the location 1) because many other options were full for at least a portion of my stay and 2) because it was about as conveniently located to Indianola, Newton and Des Moines as I could get at this late stage. The trip to Elk Rock State Park was under mostly overcast skies that got less dense as the day progressed. Even though there are four unlabeled loops in the campground and Mapless Larry had to navigate three of them before finding his assigned site, the trip was totally uneventful. Right outside my door, there was a huge field – I’m talking a football-size field.

I must have been a little far-sighted while I had the high speed Internet connection available at my sister’s, as I got lots of planning completed for the remainder of the summer and the fall but failed to get the details for the proximal attractions sooooo, I spent a very nice, partly cloudy Thursday filling in the details for the Des Moines area attractions. Friday evening, July 24, 2015, I headed for Indianola and the hot air balloon launching field to watch the opening event of the 2015 National Balloon Classic. Although 6:30 AM and 6:30 PM events were scheduled for the next day through the following Saturday, I only made three ballooning events – all of which were in the evening. I just couldn’t pull myself from bed early enough for requisite coffee and a half hour drive before a 5:15 AM “dawn patrol” or a 6:30 AM competition launch.

This inaugural event was not as spectacular, in some respects, as the other two events I attended because 1) there was no balloon glow; however, there was a mass ascension (of sorts) and 2) I don’t think all the pilots had yet arrived in Indianola. For this specific event, the pilots inflated on the launch field and departed to wherever. In the other two competitions I attended, the pilots drove away from the field after the pilot briefing, launched from a location of their choosing and attempted to return to the field to deposit a marker as close as possible to a large “X” on the field. The pilot who comes closest, ta-dah, wins. The pilots then land on or near the field and “hang around” for dusk when the balloon glow begins. I guess no matter the format for the flight, just seeing the awe-inspiring balloons is spectacular enough to entice me.

Later in my visit to Indianola, I made a stop at the National Balloon Museum. A group was scheduled to take a tour momentarily, and I was offered the option of joining that group or free-styling. Of course, I chose to join the group. The local pilot started the tour by taking us outside to look at his rig. He had pulled everything from his trailer so we could see the gondola, observe the burners in action and see the cart he uses to transport the envelope. We went inside where half the group joined the pilot for a guided tour while half watched a movie about the history of ballooning.

The first free flight carrying a human-being occurred over Paris, France on November 21, 1783. The hot air balloon reached an altitude of at least 500 feet, traveled about 5½ miles and land safely about 25 minutes later. Constructed of paper and silk by the Montgolfier brothers, the balloon carried two men who stood on a circular platform attached to the bottom of the balloon. From that platform, the men hand-fed a fire through openings on either side of the balloon’s skirt and created the “hot air” that gave the balloon lift. Tradition says that upon landing, the pilots gave bottles of champagne to the startled farmers and peasants in order to calm their fears of “demons appearing from the heavens;” however, research shows that they actually landed in a deserted area and that there were no witnesses.

On December 1, 1783, just ten days after the first hot air balloon ride, the first gas balloon, using hydrogen for lift, was launched in Paris. The flight lasted 2½ hours and covered a distance of 25 miles. Because gas balloons did not depend on fire to get them aloft and to keep
A Balloon Glow Is Awesome Every Time I See OneA Balloon Glow Is Awesome Every Time I See OneA Balloon Glow Is Awesome Every Time I See One

07/26/2015 National Balloon Classic - Indianola IA
them up, because they were able to stay up longer and because, with the use of ballast, their altitude could be controlled somewhat easier; gas balloons soon became the preferred mode of air travel. It was, however, expensive to inflate a gas balloon so flying was not something just anyone could afford. Nonetheless, gas balloons continued to be the primary mode of air travel until the invention of the powered and controlled airplane by the Wright brothers in 1903.

The first manned flight of a balloon in America occurred January 9, 1793 in a hydrogen gas balloon piloted by the same Frenchman who was the first to cross the English Channel, Jean-Pierre Blanchard. This flight, whose launch was observed by George Washington, ascended from a prison yard in Philadelphia PA to a height of about 5,800 feet. Blanchard then made a successful landing in Gloucester County in New Jersey. Airships (or blimps), also inflated with hydrogen gas, began to be built in the early 1900’s and are still in use today. They are cigar shaped balloons, some of which have a rigid frame to maintain their shape; with engines, propellers and flaps to control the direction and speed of flight. The Graf Zeppelin, the first large airship built, was 420 feet long and could travel 600 miles in 2 days. One of the first such ships in the U.S. was built in 1904. By 1936 airships had become more common and had luxurious cabins for seating passengers. These large air ships were, indeed, the first commercial airliners.

The most famous airship was the Hindenburg built in Germany in 1936. It was 803 feet long, 135 feet wide and contained 7 million cubic feet of hydrogen gas. On May 6, 1937 the Hindenburg caught fire and burned in less that one minute while attempting to dock in Lakehurst NJ. Of the 97 persons on board 35 were killed. Such ships had exemplary safety records until the spectacular demise of the Hindenburg. After that, and other disasters with hydrogen filled airships, hydrogen was considered too dangerous, and the use of such airships began to wane. Helium-filled military ships were about the only airships to fly, but helium gas was new, very expensive and not widely available outside the United States.

Modern hot-air ballooning was born October 22, 1960 when Paul E. (Ed) Yost piloted the maiden flight of a balloon employing a new envelope and a new propane burner system which he developed. The flight lasted 25 minutes and traveled 3 miles. The balloon was 40 feet in diameter with a volume of 30,000 cubic feet. For this accomplishment, Yost is known as the father of modern hot-air ballooning. Yost’s company, Raven Industries, soon began making balloons for commercial sale. By the mid 1960’s there were 3 balloon makers in the U.S., and by 1963 sport ballooning had grown enough to justify the first U.S. National Hot Air Balloon Championships which was held in Kalamazoo MI. In 1970, the preliminaries for the Nationals were held in Indianola with the final event at the State Fair grounds in Des Moines. Then, in 1971, the National Championship event moved to Indianola where it remained for 18 years. Since that time the Nationals have moved around to various parts of the country. As the technology of burner and envelope construction improved, ballooning continued to grow in popularity, and many local ballooning clubs began holding regional events all over the United States.

After the well done movie, the pilot took my portion of the group through the museum and offered insight into the equipment and the personalities that have brought modern-era ballooning to its current state. After his interesting and informative tour, I returned to examine a model of the Montgolfier brothers’ first hot air balloon, to peruse the members of the Ballooning Hall of Fame, to photograph some of the artifacts, to check out photographs of some of the Special Shapes Balloons, to see who had been a U.S. National Hot Air Ballooning Champion and to learn a little bit about the Women in Ballooning. All the exhibits in the museum are well done and are well documented; however, it just doesn’t get any better that a guided tour by an experienced pilot to add some sausage to the homemade gravy. I found the museum extremely interesting and worthwhile, and I think most people would find it at least somewhat interesting; however, I truthfully cannot put the museum on a “must see” list for most of my readers. That having been confessed, I would highly recommend attending a hot air ballooning event of some sort. They hold some kind of special majesty. What the heck – take a ride and you, too, might become as addicted as I have.

I
A Tow Car, Trailer And Race CarA Tow Car, Trailer And Race CarA Tow Car, Trailer And Race Car

National Sprint Car Hall of Fame & Museum - Knoxville IA
had learned there was a Sprint Car race scheduled for Saturday evening, July 25, 2015 at the Knoxville Raceway in Knoxville IA, and I definitely wanted to get a glimpse of these bad boys in person. I had seen them on television several times, but I had never had the opportunity to see a live race. Knoxville is the self-proclaimed Sprint Car Capital of the World, and the fans convinced me the sport runs through their veins. It’s been many years since I have attended the quarter-mile paved oval at Rockford, but my recollection of the venue made me feel as though Knoxville’s track was also a quarter-miler. During qualifying, the announced lap times were in the 15 second range. Again, thinking this is a quarter-mile track, I decided a 60 mph speed was moving right along. THEN, I learned the track is a half-mile oval which made the speeds about 120 mph. That is really moving along, especially when a good portion of the time the driver has the car catawampus as he takes it sideways through the turn. Exciting is an understatement. And when they crash; well, fasten your harness!

Later in my visit, I made a stop
The Race Car Tires Went Up And Over The Trailer Tires – Cool!The Race Car Tires Went Up And Over The Trailer Tires – Cool!The Race Car Tires Went Up And Over The Trailer Tires – Cool!

National Sprint Car Hall of Fame & Museum - Knoxville IA
at the National Sprint Car Hall of Fame & Museum in Knoxville. Although I am not an aficionado, it was interesting to see how the machines and the equipment have evolved over time and to see the names of some motorsport legends who have moved on to larger markets – driver A.J. Foyt and 1991 Rookie of the Year Tony Stewart. One display highlights 1970 sprint car driver, Andy Brown, who was also a hockey goalie and who, in 1974, was the last National Hockey League goalie to play a game without a mask. Now that, my friends, requires cajones grandes and a great dental insurance plan! I cannot highly recommend the museum to the average tourist, but I can recommend a race to anybody who hasn’t seen one and is interested in broadening their horizons.

Sunday, July 26, 2015 found me taking a leisurely drive north to Boone IA and the Mamie Doud Eisenhower Birthplace – the wife of our 34th President. My father grew up in nearby Gowrie IA, and I remember him referring to Boone and other area towns in the context of places where kinfolk had lived or of playing American Legion baseball against those community teams; however, I was quite surprised that I don’t
The Doud Home Is Very NiceThe Doud Home Is Very NiceThe Doud Home Is Very Nice

Mamie Doud Eisenhower Birthplace - Boone IA
recall him ever noting that Ike’s wife was a local girl. Perhaps, he was as unaware as I, but my father was a Democrat his entire life as far as I know (Eisenhower was a Republican). Dad was a Democrat before 1964 when a Republican didn’t have a prayer in the Deep South, and he was a Democrat after 1964 when a Democrat didn’t have a prayer in the Deep South. He was always for the man who worked for a paycheck. Perhaps, he was slightly embarrassed that Mamie might have eaten pork bellies that had been raised and sent to market by his father??? Regardless, Ike was the first President I can remember.

Mamie Geneva Doud was born November 14, 1896 in Boone. She was the second of four daughters born to John Sheldon Doud and Elivera Mathilde Carlson. When Mamie was nine months old, the Douds moved from Boone to Cedar Rapids IA. In 1905, when her father was only 36 and already had amassed a fortune in the meat packing industry, he partially retired and moved his family to Colorado where they eventually settled in Denver. Through some mutual friends, she met West Point graduate Dwight
The Piano Mamie Played As A Child When Visiting Her UncleThe Piano Mamie Played As A Child When Visiting Her UncleThe Piano Mamie Played As A Child When Visiting Her Uncle

Mamie Doud Eisenhower Birthplace - Boone IA
David “Ike” Eisenhower in 1915. Eventually, she married the man who would be a key player in the success of the United States and its allies in World War II. Mamie, however, never lost contact with her mother’s Boone family, the Carlsons; and she (as a child) and they (throughout his Presidency and into his retirement) returned to visit regularly. After Ike’s death in 1969, Mamie continued to return to Boone making her last trip in 1977, two years before her death.

Over the years, the Birthplace was inhabited by many families, was subdivided into three individual apartments and was used by the First Baptist Church as a Sunday school building. By 1970, it was in danger of being demolished, so funds were raised to purchase the house. Following five years of restoration, the Mamie Doud Eisenhower Birthplace opened on June 22, 1980. The restored house contains many Eisenhower and Carlson family heirlooms – including the bed in which Mamie was born. A detached summer kitchen and a carriage house also are located on the property. The carriage house, erected in 1982, contains the Chrysler Windsor Sedan given to the Carlsons by the Eisenhowers in 1948 and Mamie’s 1962
Mamie’s 1962 Plymouth ValiantMamie’s 1962 Plymouth ValiantMamie’s 1962 Plymouth Valiant

Mamie Doud Eisenhower Birthplace - Boone IA
Plymouth Valiant. The basement contains a library and artifacts from the life of the Eisenhowers. The museum is nice but can only receive an “if passing through town when it is open” recommendation to those who are not Presidential history buffs.

Indeed, I was passing through town, sorta. The phone number for my cousin in nearby Jefferson IA had become nonfunctional so I decided I’d just drop in on a fine Sunday afternoon. I found a young man getting’ ‘er on with a grill that smelled mighty good. He told me my cousins had moved to, he thought, Florida. That made sense since their daughter lives in Florida. I took a different leisurely route back to Knoxville. A subsequent phone call confirmed their move.

Pella IA was founded in 1847 when 800 Dutch immigrants led by Dominee (Minister) Hendrik (Henry) P. Scholte settled the area. The name "Pella" is a reference to Pella in the Perea, where the Christians of Jerusalem had found refuge during the Roman-Jewish war of 70 AD. The name was selected because the Dominee and his followers were also seeking religious freedom. Pella also was the childhood home of Wyatt Earp, whose father Nicholas Porter Earp had settled on a farm near Pella. His brothers Warren and Morgan were born in Pella, and, for my home improvement friends, Pella Windows is headquartered in Pella.

Although I had accurately heard that Pella is a very nice community, my visit on July 29, 2015 was spurred by my interest in the Pella Historical Village, more specifically the Vermeer Mill & Historical Village. The Pella Historical Society also operates the Scholte House Museum and the Amsterdam School. I guess I’m somewhat at a loss how to portray Pella Historical Village to my readers. On one hand, our tour guide was informative and entertaining. He related lots of background information about the artifacts in the collection, about the community of Pella then and now and about life in Holland vs. life in the United States; however, after the tour was completed and I set out to explore on my own, there was virtually no documentation to highlight or identify the very nice artifacts. When I went to the attraction web site to get background information for the blog, I came up empty. Even Wikipedia, provides minimal assistance. Pella is nice, and the tour is great. Enjoy!

I hadn’t even heard of a Car Hauler Parade, much less seen one; but there it was, on the schedule for Thursday, July 30, 2015. It was included as part of the pre-race festivities for the NASCAR XFINITY Series Race to be run on Saturday, August 1, 2015. Of course, NASCAR didn’t note the parade route, so I made my way to Newton quite early, stopped at the visitor center, obtained the necessary information as well as a recommendation for some home-cooked vittles. Moo’s BBQ served up some mighty fine burnt ends that day, and I have no reason to believe the rest of the menu is of lesser quality, especially when the sign on the door says “Open ‘til 8:00 or ‘til it’s gone!”

After my late lunch, I walked across the street to the vintage courthouse and found, as is frequently the case, a collection of very nice veterans’ memorials. Taking a walk around the square, I reentered the visitor center to offer my appreciation for the veterans’ memorials. After chatting about the sculpture for a few minutes, the attendant offered me a brochure, “Public Art & Sculpture Tour.” All my regular readers know Uncle Larry is not so much into art, but if I do have to become an artist on my next cattle drive, I’ll become a sculptor. Many of the works are just plain cool! There are some 88 sculptures and some 13 murals identified on the map in the brochure. The works are generally grouped geographically – Downtown (31), Inner Circle (15), Outer Circle (25), Businesses and Churches (9) and Residential Installations (8). The brochure also informed me that Newton is home to the Annual Iowa Sculpture Festival. Indeed, the 13th such event occurred this past June. Which came first, the NASCAR track or the art tour? Go figure!

I managed to look over a few pieces of art before it was time to position myself for the Car Hauler Parade. The Nextel Cup Series is the “down off the porch with the big dogs” series, and the XFINITY Series is the “standing on the steps of the porch waitin’ for my turn” series. Some drivers compete in both series, more commonly when both races are at the same track on consecutive days. So far, the Nextel Cup has yet to schedule a race at Iowa. I didn’t know what to expect but thought the local high school band might make an appearance or that the drivers might be riding in the bed of a pick up truck such as they do following driver introductions and immediately preceding the race. I would soon find out as a police escort signaled the start of the event. Zoom! Down the street they went at about 10-15 mph, well within the posted limit but much too fast for a “parade.” It’s a good thing the band didn’t lead off the procession! Or, maybe it did! Where was that kick-off point, anyway?

I got in touch with my cousin – yeah, the one I tried to hook up with at their winter home in Donna TX back in mid-March. Yeah, the one who had already returned to Iowa IN MARCH!!! Yeah, THAT cousin! LOL We set up a meeting at Jethro's BBQ n' Pork Chop Grill in Johnston IA. That was a good location for both of us and is one of the restaurants recommended by my nephew. We had a nice visit over a nice lunch, but, beware – the State Fair Pork Chop Sandwich comes complete with a bone – KLUNK. That was a first for me.

After lunch, I set out for the Bob Feller Museum in Van Meter IA. Robert William Andrew Feller was an American baseball pitcher who played 18 seasons for the Cleveland Indians. Nicknamed "The Heater from Van Meter," "Bullet Bob" and "Rapid Robert," Feller’s career lasted from 1936 to 1956 but was interrupted by a four-year stint in the Navy during WW II from 1941-1945. (Two days after the attack on Pearl Harbor, Feller became the first American professional athlete to enlist in the service.) In his career, Feller played in 570 games, pitched 3,827 innings and posted a win–loss record of 266–162, with 279 complete games, 44 shutouts, and a 3.25 earned run average. As a prodigy who bypassed the minor leagues, Feller spent the summer vacation before his senior year of high school pitching for the Cleveland Indians at the age of 17. Feller remains the only pitcher in major league history to throw a no-hitter on Opening Day when he 0-ferred the Chicago White Sox in 1940. He was inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame in 1962 on his first ballot appearance.

Feller’s list of baseball records and accomplishments is lengthy. He retired in 1956 when I was barely able to remember him as a player; however, his heroics were talked about for many years by my elders. I doubt that would have saved him a spot in my memory. What did deeply etch Feller in my childhood memory was that my father claimed to have gone three for four against "Bullet Bob" – ONCE. He never discussed nor did I ever ask what happened in their other confrontations. Feller died on December 15, 2010 at the age of 92. The museum is a nice tribute to a, sadly, faded star. Oh, yes, it was reported that when Feller was asked that if he could relive any one of the many great moments in his life, which one he would pick, Feller said, “Playing catch with my dad between the red barn and the house.” From the reports I read, Bob Feller was that kind of guy. Only die-hard baseball fans and those with some other kind of connection with Feller will find the small, narrowly focused museum of interest.

Saturday, August 1, 2015 – HUH! It’s time to pay bills, again, already??? I took advantage of a schoolless Saturday to visit the Iowa State Capitol in Des Moines. Not long after achieving statehood, Iowa
Wanna Have A Picnic?Wanna Have A Picnic?Wanna Have A Picnic?

Iowa State Capitol - Des Moines IA
officials recognized that the Capitol should be moved farther west than Iowa City IA. In 1846, the 1st General Assembly authorized a commission to select a location. In 1854, (eight years later, what’s up with that?) the General Assembly decreed a location “within two miles of the Raccoon fork of the Des Moines River.” The exact spot was chosen when Wilson Alexander Scott gave the state 9½ acres, where the Capitol now stands. The Capitol is set atop a hill and offers a panoramic view of downtown Des Moines. Various monuments and memorials are located to its sides and front.

Final legislative approval for the construction for the permanent statehouse was given on April 8, 1870 (six years later, what’s up with that?). A three-story brick building served as a temporary Capitol while the permanent Capitol was being planned and built. Constructed between 1871 and 1886, it is the only five-domed capitol in the country. From authorization to completion took forty years. And we thought government of today is slow!

In 1870, the General Assembly established a Capitol commission to employ an architect, to choose a building plan (at a cost not to exceed $1,500,000) and to proceed
The Top Of The Central DomeThe Top Of The Central DomeThe Top Of The Central Dome

Iowa State Capitol - Des Moines IA
with the work – but only by using funds available without increasing the tax rate. Although the building could not be constructed for $1,500,000 as planned, the architects’ basic design was retained but modifications were undertaken. In its final report on June 29, 1886, the building commission reported a total cost of $2,873,294.59. An audit showed that only $3.77 was unaccounted for in the 15 years of construction.

The commanding feature is the central dome constructed of iron and brick and covered with tissue-paper thin sheets of pure 23-karat gold, with a protective layer sealing the gold from the weather. The gold leafing was replaced in 1964-65 at a cost of $79,938. The top of the dome peak is 275 feet above the ground. From its opening in 1884 until 1924, it was the tallest building in Des Moines, and likely the entire state. Four smaller domes rise from the four corners of the Capitol. The exterior of the building is brick with limestone from Iowa, Missouri, Minnesota, Ohio, and Illinois. The superstructure, or main part of the building, is of bluff colored sandstone from quarries along the Mississippi River in Missouri.

Twenty-nine types of imported and domestic
The Spiral Stairs Lead To The Various Stack LevelsThe Spiral Stairs Lead To The Various Stack LevelsThe Spiral Stairs Lead To The Various Stack Levels

Iowa State Capitol - Des Moines IA
marble were used in the interior; and the wood used –walnut, cherry, catalpa, butternut, and oak – was nearly all from Iowa forests. The marble grand staircase between the second and third floors is the focal point of the interior. Art is everywhere – paintings, sculptures, tile mosaics, wood carving, ornate ironwork, stencils – the list goes on and on. Personally, my favorite interior area of the Capitol is the Victorian styled Law Library featuring four stories of balcony shelves surrounding a central atrium. It is open to the public on weekdays or on weekends for guided tours only.

In the west hall is a ¼ inch equal to 1 foot model of the battleship USS Iowa on loan from the U.S. Department of the Navy. The model is 18 feet 7 inches long and weighs about 1,350 pounds. She was the only ship of her class to have served in the Atlantic Ocean during World War II. On July 7, 2012, the retired USS Iowa was opened to the public as a floating educational and naval museum at the Port of Los Angeles in San Pedro CA. In the south hall, across from the Governor's office, is a collection of porcelain dolls representing the 41 Iowa First Ladies wearing their inaugural gown.

In 1904, when fire swept through the areas that now house the Supreme Court and Iowa House of Representatives, a major restoration was performed including the addition of electrical lighting, elevators and a telephone system. Early efforts to preserve the Capitol, however, mostly dealt with maintaining and upgrading its interior. Deterioration of the exterior had first been documented as early as the start of the 20th century. It was not until 1965, when the dome was regilded, that legislators made a significant investment in preserving the building's exterior. By the early 1980s, sandstone pieces had begun falling from the building, prompting the installation of steel canopies at all entrances of the building to protect pedestrians! Major exterior restoration began in the spring of 1983 and was completed in nine phases. The entire project was completed in the fall of 2001 at a cost of $41 million. The Iowa State Capitol is a must see for all who are passing through or visiting Des Moines.

The Capitol grounds, as is frequently the case, is also home to the Iowa State Vietnam War Memorial. The women at the information desk
Simple Is An UnderstatementSimple Is An UnderstatementSimple Is An Understatement

Iowa State Vietnam War Memorial - Des Moines IA
gave me an “Iowa State Capitol Monuments and Memorials Map” and tried to point out Location #46 on the map to no avail. They both assured me that if I went out “that exit” (pointing to the west exit) I would find it with no problem. An extensive search produced no results. I looked at the map to the south of the Capitol, and “Thar she blows.” Clear as a bell, #46. In fact, I could have hit the memorial from my parked truck with a baseball, even yet today at this advanced stage!

Uncles Larry’s theory is that 1) the decision-makers of years past saw how well received was the National Vietnam Veterans Memorial in Washington DC; 2) they believed that any black granite memorial with a list of the dead and missing would be equally as well received; 3) they realized that marble slabs would require much less creative energy than an original sculpture; and 4) they knew that an unadorned memorial would be more penny-wise, would foster less fuel for controversy and would keep the Vietnam vets off their asses. Oh yes, there is variety – some are flat whereas others are curved; and some are
Now, Here's A Memorial With Some Genuine CharacterNow, Here's A Memorial With Some Genuine CharacterNow, Here's A Memorial With Some Genuine Character

The Civil War Memorial at Iowa State Capitol - Des Moines IA
listed by date of death, some alphabetically and some by county or city. Relax, Uncle Larry. At least Iowa has a memorial – a couple of states do not.

I looked at a couple of other memorials before my stomach got the best of me, and I headed for Zombie Burger + Drink Lab a couple of blocks WEST of the Capitol – another recommendation from my nephew. Both Jethro’s and Zombie’s are nice sports bars that have decent, albeit overpriced, food; however, they both appeal to a much younger crowd than I embrace. I spent a lot of hours in meat markets over the years, and there’s no appeal left there for me. Recommendation and proximity are two reasons I stopped at Zombie’s. The third reason is that I needed to fill the tank before heading for Newton and the NASCAR XFINITY Series at Iowa and some SERIOUSLY overpriced, mediocre food.

Auto racing! What can I write? In fact, sports in general, what is there to write in a travel blog? I went, they raced and some guy that neither you NOR I have ever heard of won. I enjoy sports. I used to enjoy participating, but that all changed when
The First Time I’ve Seen A Scale Model Of A Wooly MammothThe First Time I’ve Seen A Scale Model Of A Wooly MammothThe First Time I’ve Seen A Scale Model Of A Wooly Mammoth

State Historical Museum of Iowa - Des Moines IA
I suffered a broken pelvis in a water skiing accident back when I was 39. Since then, my sporting efforts are usually limited to weight lifting, 16 ounces at a time!

The final attraction I visited during my Des Moines area stop was the State Historical Museum of Iowa in Des Moines. Rather than trying to cover all aspects of Iowa’s history, the decision-makers have selected a nice variety of relevant subjects and covered some aspect of that area extremely well. For example in the “The Delicate Balance, Human Nature and Iowa’s Natural Resources” area, the pearl button industry in Iowa is discussed. Pearl buttons actually are clam shells that have been harvested and then had round buttons cut from the shell. Iowa was the hub of the pearl button industry from the 1880s until WW I when the industry declined and never recovered for a variety of reasons.

“Up from the Depths, The Story of Iowa Coal” is a subject I have never associate with Iowa. I found the presentation fascinating. “Captive Nature, The Wildlife Dioramas of Joseph Steppan” presents mounted specimens in family groups – a mother (with or without the father, depending on the species) and several ummm, ummm,
Clam Shells Before And After Button “Harvesting”Clam Shells Before And After Button “Harvesting”Clam Shells Before And After Button “Harvesting”

State Historical Museum of Iowa - Des Moines IA
ummm – youngsters. Those children go by so many different names, depending on the species. Another exhibit relates the birth of a white deer in 1987. The hunter who spotted the anomaly decided it should be harvested to protect the “hiding place” of the rest of the herd. On opening day, he harvested the animal and reported the event to wildlife officials and the newspaper. Much controversy followed, and it now is illegal to hunt white animals in Iowa!

The reasons for Iowa’s involvement in the Civil War is covered as is Ragbrai – an eight-day bicycling event that crosses Iowa from river to river (the Mississippi River to the Missouri River or vice versa). Saving Iowa’s early-mid-twentieth century theaters as well as Iowa’s entertainment “favorite sons and daughters” are highlighted. Some displays, like the requisite wooly mammoth bones were expected but many others were not. All the exhibits are well documented and nicely presented. My only complaint is that there are multiple entry and exit points from any give subject area. I found myself leaving an area, i.e. the mounted mammals, only to find myself back in that area again after having visited a different subject area. What
A Nice Display Of Civil War Era DrumsA Nice Display Of Civil War Era DrumsA Nice Display Of Civil War Era Drums

State Historical Museum of Iowa - Des Moines IA
might I have overlooked?

After visiting the museum, I made another stop at an eatery recommended by my nephew – Fong’s Pizza (downtown). They have an amazing menu – Egg Roll Pizza, Thai Chicken Pizza, Sesame Chicken Pizza, etc., etc., etc. I had the Crab Rangoon Pizza, and it was incredible. The bar area (which is where I generally sit, if possible) is intimate and quaint. The service was awesome. I plan to have the Raspberry Cheesecake Eggrolls when I return.

I had a great time and a very busy two weeks in the Des Moines area. This clean, modern city is large enough to have everything one can expect but small enough that the people still offer a smile and a greeting when passing on the street. Des Moines is mid-American, Smalltown USA all the way, and I’m lovin’ it. I’m going to close this blog chapter with a quote I found in the State Historical Museum of Iowa, “The Delicate Balance, Human Nature and Iowa’s Natural Resources” area. Editorial, yes, but I don’t think I could have better expressed my sentiments more accurately. Be sure to note the date on the quote.

"Iowa in its primitive state
A Bison “Family” GroupA Bison “Family” GroupA Bison “Family” Group

State Historical Museum of Iowa - Des Moines IA
was ideal for the wild creatures, but not for civilized man. Therefore the latter - as he has indeed endeavored to do with all the world - has sought to adapt primitive Iowa to the service of his needs and desires. By the cutting of timber, the draining of swamps, and the straightening of streams, man has rendered Iowa more habitable and productive for man. Yet every step forward in the adaptation of Iowa to the better satisfaction of the wants of its people has been a step backwards from the standpoint of the interests of the creatures of field, forest and stream. This is to a great extent inevitable." Henry Arnold Bennett, "Wildlife in Early Iowa," Iowa Journal of History and Politics, 1927


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