Wednesday, October 5, 2011

2011-29 Iowa City Iowa

Iowa City, Iowa

Coralville Lake, Iowa

Campground:  Coralville Lake Army Corp of Eng. $9 Electric. (half off the regular price with my Senior Card).  This is the first time I’ve had a chance to use the senior card, Yippee!  Great views of Coral Lake.  Some sites have full hookups and reserve able sites.  Beautiful, easy to back in sites.  Full hookups usually have concrete pads as well.

Well as you know from my last report, I’m visiting with friends Kathy and Randy in Iowa.  This is one of those rare times where I have two built-in tour guides and Randy has already done a great job of taking over the driving for our tours.

We didn’t even have to leave the Army Corp campground site for my first tour.  The Coralville dam, or Dam Complex as it’s called.  They have a small museum in the visitors center including a movie that discusses the building of the dam to prevent flooding.  Though twice in the 1990’s there was enormous flooding, one that had tons of water flowing over the spillway for over a month.  It wore down the river bed exposing the shale beds of a 35 million year old lake bed.

Birth Place of Herbert Hoover

So after exploring the small museum, we were able to walk along the river bed (now dry of course) and find ancient sea life fossils.  What fun to see and touch fossilized creatures that had been buried for over 35 million years, exposed and viewable to us after all those years.  Small creepy crawly creatures, sea shells, tracks from creatures crawling along the bed of a once ancient sea.

Another day we drove over to West Branch Iowa to visit the Herbert Hoover Presidential Library and birth place.  Now as a full time Rv’er, I have an agenda to visit as many Presidential Libraries as possible.  Others including me like to visit lighthouses or national parks.  But it’s more than just adding one more library to my bucket list of things to see and do.  You see, when I visit a site like the Hoover Presidential Library, I’m introduced to a man who made something of himself in life.  I learn how he got to where he did in life.  I get to follow his path and see what inspired him, built his character.  And of course, I think this makes me a better person, learning what makes a person a leader and someone I can look up too.

Herbert grew up in a Quaker community where his parents where both educated and leaders of their community.  His Father died when Herbert was 6 and his mother, died when he was only  10.  His brothers and sisters were scattered among relatives and he was sent west to Oregon to live with an Uncle.

He went to Stanford and became an Engineer in Geology, traveling the world for mining companies.  And all along the way was a humanitarian who found ways to help the hungry and homeless.  Often by encouraging others to volunteer their time, effort and food.

I could ramble on about his highs and lows as President, but will let you explore and discover those stories on your own,  including his final years at the Waldorf Astoria Towers.

The next day we drive around this farming communities that surround Iowa City.  On the way to Kalona, Kathy and Randy take me on an adventure into small town shopping.  Out in the farming country are many small Bulk food centers run by the Amish as well as dairy farms where cheddar cheese can be seen being made right on the farm.  We’re able to buy spices of every type in bulk packages, hand made pasta, dairy products and fresh baked goods all at very reasonable prices, some almost too good to believe.  We go into a general store on an Amish farm where one can find all those basic household supplies.

bulk shopping at it's best

We even see a newly built Amish co-op that’s like their version of a Sam’s Club.  In the small town of Kalona we go to a sandwich shop (the Kalona Bakery) where they make fresh sub sandwiches and a whole counter of fresh bakery that calls to us… of course we have to get something sweet along with our sub.  A small store packed with customers eager to experience the small town atmosphere.

Then it’s onto Riverside Iowa, The town came to fame when it decided to call itself “The future birthplace of Capt. James T Kirk“ as of course Star Trek takes place in our future you know.  Later, William Shatner came here to film a movie (of sorts).  It was a spoof on the town and ended up on Spike TV.  The town has the original mock up of the spaceship, a museum of  Star Trek items and of course the filming of the movie/spoof.  Talk about a quirky, fun, unique experience to see a small town caught up in and forever wrapped in the dazzle of being a part of Hollywood.  There 15 minutes of fame now enmeshed in who they are.  And the site is even highlighted on my National Geographic’s map.

One of my last stops in Iowa was to the 7 Villages of Amana.  It was an experiment in communal living that began way back in 1714 as an offshoot of the Lutheran movement in Germany.  They believed in the gift of prophecy and divine inspiration.  They were referred to as The Inspirationalists and eventually took the name of the Ebenezer Society.  After continuing harassment by the governments in Europe, they moved to America where they eventually settled in Iowa.  Creating 7 villages where the farmers and workers lived, radiating out to their farms and factories to work.  They were most productive for over 80 years, but as time went on and younger member grew up, they balked at being told which job they would be assigned too.  After a huge fire destroyed two of the manufacturing factories, the communal life came to an end.  Today only a small weaving mill continues to make blankets and other products though the communities continue to thrive.

Randy and Kathy

I find the communities an inspiration of what can be done with talented people working together to make not only good products but a community where people work together for a common cause.  And what a way to be able to learn new skills than at the hands of inventors and craftsmen.  Though they learned the hard way that a person needs the freedom to decide what kind of work they would like to learn and not be told by an elder, this is your path….

A final note on my visit with Randy and Kathy.  Along with great conversations, I had a chance to meet their daughter Christine and her husband John.  They have adopted a few kids and are foster parents to some who are mentally challenged.  What a loving, fun, energetic family.  Good people doing good deeds every minute of the day.  Whew, I could never keep up.

Oh, and a final final note, I beat the pants off of Kathy and Randy winning two games of Mexican Train.

More photos on Picasa

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