Saturday, June 15, 2013

2013-17 Fairfield Iowa


Hannibal Missouri to Fairfield Iowa

Campground:  Jefferson County Campground, Fairfield Iowa.  $15 water & 50 amp elect.  Nice grassy and treed sites with gravel pads.  Many nature trails and bike paths to explore.   This is inside of a nature conservancy area.  Lots of great hiking  and biking paths.


A few off beat notes before leaving Missouri.  While wandering around  old historical Hannibal, I stopped in one shop that had lots of old toys and small knick knacks and a few dusty flea market items for sale.  The lady proprietor after talking a bit said she is 87 years old.  And you could believe her when she said she wasn’t in it for the money.  Can’t image she made more than a couple dollars a day keeping the place open.  But it has kept her going and having a purpose each day upon waking up in the morning.

Turtles are everywhere.  I see them crawling across the back roads all the time.  Haven’t seen too many squished ones, so I would imagine like myself, others also slow down and drive around them.   The other day I saw a huge old turtle crossing one of the country roads.  He looked ancient so I guess he’d made it across many a roadway in his time.

The fishing is really bad here at Mark Twain Lake.  The lake is so swollen with all the heavy rains lately that it’s a muddy brown.

I’ve seen a number of deer prancing and leaping as they have a mind to do, then taking a good look at my truck before high tailing it back into the woods.

There are numerous commercial campgrounds around the Mark Twain Lake area for folks looking for longer stay campgrounds.  I noticed quite a few along J road.

Perry Missouri
In Perry Missouri, a small town of about 680 folks, one of the shop owners got to chatting with me.  The discussion quickly moved on from the fun he is now having talking to the public as they come in to buy trinkets and do-dads to talk of his former job.  He’s retired from that previous job in an emergency vehicle towing company.  You know they get contracts to work various sections of highways and roads and are required to go out on all calls.  Not just for those of us who call when we get a flat tire or the radiator overheats.  He described some of the scenes from those accidents we’ve all seen on the highways and described the process he had to go through to get over the trauma of seeing those accidents.  He’s been retired now a number of years, but they are still very vivid in his mind.  He described how his son is now doing the same work and how he vents at family gatherings, releasing those memories through humor and perhaps crass talk about the accidents.  Not holding it in or he would probably explode.  The sympathy, kind words spoken to the grieving relatives that encompasses so much more than just picking up a wrecked vehicle as it affects the workers as well as those concerned parents, family and friends. So the next time you put in a service call for road assistance you might ponder that you’re breakdown though stressful to you at the time is the nicest job that worker will have for the day.

Distance Traveled:  161 miles


Deb (daughter) and LaVon
Moving on I’ve headed out on my trek to Iowa for visits with a few friends.  The first person I’m visiting with is LaVon H.  She lives in Fairfield Iowa which is an epa center for  religious groups like the University that teaches Maharishi transcendental meditation and all.  They even have wealthy donors who have contributed  ten million dollars to pay the locals to come to their temple and meditate for peace for 8 hours a day.  Apparently the wealthy donors have finally realized it’s not much affect on world peace and have recently discontinued the funding.

And this quirky town with tons of diversity is surrounded by prairie farms growing soy beans, corn, cattle and hogs.  Along with an Amish and Mennonite communities that’s a large part of the community as well.  It’s even got it’s own “Silicorn” Valley as there are many upstart businesses in the area.  Not bad for a small community in the heart of America.

 LaVon and I are going to be exploring some really unusual sites and folks from the area.  As chance would have it, I did a Google search for her address so I could visually see her place and how close it is to the campground I’m staying at.  Using Google’s earth maps I noticed an unusual pattern in one corner of the screen view.  As I zoomed in, I noticed it contained multiple patterns of triangles within triangles  surrounded by two circles on a large scale within a square.  These images were formed by planting trees to create the pattern.  LaVon and I drove out to the road that boarders the site.  It’s only about a quarter of a mile from the campground I’m staying at.  LaVon had no idea this thing was in her immediate vicinity. The mystery continues as we drove down the single lane gravel road that dead ends the giant patterns are off to one side of the road that‘s undeveloped.  We noticed about a dozen or so expensive homes that have recently been built on the opposite side of the road .  The large square mansion that’s in the pictures with a white picket fence around it was probable built around 5 years ago, the other homes more recently.  LaVon calls it a meditation house because it has a square cupola in the center of the house that’s about two and a half stories high where they meditate in.  

The mystery design, next to the campground I'm staying at.

bridge closed, Ekk!
The next day we drove down to the Millard Turtle Farm.  Now how many of you can say you’ve visited a turtle farm in the past.  LaVon came by early as we weren’t exactly keen on the direction and my GPS gave differing instructions than what she had written down.  But with an early start we drove through some wonderful rolling farm country and were able to stop and get some awesome pictures of old barns  and houses along the way.  Myrtle the GPS lady told us one way to go along the river, LaVon was sure we should be on the other side of the river.  Well when we got to the turn-off point, minutes away from the Turtle Farm, the bridge was out, we were on the wrong side of the river.  LaVon was right.  Had to backtrack and go down an unknown road but finally made it just in time to join the tour.

Turtle Farm tour 

And the turtle farmer is also an accomplished taxidermist 

The owner started out with his father and has made the turtle breeding business into a world corporation of sorts as he sells 99% of the baby turtles to China and owns a farm there as well.  His stories of breeding the 750,000 eggs to hatchlings each year, his adventures in China, and living off the land filled the time we had with great stories.  He’s also a master taxidermist, does wood carvings, hunts gators in the off season and has built his large home himself.  Getting only a few hours of sleep each night, he has more energy than I’ll ever have.  Oh and at $10 per baby turtle you can figure out how much he’s worth each year.  We were able to see the turtle ponds at one of the 7 turtle farms, see how they harvested the eggs and where they are incubated.  When they’re ready to ship, they get flown of course to China, in strawberry containers, 10 to a package.  Even had a taste of a turtle gumbo and it was really good.  Who would have thought one could become a multi-millionaire raising baby turtles.

Our next adventure brought us to a round barn and then onto Eldon Iowa where the American Gothic House is.  It’s where Grant Wood got his inspiration to create the iconic painting “American Gothic”.  Grant Wood is Iowa’s best known painter.  American Gothic was exhibited in Chicago and won a $300 prize.  It was then purchased for $300 by the Chicago Art Museum where it remains to this day and is now worth approx. 500 million dollars.  Great little museum in a small Iowa town, so small that the only restaurant was in a tavern.  Good food and cool beer.

How's this for an American Gothic Painting
Another day my tour of the south eastern side of Iowa continued.  A visit to a Thresher Museum with these huge steam driven machines first used on farms before the tractor was invented.  The museum also contains a couple of fullly operational steam powered electric generators.  What an impressive display of steam powered machinery.

Then it was onto The Johnny Clock Museum.   The museum housed in a large room off of the main house they live in, down a country gravel road.  Wow, you wouldn't believe the detailed carvings of each clock created.  Essentially each clock is tells a story of the creators family and life growing up in Iowa.  Each clock contains many types of wood which the owners wife could describe, one after the other, with great family stories and a hearty laugh to go with each tale she told.  Including the time that her husband was a hobo before marrying her.  Bus tours often stop by places like this and the turtle farm on “mystery” tours, where the tourists have no idea where they are being taken next.  He has never sold one of these creations, even when offered supposedly over a million dollars for one by a Saudi Prince.

each clock is like a photo album of memories for the owner

We found another round barn that was once used in selling hogs.  The upper two floors were hotel rooms and the basement had a restaurant in it.  It’s an historic building and is now for sale.

We traveled to small towns like Birmingham, Kilbourn, Keosaqua, Bentonsport and Bonaparte.  Stopping in Milton Creamery that specializes in making curd.  I purchased a few of their cheeses and then it was onto Cantril Iowa to the Dutchman’s Store a great Amish general store selling everything from jeans to work boots and rows and rows of fabric to a full grocery store selling lots of bulk items and all of it very fresh.

A special stop was made at a small museum created by Tony Sanders called The Indian Artifact Museum.  He’s an awesome wood worker and has created the most beautiful designs with inlaid wood on the walls, ceilings and display cases.  Those display cases contain the hundreds if not thousands of arrowheads, spear points, grinding stones and other Indian artifacts that he’s found locally since he was around 14 years old.  All of his designs are in his head and he only draws a vertical and horizontal line to center his next wood inlay design and the rest is done free hand.  Tony described the age of each of the Indian artifacts categorized by the thousands of years in age of each grouping.  When the Native Indians went from spear hunting to bow and arrow. He even knew what each type of arrow head was used for as well as the period it was used in.  Tony grows all his own food and leads a simple existence.

the center piece is called a snake fetish and is extremely rare

It was a full day of exploring all those small country towns that sit between miles and miles of Iowa farm lands.  Everything is green and the fields and sprouting with all the new growth plantings.  LaVon has been a great tour guide, willing to stop at a moments notice so I can take my barn pictures or anything that hits my fancy.

All of these adventures were within a 25 mile radius in the southeastern corner of Iowa.  Imagine what the rest of the state has to offer.

Many more photo's of barns and stuff on PICASA.  (one of the albums is large because I didn't have time to sort them all out before posting on Picasa)

1 comment:

walterterry said...

You should have been an explorer. Amazing finds and stories. Thanks, Walt