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.
MISSOURIA 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.
Distance Traveled: 161 miles
|Deb (daughter) and LaVon|
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!|
|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|
|each clock is like a photo album of memories for the owner|
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)