A to Z Challenge: Reflections #atozchallenge

A-to-Z Reflection [2016]During the month of April 2016 I participated in the Blogging from A to Z Challenge. The challenge had each blogger select a theme and then do a post thematically from A to Z during each day of April , except Sundays.

This was my first opportunity to really participate in this annual event, which just completed its 6th year.  It was not easy!!  I had to not only post something daily, but also create a theme and stick with it.  And, in my perfectionist way, I wanted to make sure there were plenty of photos and commentary.  I wrote in such a way to draw people to the more detailed posts, where ever possible. 

It was a load of fun and I completed the challenge.  Not sure how many actually did, but it was certainly tough, yet fulfilling. 

What I really loved about the event was being able to communicate and link up with others doing the same thing.  I have made some new friends on Instagram, Twitter and Facebook.  I have found some interesting blogs to follow and also have a few new followers.

I most certainly look forward to participating again next year.  Now to start thinking of a good theme for next year.  May actually take a long time!!!

A BIG Thanks to Arlee Bird and her wonderful team!!

My blog was number 1337 out of 1670 participating blogs. This year my A to Z posts took readers across the back roads of America to many unique towns.  See what other bloggers posted about, check out the link: A to Z Theme Reveal List for 2016

Following is a complete listing of each with the banners associated with each post’s link. Click on the Lettered Banner to go to the specific post.

ABanner600

The A Towns: Amarillo, TX – Adair, IA – Alzada, MT – Alamogordo, NM – Alligator, MS – Alliance, NE – Ada, MI – Akela Flats, NM

 

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The B Towns: Bemidji, MN – Boring, OR – Blackfoot, ID – Burk’s Falls, ON – Booger Holler, AR – Brownsville, TN – Babb, MT – Blackwater, MO – Bena, MN – Bucksnort, TN – Bugtussle, KY – Bugtussle, TX

 

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The C Towns: Cactus Flat, SD – Centralia, MO – Cape Elizabeth, ME – Climax, NC – Climax, KY – Choteau, MT – Cave City, KY – Charm, OH – Chelsea, MI – Champaign, IL – Cut Bank, MT – Caledonia, ON – Cut and Shoot, TX – China Grove, TX – Cool, TX – Coolville, OH

 

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The D Towns: Douglas, WY – DeForest, WI – Discovery Bay, WA – Dublin, OH – Dublin, TX – Dragoon, AZ – Denton, TX – Durant, OK – Danville, IL – Dallas, SD – Denver, NC – Damon, TX

 

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The E Towns: Earth, TX – Eureka Springs, AR – Elbe, WA – Easton, PA – Eldon, IA – Egg Harbor, WI – East Peoria, IL – Embro, ON – Eagle, CO – Endeavor, WI

 

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The F Towns: Flagstaff, AZ – Friendly, WV – Friendship, AR – Flippin, AR – Fair Play, SC – Fergus Falls, MN – Feely, MT – Flippin, KY – Fly, OH – Four Way, TX – Future City, IL

 

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The G Towns: Gainesville, TX – Gothenburg, NE – Guthrie, KY – Gregory, SD – Galata, MT – Glasgow, MT – Glasgow, KY – Gardiner, MT – Gillette, WY – Granbury, TX – Grand Forks, ND – Gravel Switch, KY – Gilboa, OH – Georgetown, TX

 

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The H Towns: Hell, MI – Hamtramck, MI – Hamilton, ON – Hatch, NM – Hico, TX – Hopland, CA – Hoboken, NJ – Hugo, OK – Hershey, PA – Home on the Range, ND – Hamburg, IA

 

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The I Towns: Indian Head, SK – Intercourse, PA – Ironwood, MI – Independence, MO – Idaho Falls, ID – Iona, ID – Inverness, MT – Iron River, WI

 

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The J Towns: Jamestown, ND – Joseph, OR – Jeffersonville, IN – Juneau, AK – Jackson Hole, WY – Janesville, WI – Jackson Center, OH – Jamaica Beach, TX – Jamestown, NY

 

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The K Towns: Kemmerer, WY – Keystone, SD – Ketchikan, AK – Kensington District, ON – Kadoka, SD – Kremlin, MT – Kirkwood, MO

 

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The L Towns: LeClaire, IA – Lake Nebagamon, WI – Lesage, WV – LeRoy, NY – Lizard Lick, NC – Lake Jackson, TX – Lost Springs, WY – Langdon, ND

 

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The M Towns: Mt. Horeb, WI – Meadville, PA – Metropolis, IL – Marshfield, WI – Moenave, AZ – Mystic, CT – Montrose, SD – Minot, ND – Mitchell, SD – Mapleton, ON – Medina, NY – Moose Jaw, SK – Mars, PA

 

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The N Towns: Nicholson, PA – Nekoma, ND – Natchez, MS – Neah Bay, WA – Nauvoo, IL – Newport, OR – Newark, OH – Normal, IL – Nice, CA – New Salem, ND

 

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The O Towns: Only, TN – Old Orchard Beach, ME – Okay, OK – Oil Springs, ON – Oak Creek, CO – Oacoma, SD – Odd, WV – Onawa, IA – Oddville, KY

 

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The P Towns: Pella, IA – Peculiar, MO – Pierre Part, LA – Point Pleasant, WV – Paris, KY – Paris, TX – Paris, TN – Paris, ON – Port Orchard, WA – Powder River, WY – Paducah, KY – Port Gibson, MS – Palmyra, NY – Perryville, KY – Paxton, NE – Pembroke, NY – Penn Yan, NY – Ponder, TX

 

QBanner

The Q Towns: Quincy, IL – Quartzsite, AZ – Queen City, OH (Cincinnati) – Quicksand, KY

 

RBanner

The R Towns: Roswell, NM – Regent, ND – Rhinelander, WI – Rabbit Hash, KY – Raton, NM – Red Lodge, MT – Riverside, IA – Rugby, ND – Rudyard, MT

 

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The S Towns: Steubenville, OH – Stanley, ID – Sedona, AZ – Santa Rosa, CA – Staunton, IL – Sisters, OR – Seymour, WI – Santa Claus, IN – Sandwich, NH – Sweet Grass, MT – Shakespeare, ON – Stratford, ON – Sikeston, MO – Success, MO – Soda Springs, ID

 

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The T Towns: Tightwad, MO – Talent, OR – Toad Suck, AR – Thermopolis, WY – Teton Valley, ID – Tetonia, ID – Tuba City, AZ – Tornado, WV – Tavistock, ON – Tomahawk, WI – Tripp, SD – Tunica, MS – Tioga, TX – Ten Sleep, WY – Torch, OH

 

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The U Towns: Uncertain, TX – Uncasville, CT – Upper Lake, CA – Ukiah, CA – Upton, KY

 

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The V Towns: Vulcan, AB – Valier, MT – Vernal, UT – Vandalia, IL – Vicksburg, MS – Versailles, KY – Vincennes, IN

 

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The W Towns: Wharton, TX – Welland, ON – Wapiti, WY – Wall, SD – Winterset, IA – Winner, SD – Walla Wall, WA – Worland, WY – Walcott, IA – Waldo, AR – West Montrose, ON

 

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The X Towns: Xenia, OH – Lexington, KY – Cotopaxi, CO – Oxford County, ON – Texarkana, AR – Texline, TX – Rexburg, ID – Exie, KY

 

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The Y Towns: Yampa, CO – West Yellowstone, MT –  Yellville, AR – York, NE

 

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The Z Towns: Zanesville, OH – Zelienople, PA – Zurich, MT

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A to Z Challenge: The W Towns #atozchallenge

During the month of April I am participating in the Blogging from A to Z Challenge. The challenge has each blogger select a theme and then do a post thematically from A to Z during each day of April , except Sundays. My blog is number 1337 out of 1670 participating blogs. This year my A to Z posts will take you across the back roads of America to many unique towns. To see what other bloggers will be posting about, check out the link: A to Z Theme Reveal List for 2016

WThe W Towns

Wharton, Texas

Future of Wharton, TX Mural by Dayton Wordrich
Future of Wharton, TX Mural by Dayton Wordrich
Buildings in downtown Wharton, TX
Buildings in downtown Wharton, TX
Tee Pee Motel in Wharton, TX
Tee Pee Motel in Wharton, TX
Black History Mural by Dayton Wordrich
Black History Mural by Dayton Wodrich

Lots of fun things to see in the little town of Wharton.  My main reason for visiting Wharton was to visit the Tee Pee Motel, a retro throwback to the 50s and 60s. According to their website, “The Teepee Motel was originally built in 1942 by George and Toppie Belcher to serve travelers heading across Texas on State Highway 60. The Teepee operated for 40 years, until the Interstate Highway system and a new era of travel routed customers away from the motel in the early 1980’s. The motel eventually closed and would remain so for over 15 years.  Another notable set of items are a number of murals painted by Independence, Texas mural artist Dayton Wodrich.  He has done at least five murals in Wharton (though I only saw four when I drove around town).  You can see my full post about this trip HERE.

Welland, Ontario

Welland, Ontario with large Canal Lift Bridge towering over the town
Welland, Ontario with large Canal Lift Bridge towering over the town
A portion of a massive mural on the side of a shopping mall. Entitled "History of the Niagara Peninsula" by Heinz Gaugel
A portion of a massive mural on the side of a shopping mall. Entitled “History of the Niagara Peninsula” by Heinz Gaugel
Mural of Grandfather telling stories about Welland to Grandson
Mural of Grandfather telling stories about Welland to Grandson
 "Working Women" by Ted Ziegler shows the contribution of women to the industrial work force in the factories of Welland
“Working Women” by Ted Ziegler shows the contribution of women to the industrial work force in the factories of Welland
"Wagons" by Andrew Miles
“Wagons” by Andrew Miles
"Main Street" by Mike Svob
“Main Street” by Mike Svob
Welland Canal Lift Bridge #13, Welland, Ontario
Welland Canal Lift Bridge #13, Welland, Ontario

When visiting Ontario, Canada, one of the main attractions is Niagara Falls.  But not too far west of there  is the town of Welland. The
town of about 50,000 people was long associated with an inland canal from Lake Erie, but more recently is known for its large “outdoor
art gallery” of more than 25 murals, some of which are 3 stories high.
I have been to many towns with murals and am finding that this is a great new tradition by cities and towns. My first mural sighting in Welland was a huge painting on the side of Sears at the Seaway Mall. This mural depicted the entire history of the area and was so big
I had to take a number of photos to get it. You can see a portion of it above.  The other thing of interest is the HUGE Welland Canal Lift Bridge, which towers over the town.   Read more and see quite a few other mural shots in my July 2008 post HERE.

Winterset, Iowa

Welcome to Winterset, Covered Bridge Capital of Iowa
Welcome to Winterset, Covered Bridge Capital of Iowa
Roseman Covered Bridge in Winterset, Iowa
Roseman Covered Bridge in Winterset, Iowa
Cedar Covered Bridge, Winterset, Iowa
Cedar Covered Bridge, Winterset, Iowa
John Wayne Drive, Winterset, Iowa
John Wayne Drive, Winterset, Iowa
Birthplace of John Wayne, Winterset, Iowa
Birthplace of John Wayne, Winterset, Iowa
Madison County Courthouse, Winterset, Iowa
Madison County Courthouse, Winterset, Iowa

I have always wanted to go to Winterset, Iowa, famed for the “Covered Bridges of Madison County” (See a map here).  Robert James Waller made these famous with his book called The Bridges of Madison County. The county originally had 19 covered bridges, but now only six remain.  There are actually a couple of other places with quite a few covered bridges including the bridges in Greene County, Ohio (see map) near Xenia, Ohio which I will feature in my X Towns post later this week,  (see my write up of my visit to many of these), the 18 bridges in Fairfield County, Ohio (also see map) and the 17 bridges in Ashtabula County, Ohio (also see map here), including the newest and longest, which is the Smolen-Gulf Bridge at 613 feet long (see my photo of this bridge).  Kentucky and Michigan both still have quite a few as well. There are just over 125 covered bridges still in the United States and I have been fortunate to have visited many of them.  Therefore this was an exciting visit for me.  But Winterset is also famous as the birthplace of John Wayne.  You can see my complete and detailed post about Winterset HERE.

Wapiti, Wyoming

Smith Mansion - Wapiti, WY
Smith Mansion – Wapiti, WY
Unique Formations west of Wapiti
Unique Formations west of Wapiti
View towards mountains in Wapiti
View towards mountains in Wapiti
Cliffs near Wapiti, WY as seen from US 14/16/20
Cliffs near Wapiti, WY as seen from US 14/16/20
Sandstone Cliffs and Mountains west of Wapiti
Sandstone Cliffs and Mountains west of Wapiti

There are many roads into Yellowstone National Park and I have taken most of them.  One of the most scenic is the drive west out of Cody, Wyoming on US Highway 14/16/20.  This takes you into Yellowstone through the small and very scenic community of Wapiti.  It is home to the famously unique Smith Mansion high up on a hill overlooking the valley. This 40 year old structure was the brainchild of Wyoming artist Lee Smith. Smith spent his life, and eventually tragically ended it building this unique house for his family.  He fell to his death at the age of 48 in 1992.  The home is 5 stories tall, has numerous staircases and rooms and hidden entrances.  Check out the complete post from my 2013 drive from Gillette, WY through Cody and Wapiti into Yellowstone HERE.

Wall, South Dakota

Wall Drug 714 Miles
Wall Drug 718 Miles – Austin, Minnesota
Driving into Wall, SD you can see the 80 foot tall Dino from the Interstate
Driving into Wall, SD you can see the 80 foot tall Dino from the Interstate
Wall Drug Store, Wall, SD
Wall Drug Store, Wall, SD
Wall's Mt. Rushmore with son Seth
Wall’s Mt. Rushmore with son Seth
A typical Roadsign advertising Wall Drug - these can be seen all over the country if you watch carefully
A typical Roadsign advertising Wall Drug – these can be seen all over the country if you watch carefully
Another Wall Drug roadsign
Another Wall Drug roadsign
Giant 80 foot tall Wall Drug Dino
Giant 80 foot tall Wall Drug Dino

There are many roadside attractions in the United States that are advertised by billboards for miles and miles before the attraction.  However, in my recollection, none of them have the far reach of Wall Drug in South Dakota.  I can remember as a teeneager seeing signs that said “Where the Hell is Wall Drug?” and “Wall Drug 1200 miles,” etc. Even on a 2005 visit to Black Earth, Minnesota, there was a Wall Drug sign on a boot shop noting that it was 718 miles away. Our visit in 2005 was fun and there really is a lot to do there for a place in the middle of nowhere.  Check out more about it in my 2005 post HERE.

Walla Walla, Washington (Honorable Mention)

Art Car at Melody Muffler in Walla Walla, Washington
Art Car at Melody Muffler in Walla Walla, Washington
Close up of spider on Art Car at Melody Muffler in Walla Walla, Washington
Close up of spider on Art Car at Melody Muffler in Walla Walla, Washington
Flute Player made from mufflers at Melody Muffler in Walla Walla, Washington
Flute Player made from mufflers at Melody Muffler in Walla Walla, Washington
Scrap Metal Pink Flamingo at Melody Muffler in Walla Walla, Washington
Scrap Metal Pink Flamingo at Melody Muffler in Walla Walla, Washington

As I have noted in other posts, in 2007 I took a trip to Washington with my son Solomon to work with Antsy McClain on some shows he had out there.  On one of the days off we took a side trip to Walla Walla, Washington, specifically to go see the Melody Muffler shop and all of the great pieces of art made from mufflers and car parts.  A few examples are shown above.  You can see more and the whole story HERE.

Walcott, Iowa (Honorable Mention)

Sumoflam at I-80 Truckstop in Walcott, IA
Sumoflam at I-80 Truckstop in Walcott, IA
Iowa 80 Truck Stop
Iowa 80 Truck Stop
Iowa 80 Truckstop is so big it has its own water tower
Iowa 80 Truckstop is so big it has its own water tower
The place is so big they even have a semi INSIDE
The place is so big they even have a semi INSIDE
Castle Hall in Walcott, IA
Castle Hall in Walcott, IA
Walcott Corn Fields with water tower in the background
Walcott Corn Fields with water tower in the background

Somewhere on Interstate 80 there is a truck stop…a HUGE one…the largest one in the world.  It sits in the small town of Walcott a few miles west of Davenport. I have visited there three times since it is a convenient stop along the Interstate.  Not only does it have the Truck Stop, but in town there is an old castle, a few interesting scrap metal sculptures and a neon sign or two.  I have even spent the night in this town. You can read more about my trips HERE and HERE.

Waldo, Arkansas (Honorable Mention)

Waldo, Arkansas
Waldo, Arkansas
Waldo Water Tower
Waldo Water Tower
Waldo Post Office, Waldo, AR
Waldo Post Office, Waldo, AR

In the 1990s “Where’s Waldo” became a fad.  Well, I found one of the Waldos in Arkansas on a trip in 2010.  A few shots are above, but the bigger story of that trip is HERE.

Worland, Wyoming (Honorable Mention)

Highway into Worland, WY
Highway into Worland, WY
Mammoth Bronze Statue by Chris Navarro in Worland, WY
Mammoth Bronze Statue by Chris Navarro in Worland, WY

I visited Worland, Wyoming on the same trip as Wapiti above.  The real drawing card to this town is the big Mammoth Statue they have there.  There is also a museum.  Definitely worth a visit if you are going to be anywhere near.

West Montrose, Ontario (Honorable Mention)

Longest Covered Bridge in Canada, West Montrose Covered Bridge, West Montrose, ON
Longest Covered Bridge in Canada, West Montrose Covered Bridge, West Montrose, ON
Another view of West Montrose Covered Bridge
Another view of West Montrose Covered Bridge

I mentioned the covered bridges of Madison County above in the Winterset section.  And in my X Town post I’ll be reviewing more covered bridges in the Xenia, Ohio area.  But, my interest was piqued in 2008 when I visited the one shown above.  This bridge, the West Montrose Covered Bridge, is the longest in tact covered bridge in Canada.  You can read more about this bridge and many more of my visits to places around Ontario in 2008 in my 2009 Retrospective post HERE.

Winner, South Dakota (Honorable Mention)

Winner Winner..no chicken dinner, just the name of a town in SD
Winner Winner..no chicken dinner, just the name of a town in SD
Winner, South Dakota
Winner, South Dakota

Winner Food Center

Welcome to Winner - Home of Frank Leahy
Welcome to Winner – Home of Frank Leahy
Pheasant Statue, Winner, SD
Pheasant Statue, Winner, SD
Pheasant Bar, Winner, SD
Pheasant Bar, Winner, SD

I am always the sucker for visiting towns with fun names.  I couldn’t resist visiting Winner, SD on the Oyate Trail in 2013.  I definitely wanted a photo with the sign.  What I later found out is that there was a major multi-million dollar Powerball winner that lives in Winner and had bought his winning ticket in Winner.  So, Talent, Oregon may have had a finalist on America’s Got Talent, but Winner, SD has a Powerball Winner. Winner also claims to be the Pheasant Capital of the World, but Gregory, down the highway from Winner also lays claim to the same.  You can see the entire story and more photos HERE.

Did You Miss My Other A to Z Challenge Posts? Click on a letter below to see the others.

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A 5 Day Midwest Adventure – Day 2: Walcott, IA to Nebraska City, NE

Welcome to Nebraska
Welcome to Nebraska

Day 2 of my trip with Marissa would take us through Iowa and into Nebraska.  I promised to be a fun day of driving the backroads of the Midwest (kind of….)


View Larger Map – Walcott, IA to Nebraska City, NE

With the Grandkidz with us, every morning was an early one, so we were on the road in Walcott fairly early.  First thing I saw as I stepped out of the hotel was this big semi carrying a blade for a wind turbine.  This would set the stage for some subsequent visits along the road this day. You never really know how big these are until you have a frame of reference, like a huge truck.

Truck with Wind Turbine Blade in Walcott, IA at Iowa 80 Truck Stop
Truck with Wind Turbine Blade in Walcott, IA at Iowa 80 Truck Stop
Iowa 80 Truckstop - World's Largest Truckstop
Iowa 80 Truckstop – World’s Largest Truckstop
Iowa 80 Truckstop is so big it has its own water tower
Iowa 80 Truckstop is so big it has its own water tower

From the truckstop we meandered into the small town of Walcott to get a glimpse of something really unusual.  A house built to look like a medieval castle…  Castle Hall. According to stories, this was built in 1905 to look like Balmoral Castle in Scotland, but it is nothing like it in my eyes.

Castle Hall in Walcott, IA
Castle Hall in Walcott, IA
One of the Towers on Castle Hall in Walcott
The Main Tower on Castle Hall in Walcott

This goes to show that you never know what you might see in small town America!!

Scrap Metal Flower
Scrap Metal Flower

Of course, then there is my penchant for scrap metal art.  This scrap metal flower piece was just across the street from the Castle Hall.  Had to snap a shot to add to my “collection.”

Walcott Corn Fields with water tower in the background
Walcott Corn Fields with water tower in the background

From Walcott it was Westward Ho towards Iowa City, with a quick stop in Coralville.  I got to visit with Thomas Jefferson there while waiting for Marissa and the kiddos at the Coral Ridge Mall.

Thomas Jefferson Statue at Coral Ridge Mall
Thomas Jefferson Statue at Coral Ridge Mall
Hanging with TJ
Hanging with TJ

While I was waiting I also caught a couple of bugs on flowers….

Lady Big on a flower at Coral Ridge Mall
Lady Big on a flower at Coral Ridge Mall
A bee flying into a flower at Coral Ridge Mall
A bee flying into a flower at Coral Ridge Mall

From Coralville, we headed south on US 218 towards the small town of Riverside, IA. Why Riverside?  Well, the small quaint town is “officially” the Future Birthplace of James T. Kirk, Captain of the Starship Enterprise — Star Trek. Apparently, Gene Roddenberry approved the Riverside Town Council’s recommendation to make it so….in 1985. The future historical birth, which is set to take place on March 22, 2228, is also celebrated annually by the people of Riverside.

Future Birthplace of James T. Kirk
Future Birthplace of James T. Kirk

The town even has its own Starship…the Starship “Riverside”

Starship Riverside in Riverside, Iowa
Starship Riverside in Riverside, Iowa

There is also a small History Center and Souvenir shop in town as well as a bench dedicated to someone and it was donated by none other than William Shatner, the original Captain Kirk from the old Star Trek TV series in the 1960s.

Star Trek Visitor Center - Riverside, IA
Star Trek Visitor Center – Riverside, IA
William Shatner presented a bench in memory of Nita Wingler Rath, a well known resident of Riverside
William Shatner presented a bench in memory of Nita Wingler Rath, a well known resident of Riverside

The town holds an annual TrekFest in June that draws thousands of Trekkies.

Trekfest Promo on Starship
Trekfest Promo on Starship

This was not my first venture into Trekkiedom….  back in 2007 I visited the town of Vulcan in Alberta, Canada (see my blog post) with my good friend “Crafty Jack” Burger (see my longer post about that visit), a guitar maker from Lethbridge.  I got a good shot with the scale model of the Enterprise there.

Visiting the Starship Enterprise in Vulcan, Alberta in 2007.
Visiting the Starship Enterprise in Vulcan, Alberta in 2007

Well, enough about boldly going where no man has gone before.  We ventured further south for a quick stop in the small town of Swedesburg, IA….a little taste of Sweden.

Pastoral scene north of Swedesburg, IA on US 218
Pastoral scene north of Swedesburg, IA on US 218
The famous Straw Goat from Swedesburg.
The famous Straw Goat from Swedesburg

The straw goat, also known as a “Julbock”, is one of the biggest symbols of the Swedish Christmas tradition and also serves in this town as a lure to come visit the town and its famous museum.

Welcome to Swedesburg
Welcome to Swedesburg
Caution - Swedish Crossing in Swedesburg, IA
Caution – Swedish Crossing in Swedesburg, IA
"World Famous" Swedish Heritage Museum in Swedesburg, IA
“World Famous” Swedish Heritage Museum in Swedesburg, IA

Since the Swedish museum was closed, it was further south towards our planned for destination.  But, we had to go through Mt. Pleasant and so I stopped to get a shot of their local Statue of Liberty.

Statue of Liberty in Mt. Pleasant, IA
Statue of Liberty in Mt. Pleasant, IA

From Mt. Pleasant we proceeded west on US 34 until we hit Iowa Hwy 16, which we took south to the town of Eldon. Why Eldon?

American Gothic House Sign
American Gothic House Sign
Eldon, Iowa - Home of the Grant Wood Gothic House
Eldon, Iowa – Home of the Grant Wood Gothic House

Well, this actually is a very famous place in the history of American Art as it is the location of artist Grant Wood’s 1930″American Gothic” painting — you know, the one with the two folks, the guy with the pitchfork in front of the house.  Not only is the painting famous, but it is probably one of the most parodied pieces of art anywhere (in my opinion). Only a few other images, such as the Mona Lisa or Scream, by Edward Munch, are as widely known as American Gothic, and because of its high visibility, the painting is an easy choice as a parody.

Sumoflam at American Gothic House Center in Eldon, IA
Sumoflam at American Gothic House Center in Eldon, IA

The visit starts at the American Gothic House Center, just a few yards from the actual house in the painting. This is not only a museum dedicated to the painting, but it also houses a number of parodies, provides visitors with prop clothing to wear and do their own photo in front of the house, etc.

The American Gothic House
The American Gothic House
Another view of the gothic house
Another view of the gothic house
American Gothic Road
American Gothic Road

The original portion of the house that contains the two Gothic windows was built in 1881-82 by Catherine and Charles Dibble. As the original owners of the home, it is listed on the National Register of Historic Places as the Dibble House.  Grant Wood used his sister Nan and his dentist Dr. B.H. McKeeby as the models (see more here).  Ironically, the models for the artwork never posed together when they were drawn prior to, or during the painting of American Gothic.  This was conceptualized by the Grant Wood.

Nan and McKeeby - the models
Nan and McKeeby – the models

So, what about the parodies? There are a number on display in the museum, some of which I am showing below.  There is actually a page dedicated to a number of them here.  There is also a blog dedicated to the parodies – American Gothic Parodies.

"Klingon Gothic" by Jason Tracy
“Klingon Gothic” by Kansas photographer Jason Tracy

Shawnee, Kansas photographer Jason Tracy (see his site) has kindly given me permission to use his high res photo of a Klingon man and woman at the Gothic House.  Jason has a number of unique and offbeat Conceptual Portrait works (see them here).

Kermit the Frog and Miss Piggy
Kermit the Frog and Miss Piggy
1960s TV show Green Acres
1960s TV show Green Acres
Little Chicken Carvings
Little Chicken Carvings

Of course, we can also do our own!!  And that is the real fun of this place.  Here we got my granddaughter and grandson to pose (not too willingly mind you…)  And then I got a couple of them in myself.

Jos and Landen Gothic
Jos and Landen Gothic
Lyla and Grampz Gothic
Lyla and Grampz Gothic
Sumoflam Gothic
Sumoflamerican Gothic

Besides the Gothic House, Eldon does have a couple of murals, an old (and famous) opera house and a few other goodies….

Flower Wall Mural - Eldon, IA
Flower Wall Mural – Eldon, IA
Old Pepsi Wall Advertisement - Eldon, IA
Old Pepsi Wall Advertisement – Eldon, IA
McCaffey Opera House - Eldon, IA
McHaffey Opera House – Eldon, IA
Old Signs - Eldon, IA
Old Signs – Eldon, IA
Indy's Cafe - Eldon, IA
Indy’s Cafe – Eldon, IA
Main Street - Eldon, IA
Main Street – Eldon, IA
Don't forget your Retiremints
Don’t forget your Retiremints

As we left this fun little town, lo and behold, I ran into another rooster with a top hat.  Two in two days!!

Red Rooster (looks white to me) - Red Rooster Collectibles Eldon, IA
Red Rooster (looks white to me) – Red Rooster Collectibles Eldon, IA

After such a fun time in Eldon, it was hard to move on, but we did.  We returned north on Iowa Hwy 16 to US 34 and then continued west until Ottumwa and then north on US 63 towards Des Moines.  At the junction with Iowa163 we veered west in order to take the children to Pella to see the giant Vermeer Dutch Windmill and even get them a treat at one of the fabulous Dutch bakeries there.  This was my second time there and I am always impressed with the architecture, especially that of the Pella Opera House and the Pella “Klokkenspel”.

Vermeer Dutch Windmill in Pella, IA - the largest working windmill in the United States
Vermeer Dutch Windmill in Pella, IA – the largest working windmill in the United States
Grandson Landen in Pella
Grandson Landen in Pella (photo by Marissa Noe)
Beautiful Architecture on the Pella Opera House
Beautiful Architecture on the facade of the Pella Opera House

The Historic Pella Opera House was opened in 1900 and has gone through a number of renovations and uses.  Today it is a colorful reminder of both Dutch heritage and early 1900s architecture.

The Pella "Klokkenspel" or Glockenspiel
The Pella “Klokkenspel” or Glockenspiel

The Pella “Klokkenspel” has eight four-foot mechanical figures that perform at regular intervals to the music of a 147-bell computer driven carillon.  This is one of only a handful of animated musical clocks in the United States.  Unfortunately, we were not there during a performance time of these characters, which are held daily at 11:00 am, 3:00 pm, 5:00 pm, and 9:00 pm.  The building also adds a unique flair to the beauty of downtown Pella.

Vander Ploeg Bakery in Pella, IA
Vander Ploeg Bakery in Pella, IA (photo by Marissa Noe)

The bakeries in Pella are absolute delights.  On my last trip to Pella (see post here) my wife and I visited the Jaarsma Bakery, but on this visit Marissa and kids dropped into the Vander Ploeg Bakery, which is only about 5 doors down from the Jaarsma. Both of them offer “Dutch letters,” those crispy, flaky, buttery pastries filled with almond paste, shaped into an “s,” and covered with large, crunchy sugar crystals.  The kids loved them!!

Dutch Letters pastries at Vander Ploeg bakery in Pella
Dutch Letters pastries at Vander Ploeg bakery in Pella, Iowa
Other tasty Dutch treats in the Vander Ploeg bakery in Pella
Other tasty Dutch treats in the Vander Ploeg bakery in Pella

A few more scenes from Pella:

Protruding windows on a building in Pella
Protruding windows on a building in Pella
Unique corner turret on building in Pella
Unique corner turret on building in Pella
Windmill in Pella Town Square
Windmill in Pella Town Square

From Pella we continued on Iowa 163 all the way into Des Moines and then on to Interstate 235.  Along the way we passed the impressive Iowa Capital building with its gold plated dome and four other domes.  One of the most impressive capital buildings I have seen in my travels.

Iowa State Capital - Des Moines
Iowa State Capital – Des Moines

After passing through Des Moines, we made our way into Iowa Wind Turbine country around Casey and Adair.  The Rest Area on I-80 near Casey (on the Westbound side) has a giant wind turbine blade installed.  The kids were all asleep, so we didn’t stop.  But we did get a photo of it:

I-80 Rest Area - West bound near Casey, IA with a giant Wind Turbine blade
I-80 Rest Area – West bound near Casey, IA with a giant 161 foot tall Wind Turbine blade

Continuing westward toward Adair we could begin seeing the huge MidAmerican owned Rolling Hills wind farm, which currently consists of nearly 200 Siemens 2.3 MW turbines, making it the largest wind farm in Iowa. According to a number of reports, the state generates nearly a quarter of its energy from wind, first in the nation, and the number will soon grow as more than 600 more wind turbines are slated for installation through 2015.

Wind Turbines of the Rolling Hills Wind Farm near Adair, IA
Wind Turbines of the Rolling Hills Wind Farm near Adair, IA
Wind Turbines seem to blossom like flowers out of the corn fields of Iowa
Wind Turbines seem to blossom like flowers out of the corn fields of Iowa

Wind Turbines are massive monsters.  Unlike the old Dutch windmills (as seen in Pella), these units are about 262 feet tall from base to rotor shaft (twice as high as Niagara Falls!!). The blades are each 161 feet in length and the rotor diameter is 331 feet.

Giant Wind Turbine straight ahead
Giant Wind Turbine straight ahead

The wind farms are a boost to the economy of the counties involved as farmers and other land owners get thousands of dollars for the utilities to use their lands.  Some consider them unsightly.  I love the graceful feel of these “modern flowers” blossoming out of the fields.  With these added funds, it is no wonder that Adair, Iowa has a famous Smiley Water Tower!! The town of Adair is humorously known as “the happiest town on Earth” and its town welcome sign greets visitors with “Welcome to Adair It’ll make you Smile!”.

Smiley Water Tower in Adair, Iowa
Smiley Water Tower in Adair, Iowa
At the gas station in Adair there was a flag made from plastic cups inserted into a nearby fence.
At the gas station in Adair there was a flag made from plastic cups inserted into a nearby fence.

Adair also has a not so friendly history as it was the site of the first train robbery in the West and was also the world’s fist robbery of a moving train. The notorious Jesse James and his gang robbed a train supposedly carrying $75,000 in gold on the evening of July 21, 1873. Unfortunately for them, the shipment was delayed and they only were able to get away with about $3000 worth of gold. There is an historical park in the town that we didn’t have time to visit.  There is more about it here.

Interstate 80 runs through the beautiful rolling hills of northwestern Iowa.
Interstate 80 runs through the beautiful rolling hills of northwestern Iowa.

The drive down Interstate 80 from Adair to Council Bluffs is really beautiful in mid-September as the corn has turned brown, wildflowers are in bloom everywhere and the soybean leaves are turning yellow. Here are a few scenes from the road…mind you, it was late afternoon so the shadows made things even more thrilling!

Yellow soybean leaves add a splash of color to the greenery
Yellow soybean leaves add a splash of color to the greenery
Rolling Hills of I-80 north of Council Bluffs, IA
Rolling Hills of I-80 north of Council Bluffs, IA
Beautiful farmland of Iowa
Beautiful farmland of Iowa
A pastoral setting just east of Council Bluffs as seen from I-80
A pastoral setting just east of Council Bluffs as seen from I-80

Soon after hitting Council Bluffs we arrived in Nebraska and headed toward rain. We made our way to Nebraska City, the birthplace of Arbor Day.

Welcome to Nebraska
Welcome to Nebraska
Beautiful clouds in the sky south of Omaha
Beautiful clouds in the sky south of Omaha
Sunbeams peak through the clouds outside of Nebraska City, Nebraska
Sunbeams peak through the clouds outside of Nebraska City, Nebraska

Overall it was a great day of travel and the grandkidz had a fun time.  Rest up for Nebraska City promises lots of fun on Day 3!

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