Montana Road Trip: Zipping across North Dakota on US Highway 2




US Route 2 in North Dakota
US Route 2 in North Dakota

I continue my series on my Montana road trip and my drive along US Route two across the northern border from Michigan to Montana.

Welcome to North Dakota
Welcome to North Dakota

As one progresses further west after leaving Minnesota, you soon discover that the land is flatter, full of prairies and grasslands and not as many lakes and streams as one would see in Minnesota.

US Route 2 in North Daota
US Route 2 in North Dakota

I spent the night in Grand Forks, North Dakota and then proceeded to head west early in the morning. The first thing I did was look for the famed Smiley Water Tower in Grand Forks. Unlike others with a similar smiley on them, this one has a smiley face on the one side and a winking smiley face on the other. It is always wonderful to start the day off with a smile!

Grand Forks Smiley Water Tower
Grand Forks Smiley Water Tower
Winking Smiley on backside of Water Tower in Grand Forks
Winking Smiley on backside of Water Tower in Grand Forks

After driving around Grand Forks for just a little bit, I proceeded forward on my drive and, for the first time since starting on US Highway 2, I deviated from the route to head north to an unusual destination. If you need advice on speed limits in this area, you may get it from here.

US Route 2 heading west towards Niagara, ND
US Route 2 heading west towards Niagara, ND

Before heading north I passed through Niagara, ND and a stop at the historic monument for the Old Fort Totten Trail which was used by the Sioux to assist in delivering mail.  From here I proceeded to Petersburg, ND, another old small town.  I came across their old Curling Club building.  Who said that Curling was only a Canadian sport?

Petersburg Curling Club, Petersburg, ND
Petersburg Curling Club, Petersburg, ND

A few more miles down Highway 2 I went through the town of Michigan, ND (population 425)…returned to Michigan after a couple of days (hehehe).

Michigan, ND
Michigan, ND

Michigan, ND has a Barn Quilt Trail, which is common in Kentucky, Indiana and Tennessee, but I have not really seen these in other states in my travels.

Barn Quilt Trail in Michigan, ND
Barn Quilt Trail in Michigan, ND
Quilt Block on a Barn in Michigan, ND
Quilt Block on a Barn in Michigan, ND

Finally, before heading north off of US Highway 2, I passed through the town of Lakota, ND.  This town is about 60 miles west of Grand Forks.  From here I would head north on ND Hwy 1.

Welcome to Lakota, ND
Welcome to Lakota, ND
Crossing the tracks in Lakota, ND...looking west
Crossing the tracks in Lakota, ND…looking west

Contrary to what many may believe about North Dakota, I was quite surprised by what I saw on ND Highway 1.  All along the way there were many small ponds surrounded by grasses and filled with ducks and many other birds and wildlife.

Duck in a pond on ND Highway 1
Duck in a pond on ND Highway 1
An old truck rests by one of the many ponds along ND Highway 1
An old truck rests by one of the many ponds along ND Highway 1
A Red-Winged Blackbird rests on straw by a pond along ND Hwy 1
A Red-Winged Blackbird rests on straw by a pond along ND Hwy 1
Male and female duck enjoy a swim in a pond along ND Hwy 1
Male and female duck enjoy a swim in a pond along ND Hwy 1

One of my “goal destinations” in North Dakota was to see the unique pyramid near Nekoma.  Actually, the pyramid is part of a larger installation called the Stanley R. Mickelson Safeguard Complex (SRMSC).  This complex was the United States’ first operational ABM (anti-ballistic missile) defense system.

The SRMSC as seen from ND Hwy 1 about 5 miles south of Nekoma, ND
The SRMSC as seen from ND Hwy 1 about 5 miles south of Nekoma, ND

The Mickelsen Safeguard complex was deployed during the 1970s to defend the offensive Minuteman missiles based at Grand Forks Air Force Base in the event of a nuclear ICBM attack by the Soviet Union or China. Depending on the threat, the system could also provide a limited defense of a wider geographical area, including other offensive Minuteman missile fields as well as civilian population centers. It was operational for approximately eight months.

SRMSC from 2 miles south of Nekoma, ND as seen from ND Hwy 1
SRMSC from 2 miles south of Nekoma, ND as seen from ND Hwy 1
Sumoflam and Pyramid
Sumoflam and Pyramid

This unique facility is fascinating to look at.  The pyramid was actually called the Missile Site Radar (MSR) installation.  It used the target trajectory and classification data from the Perimeter Acquisition Radar (PAR) along with additional data supplied by its multiface phased array radar. This site provided additional surveillance and target tracking and also performed the function of track and guidance for the Sprint and Spartan missiles.  Following is a video that explains some of what happened in the 1970s.

The pyramid shaped MSR is by far the most unique building on the site. The 80 foot high truncated pyramid “turret” of the MSR gave the radar its ability to see in all directions and is the only visible part of the MSCB. The MSCB underground areas held additional radar equipment and the data processing and command/control systems. The adjacent underground power plant provided the generating capacity to operate the MSR’s battle management systems.

The Pyramid Shaped MSR of the Mickelson facility
The Pyramid Shaped MSR of the Mickelsen Safeguard Complex
MSR and power buildings
MSR and power buildings

The pyramid was not the only thing of interest in the area.  Nekoma, ND was the support town for the facility, though most of the staff came from the nearby Grand Forks Air Force Base.

Welcome to Nekoma, ND
Welcome to Nekoma, ND
Old buildings in Nekoma, ND
Old buildings in Nekoma, ND
Pain Reliever Bar, Nekoma, ND
Pain Reliever Bar, Nekoma, ND
International Pain Reliever Bar in Nekoma, ND
International Pain Reliever Bar in Nekoma, ND (notice they used a New Mexico flag and not the Mexican flag….)

Nekoma is also the home of the Langdon Wind Farm which has 106 Wind Turbines, some of them right up on the Mickelsen Safeguard complex. In the middle of prairie lands, it offers unique views.

Silo and Wind Turbine near Nekoma, ND
Silo and Wind Turbine near Nekoma, ND
Langdon Wind Farm Info Center near Nekoma, ND
Langdon Wind Farm Info Center near Nekoma, ND
Three Structures: Metal silo, old silo, wind turbine
Three Structures: Metal silo, old silo, wind turbine

I continued north on Hwy 1 into Langdon, ND to see if there was anything interesting there.  Langdon is about 15 miles south of the Canadian border and has about 1800 people residing in the town.

Downtown Langdon, ND
Downtown Langdon, ND
ROXY Theatre in Langdon, ND
ROXY Theatre in Langdon, ND
Old truck in Langdon, ND
Old truck in Langdon, ND

As I drove around I found the town park which actually had one of the Spartan missiles used at the complex in Nekoma.  I thought that was unique.

Spartan Missile in the city park in Langdon, ND
Spartan Missile in the city park in Langdon, ND

From Langdon I proceeded to head west on ND Hwy 5 and then south on ND Hwy 20 to pass though Munich, ND.

Welcome to Munich, ND
Welcome to Munich, ND
Unique town sign in Munich, ND
Unique town sign in Munich, ND

From Munich I continued south into Cando, ND to get some Can Do Spirit!!

South on ND Hwy 20 south of Munich, ND
South on ND Hwy 20 south of Munich, ND
Cando, ND
Cando, ND

Cando, ND is one of my token unique named towns.  It got its name as follows:

“…and in virtue of our authority we select this location and name the town ‘Cando’ to show you that we can do it.”

Capt. Prosper Parker
February 14, 1884

Cando Police, Cando, ND
Cando Police, Cando, ND

Cando is also the “Duck Capital of North Dakota.”

Sumoflam Cando!
Sumoflam Cando!
Cando Bar, Cando, ND
Cando Bar, Cando, ND
Audi Theatre in Cando, ND
Audi Theatre in Cando, ND

And there were a couple of interesting things in town….

Randy's Revival Antique Store in Cando, ND
Randy’s Revival Antique Store in Cando, ND
Cando Water Tower
Cando Water Tower

From Cando I headed west on ND Hwy 16 and then south on ND Hwy 3 into Rugby, ND which lays claim to being the geographical center of North America.

ND Hwy 17
ND Hwy 17
Wind Farm near Rugby, ND
Wind Farm near Rugby, ND
Welcome to Rugby, ND
Welcome to Rugby, ND

According to the 1931 U.S. Geological Survey, the geographic center of the North American continent is located approximately 6 miles west of Balta, Pierce County, North Dakota. The approximate coordinates are given as latitude 48* 10′ North, 100* 10′ West. The field stone pillar was erected in 1932 on US Hwy 2 and ND Hwy 3.

Monument for the Geographic Center of North America in Rugby, ND
Monument for the Geographic Center of North America in Rugby, ND (Notice the HUB Motel sign in the background)
Sumoflam in Rugby, ND
Sumoflam in Rugby, ND
Old Neon for the HUB Motel in Rugby, ND
Old Neon for the HUB Motel in Rugby, ND

A few more scenes from Rugby…

Unique Water Tower in Rugby, ND
Unique Water Tower in Rugby, ND
Old Neon for the Bar/Bowling Alley in Rugby
Old Neon for the Bar/Bowling Alley in Rugby
Centre Cinema in Rugby, ND
Centre Cinema in Rugby, ND

I had finally returned to US Hwy 2 and proceeded westward toward my next planned stop which would be Minot, ND. This city is home to the North Dakota State Fair, but, of more interest to me is their celebration of Scandinavian heritage. The annual Norsk Hostfest is the largest festival of its kind in North America and is a tribute the area’s Scandinavian heritage. The Scandinavian Heritage Park is home to a replica of the beautiful Gol Stave Church which currently sits at the Norsk Folkemuseum in Oslo, Norway.

Sumoflam at the replica of the Gol Stave Church in Minot, ND
Sumoflam at the replica of the Gol Stave Church in Minot, ND

The Gol Stave Church Museum, in Scandinavian Heritage Park is a full-size replica of the original church built in about 1250, now in Bygdoy Park in Oslo.  It is all wooden inside and I would call it “immaculately simple” in its architecture.

Dragons atop the Stave Church
Dragons atop the Stave Church
The Gol Stave Church replica and museum at the Scandinavian Heritage Center in Minot, ND
The Gol Stave Church replica and museum at the Scandinavian Heritage Center in Minot, ND
Top of the Stave Church
Detail of the top of the Stave Church
Wooden Gargoyles of the Stave Church in Minot
Wooden Gargoyles of the Stave Church in Minot
Intricate Wood Carving on the Stave Church doors
Detail of the Intricate Wood Carving on the Stave Church doors

The wood carving is intricate and beautiful in this church. This work was apparently done by professional wood carvers Philip Odden and Elsa Bigton of Norsk Wood Works in Barronet, WI.

The 30 foot tall Dala Horse at the Scandinavian Heritage Center in Minot
The 30 foot tall Dala Horse at the Scandinavian Heritage Center in Minot

A stone’s throw from the Stave Church is the 30 foot Dala Horse which is apparently the most recognized Swedish symbol in the world. In central Sweden, wood scraps from the local furniture-making trade, paint-pigment from nearby copper mines, and long winter evenings bred the development of the Dala Horse. Traditions vary in giving credit to woodsmen and to soldiers for originating the craft. Dala Horses from the Nusnäs-Mora area first appeared with their familiar bright decoration in the 1800’s when the kurbit, or flower patterned saddle, was regularly added to them. There is actually a website dedicated to the Dala Horse.

Dala Horse and one of many buildings at the Scandinavian Cultural Heritage Park
Dala Horse and one of many buildings at the Scandinavian Cultural Heritage Park
Sumoflam with Dala Horse
Sumoflam with Dala Horse

From Minot I continued on to Williston, ND.  This is the heart of the North Dakota oil industry and “fracking.”  There are about 200 drilling rigs in the area. (Read an interesting article about this from National Geographic).

Heading west to Williston, ND on US Hwy 2
Heading west to Williston, ND on US Hwy 2
An old house as seen on the road to Williston
An old house as seen on the road to Williston

Along the way I got a photo of this old homesteader’s house in the prairies.  In the background you can see an oil well pump.

Welcome to Williston, Boom Town USA
Welcome to Williston, Boom Town USA

Williston is a modern Boomtown as “roughnecks” make their way to the town for oil jobs. North Dakota has the second highest level of GDP per capita, generating about $69,000 in economic activity per resident. Only Alaska ranks higher as a result of this oil boom of the 21st century.

Long term housing projects abound in Williston.
Long term housing projects abound in Williston.
Prefab Buildings for Oil Riggers
Prefab Buildings for Oil Riggers

As I drove into town and through town, I was amazed at the number of “extended stay” hotels, prefab apartments, huge trailer complexes and more that had gone up to house all of the oil workers.

Billboards advertise Oil Supplies
Billboards advertise Oil Supplies
Traffic and road construction menace this once quiet town
Traffic and road construction menace this once quiet town

The other thing I noticed was the terrible traffic and all of the road construction and infrastructure building in a town whose population is now bursting at the seams. The photo above represents the nearly 45 minutes that it took me to drive through the town in almost constant stop/go traffic on the congested roads.

Typical scene in Williston - trucks cruising down dusty dirt roads from the drilling fields
Typical scene in Williston – trucks cruising down dusty dirt roads from the drilling fields
An oil rig in Williston, ND
An oil rig (or derrick) in Williston, ND

For Fracture Drilling, the oil rig (or derrick) is used to drill both vertical and horizontal portions of the well.  These are actually temporary in nature, and, depending on the well depth and number of wells developed, these will remain on site for a week to as long as eight weeks. There is a great definition of how the complete process works on Halliburton’s website. I saw a number of Halliburton facilities in Williston.  I know this is a controversial process, and I am not condoning or complaining about it here.  I believe that many of us have no idea how it is done.

Heading west to Montana on US Hwy 2 from Williston
Heading west to Montana on US Hwy 2 from Williston

From Williston I headed west into Montana for an overnight stay in Glasgow, Montana.

Welcome to Montana on US Route 2 heading west
Welcome to Montana on US Route 2 heading west
A lonely tree decorates US Hwy 2 east of Culbertson, MT
A lonely tree decorates US Hwy 2 east of Culbertson, MT
An old church building on the horizon east of Culbertson, Montana on US Hwy 2
An old church building on the horizon east of Culbertson, Montana on US Hwy 2
Sun and sky in eastern Montana
Sun and sky in eastern Montana

I finally arrived in Glasgow, Montana late after driving all the way from Grand Forks, ND, about 490 miles. They only had one motel left in town with any availability due to a state softball tournament.  For the first time in ages I stayed in a 60s style motel with neon and a real key for the door on one of those plastic diamonds with the room number.

Staying at the Star Lodge Motel in Glasgow, Montana
Staying at the Star Lodge Motel in Glasgow, Montana

(12702)

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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