Tuesday, April 16, 2013

A Day Trip to the Old Iowa Capital...

Amid watching all of the horrific news about what happened at the Boston Marathon, my jaw dropped yesterday.  A bunch of questions popped into my mind...Is violence becoming part of our society?  Or has it always been there and it was just shown in other forms?  And what can we do to safe guard ourselves against such things happening?  I guess we could avoid large groups and stay safely in our homes but then what happens to our sense of community?  Are we to question what our neighbors are up to and always be questioning their motives?  And where would all of that distrust and separation possibly lead to? Well, one only may need to look at the Middle East to get the answer to that one.  Are we all leading that way? Maybe I’m just over reacting to all of this but I still can’t help but wonder what we should be doing…
Photo- The Old Iowa State Capital on the University of Iowa Campus.
Meanwhile back here in Iowa, last week when the weather was a balmy 50 degrees and the sun was shining I took a day trip to the Old Iowa State Capital in Iowa City.  The Old Capital with its gold covered dome which is a topped with flags sits prominently in the middle of the University of Iowa campus.  On the day I was there, students were sitting on its steps; some relaxing while others were buried in books studying, while still others were walking around enjoying a day of sunshine.  In general the area seemed like a place of openness, happiness, and hope; but that could have been the sunny day talking to me.
Photo- The view from the Old Capital steps.
I will say that there’s quite the commanding view of Iowa City from the back steps of the Old Capital.  There has been a great deal of growth and construction taking place in the area.  A great deal of that construction is rebuilding after the BIG flood of 2008 that took place in the area.  That BIG flood happened along the Cedar River and hit both Iowa City and my hometown of Cedar Rapids very hard, but more about that in upcoming posts.

The Old Capital actually served as the State Capital of Iowa for a very short time frame.  It was finished being built in 1842, when Iowa was still just a territory.  Four years later, Iowa became the 29th state and it very soon became obvious that the Old Capital building was not large enough to serve as a Capital.  Meanwhile, it was decided that the Capital should also be more centrally located in Iowa.  Thus, a location was found in Des Moines, Iowa and the present day state capital building was finished in 1857.  Yes, if you do the math the Old State Capital only served as the state capital of Iowa for 11 years.
Photo- Iowa's earlier currency on display.
After those 11 years, the Old Capital building became the first permanently owned building by the State University of Iowa which later got name changed to the University of Iowa.   Until the mid-1970’s, classes took place and offices of the University were in this building.  But after a while, the University of Iowa outgrew this capital building too. 
Photo- The central staircase in the Old Iowa Capital building.
In July 1976, it was reopened as a restored National Historic Landmark and served as a state museum.  But the history didn’t stop there.  On November 20, 2001, contractors using open flame torches and heat guns on the cupola supporting the building's gold dome accidentally set the cupola on fire. Ooopps! Thankfully the actual fire was limited to the cupola area due to a concrete slab that had been installed during a 1920’s renovation but there was tons of damage done by water to douse those flames.   A new dome was built on the building in February 2003 and the building was restored and reopened to the public in 2006.

The building was designed with large windows to allow for light and there were wood stoves installed in each of the four corners of the building.  Later, they discovered those four stoves were not enough to combat the cold Iowa winter and they installed more stoves in the halls where pipes had been installed throughout the walls to help circulate the heat in the building.  This was years before duct work had been created and I guess you could say it was one of the pioneers to the idea of doing something like that.  During the cold of the winter and the height of summer heat, cloth covered shutters and wool curtains helped.  In the 1920’s there was a switch to steam heat in the building.  Sorry, I find this fascinating and I guess that’s due to working in the heating and air-conditioning business for 11 years of my life.
Photo- Old Civil War guns on display in the downstairs of the Old Capital.
Downstairs in a small exhibit hall, there was a Civil War Exhibit and it was interesting going through and reading about the Union’s 22 that were based out of Iowa at the time.  The 22nd was instrumental in the battle of Vicksburg and amid all of the guns, swords, and artifacts there were stories of University of Iowa students that had served their part in the Civil War, both for the North and the South.  It was a very interesting exhibit.
Photo- Part of the restored Library room in the Old Capital building.

On the main floor area there are offices that have been restored.  Some of those offices are restored to the time when the Old Capital was an active Capital building and other offices that served as offices for the president of the University of Iowa.  There’s also a room that was used as a library for the University at one time. 
Photo- Herkys' signed by the freshman classes in the upper foyer area.

Upstairs in the foyer area, are four large white Herkys’ which are covered with signatures and stand on dated pedestals.  The Herky is the school’s mascot.  The signatures are from the University freshman who sign when they start attending.  The dates on the pedestals are the four most recent years.  It’s an interesting tradition of the University of Iowa.  I forgot to ask where these Herkys’ go when each year as those freshman graduate from the University.  Is there a Herky Heaven?
Photo- The House Chambers in the Old Capital Building.

Also, up on the upper level is a where the restored House Chamber and the Senate Chamber were.  The House Chamber serves as a museum area and is preserved where the Chamber appears to be used for possible meetings and other events for the University.  In fact, there was student playing a piano while I was there and getting feedback from a teacher.  I had wondered where all that wonderful piano music was coming from while I was touring the building.
Photo- The elegant Senate Chambers where the piano music was wafting from during my tour.

Sunday, March 31, 2013

Catching Up in CR...

It’s been a while since I’ve updated this blog.  In fact, its been about 2 months.  It’s hard to believe that time can sometimes fly that fast.  So you may ask what have I been up to?  Most of my time has been spent between two different jobs.   I’m working on saving money up for my next tangent of road adventure. But today, I had my first day off from both of the jobs and so here I am doing a bit of updating...

One of the jobs I’ve been working is a on-line tech support job for an educational firm.  Yes, I know those of you out there that know me find this rather funny.  On-line tech support?  She had to bring a guy friend over the last time to set up her stereo/TV/DVD Player.  But I seem to be managing through with the help of a wonderful on-line resource and a supportive team spirit of people that I work with.  I’m actually solving people’s problems over the phone and it sometimes amazes me that I’m doing this.  But it’s been a fun experience overall and I will admit that I'm learning to be more tech saavy.

The other job that I’ve been working is for the Cedar Rapids Convention and Visitor’s Bureau.  It seems like a perfect fit after being on a road trip for  four and a half months.  In that time I have visited an awful lot of Visitor’s Center and know what I would expect  as a visitor.  So, here I am working from the other point of view.  Thankfully, because I grew up in Cedar Rapids; I already really knew my way around.  The center where I work is in the Czech Village area of Cedar Rapids. Last Saturday was the St. Joseph Day's Parade in Czech Village.  I took a few pictures while I was working.
Photo- It's Iowa, of course there's a tractor in the parade!
Photo: Thing 1, Thing 2, & Cat in the Hat--Hmmm?  Not sure what they had to do with St. Joseph
but at least they were wearing red.  So, why not?

It’s been rather fun meeting people from all over the country and I’ve even gotten to talk with an exchange student from the Czech Republic.  I get to hand out different flyers and give directions to people .  Some of the places I’ve been to, some that I would like to go visit, and still others it has been years since I’ve been there that I have forgotten.  A few things that are on my list are; the Brucemore Mansion, the Grant Wood Studio where he painted the famous American Gothic, and to Dyersville to see the Field of Dreams Movie set.  Yes, I know it’s rather corny of me to want to see a baseball diamond set among corn fields, but after all I am in Iowa.  I figure a little “corniness” is allowable in the Corn State.
Photo- All pimped out in Red for St. Joseph! 
Did I mention that the local pubs were serving Red beer too?!?
Photo- Got to have the ladies dancing in a parade!  And these ladies were wonderful!

When I’m not working at either of the two jobs, I’m doing some painting or Mall Walking.  Yes, Mall walking and let me explain that Iowa’s weather is so very unpredictable.  It can go from rain to snow in a blink of an eye and quite often it doe.  I want to go some place where I can get some form of exercise on a predictable schedule and somewhere cheap because I am trying to save after all.  But I will admit that it is a boost to the ego to be passing all of those older people that do that Mall Walking.  I know that’s terrible of me.  I am hoping that as Spring really eventually comes to this past of Iowa that I’ll be able to get out on my bicycle or perhaps, even get some running in too.

I'm also hoping to squeeze in a bit more local sight seeing while I'm here in Iowa and hope to report and show pictures here soon,  Thanks for visiting and I hope to be updating you soon with some local sights!

Sunday, January 20, 2013

Road Trip On Pause: Firemen, & Hoover…

(***Editors Note- I'm sorry but I hope to add pictures at a later date.  Google has still been having problems with adding photos with MS Internet Explorer. ***)

I know I really needed to update this and let all of you out there know what I’ve been up to.  Sorry for the delay and laziness on my part.  Yes, I’m still in my hometown in eastern Iowa.  It seems like ages ago that I left out on the first day of this road trip.  That was the day I saw a vested pair of a man and a goat out along the freeway just outside of Boise, ID; a totally unexpected strange thing to see during my first day of a road trip.  I’ve been amazed at the sights that I have seen since that day in late August. 

But now, I’m in a bit of a pause mode trying to build up some money in my savings so that I can head out on my adventure again.  I’m not sure how long that will take.  I am hoping to get to Washington DC to see the cherry blossoms this Spring. Lately, I’ve been working doing some temporary data entry.  I’ve applied for several waitress jobs too.  I haven’t worked in a restaurant in several years that I think they are wondering why I’m applying.  I guess in hindsight I should have gotten a part time one in Utah before I left.  I applied at one restaurant and they saw my degree in Hotel/Restaurant Management and wanted me to apply for a management position.  I half-heartedly filled out the application but I’m not really interested.  So anyway the job searching and working is an ongoing process.

Fire Station Tour
I have been doing a bit of sightseeing and different things here locally in eastern Iowa.  So I’ve been continuing in a way with the trip.  One day I went on a school filed trip with my nephew to see a local fire station in Marion, Iowa.  A Fireman and certified MT named Peter gave us a tour of the station.  We started out in the classroom where he discussed what they did.  The number one calls that they made other than fire are medical calls.  They do regular trainings at the fire station to keep updated in the latest medical techniques. They also do a fair amount of training on other locations; like practicing fighting fires.  Most recently, they got to burn down a local abandoned house that the owner had donated to them for training.  We were told that if at any time during our tour that if a call came in that we were to report to the classroom for our safety and to keep clear of the fireman that needed to get out on a call.

We were also told safety tips and what to do if we are ever in a case if our home had a fire like; keep low, check the temperatures of the doors, and if caught on fire to drop and roll.  Next, Peter took us out to where the fire trucks were and showed us how he put on his gear.  He talked while he put the gear on; explaining the equipment and other aspects of firefighting.  He told us that he would look and sound quite a bit different when he got his gear on and to not be afraid of him.  Once he got all of the firefighting gear on he crawled around on the floor grabbing some of our feet.  Quite often he said that firefighters would be down near the ground and that was where we should be too in case of a fire.  I expected him to sound more like Darth Vader but his voice was not quite that scary.  But it was somewhat muffled.  Peter said that all of the gear weighed close to 65 lbs. He also told us how they needed to get into their gear in less than 2 minutes time.
Photo- Fireman Peter in full gear as Captain Kirk watched.

Next, we took a tour around the fire trucks with Fireman Captain Kirk.  Yes, Captain Kirk!  He explained how some trucks carried water on them and the different uses that each truck had.  One vehicle that they used the most was the medical truck because it was the most fuel efficient and was easier to get around in.  The larger trucks were for fires.  One of the smaller large trucks had a holding area where water could be pumped from a local lake or pond and then immediately used to fight a fire.  Generally this truck was used in more remote farmland areas with a water source nearby.  There was another fire truck that had a large water gun on the back that was used to fight fires out in a field. 
Photo- Captain Kirk showing a future fireman how to hook up the hose to the truck.

Next some of the kids in the class got to play firemen as they connected a hose onto a truck and three of them pretended to work the hose over to a fire in a nearby room.  It was too cute watching them trying to work as a team on a hose that was almost larger than the three of them.  Next, Captain Kirk took us through the living quarters of the fire station.  There were 6 rooms in all, three on each side.  I was surprised at how plain they were.  Each had a wall of closets on one side, a window, a twin bed and a night stand; that was all.  At the end of the hall was a fairly large plain kitchen with a round table in the middle and on the other side was a room with a large TV with chairs and sofas.

Hoover Presidential Library
Another day I went to the Hoover Presidential Library which is located in West Branch, Iowa.  It’s funny that I had grown up so close to a Presidential Library but I had never visited it before.  Most people negatively tie President Hoover with the Great Depression, and I must admit that I generally did not have a good outlook on him either but I decided to go in with an open mind.  I was surprised.

Hoover was born in a small house in West Branch, Iowa and worked up his way to become one of the highest paid engineers in the world.  By his mid-30’s he was tired of earning money and opted for a life full of philanthropy.  There was a map of the world at the entrance to the main part of the library on the floor and it showed a star by every country that he had touched.  There were quite a few stars.  His wife worked hand in hand with him on his charities and eventually because of the public profile he ended up going into politics. 

One of his first roles in politics was the position of Secretary of Commerce on the Presidential staff of President Harding.  During this time, Hoover was instrumental in standardization of almost everything from house building to road signs to weights and measurements; all of this in an effort to make government and business to work together in his belief of an efficiency movement. He believed that the government and the economy were riddled with waste and inefficiencies.  Wow, I wonder what he would say about government today?  The big joke during Hoover’s time at this job was that you better be careful what you did because Hoover may find a way to standardize and make it more efficient. He was touted as being a little too enthusiastic about his job.  But quite a bit of what he did back then affects us every day now.   

From the standardization, he ended up being catapulted into being nominated for the presidency.  He won in the election of 1928.  I watched a film and heard the recording of the live radio broadcast of his inaugural speech.  He was one of the first Presidents to be heard live during this speech.  I was rather amazed at his plain speaking and not overstating but he outlined what was considered idealistic at the time.

When the stock market crash happened and the Great Depression started, no one was prepared for such an event.  There was a lot of debate at the time to let the free capitalistic market work its way back without assistance from the government and to not regulate or make laws.  Hoover started to lay in a lot of the ground work towards building the WPA projects.  But he was voted out of office before they took full bloom.  It was even more interesting that after WW2, he was asked by FDR to help organize recovery efforts to feed the thousands of hungry Europeans affected by the war.  He continued to work and help people the rest of his life.  It all surprised me that he did all this during his life.

Monday, January 7, 2013

A Christmas Break & New Year!

(*** Editor's Note: Google Blogs has been having issues with downloading of photos.  I hope to be able to add these photos in at a later date.  I also apologize for just not keeping up on my blogging.  Oh, and Happy Belated New Year! )

I have come home to my hometown for Christmas; in the hilly country of eastern Iowa.  I was in need of a much needed break of my traveling style of life.  It's rather hard to move from day to day.  Plus it is always interesting to “go home”.  Of course, there always are those residual memories, both good and bad that remain.  I will admit that it was good to see the family.  But with that also there’s that portion where the family can really drive you to a point of insanity and you remember why you left in the first place.  That point arrived a few days after I arrived.  Mom and I butted heads to say the least.  Family always seems to manage to push your buttons and it’s never a very pretty sight.  Now don’t get me wrong, I love my family but they really do know how to push my buttons.
Photo- The family on the couch for a Christmas photo.
It has been fun revisiting old hangouts.  I went to the old Spring House Restaurant with my mom.  The Spring House was the place where we always used to go eat when I was growing up.  It was relatively inexpensive and there was a sit down dining room area.  Growing up it was bit of a splurge for us to go there because of being a single parent home.  It’s rather amazing when you go to a place like that again and see that it really hasn’t changed all that much.  In fact, I think they still have the same original chairs and booths; just recovered.
Photo- My nephew and I building snowmen.  His snowman is taller than mine of course!

I did manage to have some new fun.  I took one evening and built snowmen with my nephew.  I know his snowman was so much better than the one I tried to build.  His mother supplied us with a couple of spray bottles that had water with food coloring.  It was a choice of yellow, red, or yellow.  In my sick sense of humor, I tended to go overboard with the yellow.  There’s just something about yellow snow.  Oh I’m terrible!  We also went and purchased some new sleds which I hope we will get to break in soon.
Photo- A snow covered empty street in Main Amana, IA.

Another afternoon, we took a drive down to the Amana Colonies where we went around looking at little shops throughout the cute little German community.  The Amana Colonies is a National Historic Landmark and one of America’s longest-lived communal societies.  I periodically have visited the main Amana as I was growing up; mostly during the May Fest which is a large festival.  There are seven different villages of which the main Amana is the largest.  You can read more about the history and the colonies at this link… http://amanacolonies.com/

During our afternoon we tasted wine, had Rubens (mine without the kraut), and walked through all kinds of wonderful shops.  My favorite places I used to go as a kid were the Woolen Mill where they make all kinds of woolen goods and the furniture store where they have a room full of clocks.  I was a bit disappointed because usually at both places they have areas where you can watch people working.  At the Woolen Mill, there’s usually a room where the looms are going and you can watch as material is being made.  Due to the holidays though, there were not any equipment that was being operated.  This was also the case at the Furniture Shop.  They usually have an area that you can watch the wood workers which is always fun and fascinating.  But I got some fun in with watching a dancing clock face in the furniture shop and I almost bought a pair of "Mucka-Ducks" which were heavy woolen long moccasin like socks that looked very warm. 

 Yes, I'm having a bit of time adjusting to the cold weather here in Iowa.  I forgot how cold it can get here during the winter.  Those cold fronts come out of Canada and drift down into Iowa.  They deposit here and seem to want to stay.  Some of the evenings have been getting down to the negative degrees which is something that I haven't had to experience in years living in Utah.  Utah gets the snow but it doesn't get much below the lower 20's.  I'm very much hoping for a bit of a January thaw in the New Year.

For New Year's Eve, the night got down to -1 with a lovely chill factor (a common thing here in Iowa during the winter) it actually felt like anywhere from -15 to -20.  Mom and I had a snack night in front of the TV watching the New York New Year's Eve.  But I had to laugh when I saw on the local news about Prairie Du Chen, Wisconsin did a dropping of the HUGE carp fish.  Leave it to us, Midwestern folk to make things interesting and different.  So they drop a carp almost 100 ft. out of a tree.  I wonder what happens to the fish then?

I woke up with a cold on New Year's Day with a sore throat and feeling yucky.  Yep!  I started the New Year with a cold.  I stayed in bed most of the day and came out only to try to eat a bit or to use the restroom.  Happy New Year to all of you out there!  I hope your year started out better.  And thank you to those of you that have been contacting me to see how I have been doing I haven't been blogging as much as I should have been.  Something I need to work on in the New Year.