Saturday, September 26, 2009

Lincoln Highway, Clinton Library and the Big Dam Bridge

While we were driving to Amana, we saw this interesting bridge -- an original bridge from the Lincoln highway -- the first transcontinental highway in the USA! In fact, this is the only remaining bridge on the entire route. This highway was first gravel surfaced and stretched from New York to San Francisco. Imagine driving across this very bridge in 1915 as you traveled cross country.

We next visited the Little Rock, AR area and took in the Clinton Presidential Museum. Very interesting and what we both thought was scary was that we remembered all this and it seemed like yesterday!

Here is the actual limo President Clinton used while in the Whitehouse. This think is litterally built like a tank.

The museum featured activities and events for each year that Clinton served as President. One very interesting display was the President's daily activity calendar -- each day took some 5 pages of single spaced type to show the activities!

You could also visit an exact duplicate of the situation room. Here Rick imagines he is in charge!

We thought this replica of the Oval Office was perhaps the most interesting display of all. Furnished exactly as it was while President Clinton was in office, this really provided on insight into the office of the President.

While driving around Little Rock, we say a sign for "The Big Dam Bridge" and had to investigate. It turns out that this is a real bridge for walkers and bikers only and crosses the Arkansas River. It gets its name from the fact that it uses a dam for many of the supports and is, in fact, the longest pedestrian bridge in the USA at some 4,300 feet.

Rising some 90' above the river, this makes a spectacular viewing point for the river. Today, the river was very high and water was really moving as a result of recent heavy rains.

Thursday, September 24, 2009

The Iowa State Capital in Des Moines

We really enjoyed a visit to the Iowa State Capital in Des Moines and were amazed when we saw this magnificent capital building. The main dome rises over 270' above the ground and is gilded with actual gold leaf.

Inside was just as amazing. There is wonderful artwork throughout the capital and the dome is really inspiring as you look up at the top.

Orinda is very impressed with this grand staircase. Take a look at the great mural at the top of the stairs -- a wonderful review of the first pioneers as they came to the Iowa territory.

Or course, Rick was very pleased to see this incredible model of the USS Iowa on loan from the US Navy. I would guess this model is probably 25' long and is fully detailed.

Take a look at this cornerstone! This makes it pretty clear where we are, lest we forget!

The capital sits at the head of a great common area that leads downtown and makes for a great view as you approach. The gun next to Orinda is a Civil War mortar used for siege shelling. Iowa was very involved in the Civil War as can be noted by the monument below.

This monument is a very moving remembrance for all the Iowans who fought in the Civil War and to those who gave their lives in the conflict. Located directly across from the capital, there are monuments for several conflicts. A very moving place to ponder history.

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

The Amana Colonies -- great food!

Since we were going to the Des Moines, IA area, we had the chance to visit the Amana Colonies which we had heard about, but wanted to check out in person. Appropriately, the first place we stopped was the bakery!

Orinda strongly suggest the excellent pecan carmel roll -- a suggestion that Rick fully agrees with! The town of Amana is a great place to visit and is a wonderful place to stroll around the many shops and check out the interesting offerings.

I had recalled the devastating floods of 2008, but this posting made it much clearer. As you can see above, the flood waters crested many feet (I would guess about 15 to 18') above the normal water level. It is hard to imagine how much water would be needed to do this!

While we were exploring Amana, we found that a Pontiac collector car group was touring the area. Cool! These were some wonderful restored cars.

Look at this one -- a mid-50's Pontiac that is still one classy car today.

Of course, we were not just interested in old cars and bakeries. We were kind of surprised to find that there are several wineries in the area which were fun to check out. They usually also offered a selection of great cheese and other locally made snacks. A fun trip to Amana for sure.

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Sioux Falls to Forest City, IA

Cody, the talented Photo Dog, is checking out our site in the Sioux Falls Fairgrounds. Offering a full hookup at a reasonable price, we have spent several nights here while traveling though the area. The fairground is close to downtown Sioux Falls and it is easy to get to all the sights from here.

One of our fellow RV'ers had a very interesting rig. A fulltimer, he pulled his fifth wheel with a large tractor and carries a Smart car on the back! Cool! To load the car, he places ramps on the side of the truck and drives the car down.

This makes for a very interesting rig that offers great towing while retaining an easy to drive small car. Rver's are a very creative bunch!

We traveled to Forest City, IA to the Winnebago factory for some light repairs on the coach. While we were there, we made sure to drop by the Winnebago Visitor Center where we reviewed some of the historical Winnies. Here, Orinda checks out our possible new coach -- a 1967 Winnebago that sold new for about $6,700! The price is right -- but I think we will want to keep our Tour!

Winnebago now makes only motorhomes, but they started by making travel trailers like this 1959 model. Wow, we have really moved a long way from this very basic unit.

Monday, September 14, 2009

The Courthouse Museum in Sioux Falls -- a Treasure!

The City of Sioux Falls is proud of it's past and offers a free, very interesting museum in the original Courthouse. Located downtown, there is plenty of parking and the museum is open daily.

Next to the entry is this wonderful old auto - the original Fawick Flyer. This car was designed and built in Sioux Falls by Thomas Fawick in a bout 1910. Apparently, this is one of the first 4 door, fice passenger car built in the USA. This is his actual car and has about 125,000 miles on it.
The museum has done a great job documenting this interesting car and its history. Apparently, President Teddy Roosevelt rode in this car when he visited Sioux Falls in the early 1910 era.

Not surprisingly, one room of the museum is devoted to agriculture -- specifically CORN! I did not realize the many different varieties of corn that exist and learned that the most common type of corn is the "dent" corn -- named for the small dent that appears at the top of the kernel when it has dried on the ear.

Corn husking contests were very popular in the early 1900's as evidenced by this special hat celebrating one of the biggest husking contests of all -- some 130,000 people attended this one! Hard to believe today that 130,000 folks would come to see people compete husking corn. I suspect we have missed something!

Sioux Falls was also known as a wedding destination (and for a short time, the divorce capitol of the country). One very moving display focuses on wedding gowns that were worn by specific brides of the past. This dress was worn in a ceremony in 1904 by the bride in the picture with her new husband.

I thought wedding dresses were white! Not in the past as shown by this dress from a wedding in 1884 with the couple in the picture. Amazing -- this is the very dress that was worn over 120 years ago.

Finally, we had to take in the display on Sioux Falls drive-ins of the past. We wished that some of these were still around so we could get a shake delivered by a car hop on roller skates! A great museum visit here in Sioux Falls, South Dakota.

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

There are Real Falls in Sioux Falls!

Sioux Falls, SD is the largest city in the state (about 150,000 folks) and is a delightful place. This was first settled due to the waterfalls in the Big Sioux River that stopped folks as they traveled upstream. The falls were a focal point of the city for many years and today, there is a wonderful park that has been established so we can see these falls close up.

The river cuts through a solid bar of red granite which is very beautiful, yet rugged. There were several power plants and other mills that were built in the late 1800's to early 1900's to take advantage of the the water power that was available.

Orinda and Cody stand on the pedestrian bridge over the river which gives a great view. You can just see the ruins of the Queen Bee flour mill in the upper left corner of the picture which is now in ruins, but offer a glimpse of the era of 100 years ago.

Here, you can get an idea as to the volume of water passing over the falls, even during the low water period of late summer. In the spring, this is really dramatic given the high volumes of water that flow over the falls.

On our way back to the SD Fairgrounds, where we were camping, we passed the Battleship South Dakota Monument, which is off of 12th Street. The battleship South Dakota was a famous WWII battleship that had the great distinction to be in the only battleship to battleship naval battle in the war off Guadalcanal (in company with the Battleship Washington). The South Dakota was so successful in fighting, that she was referred to as Battleship X to make the Japanese think there was more that just the South Dakota involved.

When the South Dakota was de-commissioned at the end of the war, the state of South Dakota wanted to memorialize the ship. Unfortunately, the Big Sioux River was WAY too small to bring the huge battlewagon up to Sioux Falls. So, a wonderful memorial was constructed with a lifesize outline of the ship which includes many great photos, gun placements, etc. This is a great place to spend a few hours in reflection on this great ship and the men who sailed her.

This shows the bow of the memorial and gives a great idea as to the size of this great ship. If you get into Sioux Falls, be sure to take the 1 mile drive off of I-29 on 12th Street to see the South Dakota Memorial.

Saturday, September 5, 2009

The South Dakota National Guard Museum

I dropped Orinda off at the mall and did some exploring of Pierre on my own. I ran across the SD National Guard Museum just off the main drag and took a look.

This was another great surprise from the Pierre area. I had no idea what to expect, but was very surprised when I toured the facility. Outside, there are a number of exhibits from SD Guard unit operations that are in great condition.

This is what I need to tow behind the coach! The National Guard Museum traces the history of the SD Guard from the creation before the Mexican/American war. This was well before the Dakotas were admitted to the Union and actually, this early guard unit was from the Dakota Territory.

There are many, many great exhibts showing Guards troops from every era over the past 150 years. This fully restored Harley was used during WWII and was fully ready to go.

The Guard has served literally all over the world and consists of a number of units located throughout the state. This truck comes from the late WWII era.

The Museum also features information from the SD Air National Guard. Founded by the flying ace Joe Foss and others, the Air Guard is housed in Sioux Falls and was formed after WWII.

There was a section of the museum on Joe Foss, a native of SD. He was not only a great flyer (based on Guadalcanal with the Marines), and Medal of Honor winner, but he was a very active South Dakotan serving as its Governor, host of the TV show American Sportsman, and Commissioner of the American Football League. Wow -- what an incredible life.

The Guard Museum is a great place to learn about our citizen soldiers and the great contribution they have made to the state and country.

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Lake Oahe --a "Great Lake of the Missouri"

Lake Oahe is located just north of Pierre and is the 4th largest reservoir in the USA, stretching some 231 miles up the Missouri. This huge lake with 2,250 miles of shoreline, actually reaches up to Bismark, ND!

The Lake is dammed up by the Oahe Dam, which was built in the late 40's and is one of the largest rolled-earth dams in the world. This view shows the water intake structure above the dam that leads water into the generating turbines. While hard to see in this picture, since the scale is so large, there are several boats trolling for salmon here near the dam.

The Dam is about 245' high and water behind the dam flows through the intake into the powerhouse and out through the turbines, generating electricity. The large cylinders behind me are the generating turbines and the amount of water flowing through them (and the current) is dramatic. Fishing below the dam is also popular and focuses on walleye.

Not to be outdone in the fishing department, there many while pelicans swimming looking for fish. These are large, beautiful birds and there were several hundred in the area. They spend the summer in South Dakota and then migrate south for the winter -- sounds like a great plan to me!