Wednesday, October 2, 2013

I-O-W-A ! The State Capitol in Des Moines, Amana, The Iowa Machine Shed

This morning we crossed into Iowa from Nebraska in the middle of a bridge. The sign was hanging overhead, and even if we had tried to stop the car in the middle of the bridge for a photo, we wouldn't have gotten it, and I would not be here to write about it.  Imagine it.

The first thing we noticed is that Iowa has the BEST rest areas ever!  They are working as I type to improve all of the interstate stops with clean, new facilities and beautifully landscaped picnic areas.  Anyone would be impressed.  We were.

Iowa is a farming state.  We passed some beautiful fields of corn today.  I don't know when their harvest is over, but if it is, then whatever's out there is still beautiful, to this non-farmer.

 After all of those mountains, Iowa seems very flat, but there are rolling hills between the small towns.

Our sightseeing today was in Des Moines, the capital city of Iowa.  We had one goal in mind, but when we saw the sign for The Basilica of St. John, we had to alter the plan. You know that we visit basilicas, just because they are usually unusual and lovely.

When we got to The Basilica of St. John, we were disappointed to find it locked up tightly.  We tried every entrance, to no avail.  I did take a picture of the outside, but the inside will have to remain a mystery, so the picture of the building as a whole will also remain a mystery.  You will see the front door and one cross from a corner of a rooftop.  The sky was so clear and blue that I need to show you that.

A few blocks from St. Johns, we saw the dome of the Iowa State Capitol Building shining in the distance. It should shine!  It's 23 carat gold-plated! Now, THIS is a DOME !

Iowa didn't just stop with this dome. They have four more of them, one on each corner!  Actually, we decided that this is the most beautiful state capitol that we've seen yet. (We also promised each other that we'd go back to all the ones we've seen but didn't go into, now that we've found out how wonderful the insides are!) 
Here is the inside of that main dome. The flag that you see up there is actually suspended from the top. (No, I did not lie down on the floor. There were visitors from other countries in there getting a tour.) If we had gone on a tour, we could have walked up there around the top. We did the self-guided tour.

In one hall there is a glass case filled with dolls. I learned that they each represented a First Lady of Iowa, a wife of the governor.  Although all the dolls have the same face, each was dressed in her inaugural dress, so it was fun to see all the style changes over the years portrayed by clothes.

At the top of the Grand Stairway to the second floor is a mural painting titled Westward, by Edwin Blashfield, which symbolizes the pioneers' arrival in Iowa.  It is absolutely beautiful with its almost ghostly Conestoga wagons.  You may have to go there, just to see this.
On the second floor are the Senate Chambers and the House of Representatives.  Here is a peek into the Senate Chambers.
We were also permitted into the Law Library on the second floor.  By the time we had entered the building we had already heard from two people that the library was not to be missed.  It contains over 100,000 volumes.
 We finally left Des Moines and kept on moving east. No visit to Iowa seems complete without a stop at the Amana Colonies. We did not actually go to the "colonies," today, but we did stop at Little Amana, which is a retail area near the interstate to be sure that nobody gets by the area without seeing and/or buying something produced there. There are technically seven villages that make up the "colonies" formed around 1855 in Iowa by a religious group of hard-working people from Germany. One trip through Iowa I will revisit the whole thing, but today we bought some gifts and went on by.

Tonight we are in a lovely Comfort Inn in Davenport, Iowa.  We've used the fitness room, Randy has been swimming, and we have had a most unusual dinner.  We called it "a happening!"

 The young lady who checked us in to the Comfort Inn mentioned The Iowa Machine Shed as the place to eat.  I wasn't sure I'd heard her correctly, but away we went!

My first time to sit on a tractor
What a fun place!  The outside has farm machinery all over the place, as does the inside.  It's sort of country, sort of hillbilly, sort of home cooking, or barbecue, or health food.  The menu is incredible, and it honestly took me twenty minutes to decide to order the barbecued beef brisket sandwich. Well, that wasn't enough, because then we had to pick two "sides" to share with our dinner.  Randy ordered the "burnt ends" dinner, which was both pork and beef barbecued meat. I added a cup of the thickest and most delicious chili I've had in a long time, for one dollar, to my meal.  We sat there and literally stuffed ourselves, then packed up the rest to bring back to the motel.

 The waitresses wear farmer clothes. We watched one young girl bus a table, and it was unbelievable to see her clear eight table places onto one large tray and then carry it away on her shoulder.  I'd bet that she'd need two trips.  Hardworking people are not only in the Amana Colonies, apparently. When they all gathered to sing a Happy Birthday greeting to a customer, the song sounded a whole lot like "Old McDonald Had a Farm."

Apparently there are five more of these Iowa Machine Sheds spread around Iowa and Illinois. The one in Davenport was the first one opened.

We drove 323 miles today, but who's counting? (Randy is.)   There are about 600 more to go,  and we've enjoyed Iowa today.

 My dad took me with him to his 40th college reunion at Cornell College in Mount Vernon, Iowa, about 1963, when I was fifteen.  He drove me by the state capitol on that trip, and we had a really good time together. It was the only trip I ever took with him, just the two of us.  I felt him with me today, and that was a really, really nice feeling.

Copyright: KP Gillenwater, 2013