Saturday, October 21, 2017

Another notch on the Capitol belt

For quite awhile we have been visiting state capitols and getting a stamp for a passport book called “Capitol Collection.” Every state capitol has a specially designed stamp and there is a page for each in the book. I have already written about visiting the capitol in St. Paul MN and this week we visited the state capitol in Little Rock AR.

When we walked up to the building I felt like I had already seen this building. It is built of white marble with a tall dome in the center, a long marble staircase at the entrance (even though you really enter through a tunnel under the stairs), and two wings for the two houses of Congress. There are four floors and a basement which has a cafeteria. The fourth floor was mainly exhibits and paintings. The third floor contained the galleries overlooking the Senate and House of Representatives chambers. On the second floor you could look into these houses and also enter the old Supreme Court chambers, the governor’s reception room, and the state treasurer’s office with its no longer used vault. You could also look up at the dome and the beautiful chandelier. The front doors are made of polished bronze (from Tiffany’s in New York) and have not been opened since 9/11. The first floor is mainly offices, security, gift shop, etc.

So, after viewing all of this I was reading the brochure and discovered that the architect was Cass Gilbert – the same architect who designed and built the Minnesota Capitol! He finished Minnesota in 1905 and started this one in 1909. No wonder they looked so much alike. However, Arkansas does not have all of the beautiful paintings, statues, and other decorative elements that Minnesota has. The house chambers are rather plain and there is no Rathskeller!
Arkansas state capitol
Minnesota state capitol

So, now I have 6 more capitals to visit and I will have seen all 50 – hurrah!

Friday, October 20, 2017

Travel log!

Since I don’t seem to be catching up with myself I decided I would just write a brief synopsis of our trip so far, so here goes:

Thursday, October 12
      We visited the Amana Colonies and stayed in Iowa City IA

Friday, October 13 (Friday the 13th)
      We visited Herbert Hoover NHS, did  scenic drive, and camped along the Des Moines River.

Saturday, October 14
     We finished the scenic drive in the rain; stopped in Hannibal MO to visit a town that makes its living off Mark Twain; did another scenic drive along the Mississippi River; stopped at the Henry Lay Sculpture Garden.
Happy Birthday to Don from the man on the bench!

Sunday, October 15
      We traveled through the Ozarks crossing in and out of the Ozark National Scenic Riverways. We stayed in Troy MO

 Monday, October 16
       We entered Arkansas via the Crowley Ridge Scenic Byway and visited the Capitol in Little Rock (more later). We stayed near Benton AR.

Tuesday, October 17
      We visited Clinton’s birthplace NHS in Hope AR. Got off the Interstate and found lovely state highways with not too many trucks. Entered Texas at Texarkana and stayed in Sherman TX.

Wednesday, October 18
      We stopped in Wichita Falls to see the falls. Turns out they were washed away in a flood and now there is a man made falls which involves a 1 mile hike to see. We gave up on that plan. We drove to Oklahoma to drive through the Wichita Mountains Wildlife Refuge and camped there.

Thursday, October 19

      Today is a big birthday day for Don, his brother, Fred, and my sister, Dee. We did a lot of driving, saw some nice scenery, and ended up in Lubbock TX – the home of Buddy Holly!

Thursday, October 19, 2017

Visiting National Historic Sites

Another thing I like to do when we travel across the country is collect stamps for my National Parks passport. We have visited several sites on this trip.

On Friday we made a side trip to West Branch IA to visit the birthplace of Herbert Hoover, a National Historic site (NHS). We saw the two room cottage where he was born in 1874 and lived for 4 years with his parents and 2 siblings. One room was the bedroom; the other was the living area. The kitchen was separated from the other rooms (maybe for safety) and there was a back porch which often served as a sleeping area. The site also includes a Quaker meeting house, a one room school house, a blacksmith shop (his father was a blacksmith), and several historic homes. Nearby is the Hoover Presidential Library.

Don at President Hoover's birth place
Herbert’s  family was Quaker and helped settle the town. Both of his parents died before Herbert was 9 and he lived with relatives until he was of age. He went to school at Stanford. So, I learned a lot about this 31st president of the United States and was quite impressed with his accomplishments –he worked as a mining engineer in Australia; survived the Boxer Rebellion while working in China; translated a book on mining which is still used today; he was chairman of the commission for relief in Belgium during WWI; Secretary of Commerce under Warren and Harding; he was especially interested in helping children and founded CARE and UNICEF. He had many other humanitarian accomplishments primarily due to his early upbringing as a Quaker in a small town . He died in 1964.

Suzanne at President Clinton's birth home
We also visited President William Jefferson Clinton’s birthplace home in Hope AR which is another NHS. Clinton’s father died before he was born and he lived with his mom and grandparents in this house. If you look at his history he has a lot in common with Hoover – they were raised in a small town, with a loving, but somewhat broken family (Clinton’s mother remarried and they moved to Hot Springs AR). They had a good education and worked hard on humanitarian issues. Clinton was the 42nd president of the United States.

On our scenic drive through the Ozarks we were in the Ozark National Scenic Riverways (NSR). It comprises the Current and Jacks Fork Rivers. The visitor center is in Van Buren. Unfortunately, it was closed – but it was a beautiful area and worth a revisit if we are ever in the area again.

And today we did revisit an area (unknowingly). We are camping in the Wichita Mountains Wildlife Refuge. It is not an official National Parks site, but is run by the National Fish & Wildlife Management.

Wednesday, October 18, 2017

Scenic highways and byways

I have a National Geographic book called “Scenic Highways and Byways.” Whenever we travel we try to avoid the truck dominated Interstate highways and take less traveled roads. Following the routes in this book has helped us find some pleasant and interesting spots as we travel.

So, on Friday we decided to take the Woodlands Scenic Byway which is basically county roads (1 miserable gravel road section) from Ottumwa IA to Farmington IA in south eastern Iowa. It turns out it was the week end of the Scenic Drive Festival and many of the little towns along the drive were having craft and yard sales, book sales, craft demonstrations; there were all kinds of food events. plus musical events and a parade. Unfortunately, it was also raining, so we didn’t much feel like participating in any of the events.  It did clear up by Sunday, but we were long gone by then! We did spend some time in Keosauqua, the largest town, population 1006. It has a lovely waterfront along the Des Moines River. Many of the small towns were considered port towns at one time. We stayed in Lacey-Keosauqua State Park, a beautiful wooded park  along the Des Moines River.

On Saturday afternoon (we were out of the rain by then) we drove the “Little Dixie Highway of the Great River Road.” This is Missouri Highway 79 from south of Hannibal to Clarksville MO. It is called “Little Dixie” because it goes through an area of Missouri settled by people from the south! We had glimpses of the Salt River and lots of wooded hillsides. The trees are just starting to turn color here. We turned off at the town of Louisiana to visit the Henry Lay Sculpture Garden on county road UU.

Here I am in the Ozarks!
Sunday, October 15, found us looking for the scenic drive through the Ozarks. It was on Missouri 19 from Salem to Eminence. I must say I was a little underwhelmed! I was expecting mountains, but all we saw were low wooded hills and more windy roads without shoulders. We decided Missouri must be where old cars go to die – almost every yard was filled with junk cars! There were a lot of mobile homes and unkempt properties. It is really interesting to see the variety in our country.

Crowley’s Ridge Parkway is the final drive we have taken so far. It starts in Missouri and goes into Arkansas following a ridge formed when the Mississippi and Ohio River flowed parallel 15,000 years ago and formed an upraised ridge between them. It is only 200 to 250 feet higher than the surrounding land, but it is still an interesting geological formation.

Tuesday, October 17, 2017

The Amana Colonies

Thursday, October 12, found us visiting the Amana Colonies in central Iowa. The community was founded in 1855 by a group of religious refugees from Buffalo NY. They had emigrated from Germany to practice their religion called the Community of True Inspiration (not the Amish or the Mennonites). They found a beautiful, peaceful surrounding in the Iowa River Valley and eventually established 7 villages. Here they could practice their belief in the Bible and quiet inward devotion They also believed that God spoke to them through special people and scribes followed these people around writing down everything that they said that seemed inspired. It sounds like a modern day prophet!

We took the loop around the villages starting in Amana which is where the most tourist stuff is. I shopped in the Amana Woolen Mill which has been weaving blankets and other cozy items since 1857. You could watch some of the weavers at work and listen to a narrative about the history of the factory. The several blocks of stores and restaurants reminded us of Solvang in California, although not as extensive. I also found a quilt shop which was another occasion of sin!

We drove past Middle Amana, bought items in the High Amana General Store (what a trip that was), drove the 4 block circle in West Amana, and continued past South Amana before moving on. The only towns we missed were Homestead and East Amana. I remember my mom and dad coming here and wonder how much it has changed since their visits and which places they enjoyed..

We finished our day with pizza in the university town of Iowa City.

Monday, October 16, 2017


On Tuesday, October 10, we headed for Mankato MN to have a Betsy-Tacy adventure.  I have been a fan of the Betsy-Tacy books by Maud Hart Lovelace since I was a child growing up in Winnebago MN and Maud was just writing the books. They are a lovely slice of life about growing up in the early 1900’s in the family friendly town of Mankato. The homes of Maud (Betsy in the books) and Bick (Tacy) are across the street from each other and have been lovingly restored by the Betsy-Tacy Society (of which I am a member). They were not open, but we took pictures of the houses and the bench up the hill where the little girls played. We also saw the new statue of the Boy in Blue (a Civil War soldier) in Lincoln Park. This was another favorite place for Maud and her friends to come. We ended up at the Blue Earth Historical Society where I purchased some more books written by Maud and her author husband, Delos Lovelace.
Suzanne visits the "bench" in Mankato

We finished the day with a trip to Red Wing MN where I visited the Goodhue County Historical Society and City Hall looking for more records of my family who lived in this part of the state in the late 1800’s and early 1900’s. I was also looking for the pottery which was manufactured here during the same time period. It turns out the plant closed in 1967 (I knew that!) and there is nothing left but a museum and lots of antique shops. I have some pieces of Red Wing pottery from my mom and would have loved to find more, but no luck.

I finished my family research on Wednesday when we spent several hours in the Olmsted County History Center in Rochester MN. They have vital records, plat maps, city directories, and a nice gift shop, so it was a productive visit! We ended up back in Austin to stay overnight in their Wal-Mart. We have come full circle and ready to move on on Thursday.

Sunday, October 15, 2017

Visiting the Minnesota State Capitol

Don and I were finally on our own when we left everyone on Monday, October 9. We headed for St. Paul MN to visit the capitol. I am collecting stamps in my Capitol Collection passport book and I was missing the Minnesota capitol, so I had to include that on this trip. We only had an hour and a half to tour – but that was enough to admire the 3 floors plus a ground level AND a basement. The building was just renovated and reopened in August, so we timed it well. It was designed by Cass Gilbert (who did the Woolworth Building in New York City) and opened in 1905. The Senate, House of Representatives, and Supreme Court are all in separate wings on the second floor. The dome is the second largest self-supported masonry dome in the world. The basement contains a Rathskeller, which I learned is a restaurant in the basement (skeller) of the Rathouse (town hall) in a town in Germany. The stone walls were covered with German mottoes and other decorative elements with a German flavor. This shows the strong German influence in the early 1900’s. Everything was painted over during WWI and has only recently been restored.
Suzanne at the Minnesota State Capitol, St. Paul MN