... from Melrose to Montana and back to Melrose
Dear friends and family,
Still in Iowa with a few more places to visit, we headed towards Indianola and the National Balloon Museum. I can tell you that the museum chronicles more than 200 years of ballooning history, the building’s shape resembles two inverted balloons, and they do not open till 1 pm on Sunday. It was 10 am when we arrived so we asked about other things of interest in the area. There was nothing else of interest per the local hotel clerk. We took a few pictures of the unique building and walked around to a side door. Louise and Donna found the door to be open so we peaked in, only peaked. We thought about getting a quick free view of the interior but saw the camera in the ceiling and pictured ourselves in jail by day’s end. It would have been some shot in the Melrose Mirror of the three fugitive ladies holding this little dog and wandering around a dark museum. We opted to move on towards Newton where the Maytag Co. contributes strongly to the town by employing many of the 15,000 plus population. The Maytag Dairy Farm tour would have shown us a video about the history of the company and the making of Maytag Blue Cheese. I did say would have but this was also a missed tour since the Maytag Dairy Farm is also closed on Sunday.
We drove through some of the side streets of the pretty little town and spotted a sign for a sculpture exhibit at the park today. Following the signs and the people we arrived at the lovely park that had two huge tents set up for the exhibitors. The pieces ranged from very small sculptures to larger pieces over seven feet. The workmanship was outstanding and the people very friendly. They also had a small stand selling local wine and we did go away with one bottle, plus a small, very small piece of sculpture.
We spent the evening in Davenport, which is part of Quad Cities. Quad Cities is this unique community which unites Bettendorf and Davenport, Iowa and Moline and Rock Island, Illinois with a combined population of nearly 215,000. This forms the largest metropolitan area on the Mississippi River between Minneapolis and St. Louis. Burial mounds of the area’s first inhabitants, the Woodland Tribes, date to 200 BC. Some 7,000 Sac and Fox Indians lived here in the 1700’s at the village of Saukenak, one of the largest Indian settlements in North America.
Our aim this morning was to drive to Moline, Illinois and the great John Deere Pavilion. The glass enclosed pavilion showcases vintage and modern day John Deere equipment. There was a film tracing the progression of a family farm to the future and a virtual tour through Harvester Works, the company’s local combine factory. There was a hands-on exhibit and we were able to climb into the cab of a few of the huge machines. It is unlikely we city dwellers will get to see these monstrous machines in our area but what work they must be doing on huge farms. The gift shop was available and we picked up a few small items to take home.
Amboy, Illinois was to be our next stop. This was not listed in our triple A book and what a shame that people pass it by. We found this gem in a small back road book that we used when we were researching out of the way places for the trip. There was to be a park with some carved statues that we thought we might like to see.
From Moline we headed east on Route 92 and picked up Route 52 northwest in Mendota. After about a 20-mile ride through a lovely country road among rolling woodlands and fertile farmlands we finally got to Amboy. There were few people on the streets so we stopped at the City Hall/Police station. Two officers and two ladies who were busy doing paper work were so happy to see us visiting their town. We asked about the park with the statues and got the directions about two blocks down Main St. At this time we were also told about the Amboy Pharmacy across the street. The pharmacy replicates the early era when penny candy was for sale and you could sit at the counter and get an ice cream soda. Our instructions were not to leave town without getting a Green River Phosphate at the pharmacy. We gave our promise to do so and we headed for Amboy City Park.
A major windstorm swept through the town in 1999 destroying many of the city’s oldest oak trees. Rather than tear down the remaining stumps a few residents offered to “carve”up the stumps. Many individuals and organizations have donated money to fund this on going project.
The Lions Club commissioned a carving; the 13 children of Willie Morrissey had the statue of the farmer done in his memory. The State policeman, fireman, baseball player, football player are but a few of the many statues in the park. The Pioneer Woman was modeled after Olive Ann Shaw Evitts, who came to Amboy in 1846 as an infant and resided here until her death in 1940. There are statues of presidents, children, bears and eagles, magnificent works that have been done by local people for local people and all people to see. We drove and walked around the park and we greatly enjoyed this back road stop.
On the way out of town we stopped at the pharmacy. We sat on the soda fountain stools and had our Green River Phosphate, and it was delicious. The few people we met in this town were friendly and warm and we were not disappointed at this out of the way place.
We backtracked and headed southeast to La Salle, Illinois to visit Starved Rock State Park. As legend goes, in 1769 a band of Illinois American Indians took refuge on the summit of the rock, where, surrounded by their foes, they died from lack of food and water, literally starved.
Parking the car we went into the Starved Rock Lodge. The historic lodge was built in 1939 with a wing added in 1989. The inn has West Wing rooms, East Wing rooms, Deluxe cabins and quite out of the way pioneer cabins. The rates are $100.00 to $120.00 and you can have a room with fireplace and availability to an indoor pool and Jacuzzi. The main building is magnificent! Large, comfortable wide-open living room with a huge fireplace, a piano and a view beyond measure. Had we realized the rates were as good as this we would have stayed, but just the look of the place made us wonder if our budget could handle it. (Next time we are out this way we will definitely stop over.) The grounds were lovely and lush and a self-guided walking tour brought us around to see the 24-chainsaw woodcarvings on the premises. These carvings were different than the ones we saw in Amboy, if only for the change in the setting. It took us about an hour to see the 24 sculptures as we walked slowly along the winding sidewalks.
The statue carved by Peter “Wolf” Toth in 1989 served to commemorate all Native Americans. Having lived in this area for more than 10,000 years they include Indians of the pre-historic period and Indians of the Illini tribe confederation. Chief Walks With The Wind of the Winnebago Nation was associated with Starved Rock State Park for almost 50 years until his death in 1985. Chief Walks With The Wind helped to preserve native American Heritage in many ways, including the first written language for Indian folklore that previously had no history of the written word.
Along with the statue of the Native American there were sculptures of birds and flowers, all very impressive in this pristine area.
Before leaving the area we stopped to take a cruise on the "Belle of the Rock." It cost us the senior rate of $10.00 each and the dog came along free. The microphone on the boat was broken so our young guide kept moving among the passengers to point out the interesting sights along the way. There were ducks and fish and beautiful herons to see. The shoreline was lush and green and the day was pleasant with a cool breeze.
After such a full day there was still time to head for Ottawa, Illinois to see the town’s Washington Square. The square was made famous when on August 21st, 1858 Stephen A. Douglas held a senatorial debate with Abraham Lincoln. The square has beautiful Italian, English and Greek Revival architecture and the walk was quiet and pleasant.
Today was a busy day; a day full of sculptures, green parks, a slow moving boat ride and beautiful warm people. This evening was spent in Ottawa as we look forward to one of our next stops tomorrow at a candy factory in South Bend, Indiana.
Join us for the continuing trip as we head eastward, but still not within sight of our own home state.
Stay well and take care of each other
Shirley, Donna, Louise and Casa
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