Wednesday, August 17, 2011

On the banks of the Mississippi

Wow.  I’m writing with a beautiful view of the Mississippi River, and it's just a softball toss away.   Admittedly, my underhand pitch is still pretty good, thanks to my grade school baseball coach and now current mayor of my Ohio hometown.  But that river is close.  And it’s big. And beautiful.  And a little scary to someone whose lived in the desert for 37 years.  Again:  Wow.
We’re just outside of Muscatine, Iowa.  Jim and I drove here from Stuart, Iowa, where we spent a night for free at Dale Valley Winery thanks to an organization called “Harvest Hosts.”   That was our second stay at a Harvest Host place: I’ll do a separate post on them later.   
Near Stuart, we did our first search for “biggest ball of twine” types of things.  We saw the “Friendly Gas Station Man,”, a huge, waving gas station attendant commissioned in 1934 by the Kalbach Oil Company, and a bank Bonnie and Clyde robbed of $2000 on April 16, 1934, just one month before they were shot in Louisiana.
We also saw “Freedom Rock,” a 56-ton boulder and canvas for a local artist who has painted the entire rock in a patriotic theme around Memorial Day for the last dozen years.  At the request of friends and relatives, he’s incorporated the ashes of 16 veterans in his paint.
We’ve stayed off of I-80 for most of our trip so far, but took the interstate from Lincoln to Stuart to Muscatine.  Jim said Iowa reminded him of the Willamette Valley in Oregon where he’s spent much of his life, as it’s rolling, green, and has lots of trees.  The section of I-80 about 75 miles before Des Moines also has a lot of wind turbines.  And, as we got closer to Des Moines, the traffic really picked up, in part to the Iowa State Fair, which gets over 100,000 visitors each year and is celebrating the 100th year of the Butter Cow.
View of the Mississippi River from the back window of our rig.
The Dale Valley Winery in Stuart, Iowa let us stay overnight for free as part of a program called "Harvest Hosts."  You can barely see our rig through the trees at the far left.

Freedom Rock is repainted in a different patriotic theme every May and finished on Memorial Day.  The artist is Iowa native Ray "Bubba" Sorensen.
 In 2006,  veterans on their way to the Vietnam Memorial with the ashes of recently deceased Vietnam vets stopped at the rock while the artist was working on it.  They asked the artist if they could sprinkle some of the ashes at the base of the rock; artist suggested the ashes be incorporated into the paint so the ashes would not blow away.  Since 2006 more ashes have been added and 16 Vietnam veteran's ashes are now part of this helicopter scene.
Wind turbines and farms in Iowa.


  1. Hello B&J. I've taken to keeping a US atlas by my computer so that I can keep up with your RV Ramble. I have now learned about Stuart and Victor Iowa, combined less than 2,000 residents, and now your in Muscatine which, oddly, I already knew about, though I have never been. There used to be a company in town, (I think it was HON Corp.) that I did business with.

    I can't wait to read your posting on the "Harvest Host" program. You are the second family that I have known that has done this, of course the other family were migrant workers, but I think the concept was the same. If the wineries "gift" you a bottle, I think that you should consider "Harvest Hosting" at Opus One when on the Left Coast, and then drive straight to our house.

    I truly envy your off-interstate travel and your search for the largest ball of twine. Your offerings to date sound perfect. Sandra and I are still working on route 66, a section at a time, though this year we expect to make no progress on that project (So far, Chicago to Springfield Mo. and a portion of Western Arizona), my grandsons and I are working on route 50 coast to coast, just finished up the Kansas City to Ocean City Maryland portion last week. And on my own route 40 coast to coast (so far, Atlantic City New Jersey to Indianapolis) of course we stay at Hampton Inns, which have the double disadvantage of being more expensive (especially, than free)and you don't feel quit as tied to the road. I am anxious to get RV/Rig advice from you and Jim when you visit. Speaking of which when should I stock up on gasoline for the garage burning?

    Lastly, don't worry about all that water in the Mississippi, it is supposed to be there. Without it we would not know where Illinois ends and Iowa begins.

    Sorry about the long posting, but you knew my M.O. before you gave me your blog link.

    Keep your eyes on the road.

  2. Your blog followers want, no, DEMAND pictures with youse two in them. In 10 years the trees, water and buildings will probably look the same. You won't! So set your timer and get in the pictures!

    Happy trails!

  3. Carl: There are several large HON buildings in Muscatine... it's got to be one of the major employers there. Also, we were thinking of setting a word limit on comments, but you have so many misspelled words you'd get a break. Did I spell misspell correctly?

    Steve: I don't even know if my camera has a timer, but we'll take some photos with us in them. I have posted several of Jim's backside as he walks down some hiking trail.

  4. I can't speak for other followers, but I want to be clearly on record as NOT being interested in pictures of Jim's backside!

  5. I took a vote at beer night this week and we, the surviving members, agree that additional pictures of Jim's backside are not required on your blog. But we do like smiling Moore family faces with historical rivers, trees and balls of twine in the background. Eastward ho motorized pioneers!