Friday, July 4, 2014

Iowa Vacation

That title is sure to suck you in, isn't it? We go to Iowa about every other year to visit relatives. Last year, we went to Myrtle Beach, so this year we headed in the opposite direction. Our plan was to visit my Uncle Larry (Mom's brother) and Aunt Shirley in northern Missouri, then head to western Iowa to see my paternal grandmother.

It would have been a smooth trip, except for the tornado.

We set out on Friday, stopping at Springfield, IL for the night. The high point of these trips for the kids is the hotel: they love the breakfast buffets and especially the pools. Our Hampton Inn didn't disappoint, so we were on the road the next morning to Missouri in a good mood. We stopped in Chillicothe, MO:

The home of sliced bread:

They claim the bread slicing machine was invented here back in the 20s. More relevantly to low(ish) carb me, I was a member of the famed Sliced Bread Racing Team back in the late 90s, where I and three other friends captured consecutive third place (in class) glory at the Kenda Knite Glo 12 hour mountain bike race.

There were many other murals downtown:

Driving out of Chillicothe, we spotted a big playground. An illegal U turn later, we were ready to blast off:

They still have real merry-go-rounds in Missouri:

(and later in Iowa as well:

and crazy water fountains:

and the usual playground stuff:

as well as bears carved from old trees:

Our next stop was Princeton, to visit my Aunt and Uncle for a few days at their new place. Larry has a golf cart that he calls a "goof cart," which all the kids loved:

The dog liked it as well, but he didn't get to ride in the big tractor:


Me and Sam and Shirley in front of her lovely garden:

Actually, this is just a small part of her garden. She also has a huge vegetable garden. In just two years, she has put our landscaping to shame. Maybe we could get more done if I had a tractor or three.

From Princeton, we headed north on Monday to the Des Moines science museum:

The kids loved this food conveyor belt:

They also played with a green screen modeled after the local weather channel:

and the usual science museum stuff:

I think I was the only one impressed by this full scale replica of the Mars rover, but Kate is always happy to oblige for a picture:

We left the museum and headed west towards my Grandma's place. The kids were getting hungry, so we stopped at a McDonalds in Stuart to have lunch. After lunch, while watching the kids in the play place, everyone's phone went off at the same time with the emergency alarm. A tornado was near town with 2" hail was reported. We went to the safest spot we could find, the playland bathroom:

The kids were nervous, but not panicky. Ultimately, we only got hard rain, strong winds, and small hail at our location:

Though it was enough to topple the sign at our nearby hotel:

As we headed west to Adair, there was quite a bit more hail damage. Lots of acres of lost corn:

Which, as you can imagine in Iowa, is a Big Deal.

My Grandma's place had large tree blocking her drive:

(er, it was removed before I took this picture... they are very efficient in Iowa!)

She also had a tree down over her shed:

and 13 broken windows:

We counted ourselves lucky that we delayed our arrival with the museum and lunch, otherwise our car might have looked like this:

This was a nearly new Mazda 6.

My Grandma is 96 (today! Happy Birthday!), and while her mind is razor sharp, she doesn't get around very well. This is partially why I was so impressed to see how people kept showing up to help and to check on her:

- as were arriving, her old neighbors were pulling in with a Shop Vac and work gloves to get rid of the broken glass inside the house (luckily, she had invested in storm windows, so only three windows broke both outside and inside)

- next, pickups started showing up with plywood, and before you know it, the three worst windows are boarded over and caulked up

- volunteers from the drug rehab place next door were soon over to clean up all the blow down in the yard. We made good progress with an hour or so of raking (even the kids helped).

Aside from the storm damage, we did get to spend some time with my Grandma, catching up and playing around the house:

My Grandma is a child of the depression, and has a very conservative view about throwing stuff out. The storage space (and many flat surfaces) at her house have been, uh, maximized. This is something that always makes the wannabe-minimalist in me a bit anxious. On this trip, when I had to shuffle items in the fridge in order to fit a small container in, I took matters into my own hands and started cleaning it out. This is something I've wanted to do in previous trips, but I had made the mistake of asking permission first. Grandma wasn't entirely pleased with this, but those pimentos were from 1987! I took out three garbage bags of stuff... and I did buy her some creme cheese to replace the four blocks I threw out, none newer than six months expired.

We made on little side trip in Iowa, going to see the Freedom Rock:

We last visited this in 2007:

Henry has grown a bit since then!

We left Adair on Wednesday, stopping for a trip souvenir here:

We stayed the night at Danville, IL--our first warm swimming pool of the trip--and got home Thursday afternoon. Where I found this waiting for me at my local Fedex:

It's already built! But this post is overlong already.

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