Posts Tagged With: Iowa

American Gothic Visited

Tiny Eldon, Iowa (population 916) is home to the backdrop of one of America’s most famous paintings. The artist, Grant Wood, visited the town in 1930 and sketched the Dibble farmhouse which would later appear in the painting, American Gothic. Today the original painting resides at the Art Institute of Chicago but Eldon is worth a visit to see the inspiration that led Grant Wood to create this iconic piece.

We’ve passed nearby many times on our way to and from St. Louis via Des Moines. Eldon is just 6 miles off highway 34 between Ottumwa and Fairfield. Once you reach Eldon, signs direct you quite easily to the American Gothic House.

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The center contains an informative collection of exhibits about the house, Grant Wood, and Art Regionalism. Charles and Catherine Dibble built the house in 1881-1882. The style, called Carpenter Gothic, used somewhat incongruous fancy details on a plain farmhouse. The gothic windows in the gables of the house would normally be used in a church but were chosen from the Sears catalog to grace the Dibble home. Incidentally, my husband’s mother’s maiden name was Dibble and the Dibbles came from New York state as did my mother-in-law’s relatives. That, however, is a subject for future research and possibly another blog post.

 

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American Gothic House

 

According to information at the center, the couple never posed together for the painting and didn’t actually meet until 12 years later when the photograph below was taken. The woman was Grant Wood’s sister, Nan Wood Graham, and the man was his dentist, Dr. B.H. McKeeby. The artist assured them they wouldn’t be recognized in his painting but that turned out to be incorrect and caused some hard feelings especially with his dentist.

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Photograph of Nan Wood Graham and Dr. B.H. McKeeby at the American Gothic House Center

 

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This is our dour look

 

Grant Wood was an Iowa native, born in 1891 on a farm outside Anamosa where he lived until his father died when he was 10. His mother then moved the family to Cedar Rapids where he won third place in his first art contest at the age of 14. Following graduation, he spent a short time studying art in Minneapolis but returned to the Cedar Rapids area to teach school and lived in that area most of his short life. During a trip to Munich, he came to the realization that he needed to paint from his own experience. In 1929, he painted a portrait of his mother called Woman with Plants, launching his new style and taking his place in the Regionalist movement. The following year he painted American Gothic and, as they say, the rest is history.

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Except for one more interesting side note: Grant Wood spent the summer of 1941 painting in Clear Lake, Iowa (which is 8 miles west of our home). I found this article in our local paper written in 2008 about the artist’s stay in Clear Lake.

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Information at American Gothic House Center

Grant Wood died the following February of cancer at the age of 50.

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References: All information was found in displays at the American Gothic House Center.

Based on events from July 2017.

Categories: History, Travel, Uncategorized, USA | Tags: , , , | 2 Comments

The North Iowa Bloggers Getaway at Red Cedar Lodge

I received a stay at the Red Cedar Lodge to facilitate my review. All thoughts are 100% honest and my own.

Red Cedar Lodge is located on the Cedar River just outside Charles City, Iowa. Tom and Lorraine moved back to Charles City to build a home, a business, and a life in Tom’s hometown. They found the perfect property on the Cedar River and built the perfect getaway for visitors to the area who want to canoe or kayak down the Cedar River, hike across the fields and through the woods, or just relax and take in the views from the porch, campfire, or hot tub. According to Lorraine, Tom, the son of a local architect, put a lot of thought and many of his own good ideas into the plans for the cabins, and it shows.

The North Iowa Bloggers were treated to a two-day getaway in Sunrise Ridge Cabin at Red Cedar Lodge in return for an honest review of the property. Having traveled to five continents and experienced great lodging all over the world, let me assure you this property is easy to recommend. It’s nicely furnished in a cabin style, well cared for, and immaculate. With two bedrooms on the main floor, a loft with a double and a bunk bed, and a sleeper sofa in the living room, this cabin easily sleeps 10. Our group of six women had plenty of space and with two full bathrooms, no one had to wait long to use the beautiful showers.

Sunrise Ridge Cabin at Red Cedar Lodge

Sunrise Ridge Cabin at Red Cedar Lodge

The open living space flows from one area to the next allowing everyone to gather without crowding. There is a large flat screen TV which we never turned on and a gas fireplace which we used both morning and evening to take off the October chill. The WiFi performed well with six bloggers on-line at the same time on several devices each. The kitchen is well equipped and fully supplied with all the essentials.

Living room at Sunrise Ridge Cabin at Red Cedar Lodge

Living room at Sunrise Ridge Cabin at Red Cedar Lodge

Sunrise Ridge Cabin at Red Cedar Lodge

Sunrise Ridge Cabin at Red Cedar Lodge

Sunrise Ridge Cabin at Red Cedar Lodge

Our hostess, Lorraine, welcomed us to Sunrise Ridge Cabin at Red Cedar Lodge

Sunrise Ridge Cabin at Red Cedar Lodge

North Iowa Bloggers hanging out in the kitchen at Sunrise Ridge Cabin at Red Cedar Lodge

The grounds are as well thought out and planned as the cabins. The fire pit has plenty of chairs surrounding it and there is wood available to build a campfire. The amazing hot tub with lighting that changes from red to green to blue is located on an attractive brick patio with a fireplace. After a busy day exploring Main Street, Charles City, the hot tub provided an extra special treat for us to relax and unwind.

Fire pit ready for a fire and s'mores

Fire pit ready for a fire and s’mores

Hot tub and fireplace on the grounds at Red Cedar Lodge

Hot tub and fireplace on the grounds at Red Cedar Lodge

The path to the river is easy to find and the photo opportunities were excellent. In mid-October, the kayaks were already stored away for the winter but having kayaked the Cedar River before, I can tell you this would be a great experience.

The Cedar River from Red Cedar Lodge

The Cedar River from Red Cedar Lodge

View of the woods at Red Cedar Lodge from the Cedar River

View of the woods at Red Cedar Lodge from the Cedar River

Sunset at Red Cedar Lodge

Sunset at Red Cedar Lodge

Morning breaks on Cedar River at Red Cedar Lodge

Morning breaks on Cedar River at Red Cedar Lodge

Whether you’re looking for a place for a family gathering, a girlfriends getaway, or a romantic couple’s weekend, Red Cedar Lodge has a lot to offer. It was a perfect getaway for us.

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Categories: Travel, USA | Tags: , , , , , , , | 7 Comments

Blank Park Zoo

I don’t know about you but I am conflicted about zoos.  I understand the ethical concerns about restricting animals to false environments but I also realize that zoos engage in important conservation efforts.  Like most ethical dilemmas, there is right and wrong on both sides and people have strong opinions on the subject.  So when my son, Michael, an animal lover since childhood, wanted to visit Blank Park Zoo in Des Moines before his return flight to Europe, I admit I was surprised and ambivalent.  But with fond memories of our trip to this particular zoo when my kids were little, I agreed.

Blank Park Zoo

Blank Park Zoo

Blank Park Zoo is the only accredited zoo in the state of Iowa and it’s small with 1000 animals overall.  It takes only a couple of hours to see it at a leisurely pace.  The morning was beautiful and we arrived early because we’re Iowans; we get up early and get going.  I commented that maybe it wouldn’t open until 10:00, checked my smart phone, and found that it opens at 9:00.  Of course.  Don’t you just love it?

Here’s a map from the website to get an overall idea of the grounds.  I’ll cover just a few of the highlights although we did see it all.

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Immediately inside the entrance, we stopped for a photo-op of Michael and the bald eagle.  Accustomed to seeing bald eagles soar high above the river in my own neighborhood, I was somewhat disturbed to observe this magnificent bird caged in such a confined space.

Michael and Bald Eagle

Michael and Bald Eagle

Somehow Michael and I skipped right past the red pandas by the entrance but my husband, Jim, made a quick stop.  We later regretted our haste when we circled back to see them and they were inside and we could only see their adorable little faces peering out at us.  With fewer than 2500 remaining in the wild in China, they’re endangered.  Consequently, they are part of a species survival plan which is a program to manage the breeding and conservation of endangered species to ensure the survival of a healthy population (Blank Park Zoo, 2014).

After a quick stop at the river otter exhibit, we headed to Australia Adventure where we enjoyed 15-20 wallabies on the loose.  The wallaby mob (group) consists of boomers (males), flyers (females), and joeys (young).  Australia is on my “must see” list of countries to visit so I particularly enjoyed this exhibit.

Wallabies on the loose

Wallabies on the loose

Kookaburras

kookaburras

I didn’t know the kookaburra is called the bushmen’s watch because they typically emit their laughing call around dusk, according to the educational signage nearby. I also learned this bird, a carnivore that feeds on lizards, snakes, and small mammals, is as common in Australia as crows and starlings in Iowa.  There were lots of other birds in this area including a parakeet aviary and black swans in a pond and at the back of the area you will find the depot to catch a ride on the little train that circles the zoo.

We, however, headed to the Aldabra tortoises.   These large tortoises come from the Seychelle and Aldabra Islands in the Indian Ocean.  They are currently threatened with extinction in the wild due to loss of habitat.

Tortoises

Aldabra Tortoises

The oldest tortoise, Barnaby, age 75-85, has the distinction of being the longest tenured animal in the zoo.  I remember this fellow from our visit many years ago and I can tell you either he or the female emits a VERY loud grunting noise while mating because we witnessed it and thought our young children would be traumatized but they don’t remember the experience at all.  Thankfully.

When we were in South Africa earlier this year, they told us the big cats are called lions because they’re always lyin’ around.  That’s how we observed this male and female until the female languidly rose and sauntered off while we watched.  They are also threatened in their natural habitat in Africa.

Our most disturbing observation at the zoo was while watching the behavior of the snow leopard.  This cat paced back and forth repetitively along the fence row while we watched.  Observe the worn path along the fence.

Snow Leopard

Snow Leopard

The snow leopard, from Asia, has been hunted nearly to extinction for its beautiful pelt, with only 4400-7500 remaining in the wild today.

The Siberian tiger is the largest of the cats and the most critically endangered.  Interestingly, no two tigers have the same stripe pattern, kind of like human fingerprints.

Siberian Tiger

Siberian Tiger

There are currently only 400 Siberian tigers remaining in the wild and 560 in captivity.  In the wild, their hunting territory ranges up to 1600 square miles which gives me great cause for concern about their mental health in captivity.

Like many people, I love to watch primates.  I spent considerable time attempting to get photos of these monkeys but frankly, they refused to cooperate and studiously refrained from looking my way.  I persevered and here’s the best that I got.

Called Japanese macaques, also known as the Snow monkey, from Japan, they are protected by the Japanese government but threatened, nevertheless, due to loss of habitat.

I was surprised and excited to find two black rhinos at Blank Park Zoo, knowing how endangered they are.  We never saw a black rhino while we were in South Africa last February although we did see the white rhino.  The black rhino is somewhat smaller and a browser, whereas its relative, the white rhino, is a grazer.  What’s the difference?  Browsers eat trees and bushes while grazers eat grass.  The lip of the black rhino is pointed or hooked in order to pluck leaves from trees and bushes and the lip of the white rhino is squared or blunt to easily reach the ground for grass.

Black Rhino

Black Rhino

They have been hunted close to extinction in the past for the prized horn which is thought to possess magical medicinal properties particularly in Asian cultures.  Currently, the black rhino population is around 5000 but poaching, if unchecked, could rapidly reduce those numbers again.  I’ve posted this on my blog before, and if this is an animal you want to help save, go to Save the Rhino  or Rocking for Rhinos to learn more.

One of my favorite exhibits was the Magellan penguins, named for the explorer Ferdinand Magellan who first recorded sighting  them in South America in 1519.  I’m fascinated watching their awkward, lurching gait approaching the water, then they dive and glide through the water with the grace of synchronized swimmers.

Magellan Penguins

Magellan Penguins

Magellan Penguins

Magellan Penguins

This breed is only 18 inches tall unlike the Emperor penguins in Antarctica that stand 4 feet tall that I fell in love with watching the documentary, March of the Penguins.  In both species, however, the males help with incubating the eggs.  I love a good dad.

We missed several animals on our visit.  The sea otters weren’t out because the tank was being cleaned and we didn’t see the giraffes either although I didn’t see any explanation of their absence.  To compensate for missing the giraffes, Michael took a picture of Jim and me with the giraffe sculpture.

Giraffe Sculpture

Giraffe Sculpture

After our visit, I learned 7 animals at Blank Park Zoo are part of Species Survival Plans—the Amur (aka Siberian) tiger, snow leopard, red panda, Japanese macaque, ring-tailed lemur, golden headed tamarin, and Panamanian golden frog (Blank Park Zoo, 2014).  This valuable work ensures the survival of animals that are threatened with extinction in their natural habitats. Despite my discomfort with constricted environments of zoo animals, I support these conservation efforts.  Please join me and do all you can to support efforts to save our animals before it’s too late.

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References:

Blank Park Zoo (2014). Retrieved from http://www.blankparkzoo.com

Categories: Travel, Uncategorized, USA | Tags: , , | 3 Comments

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