Posts tagged ‘iowa’

Iowa Trip: Amana Colonies

Wednesday, May 4

Early Wednesday morning, figuring Amana businesses probably wouldn’t be open yet, I headed for one of the walking trails identified on the map. It was organized as a set of successively longer loops, and I opted for the longest one. I must have misread something however, because whereas I thought it would be a complete loop, the furthest section was actually a dead end. I barged on anyway, getting quite thoroughly lost for a while. First I was in country thick with thornbushes, and after searching on for a bit I realized that this was quite out of character with the rest of the trails. Then I found my way back to some semi-maintained grassy trails, but these were also out of character with the dirt ones in the park. Somehow, after doubling back, I stumbled across a gateway that returned me to the trails proper.

In the afternoon I wandered around the main Amana village a little. There was a local artist’s cooperative chocolatiers, an Amana museum, and lunch at a restaurant in an old communal kitchen hall. Once again, it looks like good antiquing country, but it’s not quite my thing. I also think I might have liked it better at a busy time (It seems I just missed Maifest, which was going on while I was at the various weddings) when I could blend in a little. There were so few people that I draw lots of attention. A couple of the shopkeepers seemed kind of dour and unwelcoming. Some lingering resentment towards the capitalist lifestyle, or were they they just reflecting my own disinterested attitude?

Iowa Trip: Henry Doorly Zoo

Tuesday, May 3

Prior to the trip I had asked if there was anything I should definitely see while in town. The two things that came up were downtown (yesterday) and the Henry Doorly Zoo. The zoo was conveniently between me and Iowa, so I stopped there to look around for a day, where I was greeted by free-roaming peacocks.

One of the zoo’s big (although somewhat recent) attractions is a desert dome. It provides space for some free-roaming birds. It’s a wonder how often they were found near their signs – or maybe the keepers let the animals settle down before placing the signs.

The dome offers a large space a number of different desert species, including these adorable little goats (or relatives thereof), which I forgot to snap a name plate for.

Underneath the dome is a creatures of the night exhibit featuring nocturnal animals. It was an interesting look, although not great for photography.

Another set of small domes housed butterflies and other insects.

A large netted aviary gave a number of species a bit of free space. Though a few of the birds preferred the roofs of the walkway gazebos.

Though they got though most of the day, my camera batteries finally gave out. After a few more exhibits I started driving home. It was plenty dark by the time I got to eastern Iowa, and I started looking for some place to stop where I might be able to look around a bit more. Finally I saw signs for the Amana Colonies, which I’d heard of several times while attending college nearby, but never actually visited. The hotel I stopped at was an odd sort of duplex – a cheaper hotel on one side, and a fancier one at the other, with a single clerk manning both desks through an internal passage.

Iowa Trip: Just the Fax

Monday, May 2

Monday I stuck around to actually visit a bit, having missed the lead-up activities while I was at another wedding. There wasn’t a formal gift-opening party at this one, but a group of people went out breakfast at Petro’s, apparently a somewhat famous diner.

Much of the rest of the day was spent chasing fax machines. We got away for a little while to the rustic old downtown area, though I’ve become so unaccustomed to needless shopping that I wasn’t able to appreciate it very much.

Iowa Trip: Two Walks and a Wedding (the sequel)

Sunday, May 1

Iowa Falls, take three

I choose to stay around for the morning gathering, catching a little of it before heading out. I was up early enough that I had a little (but not a lot) of time to spare, so drove up into Iowa Falls again, heading towards a green patch on the map. It proved to be the Ira Nichols Refuge.

A large portion of the refuge truly was, fenced off from idle access, but there was still are large section of woods open for walking.

Way out back, I startled some deer.


Technically, Omaha is in Nebraska, but it’s just over the Iowa border, so Iowa is essentially where all the driving took place. I had left quite enough time for traffic and other eventualities, and arrived at the grotto with a bit of time to spare.

Apparently the grotto was once a spring and a functional water source. The grotto itself is an aside to a larger park (of the cut grass variety). It’s in something of a ravine which runs a bit more wild, albeit with well beaten paths. The area shows evidence of other tunnels and drains, many appearing of ancient construction, and several washed out from leaks and other erosion.

The area is also home to a university (the students no doubt beating many of the paths), and after checking out the short ravine, I took a quick walk around the university grounds.


I returned to the grotto to find people setting up a sound system and paper isle. They later tried to make it a petal-strewn path, but the wind wasn’t very cooperative.

There was some strange guy in a top hat; I guessed he was the groom, and was later proven right.

People ended up sitting on tiered rocks around the grotto. Since I was alone I crawled up to a small corner, and ended up with an interesting perspective on the walkway into the grotto, peering through some bushes.

The ceremony was once again to the point, if rather less traditional. On the same theme, the reception was held in a biker bar called Chrome elsewhere in Omaha. This wasn’t as surprising as it might have been, after seeing the groom and some of the ushers. Space was a little tight at times, but it was interesting to see how they adapted – wedding party on stage, food on covered pool tables, etc.

Iowa Trip: Two Walks and a Wedding

Saturday, April 30

Iowa Falls, take two

The wedding being the afternoon, I went back to wander around Iowa Falls some more. Having made the trip yesterday, I theorized that it was in fact walking distance, which I proceeded to prove. Along the way I passed under a rail bridge, which was alive with the cooing of a great many pigeons taking shelter under it’s beams.

Going through town I happened across all manner of art – in yards, on public buildings, and even a star-spangled house.

Quite by accident, I found my way down a long stairway to the local dam.

Nearby, a stream ran through a built-up-and-fallen-down area. Upstream, a deep canyon was spanned by an arched bridge over to the local water park.


The wedding itself was to be in the neighboring town of Alden.

I headed over about mid-day figuring I would find some place to eat. I parked at the church, which was the obvious base station.

I happened across the groom – the wedding party was in early for pictures – and got invited in share sandwiches. Then I headed out to go wandering through town. Alden is a small town deep in farm country.

It has it’s own dam, with some of the surrounding works still evident.

Nearby, a small stone bridge goes out to an island that was apparently once held parts of the mill as well. At the bench nearby I met an elderly resident and got a little town history. Alden has seen better times, with so many grocery stores and so many gas stations, but the rise of the automobile made it just as easy to go into the larger Iowa Falls, which looks like it’s seen better times itself.


I returned to the church to find everything set up and ready for sign in – time to change clothes. The church was fairly packed, and the ceremony was well run, covering what it needed to without carrying on too long.

The reception back in Iowa Falls featured a quilt stitched together with contributions from many different family members. There wasn’t a whole lot of dancing, although the children took to it with boundless energy.

Iowa Trip: Outlook on Iowa Falls

Friday, April 29

The long belated story of two weddings and some walking.

Strange chance had two old college friends getting married on two consecutive days (quite unbeknownst to each of them at scheduling time) in not too-distantly separated places. Two narrowly timed stops, one in a very small town, pretty much cinched it as a driving trip.

Driving Out

I set out mid-morning expecting to stop and eat my last few bananas somewhere in route. I stopped at the Long Hollow Scenic Overlook in northwest Illinois.

The tower made it stick out a bit, although the tower itself turned out to be closed. Very closed indeed – they had actually pulled up the lower level of steps to keep people from getting adventurous.

After eating, and taking a picture for a group of travelers who seemed to be wrapping up their own lunch, I wandered around a bit, and found an area of cliffs and tilted rock back in the dog walk area.

Iowa Falls

After checking into the hotel at Iowa Falls, I was told that downtown was well beyond walking distance. It seems the main bridge was out, so I drove around the detour and parked downtown in order to wander around a bit. The bridge was quite out, with cranes and equipment along the banks and lots of shore work evidencing a substantial rebuild.

After a bit of searching I crossed the infamous swinging bridge.

The other side was more of a sports park than a nature park. After wandering around I found a deep cut in the cliffside from some stream feeding the river, with something of a small cave in the side. I couldn’t resist crawling around the cliff to take a closer up look (with a few small trepidations about the possibility of having to exit by way of the river)

Returning to safety, I found the Peter Toth indian-head sculpture quite by accident.

Finally I headed back into town, and stopped in at the Princess grill and pizzeria for a plate of spaghetti before looking around downtown proper a bit.