Prairie du Chien, Wisconsin/Davenport, Iowa, Day 8-12   Leave a comment

What a beautiful drive south along the Mississippi River, crossing back and forth between Wisconsin and Minnesota. We stopped for an overnight in Prairie du Chein, cute little town.

Enroute to Davenport, Iowa, we stopped at the National Mississippi River Museum. Very interesting museum. This otter wanted to play with this little boy.


Believe it or not, this turtle just wanted to get to the other side.

Where do steamboats get their steam? The ship crews bought wood from the farmers along the river. They burned the wood in the fire room to boil water that they took from the river. When the water boiled and turned into steam, it expanded to take 1,000 times as much space. This space was used to push the engine pistons and turn the giant paddlewheels. Eventually the trees became scarce along the river and they started to burn coal, which turned out to be more efficient.

Did you know years ago buttons were made from clam shells?

Our tour day in the “Quad Cities” area was a very full day. Starting out at the Mississippi River lock and dam, the first lock and dam built on the river. It was here that Abraham Lincoln won a court case that gave boats and ships the right of way on a River.

We visited the Arsenal and Rock Island and Museum.

The highlight of that museum was the mirror in the ladies room.

John Deere Tractor Museum and Pavilion was “monstrous.”

Bill found a machine he’d like to get to remove the trees on our property. And he had fun “moving dirt.”

Bill wasn’t the only one having fun.

From cotton to blue jeans.

Did you know there is enough cotton in one 500 pound bale to produce about 325 pairs of jeans. Denim workpants were first worn in Europe in the 1600s. They were called “genes.” The first American-style blue jeans with riveted pockets were made by Levi Strauss and Jacob Davis. They were awarded their patent on using copper rivets to reinforce the pockets in 1873.

Isabel Bloom is an artist that sculpts with “cement.”

Before we arrived, we thought we were going to see “yard art.” Her sculptures are far from that.

They make it look so easy.

Our last stop was the “American Pickers,” Antique Archeology.

No we didn’t get to meet Mike and Frank…..

Our free day and pot luck dinner was followed by rock racing

We visited the Amana Colonies. There are 7 colonies, we only visited one. Amana can trace its community history back to the early 18th century Germany. The community found strength in numbers by congregating on estates.

This method of group living gave rise to the communal system they would adopt in America. First in Ebenezer, New York, and then in Amana, Iowa. The Community was able to stay together by pooling its resources and providing for the needs of every member. They also provided products for consumers throughout the nation, gaining a reputation for superior quality woolens and calicos. A visit to the woolen mills proved it.

Amana was established by a group of German-speaking European settlers who belonged to the Community of True Inspiration. “Inspirationists” believed that God spoke directly to humankind through chosen individuals called Werkzeuge.

Inspirationists were not the first to attempt cooperative living on the American frontier. There were other groups, such as the Amish and the Icarians. Some communities lasted only a few years while Amana’s communal system lasted around 80 years.

The Community provided each member with a home and all the necessities of life. No one received a cash income. Everyone was given an annual purchase allowance at the general store where goods were priced at cost. Work was assigned to each person by the Community Elders.

In 1936, the Amana Society, Inc. purchased the Amana Refrigeration company and expanded over the next 5 years. Following World War II, the Amana Refrigeration Division entered the home appliance market. They eventually sold the refrigeration division to local investors. During the 1950s Amana became a household name by aggressively marketing that paired the band with celebrities, like Bob Hope, Groucho Marx, Dorothy Lamour. Product lines expanded to include air conditioners and furnaces, in addition to refrigerators and freezers. Amana also produced the first practical home microwave called the “Radarange.” Eventually Amana became a division of Maytag.

Before leaving, we had a wonderful family style lunch at the Ronneburg Restaurant.

Herbert Hoover Presidential Library

Presidential libraries are not “just libraries.” They are documents and artifacts of a President. The Hoover Library is of special interest because it is one of two (I believe it’s two) libraries that include their birthplace and gravesite.

Nestled in an Iowa prairie landscape, a town called West Branch, the museum tells the extraordinary story of an orphan boy who lived the American dream, becoming a multi-millionaire engineer, a worldwide humanitarian, and the 31st President of the United States.

Hoover was born in 1874 in a simple two-room cottage.

His Quaker family helped settle the town. His father and mother both died at a young age, leaving Herbert to be raised by family. At age 10, he was put on a train bound for Oregon to his uncle’s with two nickels sewed inside his pants pocket.

I80 World’s Largest Truck Stop

On our way out, we found ourselves stopping at our son, Robby’s, favorite place – I80 World’s Largest Truck Stop. It is HUGE, I mean REALLY HUGE. I have never seen so many parked trucks. They sell anything and everything.

Behind the truck stop is the Truck Museum. They have an introduction to truck driving movie, interviewing a few truck drivers, to give you a feel for what it’s like. Once inside the museum, there is quite an assortment of trucks.

Check out the truck pictured bottom, right. The Avery Tractor/Gasoline Farm Wagon is so versatile, it could haul up to 100 bushels wheat, pull a 3-bottom row plow, or even run a threshing machine through an additional belt pulley. Rubber tires were a $500 option. The wooden plug wheels provided traction in the field and on dirt roads. When the wooden plugs wore down, they were simply replaced.

We certainly have come a long way!


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