Friday, November 29, 2013

A President and American Gothic

From Des Moines the next stop was Grand Rapids. Then one of those awesome unplanned roadtrip opportunities presented itself. We began seeing roadsigns for the Herbert Hoover Presidential Museum.

It's pretty hard for me to pass up a chance to see a presidential museum because I've always had such great experiences with them. My interest in them began with the opening of the Abraham Lincoln Presidential Museum in my hometown of Springfield, IL. My knowledge of American history seems very poor. Outside of the major wars and some really terrible school textbooks I don't know much, and my knowledge of Hoover consists of Hoovervilles and Hoover Dam.

Hoover's boyhood home

What did I see upon entering the hallowed halls of Hoover? A bunch of friggin’ Christmas trees! After I nearly had a Christmas overdose the day before that was really the last thing that I needed to see. Bah humbug. To be fair, these trees were much more interesting than the others because their themes all related to Iowa history or culture.

I begged Lydia to come look at an awesome Star Trek themed tree, and her response was “what does Star Trek have to do with Iowa?” I laughed out loud when I read the sign that accompanied the tree:

Star Trek
What does Star Trek have to do with Iowa? Well, Riverside is the future birthplace of Capt. James T. Kirk.
Every year the Riverside Area Community Club hosts its annual “TrekFest” during the last weekend of June. The celebration features many activities and a parade. There is also the Voyage Home--Riverside History center, which contains a museum and a gift shop dedicated to exhibiting items related to Riverside and Star Trek.

As far as the actually Hoover-related portion of the museum, there's too much to really cover, but one thing I particularly like was the campaign swag.

I think more people would vote if free political stuff was still this awesome.


I think the story here was that his wife invented the practice of Girl Scouts selling cookies.

We then continued back on the road to Cedar Rapids, smug with the knowledge that we were now Hoover experts.

Our time in Cedar Rapids was dominated by one of its most famous sons that you've never heard of: Grant Wood, painter of American Gothic. The super famous painting is currently located in Chicago, but the Cedar Rapids Museum of Art had plenty of his work on display. The main thing that struck me about him was his ability to excel at lots of different styles and with different mediums.

This machine dispensed art, as long as that art was the same size and shape as a pack of cigarettes.

Afterwards we just barely made it on to the last tour of the day of Grant Wood's house. The guy was almost da Vinci-esque with all of the funny little solutions he came up with for problems. For example he liked to stand up when talking on the phone but his mother like to sit down, so he made this two level phone ledge so that they would both be comfortable.

The phone ledge in question.

They said that he got ideas for his compact kitchen from the kitchen compartments in a train car.

Continuing our culinary tour of Iowa we stopped at a Maid-Rite, the old school loose meat sandwich chain that started in Iowa.

We ended our day in Amana, Iowa. My understanding is the quaint little tourist village is what remains of an Amish-type group that is no longer in existence. Long story short there were lots of little shops selling old timey handcrafted things.

It turned out the only handcrafted things I have much interest in is food and drink. Boom.

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