We Are Officially West of the Mississippi! Yippie!

State 11: Iowa - August 6, 2017

“If you build it; he will come”

Kevin Costner - (Field of Dreams)


We woke up in Baraboo, WI having had a restful night sleep. Our time in America’s Dairy Land was drawing to a close. We drove 2 ½ hours to the Wisconsin border to enter our 11th state on our year-long cross country journey to discover America and find a new state to call home: Iowa!

When approaching a new state, our GPS tells us how many miles away we are from the border. It is always a celebratory moment when approaching a brand new state to explore. We always count down the miles until the state's welcome sign comes in sight. We had the camera ready, and were extremely happy and excited to enter Iowa. Not so fast! As the state's welcome sign came into our view, we realized the road before us decided to play a practical joke on these two preemptively cheerful Vagabonds, which is pictured below.

Welcome to Illinois? What the hell?

We were already there, disqualified it as our new home, and we had absolutely no desire to go back. Apparently, the road dipped into the upper right corner of Illinois for a mile before crossing a bridge over Mississippi River, and finally entering the state of Iowa: Fields of Opportunity.

Finally, another great state slogan. Not only does Iowa produce more corn than any then state to the tune of 2.5 billion bushels annually, but the iconic 1980’s movie “Field of Dreams” was filmed in the state as well. The motto also tells me that Iowa has something to offer everyone, and makes me want to explore the state to find out what that something is. Voted on and introduced in 1999, Iowa: Fields of Opportunities was certainly better than the slogan it replaced Iowa: You make me smile, which says nothing about the state. Some of the 1999 runners up were: Iowa: You pop my corn, Iowa: Eat pork or die, and Iowa: It’s not as flat as you think. LOL! We can’t wait to see what “Fields of Opportunities” lay in store for the Cross Country Couple during our week in Iowa. Entering the state of Iowa also marked a significant landmark in our cross country journey. For the next 8 months we would be West of the Mississippi River, until we cross back over in Louisiana next year.

We entered the state via the border town of Dubuque, IA and felt a walk along the Mississippi River was an appropriate way to celebrate our arrival. In 1962, the Mississippi River crested and flooded Dubuque, so a levy and riverwalk was constructed along the shores. The riverwalk had a relaxing park atmosphere, verses a bustling commercial center. Clearly the riverwalk was designed as a place for reflection of oneself and the beauty of the river. Artwork by talented local artists were on display along the path, which are pictured below.

In addition, a café and a wine bar was near the walk, but not close enough to disturb the rivers tranquility. Along the riverwalk, we visited 2 significant historical sights. Built in 1856, the Shot Tower was used to make lead bullets during the 19th century. It has since been professional restored, is a Registered National Historic Landmark, and the only of it's kind still in existence West of the Mississippi. There is an elevator that takes you to the top, but it was closed during our visit. We wouldn't have gone in the tower anyway, because contracting lead poisoning is not our idea of a good time.

Also, along the path was the Dubuque Star Brewery. Founded in 1898, the brewery has the honored distinction of being the oldest in Iowa, and was also featured in the 1979 Sylvester Stallone movie F.I.S.T.

We then headed across town to visit another of Dubuque’s Nationally Registered Historic Site’s; The Fenelon Place Elevator. First, to call it an elevator is a quite misleading, as it’s very different from what one would expect an elevator to be. This contraption can best be described as a hybrid between an elevator, escalator, and a ski lift. The outdoor elevator consists of a motor, a cable, two tracks and two open door metal cars that are pulled up and down an extremely steep hill over 300 feet tall! Eek! It is operated from a control house at the top of the hill, and there is a small covered building at the bottom where people board. Built in 1893 by JK Graves and CB Terwin. A local banker and former state senator, JK Graves wanted a way to transport himself up and down the extremely steep hills in the city. He had the elevator built based on a similar design he saw while vacationing in the Alps. After construction was completed, he was approached by other residents of Dubuque, who also wanted a quicker way to the top of the cities steep hills. He began offering rides to others for a nickel each way. Today, $3 will buy you round trip passage. However, leave your plastic in your pocket, because the only form of payment accepted is cash! We plopped our 6 bucks on the counter for 2 round trip tickets, and then reality set in! We just paid to enter an open door metal box pulled by a single cable up and down an extremely steep hill, on a contraption that was exposed to the elements, and had burnt down 3 times during it's 125 years of existence. Seems like a great idea! What in the world could possibly go wrong? There was no turning back now! Albeit a little bumpy and tad bit too cozy with the other passengers due to the close quarters, the trip down and the return trip back up was quite enjoyable, nostalgic, and definitely memorable. At this point in our journey, we have traveled by car, van, ferry, golf cart, and even an awful orbital tram to the top of the St. Louis Arch. However, the Fenelon Place Elevator was our most interesting, terrifying, exhilarating and unusual mode of transportation on our trip thus far.

We then departed Dubuque, IA for a 45 mile ride to Dyersville, IA; the site of the classic 1989 Kevin Costner movie; Field of Dreams. I love, love, love, the movie, and have been looking forward to this stop for a very long time. Nate has never seen the movie, and didn’t really share in my excitement. For those who haven’t seen the movie, I will give you a very brief description. A couple was about to lose their corn farm, when the husband played by Kevin Costner kept hearing a voice saying “If you build it; he will come”. Soon after he has a vision of a baseball field in his corn field, so he decided to build one in real life. The ghosts of deceased baseball players then appeared on the field, and begin to play ball. As a result, people came from all over the world to see the ghosts play, and the couple had enough money to save the farm! If you have never seen Field of Dreams, you should see it, and if you haven’t seen it in over a decade like me, then why not see it again? Admission to the grounds and the baseball field were free, but to tour the inside of the house cost $20. This seemed just a tad bit expensive, so we opted against the house tour. There was a little league baseball game being played on the field the day of our visit, which was fun to watch.

After a snapping a few pictures and basking in the Iowa sun, we drove 45 minutes to a Cedar Rapids, IA. Barnes & Noble to catch up on some computer work, and then found a Walmart for the night.

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