Wednesday, July 29, 2009

From Non-Heaven to Somewhere in Middle America


Dubuque, IA
  • We spent the night in Dubuque, IA, which rests on the Mississippi River. At breakfast, the news was on and Nancy Pelosi was speaking on TV. The woman sitting at the table next to me called her a "maniacal woman" who claims to know what Americans wants but clearly doesn't because "you don't live in my house!" Glad to be in red-state America.
  • We found a local attraction called the Fenelon Place Elevator. It is a mini-tram that you can ride about a hundred feet up and down a mountain, at the top of which you can see a stunning view of the Mississippi River and into Wisconsin and Illinois. (The elevator was originally built to accommodate a local state senator who didn't want to have to climb up.) The address we had for the place was at the top, though, and since we already had access to the view, we didn't see any point to pay them $1 to go down the mountain, where there is nothing. We think someone in their marketing department should change the official address of the attraction to the bottom of the mountain, so that people have a reason to use their service.
Dyersville, IA
  • On Monday afternoon, I was somewhat down on baseball. As one of our commenters alluded to, it was a confusing and embarrassing day to be a Mets fan, with the debacle that was the Minaya press conference still fresh in our minds. I needed to be inspired. First, I got word of a dramatic Mets win on a huge Tatis grand slam, a win so eloquently described by Faith and Fear in Flushing: "The intrinsic beauty and joy of the game of baseball is asked to redeem a lot about the sorry and ugly business of baseball. Sometimes the asking seems like too much. But incredibly and improbably, baseball often manages to pull it off. Nothing about the Mets' team coming back to beat the Rockies makes the Mets' organization less of a mess. But for three hours, somehow, the Mets made me forget about the Mets. And for that I'm grateful." (hattip Binny.) This feeling was amplified by watching in person as the Cubs won on a walk-off grand slam in the bottom of the 13th and a near full crowd poured out onto Waveland Avenue singing "Go Cubs Go" in unison. The icing on the cake, however, was the Field of Dreams.
  • The Field of Dreams is located on a farm in Dyersville, IA, and was constructed in the summer of 1988 for the filming of the legendary Kevin Costner movie of the same name. It is wondrous to see in person.
  • We spent the next hour or two running around the field like little kids: playing catch, taking batting practice, watching families take the field and run the bases. For that short time, I was brought back to a place in my life that was pristine and pure and untainted by the havoc of real life, a time and a place where "Field of Dreams" was the defining piece of culture in my life and baseball was the only thing in the world that I truly cared about. (To those who might claim not much has changed, I would respond that now I also care about Pearl Jam.) For two hours yesterday, I was a child again.
  • In the words of the great Terrance Mann: "The one constant through all the years, Ray, has been baseball. America has rolled by like an army of steamrollers. It has been erased like a blackboard, rebuilt and erased again. But baseball has marked the time. This field, this game: it's a part of our past, Ray. It reminds of us of all that once was good and it could be again. Oh... people will come Ray. People will most definitely come."
  • They built it, we came. You should too.
Des Moines, IA
  • Des Moines was a decent looking city and definitely much better than we expected (sometimes your impression of a city has much more to do with your expectations than with its actual qualities - see below), but there wasn't too much going on.
  • We found a central monument area that contained the Iowa State Capitol (a beautiful building) as well as monuments to those Iowans lost in Vietnam, Korea, and at Pearl Harbor.
  • We found a local bar to try to get a sense of the life there. The bartender was holding a one year old baby behind the bar. They don't have that in bars in New York.
Omaha, Nebraska
  • The image I have of Omaha, Nebraska and of any person that is from there was radically altered by the 2 hours or so that we spent there. A locale that I envisioned as a tiny, farm town is, in fact, a stunning city with parks, arenas, and stunning architecture. We were shocked.
  • We walked across the Bob Kerrey Pedestrian Bridge, which is the only purely pedestrian bridge in the US that connects two states. It was opened to the public on Sept. 28, 2008. One day, I will be able to tell my grandchildren that I walked across the BKPB (that's what they'll call it then) during its inaugural year.
  • The bridge spans the Missouri River, which we were surprised to learn, at 2,341 miles, is the longest river in the country. We had just assumed it was the Mississippi, which it meets in St. Louis. It must be a crazy party when the Missouri and Mississippi Rivers get together.
  • There were signs on the bridge that identified the Missouri River as "a river of hope", "a river of change", and "a river of the people." Hmmm, hope and change...where have I heard that before? And once we thought about it, the words "Obama" and "Omaha" kind of look and sound the same. There's definitely something going on here. From now on, both will be referred to as "Obamaha."
  • Butch: "This is a bridge to nowhere. Why doesn't everyone get all up in arms on Nebraska's case."
  • We then visited Heartland of America Park, which is adjacent to the Old Market, a lovely part of town filled with bars, shops, and ice cream parlors. It might sound crazy, but Obamaha would not be a terrible place to live. Just saying...
  • Obamaha may have the highest graffiti per capita of any state in the US. Unsure how to verify this.
We had planned to drive up to Sioux Falls, SD to spend the night, but when we called to book a motel room, we learned that literally every room in the city and nearby area was booked for the night because of some massive softball tournament going on there today. We had to venture an hour deeper into South Dakota, where we found a gorgeous, affordable motel in Mitchell, San Diego. We passed the Laura Ingalls Wilder (author of the "Little House on the Prairie" series) home about 20 minutes outside Mitchell on the way here, but assumed it would be closes at 3am. Today we will find out what else South Dakota has to offer.

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