USA 47, 11th October 2006

The museum in Waterloo had some nice displays, I forgot to include this photo.

Next day I stopped by a visitor centre which had a sort of zoo. I don't much like zoos but I got to see a close up of a brown bear, and other animals. I later stopped by a Norwegian museum, quite well done. I wish I could remember the exact numbers, but between around 1825 and 1832 there were almost 1 million people emigrated from Norway to the USA, even though the population of Norway was only 1 million in 1825. Those are quite amazing numbers.

I found my way to Sam and Deb Blackburn's home near Preston, I was invited to their private, fun balloon meeting. It turned out to be a fun non balloon meeting, the forecast was so bad that most people who came didn't even bother to bring their balloons. It was forecast to be too windy and it was. But hey, it was a great weekend. Because we didn't have to waste time flying there was lots of time to socialise and do some local sightseeing around Lanesboro.

Here we are at Butt Bridge on the way back, checking out the fishes.

Breakfast used a new (to me) technique for omelettes. Take 2 or more eggs and put in a zip top plastic bag. Add chopped ham, tomato, peppers, onions, etc, close the bag, expel the air, and immerse in boiling water for 13 minutes. I can tell you, it works. Mmmmm!

This a general (and very badly exposed) view of Sam's garage which doubled as the kitchen and the dining room. Sam is in the white tee shirt centre left, watching the can, it might be Deb centre right in the blue top. I have no idea who was the only person who moved when I took the photo, that's the blur just in front of Deb, everyone else was content to take life calmly at that time.

One event that was not blown out was a parade of vintage cars which just chanced to pass by.

The camp fire was operational from arrival to departure, even during the night. Silly game of the weekend was melting beer bottles in the fire in a singularly unsuccessful attempt to make designer shapes in the glass.

Sunday afternoon came and I planned to leave with everyone else, but I spent too long chatting with Sam and Deb so stayed for Sunday night.

Monday I dragged myself away and took the pretty road towards and then down the Mississippi. I'm a few days late in the year for the best view of the fall colours, many of the leaves have already fallen, as you can see in the photo above with the vintage car, but as I head south I hope to catch up with the best part of the season. I might just do it, I had a good day today, made about 100 miles.

I bought petrol in Marquette and found one of the silliest promotions ever. You could save 20 cents per gallon if you bought something from the shop, and paid inside. I bought a toffee for 1c and saved $5.60c on my purchase of 28 gallons.......... Then I noticed a casino, checked where I should park, asked if it was OK to park overnight, then made a visit to the casino. Well, it was the least I could do. There were fruit machines for 1c, and fruit machines for $5. I still don't understand why people play. With the $5 slot you just lose your money faster. A sign said 93.4% pay out. I didn't play so I reckon I had 100% pay out and comfortably beat all the odds. It was Whit who said, don't anyone think that all those armoured cars are taking money IN to the casino.

Just south of the town is the Pikes Peak park, with stunning views.

There are still colours around, even with some leaves missing.

Another viewpoint, with a set of barges. This set of 9 barges can carry 22,500 tons of grain and is 1/4 mile long. The same amount carried in 870 trucks 150 ft apart would take up 35 miles of road space so obviously barge tows are more efficient and 60% of all grain is transported to New Orleans in this way. I got all this from the information sheets.

55 million tons go to New Orleans to be exported. The average 300 acre farm will produce about 1500 tons of grain. I got this from the information sheets too.

I doubt this farm is typical in that respect, but it's pretty.

I have no idea what this is. It must have looked interesting because I took a photo. Any ideas anyone? It looks a bit like a reflected, or folded, image, but it's not an exact reflection.

I went to the Mississippi River Museum in Dubuque. I had no idea that it was going to be so interesting, I arrived at 3.10, it closed at 5.00. I knew that was not going to be enough time, I thought about returning in the morning, but it didn't open until 10 am, and I am usually on the move well before that time. It is one of the very best museums I have been to although there was nothing setting itself up to be photographed.

There were interactive films, running water displays showing for example how different conservation measures could cause different flooding levels, a history of steamboats on the river, aquariums with river life, fishes, even an alligator. There were boats, ranging from a dugout canoe up to a steamboat. All sorts of stuff. I was fascinated.

At 5 pm I noticed someone was speaking, with an audience and TV cameras. I think he was talking about future plans for the museum. I didn't take too much notice, as it seemed to mean I was not being thrown out at 5 pm closing time. I continued my explorations until about 6.30 and headed for the exit.

I was just about to get out when I was buttonholed by a man with a microphone and TV camera alongside. I'm with channel 9 TV he said, do you mind if we ask you a few questions?

Hmmm. I said, I prefer not, I'm just a visitor, I don't know anything. Fortunately he didn't seem to mind. If pressed I'd have had to tell him that here was one of the very best museums I have ever visited.

I'd noticed a casino next door. Currently as you know I'm in to casinos, I stayed at one last night. I went in and asked security if I could park for the night. Well we've got a problem he said, normally I'd ask you to park over there where we have power points but we've got the area coned off for some work tomorrow. If you park by that big light though there's a power supply there. I don't need power I said. You don't? he said, most people do. So it seems that here is free parking for RV's and you get free electric too. If I was daft enough to play fruit machines then this would be a good place to come.

Best regards

David Barker

Travelling Iowa
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