Thursday, November 14, 2013

RTW 2013 / Midwest USA Part 2

An excursion a little further afield from our SD base saw us on the Minnesota/Wisconsin border at Hudson. The co driver had organized a family quilt retreat out in the middle of Minnesota cornfields near Mankato in a purpose built barn for a few days.

I picked her up there after navigating the maze of country back roads so we could head further east.
It was a nice drive around Minneapolis and St. Paul then across the Mississippi and St. Croix Rivers to our destination  to catch up with Cindy.

While in that area we revisited Stillwater, a busy tourist town, taking time for a decadent ice cream sundae at the retro Leos Malt Shop (and Grill).
On the return journey we of course stopped at Cabela's in Ottowana for clothes shopping. Unfortunately I was a little late for the summer sales but managed to get enough nice shirts and jeans to last until next visit.

A little time later we headed south into Iowa and Des Moines along the I29/I80 route for a major quilt show. We revisited Walnut after making a quilt shop detour to Harlan. Walnut is a small town best known for its antique shops. Our main aim however was a return lunch at Aunt Bea's Kitchen. It was all just as quirky as last time and there are still tractors parked in the street.

Des Moines is a nice city filled with friendly people. Traffic moved at a sedate pace and it was easy to get around. We stayed at a good hotel near the city centre which had ready access to many restaurants. Two great ones we found were Americana (so good for lunch we made a return visit for dinner) where it's modern American with influences from the Middle East, South America and Asia. And who ever thought ice cream, a brownie and bacon would go together? but it does!
And for authentic Greek, Olympic Flame.
The weather had turned a bit nasty and we were on tornado watch the first night. In fact places we had driven through that morning were damaged by storms during the evening.
While the ladies took off for the quilt show we made a dash through torrential rain to the Bass Pro shop.
This is a sports store on steroids. Have never seen such an array of gear under one roof. It has 13.5K m2 floor space with 3500 wildlife mounts and a 120K litre aquarium stocked with 400 native fish. As they say in their blurb, part museum, art gallery, antique store, aquarium, and education, conservation entertainment centre.
A tourist destination for the sports lover in itself.
As for the Uncle Buck's Fish Bowl and Grill bowling alley....

Then, in much improving weather, we headed for the state capitol building. This was very impressive. After going through very strict security, we basically had the run of the building and were able to wander through both the upper and lower houses, the supreme court and the wonderful library.

The view of the dome from inside was also wonderful. Little doubt why this is touted as the major attraction in the city.
Then it was downtown to the Pappajohn Sculpture Park. While the 'Nomade' (the alphabet man to me) is probably the most recognizable object here, I found that the horses were the most impressive. Seemingly cobbled together drift wood, they are actually constructed from bronze castings of driftwood welded together. This area is well worth a visit.
Finally we made it to the State Historical Museum. Here they had a wonderful Civil War exhibit concentrating on the part Iowa and Iowans played in the conflict. One of the best Civil War exhibits I have seen including that in the Smithsonian in DC. Other exhibits include the history and development of Iowa and the people who contributed to that. Another was called 'A Delicate Balance' which shows how people have used Iowa’s natural resources from prehistoric times to the present and how the nature of the state changed forever with the arrival of the white settlers.
This is a museum worth spending at least half a day in.
Then, the following day, it was a long trip 'home' via the I35/I90 route stopping in Ames for a quilt store, a walk around town and a visit to the local markets.
The Sculpture Walk was again in Sioux Fall's main street. I do this every year we are there and am never disappointed. Some of the work is just amazing. Kate Christopher had produced another in a style that intrigued me back in 2011. "Look and You Will Find It" may be small but it was my favorite. But I don't have the spare $7500 to buy it.
We even made a detour half way around into a new patisserie, CH, which had a few yummy offerings.
Death by Chocolate topped with gold leaf, anyone?
We also made some quick side trips into some eclectic shops which are a feature of Phillips Avenue.
I found a book on Egon Schiele and one containing letters written between two Norwegians, the Stavig brothers, from 1818 to 1937, one an immigrant to the prairie of Dakota Territory, the other staying at home. They never saw another again. A review in a later post.

Our last day in the USA and wet, cold, blustery weather accompanied us to the airport. Winter was obviously just around the corner.
We had somehow accumulated two additional bags for the hold plus a sewing machine as carry on in the last month but managed to get a reasonable rate for the excess luggage.
The flights to Sydney were via Denver and LAX.

We had fairly long layovers at each stop but passed the time OK.
Again the 14 hours across the Pacific were in a 100% full plane.
United had let their quarantine certificate lapse on our aircraft so we had to sit at the gate in Sydney while they manually sprayed the plane, inside and out.
Welcome to Australia! Cough! Cough!
But it was a quick procedure through immigration (all automated now) and after collecting our bags (which all turned up) through customs.
Our ride was soon at the airport to pick us up, take us to where we had left our car for the duration, and after a couple of nights there to get over jet lag, we headed the four hours home.

No comments: