Des Moines/Iowa Day II

Trip Start Jun 27, 2009
Trip End Aug 07, 2009

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Flag of United States  , Iowa
Thursday, July 2, 2009

Des Moines Day II 7-2-09

We decided to sleep in a bit this morning and awoke around 8:30 am when we realized it was impossible to breathe in our tent because it had become so hot. During the night temperatures dropped to the point where we needed a heavy comforter to keep us warm, and thus we also zipped up all the tent windows. However, our enjoyment in sleeping in was quickly roused out of us by the blistering heat of the greenhouse effect in our tent. Oh well.

We got ready for the day and decided to head into Des Moines, the capital and largest city in Iowa, with no real plan in mind. For reference, Des Moines…although the largest city in Iowa, has a population slightly higher than that of Morristown (about 200,000). All of Iowa only has 2.9 million, and I'm pretty sure they cheat on the census and count the corn too as people.

Des Moines was easy enough to find, their lone skyscraper rising out of the fields in the distance. First impressions: beautiful, clean, and modern. But also….deserted.

Granted we were there at 10am, but still….the largest city should be bustling! Alas, we scarcely even had an opportunity to maim a pedestrian with my car.

Regardless of the inactivity, it was a beautiful place. Modern electronic signs guided you to a parking deck nearest your location. It was a very friendly city both as a driver and a pedestrian. Once we left the car and walked around we met a couple of friendly people who pointed us in the direction of a good cup of coffee. VERY good cup of coffee.

We spent about 30 minutes in Des Moines.

After we left we headed for what our guide book called, "A gem not to be missed in Iowa." We were going to Living History Farms.

Living History Farms is a big deal in Iowa. It’s probably as popular as the Liberty Science Center is in New Jersey…except this of course was about farming. Now, being a bit pessimistic I believed this was going to be a cheesy tour where actors in period clothing talk to you in a funny hybrid language of modern English and old-pioneer talk and accost you with made up stories about their lives on the prairie. I was wrong.

This place was HUGE. 500 acres on two sides of an interstate. So large in fact you had to take a 15 minute tractor ride to get to the start of it. The farm/museum has 4 distinct areas. Three of those areas focus on three different time periods of farming history in Iowa: The Native American times of the 1600’s, a farm from the 1850’s, and a farm from the 1900’s. The final part of the museum is the reconstructed town circa 1875.

You start at the earliest period in Iowan history and end at the town…and once again I believed this was going to be cheesy. Turns out, it was the best part of Iowa, hands down.

You arrive at the Native American village set back in the woods where two men are making rope. They have a small fire going and were very happy to tell us all about what was going on and how Native American’s lived in Iowa during the time period. Ok, that was neat for sure.

You then mosey down a trail maybe 1,000 feet long completely set back in the woods. You have no idea where you’re going. You arrive with signs telling you that you’ve arrived at a farm circa 1850 in Iowa. It was complete with barn, farm fields, house, livestock pens, etc. Here is the best part; not only were the people in period dress…they were working! Turns out, this farm/museum is so popular because you literally get to see these people working the way they did in that time period. They have no modern tools, no electricity. If they want to cook chicken for the night…they have to get a chicken raised on their farm and butcher it. They want corn with that chicken? They have to go to the fields and harvest corn they themselves planted. It was amazing. You walk around their houses, their barns, their farmfields…while they work. It was weird…like being in a reality TV show. At lunch time, a bell is rung and all the workers go to lunch and eat the food they’ve worked so hard to prepare all day. So amazing.

The next stop was the 1900 farm. This was really neat because it was a more modern house with a windmill for pumping water and some advanced machinery for the day. Men rode around on metal machines pulled by horses that would till the fields and harvest the grain. The women would take this and turn it into the days meal or the men would use it to feed their livestock. Nothing was brought in from the outside, it was all done by them.

I have a new appreciation for how much work these early men and women did.

We passed after this a cool section that taught us about corn. How can you go to Iowa and not learn about CORN?! It is after all the nations number 1 grower of the crop….but who would have known there was so much to learn about it?! Did you know for instance that corn today is a genetic hybrid purposely created for its’ strong roots, drought resistance, and bad taste? (to deer and bugs that is!)

However, corn today is much less nutritious than it was once because of all these genetic cross breedings. Not only that, but most corn today is not grown for our consumption and it’s not even grown for livestock feed! It’s grown for plastics, clothing, and ethanol. That’s right, you can buy t-shirts, cars, toys, and fuel all made out of corn. Turns out to be a pretty amazing crop.

We then walked through the 1875 town which boasted a broom maker, blacksmith, cabinet maker, etc. That was really neat. It even had a shop that made hats and dresses for women and a general store. ALL of these places were functioning. The brooms were made in the town and used in the shops. The clothing made in another store was sold to the women, and the blacksmith repaired equipment in the village. You could walk into almost any building and see these people working. They were of course very happy to answer questions..but unlike a bunch of actors at some cheesy museum…these people grew what they ate, and had to sew by hand the clothes they wanted to wear. Wow.

We went to see Ice Age 3 after the museum, and that was a let down. Oh well. We finally got back to our tent site where we engaged in a great conversation with some locals. Very neat to meet people from the area and see just how different we all are

That’s it for now I believe. Jen and I are waiting for the stars to come out on our last night in Iowa. The air is clean, the sky is clear…and it’s a truly beautiful state. Next entry will be from Minneapolis, MN!

P.S- met a cat today that licks your hand just like our cat Rocky does back in NJ. Made us miss home.
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Will on

What state is Morristown in?

mrweinstein on

Sorry for the super late reply, I wasn't checking my journal. Morristown is in New Jersey, where we're from.

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