Homer's Travels: East Iowa Roadtrip - Day Two: Angels, Nickels, Archeologists, And Memories

Saturday, March 19, 2011

East Iowa Roadtrip - Day Two: Angels, Nickels, Archeologists, And Memories

Day two of our east Iowa roadtrip was a full one so please pardon the long post.

First stop was Oakland Cemetery to see the black angel.  There are two black angels in Iowa: the one in Iowa City that we saw on this trip and one in Council Bluffs which we went to see back in July 2009.   This angel is more interesting than the Council Bluffs one.  They say if you kiss the angel you will drop dead.  The Wife suggested that I should really temp fate by putting on my red Star Trek Shirt and giving the angel a kiss.  I decided to play it safe and not kiss those cold black lips.

Our second stop, also in Iowa City, was the largest wooden nickel.  I can't say I'm very impressed with this.  It's just a round sign painted like a nickel.  It's not even authentic having several phrases not on the original buffalo nickel.  I'm not sure I would even call it a wooden nickel because of that.  By the way, if you're wondering where I get all these bizarre places to stop, I get them from Roadside America.

Next stop was the Herbert Hoover National Historic Site and the nearby Herbert Hoover Presidential Library.  This is where I had one of the largest brain farts in a long while.  I walked into the historic site visitor's center and saw the stamp for the national park passports.  I turned to go out to get my passport when I remembered that we decided to drive the Wife's car on this trip instead of mine.  D'OH #1.  The ranger suggested a sticker.  Sure!  He cut me a sticker and I put it in my pocket.  After watching the informative movie and looking at the exhibits we walked over to the presidential library.  Along the way I took out the sticker and realized it was just a large white dot.  Nothing on it.  I couldn't figure out what the ranger had intended by giving me a white sticker.  I think I used the word duffus to describe the ranger.  After we got home I came across the sticker, called him a duffus again, and then had the flash of incite.  I was supposed to stamp the white sticker using the passport stamp.  Then I could put the stamped sticker in my passport.  D'OH #2  Now who's the duffus?  Me!

The library was well put together and informative.  People blame Hoover for making the Great Depression worse but he was a decent man who was just over his head.

The fourth stop of the morning was in LeClaire, Iowa.  For those who watch American Pickers on the History Channel this should be familiar.  This is the location of their store, Antique Archeology.  It was a little hard to find as the place was tucked back on an alley behind a filling station.  None of the pickers (Mike, Frank, or Danielle) were there, of course, but it was fun walking through their office and seeing a lot of stuff that they had picked on the show including the pig head and Laurel & Hardy heads.  (Pictures are here.)  We bought t-shirts.  As we were leaving some old guy was asking the cashier girl if he could see her tattoos.  She patiently explained to the gentleman that, despite having tattoos, she was not Danielle.  I wonder how many times a day she has to say that.

We ate lunch at a cut off your tie place called Sneaky Petes before walking through the nearby Buffalo Bill museum.  Buffalo Bill was born in LeClaire though most of his life was spent out west in Nebraska and Wyoming.  The museum was ... underwhelming.  There was only a small section about Buffalo Bill.  The rest of the place was more about local history and local inventors (The guy who invented the airplane black box was born here) .  The one high spot, sort of, was the Lone Star wood hull paddle boat in a large enclosed dry dock facility next to the museum.  It was over a hundred years old and was in the process of being restored.  It reminded us of the Meriwether Lewis in Brownsville.

The fifth stop of the day was the county museum in Maquoketa, Iowa.  This museum is home of the two-butted Lamb and the two-headed calf.  This museum was more interesting that the Buffalo Bill museum though not by much.  We walked through it fairly quickly because the Wife and I aren't really museum people.  I know if I read all the descriptions and plaques I would probably learn quite a bit but I just don't have the patience.

Both of the museums, the Buffalo Bill and the Maquoketa, were run by little old ladies that asked the same thing as we left "Done already?"  They were both very sweet.  The one in Maquoketa, after hearing where we were going suggested we eat at the Kalmes Restaurant which brings us to ...

The next four stops were trips down memory lane for the Wife.  First it was Bellevue where she had her first teaching job.  We just did a drive through here.  Things have changed a lot since she was there 20+ years ago.  Next it was St Donatus where we stopped at the Kalmes Restaurant where one of her former students, a Kalmes, works.  She remembered the Wife and they talked for a while.  Turns out several of the teachers that the Wife worked with are still teaching in Bellevue.  We left with a cooler full of homemade sausage.  This was followed by a stop at Paul's Big Game Tavern in Dubuque where the Wife had a beer for old time's sake.  Pauls is decorated with hunting trophies and is a nice neighborhood bar ... according to the Wife.  The last stop on memory lane was Mulgrew's in East Dubuque.  The wife had a beer and a chili dog ... for old time's sake.  East Dubuque is in Illinois and the bars close an hour later there.  When she was in college it was: close down Paul's then cross the river and close down Mulgrew's.  We also tried to buy one of their ceramic chili dog banks.  I broke her old one - fell off the fridge while I was cleaning.  Unfortunately the mold for the original bank was destroyed in a fire so no joy there.

We ended the day in Galena, IL which, like East Dubuque, is technically not in East Iowa but it's close.  We found a hotel and then headed to the downtown area.  Galena has a very interesting downtown.  It has a nice downtown with old buildings full of character, trendy shops, and great restaurants.  I think it's one of our favorite towns along with Cambria, CA and Stillwater, MN.  We will be returning here for sure.

The stores  were closed when we got downtown but restaurants were just starting to get busy and we had a hearty meal at the Log Cabin Greek Steakhouse.  We're not sure what was so Greek about it.  They did serve Greek salads and occasionally yelled 'OPAAAAA' but that was about it.  Our steaks were delicious though, Greek or not.

The highlight of the day for me was our Antique Archeology visit.  The Wife's highlight was reminiscing at her old haunts.


  1. You know, you could get yourself a slightly bigger round piece of wood, paint it up as a wooden nickel, charge people five bucks to get into your back yard, and make a fortune as a tourist attraction.

    Just a suggestion.

  2. GH: I would prefer making the largest Mercury Dime!!!