Tuesday, July 8, 2014

Iowa Byways - Grant Wood

During the night we had rain but luckily missed the storms that invaded parts of Iowa not all that far away.  I woke to bright blue skies, a nice northwesterly (cooling) breeze and confidence that there would be few if any flood detours today.  I was confident because my planned Route just happened to go on major highways where the crossing rivers may still be over flood stage.  River levels in most places are dropping fairly rapidly, that is, in most places.

The Grant Wood Byway's western starting point was a good ways away, so I had to do some riding this morning before I even began the scenic ride.  Not planned due to an oversight on my part, I somehow missed the fact that the drive began west of Anamosa and not right in town.  So a section didn't get ridden, a section with the Grant Wood Art Gallery that I'd have stopped at.

Many of the nation's motorcyclists know of the National Motorcycle Museum that is located in Anamosa and for many it's been the place of numerous pilgrimages.  I was there a few years ago with friends and when I went by today (didn't stop) the parking lot was full of tourist's machines as it almost always is.

Stopped in Columbus Jct. this morning for a mid-morning coffee and directly ahead of my parked bike was this sign, maybe 15 cars in their parking lot and a small, added-on-to building.  It all looked interesting but I was in a hurry for coffee and figured I'd contemplate once I had the hot styrofoam cup in my hands.  When I had first pulled in, for lack of anything better to call him, a traveling salesman looking guy pulled in next to me and hustled inside.  He was in his SUV when I got outside, his windows rolled up with the motor running and it looked like he was speaking into his IPad.  My coffee was finished and I was just pulling out my camera to take this photo (so that I could remember to look it up later) as he backed away.  While I was tucking my camera back into the tankbag, he pulled up next to me and rolled his window down.

"Best damn bug spray there is, it's been advertised all over the country and there's nothing like it.  You know those gnats we've had so bad this year?  Not a problem with this stuff and it smells good too.  They make it right here in that little building.  I'm sure they'd sell you some if you go inside, or this Quickie Mart probably has it on the shelf too......damn good!"  His window went up and he headed back out to the highway.

So there you have it, all because of my stop for a not so great cup of coffee.  Simply Soothing, Home of "Bug Soother".....and to think that I was right there at world headquarters!  It's enough to make me want to stop for coffee more often.

North of Nichols I got some gravel, it felt a bit like Venice but it was actually Douglas Road.  I did see more flood damage today, one area that had been hit really hard.  There was a popup camper, on its side, right out among the Angus in a feedlot, cattle and camper deep in mud.

Along the Grant Wood Byway, some rolling hills to start, prairies in the middle sections and then very hilly sections as I moved further east toward the Mississippi river valley.

Since I didn't get the "Begin - Grant Wood Byway" sign, I only stopped later just one time to get a photo as proof, hoping for a view in the background but when there was a good location I couldn't stop.  This was the best I could do.

A planned stop today that I was really looking forward to was the Clinton Engine Museum in Maquoketa.  I'm old enough and many people I know are old enough to remember the Clinton's as strong competitors of Briggs & Stratton.  My dad bought a Montgomery Wards lawnmower when he and mom were first homeowners and it had a Clinton 3 1/2hp engine.  I learned to mow lawns with that machine as a pre-teen and then in my 8th Grade Motor Mechanics shop class, I freshened it up at school.  Dad was still using that thing long after I left home.  Even back in shop class, I remember a certain rivalry between the Briggs guys and the Clinton guys.

I was absolutely fascinated at the museum today, enjoyed my time more than I can say.  Aerial photos, employee counts, what it meant to the local economy, etc. all tell the story of a once great company that's gone.  Way too many photos to share here but I'll try and pick out a few favorites.  The original office building is all that's left of the complex.  Corn and open space have replaced the many acres that once were "The Plant".  There are numerous online information sources, this is a nice one.

The (restored) original safe from the office building, built by the Mosler Safe Company.  Industrial espionage and the stealing of company secrets were the justification.  All company prints, documents, etc. were stored in this secure room.

Receptionist's room, what visitors first saw upon entering.....

And last but not least, one of my favorites.......

The Byway looped around, not taking a very direct route to its eastern terminus at Bellvue which is on the Mississippi River.  I knew there were various parks there and wanted to check on the current flood levels as well as check out the lock and dam, this one I'd never visited before and there aren't very many of the 26 on the Upper River (above St. Louis) that I haven't visited.  A big tow, more than 9 barges were going through the locks when I arrived.

Another example of the always immaculate surroundings at the US Army Corps of Engineers facilities.

After some time sitting in the shade and watching the very, very slow progress of getting 15 barges and the tug boat through the locks, I was walking back to the bike when I saw The Twilight approaching just below and I mean just below the locks.

But the coolest part was that they actually dropped off a musician on shore, using the gang plank(?)  It wasn't very deep there but I noticed that the bow of the 'steamer' was drawing almost nothing so they got away with it.

He actually got off the boat.......no dock.

After some wonderful time in Bellvue, I headed north to Peosta where I intended to spend the night. It should be mentioned that these rural roads around Dubuque are some of the finest anywhere.....for motorcycling.  Today the ride from Bellvue to Peosta was about as good as it can get.

I remembered that the Monastery was in the area and my trip planning found it so I made it part of the day's ride.  I only stopped for the photos, didn't try and visit the grounds.

Later I headed into downtown Dubuque, hoping that the worst of rush hour would be over.  A few years ago I visited the fine National Mississippi River Museum on the riverfront though that wasn't my plan for today.  Instead, I wanted to visit the Shot Tower, recently mentioned by David on his blog.  Since Dubuque's old tower is right down on the waterfront, I was concerned that it may be closed due to the flooding.  I needn't have worried.  Dubuque's once decrepit river's edge area is undergoing a huge revival.  There was a great deal of dining and entertainment life going on while I was there.  Bicyclists rode by in great numbers, taking advantage of a loop on streets that none of my map programs show.

So, this is for David.....

The city was running two huge pumps, pumping water from their storm sewer system back into the river.  Here I was standing on the huge dike that is protecting the lower parts of the city.  The Shot Tower is just off the left edge of the photo.

Looking upriver.....

....and down....

Tomorrow's Byway is a shorty and tomorrow evening will find me at the Rally site, a day/evening early for the official start of the National Moto Guzzi Rally.  I'm certain that I won't be the only Italian rider in the park tomorrow night though.

Since Saturday morning, I've done 889.5 miles, that's in 4 days.  I happened to notice one morning that at 9:30 AM I had 118 miles to go that day.

I'm quite satisfied with that.


  1. Replies
    1. Exactly.....you'd have enjoyed the museum and the day.

  2. Great post! I like the Clinton museum...

    1. Thanks Richard, the museum was full of treasures, both about the engines they made as well as what the place meant to the town and region.

  3. I thought the photos with the big puffy clouds were the best then you went and put the riverboat video up. How can I not enjoy that music.....

    Thanks for sharing.

    1. We think alike. I was ready for the sternwheeler's photos but the music took me by surprise. Luckily I was able to get my audio machine going in time. I spoke a bit with the musician getting off the boat, he's a good salesman for the boat trips. :)

  4. Oh dear... Google is deleting my comments...

    But I copied it... he he he... jokes on them...

    Doug, you go to the trouble of finding me a shot tower, and I manage not to notice for three whole days. Sheesh.

    Your fairly post reeks of Mark Twain. I need to make it out your way and give you a good couple of days to show me around your stomping grounds and the Ole Miss.

    Our shot tower desperately needs a historical plaque like the one in Dubuque. I now have friends in high places in historical societies and archeology museums. I may just have enough influence to make it happen.

    Thanks Doug.

    1. David, I'd love to show off the area and I think we're pretty fortunate with ample good riding.

      Good luck with the plaque,, if there's anything I can do .....:)