Sunday, April 24, 2011

Hawkeye Express Waits for 2011-12 Football Season

In a little over four months the Hawkeye Express, a fan commuter train will transport Hawkeye faithful to and from Kinnick Stadium to watch the University of Iowa football team begin play within the new Big Ten Conference. Today I discovered a single Hawkeye club car in storage at the Oelwein Yard. Perhaps the commuter is here for annual maintenance and/or off-season storage. Other elements of the train have been spotted in storage on tracks in Coralville close to where people park and board during game days.

The Hawkeye Express began running in 2004, originally using elements from a ski train but now have dedicated six Pullman cars purchased from a Chicago commuter line. The diesel is a former Amtrack locomotive from Arkansas.

Hawkeye fans embraced the train concept as a way to move efficiently through traffic and to be delivered to Kinnick's entrance. Its been a win-win for fans and for the University. Know that.

Saturday, April 23, 2011

Welcome to Iowa's Kinnick Stadium Except For...

A sign of the times at the University of Iowa's Kinnick Stadium is a list of items not allowed in the stadium. Looks to be a pretty standard list probably designed, I'm sure, for the safety of fans, players, coaches, vendors and the media. 

The list's "large lens cameras" is perplexing only as a specific type of photographic equipment restriction. The advent of powerful point and shoot cameras with decent zoom and resolution can still make photographing from the stands a rewarding venture. Given a choice I prefer to bring in my DSLR and 200mm zoom to get some great photos.

The list restriction is obviously flawed and acts only as a guideline. Otherwise to be complete it would further prohibit items such as weapons, cigarettes (which are already banned from the stadium but not on this sign,) large hats, drunk people, pets, Weber grills, air space violations, hovercraft, torsion physics and the Ohio State Buckeye mascot. Know that.

Monday, April 18, 2011

Sailing Lake Michigan From Waukegan Beach

Snow may be gone but mid-April means changing weather - from flurries to sunny and windy midday conditions. On Sunday, April 17th the beach at Waukegan, Illinois was absent Lake Michigan sun worshippers but was not completely empty either.

A large sailboat scooted south near the city's harbor entrance. Many large boats winter in the surrounding dry docks. Recent preparation activities for Spring sailing are evident on a few stored fleet members. This craft hit the water ahead of the masses - perhaps its captain senses warmer weather ahead. Sorry, he apparently did not know its opposite day. Later that evening the region received two inches of snowy slush. Hopefully the sail boat completed its three hour cruise before the weather turned. Otherwise the skipper and his mate may need to host the Howells in Waukegan before their rescue. Know that.

Sunday, April 10, 2011

Glancing Potential of a 1937 Chevy Pickup Truck

A 42N area owner of a 1937 Chevrolet pickup truck looks through the passenger window of his prize possession explaining why his investment hasn't been realized. He has dreams of restoring the half-ton vehicle to show worthy status someday. But that day has not yet materialized.

The truck was been kept indoors for several years after he purchased it over a decade ago. Things changed when the building owner notified him about the property being sold so he had to vacate the storage area.

Since then the 74-year old antique makes its home outdoors next to its owner's garage, exposed to the elements and various gnawing rodents. While this Chevy has much of its original equipment, the toll of time means things need attention like the windshield, the engine, the door frame, and the fill in the blank several times here. 

The owner received many estimates from professional and hobbyist restorers who concur as to the price of transforming his pickup into a quality showoff vehicle. By several estimates the price to dial this baby up could exceed the potential sale price for a 1937 vehicle in tip-top restored condition. That is one reason why this owner hasn't restored yet.

But the real reason this truck has not been brought into the flashiness of the twenty-first century was something more pressing - his child's education. Our pickup owner and his wife saved their income to help offset college expenses for their daughter rather than restore the truck. Their daughter has since graduated, moved away and is employed as a nurse in Wisconsin.

A neighbor recently offered an indoor storage option for the pickup just a few blocks away. The owner thinks that he will place his early pickup in storage while considering ways to bring the '37 Chevy back to life. His goal is to someday drive the restored pickup to visit his daughter in Wisconsin - and make it back to Iowa without falling a part. Know that.

Saturday, April 9, 2011

Sykora Bakery Ice Cream and Sunshine

Czech kolaches, pastries and rye bread are main fare at the Sykora Bakery in Czech Village located in Cedar Rapids, Iowa. On this warm Spring day with temperatures pushing the mid 70F degrees, visitors to the famous bakery treat themselves to ice cream and sunshine.  

The entire Czech village area has been slowly reopening since the Cedar River flood of 2008 that destroyed most of these businesses. The bakery was closed at the time of the flood and reopened in April 2009 with great fanfare.

Just down the block workers prepare for the movement of the National Czech and Slovak Museum building later in April. Expectations for the building move includes closing a few bridges to accommodate viewers and television crews to document the herculean effort. On this day a quiet Czech Village (except for music heard coming from Ernie's Tap at left) waits for the historic moving day with crowds estimated to be around 10,000 watchers - all who will want a Sykora kolache and maybe a beer from Ernies. Know that.

Friday, April 8, 2011

Amana Meatshop and Smokehouse Now and Then

Iowa's number one tourist attraction is the Amana Colonies - a confederation of seven villages that recall their 1850's communal living by German immigrants. Part of the colonies' food tradition is the Amana Meatshop and Smokehouse. The meatshop is still in operation today offering fresh meats, cheeses and related products that can be purchased in the store or online.

Hanging inside the front door is a collection of photos showing what the building looked like throughout its history. This one looks to be from the 1930s or 40s. The stone building was built in the 1860s and still greets customers. While the Amana Colonies experience visitors throughout the year to its woolen mill, German restaurants and general stores, the main push of tourists occurs between Maifest and the Christmas festivals. Be sure to stop by and take in all seven villages while munching on the meatshop's cheese and meat sticks. Know that.

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Pink in Amana

Hey, look who visited Amana, Iowa today - Pink! She was very happy to oblige my request for a photograph. And why not? It's a chance to also appear on a highly visited blog site focused on the 42N latitude. Pink said her hair color is permanent...okay. Know that.

Monday, April 4, 2011

Look what Canada and Minnesota Gave Us?

Wander around any creek, stream or river bed in the 42N area (and about 91W) then look at the exposed assortment of rock. Here in Iowa the rocks which exist just below the best soil in the world is mostly limestone, dolomite and other assorted sedimentary based concentrations. But take a close look at the photo for the rest of the story.

The pebbles seen here from the Otter Creek hike this past weekend are fairly typical of what can be found around the state. About half of this photo consist of assorted eroded sedimentary rock. The other half is made up of non-native metamorphic and igneous stones. The pebble shapes indicate likely water erosion (perhaps from the creek) but probably from another source - glaciers!

The last advance of glaciers 12,000 to 14,000 years ago picked up all sorts of native rock from Canada and Minnesota then headed south. Otter Creek is located on the Iowan Surface area which lies just east of a direct hit from the Des Moines Lobe advance. Glaciers did deposit lots of well rounded granites which consisted of transported basement material from the Canadian Shield.

Long story short - thanks to glaciers we have varied landscapes here in the Hawkeye state and untold tons of glacial gravel. The stone later provided a resource for natives to fashion tools. Still later both the limestone and granites were harvested and processed into early concrete for buildings and roads. But one of the best features from glaciation was the formation of topography that eventually yielded richly organic soils that we use today for farmland. Know that.

Sunday, April 3, 2011

Shiny Skeleton of Otter Creek

A hike to 42N country's Otter Creek near Toddville, Iowa yielded an unusual find. Buried on top of the creek's bank is an upside down car circa 1940s or 50s. This Australia orientated auto is layered in soft sand mixed with organic debris which is the general makeup of the creek banks.

No telling how this roadster ended up here - at a remote location - and upside down, but it also showed signs of being visited by other creek hikers and stripped of most things valuable.

However the car's front brake systems were somewhat intact along with the outer body of whatever model this is. Also present is a lot of chrome, a l-o-t of chrome which was commonly used in those days for bumpers, side trim, door handles, wiper blade frames, steering wheels and other interior details. Someone has attempted to remove the chrome bumper but has yet to be successful.

Trenches along the perimeter of the car testify to previous visits to this site. Along creek side of the car someone dug through the sand to expose the driver side door. Apparently there must have been some exterior door detail, like the brand emblem or stylized bolts of lightning that was removed.

Perhaps the biggest surprise at the flipped car site were six bullet holes rat-tat-tatted against the driver and rear passenger doors. Leads one to deduce this was Bonnie and Clyde's car. Know that.