Monday, August 29, 2011

Elements of Disappearing Farm Structures

Visit any 42N area farm (just west of Fairfax, Iowa in this case) and you might see buildings or equipment in various stages of condition. Some may be well preserved while others are out of commission and even disappearing.

First off, the brick silo out building is somewhat rare in that many have already disappeared and are no longer being built. The white barn seen in the background sports a white metal roof. Many local farmers began replacing their barn's traditional shingles and wood exterior with easy to install and maintain metal in the 1990s. In many instances metal materials were placed over the existing wooden counterpart.

Lastly, notice the support for an old fashion windmill. Many windmills are missing parts and very few of them still turn, let alone actually pump water or provide electricity. There are exceptions to these disappearing structures but the trend is certainly to remove rather than replace.

When passing by these structures take a second or two to study the layout of the farm and consider how they functioned while new. Know that.

A View of Iowa's Upper Mississippi Valley

Check it. The Mississippi River carved its way through soluble limestone and dolomite with assistance from periodic glacial forces. Today's result is a broad valley between Iowa, Wisconsin and Illinois in the upper segment of America's river.

This view looks east from atop the Balltown ridge (north of Dubuque) and overlooks farmland, the Mississippi river and the cliffs of Wisconsin - although just the farmland is visible here. The 2011 corn crop looks in fine shape from this advantage point. 

Another farm visible from this lookout is a grain operation and cattle lot. All of this great scenery can be experienced at Balltown, Iowa. While there be sure to stop at what was Iowa's oldest restaurant - Breitbach's Country Dining. It was destroyed twice in separate fires but came back each time to again serve German-style food. Our captive people viewing the valley (above) had just finished their Sunday dinner and visited the overlook, a block from Breitbach's. Know that.

Sunday, August 28, 2011

2011 Quad Cities Air Show - Part 3

The recent tragic death of an airshow stunt flyer who fell trying to reach a helicopter from a biplane reminded me that I had these remaining images to post from June's Quad Cities Air Show. In June this guy successfully made it from the Stearman biplane to the helicopter.

The support plane for the Navy's Blue Angles is this C-130 Hercules. The plane demonstrated low passes for the crowd like those used in real combat situations. The plane also showed how it could land very quickly using lots of flaps, powerful reverse thrust and maybe someone standing on the brakes. This demonstration alone was a crowd pleaser. 

The highlight of the June show was the performance by the Blue Angels. They made several passes in formation, flew upside down, demonstrated vertical thrust and a variety of other aerial wonders.

While this day was dominated by a cloud cover it turned out to be a positive advantage for the crowd. The at times dark sky provided a dramatic background for the oncoming Blue Angels with full smoke on.

The show ended soon after this spectacular blooming pass. I don't know the correct air show name for the maneuver but it certainly wowed the crowd. Next came the show's lowlight - a one hour and 15 minute crawl in the car inching out of the parking area - but it was worth it. Parts 1 and 2 of this series can be found here and here. Know that.

Saturday, August 27, 2011

A Drink with a Scandinavian Girl

She peers through a window with a decanter and glasses nearby. What's on her mind? Find out for yourself. This wintry Scandinavian girl can be yours for $2,000 in all her white marble glory at an antique store in Mt Vernon, Iowa. Know that.

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Merlin's Pointing of the Pine

We are about one month away from the autumnal equinox. Therefore the setting sun on this August day casts a shadow slightly to the southeast on late afternoon objects in 42N country. I suspect the pointy finger is a manifest of Merlin himself indicating where his protégé, Vivien has barricaded him in the twelfth century - or so says the legends of King Arthur (my current reading material.) Know that.

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Ford Model A Day in Amana, Iowa

Amana is one of Iowa's top tourist destinations. Last Saturday the third annual Ford Model A exhibit included car clubs and individual owners who proudly displayed their working vehicles from the late 1920s to the early 1930s. One owner honked his Ahooga horn for me to make it an offical visit.

102 Model A cars registered for this static display along with a few Model Ts and early working trucks. Participation is up from 98 cars last year so the event is drawing increasing numbers of vintage cars despite the recession. Many Model A cars are from central and eastern Iowa plus a few from the Quad Cities area and western Illinois.

Car owners came over for the day, parked their vehicle and then shopped in the many Amana stores. At 3 PM the owners started their eighty year old cars and headed home. I followed one Ford for a while and discovered that Model A cars just didn't go too fast - maybe that's why they survive.

Another highlight of the vehicle get together was a fashion show of Model A era clothing (some real, some a reproduction.) After the models started stopping for me to photograph them individually I felt as if I had to accommodate each one, eventually I slipped away at a convenient break in the action. They probably thought I was from the local paper or Elle magazine. Know that.

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

DX Sold Gas at $1.35 per Gallon

Today's gas price around 42N country is $3.48 per gallon. Back in the day when DX stations flowed petro from her pumps the price per gallon was much cheaper.

In Oxford Junction, Iowa at the preserved DX gas station, two fuel pumps are still visible with pricing. The cost to fuel your vehicle before DX closed its doors was $1.35 per gallon - that is almost two-thirds less than today's price! 

Don't try to pump any old gas from these two pumps. Their handles have been removed - and besides there is no debit card swipe to activate the pump. Times have changed. Know that.

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

USAF 80001 Parked at Cedar Rapids Airport (CID)

While the President tours Minnesota, Iowa and Illinois by bus this week on a political speech trip, his support entourage is in the 42N area. Air Force One, the plane that the president generally uses is probably much closer to his overnight bus stops. However, here in Cedar Rapids this plane is parked at the Eastern Iowa Airport (CID.)

The aircraft with tail number 80001 is most likely a presidential or VIP backup transport should it be needed.

The "United States of America" 80001 is currently parked at the PS Air terminal. Given that the presidential election cycle is upon us, CID can expect to see this vehicle, Air Force One and a number of executive jet charters visiting eastern Iowa in advance of the first in the nation caucuses. Know that.

Monday, August 15, 2011

Wings Over Iowa

Just when you think that every interesting thing at a particular location has been photographed comes something extraordinary. Within a span of a few minutes a dragon fly and a butterfly came into view for a late afternoon rest near a small lake in extreme southeast Iowa.

Each photo was taken at the minimum focal length of six feet from the subject. For some reason the winged creatures didn't seem fazed by my close proximity at the Shimek State Forest. Both insects stood by while twenty some photos were taken of each to be further edited down to the two best. Know that.

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Yukon to Florida Via Oxford Junction, Iowa

A visitor to Oxford Junction, Iowa on Sunday, August 7th stopped briefly to look for a meal. I was in town to photograph more of the preserved DX gas station (just out of frame - see it here.) I didn't get his name but he is a recently retired physical education teacher who is bicycling from a small town in the Canadian Yukon, near Alaska to Sarasota, Florida. He has been on the road exactly two months and expects to be so for another month.

Oxford Junction, a very small town in eastern Iowa only had one place open for dinner on Sunday. That facility turned out to be a seniors center which unfortunately could not accommodate the international traveler. 

The man told me that it was no big deal about the lack of open restaurants. "I'll find one in the next town," he told me. His target for the day was Muscatine, Iowa which is on the Mississippi River. He told me that he is from Austria and will fly there once he gets to Florida. He thought this was a great way to start retirement. Can't argue with that. Know that.

Thursday, August 4, 2011

Pere Marquette Guided Through Mississippi River's Lock & Dam 10

Last weekend the temperature and humidity level reached the same number in the mid-90s. Flash floods of northeast Iowa including the Mississippi River valley resulted in a three foot rise in the nation's waterway. As a result Lock & Dam Number 10 (at Guttenberg, Iowa) was opened to allow the swollen river to flow more quickly. On Sunday, Marquette Transportation's 4610 horsepowered Pere Marquette guided a six barg tow downriver towards the lock. 

A guide vessel met the Pere Marquette on the lock approach, positioned itself to the port side bow and helped the long assembly through the ungated portion of the lock system.

I have never seen this maneuver before and suspect it is a normal procedure for high water conditions. Otherwise the barges are disconnected, towed into the lock, water levels are drained, gates open and the barges are towed to a staging area while the tow returns for the other upriver barges. Its a long process to complete so I suspect the Pere Marquette's pilot was happy to save several hours of lock time by doing the go-around. Know that.

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Lock & Dam 10 Open for Business

High water on the upper Mississippi River activates flood control measures. This past weekend at Guttenberg, Iowa (42.785N 91.101W) the lock and dam system was locked in the wide open position - meaning that the dam portion of the control lifted its flood gates to let the maximum amount of water pass down river. When the gates are lowered the system produces a large river pool so that navigable traffic may pass. Last week's 8 - 14 inches of rain which fell in NE Iowa produced among other things, a three foot rise in the river. By the way that's Wisconsin on the far side of the river - the land of beer and cheese. Know that.