Thursday, April 30, 2009

Linn County Tornado Siren Signals Severe Weather Season

Living in 42N country means coexisting with seasonal threats of tornadoes. This F1 rated tornado ripped the landscape between Center Point and Central City, Iowa on April 26, 2009 (photo courtesy of Part of the warning system for the county is the blaring of outdoor sirens placed in cities and rural areas. These sirens are activated by county officials and coordinated with the National Weather Service (generally from the Quad Cities) for the immediate 42N area.

If you live outside the Midwest here is what these sirens sound like once activated. This three minute recording was done in conjunction with the storm system that produced the tornado above last Sunday afternoon. While the pitch of the siren seems to change, it is due to the rotating horns that travel 360 degrees around the Y axis. A cool audio feature of the siren is the power down phase around 2:18 in the recording. Another more beneficial feature of the siren power down is an audible confirmation that the immediate threat is over.

5/6/2009 Update: In Linn County the sirens are controlled by risk managers associated with the Duane Arnold Power Plant (nuclear). The activation of the sirens can signal a variety of emergencies such as tornadoes, blizzards, nuclear, chemical, biological, or other severe weather. Once heard the listener should connect to local radio or television media to get the latest warning advice. Know that.

Sunday, April 26, 2009

Lincoln Highway in Linn County

Bisecting much of 42N country is the nation's first continental highway - the Lincoln Highway. The road is remembered in Linn County, Iowa with a series of roadside displays plus many tri-colored red-white-blue painted telephone poles with the characteristic "L" in the white field. This exhibit is located near the Mt. Vernon Road SE and Wilder Drive SE intersection in the eastern part of Cedar Rapids. Its here where the original Lincoln Highway veers to the northwest from the more straightened path of today's Mt. Vernon Road. Why? because the grade up the hill was deemed too steep for early autos to easily ascend. So a winding path on this hill (near the Lincoln Heights neighborhood) was constructed.

The 2004 dedicated display offers sections of original 1919 concrete bridge walls and mentions a four-tenths mile portion of the original Seedling Mile road in the state of Iowa. The Seedling Mile consisted of a concrete section of the Lincoln Highway as a demonstration to local governments and auto travellers that it was possible to pave rural sections of Iowa for economic gain. And even better yet, no one had to drive through axle deep clay mud anymore. The Seedling Mile section in Linn County is located just west of Mt.Vernon on the old Lincoln Highway.

In the above photos a portion of the original 16-foot wide pavement is still visible along with high curb walls designed to keep the Model Ts on the road and out of the ditches. I took a closeup shot of the pavement (above) to provide a glimpse of the 90-year old historic roadway. Double click on the photos to open a larger version. Know that.

Saturday, April 25, 2009

Test Pattern Indian

When television was young, stations often signed-off for the day after so many hours of programming. Sometimes stations broadcast variations of this test pattern, other times they showed TV snow (video noise.) When technical difficulties would sometime knock the signal off air, the local station would run test patterns like this too. Apparently these test patterns are actual copper based cards found in old TV station equipment and are quite collectible. Know that.

Monday, April 20, 2009

Sykora Bakery Reopens in Cedar Rapids

On Saturday, April 18 Sykora Bakery reopened after a three year hiatus. The Czech Village bakery site was crowded with many well wishers including Iowa governor Chet Culver and Cedar Rapids mayor Kay Halloran. Sykora joins a number of businesses welcomed back to the community following last June's record flood of the nearby Cedar River. The Cedar Rapids Gazette has a story about the opening. Hurry down for your kolache soon. Bakery owner John Rocarek promises to use the original bakery recipe for the popular Czech pastry. Know that.

Sunday, April 19, 2009

Grand Funk Railroad Connection to Independence, Iowa

Located in 42N country is Independence, Iowa (42°28′13″N 91°53′38″), the county seat of Buchanan County. The small town prospered when the railroad was built and stopped in the community. In 1859, the first train service came to town and in 1891 the Illinois Central Railroad built a new passenger depot in Independence. In modern times, the depot has been relocated along Highway 150 on the north side of Independence with the restored building serving as the home for Buchanan County Tourism and Visitor Center.

On display behind the depot is former Grand Trunk Western Steam Locomotive #8300, restored as an Illinois Central Locomotive. The 86-year old, three car train (locomotive, coal tender and caboose) serve as the centerpiece for the depot's rail collection. The top two photos were taken today on a gray, solid overcast day. Compare those two images with the bottom photo from Randy Jenkins in 1998.

From the website:
"Northwestern Steel & Wire 30 (ex-Grand Trunk Western 8300): Grand Trunk Western 8300 was the first of the P-5 class 0-8-0's, built in 1923. While the other NS&W engines were re-numbered using the last two digits of their GTW numbers, no. 8300 kept the middle two, becoming no. 30. A coal burner to the end, she still has half a load of coal in her tender from her last run. Unfortunately, this has trapped moisture against the sides of the bunker, and as a result, the tender is rusted out very badly, and some of the coal has fallen through to the track. Owned by the Illinois Railway Museum, but stored in Galt, Illinois she is shown here in October, 1998...In November 2000, no. 30 was sold for display at the Buchanan County Visitor Center in Independence, Iowa." The bottom photo is courtesy of the parkengine.railfan website.

And the link to the aforementioned band? The locomotive was once a part of the Grand Trunk Western Railroad which runs through Flint, Michigan. In the late 1960s, the rock band Grand Funk Railroad was formed in Flint and derived its name from the railroad. Within three degrees we can tie to We're an American Band. Know that.

Thursday, April 16, 2009

M41 American Light Tank Guards Veterans' Memory

The U.S. Army's M41 tank, nicknamed the Walker Bulldog was developed for action during the Korean War but also served throughout the war in Vietnam. During the 1970 South Vietnam incursion into neighboring Laos, known as operation Lam Son 719, to disrupt VC supply lines, the M41 was instrumental in helping to destroy Soviet built tanks. Today, this M41 guards the veterans' memorial park in 42N country. Know that.

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

End of the 1908 Trinity Methodist Church - For Now

On Wednesday, April 15th the last remaining portion of the Trinity Methodist Church, the bell tower, was taken down in Cedar Rapids, Iowa. Demolition workers pried the remaining two door jams off their frames early in the morning before removing engraved stone work - and presumably the 1908 time capsule. The 101 year old church was a victim of the June 2008 flood of the Cedar River which poured five feet of water into the sanctuary. Know that.

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Dennis the Quincy Mine Tour Guide is YouTube Celebrity

This is Dennis. He is the all-knowing Quincy Mine properties tour guide in Hancock, Michigan. Dennis educates people about the history of copper mining in Michigan, especially about the Quincy Mining Company. He answers just about any question that you may have about copper mining, impresses many with his extensive geological knowledge and leverages his presentation skills to educate and entertain.

While on the first tour of the day last summer there is a point where the tractor pulling visitors stops, and Dennis motions for the group to come near. He has a cross sectional map of the mine that shows the dozen or so shafts that penetrate over 97 levels of the once active mine. Here he points out that we are located on Level 7 (above 90 levels that have filled with water!)
Dennis also jokes about who in the group might be video taping him. He says he is aware of a few clips of him on YouTube. The crowd laughs, but the visitors' cameras (both still and video) record his discussion of the evolution of mining techniques once used in the mine. Later we post a couple of videos on YouTube featuring the plaid-shirted Dennis. These videos join a growing number of Quincy Mine visitor made clips featuring the star of Level 7. Somehow we know that he really likes all the attention. Know that.

Sunday, April 12, 2009

Good Friday Demolition Day for Trinity Methodist Church

On Good Friday, April 10, 2009 demolition crews took down most of the 101-year old Trinity Methodist Church sanctuary near downtown Cedar Rapids, Iowa. All that stands until Monday (one day after Easter) is the church's bell tower. Inside the tower structure is a time capsule placed during the 1908 construction. The capsule will be retrieved, the tower will be pushed down, and the debris will be removed.

Trinity Methodist Church has been holding services in its administration offices adjacent to the church building. The church was severely damaged in the June 2008 flood of Cedar Rapids. The city plans a number of high water prevention methods to help keep downtown out of any future floods. With Grand Forks, ND serving as a model of how to protect a city, many Cedar Rapids officials were on hand in Grand Forks over the past weeks to see how multi-million dollar flood deterrent engineering worked when threatened.

Trinity Methodist's congregation is committed to rebuild a sanctuary on the site. All the media attention given to the building's demise is generally framed as a victim of last year's flood. However the congregation sees the situation as the rebirth theme of the Easter season. Know that.

Monday, April 6, 2009

Farrah Fawcett Advertising Prop in Dodgeville, Wisconsin

While there is much news about actress, Farrah Fawcett these days (click here for the latest) back in 1977 the rising superstar and 1970s icon filmed two Mercury Cougar television commercials using this supersized cargo plane. Today, the plane and Farrah's autograph on the lower fuselage can be seen near Dodgeville, Wisconsin. Soon after the commercials were filmed the plane was bought in bankruptcy from a Long Beach, California company and flown to the now defunct Dodgeville air strip on October 16, 1977. There the plane was towed a few hundred yards and positioned as a roadside attraction to the Don Q Inn hotel. While the autograph can still be seen it remains suspect (see actual signature here vs. the fuselage misspelling version.) The Mercury Cougar logo can be seen on the nose of the aircraft (top photo.)

The Mercury Cougar television commercial below shows glimpses of the aft portion of the plane, fuselage markings and lowered ramp. The second ad featuring the plane and Farrah has yet to surface on the web. Who would have guessed that a Boeing C-97 parked along State Highway 23 in rural Wisconsin would be touched by one of Charlie's Angels? This could only happen in 42N country (latitude 42°58'39N, longitude 090°06'59W) to be precise. Know that.

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

Paul McCartney's Silly Love Songs Celebrates 33 years

On April 1, 1976 Capitol Records released, Silly Love Songs from the LP album Wings at the Speed of Sound in the United Kingdom. The single was released in America on April 30th. The song went on to become the biggest selling record for the year according to Sales Charts and achieved the number one position twice for a total of five weeks in 1976. Silly Love Songs is Paul McCartney at his bass intro pop best and represented an old guard tip to the then current disco era. The song accompanied the band's Wings Over America Tour, which repositioned McCartney as the top act in the United States since he stopped touring with the Beatles in 1966 (August 29th at San Francisco's Candlestick Park.) The Wings tour was recorded and issued in December 1976 as a three-record LP set and later released as a movie.

All that aside, this past weekend I found the lightly played 45-single (above) at a thrift store for 38 cents. You too can find the 33-year old song on vinyl by visiting eBay where the record sells for about $6.00 - and what's wrong with that? Know that.