Tag Archives: Museum Road Trip

My 2019 Great Lakes Road Trip Part 12A

1 Jan

A Slice of Life

Bill Lites

Day 12 – Saturday August 3

My first museum this morning was the John Deere Tractor & Engine Museum there in Waterloo, IA.  This is a large museum filled with tractors, all kinds of farm equipment, and engines of all types and sizes dating from the mid-1800s.  Starting with his first steel farm plow design in 1837, John Deere improved his plow and farm equipment designs, and expanded his company, to include farm tractors beginning in 1907.  The company has continued to grow and expand its product line, over the years, to include all types of farming and harvesting equipment.  In 2019 the company was listed as being ranked the 87th American company in the Fortune 500 list.

Before leaving Waterloo, I swung by the Grout Museum to see what it was all about.  This small museum honors the military service and sacrifice of all Iowa veterans from the Civil War to the present.  The museum has an impressive display honoring the five Sullivan brothers, who hailed from Waterloo, and who were all sailors on the USS Juneau (CL-52) during WWII.  Unfortunately their ship was sunk during the Battle of Guadalcanal in November of 1942 with the loss of 687 crew members, including all five Sullivan brothers.

The story goes that at the time, a standing naval policy was in effect restricting siblings from serving in the same unit.  However, the Sullivan brothers had refused to serve (I don’t know how they got away with that) unless they were all assigned to the same ship, and the policy was overlooked by their commanders.  Following this family tragedy, the U.S. Navy was mandated to strictly inforce the policy for all siblings.  

Now I headed southwest on U.S. 63/30/65 to visit the State of Iowa Historical Museum located in Des Moines, IA.  This museum’s Historical Collection of over 80,000 items includes artifacts, memorabilia, and displays, related to the state of Iowa dating from the early 1900s.  These items are housed in the large State of Iowa Historical Building, along with the State Historical Library Collection and the State Historical Archives Collection.  Way too much for me to see in one visit.

As I was passing thru Des Moines, on my way to the next museum, I drove by the Iowa State Capital Building and decided to stop for a photo of this beautiful edifice.  I’ve learned that the building’s location in Des Moines was the third location considered for the Iowa State Capital after Iowa City and Monroe City.   The building was constructed between 1871 & 1886, and is the only 5-domed capital building in the U.S.  The building houses offices for Iowa’s Governor, Secretary of State, Attorney General, Treasurer, and Auditor, as well as the State Senate and State House of Representatives.

—–(This day’s activities will be continued next week)—–

Bill is a retired Mechanical engineer living with his wonderful artist/writer wife, DiVoran, of 61 years in Titusville, Florida. He was born and raised in the Southwest, did a tour of duty with the U.S. Navy, attended Northrop University in Southern California and ended up working on America’s Manned Space Program for 35 years. He currently is retired and spends most of his time building and flying R/C model airplanes, traveling, writing blogs about his travels for Word Press and supporting his wife’s hobbies with framing, editing and marketing.  He also volunteers with a local church Car Care Ministry and as a tour guide at the Valiant Air Command Warbird Museum there in Titusville.  Bill has two wonderful children, two outstanding grandchildren, and a loving sister and her husband, all of whom also live in Central Florida, so he and DiVoran are rewarded by having family close to spend lots of quality time with.  

Bill  

One of Bill’s favorite Scriptures is:  John 10:10

My 2019 Great Lakes Road Trip Part 11

25 Dec

A Slice of Life

Bill Lites

Day 11 – Friday August 2

This morning after breakfast, I started the southern portion of this road trip, by heading southeast on I-35E, about 30 miles, to visit the Holz Farm Park located in Eagan, MN.  This picturesque 80-acre farm was originally settled in the 1870s, and farmed by the Holz family until 1993.  The city of Eagan purchased the property in 1995 and converted it into a living farm park. The farm offers a unique opportunity for visitors to experience rural life as it was in this part of Minnesota in the late 1800s thru the mid-1900s, with hands on participation and special events.

Next I continued south on I-35 about 60 miles to visit the Steele County History Center & Village of Yesteryear, located in Owatonna, MN.  The museum displays rare photos, artifacts, and memorabilia that follow the history of Steele County, MN.  The Village of Yesteryear is a collection of 19 restored structures, relocated from various locations in Steele County, to preserve the history of the way of life of the mid-1800 pioneers who first settled in the Owatonna area of Minnesota.  I passed up the opportunity to take the tour of the “Village” since the next tour wasn’t scheduled until later in the day.

Another 30 miles south on US-278, I visited the SPAM Museum located in Austin, MN.  This is a very interesting museum that tells the history of SPAM (originally called Spiced Ham by its inventors) over the years.  SPAM was created by the Hormel Foods Corporation in 1937, to meet the need housewives had for cheap, quick meals requiring minimal preparation.

Then the military got in the act, and during WWII Hormel supplied hundreds of millions of cans of SPAM to U.S. and allied troops all over the world.  That may be one reason why so many U.S. veterans turn up their noses at the word SPAM.  It’s been rumored that some G.I.s believe SPAM is an acronym for what they call “Scientifically Processed Animal Matter.”

That doesn’t seem to matter to people all over the world, as witnessed by the creation of original SPAM recipes from over 44 different nations.  I was surprised to find out that SPAM is now available in 17 different flavors.  The samples I was offered at the museum were “Hickory Smoke” and “Roast Turkey.”  I thought they were both quite good.

As a side note; it looks like I measure about 22½ SPAM cans high.  How about that for an unusual method of measurement?

Now I headed west on I-90 about 25 miles to visit the Freeborn County Historical Museum located in Albert Lea, MN.  This museum displays some 40 exhibits, as well as artifacts and memorabilia, tracing the history of the city of Albert Lea and Freeborn County.  An unusual exhibit is the museum’s collection of rare vintage WWI and WWII posters.  The museum also maintains a late 1800s “Village” consisting  of 18 restored buildings, including a one-room schoolhouse, church, general store, and train depot, that will help visitors to this museum see how early settlers to this area lived and worked.  

As I headed south on I-35, I crossed the border into Iowa, on my way to visit the John Deere Tractor Museum.  Greta (my Garmin) took me off I-35 and onto some small backroads, where I happened to see “The Little Brown Church in the Vale,” and had to stop for a photo.  I am always looking for unusual houses, churches, or buildings on my trips.  I love to see how creative people can be.  In this case, it was the name of the church that got my attention, not necessarily the small quaint 1860 church building.

By the time I got to Waterloo, IA it was too late to visit the John Deere Tractor Museum, and besides that my stomach was still acting up.  So before heading for the motel, Greta helped me find the Chick-fil-A there in Waterloo, where I enjoyed an order of their Grilled Chicken Nuggets and another bowl of their extra special and healthy Chicken Soup for my evening meal.

Then it was off to find the motel, there in Waterloo, get checked in, and record today’s events.  As usual, there was nothing worth watching on TV, so I just called it a day and hit the hey.

—–To Be Continued—–

Bill is a retired Mechanical engineer living with his wonderful artist/writer wife, DiVoran, of 61 years in Titusville, Florida. He was born and raised in the Southwest, did a tour of duty with the U.S. Navy, attended Northrop University in Southern California and ended up working on America’s Manned Space Program for 35 years. He currently is retired and spends most of his time building and flying R/C model airplanes, traveling, writing blogs about his travels for Word Press and supporting his wife’s hobbies with framing, editing and marketing.  He also volunteers with a local church Car Care Ministry and as a tour guide at the Valiant Air Command Warbird Museum there in Titusville.  Bill has two wonderful children, two outstanding grandchildren, and a loving sister and her husband, all of whom also live in Central Florida, so he and DiVoran are rewarded by having family close to spend lots of quality time with.

 

Bill

 

One of Bill’s favorite Scriptures is:  John 10:10

My 2019 Great Lakes Road Trip Part 9B (Continued)

11 Dec

A Slice of Life

Bill Lites

Day 9 – Wednesday July 31

Next I was hoping to visit the Golden Wings Flying Museum, located a few miles north in Blaine, MN.  This is a private collection, and I needed an appointment to visit the hanger where the collection is stored.  I had called earlier that morning to make an appointment to see the collection, but no one answered.  I had left a message, but I had never received a response to my call.  Since I knew the museum was closed, I headed to downtown Minneapolis to visit the Foshay Observation Deck and the Wells Fargo Museum.

Description: Image result for golden wings flying museum minneapolis mn

Street construction and heavy traffic made it next to impossible to get around in downtown Minneapolis.  With all that confusion, Greta (my Garmin) was still able to find the Foshay Tower.  This 32-story art deco styled tower was built as an office building in 1929, and claimed the honor as being the tallest structure in Minneapolis until 1972.  The 30th floor Foshay Observation Deck has been a major tourist attraction over the years, where visitors can get a 360 degree view of the city of Minneapolis.   In 2006 the tower was converted to the 230-room”W Hotel” (part of the Starwood Hotels & Resorts Worldwide), but the 30th floor Foshay Observation Deck is still open to the public with its all-around great view.  

Description: Image result for foshay tower

And just around the corner from the Foshay Tower is the Wells Fargo Museum.  In this museum visitors can take an audio-guided tour describing the history of Wells Fargo (originally the Bank of North America-1781) from the late 1700s.  As an added feature, they can sit in a 1860s stagecoach, while imagining they are on a rough and dusty ride somewhere in frontier America.

Description: Image result for wells fargo history museum

For some reason I had always thought the Pony Express was associated with the Wells Fargo Express Company.  However, my recent research has informed me that they were two separate transportation companies operating about the same time in the history of our early American territorial expansion.  The Wells Fargo Company mostly carried people and merchandise in stagecoaches and wagons, while the Pony Express Company riders carried mail and important messages on horseback.  I guess I will have to someday research the facts better, and write a separate blog about each of these famous companies.

Description: Image result for pony express

Now I asked Greta to take me to the Minnesota Streetcar Museum which is located adjacent to Lake Harriet in the Lyndale Park area.  This museum actually operates two streetcar lines; the Como–Harriet Line between Lake Harriet and Lake Cohen, and the Excelsior Line which operates between the restored Excelsior Railway Station and Lake Minnetonka.  The Como-Harriet Streetcar stop is located just a couple of blocks from the Lake Harriet Recreation Area.  I was able to get a few photos of the restored Linden Hills Station as well as one photo of the vintage electric streetcar as it made its stop at the station.

Description: C:\Users\Bill Lites\AppData\Local\Microsoft\Windows Live Mail\WLMDSS.tmp\WLMF117.tmp\IMG_8144.jpg

After this pleasant stop, l asked Greta to take me back to the Brooklyn Center area and the motel.  I decided to try some Chinese food this evening, and chose the Rose Garden Asian Bistro located there in a small Brooklyn Center strip mall.  I had a Sweet & Sour Pork dish, served with rice and an egg roll on the side.  A pot of hot Chinese tea topped off the meal.  That was a delightful meal, and my tummy was pleasantly full by the time I was finished.  Now it was time for me to head back to the motel, where I recorded today’s events and then it was off to bed for this tired puppy.  Tomorrow I will concentrate on visiting museums on the outskirts of Minneapolis.   

Description: Image result for sweet and sour pork

—–To Be Continued—–

Bill is a retired Mechanical engineer living with his wonderful artist/writer wife, DiVoran, of 61 years in Titusville, Florida. He was born and raised in the Southwest, did a tour of duty with the U.S. Navy, attended Northrop University in Southern California and ended up working on America’s Manned Space Program for 35 years. He currently is retired and spends most of his time building and flying R/C model airplanes, traveling, writing blogs about his travels for Word Press and supporting his wife’s hobbies with framing, editing and marketing.  He also volunteers with a local church Car Care Ministry and as a tour guide at the Valiant Air Command Warbird Museum there in Titusville.  Bill has two wonderful children, two outstanding grandchildren, and a loving sister and her husband, all of whom also live in Central Florida, so he and DiVoran are rewarded by having family close to spend lots of quality time with.

 

Bill

 

One of Bill’s favorite Scriptures is:  John 10:10

My 2019 Great Lakes Road Trip Part 9A

4 Dec

A Slice of Life

Bill Lites

Day 9 – Wednesday July 31

My plan was to stay in Minneapolis two days to see the many museums in the Minneapolis/St. Paul area.  So to start today, I headed back southeast about 15 miles on I-694/I-35W, in morning traffic, to visit the Minnesota Transportation Museum located in St. Paul, MN.  This is a fabulous museum that is housed in a portion of the restored 1907 Jackson Street Roundhouse maintenance and repair facility.   The museum is beautifully laid out to represent the original Great Northern Railroad steam engine roundhouse, where various types of restored vintage train cars are displayed for visitors to walk thru.  Many other railroad artifacts and memorabilia fill the museum.  Additional restored unique and vintage rolling stock are displayed outside the museum building.  

Now I made my way south, to visit the Commemorative Air Force-Minnesota Wing, located adjacent to the Fleming Field Airport, just a few miles south of downtown St. Paul.  This was a very active hanger, filled with 5 or 6 aircraft of various types, all being worked on by at least two or three people.  Their largest plane was a B-25J named “Miss Mitchell.”  Everyone in the hanger, while busy, was very friendly, and informed me that all of the airplanes being worked on there were in flying condition.  After that quick visit, Greta (my Garmin) and I tried to find the Science Museum of Minnesota and the New Brighton History Center, but to no avail.  We finally gave up and headed for the Historic Fort Snelling.

Next I traveled some 10 miles west, across the Mississippi River, to visit the Fort Snelling Veteran’s Memorial Chapel located in the Fort Snelling State Park.  Access to this State Park from the direction I was coming was a nightmare, and took me three tries to finally make it to the chapel.  This is a beautiful park and the 1927 Chapel is dedicated to the many U.S. veterans who have sacrificed their lives for our country.  The Chapel also honors Colonel Josiah Snelling, who served as the fort’s commandant from 1820 to 1824, and for whom the fort was named.

Now I headed a few miles north to visit the Minnesota ANG Museum located at the north end of the Minneapolis/St. Paul International Airport.  It turns out that the museum is on the National Guard base, and when Greta took me to a guard gate,  the guard said the museum was no longer open to the public without the proper background check pass.  Rats!  This is another case of a museum internet site not providing a person all the information needed for directions, hours, access requirements  and etc.

 I made a “U” turn and was heading for the intersection, when I spotted an unused driveway off to the side.  I pulled in to inter the address for Greta to take me to the next museum.  I couldn’t have been there more than 2 or 3 minutes, but when I looked up from concentrating on the address, there stood two Military Police outside my window.   They were dressed in their camos, wearing every accessory known to the Military Police.  With their hands on the butts of their weapons, they politely asked me what I was doing.

I explained that I was just using the unused driveway (outside the fenced area) to look up a museum address.  They informed me that I couldn’t park on “Military Property.”  I thanked them (for not shooting me) and got on my way, under their watchful eyes.  After this incident, I moved on north a few more miles, to visit the Twin City Model Railroad Museum located in the Bandana Square area of Saint Paul.  This museum began in1834 as the St. Paul Craftsman Club, and over the years, has grown to display a world-class model panorama of the Twin Cities railroads of the 1930s-1950s.  The museum also displays several different gage-size model railroad layouts and other railroad artifacts.

—–(This day’s activities will be continued next week)—–

My 2019 Great Lakes Road Trip Part 8A

20 Nov

A Slice of Life

Bill Lites

Day 8 – Tuesday July 30

I headed west 20 miles on I-90 this morning, to visit the Deke Slaton Museum located in Sparta, WI.  This small museum is situated on the second floor of the Sparta Public Library, and was conducting a Space Camp meeting today. 

 When I asked for a brochure about the museum, the curator said she would have to check upstairs for one.  When I happened to mention that I had worked on the rocket that sent Deke Slaton into orbit, I became an instant celebrity, and she couldn’t do enough for me.  She said if we were very quiet, she would take me upstairs to the museum.  She showed me some of Deke’s space related artifacts and memorabilia, including one of the spacesuits worn during his Murcury-7 training, and two home-built airplanes that he owned.  Deke worked as chief of the American Astronaut Corp who selected astronauts for the Gemini, Apollo and Skylab missions.  Deke flew on the 5-day Apollo-Soyuz Test Project mission in 1975, which turned out to be the last Apollo mission. 

While I was in Sparta, I tried to find the Little Falls Railroad Museum, where I expected to see the largest collection of railroad art in the US, and the not so interesting, Madame Alexander’s doll collection.  The address I gave Greta (my Garmin) took me to a section of railroad tracks, at the dead-end of some street, but there was nothing that looked like a railroad museum in the area.  I later discovered that, even though the museum had a Sparta address, it was actually located 13 miles north of the city of Sparta.   No wonder Greta and I were so confused!  But, Oh well, I also found out this museum was not open on Tuesdays.   

Since the Railroad Museum was nowhere to be found, I headed southwest another 20 miles on I-90 to La Crosse, WI to visit the Dahl Auto Museum.  This museum is situated in one of the local Dahl Ford dealership showrooms, and displays a collection of 20+ beautifully restored vintage and classic cars dating from 1905 to the present.  There is also an impressive collection of vintage hood ornaments on display as part of the museum.  The museum shows a film history of the automobile’s development over the years, as well as sponsoring many special events throughout the year.

Now I headed northwest roughly 40 miles on I-90, across the Mississippi River (border between Wisconsin and Minnesota), and then north on US-14 to Winona, MN.  That’s where I picked up SR-54 and went back across the border  into Wisconsin.  Then I followed SR-35 north to visit Elmer’s Auto Museum located in Fountain City, WI.  I was looking forward to seeing Elmer’s collection of 100+ antique and classic cars, dating from 1910, plus motorcycles and bicycles.  However, upon arriving at the museum, I was informed the museum was closed because Elmer had passed away just the day before.  The museum volunteer I talked to was very kind, and even invited me to Elmer’s funeral, if I was going to be in the area until Friday.  I thought that was very courteous, of him.  I thanked him and headed for my next museum. 

—–This day’s activities will be continued next week—–

Bill is a retired Mechanical engineer living with his wonderful artist/writer wife, DiVoran, of 61 years in Titusville, Florida. He was born and raised in the Southwest, did a tour of duty with the U.S. Navy, attended Northrop University in Southern California and ended up working on America’s Manned Space Program for 35 years. He currently is retired and spends most of his time building and flying R/C model airplanes, traveling, writing blogs about his travels for Word Press and supporting his wife’s hobbies with framing, editing and marketing.  He also volunteers with a local church Car Care Ministry and as a tour guide at the Valiant Air Command Warbird Museum there in Titusville.  Bill has two wonderful children, two outstanding grandchildren, and a loving sister and her husband, all of whom also live in Central Florida, so he and DiVoran are rewarded by having family close to spend lots of quality time with.

 

Bill

 

One of Bill’s favorite Scriptures is:  John 10:10

Memory Lane Trip~Part 4

10 Jul

A Slice of Life

Bill Lites

 

Day 4 – Friday 4/20/2018

 

I was out bright and early this morning heading west on I-10 to visit the MKT Railroad Depot Museum situated at the little “Pocket Park” in Katy, TX.  This turned out to be a small restored 1894 railroad depot, whose memorabilia centered on the history of the Missouri/Kansas & Texas Railroad (MKT) and its influence on this part of Texas in the early 1850s.  According to Wikipedia, the town appears to have taken its name from the early evolution of the MK&T Railroad.  Once called “the K-T” that, over time, evolved into “The Katy” and I guess the people honored the railroad by naming their town “Katy” when it was officially established in 1896.  The depot provided the MKT with passenger rail service needs until it closed in 1957.

 

 

Next I headed west on I-10 to Sealy, TX where I turned north on SR-36 for a short side trip to visit the Austin County Jail Museum located in Bellville, TX.  Greta took me to the address I had given her for the museum but I was confused.  A sign on the building said “Austin County Jail” but it looked new, modern and functional. I strolled inside and asked about the museum, and was told this was the “real jail” and that the jail museum was downtown on Bell Street.  For some reason the internet information is using the “real jail” address instead of the museum’s address.  Anyway, this 1896 jail replaced a smaller 1886 structure, and served Austin County until 1982, when it was closed and converted into a museum. I stopped by for a photo, as the museum was closed.

 

 

Now I spent another hour traveling southwest on several Texas back roads, to get back onto I-10 west, so I could visit the Stanzel Model Aircraft Museum located in Schulenburg, TX. This is a very interesting museum for any model aviation enthusiast like me.  The museum displays memorabilia, artifacts, and technical data covers the history of the Stanzel brother’s model airplane designs, and their influence on the country’s model airplane industry from the early 1930s to the present.

 

 

Heading west again, I took another little side trip, south of I-10 this time, to visit the Gonzalez County Jail Museum located in (you got it) Gonzales, TX.  There wasn’t much new about this 1885 jail except for the size of it. This jail was almost as big as the Austin County Jail and I couldn’t imagine the need for such large jails in the mid-1880s.  The city of Gonzalez is only about the size of my hometown now, so I can’t see it that big back then.  That goes for the large city hall and huge mansions I saw as I drove through the town.

 

 

This time it was northwest on U.S.-183 and then just a few miles north of I-10 to visit the Pioneer Flight Museum located in Kingsbury, TX.  As it turned out, the museum was the headquarters for the Vintage Aviation Services facility there at the Old Kingsbury Aerodrome.  A couple of cars were parked in front of an open hanger so I stopped for a look.  There were two, what could have been, vintage airplanes being built or repaired.  I called out for someone to show me around, but no one seemed to be there, so I took a couple of photos and left.  I learned later that the museum aircraft were in another hanger that was closed when I was there.

 

 

Traveling west on I-10, my next stop was to visit the Texas Transportation Museum located on the northeast side of San Antonio, TX.  This is a small museum with memorabilia and artifacts covering the history of the Longhorn & Western (L&W) Railroad and other transportation advances over the years in and around the San Antonio area.  In addition to offering short train rides, the museum houses a model train layout and several antique automobiles.

 

 

I had planned to stay two days in San Antonio because of the many museums I had on my list to visit there. So now it was time for Greta to take me to the motel so I could check-in and find a good Mexican restaurant where I could enjoy some good old TexMex food.  My pre-trip research for the “Top 10 Best Restaurants” in the cities where I was going to spend the night, listed “The Alamo Café” (what a coincidence). So that’s where I ate tonight, and they were right – the food was great.  One of the best Chili Rellenos I have ever eaten!

 

 

—–To Be Continued—–

 

 

 

Bill is a retired Mechanical engineer living with his wonderful artist/writer wife, DiVoran, of 58 years in Titusville, Florida. He was born and raised in the Southwest, did a tour of duty with the U.S. Navy, attended Northrop University in Southern California and ended up working on America’s Space Program for 35 years. He currently is retired and spends most of his time building and flying R/C model airplanes, writing blogs for Word Press and supporting his wife’s hobbies with framing, editing and marketing. He also volunteers with a local church Car Care Ministry and as a tour guide at the Valiant Air Command Warbird Museum in Titusville. Bill has two wonderful children, two outstanding grandchildren, and a loving sister and her husband, all of whom also live in Central Florida, so he and DiVoran are rewarded by having family close to spend lots of quality time with.

Bill’s favorite Scripture is: Philippians 1:6

%d bloggers like this: