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No home, no car, no worries. On the road since 1996, a TechNomad couple share their travel secrets and adventures.

It's a Wonderful Life

November 28th, 2007

You never know what adventures await you on the road. . .

The morning started in a luxurious king size bed with a leisurely cup of coffee sipped while admiring the view. From the 8th floor window of the Isle of Capri Casino Hotel Tower in Bettendorf, Iowa, near Davenport I watched the wind pushing small waves upon the mighty Mississippi River. I entertained myself by framing the tall, green suspension bridge that connected Iowa to Illinois within the window panes, studying the play of shadows on the water, the flow of the morning traffic and dreamed of once again pursuing my painting.

Of course, all dreams must come to an end. The promise of Starbuck's from the Java Bay Cafe enticed me to venture down to the third floor and discover the exercise room where I experienced my usual misadventures with machines. The treadmill and I battled it out and while I can say for sure I walked for at least 30 minutes, the speed and incline were questionable. The view of the levee, riverboat casino and heated pool were reflected in the mirrors covering the walls and made the sacrifice worthwhile.

Back up in the room, I enjoyed a tall Cafe Mocha while cooling down and reading the material on the area provided by the hotel. Along with the history of the area I discovered the beautiful stone building I could just make out on the top of a nearby hill was the historic Abby Hotel. It will be on our list for our next visit. http://www.isleofcapricasino.com/Bettendorf/

Soon we were on the road again. Our first surprise occurred while heading west on 1-80 where we discovered the "Largest Truck Stop in the World". It has lots of fast food choices, a cafe/buffet and a large gift shop with many up-market items, a movie theater, dentist, barber, truck museum and more. We picked up a great Christmas gift. www.iowa80truckstop.com/

Iowa is rolling hills, wonderful farmhouses with huge white or red barns and rest areas with free wireless Internet access. While Dan went online to check the stock market report and make a trades, I visited with the hostess in the visitor center. She recommended we stop at the Hoover Presidential Library (West Branch) to see the Christmas tree display highlighting the movie, "It’s a Wonderful Life". It was only 15 miles down the road. We often get great tips on places to visit this way.

Our next surprise occurred as we exited the expressway in West Branch, Iowa. We noticed a sign for an Iowa winery and decided we had time to sample the local vintage.

The Wallace Winery is located outside of town on a local farm overlooking a small vineyard. While hanging Christmas decorations, the mother and daughter team poured wine and explained the history of the operation.

We tasted, selected a wine and voiced our opinions when asked on a design for the 2007 University of Iowa Composers CD cover and their new wine bottle labels. About an hour later, we walked out with two bottles of "Winter Red", complete with mulled spices to share with family over the holidays.

We learned the "Iowa Barn" series of wines were named as a tribute to a vanishing part of the Iowa landscape: the old wooden barns I had admired along the route. A portion of the profits from the sale of those wines is donated to the Iowa Barn Foundation, a non-profit organization dedicated to the preservation of heritage barns. Take the virtual tour. Imagine us standing in front of the bar examining the wine bottles. http://www.wallacewine.com/

Next came the Hoover Presidential Library Museum and the Hoover Birthplace Cottage that lies within the 186-acre Herbert Hoover National Historic Site, located in West Branch, 10 miles east of Iowa City, just off Interstate 80 at Exit 254. He served from 1929-1933.

The Hoover Library was much more interesting then we anticipated. I guess we identified with the Hoovers who spent much of their time traveling. Hoover discovered gold in Australia where we lived for three years. His wife, Lou traveled with him and I admired the pages in her journals highlighted with her sketches and pencil drawings. Find out more.

This year's Christmas tree exhibit in the Library featured trees decorated to the theme of "It's a Wonderful Life" and includes movie memorabilia. It is based on the Frank Capra film, “It's a Wonderful Life” and features over 20 decorated trees reminiscent of the film. Considered a holiday classic, the movie stars, James Stewart as “George Bailey” and Donna Reed (of Denison , Iowa ) as “Mary Hatch.” It is the story of one man who is given the opportunity by a wingless angel to see what the world would have been like if he “had never been born.” Christmas Memories: It's a Wonderful Life is on display from November 17 - January 2, 2008.

Each tree had a plaque that explained the connection between the decorations and a scene in the movie along with a trivia question. The answer to the trivia question appeared on the next plaque as you made your way to the end of the display. We recommend seeing the movie before visiting the display. It was nearly closing time by the time we finished visiting the library so we only had time for a quick, cold and windy walk to the Hoover grave site before hitting the road again.

It was getting dark as we drove toward Des Moines where our free hotel room and more pleasant surprises awaited.

A barn with a flag painted on it, as if it were draped over the top, was visible in a distant field. Christmas lights began to outline the farms and outbuildings we passed. At a farm equipment business, a stack of blue, tractor-trailers was displayed in receding order as if it were a Christmas tree and a tractor was on its nose with a tall trailer elevated above it to look like a tree. This is late November in Iowa farm country.

1 comment:

Vickie said...

It is a wonderful life....